I seem to have lost a very interesting thread on how to best demonstrate to laymen why we spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and tolerate garden hosed sized wires sprawling across Persian carpets. Has anyone thought more about this topic? A gospel (?) track with chorus sounded very nice -- sonic fireworks with musical integrity is what is required. Only audiophiles listen to Mannheim Steamroller and the Fresh Air series. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The more you are an audiophile, the less understood you will be. The general public has been educated that the difference between a cheap stereo and an expensive stereo is how powerful (or loud) it is. If you are still on the power kick then I suspect you are not yet an audiophile (I don't mean you Cwlondon). Many people seem to be utterly perplexed when they find that the large sums I spend on gear are not in the pursuit of being able to play the music louder. It is a huge mindshift for them to listen for how accurately the system is creating the sounds of real instruments and voices, seemingly because they never imagined people would try and do that. The general public has been trained that the pinnacle of audio is to go to a rock concert and the objective is clearly power, not fidelity.
Redkiwi, please clarify. IMO, fidelity to the music is not possible without the ability to play loudly. I don't mean that the overall level is high decibel, but instead the ability to accurately follow the wide range dynamics of musical instruments is a key element of high fidelity playback. For after all, even in real life, music (acoustic instruments) can be very loud.
i have never had an "uninitiated" 1st-time listener to my system say they could not perceive how it bettered anything and everything they'd previously heard. generally, i let them pick their own music, then play some of my favorites. of course, i don't tell them how much my hardware cost. that's my business, not their's.
Redkiwi..interesting reply... how far have you went in your quest and how much do you think is attainable?..do you think at your level (whatever that is..)there is "much" more to be attained or are you close to what can be reproduced from a system? Thanks in advance, Ben
To those of you who think like I do: It's ironic, but the longer I'm involved in this pursuit of audio nirvana, it seems that I play my music at lower levels and listen much more intently than I ever did before, resulting in the greater enjoyment of the real dynamics of great music that is well recorded.
Hopefully this will add to what Redkiwi so well stated and, coming from a relative newbie, provide some insight into what catches the attention of "the masses" when they hear a high end system. The masses do believe that quality requires volume and actually it's for good reason. With mass market systems high volumes are necessary to hear any detail, albeit out of proportion to the rest of the recording. Unfortunately, it is also fatiguing to the ears because of the high levels of distortion that accompany the increased detail. As my new system first began to come together it was played LOUD out of habit. Of course, it handles high volume with aplomb and on occassion it is still quite enjoyable to jam with Van Halen in the living room. Almost literally. Eventually I, and my neighbors even more quickly, grew tired of 100+ db and now the levels are rarely so "uncivilized." Here's the real kicker: as time goes by the sound level keeps going down. Unlike mass market systems where high volumes are necessary to bring musical details to the surface, this system does it at virtually all volumes. The volume knob does what it's supposed to do: Control the volume, not the volume AND *sound*. That this is the belief of the mass market was recently confirmed when my buddy, high tech whiz and fellow music lover (and my guess is soon to be audiophile) came by for an evening of music. "Listen to this," I said and played a familiar track at half of the normal volume. "What do you hear?" I asked. He attentively listened for a few minutes and said, "Wow. Everything! That's impressive." He thought I'd added something new to the system, but I hadn't. It was something I "discovered" on the trail to audiophilia. Being a salesman I'm always keying into what gets people's attention. When someone new comes over and wants "the tour" I first explain what everything is and what it does. Just a basic description of the components because too much detail because that makes their eyes glaze over. They don't need to hear 20 or even 5 minutes on carbon fiber cones, cables, etc. No dollar amounts are given unless they insist, and then only grudgingly. I emphasize the system is to reproduce music, and though I *am* proud of it, the intention is not to impress anyone, but instead to provide listening pleasure. I play four cuts: the first track on Diana Krall's "All for you" (sometimes track seven, too, because of the three-way harmony), the first and last track on Patricia Barber's "Modern Cool" (the first is just, well, cool and the last is reminiscient of a Southern Baptist chorus hymn) and track one on Al DiMeola's "Kiss My Axe." The latter is especially impressive to the uninitiated because of Al's lightening fast guitar licks that come through so cleanly, the well applied chimes that show off the HF, the dead quiet passages, and most importantly the deep, thunderous bass drum licks that demostrate the LF. All of these recording show off the deep soundstage (one of the first things they notice) and imaging of the system. After this I turn them lose in my CD collection or have them bring in something from their car. That allows them to details in music they know. None of my friends listens to anything "deep" and most generic music is very superficial with respect to detail and production value. I don't point out anything like "air" or "dark background" at any point because if it doesn't hit them in the face (or ears) they'll only nod yes and give a blank look like they're concentrating. No use embarrassing them unnecessarily. ;-) I'd be curious of what others do for "demos".
I really like Lucinda Williams "Car wheels on a Gravel Road" trks #7 and #12-- very dynamic and incredible soundstaging. This is an HDCD disk and is great music. I also very much like Emmylou Harris' "Cowgirls Prayer" for its detail, softness, and great music. I think Ucmgr's post above had it right, at least for me; I now listen at lower levels-- 60-70 dB much of the time, but I also want lots of clean power to provide ease, naturalness and low level detail-- not huge SPLs. Cheers. Craig
Hi Charlie; Daughter was home last week-end with a stack of Lyle Lovett CDs. Due to her's and your influence, I've gotta have "Joshua Judges Ruth" (and maybe some others)-- don't specifically remember trk #4, but I liked the whole CD a lot. Cheers, Craig.
Onhwy61 - I don't think I disagree with anything you said. One thing I have learned is to NEVER buy any gear that is not neutral or is dynamically constrained - if you ever do, you quickly tire of it and can be sent on an expensive and futile quest to compensate for it. Stating my point more simply, if I tell a novice how much my amplifier costs the first assumption they make is that it must deliver squillions of watts. When they hear the system, they ask how far the volume is turned up, because they figure it must be able to go a lot louder than this if it cost so much. Bencampbell - Sometimes I feel it is maddeningly close but that there is something going on, that if i could just eliminate it... At other times, I grab a book, put on a CD and read until the CD has finished and think that it had been so sublime that if I played another CD it would ruin the moment - and I retire with the audio equivalent of the aftertaste of the finest Burgundy. I suspect the difference is often driven by my state of contentment with life at the time rather than the state of my stereo.
Why is everyone concerned about impressing other people ? I don't give a damn about what they think about my 'audiophile spending' habits. It is only for ME ! It is for MY love of music. After all, they drive a Mercedes, I have it in my living room :-)
I too have noticed the 'lower decibel' phenomena. I also notice that when people are over, most of them gravitate to the stereo and like to hang around it listening to music. Maybe it's my personality. You can tell the music lover's right away. It's a real treat to have such wonderful music in the house. Expensive yes, but I think my money is much better spent than on an expensive car sitting in the driveway.
Most people hear the difference, those that dont never will. Play music you love. Hearing classical, jazz, or bluegrass on a really good system can open up a whole new world of music for someone who has never heard them live. As for output level, I think a lot of people use the Volume knob trying to compensate for shortcomings in the system. When "somethings missing" in the music, turn it up! Some kinds of music are meant to be cranked, but others can be just as involving at lower levels. That Lyle Lovett track will show off your system and I was at one time addicted to "Wheels on Gravel Road", both worth having for the song writing alone. Just to get someones attention I sometimes start out with "Funupmanship"by Bob Florence. A live jazz recording that starts out like background music and suddenly wakes the dead with two horn blasts, adjust volume first! Dynamics impress, but you still have to play music you love.
Ikarus, I think most of us would like to "impress" on our friends the joy of (well reproduced) music. I find music so rejuvenating that I have a hard time believing everyone couldn't benefit from it. (Of course not all that many folks are willing to turn off the TV long enough to develop an "ear.") Guess they always have VH1. Charlie
Redkiwi's above post touches on what to me is a really significant aspect of enjoying music, and that is simply "state of mind". Sometimes no matter what I listen to, it doesn't sound good, and I just have to quit. Other times music will "calm the savage beast", and then there are those "magic moments" where state of mind and music quality come together to actually produce a sort of euphoria. I can't explain it-- too subjective (as many things audio are); but state of mind during a listening session sure is important to me. I would also say that audiophiles seldom either recognize this, or maybe just don't want to admit it? Or talk about it? Example; the other night I had a tense verbal "disagreement" with Dogface's woman (a neighbor), and later no music sounded good-- finally said to hell with it and went to bed. Craig.