A great article in this month's Stereophile on what to do if you're wondering how to spend $1000 on cables - The Fifth Mark. He suggests buying / learning the guitar, hiring a quartet to play in your parlor, etc. etc., all in the same vein in which you ask your question - how to take the focus off the minutae and put it back on the love of the music.
My own answer is to buy a bunch of software. I regularly buy a handful of CDs (multiple times per month), and regularly listen whenever I can - on the "dedicated" system, on my office system, in my car. Talk about music instead of gear, turn people on to the cool music you've found (and you'll definitely find it). I find if there's always new music that I haven't fully listened to yet, I get more focused on that and less on the playback means. -Kirk
I still purchase recorded music based on the quality of the performance only. The high-end system enables the great performance to sound the best possible. I could care less if another recording is technically better in an engineering sense. I have updated recordings if a better re-issue of the same performance comes out (or if I find a better performance). So now that you have a system you like, go back to your old way of thinking.
Hi Pancho; you've apparently learned to listen to music using predominently the left side of the brain which is in charge of "intellectual or logical" matters. You need to re-order your listening priorities and re-learn how to listen with the right side of the brain as well, which takes care of the "emotional stuff". No, I'm not a psychologist, but I've read a lot and have experienced some of what you describe myself. Also, I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.
You can do this because you used to do it when you listened with the $70. walkman and enjoyed music. In order to pick out good high-end equipment, you have to learn to use both types of listening, ie intellectual and emotional, and also learn how to integrate the two. And I know this is possible as I've been through some of what you describe too. I refuse to buy "audiophile approved" music, unless I really enjoy it.
As an example of what you describe, I recently auditioned a $1000. power cord. It provided excellent detail, had great tonal balance, transparency, soundstaging, etc., but it did not "boogie", ie it did not "move" me with my favorite R&R music, and I concluded that it didn't have very good pace, rhythm, and timing (PRaT). I rejected this power cord, and stayed with my inexpensive ($325.) PC 'cuz it does "boogie". Hang in there Partner. Cheers. Craig
Don't fret Pancho. You haven't gone mad. I infer from your contemplation of entering the conservatory that you are intimately familiar with the sounds of acoustic instruments. If this is indeed the case, your high resolution system maybe overkill. Your brain is probably converting the sound of an instrument (e.g. piano), rendered by the Walkman, into the sound of an actual acoustic piano that's stored in your memory. Therefore, there is no need to be "spoon-fed" by a hi-fi system. I suggest that you purchase a nice bookshelf system, enjoy the music and indulge in what you really like...gold-plated pocket protectors.
I can relate..... Here's the thing. If you now have the great system, start listening to the same music that you once did. What you will find is the new system will resolve much more detail than you ever used to hear. Sure, poor recordings don't sound as good as the audiophile stuff, but you will hear all sorts of stuff that you never heard before....
I agree with the post above that stated that you need to start listening with the emotional side of your brain. I too have an engineering background and this hobby allows me to use both sides of my brain. It keeps the tinkering/logic side happy with the never-ending tweaks but also feeds the emotional side when I simply want to sit back and enjoy the music.
Something that has worked for me lately is to go back to records. I purchased a VPI record cleaner and now watch swap meets and record stores for items of interest. I have found myself buying things for $1 that I never would have bought otherwise and then being blown away by them! It's reintroduced the love of the music to me...
Remember, the whole purpose of the hobby is to reproduce the music in the most realistic manner possible. This is supposed to be fun. Go find yourself some new piece of music that you wouldn't normally buy, grab your favorite drink, kick up your feet and just relax and enjoy the 45 minute ride.... Not everything is logic based.....
Go back to listening live music, man...
And after a recovery period if you want to set up a system that will allow you to enjoy ANY recording email me, Eric of Audio Advisor, Kenny of Needledoctor, Steve Monte of Quest for Sound, Bill Parish (GTT Audio) or Sedond here in Audiogon...we all listen to all types of music and are not into the Voodoo. That's why my TT is a modified Technics 1200, not a Sota, Rega, Music Hall/Project or VPI...I like to SPIN records!
I would contend that this can happen with really any pursuit unless it's anchored by a defined value system. In my case, I enjoy many types of music but am careful to ensure that it's positive and uplifting. In many ways it is an act of worship to God. The fact that it's played over a 'high-end' system just makes it that much more special.
My advice is to pursue a meaningful spiritual dimension to life and the hobby will become a 'means' vs. and 'end'.
I'm a good psychologist. Honest. Really I am.
I've even met Dr. Westheimer. I was 14 at the time, and she said something to me that really embarassed me. Oddly enough, someone I currently work with (who is also a psychologist) is related to her by marriage.
Seriously though, both types of listening can be done (and even combinations of both) when you get a little bit of a rest from creating or tweaking the system. Use the right/left hemisphere analogy if that helps (it helps me, and I believe it). Hopefully, after some time off from focusing on the details of the sound rather than the music itself, you'll find, as I and many others here have, that actually having the better stuff makes for better enjoyment of the music, even without the analysis and the jargon.
Of course you could always call Dr. Laura.
I assume that your post is not a put on. I have a similiar background, at the university I managed to complete a major in musicology while getting degrees in EE and engineering physics. Here's a suggestion, since you wanted to be a conductor. Get the scores to the Beethoven or Haydn symphonies or the Mozart Operas or what ever your favorite pieces are. Then get some historic performances as well as modern ones and start listening seriously to the favorite pieces in different performances. Really get into the music and focus on what moves you. In recent years I've been doing this on a regular basis and it makes be completely forget my last system upgrade.
You've fallen into the trap that most of us do. You assembled a "Hi-Fi" and not a "music system". Your probably looking for a "cross" between the two, something that will keep your toes tappin' for ALL of your discs but will still allow you to take notice of an especially good recording when it shows up.
My suggestion is to start listening to the gear and how it works together in your system rather than buying by review, brand name or what the salesperson / friend "pushes" you into. Your first step towards enjoying the musicality of your system is to install a reasonably priced tube DAC into it. With as much money as you've got sunk into it, a few hundred more won't hurt anything and should make a WORLD of a difference. Sean
PS: NO, you aren't crazy or alone.....
Several months ago I played a new CD for some high end audiophile friends. I thought the female singer was very talented and was kind of proud to have discovered her. I played my favorite selection for the group expecting them to go ga-ga over the performance. Much to my amazement not one person commented on the music. Every comment made focused on what they considered a flawed recording process, not the music or performer. Is there any hope for these people or are they terminal ?
Pancho, the answer to your problem, be it real or put on, is quite simple, but perhaps not so simple to achieve: If you can enjoy music on your car radio for example and get drawn into it, but cannot with your system, generally you've lost your innocence, because you're bugged by the idea, that your system could be "better". Rest assured, even a system, expertly assembled and costing half a million dollars or more- and those do exist -can all be "bettered" , by live music as the last resort. Unless you have something in your system which is really jarring and disturbing your musical sensibilities - and mostly this is caused by a harsh and twangy high-end or lifeless mids -just train yourself to NOT listen to your SYSTEM. This can best be achieved by putting on your favourite music, or even better, by putting on and discovering music of your favourite artists, which you are still unfamiliar with. Get the emphasis on to music and away from the system, as has already been suggested above. And then, most importantly, develop a little wisdom: Do you live in the house of your absolute dreams? Probably not. Do you own and drive your dream automobile? Also probably not. Do you fret about it ? Probably not. Do you constantly nag your significant other, because also there the old saying holds true, that "nothing is perfect"? Probably not. So, why not develop the same attitude about your stereo? Be happy with what you have, as long as you have it. This should not stop you from dreaming though, how one day you will get other and perhaps "better" PLAY things.(pun intended )But separate thinking about your system and listening to it for reasons of tweaking and experimenting strictly from listening for musical enjoyment. It can be done. All it needs is a bit of mental discipline.
I'll send you my bill later. (-;
Happy innocent listening! Detlof
Boy can I ever relate. I've scrimped and saved to aquire my first hi-end system piece by piece over the last year and a half. The addition of each piece has brought improvement but I still feel it could/should sound better for all that I've spent (almost $9K used and demos-all Stereophile class A recommended components except the cd player). I found that much of the music I used to listen to sounded bad on new system (either recorded, mastered or manufactured poorly). Started buying redbook remasters. Most sound better but not necessarily great (i.e. added detail and eliminate some of the bright highs). Bought a few MFSL cds. Not being made any more (I read MFSL will be revived soon, but old titles will not be reproduced). Sound better than US mass produced remasters but boy they can get pricey. I now find myself searching the internet for high definition Japanese pressings. Sound very good for most part (on my system) IMO. However, limited production runs, import duties and the fact that many titles are out of print make this expensive. And you can't always get what you want. I'm begining to wonder if I should go buy a turntable and start looking for the 1000 albums I sold 12 years ago.
Back when I was shopping for speakers a while back I carried several of my favorite CDs with me to 3 local high end stores. When the salesmen heard what I had brought AS MY REFERENCE, they all tactfully commented that it sounded like they were recorded poorly. In addition they said "purchasing a hi-end system tends to change the type of music you listen to". I refused to believe it at the time. ITS TRUE. ITS TRUE.
When I described these very same symptoms to my therapist, I was informed that I suffered from a skewed perspective, and a consuming obsession with my equipment. This results in a perpetual sense of dissatisfaction with "the medium", which in turn, tends to distract me from "the message". It is ironic that the equipment, designed to do nothing more than deliver to us the music that our souls crave, can become the object of our passion, distancing us from, rather than bringing us closer to our muse.
What helps me when things get turned so upside-down, and I'm being completely genuine here, is to take a break from all this audiophile mania. It's hard to do once you've developed the full-blown neurosis, but it can be done with deliberate effort: Leave the audio magazines unread, give the internet a rest (this forum?), leave your system alone for a while - no upgrades or tweaking! Listen THROUGH your system, not TO your system. Listen to FM radio, where the only control you have is your choice of station. Listen to live music. Commune with nature. Get real.
If you can create some space between you and your gear, the music will return to fill the void. It works! And when you return to the "madness", as you (we) are destined to do, not much will have changed, but even it will seem fresh again, and we'll be here waiting for you.
Oh, my name's Jon, and I'm an Audiophile...
I feel kinda funny after the nice things said about Ruthie. Our summer houses were a couple of doors down the block. I'm not sure what help she could give around being in love with the equipment. I've heard her talk about something similar. But... I'm sure it's not the same equipment!
Let's see... I've had a little therapy over a ton of years. It seems to have helped. I don't know, I still have an affection for my equipment.
Music. Yes, it sounds better on a great system. But, when it's a really crappy recording, just need a really mushy laid back interconnect and the recording sounds soo much better.
If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.
You know, more therapy sounds good too!
Stokjoc, there's virtually no hope for these people. That's why I'm seen as a heretic when I post that my TT is a modified Technics SL-1200MKII. I want a TT I can PLAY records with, not a belt driven revolving altar...
I want a system which will enable me to enjoy ANY recording. It can be done, but it takes much time, effort and knowledge to assemble such a system. However, I won't have to see a psychologist (at least for that).
Everyone else is deranged. The only purpose of a high end system is to allow you to listen to microdynamics and the air surrounding the three instruments most audiophile recordings contain. Unless you listen to the same two discs over and over you will never be able to recognize the value of the new power cord that you suspended from the ceiling with 99.999% pure silk thread.
Now, now Pef, how can you!? LOL. But those you refer to are ingrained audiophiles, NOT musiclovers. I suppose if you love music per se, its easier to forget about your system and Psychicanimal, to me you are right on the dot, as the Brits say. I also want to enjoy ANY recording, which I find musically interesting and I could not care a damn if my playback reflects the original recording venue. All I want from my stereo is, and I built it up accordingly, that I can forget about it!! Cheers and happy listening!