I agree ... sound is in our brains not our equipment. The way we perceive things changes with moods, fatigue, time of day. I suspect this effect is also responsible for much of the "burn in time" required on solid state electronics.
For me, things always sound better at night. I heard once that there is less electricity used at night time. No big corporations sucking all the power. Which would explain better sound at night. I definitely agree with moods. My system does change depending on how I feel.
I absolutely agree. Once the components and cables become constant in your setup, other variables such as quality of power, outside noises and personal state of mind greatly affect the musical experience. However, when all are in concert it is an amazing and enjoyable experiience.
My system always sounds best in early morning and late evening. Yes, many people would write that off to the quality of power running through my house at the time, but in the mornings I wake up fresh and eager and in the evenings after a hard day at the office I'm ready to unwind and relax. So I think in both cases my mental state is in one of relaxation and acceptance of the upcoming listening experience. During the middle of the day I'm probably less relaxed and have too much on my mind.
I don't disagree out of hand with the common theories about power quality late at night (although my own measured line voltage doesn't vary much), but I feel (skewed, no doubt, by the fact that I live in the city) there is also a strong correlation between a relative lack of background environmental noise and times when systems seem to sound their best. As for mood, I find that the sound of my system changes my mood more than my mood changes the sound of my system - and if it weren't this way, I'd wonder what the whole point was in the first place! I do believe, however, that an absence of extraneous distractions while actually listening is very key, and this is often unlikely during busier parts of the day. (The topic of mood was often brought up in a thread I started a few days back [archived under "Best Of"] entitled "An unscientific poll: How often are you happy?")
This is a fascinating post. This is an area that I have begun to give more thought to. I think it is a given that power quality is difficult variable to control despite all the conditioners that we employ to clean up the lines. Mood and mental state is an area which audiophiles have not seriously explored as a factor in audio enjoyment. I am becoming more and more convinced that we can increase our enjoyment by creatively improving our view and receptivity of the audio arts and music. I find that I have the best listening sessions when I am able to let go of the analytical/perfectionist aspects of the audio hobby and just let the music wash over me while my mind is clear. It helps to take a few minutes before the session to meditate in silence, focus on the silence and bring on a state of physical and mental relaxation. Then begin your session carrying that openess from your meditation. Over time you will see the attributes that you value in your system change. In my case, I have started to value components that let the artists and composers creative concept come through. Some examples;
>the color, balance and interplay of an instrumental piece by Bach
>the spatial interplay and textures of a well conceived percussion piece
>the sheer beauty and soaring spirituality of a rennaisance vocal performance
>the feeling of man's greatest aspirations that reside in Beethovens Symphonies
>the goosebump factor of a Johnny Hartman ballad
>the acceptance and elevation of human failings in a Junior Brown song.
You can go on and on with this. The point is that you start to transform your system based on higher levels of consiousness and corresponding enjoyment. You start listening to the whole and not the parts and the essence of the music starts comes through.
Another interesting thing for me has been that the opinions of the reviewers, ie, Stereophile and Absolute Sound, become less important. The politics of our audio hobby become more amusing and entertaining as opposed to a camp that you reside in. You start to shape your system in a way that brings you joy and not in the dictates of a camp.
Maybe I rambling too much, but the fact is that this listening approach has dramatically change my level of enjoyment of audio and music. For me, this has been the most important upgrade in my system, and all it costs is an investment in changing your values and attitudes and unlike electric power quality, you have it within yourself to enjoy your system always.
Hi J; Good thread. I too think that prevailing mood is a powerful determinent as to how music sounds through a good system at any particulat time-- and for the reasons mentioned above.
My experience has been like Gunbei's. But I am also convinced that late night night listening is better for "electrical reasons". It certainly is in my system, ie during mid-day a voltage meter usually shows 114 to 117 volts incoming, whereas late night it's typically 120-122 volts. When doing critical listening (auditioning?) I think a person needs to be aware of how they are feeling at the time. Cheers. Craig
I can see it now. A new catagory of tweaks will be added to the online catalogs of Audiogon's Showcase Dealers....
Mood altering electronics like those Sharper Image has been famous for...
And, holistic/herbal listening supplements...
Has anyone seen that Shakti Stone I was using? I need to place it on my head for my next listening session.
I was thinking of marketing oral audio enhancer that would consist of Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels.
Even mid fi sounds good.
Nice post Ohteeel. Several years ago I learned a relaxation technique via professional bio-feedback training. I agree, having some semblance of control over your mood(s) during or prior to listening sessions can have a powerful influence on listening enjoyment. Of course this kind of thing lends itself to pooh-poohing and even ridicule, but then believing in anything more than zip cord speaker cables does too. Cheers. Craig
Gunbei, I believe that the herbal mood exhancing suppliment has been used for MANY years by musicians and knowledgeable audiophiles alike! Happy Tunes!
I have often found that Oscar Peterson never sounds better on my system than when there are wafts of garlic and basil coming from the kitchen and my girlfriend and I have a lingering buzz from the bottle of shiraz we are drinking.
FatParrot, you must be a Parrot Head!
Oh it's Bandstand, Disneyland, growin' up fast
Drinkin' on a fake ID
And Ramar of the jungle was everybody's bwana
but only jazz musicians were smokin' marijuana
I find it absolutely insane that the subjective context of the listening session is not given supreme importance. In certain moods, I'll sit in my car, in my driveway, and listen to and old Kempf performance (or something similar) and be enthralled by the music.. on my piece of crap stereo where only two speakers work at best (one comes on when it gets enough power, off when it doesn't!) And some days I'll sit in front of my some odd thousand dollar per piece component system and think.. BORING.
A proper Stereophile review would include about 1/4 description of the person's inner state. Feeling mushy? Boy that valve amp sure sounds great. Feeling a bit dry and analytical - "people say the XYZ is overly detailed, and to them I say it simply conveys the music."
It is all such a damn joke in my opinion. Plugging a $1000 power cord into my DAC may have some improvement - but when those certain states of mind come around - sonic benefits are interior. I hate to sound like some newly-come Buddhist or something but really.. audiophiles take the search to the high-end store when maybe they should take the search into their feelings and moods.
Obviously, I am getting more and more into A/B testing, and proof. I just bought a $10 radioshack digital cable to connect my dac to my transport. I'm going to have a friend swap it out for my not insanely pricey, but expensive digital cable - if I can't hear a difference - odds are that it is either non-existant or below the threshold of subjective context.
Thanks for starting this thread.. I find this topic SORELY negelected, and actually quite fascinating (and maybe even useful).
Adam, you're 100% right about the importance of mood.
When the mood is right, you don't even think of tinkering/modifying/upgrading anything.
It's a two way street, the music can certainly affect your mood, but thena gain you're simply refelcting your newly modified mood into the music.
Music is and internal experience, both emotional in intellectual. There are times when you do feel like listening for "sound", and that's when you tweak, move stuff around, etc.
That's the "hobby" portion of audio.
When you're in the mood for music (many moods, for many songs, of course) that's the fun portion.
If it was simply about "better sound" I'd sell everything and go read a book.