The music’s the thing but....

Yes, the music is the thing.  But before we became engrossed in this crazy hobby, it was the ONLY thing.  Now, I can’t listen to music on my system without the SOUND entering into the equation.  Unless it’s a patently historic recording, or mono, my enjoyment of the music is tempered by what the sound is like.  That was never the case before.  I can’t seem to enjoy the music if the sound isn’t right.  What a pity that is.
The music should come first, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
 If I’m listening on a car radio or something, the problem doesn’t exist.
 Zoom, right to the music!
Such is the nature of our obsession.
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Ha! I got in a car one time, said here try this, immediately turned to my wife and said See Honey, I told you, Breaking Silence is so good it makes even this car stereo sound better! And she agreed. So I had passed the infection along to her.

One friend, first time over at his place,he played some music for me and my wife. Really proud of his decidedly mid-fi (if that) system. We sat back and I totally enjoyed it. I mean that. Coulda just sat there listening all night, fine with me.

When he came over to my place though, whole different story. Couldn’t get over the shock. Power cords, cables, the whole layout, just looking at it was giving him sensory overload. Like he stepped out of his living room onto the bridge of the Enterprise or something. When he sat down to listen, couldn’t enjoy himself even then, so busy he was struggling with disbelief.

His own disbelief. Entirely in his own head.

Another friend, had just bought a genuine high-end system (well, the components, not the tweaks, then as now nobody understands its the tweaks even more so than the components that make it high-end) and yet when he sat down to listen he just completely melted into the music. When the first cut was over he just sat there as if in a trance, or body suffused with some pleasant drug, and said, "Please play another. Please."

The one couldn’t get past his ego. The other was completely open to the gift of music. Me, my first stereo was an all-in-one receiver/record player from Radio Shack. Which I thoroughly enjoyed, even before the speaker upgrade. So in what universe does it make any sense at all for me to not relax into the music like my friend, beside myself with joy?

Its all in your head. Mind. Consciousness. Thought. Relax and enjoy it. Easiest thing in the world.

“Easiest thing in the world.”  NOT!
BTW, Breaking Silence is that good.
That's the ultimate trap of this hobby: using your music to listen to your system.
My relative, fan of classical music, had bad mid-fi system with very limited clarity and frequency range.  He was OK with it.  Perhaps he did not realize (or didn't care) what is possible, since he could afford much better one.  It is a shame, that people listen to music not even hearing all the instruments music was written for.
I suppose it all started with the knowledge of good and evil and has been going at good speed ever since. I like what I hear on my system, know what it is supposed to sound like, and am generally satisfied. At the same time, I salivate over what I would acquire should I win a lottery which is not likely since I don't buy tickets. 
Every time I introduce a new tweak into the system, I listen for "sound." The sound I listen for initially is the sound of the instruments. Do they sound more real, or less real? Shortly thereafter, I listen to the "music."

There seem to be two different approaches to this crazy hobby.

One is the music lover who hears a high-end system for the first time and realizes that he/she can get closer to the music they love by spending the dollars ... and they act on it. They may already have a sizeable music collection of records and CD’s that they play regularly on a low-fi system. Usually, they’ve done that since junior high, or even before. Some end up here on the A’gon site seeking more information. We vets should help them out to the best of our ability.

Second, is the guy who loves bling. The fancier and more expensive the equipment is, the better he likes it. He’s the guy who has a total of 50 CD’s, all on audiophile labels. For him, it was the equipment before the music. If you were to ask him to play something by Clifford Brown, June Christy or Rachmaninoff, he’d most likely say ... who??

For most people, they couldn’t care less about this hobby. I’ve mentioned a few times in other threads that my career over the years took me into thousands of homes. It was always astounding to me how many of those homes, the vast majority of which, had no music and no books. And I mean none. Case in point ... my own family. Neither of my daughters and none of my adult grandchildren owns CD players. No audio system at all. Just I-phones and earbuds.

They think I’m bat-sh*t crazy. :-)

Been enjoying the music later today.
This morning I got infected with "adjusting SRA itis"
Eventually I swapped out the Lyra that I just could not get to sound how I liked for my Scheu Analog MC SL and within minutes all was well with the world again.

It really is hard to just listen to the music and not the system.

State of mind maybe but the mind is a very powerful and cruel mistress!
Yes I find that the case as well. I am starting to keep a notebook of all my vinyl albums. I jot down what is the best volume, EQ setting, speaker placement (forward, toe-in, toe-out), etc.. for me. It helps me enjoy the music a great deal more because I know that I am at optimum quality for myself and without spending  $$$$$$$$ it's not going to be better. Hope that helps a little.
Agree with miller carbon--the "easy" tweaks make the hobby fun. The challenge is to get the right components in place, those that match your budget, room and preferences (speaker type, tube vs SS, digital vs vinyl, etc.) Once you are happy with the main pieces, that is, you know they will add up to high resolution, then you can have fun with power cords, cables, fuses, vibration control, power supply, room treatments--whatever you believe in or ascribe to under "tweaks". As miller carbon said, the tweaks make your good system a lot better in terms of information retrieval--hearing new instruments pop out, etc. Then the music gets more exciting, as well, and you are amazed by the system and the music--a bit like getting out of your own way.  
Interesting Thread!  I agree with you ,all of you, and if I add my grain of salt, I had dreamed a hi-fi dream, infectious one contracted with an older  mentor friend when I was 20 years old... I am 67 years old and like already said someone here, it is the tweaks that transform a system in a hi-fi one more than the money most of the times...Now at 67 for the last year I had my dream come true : I had a really hi-fi system at low cost + many exceptional tweaks of my own design...

When I had an ordinary system I enjoyed my known  already loved music really but I dont explored unknown music at these times... With my hi-fi system I explore in all musical area because all music sound at his best...Great hobby! Great music!  And by the way I listen more to the music now than ever...I discover more music than in the past...My best to you all...
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”sound prison” is right.  Hard to escape.
Remember Christmas and the excitement? Ever notice how the new affects everyone and then gradually wears off?

When I was younger car stereo was everything, as I aged I found myself listening less and less to the car radio although I do not spend the time I use to on the road.

With the home system, internet radio or FM stays in the back ground. Those moments I decide to listen to something of my choosing, I now find myself with a smile and quite satisfied with what I have. No more chasing tweaks, unless of course, I run across something at a price I cannot pass up...*chuckles
But those moments out of “jail” are ecstasy.

I’ve never been in "sound prison" with the exception of HEA Shows. I think the sound is terrible at these trade shows. I’m always amazed at the reporting that comes in about HEA Trade Shows and their sound, yikes!

You know who else never liked the sound at the trade shows? JGH. Funny funny man when it came to his behind the scenes comments.


The fact is most people dont know what is a minimally natural or minimally musical sound, they are perpetually unsatisfied...The hyped of marketing is their guide...When you have a minimally musical audio system, you forget the sound most of the times for the music...I dont think it is possible now to upgrade at a reasonable cost...In the one thousand dollars sphere radius for the cost of all my gear, it will be impossible to really upgrade my actual choosen components...They are the best for the money and with adequate tweaks,better than some costly system... I remember before my tweaks I was very unsatisfied with the same gear and I look for all upgrade possible...Now I smile when I read about any product I cannot afford, because yes, I dream of it,but no, I am not frustrated that I cannot buy it...I smile because I have music for a low cost and I am proud of me and I love the sound of my system... Not the best in absolute term,but the best I know of at this price...And music is musically perceived with it... Even my wife who hates my obsession admit it ...  
If it has to be explained, the “sound prison” is the obsession.
In my experience as musician and audiophile I’ve led a dual life.
I started out playing the piano and listening to a table radio on which I learned a good deal of music without concern for fidelity. I could fill in the missing sonic gaps with my imagination.  I then met a friend who had a hifi system and my way of listening to recorded music gradually changed until I could no longer really listen to the music without concern for the sound. 
Now, I no longer play, but I bring that same obsession with perfection I had as a musician to my listening, which, of course, is absurd.  I have no control over how a disc is recorded, yet I have the same need to “improve” it, a sure recipe for craziness.
The fact is most people dont know what is a minimally natural or minimally musical sound, they are perpetually unsatisfied.
Audiophiles often have GAS (Gear Acquire Syndrome) and/or Gardener's Syndrome (constant need to repot and trim).

I have much the same problem less the playing .FWIW I find the best done material is where its done for love first and foremost , the Early Music world .
"Audiophiles often have"...…"Gardener's Syndrome...."
Better Gardener's than Gardner's
More like Chance Gardner, I’d opine. 
SO agree @schubert. There are a lot of parallels between the "original instrument"/"historically informed" movement in the field of Baroque music performance and Bluegrass music. Both are very well written---great chord structures, melodies, harmonies, counterpoint, etc., are played on purely acoustic old instruments (one well-known Bluegrass bassist I know has an 18th Century 3/4 scale upright. It’s worth a small fortune, and is his only possession of any significant consequence. Bluegrass guitarists favor pre-WWII Martins, which command a LOT of money in the collectors market), both are known to be low-paying gigs (compared with that of modern Symphony Orchestra and Rock Band players), and both are performed by those I consider my favorite musicians. Another welcomed similarity is that both musics are often recorded in better-than-usual sound quality.
Well I could see some aspects and good musicians but to say anyone ever wrote something like say ,"Monterverdi’s Vespers " in Bluegrass just ain’t so .

Brother schubert, I said there were parallels, not equivalents! I was speaking of your "I find the best done material is when it's done for love first and foremost" statement. In Classical, period-informed musicians and singers specializing in Baroque repertoire are not financially compensated as highly as are modern Symphony Orchestra players and Opera singers. But Baroque specialists are idealists, with a deep love and reverence for the music of that period's composers.

In Pop (non-Classical), while commercial Country singers are pushed by the music industry and often handsomely rewarded, Bluegrass songwriters, musicians, and singers earn relatively meager incomes. When Ricky Skaggs decided to make the move from Country (where he was doing very well) to Bluegrass, his record company did everything in their power to dissuade him. Bluegrass was considered uncommercial, and he was written off by the industry. He did it anyway, following his heart rather than reasoned career advice.

Another parallel is that the Bluegrass community---both performer and audience---shares with the Baroque era composers the Christian faith. Many Bluegrass artists include Gospel songs in their repertoire, some of them recording complete Gospel albums. Consequently Bluegrass festivals are very much family-orientated. I can't take my kid to them, as he's into Rap ;-) .

Getting back to the original topic, the mind is a fickle judge of a system and I hesitate to say this, but I think I’ve reached an unimpeachable (forgive the reference) conclusion.  I believe my set is finally where I want it to be and able to withstand the assaults from the psyche.
Everything seems to have come together with my recently bought equipment, and (no matter how much my darker side protests,) I’m really loving it!
This is like trying to "unknow" a fact that you found out.  Once you learn to listen to the sound, however much you concentrate on the music, however involving the music is, you mind will be there somewhere in the background monitoring the sound.  Dulling down the monitoring function (conversation with other people in the room, alcohol, etc.) is about the best you can do.
I agree absolutely with the above.
bdp24 ,

Yes right you are !Thank you for correcting my ignorance . Still as a Christian I am much closer to  to Bach's version . But  I imagine God is pleased with all Christians that do not hate .
bdp24, your posts are usually extremely thoughtful, but I am surprised at your “for the love of it” comment. Perhaps (I hope) I misinterpret the comment, but you seem to be suggesting that for (relatively) well paid symphony musicians (and others) there is necessarily a lower level of “love for the music” than for those who are not well paid. It is simply not so. It is easy to romanticize the artistic ethos of the starving artist or the idealistic iconoclast; but I don’t think it is fair, nor accurate, to do it at the expense of the more successful or the more forward looking. As always, thanks for the great posts.
What he said lead me to think he was thinking of "garage bands" whose sole purpose is usually money and/or women ,
I can’t imagine someone as intelligent as bdp24 thinking of symphonic musicians . From what I saw in the "family" of the Berlin R.I.A.S orchestra someone just looking for money would have been weeded out long
before they could even audition !
Its a lot harder to be a competent symphonic player than a doctor who makes 3 times what they do .

@frogman, I can see how my posts above could very easily be misconstrued, so allow me to clarify. I did not intend to suggest that artists who are more commercially rewarded are any less motivated by their love of music than are those less well rewarded. ALL serious musicians sacrifice a lot to become the superior artists they are, the thought of the income the life of a professional musician will produce being the furthest thing from their minds (except Kiss. Oh yeah, I said serious ;-) .

However, some musicians choose career paths KNOWING that that path will lead to less financial reward than will a more "mainstream" path. I used the example of Ricky Skaggs above. Bluegrass comprises a much smaller percentage of the music market than does mainstream Country, yet when he had established a sizeable audience in Country, Ricky turned his back on that market, KNOWING it would result in him earning less. I’m not saying that he loves music any more than does any popular Country star you can name, I’m just saying that I love Bluegrass, a music whose practitioners have chosen over a genre they are well aware of would be more financially rewarding.

When the "Original Instrument"/"Historically Informed" movement in the Baroque music community started in the late 60’s, the audience for it was very small. The pioneers of that movement were roundly panned by mainstream reviewers, but it’s practitioners felt deeply that their style of performing Baroque music was a better, more musically appropriate and "correct" (as the composer intended) style in which to perform the music. The development of the modern Symphony Orchestra, with it’s massive number of musicians, had lead to Baroque music being performed in a manner (as if it were from the Romantic era) unrelated to the intent of the composer. The movement was dedicated to correcting that situation, and it’s practitioners ended up being proven correct; the best Baroque era artists are now uniformly of the Original Instrument/Historically Informed persuasion. Yet that era remains a minority taste, it’s artists therefore less well compensated than members of major Symphony Orchestras. That does NOT mean Baroque artists are more motivated by their love of music than are Symphony Orchestra players, but it just so happens that Baroque is my favorite era in Classical (though I love Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, and many other non-Baroque composers. Can’t get into Brahms and Bruckner, for whatever reason ;-), and therefore my favorite Classical music is made by those who have chosen to forfeit some income in the name of music. See, it’s an asymmetrical argument!

By the way, the Classical/Pop demarcation can be disputed; much Jazz and Theater music is just as sophisticated and complex as is most Classical. There’s Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Irvin Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, plenty of others. And don’t underestimate Brian Wilson!

So when I agreed with schubert’s assertion that "the best done material is when it’s done for love first and foremost", I was attempting to make the point that my favorite music just so happens to be made by artists plowing the fields which reap the lowest reward, artists who chose to do so with the knowledge that it will in all likelihood limit their financial compensation. In other words, they put their love of music first and foremost.