What is Musicality?

Hello fellow music lovers,

I am upgrading my system like a lot of us who follow Audiogon. I read a lot about musicality on Audiogon as though the search for musicality can ultimately end by acquiring the perfect music system -- or the best system that one can afford. I really appreciate the sonic improvements that new components, cables, plugs and tweaks are bringing to my own system. But ultimately a lot of musicality comes from within and not from without. I probably appreciated my Rocket Radio and my first transistor radio in the 1950s as much I do my high-end system in 2010. Appreciating good music is not only a matter of how good your equipment is. It is a measure of how musical a person you are. Most people appreciate good music but some people are born more musical than others and appreciate singing in the shower as much as they do listening to a high-end system or playing a musical instrument or attending a concert. Music begins in the soul. It is not only a function of how good a system you have.

I'll take a chance at this, since I use the term "musical" a lot to describe components and/or systems....

At the end of the day, I just want to have a better experience with MUSIC, and will always choose a component and system based on this. I don't care about technical specs, loudness and analyzing sound....I just want the music to sound as good as possible.

Some "hifi" gear and systems sound dead, lifeless. It seems like some people want to "analyze sound" instead of listen to music. While I have a great appreciation for technical engineering and design, most of the gear is not something I would want, because of both the price and the lack of "musicality".

I'm not saying that my opinion is right, because music and listening to music is a very subjective thing. I also realize that some people say these exact things who like other gear that I would label "analytical", so I'm not completely sure if any of the "labels & terms" work. ;)
In non-auditory terms baked potato rather than Pringles potato chips.

Both can be good but one is complete, original, and ultimately satifying while the other is only pieces mashed together held with artifical binders that has been manipulated into a flavor like the original but that leaves a vague and unsatisfying aftertaste.
Since we started labeling, let me put my labels:

"non-analytical" = not clean
"musical" = colored

Let me explain. Sound without distortion might seem analytical or lifeless since distortion adds "kick" - just compare distorted guitar and clean jazz guitar. I even read negative user opinion of my Benchmark DAC1 that claims that each instrument can be heard independently instead of preferred "sound blob".

As for appreciating music more by musical people who sing in the shower - creating, performing and receiving are completely different things. One doesn't have to have music inside (soul as you called it) to be able to receive it. More, people who create music often have complete disregard for good sound. Same often goes for performers.

Musicality is often associated with warm sound that has enhanced even harmonics therefore colored. Warm sound might be good for guitar or voice but is not so good if instrument has complex harmonic structure (piano, percussion instruments). Piano sounds, on very warm gear like out of tune. That was the reason why Benchmark's technical director John Siau did not want Benchmark to sound warm. I remember reading about test conducted with Benchmark and few other DACs in recording studio. Benchmark was the most accurate, according to sound engineers (also audiophiles) and worst sounding according to regular users. To me Benchmark sounded too clean at the beginning as well - made impression of missing instruments in known recordings. One has to learn to listen, I guess.

Let me introduce other label (not mentioned so far)- NEUTRAL, CLEAN, TRANSPARENT, RESOLVING, PURE
This should be interesting...like a Gomez Adam's train wreck.

IMO, a musical system is one that let's you forget about the equipment and allows you to listen to the music without analyzing the sound. Simple as that.
Tvad - Absolutely agree, but being audiophile I like to analyze sometimes.
Kijanki, that's precisely why I've reached the conclusion that I am not an audiophile.

I'm a guy who likes great quality sound, but only as a vehicle to the enjoyment of recordings.

I've grown tired of system analysis.
Musicality is one of the most important Alities that are in the science of sound and visual interpretation. I will stick with sound here. Musicality is the ability to bring the musical experience to ones psyche, to create the illusion of actual music being heard. It can also be used as a discription for a component that you spent a really lot of money on and though it may not sound any better, you think it does as you are looking at the entry in your check book and suddenly realize how much musicality it brings to your life. The only thing more important than musicality is morality. More of everything. If you have morality in your listening experience you have reached the Absolute Sound, better than live because it has more.

That should be completely clear.
A musical system will cause your foot to tap and you to think only about how good the music sounds or to get lost in a pleasant reverie.

If you are thinking about how detailed the sound is or how tight the bass is or how sharp the transient edges are but in the back of your mind something is telling you that there is something missing in the music, the system is not musical.

Each person must decide for himself if a system is musical. We all hear differently.

I hear this mantra often "foot tapping music", "don't worry be happy - and don't analyze".

So, shall we put random pieces together until it clicks after 1000 iterations? We all analyze, but for some reason don't want to admit it. I'm pretty sure that I would find in your posts analysis of bass, treble, imaging etc. No one is free from that.
Kijanki, I have no problem with anyone analyzing music or gear, but if your system can only get you to scenario 2 and not scenario 1, then it is not what most people mean when they use the term musical.

I also said, "but in the back of your mind something is telling you that there is something missing in the music." I think that it is important to listen to that little voice no matter how much you want to like the gear or how much you think you are suposed to like the gear.

I also have no problem with people who prefer a system that produces scenario 2 and not scenario 1. As I said, We all hear differently, and let me add that we all enjoy different gear and different music.

Most often I just listen to music but sometimes I analyze how I could improve it. I don't understand why it should be only one or the other.
I think musicality is whatever conveys the music experience to YOU. In other words, a personal thing.

for me it is dynamic range and tone.

my two cents...
This is great!!!! One of the best threads I've been part of since being here.... I would be interested to know what designs, brands and methods everyone thinks is musical vs. non-musical?

For example....

I like single ended triodes and "Gainclone" chip amps, and also NOS DACs and single driver speakers.

I do not like horns, over powered solid state and large, multi-driver speakers.

Are there designs that tend to be more "musical"?
It begins with the play button or the when the needle hits the groove. It ends when you begin to listen to the equipment, period. Cheers!
I was happily surprised to wake up this morning to read all of the responses to the question that I posed to everyone yesterday. My question was leading in the direction of the importance of the inner person -- whose inner ear is undeniably "influenced" by the quality of the sound that his system is producing. Ultimately, where is the music located that we are appreciating? Is it coming from the system and the speakers? Is it in the air between the speaker and our ears? Or is it in our ears and our brains that receive the sounds? Or is it in all of these locations? My question was leading in the direction of the importance of the listener and how each of us hears what our systems produce. Ultimately, the music is inside each of us. Our ability to appreciate our music is a function of how musical WE are as well as the quality of our systems. I have a very old friend, Alex, who is now 85 years old. He was a jazz pianist and drummer and either knew or saw most of the greats of yesteryear. He saw Art Tatum in a small basement club in New York City. He introduced Stan Kenton on stage. Stan's kids used to play with his own kids. Alex's hearing is now quite impaired. He said to me recently that it would be a waste of money for him to upgrade his vintage Marantz/JBL system because he just can't hear the high frequencies anymore. But Alex and I spend afternoons listening to the old standards and watching the videos of the greats of years gone by and Alex still appreciates music as much as just about anyone I know, including my audiophile friends with modern systems. Musicality resides with the listener. The equipment resides on the shelf. We are all striving to create the best system we can. I certainly am with equipment from EMM and Marantz and Merlin Music and Audio Magic and Oyaide. But my own sense of musicality -- how I hear what my equipment produces and how much I appreciate what I hear -- is the ultimate determinant of how much I am able to appreciate what my equipment produces. We all like to A/B and do the best we can to upgrade and tweak our systems. But in the end we have to just lay back and enjoy the best sound that we are able to afford. We may not be able to afford the "perfect" system but we can enjoy what we have with a sense of musicality that is actually the most important component in our system. Are you "missing" something in your system? Most of us are "missing" something but if we have a strong sense of musicality then we are not "missing" anything at all because the music resides within our hearts.

Sabai - Are you suggesting that musicians are better listeners? Nothing can be further from the truth. I have a friend who is jazz musician with degree in music (oboe) but he enjoys playing more than listening. My brother on the other hand finds Nirvana in listening to music from all over the world, from ancient to modern - being even almost an expert in Indian Classical music. He never played any instrument nor he was ever interested. He cannot even sing in tune. Music to him is his whole life.

Creating, Performing, and Receiving are separate things. Performers are not the best receivers of music, composers are not the best performers etc. There are types of music that cannot be even performed by western musicians and types of music that cannot be performed at all (Conlon Nancarrow studies for player piano) - I still enjoy it.
I don't like the term musical when it's applied to equipment. I think it's just a pretentious way of saying "I like it."
Kijanki - I am not suggesting that at all. In fact, I agree with you completely. I have a good friend who is an excellent musician - a guitarist and singer. He has been performing professionally since the 1960s and has backed up many very well-known groups. I was surprised one day to discover that he is really not a very good listener at all when we got together to appreciate all the upgrades I had made to my system which I thought were quite impressive. He payed slight interest to the improved quality of sound that my system was producing and it seemed like the whole thing just passed him over. In fact my own musicianship was so mediocre that, after struggling with classical piano for 12 years, I threw in the towel - about 12 years before I should have. My piano teacher always used to tell me I should be a singer and I did in fact become a singer - accompanying the music that has emanated from the various systems I have owned over the years.

Musicality is simple to define for me.

It means your system sounds like music, music that draws you into the enjoyment and involvement of and in it.

It's the opposite of "sounding like a stereo system" which is obviously and painfully electronically recreating the music in an artificial sounding way.

Tvad nailed it..

IMO, a musical system is one that let's you forget about the equipment and allows you to listen to the music without analyzing the sound. Simple as that.

I used to be an audiophile, but I think the older I get and the more gear I EXPERIENCE the more I just want a system that let's me enjoy my music and stop trying to extract that last ounce of something sonically.
I'm on board with those who define the term to mean the disappearing act that well-assembled system is capable of - when the system is gone and all that's there is the music...it is about engagement. My acid test for a system is how easy it is to get up and walk away from it, vs how much it has you riveted to the music and emotions. Musicality, for me, has everything to do with that.

I also have very similar experiences with many musicians I know - they listen in a completely different way than I do and are far more particular about content, seeming to have a more narrow set of preferences. My wife was trained as a musician (though no longer plays) and comes from a family of classical musicians. She describes her experience of music in the way her mind will become locked into the progression of the notes and follow them, anticipating the next line. In this way, for her, it is difficult for her to concentrate on other things when music is playing. I would prefer to having music playing as a soundtrack to pretty much everything in life. It enhances most things for me, and I work and function better with than without. I've never been very musical myself, and don't play any instruments or read music, but have had a lifelong passion for listening to music.

Critical listening of a system, for me is the antithesis of enjoying music. If I am listening for the quality of components or changes in components I find it is the farthest removed from enjoying the music as I can be. I try to do that as infrequently as possible as it is really not that enjoyable for me simply for that reason alone. It's like having sex without any connection or emotion. The contrast to the opposite experience is quite stark.
My personal and real world example:

Audiophile System - I go maniacally from CD to CD and track to track to hear how cool the bass sounds or how brassy the trumpet sounds........

Musical System - I start the same process and am so captivated by the beauty and magic of the music that I let the record or CD play in it's entirety
Musicality was either
A) a late 60's or early 70's group that sounded great live yet no matter what or how they recorded and no matter what or how one tweaked one's system, it just couldn't produce the same effect. or
B) a long lost lamented company that produced a string of products that no matter what it was or inserted into it's proper place in the chain produced an effect so great no that no more was needed.

a lot of systems make musicality a music casualty but some who care about the way sound moves them and not the way sound is supposed to be are already there and no more is needed. If the music moves you its there and if it doesn't it doesn't matter what else might be.
i believe music can be experienced on as many different levels as there are levels of consciousness pertaining to our 1.senses 2.our cognitive ablilities as well as 3.our emotional perceptions. while reading these responses to the question i thought about my tivoli radio vs my "audiophile system". the radio sounds unfailingly musical, especially on jazz broadcasts- smooth with a nice beat and great texture throughout the midrange. it lacks extended high frequencies BUT OTOH there is rarely any harshness to the upper mids and treble. In the living room there's my Stereo System with tremendous dynamics, loads of detail, very low distortion, but thankfully with a good measure of emotional content as well. trouble is, with SO MUCH GOING ON, EACH recording PLUS my RECEPTIVITY at the time i am listening becomes part of a much more complex set of reactions and affects how much i am really getting into the music. for example, i have been playing around lately with some new SACD'S i've acquired and have to admit they are really very good. some would even say that once you've heard HI-REZ that "there's no going back", etc. BUT yesterday i "went back" and put on a Mozart piano concerto played by V.Ashkenazy, whose playing is so inspiring that i was, after the first few minutes of criticizing the recording quality in one part of my brain, got subsequently swept away by the performance. and after all, the cd didn't REALLY sound that bad- just not as good as some other material that i have. Of course if you ask me on another day i might go on and on about how good some recordings sound over others. BUT hey, i am just happy that, at the end of the day, i don't have to "sweat" whether or not i am having a good time.
An audio buddy once said to me long ago that someone with a large record (music) collection that overshadows his system is someone into the music. Someone with a stereo system that overshadows their music collection is into the electronics. His record collection was enormous. His stereo also sounded very good. He must of had an oil well somewhere (just not in the Gulf). No reason to disdain one type of person or the other. I enjoy the music very much, but I also enjoy the hobby/art of reproducing music. Over the years I have trended from one side to the other. When I get the bug in me, I start analysing the music and generally walk away from my system unsatisfied because I didn't hear the music, just the bass, imaging, highs, soundstage, etc. When I get through those phases and back to just enjoying the music, then the stress from work goes away and I finish the evening with a smile and the anticipation of the next listening session.
I remember one time years ago wandering around a nice stereo shop wondering why I was there. My system sounded good and was giving me musical pleasure when listening to it. Nothing in the store sounded better to me than what I already had. Then suddenly, most of the stereo shops disappeared. It makes it hard now days to listen to different systems to compare and contrast how my own stereo is doing.
Isn't it Pace, rhythm, and timing? I'll add tonality to that.

short answer... it's magic.

Somewhat longer announcement....

It seems to me just from the Ops initial post that experience also plays a significant role and not merely what devices are on hand or could be had if dreams could be handily realized.

Unless one is tone deaf or the easiest person on the planet to please, no ambiguous or haphazard set of audio appliances just thrown together is going to achieve a thoroughly involving level of musicality. Especially right off the

If such has been a past or present experience, rush out and buy at least one lottery ticket, as it looks like you’re one lucky son of a gun.

The more experience one can attain, be it first handed, by trial or error, or just from the wisdom of other’s, it’s a necessity if the aim is to obtain such an end. Truly engaging, entertaining, and honest recreation of the music one chooses to audition must contain the soul of it’s author. The force of it’s intent. The excerpt has to capture the llistener with some indescribable net that seems woven out of pure magic.

Therefore, I think it safe to say a decent connotation for the term ‘Musicality’ is that it is the sum of more than it’s more obvious and noteable segments .

it is the single most indescribable facet of music. It is life and breath were none could possibly be. It’s the allure and intrigue that simply shouldn’t occur.

It’s that element that compels us to listen further for pleasure than to listen for and await possible anomolies. It’s enjoyable and fascinating. It’s a comfortable invitation to revisit favorable memories and adventure into some as yet unknown with eager anticipation. A quality that reaches well into the mind and touch the soul itself.

It could be put as simply as the “Knee bobbing and toe tapping factor” too, I suppose.

Winston Churchill's quotation, made in a radio broadcast in October 1939: wherein he fielded a question on future events regarding Russia and/or it’s intnetions
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma ….but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
Musicality might very well be revealed as exactly that… “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”
Whatever it actually is by one’s definition, it sure is the aim and intended result so many audio enthusiasts ascribe to reproduce.
"Musicality" = a term used where there is no objective basis for preferring an item; usually in the context of justifying a purchase or as a sales tactic.

On top of whatever electronics you arrive at, you gotta like/love the genre you're listening to. To complete the "musicality" definition, the quality of recording is equally vital. High quality recordings are so enjoyable to hear and listen to and really help define musicality. Sometimes this attribute facilitates discovery and develop appreciation of a genre previously disregarded.
Similar to what others have said:

When a "system" can get out of it's own way and you forget about everything but the "....................." fill in the blank/blanks for yourself.

For me some would be:

Emotional quality
Sheer beauty of instrument's tone
And on and on!!!
The degree to which any system sounds musical depends significantly on the quality of the recording being played.
I can't define it but I know it when I hear it.

(credit to Jacobellis v Ohio)
"The degree to which any system sounds musical depends significantly on the quality of the recording being played."

so true...

I have often found that to be one of the most frustrating things about hi fi.
The term ‘musicality’ gets used in different ways by different audiophiles, but there is one usage that I find the most informative: A system is described as musical when the sound it produces is perceived by the listener as a GESTALT, rather than a collection of individual elements like resolution, tonal balance, imaging, and so on.

Of course, the likelihood of gestalt perception depends as much on the inclinations of the listener as it does the characteristics of the system. Some people seem naturally inclined to listen analytically, and some systems seem to promote that. Other people seem naturally inclined to listen holistically, and some systems seem to promote that. When a system tends to promote holistic listening, it is often described as “musical.” And that seems to me to be a useful enough adjective to have around.
Hear! Hear!!!

Sorry I couldn't resist!
I am in agreement with Byroncunningham!
The basis of music is the conveyance of emotion. When the sound speaks to your soul, when the absolute beauty of the composition moves the listener to tears, then the emotion originally inherent in the composition is coming through to you, and that is musicality. You know it when you hear it; unfortunately you do not hear it very often, actually only very rarely.
It is not necessarily about the quality of the rig, although it certainly *can* be. Has much more to do with system synergy and of course the depth perception of the listener, because not everyone, actually only the gifted few, actually "get it".
I was not going to enter into this discussion, and I am certainly not going to try to narrow down a definition of "musicality." Even the dictionary doesn't try to do that by the way, in most of them "musicality" is not even given a separate entry - it is listed as the noun form of the adjective "musical."

That aside, I do feel compelled to respond to a couple of comments made here about how professional musicians listen. Particularly Kijanki's "Are you suggesting that musicians are better listeners? Nothing can be further from the truth." This statement is completely absurd on the face of it. One cannot become a professional musician without VERY highly developed critical listening skills - this should go without saying. In fact, these skills go quite far beyond those required to analyze the sound of an audio system, and those that do not have them do not make it as professionals.

Jax2 is on the right track when he says "they listen in a completely different way than I do and are far more particular about content," and also "critical listening of a system, for me is the antithesis of enjoying music."

A couple of comments from my perspective as a professional performer. First, all performers are very aware of the shortcomings of the recording/playback process - there is not now, and probably never will be, any way to record and play back music in such a way that it remotely resembles the live event to our ears. And since we experience the live event literally on a daily basis, the very best system in existence falls far short. This is probably the main reason why some audiophiles have the impression that many professionals don't "get" high end audio. We tend to "listen through" the limitations of the recording/playback system, in a way similar to how some audiophiles talk about "listening through" distortions. The quality of the system/recording is simply not nearly as high a listening priority for us, either for work or pleasure. The music itself and the performance of it is a far higher priority in both cases.

That said, there are many musicians such as myself who do appreciate a good high quality system, but the priority will always be on the music (and the music-making), not the equipment. IMO, this should be true of anyone listening to music, whether they call themselves an audiophile or not. If the equipment and/or recording quality becomes more important than the music, than the priorities (musical ones, anyway) have been misplaced. If I do not like a performance, I won't listen to it for pleasure, no matter how excellent the recording quality and/or the system it is played on (I might have to listen to it for study purposes, but that is a separate thing, and as I said the listening in that case would be much more critical than an audiophile listening to equipment). On the other hand, as professionals our much deeper knowledge of the music gives us much more pleasure in listening to a great performance, even if it is a bad recording played on a crappy system.

So those are some of the reasons many musicians do not bother to get into some of the purely technical details of audio playback that many audiophiles love to go crazy over. I could of course elaborate much further on any of the above comments if anyone cares, but I'll shut up for now.
I think you have hit on a very important point, Learsfool, and so has Byroncunningham. Music is a whole, not a collection of parts or the sum of those parts. But musicians may be listening in a very different way. They may be able to appreciate a bad recording of a good performance in a way that others cannot. For many of us, if the recording is bad or the quality of the sound that our equipment produces is unimpressive or "problematic" (meaning harsh or veiled or another of the many problems that may detract from our ability to enjoy the music) then we will have a hard time calling that piece of music "musical". It does not speak to us. Which goes back to my original point that so much of what each of us perceives as being "musical" depends on the inner person and how he or she perceives musicality. For many of us here, purchasing equipment that we hope will improve the quality of sound makes a big difference to our enjoyment of the music. I know this makes a big difference for me for most of the music that I play. There is some music that I play that speaks to me no matter how bad the recording and no matter what equipment it is played on. But good quality recordings played on good equipment are such a pleasure to listen to that I cannot deny the importance of the improvements I have made to my system. I should preface my remarks by stating that I am not associated with any manufacturer or any dealer and have no friends in the trade. So my comments are my personal opinions only. I recently added Oyaide plugs to my system and they have made a world of difference. I used the "revealing" P-037 for the CDP and I found the sound resolved yet lacking -- it was "thin" and "lean". Then I added the "warm" P-079 to the amplifier and I now have a revealing AND warm sound emanating from my speakers with a much larger sound stage and a much "fuller" and more "musical" sound. So yes, for me the equipment I use makes a big contribution to the "musicality" of my system and my ability to enjoy the music. But without the inner sense of musicality I doubt all this would make any difference to me. I have friends over who enjoy music but not in the same way I do. Their response is "it sounds very nice" no matter what changes have been made to my system since their last visit. Musicality means different things to different people.

Learsfool - I've never said that musicians have worse or no ability to listen. What I said was that they are often not so much interested in listening as in performing. Also fact of being musician doesn't make somebody receive or enjoy music better.

As for your argument that musicians have often less than perfect gear because they know they will never get sound of real performance - this is really lame. If they know what is the sound of real live performance shouldn't they try for the next best thing - highest quality system?

The reason is different in my opinion - they simply don't care. You can defend musicians, being one, all you want but I met few who listen on really bad boom box. I would even say that quality of gear is inversely proportional to musical education and involvement.

I also strongly disagree with your statement that being professional musician gives you more pleasure in listening. I wonder how you came to this conclusion? How do you know how much pleasure music bring to me?
You enjoy the music so much,you forget to focus on the system.
Bryoncunningham - Good news: You can have cake and eat it too. You don't have to have inclination toward holistic or analytical listening. One can listen most of the time holistically forgetting about volts, watts dB etc. being lost in music, but from time to time sit down to analyze system shortcomings using test CDs auditioning and comparing gear to get better results. That's how progress happens.
It seems like your equipment joined in and is having a good
time swinging with the flow of music,and entertaining you
too.A sterile piece of gear would stop this enjoyable effect.
My system sounds better then some live events I have gone to This is not always the case, but some live events have sounded quite poor.
Musicnoise...LOL! Aside from that obvious statement...

I've glanced through most of the posts so far and took a day to really think about this before posting. Some came close to what I wanted to say. But here's my point. You could throw me in a beat up car with ratty speakers close to blown and as long as I have my music and have some volume to it I can completely immerse myself. If I'm away from home or at the park or wherever and I don't have my headphones, I can turn on my iPhone or touch and put my head down and listen to those crappy little itty bitty speakers and I can still forget the world exists outside my dreams.

Now don't mistake that for me saying I don't care about sound quality. I love it. But even for my mid-fi, modest, built on a budget 2-channel setup, I find myself oddly detracted from the music as I delve into the world of analysis. I find it awe-inspiring to hear what comes out of these speakers but it takes a lot more effort to immerse myself in my own little world because, well maybe its ADD, but every time I hear something really neat or something I've not heard before, I'm like... wow! Crap! I'm awake again.

Now if that truly holds any weight, then I should sell all my stuff and get a Bose system. (don't kill me.. it was a joke) Maybe this simple idea is going to be as controversial as digital vs. analog sources and which one has "soul". But then this idea has completely lost all ground since the idea of hi-fi is to get as close to the original recording as possible. I'm a violinist of 17 years and a drummer of 18 years. I know live music. I listen more than I play. Only way to know that what you play sounds good to others. But live music doesn't distract me from the music. Are we so utterly bound by the concept of true reproduction that when we finally sit down and listen we forget about the music and simply overwhelm ourselves with the capabilities of the equipment we use?

So that means I need to stop being happy with my gear, sit down, shut up, and enjoy. But I already do so I guess its getting back to learning how to get lost again in the music and forget the components. I guess it all goes back to whatever gets you rockin' regardless of how expensive or cheap it is. Bose not included as it is still a travesty to the audio industry. >-D
Tiggerfc, you're as close to what I am saying as I am. Musicality, the music, is inside us. Getting lost in it and really enjoying the musical experience does not depend on the gear. But good gear sure can enhance the experience.

Based on my own experiences with musician friends and family (and that's pretty extensive), I would draw absolutely no hard conclusions about their appreciation of high-end components. In this way they vary probably just as widely as the general population in that most don't get the investment, while there are a few who share a great passion about the high-end, as demonstrated by many members here being musicians. I think the inference that because folks have made a career out of music means they necessarily should appreciate what a high-end system is capable of, is not as obvious as one may suppose.

As far as the notion of someone appreciating music MORE than someone else simply because they hear and understand it differently...I'm not even going to go there, except to say that actually understanding how anyone else perceives, experiences, and or enjoys virtually anything is completely impossible for any of us. If you enjoy music, well, then you and I have something in common and I'd much rather enjoy that aspect of our connection than trying to one-up each other. That kind one-upmanship only serves to alienate others. If someone wants to limit their connections with the rest of the world that way, that's their business, but I think it very sad. One of the fundamentally beautiful things about music is that it is a universal language that is capable of connecting with everyone. I find that pretty amazing. Anyone see the film, "The Visitor"? One of my favorite films of all time, and such a beautiful illustration of a similar connection through music between two people. I'd highly recommend it to anyone. That suggests something to me in reflecting on this film. I can draw a parallel to watching a really great film, where you get so caught up in the film, so connected to the emotions and the events you are watching unfold on the screen, so involved with the characters, with such a level of suspension of any disbelief, so much so that you almost entirely forget the fact that you are watching a movie... Musicality, for me is much like that.
Sabai wrote in the OP:

Appreciating good music is not only a matter of how good your equipment is. It is a measure of how musical a person you are. Most people appreciate good music but some people are born more musical than others…

I think Sabai is right about this, and that the same thing could be said of appreciating novels, plays, movies, painting, or any other art form. Appreciation says as much about the appreciator as it does the thing appreciated. This raises the question:

Who are the best appreciators of an art form (in this case, music)?

One possible answer is that the best appreciators of an art form are the artists themselves. So musicians are the best appreciators of music, writers of writing, painters of painting, and so on. If that is true, then a person's APPRECIATION of an art form is directly proportional to his EXPERTISE with that art form. At least one poster, Kijanki, is extremely skeptical about this:

Are you suggesting that musicians are better listeners? Nothing can be further from the truth…Performers are not the best receivers of music, composers are not the best performers etc…

But Learsfool describes this statement as…

…completely absurd on the face of it. One cannot become a professional musician without VERY highly developed critical listening skills...

I think the conflict between Kijanki and Learsfool here is attributable to the fact that Kijanki is talking about listening APPRECIATION, and Learsfool is talking about listening EXPERTISE. That is an inherent ambiguity is the phrase “better listener” throughout this discussion. Here are the two possible interpretations:

1. Better listener = greater APPRECIATION.
2. Better listener = greater EXPERTISE.

I think that Learsfool is correct when he points out that professional musicians are better listeners in the sense that they have greater listening EXPERTISE than non-musicians. But I also think that Kijanki is correct when he points out that having greater listening expertise does not guarantee greater listening APPRECIATION.

I have expertise with an art form (not music), having spent nearly ten years devoted to it, and I can say from personal experience that the relationship between expertise and appreciation is not simple or linear. For example:

i. Expertise, particularly in its early stages, promotes analytic perception, which can be an obstacle to the appreciation of an art form. However, expertise, in its later stages, promotes holistic perception, which enhances the appreciation of an art form.

ii. Expertise raises a person’s standard for “good” art, which can be an obstacle to the appreciation of works that do not meet that personal standard. However, expertise, by raising a person’s standards for “good” art, can intensify a person’s appreciation of works that do meet that personal standard.

These are just two examples of how the relationship between expertise and appreciation is complicated, changing, and sometimes unpredictable. To be sure, artists know far more about their art form than others, but that knowledge can be both a blessing and a curse, when it comes to appreciation.
Jax 2, Just love your posts, I wish that I had posted them myself. :-)

Bryoncunningham, I think you have touched on something important as well!

Understanding musical theory doesn't make one particularly creative, as a composer must be, nor reading Ansel Adams books make one a 'great' photographer. But it sure doesn't hurt those that are looking to expand their knowledge and utilizing their inherent and learned skills, especially if they can accept their limitations.

Years ago I bought a book about 'how to fish'. While I didn't really catch many more or bigger fish, I sure learned all of the excuses for why I was unsuccessful, when I was. :-)

In that respect I think audio shares much with photography. We have a lot of 'picture' takers who fantasize that their photos rise to an art form, when they are in fact nothing more that personal expressions of a common experience.

Personally, I love audio most when it doesn't get in the way of a performance. And when it seems to, I just listen to that recording from the 'next room' which devalues the audio enhancements that serve the needs of an audio system to be heard as intended.

But folks, music, soul, whatever you want to call it, is only found in the composition and the performance, not in your audio systems!

Byroncunningham, you make some very astute observations here. IMHO it is very important to differentiate between expertise and appreciation. It cannot be an a priori assumption that expertise necessarily means a greater sense of appreciation. The appreciation of an "expert" may be different from a "non-expert" but the former is not necessarily deeper or felt with greater intensity or sensitivity than by the latter. The appreciation of the "expert" may have a different perspective superimposed upon it because that is what happens when one becomes an "expert". There are meanings that emerge for "experts" that may not emerge for "non-experts". But not appreciating those "special meanings" that influence the "expert" does not mean that the experience of the "expert" is on higher level than that of the "non-expert". It simply means that they may be experiencing the music differently.

Appreciate is the wrong word. I think understand/comprehend is better. When viewing a movie, another film director would better understand how the film is made, but it doesn't mean he/she would appreciate it any better than a non-director. I can enjoy a Bill Evans recorded performance as much as anyone else, but another jazz pianist is in a much better position to fully understand the technical and musical elements Mr. Evans is working with. It stands to reason that a musician is in a better position to judge the sound of an instrument. Who's opinion about a cello's sound carries more weight, Yo-Yo Ma's or some audiophile with a 6 figure plus system? It's not that the audiophile can't have an informed opinion, but why would it be better than someone who has lived and breathed the instrument for the past 50 years?

Musicality is a word used by audiophiles that can mean any number of things. It's a vague concept. Personally I don't see how any component can add musicality to a performance. Some components mangle what is already there less than others.