Written by 4:15 am Audiophile

Are You Listening for What is Wrong or What is Right?

Paul Wilson looks at whether audiophiles are listening to the right things…

In my January 22nd article, “Sound and How It Defines the Audiophile Hobby,” I looked at the differences in how I listened to music as compared to a non audiophile friend. His visit got me thinking about how audiophiles and non audiophiles viewed music.

AR-Good-Bad.jpgOne person left a comment that, as soon as I read it, really got me thinking. This respondent wrote, in part, that in his view, audiophiles listen for what is wrong, and music lovers listen for what is right. This comment took me by complete surprise. My surprise was not, as some might be led to believe, that the comment was wrong. Hardly that. Point of fact, I was actually quite stumped because I thought the comment might be absolutely right.

For the most part, I enjoy reading the comments posted to not only my articles but all the AR contributors. I find many of the comments interesting and some even thought provoking. And despite what some, perhaps many might think, unless it is some childish, profane, diatribe, I even enjoy the dissenting opinions. I read them all, reply to a few, but I have to admit, this particular comment piqued my interest. Which, I suppose, was exactly the point and one of the interesting facets of an immediate response.

In the last five to six years I have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and financial prosperity in a continuing upgrade of my system. Picking a component here, a cable there, I have tried to amass the system I have essentially wanted since I was fifteen and heard my first high performance stereo.

AR-Listening.jpgAll along the way, whether my upgrade at the time was a cable or a component, I evaluated the sonics the way that made the most sense to me – by listening. While I feel resolutely certain in my belief that I was always listening for improvements and hopefully not hearing setbacks, this comment caused me to call into question my methodology. Because frankly, I really haven’t given the method of my sonic evaluations much thought in the context as illustrated by that comment. Have I been trying to discover deficiencies or was I looking, possibly even hoping, to be impressed with the new what ever it was? This was the dilemma in which I found myself after reading this comment.

I had to go back to the original comment several times and ultimately came to the decision that perhaps, just maybe, I took the comment in a too narrow focus. When examining the complete comment and its context, it was specifically in regard to setting up a listening room at an audio show and the differences in what was heard from those in attendance. Or at least that’s how I understood the comment. This brings about the real possibility that I made an incorrect assumption and maybe I was mistakenly attaching a generalization to myself specifically.

Audio show attendees are, obviously, not intimately familiar with the systems they go from room to room to hear. That’s a major difference to listening to one’s own personal system that is well known. We all have a complete understanding of our own personal system because we’ve lived with it through all of its iterations. Additionally, we have knowledgeable familiarity with the space in which that systems resides and how the room affects sonics. Such is certainly not the case in an audio show. At best, we hear a system at a show and if we make a mental comparison to our own system, we do so based on how we remember our system sounding. As such, our ability to be accurately judgmental in a show environment is completely dependent on how well we understand our home system.

AR-Comments.jpgHowever, this doesn’t really confirm or disprove my take on that comment. Because I kept asking myself, in the general sense, are audiophiles really looking for negatives and not positives? Frankly, and because I don’t personally know every audiophile out there, I don’t see myself qualified to make such a determination. At best I can only answer for myself.

Ultimately I have come to the decision that for me, in my system, when I listen to music or make any changes, system or otherwise, I am listening for attributes that engage me to the music. So from my perspective, I’m looking for the positives. Obviously, should I actually hear something I find displeasing, it creates the need for a decision on that product. I also feel compelled to acknowledge there are those that might be looking to find sonic deficiencies and when they find something they perceive as a flaw; it suddenly becomes an “ah ha” moment.

Of course, I could be taking this whole thing way too literally. Some may say it was just a passing comment on a web site so what’s the big deal. I don’t see it that way. To me, the writer of that comment had an opinion and that opinion led me to think about the hobby more intently. I can’t say with reasonable certainly if the comment was intended to enlist that sort of reaction or if it was just a reader voicing a generalization. In either case, it did get me thinking.

Because the audiophile hobby is one of such a divergent range of personal preferences, maybe definitive declarations should not apply. Maybe, in the case of our hobby, what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander. Perhaps it should rightfully be up to the individual listener to decide if they are looking to find positives or negatives.

So for me positives win out, at least for now.

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