The goal of high performance audio should be undeniably obvious. Music. Replication as closely as possible to live music. Some audiophiles, myself included, ascribe to the goal of system’s sonics to as closely as possible recreate what the recording engineer heard when the music was recorded. We all, regardless of the level of system quality, want the sound to be as magnificent as possible.
I would go so far to say that any system, regardless of price, delivering an “oh wow” feeling when music is played achieves that goal.
We buy these remarkable components, assemble them into a complete audio system, place them in a room or somewhere in the home where they may be enjoyed and then what? What determines how and when we listen? When is the time right for music? How long do we listen? How loudly do we play the music we enjoy?
I suppose there are many answers to those questions. And really, I do not believe there is much in the way of a wrong answer. Because realistically, audiophiles will take any reasonable opportunity to play their systems. Sometimes, we even play with them – like when all of the sudden the speaker position needs an “adjustment.”
For my own purposes, I try to enjoy some “system time” almost every day – every other day at least. Sometimes, of course, life gets in the way. I recently flew across the country to attend the wedding of a very good friend’s daughter. I was gone for an entire week. Before leaving, and for safety reasons, namely thunder storms and power interruptions, I unplugged my system and turned off the breaker feeding the dedicated circuit. Upon my return a week later, I immediately plugged everything back in, powered everything back up and after ensuring it all worked properly, went to bed. It was late the next day before I could plop down in the listening chair and upon doing so, realized just how much I missed my system. I was content to cue up a playlist on the iPad and just sit and listen to each song. I didn’t even really care if the song was not particularly to my liking, I just sat and listened.
When it comes to how long, that is typically determined by outside influences. At night, I might listen until I feel the need to go to bed. Or I might listen until the start of something on TV I want to watch. Or until it is time to leave to go somewhere. Sometimes, on those lazy Sunday afternoons, I may well be found hibernating in my audio room, door closed, eyes shut, tapping my foot, and occasionally, although certainly not very well, singing with a song. Yeah, I know, that’s probably a sight to behold. But in any event, I try to have a minimum of an hour to listen to music although I prefer something like two to three hours.
How loudly a system is played can be a sticky subject. If one lives in a townhouse or apartment, or any place with common walls, it is probably wise to be careful how far to the right the volume knob is turned and when. Even playing music in a single-family home can interrupt others. In my case, I am fortunate in that my house is large enough where the audio room upstairs at one end will not usually bother anyone watching TV in the great room downstairs at the other end. This allows me to “sneak” off when I feel the need to escape to music and know I am probably not bothering anyone. I also find on occasion I feel the need to increase the amplitude for non-amplified music, namely classical, as opposed to the level I use for music that is amplified. Apart from that, I usually play music at a level of about 80db minimum, although, I do go a bit louder at times. For the most part, it depends on the music. A real high energy song might find the knob turned further right than a soft, melodic song. Best of all, I know I can listen to music just about anytime I so desire, at any reasonable volume I like, and I won’t bother anyone. Oddly enough, I’ve often wondered if that actually lessens the time I spend listening – because I can do so at my leisure, it reduces my desire to do so. That’s probably overthinking things, but the notion has crossed my mind.
Sometimes, the music itself exerts an influence. If I feel really good, I might put on some music from yesteryear, like Kool & The Gang, or Earth, Wind and Fire. If I really want to become absorbed, I might play some really great smooth jazz, like the Rippingtons or Euge Groove. Some music saddens me. Like the song “Shadow In The Window” by Michael McDermott. This tune is about losing his Father. It reminds me of when I would visit my parents, and when I was leaving to go home, how they would stand in the driveway and wave goodbye. To this day, I think I have only made it through that song from start to finish only once or twice. It also reminds me how much I miss my parents.
Music is a lifeblood for audiophiles. It moves us. It reminds us of life’s events, both past and present. It imbues us with a feeling of satisfaction. And while it may be argued that a high performance audio system is not required for any of those things, having one sure makes the whole process that much better – regardless when, how long or how loudly a system is played. All that really matter is we enjoy what we hear when we do listen. The audiophile hobby is chiefly about music. How we choose to listen, fortunately, is a personal choice.