No real reference
Wandering the halls of an audio show it’s always stunning to me how different the same music sounds.
How can we say there exists a reference?
If we’re so bold as to suggest there is a reference, like that of the sound of live unamplified music in acoustic space, how do we justify the major differences in audio system reproduction?
Could it be that as a group we’re so far away from the true reference that our meager attempts are laughable at best? Or is it that we all hear differently? That what sounds right to me doesn’t sound right to you?
If this were true then a hundred people enjoying a concert would all hear something different. We’d have trouble agreeing that it sounded real, yet that doesn’t happen.
Or does it?
Could it be that because we’re actually at the concert no one would be silly enough to openly question whether it was actually live or not—yet none hear the same thing?
I don’t suppose there’s a way to easily answer this question but I suspect if we compared listening notes there would be as much divergence of sound quality per listener at a live concert as we do in a reproduction setting.
I would wager that the only real reference is what’s inside your head.
It’s not for you
When I first started on my quest for better audio, I gravitated towards electrostatic loudspeakers. These had the clarity and see through qualities I had never heard before and I wanted that. It seemed to me this level of clarity and transparency in the music was the be-all-to-end-all in reproduction.
Over the long term, I could not live with electrostat’s. Their lack of dynamics and frequency limitations just got in my way until I sold the pair and tried another: Martin Logans, Quads, Acoustats, Janzen. None had all that I was looking for and so I moved on, first to planar ribbons like those in Magnepan, and finally to hybrid ribbons as found in Infinity. None were perfect.
They weren’t for me.
Today, I am always a little surprised when a new visitor to our music rooms isn’t delighted with what they hear. I am surprised because to me they are the best combination of compromises I have found. I tend to forget that not everyone has settled into a comfortable zone with their audio quest.
I forget that when I was enamored with electrostats I found dynamic drivers ponderous.
At the time, they weren’t for me.
I forget that once I had accepted the trade-offs between clarity and dynamics and moved to a hybrid of planar, ribbon, and cone, that I had made a conscious choice to abandon one quest in favor of an alternative.
That audio system was for me.
If you are happy with the trade-offs in your system it’s alright if a visitor doesn’t agree.
Perhaps your system isn’t for them.