When we enter this life we’re each dealt a hand of cards. Each hand has a different distribution of good ones and bad ones and it is up to us to make the most out of the hands we are dealt.
The same can be said for our HiFi systems and rooms. None are perfect. All are compromised.
How we handle our setups: emphasizing its strengths, shoring up its weaknesses, determines the outcome.
I have always been most impressed with the humblest of systems.
When those shine you know there’s a master card player behind them.
It is not a measure of how much great stereo stuff you have, it’s how effectively you have utilized what you do have.
Up or down?
There are HiFi systems that bring me up. They energize me, fill me with a desire to hear more and encourage upward volume level nudges.
And then there are the opposites, HiFi systems that bring me down: fatiguing, over etched, trying, encouraging downward volume level nudges.
One of the best means of knowing if your gear choices are serving you, if your system setup is satisfying, is this very test. Does your system inspire you to listen more or cause you to shrink back into silence after some play?
We may not be able to put a finger on the exact causes of either emotional response to music’s reproduction, but just knowing we can use this knowledge as a tool puts us in a heck of a lot better place for evaluating gear.
Home audio reproduction can cut both ways: a real up that energizes and inspires us or the opposite.
When you’re evaluating a new process, amplifier, cable, power device, or the system itself, be mindful of how you react to it.
Your emotional state, as a result of music’s immersion, can often be more telling than just about any other metric.
Hearing what others do not
Many visitors to Music Room Two comment more on hearing, for the first time, what was formerly hidden from them in the music they are familiar with, from subsonics to room cues, harmonics, finger plucks, and lingering decays.
Though it might be counterintuitive, much of what’s missing is often found in the lowest frequencies the system produces—frequencies brought out by a proper subwoofer that determine a system’s believability.
And still, the vast majority of HiFi systems haven’t any means of reproducing those missing bits of information in each recording.
For my tastes, I want to make sure I do everything in the electronic chain, as well as the speakers, to ensure a full frequency response.
Knowingly playing a system that leaves out information grates on me.
I want it all!
If you’ve ever played around with cameras you’ll know it’s easy to change perspective. We can zoom in for closeup details or move back for a panoramic view.
Each image offers an entirely different feel and focus. A closeup encourages examination of minute details. A more distant view offers a better sense of what goes into those details.
The same can apply to our HiFi systems. If our focus is centered around bringing out music’s finer details, it’s sometimes at the expense of the bigger image. I remember participating in a cable quest to extract music’s every nuance. I got what I wanted but not without damage. My hunt for detail came at the expense of tonal balance.
Of course we’ve all heard the adage of missing the forest while searching for the tree.
It’s true for forests and stereo systems alike.
Once you’ve focused intently on one area of music’s reproduction, it’s probably a good idea to pull back and make sure you haven’t missed the bigger picture.
Beauty is found in the whole.
If you own a Toyota Prius upgrading its tires to the racing variety isn’t going to turn it into a Tesla. Nor would swapping tires with the Prius significantly alter the Tesla.
Yet better tires definitely improves performance when paired with the right vehicle.
The same can be said for our hifi systems. An expensive cable won’t help much on a consumer level stereo nor would a consumer level cable cripple a state of the art rig.
Polish and incremental improvements matter most when paired with products at the peak of their performance.