Audiophilism is a hobby

This post grew out of another discussion on music vs. sound. According to a poll taken in that discussion, it is clear most A’goners claim they listen to their rigs primarily for the music. Although I don’t doubt the truth of that, I maintain that much of the listening is as a hobby, with music being a very important component. I’m not saying we can’t be profoundly moved by the music but rather that a lot of our enjoyment comes from the sheer sound emitted from our speakers. Great music is of course a vital part of the experience, but with all the manipulations we do with our systems, we  are fascinated by the idea of sound in itself as a hobby.


I’ve arrived at a place where the goal of the playback system architecture is total transparency. I don’t believe that recordings can be improved in the reproduction process. Eliminating distortion is the key. That includes:

- No tonal coloration (incorrect timbre) by ensuring a correct response curve

- Having both speakers output within ±1 dB (although 0.5 dB is better) at the listening position across as much of the pass band as possible for a correct stereo image

- Having speakers with even off-axis fall-off across all frequencies

- A room setup that eliminates de-cohering early reflections

- Reducing phase and timing distortions by correcting time arrival at the driver level

That produces transparency and is my ultimate goal. Siegfried Linkwitz (RIP ❤) stated a great case for this in the decade prior to his passing.

If your playback system is reasonably transparent then what you get is an honest representation of every recording, warts and all. And that’s perfect to me. If I hear a digital representation of a wax cylinder and it sounds like the wax cylinder sounded, that’s just right. My goal is never to make every recording perfect, only to hear exactly what the recording and mastering engineers wanted me to hear. Then listening becomes like visiting an art museum. I go through the galleries and experience each work for what it is and accept it as the experience it was meant to be.

What this results in is a system where, if I sit in the sweet spot, the stereo image is holographic and the timbre is totally natural (if the recording was made that way). In properly reproduced stereo soundfield recordings it sounds like I am occupying the same space as the musicians. With gimmicked, hard panned, or recordings that otherwise don’t attempt to create a stereo soundfield, well they are what they are. I don’t try to make them into something they’re not. Some old jazz or psychedelic recordings are like this, for example. But when I am not in the sweet spot, the equal fall off across all frequencies as you move off axis means that even if the stereo illusion is reduced or eliminated, the timbre remains faithful and sounds natural. So if I’m in the kitchen and the system is playing in the living room, it still sounds as if a perfectly EQ’d mono system is playing. That’s fine. That’s just right.


I agree with the process and it taking decades. I am happy to hear you have reached what makes you happy. I can almost hear it. But that is not my cup of tea. That is the great thing about our pursuit, there are flavors for everyone.

So, what is your system? There is place to put photos and ID your equipment. 

I do agree with the idea of accepting the SQ of a recording for what it is. As long as it conveys a significant musical message, that’s OK by me. Every record can’t deliver a sound commensurate with the best our system has to offer.

The music and the sound itself satisfies the mind by stimulating as many neurons as possible. The more perfect the information, the more perfect the satisfaction. 

@engineears - thanks for your lovely post : ) - I’d just like to say, that to many, the journey and the end are one and the ever evolving same - that every part of being simply lost in the music; the search for that transparency and realism of which you speak; the mistakes and leaps of improvements; the point at which one finally says they have finally arrived, before discovering an entirely new level of realism, dynamics and timbre - are all rolled into a single profound trip of change that never ends. I’ve found for myself that it’s never one or the other at any step of the way, but that the process itself is a series of beginnings and endings, of arrivals and fresh departures. It would be awful to have my journey come to any kind of end! : )


in friendship - kevin