Getting into the music

I’ve found, to my dismay, that it’s very difficult for me to listen to music for the music itself these days. Since I got into this audiophile game many years ago, little by little my musical appreciation has eroded to the point that I find it very hard  to comprehend the music itself if it doesn’t sound good.  Too often I’m listening for sonic delights rather than the message the composer is trying to convey. I find myself going from composition to composition looking for audio niceties. When something sounds good I can then begin to get into what the composer is saying. 
As a former musician, this would have been unthinkable years ago.  Music was everything to me.


@rvpiano , Stagnation in discovery of new artists/music can lead to the above mentioned. The thrill of new music discovery tends to save me from all the cons of audiophilia OCD.

@rvpiano I’ve experienced exactly what you’re describing. The first time I hit the wall I stopped listening to my system for several years. I had a very musically engaging system with B&W N803 speakers, Audio Research CD3 player, ARC LS-25 tube preamp and Pass Labs X250.5 amp. I then “upgraded” to Dynaudio speakers, sold the ARC components and went DAC direct to amp with Mac Mini as a source with my entire CD library ripped to it an external drive. And few months in I reached the point you’re at now. It was all about listening to how the system sounds and listening to and purely appreciating music became difficult. I took a long break and when I came back to listening I figured out what the issue was. I changed the speakers, DAC, got the separates again and began the journey of getting it all back on track.

My recommendation would be to first take a break and then reassess your components. Looking at your system with the Benchmark DAC and amp, that could be a potential starting point. I owned a few Benchmark DACs (DAC 3 HGC was the last one) over time and found the Benchmark house sound to be geared more towards honest albeit cold and analytical presentation. It’s going to show you what’s on the recording but won’t engage you emotionally. Never heard their amps but I’m pretty sure they adhere to the same principles.
Another potential issue is streaming. This is a controversial topic and I’m expecting others to jump in and tell me that I’m wrong, but comparing streaming to physical media when we’re talking low end to mid-fi at best streaming components, you’ll not be getting the level of musicality and engagement you can get into by spinning vinyl and CDs. Not saying streaming sounds bad, it’s just not going to compete with similarly priced CD player or transport in this category.
There are many good DACs out there that will beat the Benchmark in the same price range. Streaming is super convenient and gives you access to amazing music library but it is a sonic compromise. My $0.02.


I appreciate your comments.  
 Fortunately, I’ve mostly recovered from my long bout with audiophilia.  I am able to get into the music now, and still love my system. 
 The route getting there was a little different than I originally anticipated.
 My first thought was to ignore the sound altogether.  Just listen to and enjoy the music. That worked up until a point.  But, here I had this magnificent machine at my disposal.  How could  I ignore it.  
So, somehow I was actually able to get into the music THROUGH THE SOUND.. I know this sounds implausible based on all our discussions, but it actually happened. The physical sound is an aesthetic in itself.  Why not enjoy it!  
 The result is that I’ve gone back to listening with new ears, not sacrificing the music for the sound and visa versa.

 As far as the Benchmark equipment, it synergises with my  tubey vintage Conrad-Johnson preamp (recapped by CJ) ideally so that I have the best of both worlds: incredible accuracy and sweet sound.

I tend to agree with you that physical media probably sounds better than streaming (and I have tons of it) but, trying not to be compulsive about the sound, I don’t care. It sounds so good I don’t miss that 1% difference. And, of course, it’s more convenient AND you have the whole word of recorded music at your disposal.