So, a reviewer just said something I need to talk about.

I will not mention the reviewer, nor the specific equipment being reviewed, but this statement was made, talking about sax and strings: "the strings had real body, and it sounded like real strings being played". The tonality of the instruments was what he/she was talking about. I get this. The tone, the spatiality of the instruments, the stage that was presented. All well and good. What about the engagement between the listener and the musician. I have stated so many times here, ad nauseam, that the most important aspect of music listening, for me (and not enough with other listeners) is the "playing of the instruments". The artistry of the musician behind those strings. I just don’t get it. When I listen to Jeff Beck (RIP), using him as an example, what I am attracted to, FIRST & FOREMOST, is his PLAYING. Reviewers talk about "sound". Most people here talk about "sound". I spend more time now on other sites, that speak about the music playing and, the compositions. For whatever reasons, I seem to be realizing, that A’gon members, as so many reviewers, talk about sound. They very rarely mention MY most important aspect of listening. The musicianship and the compositions. Another rant from me. What are your thoughts on this? How do you listen? What do you listen for/to? What does your system convey to you? I know I am out of line again, but........My best to everyone. Always, MrD.


You are talking about two separate issues. I can listen to Maria Caras sing on terrible old recordings and still be brought to tears. The artistry of the musician will shine through terrible sound.

Sound quality is a different issue. Saying violins sound like violins is a tautology. It means absolutely nothing. What I am looking for in sound quality is, with a good recording, the feeling that I am in front of a real instrument or orchestra/band. That takes the right amplitude response for the volume, the capability to image  3 dimensional objects in space with blackness between and powerful bass response below 100 Hz. The Dave Holland Quintet albums are a great example of recordings that can fool you into thinking you are in front of the band on a good system. I have seen the band three times at the Regatta Bar in Boston's Charles Hotel. Those recordings image that band perfectly.

The three octaves below 100 Hz are incredibly important to the visceral sensation of live music. In a residential setting 20 to 40 Hz has to be EQed up at least 6 dB with a low Q to approach the kind of power you get in a live setting. 

What about the engagement between the listener and the musician.

If I am not actually there at the live event, it is the quality of the recording and the quality of the system that the recording played back on, that dictate the level of my engagement with the musician(s). Everyone should be entitled to listen for, and enjoy, whatever it is that floats their boat, but if I play a good revealing recording of a performance in which the artist had a few warts going on, and my system is lays that bare, for me, that is a win.

If I play a poor recording of music I like by an artist I like, I’d probably rather not be listening to it on a revealing system.

I have been to many a live gig that sucked because the musicianship just wasn't there and/or the sound setup sucked. Every time we interact with music we are interacting with those two conditions. It doesn't matter whether we are in a hall or in our living room.

OP my early years on this hobby , I normally listen to rock. Drums and lead guitars attract my hearing and good sound.Once my friend brought country music cd and played it to my system? He said my system sound good but it’s not musical.I did not know what he meant? He invited to listen to his system.Still I did not get it.It took 3 yrs after I knew what he was talking about. That 3 yrs I listen with different music.Later on I met onother guy who introduced me to jazz and classical.Here with so much experience, I was able to accomplish both good sound and musicality as well.Yes it can be done .

This is a great question.

For me the brilliance of the musician is why I listen- His music, execution, cleverness of the delivery- all these are the "hooks" that pull me in.

Music has the unique power to elicit emotion without thought. Another cool side effect, 

However, I am also a gearhead. The art and elegance of high-end equipment is important to me as well. I delight in difficult passages being rendered flawlessly, the glow of the tubes, the engineering. It all thrills me.  

I think of this like driving fast- I love it!  It's even more fun in a Ferrari.