What is it I'm failing to grasp?

I come across statements here and elsewhere by guys who say 1) their systems come very close to duplicating the experience of hearing live music and 2) that they can listen for hours and hours due to the "effortless" presentation.  

I don't understand how these two claims add up. In tandem, they are profoundly inconsistent with my experiences of listening to live music. 

If I think about concerts I consider the best I've witnessed (Oregon, Solas, Richard Thompson, SRV, Dave Holland Quintet, '77 G. Dead, David Murray, Paul Winter Consort), I would not have wanted any of those performances to have extended much beyond their actual duration.

It's like eating-- no matter how wonderfully prepared the food, I can only eat so much-- a point of satiation is reached and I find this to be true (for me) when it comes to music listening as well. Ditto for sex, looking at visual art, reading poetry or playing guitar. All of these activities require energy and while they may feel "effortless" in the moment, I eventually reach a point where I must withdraw from aesthetic simulation.

Furthermore, the live music I've heard is not always "smoothly" undemanding. I love Winifred Horan's classically influenced Celtic fiddling but the tone she gets is not uniformly sweet; the melodies do not always resemble lullabies. The violin can sound quite strident at times. Oregon can be very melodious but also,(at least in their younger days) quite chaotic and atonal. These are examples on the mellower side of my listening spectrum and I can't listen to them for more than a couple hours, either live or at home. 

Bottom line: I don't find listening to live music "effortless" so I don't understand how a system that renders this activity "effortless" can also be said to be accurate.   

What is it that I'm failing to grasp, here?  



Ditto for sex...

Yer doin' it wrong. 😏


IMHO there are many factors to listening fatigue: SPL, material, room acoustics, mood... Some days I'm good with one album side and other days I'll look up after 3 albums and wonder where the time went. I'm not proposing any solutions here but only offering things to consider that you might be able to control and/or change.

Bottom line for me is quality over quantity in a listening session.

Happy listening.

Lots of good comments here, and mostly on point.  One thing I have found in the recent past is that the live performances I have attended both indoor and outdoor have varying qualities of professional sound management.

For example, at a recent outdoor show of rock music, Cheap Trick sounded like a wall of noise with no discernible words in the voices, smeared overly loud guitars, and a bass that was, to be kind, mushy.  It was horrible and I would never listen to it again.  20 minutes later on the same stage, Joan Jett sounded almost exactly like her recorded music.  Every note was clear, the voices and harmonies were dead on, and the various instruments sounded like they should both individually and mixed properly as a band.  20 minutes later, one of my favorite bands, Heart, suffered the exact same mess as Cheap Trick.  The vocals, their strong point, were horribly distorted when you could hear them, the music was pure trash with distortion and overly-loud mixes of the various players, and the entire effort was a hot mess.

How does this happen in one venue with acts following each other with short intervals to change the amps, etc.?  At a live show INSIDE, I did not hear a WORD that Stevie Nicks sang in 1.5 hours.  I heard a wall of smear--it was so bad that I thought about leaving.

Now, these are first-tier performers with long track records of live performances, and they charge an arm and a leg to see the show.  (I paid $5.00 to see the Beatles, so $1500 to see the Eagles, who I have seen many times for $10.00 or less, is ridiculous.) SO, not every live performance is presented properly, whereas recorded music is tweaked (sometimes beyond belief!) so that it sounds accurate on your system given a good system.

The "live" hope for audiophiles tends to be towards more jazz and classical music, and given a good recording (Decca, Mayorga, etc.) a good system will put you in the room with the musicians.  I have sold and set up many systems that, in fact, do that.  It isn't inexpensive or easy, but it can be done.

As for listening time, well, you sit at a concert for an hour or so, mostly, so I would say that is a reasonable listening time.  As for all day, well, if that is what you want, be sure to have a very good system that does not give you listening fatigue.  In my experience, Magneplaner speakers connected to very good HW will do that for you.


@stuartk - nice to see you!

I think a lot of the difference is just sheer sound volume.  Unamplified guitar is >70db, as a reference point; symphony >100db. I think this holds across all genres of music - most people just get fried after a few hours of those sorts of volumes. Hard for me to imagine hanging tough through more than three hours of any genre, live, at performance volume. “Fried” is a highly technical psycho-acoustic term

For curiosity’s sake I’ve checked spl’s at my listening position - much more than 70db is in the “nice and loud” category for me - certainly 75 - 80db fun for 30 min, but just not my taste to have music that loud for long periods of time.  At what turns out to be around 70db - 75db, feels like I can really hear deep into the music, if I want, and am enveloped by it - but I wouldn’t want it that loud for hours at a time 

If music is on for hours at a time? I bet I’m down at <60db or something - will measure.  Interesting question!

Have a great day


Yes it does sound great, thanks. A totally immersive experience is best I can describe it, like being on stage.

But interestingly enough, once I got to this upper level of hi-fi, little changes here and there, in acoustic setting or equipment, are very discernable, much more so than when I had a system in a regular room. That's the reward of all that work. Big payoff. Less guess work.

@richopp 1+ on the Magnepans. It seems that the larger the venue the worse the sound. IMHE outdoor venues are the best with a few exceptions like Symphony Hall in Boston. I recently heard Cassandra Wilson there and it was as good as it gets. With indoor stadiums if you can not get yourself in the first 10 rows center stage you might as well forget it. I will buy VIP tickets if available. Saw King Crimson that way a year ago, totally killer. Tanglewood is a wonderful outdoor venue. I saw Carmina Burana there a few years ago and it is amazing how it can broadcast an unamplified orchestra across such a wide area.

I have music in the background 90% of the time I am awake. When I am listening seriously I will listen to a whole album or work however long it is. I do not stop because I am tired or fatigued. I stop at the end. If time allows I might listen to another piece. Listener fatigue is a sign that there is a problem with the system. Some might say the recording but IMHE it is almost always the system and the usual fault is poor control of high frequency resonance. That high frequency glare is very tiring. Many people will think at first that a well set up room/system sounds dull until they listen a bit more and realize that the cymbal is right over there with all it's frequencies present and accounted for, coming directly from the cymbal as if contained within the instrument. 

Again I can not stress enough the benefit of a calibrated measurement system and DSP. I know exactly what the frequency response of each speaker is at the listening position and can juggle amplitude and group delay to achieve any result I want. This in no way is a replacement for physical acoustic measures. You have to use both to get the best results and they can be staggering. Hearing little LS3 5As with subwoofers sound like big Wilson's is very cool.