"Move, dance... be born!...
Let us take a moment and look back. Ask yourself honestly. What kind of records did you used to buy and what kind do you buy now? Better yet, ask yourself what new types of music have you began to listen to since you bought your present much better Hi-Fi. Any at all? Ask yourself also, if you love and understand music more than you did a couple of years ago. And most importantly (here's the killer question...) ask yourself as honestly as possible if you have become more interested in and more tolerant of, the types of music that didn't interest you before. (Aren't you at least wondering what all that fuss about Townes Van Saint or the White Stripes is about?)
It is so easy for a particular Hi-Fi to limit (or completely eliminate) your enjoyment of music, that I believe that the most important criteria for determining how good your playback system is should consist of asking yourself these questions:
Now pay attention because I am not talking about peer groups, sub-cultures, economics, taste or social class. I am simply talking about what your hi-fi has done for you lately! Is it making you a wiser and more accepting person? Has it expanded your aesthetic viewpoint? Have you been seeking out radically new kinds of music to enjoy? Or, do you find (worst case scenario) that you are now only listening to and looking for, tasteful records that sound good on your Hi-Fi. Are you thinking while you are listening, yea, this sounds good. G-d, I can hear the third train car under Carnegie Hall has a bad wheel. When so-and-so comes over I'll play this for him. He'll be impressed. Look at that soundstage. Wow! Yeah, this singer is well-recorded. I can hear her lipstick smearing. Are you looking for new good music or new good recordings? (Please Lord, don't let it be the latter!)
Personally just assembled this modest new audio system using the little Spendor S3/5s with the Spendor Sub 3 subwoofer and can't remember the last time I was this happy. This system has opened up my head. It has me listening to new artists and buying new records like grandma the gambler stuffs the one-armed bandit. It has me taking big chances and buying records by some really weird groups. And baby, it don't get better than that.
The 3/5s are driven by the Kamuro push-pull 845 triode amps which is being stimulated by an Audio Note pre-amplifier and a 47 Lab Flatfish CD player. (The Sub 3 is driven by its own internal 120-watt amplifier). Totally love this scheme and it has shifted my musical paradigm more than any single audio thingy -- since first owning an Ongaku (Steve sez: this makes two Enjoy the Music.com™ writers who has owned this legendary piece!). It is reaffirming my long-standing belief that buying a higher quality Hi-Fi can and usually does (if you are not extremely careful), undermine your ability to understand and enjoy music.
Have lived with a lot of Hi-Fi gear lately and enjoying music a lot less. I have been struggling to get into the music. Now, suddenly life is better again. This Spendor-Kamuro-Flatfish "Hi-Fi" is showing me what I have been losing and missing and what I constantly need to be reminded is most important. It is showing me the meaning of songs.
This system is not only one of the most high resolution systems I have owned, it not only tells me what words the singer is singing better than (almost) any I've owned -- it also is uncovering and boldly showing me what the artist meant when he or she wrote and sang these songs. It reveals the sounds captured on the disc so thoroughly that the nuances of attitude coded into the lyrics are blatantly revealed. And that, as they say, is resolution. Just before this setup, my Hi-Fi was the devil and it was tempting me -- away from the music. It told me lies that I mistook for the truth.
But now I guarantee you this, your Hi-Fi is talking to you too. Most probably it, too, is lying. It is whispering in your ear, subliminally, but very clearly and with absolute assuredness. It is telling you what kind of music you should like and what type of music you should be listening to. It is trying to make your taste match its own limited capabilities. It is telling you "I am perfect, it is your music/your disc that is defective". It is saying, "You are not the kind of guy who listens to ol' timey country and western". It is telling you who you are. Its telling you that you are better than some other people.
Your Hi-Fi has this little man standing on your shoulder like Jimminey Cricket saying "You are not a low life like those punks at the bar... you don't listen to no rap or disco. You don't like Sid Viscous. That is not real art". Maybe the little man is telling you that jazz sucks or that classical is for old fuddy-duddies. Maybe he is saying that rock is for idiot teens that don't know any better. No matter. The one thing you can be sure of is; there is a tiny fellow talking to you. He is making some music go right into your heart your mind and your bloodstream while simultaneously he is making it very unpleasant for you to listen to other music types that he does not endorse. (Actually the music he doesn't approve of is the same music that sounds stupid on his speakers.)
What I am saying is that there is a constitutional flaw, an engineering flaw if you will, that creates a situation where the majority of Hi-Fi systems will not allow their listeners to get close to and/or understand and appreciate a wide range of musical types. Every combination of Hi-Fi gear makes its own particular type of conspiracy. Has its own limitations. Every combination conspires against you and against the possibility that you will enjoy a wide range of music. Well almost.
Here is how it works. Loudspeakers, amps, CD players, wire... they all get together to form various and diverse culture clubs which (intrinsically) don't like to admit new members. Some are very snooty and think they are upper class. They don't like rappers and deep house and only consider jazz and classical players for memberships. Many don't like corn cobs or trailer trash or heavy-metal any type of white musical crackers. Almost every
Hi-Fi conspires against Cajun, Zydeco, Blue Grass and Old Timey. Some are the opposite. They play the Rolling Stones and Dr. Dre but no way do they play Bach. Furthermore, the presidents of these various elite special interest clubs usually don't like monophonic or transfers from 78rpm records. Mostly they like
simply-mic'ed stereophonic recordings of acoustic instruments in small controlled environments.
You think I am kidding? Think again. Knowing many of these audio designers personally... and way too many of these suckers are listening to a baker's dozen of twin-mic'ed stereo-showpieces -- demonstration discs -- and nothing else! They don't read no Mojo, Spin, Gramophone, Fanfare, or Rolling Stone. They are not listening to old show tunes, techno or banjo music. But they are always on the lookout for new demonstration discs -- to better show off and sell their wares. Right?
I am not goofing on you here. This is deadly serious. This is absolutely the most true and important topic I have ever addressed in an audio essay. At the very least, I am telling you now. Beware! And be aware. Don't hesitate. Go to your Hi-Fi and to your record collection and pull out the weirdest most offensive disk you can find. The one you never play. Then play it. If you can, listen all the way through and pay good attention. If you can at least understand what the artist was hoping to achieve -- you are in luck. You probably have stumbled on a better than average Hi-Fi. If most of the discs you in your collection were recorded in monophonic then I'd advise keeping your present setup as long as you can cause it must work pretty well! Just listen and ask yourself if you feel you are understanding what you are hearing. Do you get the artist's point? Can you identify the artist's aesthetic, poetic and conceptual intentions? Does the bugger fill the room with the singer's attitude? Can you see the beauty and value of the music it plays?
If you can honestly say that on every disc you spin, the core content is being revealed to you -- then you must not touch your stereo until it has melted, cooled and reformed into irregular ashen globs. OK?
A system that loves all types of music is so rare. If you got one - keep it. I have only experienced this kind of unconditional love at the very bottom and the very top of the audio food chain. (Remember, I once owned a $1,000,000 +
Hi-Fi.) But right now, as I type this, I have a hi-fi setup that is showing and telling me the new meanings and higher purposes of songs I have been listening to for decades. I am playing all my records again -- just to find out what they really mean.
Driver: Spendor 250mm rigid PVC cone
Spendor Audio Systems Limited