What Are We Hearing?
Article By Eli Rochlin
Anyone dropping in on this web site has a more than casual interest in music. Music is defined by webmaster, as "the science or art of combining tones into a composition having structure and continuity; vocal or instrumental sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony; punishment for a misdeed". Strange how music can be interpreted as punishment for a misdeed, but we will explore this later.
Music is a class of sound than can give us both pleasure or pain, smiles or tears, and thus holds a very special place in our hearts. Music connects to us emotionally.
When emotions are involved there may be no limits to what we are willing to invest in equipment to reproduce the sounds we enjoy. If we choose correctly, we experience pleasure. If we choose incorrectly, that is where the "punishment for a misdeed" definition raises it's ugly head. So how
do we choose correctly? Is it science or art? Is it a bit of both with some luck thrown in? It is all of these.
We may improve the odds of choosing correctly by starting with a modest investment of some tickets to live performances of the
King of music we love. Get a baseline on how the music sounds live, in different
surroundings. Listen to what you are hearing. The same performers sound differently in different locations. Some locations are "magical"
whereas others may be painful. Each space has its peculiar sound.
Compare Carnegie Hall to Avery Fisher Hall in New York. Somehow the older halls have a special sound not easily reproduced by modern halls. Much of what we hear is a function of the "enclosure" we are in. We hear the direct waves of the
music as well as the waves which are bouncing of the surfaces of the room. Combing, canceling, and reinforcing the
sounds that reach our ears. We hear a combination of waves - no longer a pure point source of sound. How are we mere mortals supposed to duplicate this sound?
Unfortunately, as Joe E. Brown so aptly put it in the last scene of
Some Like It Hot, "Nobody's perfect!" Wouldn't it be great if we could afford to do an
A/B/X test of a set of speakers and a live orchestra? Wharfedale did it quite convincingly years ago, but few of us can duplicate this experiment. We can only hope to get close by carefully selecting our components - especially the speaker. Specs do not tell the story, but your emotions will!
Spend the time to listen and select your speakers very carefully, as you will live with them a long time. Bring along your favorite platters or disc and have these demonstrated on the various speakers you are considering. Have patience, as the time you spend now will return to you many times over. I enjoy the warm sound of some of the old-time design such as the
vintage Tannoys, Wharfedales, Altecs, Klipsch... Somehow their warmth and impurities are closer to the
truth which is a live performance. Coincidentally, these designs love the glow of tube
gear. Many current speaker design have a wonderful sound and musicality, too. Different strokes for different folks.
Final words of wisdom - Invest in the time to hear great live performances, and model your system accordingly.