Emotional connection is important to me

Dramatic emotional artwork

Emotional connection is important to me

Have you got someone in your life, whom you know that when they recommend a movie to watch, you make sure that you NEVER see that movie? :)

I do. Actually, I have few of those people in my life, but I won’t mention any of them here. Forget ignorance… in this case anonymity is bliss. I do appreciate them wanting to share their enthusiasm though. I’d never want to dull their desire to promote what they love but it’s just that their taste in movies…… well it’s just not my thing. So I have become quite convincing in replying “Oh great, thank you, I’ll check it out some time”……

Sometimes when I’m talking about great sound, I ponder if I become THAT person for someone else. I hope not!

Nevertheless, it’s such a subjective hobby that what I am describing as warm, neutral, extended or articulate may not quite have the meaning that I am intending for someone else. Not only do we all hear differently, not only do we all enjoy different types of sound, but we all describe things differently too. It’s a wonder that we can all have a cohesive conversation! But not to worry. I think that these differences are part of the fabric of what makes this hobby so interesting and our contrasting views help us to learn from each other.

Have you ever thought how would you describe ‘great sound’? I think it’s worth considering how you would personally describe and define the sound that you like and then ask one of your audiophile friends the same question and see how your answers compare.

I’d like to share an aspect which I think is absolutely necessary to achieve what I consider to be great sound.

* Emotional Connection *

I feel that in the last 15 years or so, there has been a tendency for a many high end headphone brands to produce products that aim to shine a spot light on all the micro details in a recording and then throw the sound at you so that you can ‘hear everything’. It’s almost as though there has been a shift in how they defined what is desirable and they all started to compete with each other to see who can achieve the most ‘precise’ sound. At shows, I noticed that these brands increasingly quoted lab measurements, low distortion figures and played specially prepared audiophile recordings where you could hear the third violin player in the fifth row of the orchestra turn the page of their sheet music.

I have heard many incarnations and variations of this type of headphone system. Unfortunately, many people fall under the spell of this approach to audio and spend a lot of money on impressive new headphones that may have low distortion figures, but they completely fail to engage emotionally.

When it comes to these types of brands, I have come to respect them but not desire them. You know when you hear a sound and you know that to achieve that sound it has taken a lot of work. A lot of R&D, intelligent design & attention to detail by people who have knowledge and experience. You say ‘wow’, that’s a very pure, clean, crisp, sound… ..a rare sound. You can hear the leading edge of every note with clarity and definition. You can hear when that note has stopped, another has started and the space in between. With crystal clear precision. Like the electron microscope at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs in the USA which can make images to a resolution of half the width of a hydrogen atom. I can ‘hear everything’.

But while I’m experiencing this, all the dialogue is happening in my head, not in my heart. It has become an intellectual curiosity. I listen but I’m not tapping my foot. I am not wanting to get up and dance. I am too busy admiring the accomplishment of the precise sound. I often joke in my mind that great sound cannot be achieved by men in white coats, holding clip-boards who never dance. These headphones are 100% science, 0% art.

If you can emotionally connect to this type of sound, then I am very happy for you. You are experiencing what I am advocating for. But for me, it doesn’t connect me in a way that I want to be connected, in a way that a great headphone system should connect me. When we are sitting in front of musicians playing live or at a concert, the music does not have that ‘precise’ sonic quality. It sounds imperfect, but real and engaging. Have you ever simply heard a busker playing a saxophone in the street? It can give you goosebumps. You can almost taste the sound. It sounds like it is being created by a living, breathing, emotional being and the sound has texture.

A great sound has more to do with how it makes you feel than any perceived feature set or universally agreed characteristics. Next time you have an opportunity to listen to your headphone system, do this simple exercise. Close your eyes and play 10 minutes of some music that has been on your mind. Observe your emotions.

When I do that, I know that I have great sound when I immediately get into it. My mind flows with the music and my body reacts with the same energy, my consciousness becomes non-analytical, non-critical and I am fully in my heart space. I am captivated and my emotions are reacting to the music, the mood, flow, rhythm, the message or lyrics. I have forgotten concepts like time, to-do lists…

I think that there is a difference between hearing music, listening to music and experiencing music. I want to EXPERIENCE it with every fibre of my being!

(OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking. This guy is a fruit cake. Just wanted to let you know that I don’t care.)

Since this is such a deep personal experience, what works for me may not work for you but this is the experience that I crave when I am playing with audio bits and this is how I describe it.

What about you?

What is the most important characteristic of the type of sound you enjoy?

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