Things that jump out at you

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If I am watching a scary movie and the music becomes ominous, I steel myself for the inevitable. Something’s going to jump out and scare the pants off me. Even forewarned I still jump.

The same sort of thing happens in a very different way with a new hifi system. Problem areas stand out from the music. This often happens to me at audio shows where I am listening to many new systems.

Depending on the music, I might notice the sudden blat of a trumpet breaks free of believability and crosses into the “wince” zone. Of course, trumpets blare, but they still sound like trumpets unless something’s amiss in the system.

These audio cues that jump out of the music’s reality fabric are clues we should pay attention to. In the trumpet example, it might just be the amplifier is underpowered, or perhaps the speaker drivers have exceeded their maximum linear excursion.

Whatever the cause, it’s instructive to pay attention to those elements of performance that routinely jump out and make themselves known.

Taming them is the challenge on the well-traveled road to audio nirvana.