Audio philosophy

July 12, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

My son, Scott, wrote to me. “I find that audiophiles can often get philosophical…but what I’ve never seen was a philosopher go audiophile. That’s a unique perspective. An educated outsider’s view of what it is we do.”

His note was in response to an email from David Hildebrand, the president of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy and the chair and professor of philosophy at UC Denver.

Turns out that Professor Hilderbrand is something of an audiophile and became intrigued with its many philosophical questions. Intrigued enough to write a paper and present it in the form of a YouTube video.

What an intriguing idea. Have a look at the philosophical arguments of audiophiles, like measurementists vs. subjectivists, or gear lovers vs. music lovers, and so forth.

Watch the Quest for Absolute Sound here.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

93 comments on “Audio philosophy”

  1. Can you get perfect sound from an inherently imperfect audio system (especially most imperfect loudspeakers) and an imperfect listening room? Can you get a better sound from your system compared to the sound the sound engineer has created using a totally different system and a different listening room? Why does the sound from a single speaker is always better than from two stereo speakers, the latter creating phantom images but also a lot of inter-speaker crosstalk resulting in combfilter effects degrading the sound? Unless these questions aren’t solved we can endlessy debate. As there is an endless debate about subjective consciousness and the related quality problem or about the raison d’être of life.

  2. “Technology & art play inter-dependent roles in meaning making”
    Well, that was 20 minutes better spent listening to music.
    Nothing there that really sheds anymore light on what we already know or suspect.
    For me the music will always come first & the audio gear second.
    How you want to evaluate the interplay between software, firmware & hardware when it comes to canned music is as subjective as your own personal enjoyment of music.
    You can obsess over the quality of your home audio rig, drive yourself partially insane philosophising about it, or you can just kick back & enjoy the music…simple.
    I think that it was ‘tonyplachy’ who said a few weeks ago
    that ‘the room plays how it does’, & I agree with this view.

    I’m convinced that many philosophers drive themselves insane
    incrementally; hence alcohol 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLodkaDHn4g

    1. The point of this video was to try to reach out to both groups to show where there might be common ground to explore together. Not necessarily trying to teach people anything new, perhaps in the sense you were hoping for. I do appreciate the time you took to watch it and comment about it. I hope you enjoy your music.

      1. Just watched your video and subscribed. Many thanks for an excellent and original analysis. Part of what makes the audio arts interesting, and life in general, is the endless discussion about it from almost infinite perspectives. As Sparky Anderson (Baseball Manager) once said, “Everybody has an opinion and that is what puts asses in the seats” Thanks again.

        1. Thank you so much for your comment, and i really agree that the goal is more conversation. This is a fun hobby and it’s so much fun to share why we find it important. Cheers and good health to you!

      2. DH,
        Thanks for the explanation about what you were attempting to achieve with your ‘Quest For Absolute Sound’ YT presentation.

        If your goal was to create more conversation around the topic of audio then you need only look at today’s ‘Paul’s Posts’ to see that you have achieved it.
        Best to you sir.

        1. Thanks to you, too. One thing audiophiles and philosophers share is not really being understood by the public at large or, in some cases, being the butt-end of jokes. I think both groups of people are, by and large, inquiring in earnest about experiences which bring meaning and happiness to their lives while also forging friendships. It’s all good.

    2. ‘Make your checks payable to: Quentin Robert Denameland, Greatest Living Philostopher Known To Mankind.’ — Frank Zappa (1978)

      Or words to that effect. And yes, ‘Philostopher’ is spelled according to Frank’s pronunciation, not a typo.

  3. That’s excellent. Can relate to that. At 18mins he makes the key point that listening to music is experiental, not passive, which is a hurdle hifi can never cross. I think I got over the bling thing when I was 16.

    Was it Tonyplatcy who also commented that he treats live music and hifi quite separately.

    1. Don’t remember if it was Tony or not but that statement boils18 minutes of one man’s philosophical perspective into three seconds of common sense. And, I hope that we can all understand that philosophers love to go on and on. My son came out on top in his class with a major in philosophy so I’m familiar with this discipline. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the video immensely. I’m waiting for the day to come when we will come to the realization that music made in one acoustic environment can never be reproduced exactly the same in a your home acoustic environment. The highest quality audio components playing the highest quality source material may either better or worse than the original music performance. That’s why I believe the two experiences should be treated differently as Tony stated. The more we talk about these topics the less enjoyment we will get from listening to the music and that’s a crying shame.

      1. I remember responding to Tony’s comment Quad’s “The closest approach to the original sound” implying it’s an unattainable goal. I share Tony’s healthy approach to home audio.

        On the experiential vs. passive thing, I had in mind next Saturday, we’re driving down to Somerset for a major league picnic and afternoon performance by the Royal Ballet and orchestra at a well-known organic farm. Then to Bath for dinner and a lazy morning before returning home. (Google “royal ballet dance in somerset””). That’s experiential, it puts the limitations of hifi into perspective.

        1. Wow, this the most I have ever seen my name mentioned in the comments to one of Paul’s post. I’m honored.

          So what Professor Hilderbtand presented is hardcore philosophy. Because I got my bachelor degree in the College of Arts and Sciences at WU I had to take a bunch of liberal arts classes. I took two philosophy courses that I choose very carefully. They we both courses in logic. Formal logic is nothing more than Boolean algebra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boolean_algebra which is how computers work and is pretty easy for math, science and engineering majors. What blew my mind was that the hardcore philosophy majors ( who had to take the logic courses as part of their core requirements ) were terrible at logic. These are people who want to sit around and debate is it the case that I think because I am, or is it the case that I am because I think. Really, this is what you want to spend your life doing?

          I am going to take issue with his discussion about audiophiles having a gear fetish and ignore the environment the gear is in. I am going to be blunt about this to drive home a point. I am not trying to insult anyone including Professor Hilderbrand. Let’s say that you could buy a pair of $600 two way speakers and then spent $10,000’s on room treatments or you could buy a pair of Magico S7 speakers and spend $600 on a rug to put on the hardwood floor between the speakers and your listening position. Which do you think gives better sound?

          1. Tonywho?,
            I’d have to listen to both set-ups, however, I don’t think that you can purchase a decent pair of floorstanders for $600, so I’m going for the S7’s & to hell with the room acoustics.

            1. FR you can purchase a great pair of otherwise expensive floor standers for below 1000.00 if you search the used market and get lucky. Someones ex wife is trying to dump a pair cheaply that her hubby left behind when he was kicked to the curb and she’s glad to see them go…lol. Most of the time these are for local pick up only so be prepared to drive a few hundred miles. Some woman hate their living room decor messed up by the big ugly speakers that we see as a thing of beauty. Every married audiophile needs a dedicated room or a man cave. But I agree great sounding new floor standers for under 1000 is probably not happening. Might as well buy a good pair of mini monitors and a subwoofer.

              1. Hi Joe,
                Your point is a very valid one.
                You know I nearly went there, about pre-loved loudspeakers, but since my reply to ‘tonyplachy’ was ostensibly tongue-in-cheek,
                I decided not too.

          2. Hi Tony, I didn’t say that I thought that audiophiles have a gear fetish, only that there is a debate among audiophiles about whether gear is over-estimated in its importance. I see that debate all the time, and was just reporting it as one topic which audiophiles debate which might have philosophical implications.

      2. I definitely tried to put things in ways that were interesting and concise. Sorry if it seemed like I went on and on. As a philosopher, I definitely know what you mean, and I try to be as relevant to people’s interests as possible. When exploring the details of a topic, one person’s “on and on” are another person’s “attention to detail.” Hard to satisfy both kinds of people at the same time. Thus, long novels AND short stories. Take care and thanks for your thoughts.

        1. From my perspective I thought that you did a very nice presentation but it was sort of on-and-on because many of us are so deep and so many years into this subject that I tend to want to let this topic fall to the sidelines already.

          I was close to a logician named George Boolos. You may or may not have heard of him but he is quite famous as being the first person to solve the hardest logic problem in the world. He intern used to tell me stories about his roommate at Oxford named Saul Kripke Who was on the cover of the New York Times magazine many years ago. All three of you are quite brilliant and so is my son but he is very difficult to communicate with because his intelligence is way way over the top. When he graduated he received a reward from the head of the philosophy department and this philosopher said to the audience:
          “I have been a philosophy instructor for over 25 years and I thought I knew it all until I met Alec Rosenblum“ that knocked me out of my seat. Thank goodness he’s working a different field now because I don’t know if I could’ve handled his nature for much longer.

          I commend you for your intellect and the very fact that philosophers are an absolute necessity in our society.

          Happy that you have put together what looks to be a very creditable system.

          1. Thanks for your thought. I’ve certainly heard of those most impressive figures in philosophy. They’re world famous and justly so. Seeing this video posted on an audiophile forum is really nerve wracking for me, because I don’t think I’m qualified to teach audiophiles anything about audio. I’m really exploring places where audio and philosophy intersect, especially to get philosophers see the amazing depth and intelligence in what you audiophiles do. You folks are really amazing.

        2. I’m reminded of the Harley-Davidson T-shirt that reads: “You either have one, or you don’t.”

          I ride a Suzuki, therefore, I do not wear a Harley-Davidson T-shirt. 😎

  4. After listening, To be honest, I didn’t come away with any more insight than I started with. To put different approaches (philosophies) into their appropriate sized shoe box intrigues some and is a great exercise in defining things to their way of thinking or analysis.

    How someone approaches the musical reproduction world is as much an individual choice as deciding what you’re going to eat today. Your choices revolve around your underlying sentiments, philosophies, and personal taste. Because someone chooses steak over a vegetarian meal doesn’t make either one more correct than the other.

    So finding some deep genetic or life influences causes are not paramount for me to understand why I like the gear and music I choose. I like it for a multitude of reasons, but mostly for the entertainment, relaxation, and peace it brings when I listen.

    I can disagree with the arguments, writings, and personalities that don’t agree with mine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some validity in them.

  5. Well I was enthralled by that and I did not at all begrudge the 20 minutes or so it took to watch. Althought I think I might have drowned if it had of gone on for much longer! 🙂 I must be a closet philosopher because I thought it was an extremely erudite exposition of maybe the four most popular differences of opinion in the audiophile community. On whichever side of these topics you stand, I think you get at least some understanding of why you have that view. At least I did. Gawd I wish I could think that clearly and then be able to put it into words that well. 😉 Thanks for sharing Paul (and Scott)!

    1. My attention span for videos is normally about 2 minutes maximum, so I’ve never got the end of one of Paul’s as he’s rarely even read the question by the time I switch off. I was waiting at the dentist this morning and I arrived early so I got to hear the whole thing. He went off into psych-speak towards the end. He did not attempt to resolve whether cables matter, which is a subset of Paul’s dictum that everything matters, which serves only to ensure that the audiophile’s quest will never end.

      It’s back to dishwashers. You need one, buy one, hopefully it works and the dishes are sparkling clean and then the (short) consumer journey ends. For most consumers of audio the same applies, but for audiophiles the journey must never end. Maybe there are people who are never satisfied with their dishwashers.

        1. The cable question is not different from the question if tires matter for cars, that’s not philosophical.

          There will be cars and people where they don’t matter, and then there are the others…mostly depending on the kind of car one drives and how sensible they are for changes caused by tires.

          A sports car driver probably won’t doubt that tires matter….which is what we as audiophiles are somehow…audio related sports car drivers.

      1. When he , the philosopher, mentioned donuts my eyes widened. Perchance one would evaluate the DD donut vs those from Krispy Cream during the
        Finale of Rachmaninov piano concerto 2!

        I recall being evicted from philosophy class in college when I asked the Prof to
        Illustrate Zenos Law with a 9mm semi auto pistol!

        I was amused when he used Stereophile Mag to build an argument!
        Why not Mad Mag?

      2. That’s a problem of age, I have about the same non-patience for videos (or podcasts). As you say Paul starts after several minutes and a short escape to another general topic with the actual topic answer, as well as e.g. Darren in his podcasts starts after about 1 hour or 1 hour 30 of 2-2:30 hours with the actual headline of the podcast. But all these probably are golden rules of state of the art entertainment and keeping people connected…just not us old bones who are after fast knowledge transfer and manly read or talk.

        1. Somehow in my youth, aged 25, I found myself on the board of quite a large public company and I learned very quickly that at board meetings you had about 10 seconds to make your point or else no one was interested.

    2. That’s really nice to hear, and I do realize it was kind of a firehose of information. This is a special project for me — basically, trying to say to philosophers, “Hey, audio is a really rich and philosophically interesting subject for us to explore.” Non-philosophers are likely to think audio is just plain interesting, so my challenge is a special one — to explain to folks with a certain background and specialty why something outside their area is interesting. This is called “interdisciplinary” thinking in academics, and anyone who has realized the importance of “bio-technology” already understands why disciplines benefit from coloring outside the lines. Thanks for you comments.

      1. You’re welcome.

        As a retired IT professional specializing in programming, I appreciate the ruthless beauty of logical thinking. I’ve always held some fascination for philosophy and I think there’s some intersection with the field. However, I’m the first to admit my ignorance of it.

        I wish you well in sparking enthusiasm for things audiophile amongst your students and colleagues.

  6. I watched the video and found it interesting.
    It also reminded me of a review I recently read of a Dutch reviewer who is a (very) strong proponent of the use of pro-gear, not only in the studio but also in the living room.
    The review is WAY too long to translate, but the most important statements, in my own words (!) are :

    – most hifi gear is rubbish. A lot of coloration, a.k.a. voicing (of the designer), to create a sound (most) audiophiles like. A sound that has little if nothing to do with the sound of REAL instruments/voices
    – It’s way too expensive, due to unnecessary expensive materials and 5 or more layers of lacquer, which add nothing to (the quality of) the sound but are 80% of the cost.
    – Too much bling to please the eye (pride of ownership) and wife (the dreaded WAF factor !).

    – most pro gear is way better than most hifi gear. A more neutral, natural, dynamic sound that comes much closer to “the real thing”
    No use of unnecessary expensive materials, so not as expensive as hifi/high end stuff.

    Now, think of this what you want, I agree with the reviewer.
    There are some manufacturers that make products for both worlds, and what you see is that the products for the home market (derived from their pro products), though not better, are more expensive
    than the same studio products.
    I am convinced that prices of the PSA speakers have gone up because of the expensive (I think) exterior.
    All this endless designing (trial and error) took months. Who is going to pay for that. We all know the answer…
    PSA is just an example (and nothing more !). for PSA you can insert a lot of other brand names.

      1. Yes, you are right Fat Rat, actually it took years.
        But I didn’t wanna sound too harsh, so I decided to write “months”‘ instead of “years”.
        The truth is I’m a real people pleaser.
        Speaking of which…what do you suggest when I write about the “upcoming” server/ripper…?
        Can I still use the word “years” or is “decades” better 😐

  7. Listening to that video, took me way back to ancient bible times.
    Long before music could be recorded and then played back.
    If you read I think Numbers, and or First and Second Kings in the bible, you’ll read something about this.
    David played on a harp for King Saul.
    According to that, the music is suppose to calm a raging beast.
    But after awhile, King Saul wanted to kill David.
    Why, is still very unclear to me.
    Now fast forward a few thousand years, we now have the phonograph.
    But the recording never sounded like the real thing.
    We started getting closer to that when the electric loud speaker and microphone were invented.
    Fast forward about 80 or 90 years from that time, now we’re trying to do this with bit streams of zeros and ones.
    Sure room treatment as well as the audio gear plays a very important roll of how things are gonna sound.
    But here is the real question, what are we doing?
    Are we making any achievements in what we’re doing?
    Or, are we just spenning our wheels and moving ourselves backwards?
    These are some things to think about.
    I mite get some criticism from some person on this list, but that doesn’t matter.
    I’m just asking some real questions that nobody ever thought about asking.

    1. JP,
      Many people are asking where is audio heading & what is
      going to be the next big leap forward; you’re not the only one.
      I for one think about it quite a bit & I would venture
      to say that many contributors here do also.

      When ‘Soundmind’ used to post here regularly he was
      convinced that commercial home audio had not made any
      major advancements, except for digital, in the last sixty years.

      1. Good morning Fat Rat!
        Very excellent point there man!
        I say this because, take speakers for instance, the very first ones, started out with electro magnets.
        But at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, we ended up with speakers that had alnico magnets in them.
        But we’ve had those well up to the beginning of the 1970s, which is, when I was born.
        But looking at audio today as the whole grate big picture, there is quite a bit of confusion going on with it.
        First, you here that production of discs are gonna seas’.
        But now, there is talk about cassette tapes and open reel tapes making a come back.
        And as for vinyl, todays pressings of most vinyl records, sound too much like they were cut directly from CD’s.
        I don’t know how much of that is true, so please don’t hold me to that.
        But the questions I find myself asking at times, are, “why are the alnico magnetic speakers are only aimed at electric guitar players and not HIFI?”
        And as for those tapes, “what is the real story behind those?”
        I don’t think anyone really knows.

        1. JP,
          Neodymium magnets started to become more prevalent in the motors of home audio loudspeaker drivers about 25 years ago.

          Cassette tapes & reel to reel I can
          only put down to nostalgic curiosity.

          1. That is so true FR!
            That actually got started in 1994.

            But that trend started taking off two years later.
            I think I’m with you on the reel to reel tape thing.
            But I’ve heard that some recording studios are still using that kind of tape.
            Do you know if that’s true or nott?

        2. John, with regard to the source material that you mentioned, I have over 2000 CDs in my collection and over 500 high quality vinyl records. So many of them sound really outstanding and yes people are purchasing reel to reel tapes copied from a master copy which are unbelievably good. Are you just a digital streamer? I would suggest a good way evaluate what I’m saying is to purchase an album that you enjoy streaming and believe is of high sonic quality I think you’ll be surprised.. If you aren’t impressed then I would question your CD player and/or turntable, tonearm and cartridge combination because something must be wrong with your system.

          What say you FR?

          1. stimpy2,
            Well Neil the thing is that I don’t stream & I divested myself
            of all of my vinyl back in ’87, so I have no horse in this race.
            But certainly one should compare the 3
            mediums if one’s curiosity is peeked.

            1. I was referring to the sound of vinyll record three issues being pressed from CD Copies. I just don’t feel that that is correct so I threw you into it because your name was mentioned in the prior email. Time for you to go to bed

          2. Good afternoon Stimpy2!
            Sense you asked, I’m both digital and analog.
            But however, I haven’t had my hands on a good turntable in about 11 years.
            Sure, some of my audio equipment can use some serious upgrades, I just don’t have the money to get what I really want yet.
            But I am working on that.
            What I said about vinyl, is what I heard other people saying about it.
            Maybe some day, I’ll pick that back up again.
            But right now, there are two things that I wish to pull off.
            One of those things is, getting to hear the true sound of DSD.
            Right here, is where my computer falls apart at.
            For right now, I’m using my motherboard sound card.
            What I dislike about that is, DSD gets converted to PCM before it spits out analog signals.
            If I had a grate DAC, I could get around that and get true DSD out of it.
            And as for turntables, there are way too many to choose from.
            Me being a blind man that has really king hearing, I want the best.
            But that has kind of become a very hard decision to make.

    2. John Price, I love those questions because you’re seeking a history of how and why we listen to music. This is the deep end of the pool and as a philosopher once said, “A question well-posed is a problem half-solved.”

      1. Good afternoon Helde45!
        I always try to get right to the root of everything.
        Just so, that I have a better understanding of what’s going on, then what I had of it when I first started out.
        But there is one more question that I need to ask.
        Why did vacuum tubes give way to transistors in the seventies?
        As early as 1990, tubes started coming back in to fashion again.
        And here is another question about tubes.
        Why is it that, we still have just only one company here in North America, that’s still making tubes?
        And speaking of tubes, how come they couldn’t be made to last longer like they once were in past gone by yesteryears?

  8. After watching the video, I guess my “philosophy” lies in the “straight wire with gain/transparency” and “realism” camp. I want the music to sound as real as possible, not some artificial reinterpreted construct. Regarding the first philosophical category, “objective measurements vs subjective description,” I would add “objective description” in which the differences in sound qualities are described analytically in clear terms and not vague emotional impressions like “more engaging” or “gets my juices flowing.” I take issue with the question: “Why are ‘audio’s’ [‘audiophiles’?] so disconnected from dynamic surrounding environments?” like we are some kind of recluses who hide from the active manmade and natural world, never seeing the light of day. That may be true of a few, but certainly not the ones I know. And the joke about audiophiles, “Some just can’t get a date,” is absurd. Maybe some have so many dates and social connections that they need a break! LOL This video says really what we in this room already know and discuss over and over again, only it labels it “philosophy.” Sigmund Freud would have had fun with audiophiles, describing our interest in sound systems in psychological terms as a kind of mental disorder stemming from events in our childhood. You could do the same thing with kitchens and cooking, motorcycles, sailboats, birdwatching. All can be painted in philosophical and psychological terms. Oh well, recasting subjects in philosophical and psychological terms is fun, as are all the analogies and crazy terms we come up with, like “good conspiracy” When I look at my stereo system I see apples and tomatoes, with bears and squirrels circling beyond.

    1. Hi JosephLG! Thanks for your comments. The question: “Why are ‘audio’s’ [‘audiophiles’?] so disconnected from dynamic surrounding environments?” is one which I saw coming up in audiophile forums again and again. I didn’t make it up — it’s out there. It comes up whenever someone comments things like, “Why don’t you try room treatments?” That is a constant point made in forums, and some of the posters never even consider the room.

      The video is not trying to tell audiophiles something they don’t know and is not labelling it “philosophy.” It is not philosophy. I’m mainly trying to explore the areas where audio and philosophy might overlap. Philosophers often don’t realize what a rich and interesting subject audio is. Philosopher know, for example, that cloning in biology raises ethical questions, for example, but they don’t think about why audio might be worth thinking about. That’s the point of this video — not to label audio (which is not philosophy) as philosophy. Philosophers often change the course of history — the vegetarian movement in the west was hugely influenced by the arguments about suffering from utilitarians like Peter Singer. Agree or disagree, we are a different world now because a philosopher asked about what was behind the issue of eating meat.

  9. I wonder why I can’t love the sound of my music system while at the same time choose components that are aesthetically pleasing to me as well. Each and everyone of us is an individual with individual tastes. I’m tired of being told what I should and shouldn’t be doing with regard to my passion.These dogmatic fool measurement Uber Alles idiots will never give up. My love of music whether it’s live or reproduced is all that counts.

    If you really want to get I am entirely different perspective employing subjective and objective information in a component review on YouTube suggest you take a look at yesterday’s “Goldensound” review of an under $1,000 DAC. The presenter is incredibly knowledgeable, possibly an engineer and has incorporated both measurements and listening experience side-by-side. He drew me into his very different presentation by displaying scope and other measurements to indicate how engineers can improve certain areas of the circuitry in this unit and other areas of the circuitry were working as designed. He made so much sense showing how measurements and sound quality can coincide. I came away from his presentation enlightened and thinking that this YouTube presenter is capable a of getting us to understand in a deeper way the differences between measurement and listening. I couldn’t find a way to post the link and make it easier to take a look at. He doesn’t go into presenting the measurement side-by-side with his comments for many minutes before going into a thorough examination of the external and internal parts of this component but it’s totally worth your while to watch it. He gave me a whole different understanding of how to meld these to philosophies so they make a lot more sense. I never thought I would consider measurements to enjoy the music but I think I have now.

  10. I would have to admit that I have not agonized over my listening gear than I have when I am recording. I want my recordings to sound like what I hear in the venue as much as my recording equipment will allow. I do spend more time in where I put my mics and which ones I use on which instruments.

    At home my two systems are about 7 ft from my listening seat, about 6-7 feet apart toed in toward my seat. They are 4 feet from the front wall (behind them) and 4 feet from the side walls. My room is 14′ x 22 ft. and my chair is about 12 ft. back from the front wall. I have plenty of things in my room to break up any flat surfaces and I have a suspended tile ceiling. The concrete floor has carpet.

    One system has my AR-58’s (12″ 3 way); and the other has my AR-17 bookshelves with a titanium tweeter and a 5.5″ woofer in their first front vented cabinet that I was aware of. I also have a pair of JBL 3-way bookshelf speakers that are the rear surrounds in my 5.0 system with a Triangle center channel. The 5.0 system in not used as much except for some movie watching and some DVD concerts disc I own. Most of my listening is 2 channel. Much of that is with my AKG K701, Beyer DT 770pros, and Audio Technica ATH 50x cans. I mix my music on cans, but when I think I am done that mix must pass muster on my speaker systems to be sure. I also use this system to watch and listen to Brian Culbertson’s The Hang on every new episode he does on Friday nights and it is my Saturday AM enjoyment.

    Much of this gear is older as I would rather spend new money on more microphones than on listening gear.

    1. Now I fully understand your situation Jim. DSD recordings from Octave Records sound stunning in their sonic quality.

      I’m a senior that has some equipment that is over 20 years old but still sounds incredible to my ears and some new equipment as well including a DSD/DAC Streamer from PSA. That gives me three musical sources to listen to so I can make the comparison reasonably well.

      1. I own all of the Octave releases and have been collecting SACD since I bought my first SACD player in 2003. Once I started feeding my midland systems the best in audio I have never felt the need to get on the upgrade wagon. My recording hobby got in the way.

        Once I get the rest of the microphones I want, a pair of SE S8 Cardiods, and a pair of S8 Omni’s, I will be done unless I need some more for some drum recordings that what I have won’t cover, then I will get a PS audio DAC. My recording hobby drives me more than listening,

        I have been recording in 2496 for 20 plus years , starting with an 2496 M-Audio Flying Cow and Calf., and now start at 24/192, but I also have to run a spare Tascam recorder at redbook for giving CDs to clients. I have had a couple of university types tell me that MP3’s were good enough. lol I don’t argue, just give them the CDs and let them do with them what they want.

          1. I have spent enough time in our local public schools and some Universities doing this over the last 20 years, starting with my Sony DTC 690 DAT and then moving up. I have read the books by Bob Katz, 2 by John Eargle, And every video I watch I pay close attention to mic placement and type. I have watched Recording The Big Band DVD by the late Al Schmitt as well as have read his book three times now. Every music video I watch I watch from a recording perspective and have learned much. But, nothing takes the place of great mics and good mic preamps if you want to improve.

            Once I started and learned I stopped complaining about bad recordings as it is easy to make them. I then realized there is a lot to it, and just as in speaker placement and few inches can make a big difference.

            My goal was to get the students to be able to hear themselves for the first time and work to get better. As I followed middle school musicians to high school the improvements were easy to hear and made them proud of what they could do. This included choral work. Many of the college students needed demo recordings when applying to the music department’s Master’s Programs. I did work very hard on those.

            Of course the pandemic really hurt all of this and hope that in the fall this will all start up again. All of this is subject to change once the government gets their hands into mandatory vaccinations or not, masks or not, or parents who just choose to continue to home school. We will see.

            I can tell you that the future is undecided as my wife and I did much background acting work here in Atlanta prior to Covid. I have started back in the past 3 weeks and what is making all of this difficult are the Covid testing guidelines from CA, where before every shoot one must have at least 2 or 3 covid tests to be allowed on set, even with being vaccinated, which I was. Today I was tested at two different locations, one east of Atlanta and one downtown, for work Tuesday and Wednesday. This is what may make school in the fall problematic for some.

            1. You have a very interesting story to tell. Have you ever heard of MapleShade records? This is one of my favorite labels and most of the recordings were made in one of two southern mansions. If you dig around enough they show photos of how they do some of their bare-bones recording. One thing they did stress about their recording techniques besides the microphone quality and placement is very short microphone cables

              https://www.mapleshadestore.com/

              1. I own 4 of the Maple Shade releases. The recordings are excellent. I often looked at their product “tweeks” and thought they were pricey at best.

                I do prefer the minimalist approach, but the room plays a huge part. Our local college has a fairly new performance auditorium that is fairly dead sounding. No matter what I did with some extra distant mics the recorded sound always needed a touch of Lexicon reverb to sound right…to me and the professor.

                If it is a grand piano, the preparing of the piano in terms of voicing and tuning are critical. A piano needs a near constant 40% humidity and here in GA that is always a battle.

                There is a great bio by Franz Mohr who was the lead technician for Steinway back in the day and traveled with Vladimir Horowitz and was the “tuner” for Glenn Gould until their rift. His book is called, “My Life With The Great Pianists”. A great read and goes into great detail about what goes into getting a piano ready.

                The Steinway story is an interesting one from beginning, to their bad ownership by CBS, and their current resurgence. I have the DVD of the making of a Steinway D. Quite a difficult process.

                I am also a big fan of the Mason & Hamlin pianos. A small, but excellent company.

                Regards,

                Jim

                1. With every reply that you send I am more in awe of your passion to record properly. Sounds like you have a very enriching lifestyle even though many peoples lives are in limbo right now..

                  Horowitz and Gould’s pianos always sounds so exceptional when I listen to their recordings. So does Keith Jarrett’s.

                  Ever heard of the Mark Allen Grand Piano? Or one of a kind built by a former Steinway Piano Tuner. No other sounds like it. It sounds amazing and took the gentleman who built it from a ripped down Steinway. took him 10 years to complete it.

  11. If your room is acoustically such that it’s better to put stereo speakers at the other end of the room (behind listener), should you? If a tree falls in the woods with no one to hear, should the sound be captured in stereo?

    What’s the philosophy of irony? I think several people here have captured the irony in great detail without resolving the philosophical issues of Vinyl VS the Singularity.
    Complex audio->complex storage->complex reproduction->two channels of electromagnetic vibration->complex reception.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  12. So what do I learn from this Goldensound video.
    Well, nothing. Measurements tell nothing about the soundquality of a device. Besides, they’re all virtually the same nowadays.
    And then this man is comparing the Denafrips to some other DAC’s I never heard of and thus never heard.
    So no reference point there. And that is the least I HAVE to have to get at least some idea of how this dac sounds and compares to others.
    Or does anyone here who seen the video really know and heard (!) the other dac’s he was talking about in his comparison ? I doubt it.
    Basically all I “learned” from this video is that this is an “outstanding DAC for the money” blablabla…
    BTW., if you’re tired of being told what you should and shouldn’t be doing, then don’t make the mistake to believe everything “Goldensound” says is the truth that we should follow..
    Goldensound = just another opinion. Like so many others.

      1. You got it FR.
        Talking about the sound of audio is in fact the same as talking about the taste of food.
        I you never eaten vegetable X nobody can “explain” to you how it tastes.
        After all, do I believe a 4star chef who tells me what vegetable I should eat in his restaurant because that particular vegetable tastes best ?
        NO, of course not. His taste is not mine.
        And now it’s time to cook my dinner. A mix of brown beans, paprikas, onions and a big carrot.
        There’s nothing that tastes better. Trust me, I’m the expert 🙂

  13. And that is the work of a philosopher. Say familiar banal facts so that it looks like wisdom. If a philosopher wants to look especially good, he speaks arrogantly.
    I prefer a passionate guy who is willing to be wrong, but tries and maybe discovers something new.
    HiFi is a toy, I’d rather play (a new record :)).

      1. That professor reminded me of why I became so depressed while in college. They present an illusion of holding answers. That professor could learn a a lot from many of us.

      2. Hello, sorry – I used “arrogance” because I don’t know a better term and I think the word is way softer in English than in my native language. However, I wrote on the basis of rather negative and quite personal experiences in the past and a gradual inclination towards the value of “healthy common sense”.

  14. What makes a question “philosophical?” And, not just a question? Is it how it is asked?

    Imagine if that professor was down to earth and plain spoken? Yet, spoke with the same content otherwise?

    Being philosophical is an illusion. He asks the same real questions we do.

    He has got a “hobby!

    We are all audio hobbyists. Some are pretentious. Some are down to earth.

    1. A question is philosophical when it asks for the conditions that make a question possible.
      Also when it looks for the implications of answering the question in one way or another.
      Also when it asks for the best meaning for a term, in a specific situation. (Look at Aristotle’s discussion of what a “friend” is for a great demonstration of why an everyday word can and should be investigated philosophically. (Still discussed today; e.g. https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/06/16819/)

      Anyone who has chased the “why” question down for a little ways sees that it may come back to a fundamental question that needs to be understood. We all value our security and also our privacy? How should the right balance be struck between them? Depends on what

      1. When Aristotle was around civilization was in its infancy. Much vocabulary was not yet invented. It was trying to come to terms with relating to the world. Must we still be stuck in that phase?

        Why was I born? Why am I here? Why do I experience my life?

        Life is a mystery. Not a philosophy.

  15. The room (acoustics) is much more important than the speakers.
    600 dollar speakers in an acoustically sound room will sound much better than two Mag. S7’s in a bathroom. Period.
    Yes, an exaggerated example, but so is comparing 600 dollar speakers with uber-expensive S7’s.

  16. In school we used to joke, “Don’t get Philosophical; what would
    Phil want with a ‘sophical'”…typical schoolboy humour.

    After reading all the comments & replies today I can only conclude
    that as in most things in life, not everyone wants to philosophise
    about their interests, hobbies or passions.

  17. There was a great line in “Max Dugan Returns” when his grandson asks, “Is there any money in Philosphy?” Max replies, Yes, if you have the right one”.

    I would state that there are too many people who have NO Philosophy or care for their fellow man.

  18. Last week my 19-year-old great-nephew visited me.
    As always, we listened to music and discussed HiFi when he said to me: I like going to concerts and hope that it will be possible again soon after the pandemic, because I love music. But you will never get me to jump on the audiophile bandwagon because I don’t want to take part in the eternal search for the perfect sound and pay thousends and hundreds of euros for it and never reach the goal. It’s enough for me if I find the music that pleases me.

Leave a Reply

Stop by for a tour:
Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm MST

4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301
1-800-PSAUDIO

Join the hi-fi family

Stop by for a tour:
4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram