It’s a matter of taste

September 6, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

My favorite dish is probably not yours. And my favorite restaurant may or may not be to your liking.

Each of us has personal favorites that match our preferences: sounds, feels, looks, tastes, music, mates.

It’s true for you and for me. It’s why there is no perfect DAC, preamp, speaker system. There can’t be. Perfect suggests it matches everyone’s taste and, as I just reminded us, everyone’s tastes are unique.

Some like their music stripped bare of fluff, added harmonics and richness. Others love it fat, full and warm. Still others somewhere in between. And each of us believes our preferences are closest to real. Of course, real and right are perceptions clouded by personal bias.

We even pick our own best live venues, choosing one over the other because we like the way music is presented there, as opposed to here. Others go elsewhere.

When I voice a piece of equipment I make sure it represents music in the way I perceive the sound of live. To me, it sounds more like musicians are in the room, and that’s what I go for.

When a group of us agree on something, it’s called a community.

Like minded people sharing and discussing the fine points of taste.

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14 comments on “It’s a matter of taste”

  1. The Qualia-phenomenon states that nobody will ever know how another person feels. For instance: how a person fees pain. Nobody will be able to reenact or retrace your perception when listening to music. Even if you tell him that you feel this or that emotion. Thus when you voice your pieces of equipment according to a “they are here” in music room one concept it never will fit another music room nor the requirements of the lovers of an ” I am there” – concept nor the intention of the sound engineer that mixed the track in a total different room having totally different intentions.

      1. Thanks guys. I have no intention of stopping.

        The real point of this post was to show that we gather together like minded people – people who agree with our approach to musical reproduction and then we cuss and discuss.

        Let’s imagine another group of Audiophiles. They like the analytical sound of other approaches, like Meridian or perhaps Spectral. They gather together in groups called communities in support of their views.

        I would not enjoy what I refer to as a sterile sound – that sound stripped of harmonic richness – and I am not alone. The danger is to believe my approach should fit everyone – when clearly that’s not the case.

  2. IMO there are many aspects defining the sound of live, like dynamics, ambiance, tonality and tonal colors, pace/timing, authority etc.

    My experience is, if nearly all is met and at an exceptional level (which is rare), there are hardly any different tastes or discussions. Absolute quality mostly is very obvious, as well as even little shortcomings are if they occur.

    I.e. the DS DAC for me meets many of the most important aspects in such an exceptional level, that it stands out among other DAC’s I heard with the best involvement in music and impression of musicians in the room. I think this probably is an example of a community-agreed level, aside of any fine point discussions.

    1. I agree with you. Most want the basics you mention in the first paragraph, which is the most important part. What I noticed regarding preferences is that (just like at a live event) some want to be in the first row, some 5-10 rows back and some would love to stand right next to the conductor or amongst an ensemble. They all have merits…no right or wrong.

  3. jazznut you are missing the point !
    “My experience is, if nearly all is met and at an exceptional level (which is rare), there are hardly any different tastes or discussions”

    That’s probably why we all love and have the same equipment. Yeah right.
    The most difficult thing in life for most people (including me) is to understand that our taste is not everybody’s taste.
    Taste is, obviously, relative, not absolute. That’s why it’s called taste. Whether it’s about food, music, pictures or soundquality.
    The quality with which a piece of equipment is manufatured is (more) absolute. But the “best” assembled amp, dac (or whatever) with the best components (i.e. DSD) is not everybody’s taste.
    Who can seriously say the Magico speakers are not assembled from the best components.
    The sound is phenomenal….., BUT not everyone’s taste.
    I heard Soulution and Boulder amps. Magical, both. But not everyone’s taste.
    Some say tube amps are the best sounding. Well not for me.
    There will ALWAYS be differences in taste. But like I said, very difficult to understand and even more difficult to accept.
    How dare they dislike what I like. They must be mad.

    1. First, I don’t disagree: everything finally is a matter of taste and nothings right or wrong (well, there physics and such things but let’s leave that 😉

      But I think I have to be more clear what I mean:

      For me, discussions about a certain characteristic of a product often are wiped away with the “matter of taste” argument, no matter how obvious it is objectively (to a wider range of customers). This happens at different grades of absolute quality.

      For me there’s a difference what role absolute quality and taste plays in food or in cars or Hifi.
      Talking about cars, if people i.e. compare a BMW with a Daimler and an Audi, there are different tastes deciding about a purchase. But all probably would agree that all three cars not only consist of high quality components, but also are on a very similar high level of overall performance. Taste discussions are on a completely different level, aside of quality.

      Very different in food: many people, as a matter of taste like chips better than sushi, although Sushi is much higher food quality. Absolute quality plays a very minor role in opinions on food.

      I think the example of cars fits not completely, but more to Hifi than the example of food.

      Why don’t most people on a live concert with good or bad sound differ in their perception of the sound quality? Because there’s no lobbyism for or against a product or a concept relevant and because they don’t feel any responsibility for having bought anything that connects to a responsibility for the sound. And because most people generally have the same opinion on what sound is good or not. (yes I know there’s also argumentation in which row it’s better or not, but only to a minority like us high end freaks)

      Most wouldn’t argue about Solution and Boulder amps playing in their matching environment..but certainly some…

    2. [@jb4]
      Maybe it is the wrong question asked.
      Not “what is the best” but “what are the shortcomings one can live with”.
      Boy I heard a lot of installations in my life.
      T’wasn’t a hard job because I worked in the business for a long time.
      There were a few which have had “magic” and a lot, even the most expensive ones, that hadn’t.
      Regards

  4. It seems that every one does not hear the same. There are three major components in the hearing mechanism. Mechanical, electrical and psychological. The combinations and permutations are many.This would explain the difference in preferences. The same would apply to taste, clothes etc. Regards.

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