July 6, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Ever notice how our mood changes our hearing? How good or bad our system sounds?

We may or may not be in a mood to listen to one kind of music or another. We choose which to enjoy based on our inner feelings.

What’s interesting to me is how much this affects our perception of sound quality and by logical extension how equipment sounds.

Of course, there would be those that rise up and say prove it to me.

And there would be my response that there’s no need to prove that which you already know to be true.

What kind of music are you in the mood to listen to today?

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31 comments on “Moods”

  1. OK, so music psychology and the psychology of musical preference. Massive subjects, largely separate from most people’s scientific understanding of music, starting with Pythagoras (tonality, harmonics, etc.). Research has shown an almost complete lack of correlation between music preference and personality. What it has shown is that men and women perceive music differently, men more analytically, women more emotionally. That’s probably why women generally have no interest in audio equipment, as splitting hairs over sonics is not in their psychology.

    So when people say “my wife walked in and ….” to justify some purchase, they are more likely reacting to the emotional content of the music than the perceived sound quality.

    It is easy to argue on this basis that audiophiles are only in it to satisfy their cognitive response to sound, it has nothing to do with music on an emotional level. This is easily established because the vast majority (99.9999% or more) of people enjoy music without the need for high end audio systems. It also explains why most professional musicians and regular music attendees, whose interest in music is largely emotional, have no interest in hifi.

    I think I’m going to listen to some plainsong.

    1. Quite true Steve; everyone likes music but not everyone is an audiophile. But an audiophile does love music, but it has to sound better than a table radio.

      1. Why? why does it have to sound better then table music? I watched a reviewer take the Sprout and somewhat toss it under the rug, I own two Sprout’s. Are they table music? I didn’t think that there was a cash on hand or budget restriction on being an “audiophile” So again why?

    2. There is some difference between male and female hearing. For example, men hear phantom bass fundamentals from systems that exaggerate the second and third harmonics but women less so.

      My partner, a female harpsichordist, has highly accurate reactions to audio quality although no vocabulary to describe it. She is able to nitpick recordings, speakers, and amplifiers with Golden Ears, because she has an absolute acoustic reference to which her ears are “broken in”. I thank her for my daily ear training!

      I think the main difference explaining the preponderance of males interested in audio is that women like shiny objects they can wear, while men are more satisfied by the display of shiny objects, the larger and louder the better. (“My missile is bigger than yours!” said Don to Jong-Il; “Hear my Dragon Roar!” said Jinping; also, the triadic priapic billionaire space race.)

      1. Good comment and I agree. My wife is a bass-acholic! and will quickly ask me to fix the sub response those few times we listen together. 🙂

  2. Our mood affects everything. It affects an athlete when playing a game. It affects an engineer while working on a problem or a scientist working on a theory. It affects our reaction to the taste of a great meal. It would be amazing if our mood didn’t affect how we react to music and sound.

  3. I just love listening to the music i like, covering many but at all styles, on a great digital audio system i have built up over the last 18 month’s. With Paul’s advice and tips – especially on subwoofers.

    Each to their own.


  4. Venetian religious polychoral baroque music for San Marco by Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612), “In ecclesiis” and “Magnificat” by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornets, directed by Stephen Cleobury ( comparing the SACD and Blu Ray Pure Audio versions) (reference of SACD KGS0012).Title of production “1615 Gabrieli in Venice”.

    1. The recording you mention was one of the first Dolby Atmos recordings, which I think is for multiple-channel playback. Two of the best labels for Baroque music were created to record a single group, both formed in Oxford, Merton College and Magdalene College. Gimell Records to record the Tallis Scholars and Coro to record The Sixteen, respectively. Amongst the world’s best performers of this era of music. They’ve both done vinyl, CD. SACD, DVD, Blu-Ray and are now mainly high res PCM. I hear The Sixteen from time to time, not least because a friend of my wife is their viola player. The plainsong I mentioned above was the last Gimell release, the BBC’s Record of the Year 2021. Both have been active largely unchanged for over 40 years.

  5. The core question now is: which mood is mandatory when an audio designer starts voicing his new products? Does he need the help of his wife or therapist to determine the appropriate mood for specific voicing processes? 😉

  6. “Of course, there would be those that rise up and say prove it to me.

    And there would be my response that there’s no need to prove that which you already know to be true.”

    What a piss poor argument. Classic dodge, duck and cover. Throw it back as a “truism” to eliminate an argument or a discussion that is all based on the subjective. Otherwise you’d be referencing study after study or example after example that proves your point.

    I find my mood has an effect on what I want to listen to, not on what I hear. If it affected what I hear I’d have bailed out of this hobby many many years ago. Foul mood foul sound … that system fouled out!

    That I know to be true.

    1. In reality, most times what I find is that, music (especially on the home system) has the ability to make me relax, enjoy and even reflect. So while I can agree with the premise of today’s post, I still think the justification argument is p poor.

  7. Quite true Paul. I totally agree. If for some reason I’m away from home for a few weeks, when I get back I need a rockin’ slam bam dose. I remember once after being laid off work I was home most of the time and almost didn’t listen to my system. Just wasn’t in the mood, my head was elsewhere.

  8. I remember a time in the 1980’s when I had a new job that I hated and we were living in a miserable rental house. Practically every weekday when I got home from work I would immediately fire up my stereo system and play music ( rock ) that I really liked. Music became a way for me to get the work day out of my head.

    Even today when we are both retired we play music in the late afternoon to help unwind. Sometimes the music goes on i into dinner time.

    I think what I am saying is we use music as a mood changer.

  9. “the vast majority (99.9999% or more) of people enjoy music without the need for high end audio systems”
    Hmm…. let’s do the math.
    0.0001% (max.) audiophiles = 7800 on the planet.
    In 2019 I visited a hifi show in my country. The distributors who organised this show were very content, the number of visitors was about 7000.
    It didn’t seem a lot to me at the time but now I understand why they were so content.
    Almost the entire population of audiophiles on the planet was there. Nice 🙂
    Ok, it’s a bit much what he writes sometimes, I know, but where would we be without our
    “not-to-be-confused-with” Brit and his often valuable information.

    1. jb4,
      That’s assuming that the whole 7,000 visitors to said 2019
      Hi-Fi show that you attended were, in fact, all audiophiles.

      Some of them may have been just audio enthusiasts or audio-nuts
      or maybe just audio curious or even bored sh!tless by the whole show,
      but decided to support their audio enthused partners because they
      love & support them, even when the event is boring & pointless to them.

      Love can make you do strange things indeed!

  10. [What kind of music are you in the mood to listen to today?]

    Yesterday…Everything! Major choral, orchestral, pipe organ, concert piano, night club jazz, female/male vocalist, small wind/string/percussive ensembles then, sprinkled all with a little Daft Punk!

    After 7 hours of goose bumps, catching breath, some tears and swearing at times, exhilaration of the wide genre of musical talents and performances brought peace to my soul…guess I was in-the-mood for a descent extended listening session!! 😉

  11. Since I listen only to music that I like and never force myself to like something that does not appeal to me on first listen I like anything I play irrespective of my mood which does not swing to extremes, Thank God. Occasions help make decisions. Like on the fourth of July I spent the evening listening to different performances of Souza Marches and had a whopping good time. I can listen to slow classical music on one LP and to really lively music on the next LP and enjoy them both as long as they appeal to me. I hope you had a wonderful 4th. of July. Regards.

  12. SOOOO, we should marvel at musicians’ abilities to summon and communicate mood upon demand, and to express their feelings and zeitgeist so eloquently with fingers and lips. Further, they can bring us along en masse.

    There is an old saw in the stage drama business, “not a dry eye in the house”. I thought it was hyperbole until it happened, from the existential angst of the sacred musical monologue known as BWV 82. It was a Christmas program at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater, a “Classical Top 100” work not exactly appropriate to the season, “St Matthew’s Passion”. It was a holiday crowd, multi-generational families replacing the usual Classical fanatic subscription patrons.

    The Musical DIrector was Scholar/Conductor Harry Bicket, and he re-created the original Thomaskirche performance with two leading Baroque Orchestras, Rebel and Quicksilver, and the artistry of counter-tenor David Daniels. Further, he stripped “Ich habe genug” down to obligato violin played by the divine Robert Mealy and continuo.

    This was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, transformational. Tears of joy and sadness welled in my eyes, and then I saw that the orchestras, other soloists and chorus were verklempt too. I turned my head to both sides and saw an entire theater weep together as silently as possible. I am crying now, remembering that blessed matinee.

    Music is a tribal activity, and concerts are an ad hoc tribe. This is why I prefer live recordings which capture the moods of the audience. I have even recorded the playback of a pre-recorded soundtrack that was played for an audience as part of a concert. Music is meant to be shared, and the meaning of the music is more in the reaction than the action.

  13. My system goes on when I get up and goes off when I go to bed. So basically within the space of 24 hours, it is on for 15. My mood does not dictate what I listen to, although in the morning with coffee the tunes are lighter, than in the afternoon with coffee. Where as in the evening with scotch, they will be different again.

    Although, I do agree with you Paul…In as much as certain pieces of music sound better at certain times of the day. While other tunes, go against the grain of my 70 year old hearing, at other times of the day. I do find that my speakers which are soon to be replaced after 23 years, can play a song that just hits me ‘right’ and other times they will not. So I guess my mood has been affected, during that fleeting moment of a 3-4 minute song.

    During our 5th or 6th province of Ontario covid lockdown, have I started listening to internet music. Some, like Radio Paradise, Amazon Prime, SomaFM, Hearts of Space etc have decent sound reproduction, while others from around the planet are terrible for music quality and commercials, those can change my mood, for sure. The other night I was listening to a St Lucia jazz station that sounded not bad…then it just stopped broadcasting. Such are the ways of the music satellites, circling our planet.

    From what I understand, paying for higher end music providers, does bring higher end music quality reproduction, so I’m waiting for the dust to settle. As it sounds like a price war is about to happen with the likes of (Apple/Amazon vs Tidal/Qobus) providing similar quality broadcasts.

    This positive for me, from the past negative year, has been my discovery of many new musicians and music genres by plugging into the World Wide Web music bandwidth. Which would have taken me a lifetime to source out, from my ever-shrinking record store selection.


  14. This is true. I think when we are in bad moods that is when we decide to sell our systems and replace it with something new that is frequently not as good. It’s more fun to buy then to hold. I think we wash away depression when we buy something new. Until the bill comes due and we get buyers remorse. Or a new review comes out on a component that’s cheaper than the one you just bought and better. Most of us cannot afford the ultimate system. What we want is the best bang for our buck.

    1. Preach it Joe! Such true words my friend. When I get in a bad mood, I spend!!! Just yesterday I found myself in a record shop spending and because the place had a beer bar inside, I tipped the young lady who rung me up! and I didn’t have any thing to drink:). I wasn’t in the mood to listen, however I scored two beautiful recordings. Nina Simon and Ronnie Laws.

      Ok, that’s enough for now so Keep Listening 🙂

  15. Back in the 50’s my parents knew a man who’s wife was frigid. They said that whenever Perry Como was singing on the radio she would suddenly transform into a passionate sex kitten. At first the husband did not realize what was going on. She would just suddenly transform before his eyes, and he was too stunned to make the connection. Over time he finally made the connection.

    The music set her mood in a most unusual way. Instead of only radio, the husband bought a record player and as many Perry Como records he could find. Life was very interesting for a while. But, then the record player broke, and radio was unpredictable as to when Perry Como would be on next.

    He decided to take his wife into therapy and marriage counseling. For he felt that their marriage should not be dependent upon hearing Perry Como producing “the mood.”

    After many months of therapy.. and having many psychiatrists discussing among themselves what the diagnosis may be, they finally came to a consensus.

    They met husband alone and told him to simply stay with what works. That he should be getting a better record player. And, maybe several.

    Then… in all seriousness they told him needed to just learn to accept that his wife was a Como sexual.

    I remember my parents discussing that around the table with some of their friends. I was a kid at the time, and only years later was able to begin to understand.

    But, yes. Mood can be affected by the music we hear. And, visa versa.

    1. Good One, Genez!!!

      Maybe I’ll buy some P. Como Records, then a nice Turntable, then a good Tone Arm, then a good Cart, oh…and a good Phono Amp, yea and maybe some Crystal Cable phono cables, and then…..awww, just forget it, she hates P. Como! 🙁 😉

  16. Absolutely to all of this!
    I have nothing more to say. Agree with a lot of the posts here.
    I even get different charges and feelings listening to music at night or during the day. My whole scope and musical foundation is purely motivated and based on mood. 🙂

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