July 8, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Everything we do in high-end audio is an attempt to get closer to the music.

Music is made by musicians.

Ergo, we are trying to get closer to the musicians.

Only, not many seem to be on the same page as we.

From what I can tell, most musicians would rather we keep our distance. That for many, their music is deeply personal. What we get from them is about as much as they want to share.

Perhaps that's why so few musicians are audiophiles.

Composers, producers, and engineers seem to relish digging deeper into what we as audiophiles love; just not so much musicians.

I wonder if it's like the proverbial sausage maker? Enjoy the product but don't look behind the curtain?

Whatever it is it is a curiosity to me.


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67 comments on “Musicians”

  1. No, I don't wanna get closer to the musician, per se.
    I just wanna enjoy the music.
    Different music, or genres of music, appeal to different people.
    Why do I still enjoy Rock 'n Roll more than any other genre of music?
    Glory days?
    Arrested development?
    What is it that makes the music that we enjoyed from 8yo to 24yo so very special to us?
    Life is full of can't measure everything 😉

    Vale James Caan...Bada Bing!

    Bye bye Boris 🙁

    Go Nick!! (Krygios)

    1. Most musicians I know (admittedly Bluegrass) would much rather be playing than listening. Live music or recorded they will listen but given a choice they would rather be jamming!

      1. No argument from me on that point, 'hacmackc'.
        I wonder if musicians prefer to play songs that they already know
        (repitition) or do they prefer to 'noodle around' inventing new
        tunes, or is it far to personal & subjective a topic to say?

        1. I think it goes both ways. Often they want to play familiar songs but in new ways. They like to improvise when it is their turn to take a break. There is no guarantee that they will play the same song twice in the same way.

        2. Avery Fisher had a huge library of sheet music, much of it uncommon, and a lot of friends who were classical musicians. A few would drop by of an evening and say "Well, we have a flautist, a violist, and a trumpeter here, tonight. What have you got for us?" Mr. Fisher could usually pull out music that would suit that group, music that was usually new to at least one or two of them. And then they'd grin and play.

  2. Why should a musician appreciate and enjoy recorded and strangely mixed music reproduced via an inherently non-perfect stereo chain when his reference is life music - no technical losses or unwanted distortions at all. And when he wants to enjoy music he takes his instruments and ask his buddies to join for a session. 🙂

    1. Maybe because to reach a larger audience, share their passion and creativity is part of who they are, more than obsessing over format. Tree falling in the forest may interest a few people but maybe just getting it out there, even on Bluetooth earbuds, is, getting it out there. And maybe getting paid?

  3. My experience of musicians and dancers is the complete opposite. There are huge numbers of world class performers in London, because it is a leading arts city, it is completely safe, people are respectful and it's a nice place to live. We've generally found them more than happy to chat, when appropriate, whether at an event, in a coffee shop, walking their dogs. Covid showed how much they need to engage with their audience.

    Only once do I ever remember a mention of audio equipment, and it wasn't even a discussion. I was buying a record after a performance at a music festival arranged by a leading violinist (his father is a good friend) and he mentioned that he recently bought a Prima Luna valve amplifier as he liked the tone when listening to string music. Only occasionally have I discussed recordings. Performers seem to like to talk about performance, what they rehearsing, where they are going next, and their dogs.

    For performers it's their job, whereas home audio is a leisure activity. So I can't see why they should have any interest in home audio more than the next person.

  4. Musicians are people, with different personalities ranging from introverted to extroverted.
    I know some musicians who love admirers close to them as they perform, and I know others who don't want anyone in the same room while they are playing. The same can be said of painters and sculptors. Many freeze up while being observed, while others enjoy people looking over their shoulders as they work. Craftsmen in any creative endeavor may or may not feel comfortable with others in close proximity as they apply their skills. The nice thing about video and audio recording is that with telephoto lenses and mics you can get extremely close to the subject without them even realizing it.

  5. When we talk about musicians we tend to think about the people playing the instruments but what about a composer or a conductor, aren’t they also musicians? If yes, I saw a famous composer at a hi-fi show once so there must be some interest.
    As hi-fi enthusiasts our systems are a means to enjoy high quality music, to us the hi-fi and the music are inextricably linked so it seems incongruous when musicians don’t feel the same way. As already mentioned they are focused on their job. Why should they care about how we listen to their music at home. Does the pilot that flies you abroad care which hotel you’re staying in?

  6. Some profound thoughts there Paul. I think that at least part of the explanation is the relative emphasis that we all place on the "music" vs. the "sound". We audiophiles definitely love music - but we also very much love hearing every possible nuance of the quality of the sound, and we pursue the recordings and the equipment & its configuration that provides the best possible sound quality in every noticeable way. I suspect that musicians tend to have a greater desire (as well as talent) to create as well as enjoy music itself, meaning its very essence, the essence that comes through whether from a live performance, or from a noisy compressed mono recording playing through a tiny portable radio speaker - the melody, the rhythm, the lyrics, the key, the tuning, the "feel". We audiophiles want all that, but something in our brain or spirit gets extra turned on by, and then begins to crave, better provision of other aspects of the sound itself, such as dynamic range, clarity, frequency range & linearity, space & imaging, freedom from noise and distortion, etc. I would expect those seemingly few who inhabit both worlds could explain it best.

    1. Our ear-brain system has to be trained for processing the phantom images being the result of two sound-sources (loudspeakers) in a stereo system while the live event never requires this kind of processing. Thus listening to a stereo set-up is totally different to the listening of a musician who finally also fine-tunes his instrument depending on the room-temperature and room-acoustics - as most audiophiles I know never do! These audiophiles rather permanently are rolling components of their most complex stereo chain.

  7. Growing up in NYC I was always hearing music playing (battle of the bands). Just about everyone I knew either sang or played an instrument. My father played guitar and listened to jazz on our stereo. I attempted to play bass and drums with my neighborhood buddies though that didn't go far. With all that being said once you know how an instrument should sound like live for me I wanted my rig to at least recreate as close as possible that same sound. And no I don't play anymore but the memories still exist and my journey continues.

  8. I remember there is one audiophile musician, Rafael Todes, who for many years has led the Allegri String Quartet. He reviews audio at HiFi Critic. He is a very nice chap. A good friend of the late Max Townshend, I assume Max's famous Allegri passive pre-amps were so named. He came round a few years ago to buy my ESL63 speakers for his son, Max, a trainee conductor at the time, who now has an orchestra. Rafael was of the view that the ESL63 were the best tool for a conductor to be able to dissect individual instruments and sections in orchestral recordings. When Rafael tried out the speakers he brought his audio equipment with him, consisting of an iPhone and an Allegri pre-amp.

    Here's a nice little lockdown story.

  9. I just have to make a joke....

    "Audiophiles, we fuss over perfection, to reproduce our favorite Guitar Gods, who play through $60 pedals and $20 Cables"

    Ironic.... but fun!

    1. Ha, yes, good point. Equally, what about manufacturers, what cables do they use when testing, specialist or basic? If specialist, which ones? All equipment ought to come with cable recommendations. When is that likely to happen? (eye roll emoji)

      1. And the age old, "How can 1.8 metres of expensive power cable from the wall socket to your amplifier make such a difference in the sound quality of a high-end home-audio rig when you consider that the electrical power is running through many hundreds of metres of average, let's call it, 'delivery' wire?"
        'tis a puzzlement.

        1. Quite simple: every wire acts as an antenna and this “simple” power cables feeds the distortions created by the power supply (rectifiers) it is feeding back into the stereo system via the power bar! 🙂 My experience tells me that this power cable is much more important than any line-level RCA-/XLR-cable. Thus I always prefer battery supplies! 🙂

          1. ps,
            Quite possibly, although I wasn't comparing the improvement in SQ that is available form the use of quality power cable with the sound improvement that may be available from the use of RCA (unbalanced) or XLR (balanced) cables here 😉
            A high quality power cord is not going to filter out all that 'crap' in the supply lines, only something like a PS Audio P-15 or similar will do that & yet I heard a definite improvement in the SQ of my home-audio rig when I installed 'better' 1.5m 'IsoTek' power cables roughly three years ago ✌

        2. Analogy: municipal water comes to houses through miles of pipes, yet the materials of the piping in your house and indeed the last few feet can affect the purity and taste. An extreme example is the taste of water coming out of a rubber or vinyl garden hose.

          1. Joseph,
            I'm not in agreement with your water analogy here due to the fact that if the water is discoloured or ends up with a bad flavour in the municipal supply pipes then your house pipes are going to do nothing to remedy the will need a filter...perhaps a PS Audio P-15 😉
            I was amazed at the difference in sound quality, especially in the bass, from my home-audio rig when I installed a couple of very reasonably priced 1.5m 'IsoTek' power cables for my CD player & my amplifier about three years ago...even after all of those hundreds of metres of 'dirty' electricity.

            1. FR, I disagree with your disagreement 🙂

              I see nothing wrong with my water pipe analogy other than its over-simplicity, almost guaranteed to draw nitpicking criticism. As you point out, I did not address the quality of the municipal water supply. My bad. Of course if the water source were impure some kind of filtration would be prudent, whether point-of-use or upstream of the last stretch of piping. Duh.

              The point of my water pipe analogy was to illustrate how important the last few feet of piping can be to the taste of the water to our very sensitive taste buds, even though there are miles of water piping before the water ever reaches the customer. In audio, the "taste" is the clarity, tone, frequency response, degree of noise and all the other sound characteristics influenced by the design and construction of the cables, such as audio power cables at the very end of the miles-long power distribution system. Your personal example of the big difference a couple of high-quality power cables made is exactly what my water piping analogy is about.

              1. Joseph,
                Your analogy talks about tasteless (clean) water made unpalatable by the last few feet of piping whereas my argument is the reverse...hundreds of metres of 'dirty' electricity made 'clean' by the last few feet.
                Oversimplified yes, & not the same & therefore I still disagree with your analogy.

              2. Probably the last thing I should do is jump into this analogy contest but I put my vote in on Joseph's analogy.

                When I first read it yesterday I thought to myself, that's one of the better analogies I have heard.

                I guess analogies work when they create the right image/example in enough people's minds.

                1. That's very democratic Paul.
                  Unfortunately Joseph's analogy didn't cover the point that I was trying to make, maybe because I didn't express it correctly or well enough.
                  I'll try better next time ✌

  10. I know a musician who is a guitarist who can pick up an axe (acoustic, electric, hollow body, etc) who can tell instantly if it’s a player and the sound it will produce in his hands. He can do that with pedals and amps too. AND He’s an Audiophile
    He happens to be your Editor of Copper!!!

  11. I know some musicians who care nothing about tech...they're afraid to make a truss rod adjustment on a guitar...and others who dive deeply into every aspect of it (guilty as charged ejab). But when they're playing, all that fades into the background in favor of focusing on the performance. (Well, sometimes musicians have played a song so many times that they're thinking about whether to have a burger or a turkey sandwich after the gig...I know this to be true.)

    I should point out that the world of guitar pedals has taken on some of the qualities of boutique high-end audio gear lately. While most pros can happily gig with Boss pedals (to use the classic guitar-world example of affordable, readily-available gear), expensive, rare, vintage and limited-edition pedals have become a "thing." You can pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for pedals...if you can even get them, and scarce products often go on the used market for more than new. look up an Ivor by Dustin Francis Fuzz Face replica, or the Klon Centaur, the holy grail of overdrive pedals (to some). Ah, I'll save you the trouble:

    Music is the subject of endless fascination.

  12. I have always been interested in the creative process, and in talking with many musicians and visual artists on the subject, I have found that many of them are a bit guarded when it comes to really digging deep into what makes the art form become magic/powerful. They always seem to be aware of this special quality which becomes present in a powerful performance, or piece of artwork, but they themselves seem somewhat mystified when it comes to understanding where that power comes from, and are even scared that the power may become inaccessible if one tries too hard to understand it. The musician may be aware of the necessary conditions which allow for a moment off performance to become "special", and they may seek to maximize those conditions, but they never seem to want to explore where that magic comes from, apparently fearing that if one approaches the (seemingly) unapproachable-it may vanish.
    Given the power behind musical performances which ascend to the heavens, I tend to respect this point of view, as perhaps what makes the music reach this higher level is truly not fathomable through any other means than that of experiencing it in the moment of creation.
    As an audiophile, the technical "digging deep" which we do, really is a kind of sideshow to the power of music. While we can have powerful listening experiences at home in our rooms, I feel that this experience is still far removed from that which is sometimes available during a live performance, in the moment of creation, which really "works" on all levels. While we may strive to achieve such at home, we can never really get there, as the actual moment of creation has a power unto itself, which can never be fully realized in a recorded playback, regardless of the level of quality of such playback. For listeners, we may not experience the full power which live performance is capable of creating that often-given that so many live performances are hampered by things such as lack of attention to the power of the moment in the audience (holding up your cell phone to capture a video, for example, "removes" the listener from the power of the moment of creation). But musicians themselves, at least good ones in the "right" conditions, get to experience the true power of music much more often, and hence recognize how that true power is never fully represented in a recorded playback.
    Despite how much we audiophiles might put into getting our systems to be very good, they will always only produce a fraction of the kind of experience that live performance, at its best, is capable of producing. Also note, that live performance is capable of producing these experiences even when less than ideal sonic conditions are present (a less than perfect PA system, or less than ideal seat position, etc)-the situation does not have to be technically "perfect" for the magic to happen, whereas at home, even when we have a nearly technically perfect set up, we can never reach the same kind of experience.

  13. I used to build, renovate and maintain golf courses and now I’ve completely lost interest in playing golf as all I see on a golf course are flaws in design or maintenance. Musicians might prefer the flaws in live music or dislike the production flaws in recorded music while missing out on the enjoyment.

  14. I've been a professional musician (bassist) for over four decades, recording, performing, and touring all over the world. I'm also an audiophile. I've known thousands of musicians, and I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) that very rarely have I encountered an audiophile amongst them. While some of them may have owned "decent" audio equipment, NONE of them owned what we audiophiles call "high end."

    And nowadays, most of them have downsized from even decent equipment to small, shelf-sized, portable Bluetooth systems. It's been years since I've been to a friend's home consisting of a dedicated audio system with speakers and separate components...much less multi-thousand dollar high-end audio systems.

    I can also say that I know a lot of recording engineers, producers, and composers. And I wouldn't necessarily call them audiophiles either.

    Having said that, I do have some audiophile friends, but NONE of them are working musicians!

    Here's my take: I tend to see "audiophile" and "musician" as two axes on a graph that rarely intersect. Why might that be? As a musician (speaking for myself and many others I've had this exact conversation with), we live and breathe music constantly, inside our heads. And especially inside our hearts. What we create is organic, living and breathing. And is best experienced and shared "in the moment" with other musicians participating in this interactive "conversation," if you will. The audience (jazz club, concert hall, etc.) gets to be witness to this interplay...this moment in time. The "sound" we're going for as musicians has more to do with some inner essence or quality. And much less to do with the qualities I hear audiophiles talk about: imaging, soundstaging, etc. Its like musicians and audiophiles are having two different conversations about the music.

    Recordings rarely capture this most important quality that musicians strive and live for. These days most popular recordings in most genres are over-produced "cut and paste" affairs, with the musicians almost never playing in a room together in real-time. And while this might can net an exquisitely pristine recording, its only a shallow facsimile of what happens when musicians play, and even more importantly, listen, to each other.

    Live recordings can capture this essence, but live recordings (other than classical music) usually aren't the "best sounding," compared to studio recordings.

    Musicians, generally speaking, tend towards capturing the "magic" of the conversational interplay and banter that can only happen in a live situation. And less (but maybe not totally ignore) on how its captured for a recorded medium. I know musicians spend a lot of money on their instruments, me included. But at the end of the day, that sound is still being processed through cables, pedals, compressors/limiters, mixing boards, speakers, amplifiers, etc. all of dubious quality!

    What we hear internally is already perfect. Sharing this creation with other equally skilled musicians in the moment enhances and builds upon this perfection. By the time it gets distilled to some tangible recorded medium (record, CD, downloadable stream), that moment has already passed. And what's captured, while it can be enjoyable, for the musician, it exists in the past tense. We've moved on to the next creation that moves us.

    Audio systems (high-end or otherwise) can only reproduce what's already happened. This can be very I said earlier, I'm an audiophile myself. But from my experience and conversations with many musicians over the years, they're (we're) far more interested in the sound we hear internally, which is far better than any audio system can capture. We'd much rather spend that money on music-creating equipment, rather than music-reproducing equipment.

    1. This is an excellent response to Paul's query. As a musician (trumpet and guitar) for over fifty years, it accurately sums up my own thoughts on the subject. A subject, mind you, that I seldom think about. I am more interested in playing than listening. My antiquated hi-fi system would make an audiophile weep in anguish!

      In fact, an audiophile friend who lives down the street played my old band's CD for me on his system and it was so clear, so transparent that it exposed every flaw in my playing and that of the rest of the band! Terrible! I much prefer listening to the recording in my car or on my home system where the sounds blend better.

      Thanks for a great response.

  15. Guess i misinterpreted the post,but I’ll go with it. I know remastering is a marketing thing, but often one or more of the musicians are doing it or supervising so i hope they are trying to make the new mix “better” and care. Although they may never again listen to it. Great to read today’s comments.

  16. I can have the best system in the world and if I don't like the music playing through my system then my system sucks. I only want to get closer to music that I enjoy listening to and is well recorded. I could careless if the musicians are audiophiles or if they don't want me getting closer to the music. It's hard to understand why they wouldn't want their music recorded in the highest fidelity possible when audiophiles while not the majority of their sales still represent a significant enough amount of sales not to be snubbed. Do they play their music through cheap musical instruments? Why would they invest in expensive high quality musical instruments and not care about the fidelity of the recording?

  17. My favorite music is rock 'n roll and the blues. My favorite musicians are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. I do not think of these guys as artist, to me they are entertainers. They are in it for the money. These guys have made it, they are filthy rich. Some of you may not think much of their music, but that doesn't matter to to them. So many people think their music is great that it doesn't matter if you don't like it.

    Today most people think of Beethoven as an artist, but in his day he was an entertainer. Some of his concerts were not well received when they were preformed and his benefactors ( the people who payed him ) were displeased.

    In just about every field of endeavor there are individuals you excel and become famous and/or rich because they have excelled. These people have a special ability that most of us don't. We may think this makes these people special or that they have perfect lives. But, they are human just like us. They have different personalities, different likes and dislikes, they have problems, they get sick, they age and they die just like we all do.

  18. My brother is a musicien, music writer, producer etc.. he lives next to me. Each time I make him listen to his own music on my “high end” system, he is amazed about how great his own art sounds. He just cannot afford such a system, as simple as that!

  19. I agree 100% they would rather be making music then listening. Listening is usually not enjoyed - its work! Replaying certain parts over and over and over... When I listen to something I usually grab my guitar and play along. See how fast I can discover what key it is in, major scale or minor scale, etc. It becomes a game and keeps you sharp on your scales.
    Documentaries on the Eagles, Motley Crue, Thin Lizzy, the old blues-men like John Lee Hooker pretty much sum up the wild topsy turvy life of rock & bluesmen.

  20. Another view of me exposing myself. Many rock and rollers and blues artists place Robert Johnson high on the list of inspirations. I’ve watched and listened to him circ.1937. And as a non musician tin ear i like it and can kind of understand but not really . And I’m envious that I don’t get it like they do. Have another beer Phil.

    1. Buddy Guy has an excellent tell-all book on a lot of the old blues-men he rubbed elbows with when he was young. Most of them taught themselves how to play guitar & many died young. Sometimes violent deaths. Many times they had to fight to get paid after a performance.

  21. Yes I have thoughts. And no it’s definitely not the sausage example. It’s not holding back anything. Musicians (I mean artists) give us everything, just as actors. They are more or less naked already when we can listen to their music. There’s nothing to hold back intentionally.

    I understand your initial thoughts and I also really wonder why most musicians don’t understand how much closer good sound quality gets us to understand their music and to be beamed much deeper into it….or why they ignore it.

    But I understand why they don’t care themselves for audiophilia.

    I now wanted to start a really long post, but luckily I read through the posts beforehand..and there’s not much to add to Orpheus’ post, that’s it basically.

    I guess you’re not playing an instrument yourself in a band or so, as otherwise you’d understand, too. But as you’re with musicians now very often around Octave, you should have the best options to find out about it, unless you try to convince them of your point of view.

    Maybe one other thing also explains a bit of it (just as a side note to what Orpheus already mentioned as the main part):

    I play several instruments, had a focus on theoretical and practical music in high school, played in the army big band on stage (not only for army members but also public/political event concerts), played on proms just with a quartet (all stage events tenor sax).

    Anyway I’d never call myself a musician and especially not an artist.


    Because I don’t make music for a living.
    Because I play sheet music and I’m not improvising (except for some embarrassing private exercises)
    Because I’m not noteworthy creative (due to the aforementioned point and the fact that I’m not noteworthy interpreting music like a good classical musician)
    Because I can’t „give“ anything noteworthy, I’m just reproducing.
    Because my skill is ridiculous compared to real musicians

    I’ve got an engineering background as several here. I’m very different from what I call musicians.
    If you ever came across something like the 4-color model of personality types and all the background behind it, you have a guess what personality preferences it tends to need to get a good musician, actor or other artist and how far that’s from how most audiophiles are (there are always exceptions in both directions). Musicians live for being creative and everything revolves around this only…but now it would start to get too similar to what Orpheus said.

    Even I experienced this shortly in the past when jamming amateurish with a small group of army band members for fun. To create is sooo much more satisfying and determining than consuming, that nothing can get near it in importance.

    In the past I often thought what would be my free wish to once experience if the fairy asked me.

    Before having a trip into space for science fiction like unexplored discoveries there would rank „having been the drummer or singer on one of the following live albums“:

    Billy Joel Songs in the attic
    Journey Captured

    My eyes weren’t dry after writing this.

  22. I tend to think many (if not most) audiophiles focus far more on the "sound," rather than the music itself. To the point that, to me, borders on obsession and/or neurosis. While everyone has the right and agency to spend their time and income on whatever they desire, for me, I've never understood, for instance, the obsession with speaker and interconnect cables. I mean, yes you can definitely buy much better than standard zip cord speaker wire. Or the cheap RCA interconnects that come boxed with most mid-fi equipment.

    But to spend multiples of many thousands on wire that looks more like firehose than wire is beyond me. One can spend as much (or more) on cables as the components they connect to! And for what? The overwhelming vast majority of the music we listen to is recorded, mixed, and mastered using far more "inferior" cables and equipment than the things some audiophiles obsess over. Trust me. I've been in plenty enough of the major recording studios all over the United States to know the truth of this!

    Not only that, but the internal wiring and circuit board traces inside speakers, preamps/amps, mixing desks, rack-mounted outboard equipment (compressors/limiters, reverb/delay units, mic pres, tube emulators, etc.), guitar and bass amplifiers, etc. totally defeats the purpose of "exotic" $$$ cables. This is why I sense that many audiophiles seem more interested in "sound," and less in the music.

    I recently watched an interview between two recording and music legends, Alan Parsons and Steve Wilson. And Steve shared that he once had an audiophile friend who would spend thousands on high-end audio equipment. And who was always on an endless search for "audio nirvana." But that this friend owned only two (2) records. One was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon," and I forget the other. While Steve, himself, owned thousands of records, and nowhere near the high-end system of his friend. One was a lover of music; the other a lover of "audiophile sound."

    I totally agree with you, Trumpeter. I'd much rather be playing music than listening to music. And I have great audio equipment to enjoy listening to music on (Linn, Audio Research, KEF, etc...and someday, maybe even PS Audio!). The "magic" that can happen in improvising with other musicians in the moment on the bandstand are the moments we all live for. And is impossible to capture in a recording, unless all the musicians are playing together in real-time. The editing prowess of ProTools and other DAW's offer wonderful advantages in crafting and sculpting. Unfortunately, its also largely killed the "heart and soul," the spontaneity and the surprise of what makes music...MUSIC!

    Me? I look forward to what I call a happy medium. What do I mean by that? I recognize that most of the listening public doesn't care too much about audio sound quality. Or else they wouldn't accept listening to compressed music over cheap Bluetooth earbuds and portable speakers. All but gone are the days when me and my teenager friends all owned decent stereo component systems (Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui, etc.), bought and traded albums that we took well care of, so that we could dub them onto our cassette decks (metal tape w/ Dolby) for car playback.

    And in fact, some music is definitely more fun when listened to over a pair of JBL's and a 70's Pioneer or Sansui receiver or integrated amp! Is it audiophile quality? No. But it sure as hell connects with the heart and soul...which is the point anyway. And which I think audiophile equipment in its endless quest for detail, accuracy, resolution, etc. can, sometimes, also bleach out the "soul" that music communicates. Don't misunderstand me though. For me, it's "both/and." Not "either/or."

    I don't buy "audiophile" labeled recordings for the reasons I just mentioned. Because honestly, while the recording quality is excellent, the music, the writing, and the performances themselves are usually bland and sterile, lackluster and boring. On the other hand, most of the interesting music made by great musicians, writers and performers, can be a mixed bag, recording-wise. But, I'll always prefer a poorer recording with great writing and musicianship, over an "audiophile" release with bland, lackluster writing and performances. I tend to think that among other things, this is largely a function of recording budgets, etc. that the better major producers and musicians in LA, NYC, Nashville, or Austin demand.

    I'd love to see the major record labels get back to caring about the quality of their recorded output, like the old days at RCA, Columbia, Blue Note, etc. But all the market indicators seem to say it's not likely to happen. This is the music that I find myself listening to much of the time. Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" was not only a wonderful album that changed the sound and the direction of jazz, regardless of one's instrument. It also happens to be a very well-recorded record. That's also true of many Blue Note, and ECM releases, and Rudy Van Gelder sessions. These were all world-class musicians creating amazing and timeless music with great depth and substance. And which was captured beautifully.

    1. Orph,
      As a non-musician I am relegated to listening.
      The second-last paragraph in your 10:48am post rings true
      to be what I & a lot of my audio-buddies also believe.
      Since most of the music that I prefer to listen to was recorded in the
      1960's to the 1990's there's really no point for me to try to cobble together
      an even more resolving home-audio rig than the one that I have now.
      Money to be spent better elsewhere.
      Great music, whether it's well recorded or not, is a great joy to me & I'm guessing all of us here.

  23. I’m a professional Violinist for motion pictures, Electronic violinist, and a very long time audiophile. I know about a dozen audiophiles among my colleagues and the includes 4 of the best recording engineers in the world. Getting the music correct at home takes a commitment and a fair amount of time. Frankly many pros don’t know where to start or what is even possible for a home audiophile system. I’ve had many musicians listen to my system and say I want that. No changes, everything you have and where can I buy it all- at once. The listening to experience for me at home is about the air, the ambiance, and tonal accuracy- does the music make it through the electronics and allow everything the artists are giving to be heard. It’s a different experience but similar enough that most of my friends who hear what a very fine resolving system can do say s#$t, now I really can’t go back.

  24. I’m a professional Violinist for motion pictures, Electronic violinist, and a very long time audiophile. I know about a dozen audiophiles among my colleagues and that includes 4 of the best recording engineers in the world. Getting the music correct at home takes a commitment and a fair amount of time. Frankly many pros don’t know where to start or what is even possible for a home audiophile system. I’ve had many musicians listen to my system and say I want that. No changes, everything you have and where can I buy it all- at once. The listening experience for me at home is about the air, the ambiance, and tonal accuracy- does the music make it through the electronics and allow everything the artists are giving to be heard. It’s a different experience but similar enough that most of my friends who hear what a very fine resolving system can do say s#$t, now I really can’t go back.

  25. Perhaps a simple reason why musicians are less invested in end-user sound is the data suggests there’s no need to be. Look at how music today is consumed, the majority through earbuds and inferior listening devices. They are “programming” to a mass vs. niche audience. Audiophilia (is that a word) is a niche biz. That said, I presume there are discernible skews depending upon the music being recorded and released. There likely is higher interest in the quality of end-user sound among jazz and classical musicians than mainstream pop artists, recognizing how their music is generally consumed and by whom. I wonder if the resurgence of vinyl, reissues and the remixing of classic rock LPs from analog sources—done really for economic reasons—has nonetheless stimulated artist engagement w/ end-user sound? A good question maybe for Steve Wilson.

    1. You are so right.

      Something like ten years ago I went to Head-Fi Can-Jam in NYC and heard a mastering engineer ( who I did not know or did I recognize any of the stuff he had worked on ). To my shock and horror he said he masters for the music to be played in a car! I was shocked because as you mentioned ear bud had become ubiquitous by this time. I was in horror because of the things he did to the music to make it sound "good" in a car.

      Clearly he was working for and audience much younger than me and his clients were ( IMO ) entertainers looking for a hit that would make them big money. As near as I could tell art considerations were no present.

    2. Stuart, the way that music is largely consumed today may be different. But the fact of musicians (mostly) being less invested in end-user sound is no different than years or decades ago.

      Popular (thus the name "pop music") has always been invested in reaching a mass audience. It's one reason why jazz (I'm not talking here about 'smooth jazz' which is something altogether different) has never, ever enjoyed large mass appeal. Pop and rock music acts (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Aerosmith, etc.) have historically always sold by orders of magnitude many more records (and live audiences) than someone like a Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, etc., could've ever hoped to.

      One major reason why most musicians remain less invested in end-user sound is because we make up, internally, inside our heads, for whatever deficiencies exist in a particular audio system. We already know what real live music sounds like, and what it should sound like, both because we perform regularly. And because we live constantly with an internal point of reference. Our years of performing and recording in many varied settings create an "inner memory" of what real instruments (acoustic and electric amplified) sound like.

      Because of this, many musicians simply don't (and won't) justify the great cost differential in buying expensive high-end equipment vs decent to good quality audio (or even not so good), when it's so easy for the ears to compensate and "add" whatever's missing.

      And as I said earlier, most musicians are far more interested in creating music, than listening to it. They'd more likely buy a new electric guitar, a new upright bass, or another instrument. Rather than spend thousands on a new high-end DAC!

      I'm a jazz musician, and from my experience, I've had many musician friends over to my home to listen to my system. To a person, they've all been impressed, even stunned, at what's possible with home audio reproduction. But they all walk away not being able to justify the cost to own it! And they tell me, "My ears just make up for what I don't hear in my system at home."

      Very closely related to this is why mixing and mastering engineers will deliberately choose to also mix and master their sessions on cheap speakers (or back in the day, even listen over a boom box), in addition to their main monitors, because they know most music will be listened to in the car more than anywhere else. That's always been the case. And then earbuds from a smartphone is a close second. Their goal is to make it sound good in the car, and go from there. In addition to their many years of experience, their ears are so seasoned that they can compensate for known deficiencies in any particular monitor speaker. That's why to this day, in addition to mucho-expensive ATC, ProAc, B&W, or Genelec monitors, you'll also see a small pair of old Auratones and/or Yamaha NS10's atop a mix desk. I think NS10's sound awful! But that's the point.

      Audiophiles are, and always have been, such a tiny niche demographic, that the major labels don't target their product to them, necessarily. Audiophile music labels do speak to this market, but then as I said earlier, the challenges there are generally more vanilla, less compelling and bland-sounding music, that while sounding wonderful to demo on a high-end system, its not (usually) the music that "moves the soul." It's not the music I would spin on my turntable or CD player regularly. Nor would the majority of musicians I know, and who certainly aren't audiophiles. It's very costly to hire top-gun musicians and producers the likes of a Gil Evans, Arif Mardin, David Foster, Tommy Lipuma, or Quincy Jones. Most audiophile record labels simply don't have those kinds of huge budgets.

      Of course, personal tastes apply. So I'm qualifying my statement by saying that. I just know I'd much rather listen to Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny or Branford Marsalis than any of the stuff I've heard thus far marketed by any "audiophile" label.

      1. "I’m a jazz musician, and from my experience, I’ve had many musician friends over to my home to listen to my system. To a person, they’ve all been impressed, even stunned, at what’s possible with home audio reproduction. But they all walk away not being able to justify the cost to own it! And they tell me, “My ears just make up for what I don’t hear in my system at home.”"

        I have heard the same. When musicians hear music their minds take over and they hear it as it would be played live. My wife was a musician in HS. She became a scientist in college so she no longer plays music. I always take her with me when I am doing serious auditioning of gear. If she says the brass sound right then I know that at least the gear gets that right. I have coached her to hear the music as it is and then compare it to how it should sound. With practice she now can tell when brass sound right. As you know I am also a scientist with no musical talent, but I taught myself what live drums sound like and I judge gear for how drums sound. Between the two of us we can find the gear that sounds the best.

    3. Stuart,
      I believe that that decision is very much up to the artist(s).
      For example, guys like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin & Dire Straits, just to
      name three, have made damn sure that they have employed the best possible
      'remastering brains' to bring their past works up to the best possible sound quality.
      But then there are others like Joe Satriani, 10CC & INXS who's remastered CDs from
      the original studio tapes sound thin & etchy, which makes you wonder why did they
      even bother.

      In short; some give a crap & some don't...from what I've heard.

  26. I wonder if, with musicians, it's more about the emotion and sound emitted right there between the musician and the instrument - anything else is seen as a disconnection from that experience. Maybe beyond the impact of that connection, in that proximity, becomes irrelevant or secondary to them. I don't know - I've heard the same comments from others as well when it comes to musicians and hi-end - or audio - in general.

    For us audio geeks there's a certain technical and aesthetical allure to the equipment we listen to music through. I for one am the furthest thing from a musician that one can be, yet I have a deep appreciation and love for music. It consumes me. However, my fascination with technology and the art of reproducing music is equally appreciated and felt. I think those two things can and are very relevant to one another.

    That being said, nothing can replace the impact and emotion connected with hearing a live musical performance. No matter how hard we try - being live and in the moment - always feels more impactful.

    I love that we strive to reproduce music as faithfully to the live event itself as possible, but we will always fall just that wee bit short of "being there". Maybe that is what is intrinsically wired in our favorite musicians - and perhaps that is why anything else really doesn't matter?

    I appreciate the opportunity to express my perspective and I appreciate the wonderful musicians who entertain and move us with their music. I also respect and admire the good folks at PS Audio and others who endeavor to preserve and reproduce that music as faithfully as humanly possible.

    Let's all continue to play the roles we do in the endeavors we pursue - it's all kind of fun anyway. In the end we all get great enjoyment from it no matter what end of the musical pipeline we find ourselves seated.

  27. I don't get all the audiophiles' references to musicians as "they" and "them" as though audiophiles and musicians come from different planets and have different ears. There are countless audiophile musicians in this world. I'm not a professional musician, but I play musical instruments and consider myself both a musician and an audiophile. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  28. I guess for the musicians that record their ‘art’ - I don’t understand when you were done you wouldn’t kick back and listen to what was created and want it to be as close as possible to your intention. I’m not looking for a gear head - just someone interested in the sound which is all they produce.

  29. This is quite a thread with some long and very interesting posts. I accept all that’s been said about a live performance and how our systems cannot hope to fully replicate this. However there is one area where our systems stand head and shoulders above any live performance. That being they play what we want when we want to listen to it. 🙂

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