A PHILOSOPHICAL VIEW POINT ON SOUND, MUSIC AND HAPPINESS
Music is sound so the title is a tad wrong. However, what can we say about sound? Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong enough to be heard or felt. Sound is a part of nature. When we get into music, we find that music, in its most simple context/definition is an art that is composed of sound and silence. The true beauty of music is that the creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. As a mastering engineer, I believe that while sound is primarily a physical phenomenon around the propagation and perception of energy waves at certain frequency ranges, music is primarily a natural and intuitive phenomenon related to the logical organization, structure, and relations between sounds and our emotions. It’s the poetry of our complexity of life.
However, whatever type of music you listen to, it all must follow the rules of nature because it is based on the propagation and perception of energy waves at certain frequencies. A guitar, X, when played in North America will sound the same as when played in Europe. There are factors which might affect the tone, pitch and other subtle nuances but in general, they will sound so similar that one would be able to identify those energy waves at either location and be able to know that X is a guitar. It is much the same with all other instruments…both acoustic and electronic.
As a mastering engineer, my philosophy of sound revolves around the idea that music is indivisible in the sense that we merge a sound with a definition. It either sounds natural or it does not. My goal, thus far in my career, has been to get music to sound natural…as it should.
I have achieved this through my own work and by tracking down the work of others who seem to share the same goals as I do. These people do not harm the music in any way and are always attempting to make it sound as natural as possible. By doing this, my musical wants…my musical needs…have been satisfied to a high degree. However…happiness in this hobby still eluded me. It seemed to me that I was missing a part of a puzzle.
So now…we get to happiness. However, for this topic, we will remain to realm of happiness within the headphone audiophile hobby as defining overall happiness in life would be an endless topic which one could discuss ad infinitum.
A lot of people don’t know that I have always had a passion for philosophy. In fact, I have a degree in the topic. One of the more influential writers in philosophy for me was Boethius. A great and wise man was he. If you don’t recognize the name…go to the library and pick up his writings.
Anyway…Boethius said that the supreme good which all men seek is happiness and that in order to obtain it, they go through various measures. Some believe that they will find happiness in money and wealth. In the audiophile world I have run into countless individuals with an endless wallet. However, much like Boethius said, having all the money in the world will not make an individual free from want. Many of these rich audiophiles often complain to me that they can never get their system sounding right and they go through endless tweaks and constant spending in order to make it right. They always seem to change something or the other. Some just accept it as part of the hobby. Then there are those who lose the love for music and pursue the state of art in equipment instead.
To make this short, Boethius eventually teaches us that true happiness can be achieved in that which is simple and indivisible by nature. That is true and perfect happiness. As I mentioned before, sound, and thus music, follows the laws of nature. It’s physics.
So you have the indivisible part…music/sound (at least I do). But what about the simple part? This part eluded me for the longest time until I modified my own set of orthodynamic headphones. The modification, is simple for the most part. The price of the headphones is under $100.00 and the results are simply spectacular. Very linear, detailed and natural sound. If you don’t believe me, there are measurements to back it up but regardless, to my ears, they are perfection. After many years in this hobby I can confidently tell you…my friends, colleagues and fellow enthusiasts…that I am finally happy with what I have. I can now go on living without ever touching another headphone and truly be happy with what I have and not lust after anything else.
This isn’t to brag but rather to show you all that achieving an “endgame” rig need not be expensive nor impossible. What is this rig? Here is what I go to bed with lately and I am truly happy with the sound…
Headphones: Fostex T50RP (modified)
Amp: Objective 2 (borrowed but soon to own my very own)
Source: Sony D25s
These three pieces of equipment get me closer to the music than any other rig I have ever heard. The raw emotion, impact and sheer high fidelity achieved by this system must be heard to be appreciated. Sure, you can make the argument that it can be improved upon with a better DAC or a better source, etc etc. However, if we apply the law of diminishing returns, I would have to spend a significant amount of money to really get a tiny, marginal improvement in measurements and maybe, sound quality. At the end of the day, I would rather listen to my music than worry about measurements. In the end, a simple but great sounding set-up, worth under $500.00, has brought me true musical bliss. Boethius was right…. simple and indivisible by nature….
So…why am I writing this? To simply share my experience and to let you know that this hobby need not be expensive and that you should always trust your own ears. What better way to listen to music than having a headphone tailored by yourself, to your own tastes being driven by something which you feel does the music justice.
Will I stop visiting head-fi and other audio related sites? Nope…to much of a head case to do that. Will I never own another pair of headphones or audio gear? Probably not…but if I don’t, I really wouldn’t mind….
Thanks for reading my random ramblings and may you all reach this joyous summit at which I have only recently arrived at...
Edited by LFF - 10/2/11 at 6:11am