Bose System V35 H/T 5.1 Surround (used with Pioneer 60 inch Elite Plasma)/Oppo 105D
Classical / Soundtracks / some Rock / some Jazz
My critical listening preference is primarily classical with some orchestral film soundtracks thrown in. I also enjoy jazz in its various forms and rock (where my choices are eclectic in the extreme). I don’t listen to non-classical with a critical ear, just for the pleasure and so wouldn’t make a recommendation for other genres. The few live rock concerts I’ve attended over the years were as much audience noise as music making by the musicians, more about the “event”. I have had some great jazz listening experiences in smaller clubs. Accordingly my comments that follow are based on listening to classical music. I attempt to keep my point of reference the sound of live instruments and orchestras heard in 10 different concert halls over close to 50 years and well over 150 performances. The majority of these at the old Academy of Music in Philadelphia which was originally built for both concert and opera use in the mid 1850’s. On a side note: I took piano and violin lessons as a kid. The Sirens call to the baseball diamond, football field, and BB court ended what would not have been a promising career in music anyway.
I’m not an “accuracy above all” listener. Comparative measurements, while of academic interest, tell me very little about how I will respond to the sound. To my ears the biggest inaccuracies in the reproduction of music are in the recordings themselves and there is no way to fix them after the fact. Equalization may make a transducing devise flat in response to some test signals but given the variability of the source material in accurately capturing the sound recorded I feel it’s like chasing ones tail and never catching it. Even multiple EQ settings will only be compromises. Also, I feel a great performance with recording deficiencies trumps a mundane performance that’s very well recorded in most cases.
I’m not much of a casual listener. When I’m listening I listen, no multitasking for me. I focus on the music. I rarely listen to music for more than 3 to 4 hours per day. I focus on the performance and the sonic qualities (or lack of) in the recording. I use a sound level meter to match levels as best I can when comparing HP’s and other gear and listen typically between 55 to 60 db and probably no more than 70 db very short term peaks by my open air measurements (which can’t be compared volume or accuracy wise to the pros with their dummy heads and laboratory grade testing equipment but are at least a repeatable benchmark for me to return to. My actual listening level is probably around 75 to 80 db short term peaks.).
Before Utopia my current “A” phone was my stock HD800 with replacement cabling. I think I average 3 to 4 hours a day, say 5 days a week, of listening time, at least. Over the past year I’ve put in a lot more time than usual evaluating different HP’s in home. I use Bose earbuds for my walks 2 or 3 times a week with a 20+ year old Sony Walkman CD. I don’t go around wearing headphones or ear buds all day. I listen to headphones now because I no longer have space for my idea of what a proper, 2 channels, dedicated listening room music system should be. I’m retired and downsized.
My ears are 70 years old with frequency response roll off, as measured by my audiologist, going steeply down at 7 to 8 KHZ, so I am not hearing highs as I did in earlier decades and so will make a difference in my perception compared to others in the highs. But as I understand it my range still encompasses all the fundamentals and most of the upper harmonics. I also want to note that sonic remembrance is not like photographic remembrance.
As I have in excess of 2500 CD's with 90% classical many of which are multi-disc sets, going to DL'd music is not an attractive option for me. I'm guessing most of my classical library isn't even available. And if it is what is it derived from? The original tapes or earlier generation digital transfers? In either case I don't think there's a benefit to me sound wise as the originals were not recorded at high bit rates. Plus I don't want to deal with noise, connectivity issues, PC drivers, coming up with storage and a backup strategy. Sounds like a lot of money for almost no real improvement in sound in my particular case. I've listened to many DL set ups going back to to when Peach Tree first introduced there early models and never experienced a "wow!" moment. For those purchasing newer releases of any genre (or never got started with CD's, DL'd content makes sense but not in my case.
While I might not agree with others assessments of the sonic attributes or merits of this or that piece of gear I might have some experience with I respect the right of each individual to find their own sonic “bliss” with regard to the reproduced music listening experience.
Balanced FTW:ERC-3 to YGG to RAG or JOT or MJ2 (tubes or LISST's) or Rogue Audio RH-5 > HD600 / PM-1 / HD800 / Utopia > DanaCable Lazuli SH & Ref FC & Sapphire Reference IC's. Other: DHLabs / Moon Black Dragon / StraightWire / Blue Jeans / Monster AVS 2000 & 5100MKII. CD only & 90% Classical.