Critical vs. discerning ears...
Mar 8, 2006 at 5:27 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 22

fewtch

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 23, 2003
Posts
9,559
Likes
31
Been contemplating the difference between discerning and critical ears lately. One of the problems I have labeling myself an "audiophile" is that it seems too many go out of their way to find as many flaws in a piece of gear as possible, as if the sound quality of the gear consisted of the sum of its lack of weaknesses rather than the sum of its strengths.

IMO this "flaw focused" approach not only prevents a person from ever being satisfied with a piece of gear, but it could also serve as a lazy substitute for actually training one's ears. Critical ears are not necessarily discerning ones.

I fail to understand why so many people focus on the flaws of their gear rather than focusing on the strengths. Could it be that this "audiophile business" really is a sort of disease? "Dis-ease," the feeling of not being at ease. I wonder how many people are able to relax and enjoy gear without being constantly critical about what might be wrong with it. What a terrible approach to anything, audio included.

P.S. I admit to have "caught" a minor form of the disease just being around it, but hope to cure myself eventually...
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 5:59 AM Post #2 of 22

rickcr42

Are YOU talkin' to me?
Joined
Jun 21, 2001
Posts
13,874
Likes
14
Quote:

P.S. I admit to have "caught" a minor form of the disease just being around it, but hope to cure myself eventually...


just pretend your are doing a music review for a major magazine and before you know it you will be listening "through" the gear and not "TO" the gear
wink.gif


most audio equipment once you get past the consumer grade crap is surprisingly uniformaly good with only little things separating the truly great from just pretty damn good.
Reproductive gear should not get in the way of the music and if it draws that much attention to itself then it is a flawed design because IT is trying to be the main event over the music even if it is your personal beleif it is not but is instead "detailed"
very_evil_smiley.gif
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 6:15 AM Post #3 of 22

Senn20

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Sep 5, 2005
Posts
552
Likes
11
I just got a new cd player, but after the initial "Christmas Morning" effect dies off, I'm listening to the music and not the gear.
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 3:12 PM Post #4 of 22

michaelconnor

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 4, 2005
Posts
193
Likes
10
Since every link in the chain is essentially detracting from the original signal, the perfect setup would do nothing particularly well, but simply wouldn't do any wrong to the sound.

In the land of mid-fi, however, we don't expect perfection, and there is certainly room for "good" sounding equipment.
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 4:07 PM Post #5 of 22

rickcr42

Are YOU talkin' to me?
Joined
Jun 21, 2001
Posts
13,874
Likes
14
I Quote:

n the land of mid-fi, however, we don't expect perfection, and there is certainly room for "good" sounding equipment.


That statement alone goes to what the thread is about.

Audio gear if you want to stop litstening to IT instead of the music needs to be considered good by how much or how little it takes away from listening the song not how much it adds.

Good sounding amps are the ones that truly suck.

The real good ones make you forget you are listening to an amp and instead are listening to music with no need to force the issue or the person have to train themself to stop listening to the amp
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 4:11 PM Post #6 of 22

Mercuttio

Key Conspirator in the Quest to Murder Music
Joined
Apr 22, 2005
Posts
5,774
Likes
89
Quote:

Originally Posted by michaelconnor
Since every link in the chain is essentially detracting from the original signal, the perfect setup would do nothing particularly well, but simply wouldn't do any wrong to the sound.

In the land of mid-fi, however, we don't expect perfection, and there is certainly room for "good" sounding equipment.



*Places CD directly in his ear*

Ahh! Much better!

*Sets fire to audio rig*


biggrin.gif
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 4:19 PM Post #7 of 22

Glod

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 7, 2005
Posts
1,352
Likes
10
Location
The Netherlands
Quote:

Originally Posted by fewtch
I fail to understand why so many people focus on the flaws of their gear rather than focusing on the strengths. Could it be that this "audiophile business" really is a sort of disease? "Dis-ease," the feeling of not being at ease. I wonder how many people are able to relax and enjoy gear without being constantly critical about what might be wrong with it. What a terrible approach to anything, audio included.

P.S. I admit to have "caught" a minor form of the disease just being around it, but hope to cure myself eventually...



Human nature: Most people have a curiosity about the unknown. Natural selection has made today's humans like that IMHO. Some people can handle it well while others just cannot resist thinking about how things could be different - better.

I agree, this makes forums like this one look like a paradise for whiners
tongue.gif
, which seem never to be able to rest and enjoy what they have. I don't feel I am an extreme example, actually far from one. I am pretty happy with my gear, but that does not mean I do not look for imperfections. I do that all the time. Fortunately, I think I belong to the group who can handle the upgrade itch pretty well, and, actually lean back and enjoy the music.
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 4:37 PM Post #8 of 22

AlanY

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Feb 4, 2005
Posts
1,456
Likes
10
Are people who go out of their way to find flaws in gear really a problem on the forum? You almost never read about flaws in reviews (professional or amateur), only the good things about gear. Amateur reviews in particular are usually pretty glowing (new love effect?). I'd actually prefer to see more honesty about gear. That's why I love the meet impressions. That's not to say I'm an upgrader... I've only bought one pair of headphones since I joined here, the HF-1. But some gear especially in the speaker realm is really hard to listen to and gets in the way of the music.

That said, I agree with you philosophically. I think audiophiles always searching for "the best" are more obsessive-compulsive than they like to believe, but a lot of male hobbies are like that. 20 more HP in your car really is hard to feel, but car guys get that and rave about it, then go off and look at brakes or suspension, looking for something better. Though in audio the cable aficionados do scare me, not that I'm a disbeliever, just that intense cable comparisons crosses a line for me into obsessive pursuit that I'm uneasy with.
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 5:00 PM Post #10 of 22

rickcr42

Are YOU talkin' to me?
Joined
Jun 21, 2001
Posts
13,874
Likes
14
Quote:

I think money is a key factor here. Students like me don't have the cash, so we're forced to focus on the strengths rather than the weaknesses.


Price has zero to do with it if you have no idea what you are actually looking for.You can spend $500 on crap or $100 on a good amp or even if you can solder build a reasonable amp for $30 that can be upgraded later

Everyone I have ever met always picks the bright sounding amp first then when they get tired of it go to the "dull" sounding but musically accurate amp as their taste matures and they realise an amp should not be exciting but just let the music play through it.It is the music that should be the star not the amp which needs to take a second fiddle postion in the orchestra instead of lead solo
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 10:08 PM Post #11 of 22

fewtch

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 23, 2003
Posts
9,559
Likes
31
Quote:

Originally Posted by titaniumx3
I think money is a key factor here. Students like me don't have the cash, so we're forced to focus on the strengths rather than the weaknesses.


Forced? Hell, consider yourself lucky in a way... IMO focusing on weaknesses is a sort of sickness (call it 'audiophilia') and you know people who do that a lot are not enjoying the music. It may look attractive to have a lot more money to spend on gear, but I really wonder if it's all that it's cracked up to be.

People often stay on this "journey" for decades and never find the sound they want even with piles of money to throw around. Maybe the fun is in the journey rather than the destination, but there's definitely a negative side to it IMO. It's a similar thing to the classic "unhappy rich person" who has a lot of money but experiences increasing dissatisfaction as time goes on.

Budget-fi is cool to me because I'm not throwing money at the problem... it forces me to think and actually go for fidelity and synergy rather than pretty looking boxes and the last 1%.
 
Mar 9, 2006 at 1:53 AM Post #12 of 22

aerius

Banned
Joined
Oct 14, 2002
Posts
2,365
Likes
23
Problem #1, IMO, is that people don't know what the hell they want. Which leads to stupid "upgrades" and wholesale equipment swapping.

Problem #2 is that people don't understand that there's no such thing as "perfect gear", there are always compromises, ALWAYS, period, end of story.

Which leads to 3, making the compromises which you can happily live with (ie. balancing the strengths against the flaws), which is related to #1, but since so many can't get past #1 it's no wonder they can never find satisfaction with their gear.


Now, as for focusing on flaws. I have a shortlist of flaws which will throw gear into the reject pile regardless of how good its other aspects are. If it doesn't have enough bass, if it screws up female vocals, or it's bright and/or sibilant, it's gone, because any of the above destroys my listening pleasure. Those issues are relatively easy to listen for, and it saves me a lot of time in evaluating new gear, if it has those flaws I can toss it and move on to the next component without wasting my time trying to listen for soundstage, low-level detail, neutralness, and all that other stuff. Think of it as screening job candidates, first you check the resumes to see if the prospects meet the requirements, toss the ones who don't, then do the interviews.
 
Mar 9, 2006 at 2:23 AM Post #14 of 22

plainsong

Headphoneus Supremus: Untie!
Joined
Dec 4, 2002
Posts
6,453
Likes
26
I think it's all wrapped up in how obsessive-compulsive one is about audio, and what at what level they're prepared to accept some imperfections.

For me it was about synergy, I did lots of jumping around from this that and the other, and now I have a system that hasn't even tempted me to buy anything new. Is it perfect? Well I suppose not, but do I care? No, it lets me enjoy the music, which was the whole point anyway.

There's a point where the obsessiveness is just self-defeating. Everything is compared to this holy grail of live performances, yet live performances are the most unperfect things around.

My husband would call me obsessive about audio, but compared to most here, I'm not. OTOH, I was much more obsessive about how perfect creating music had to be. But you have to be. If you're not overly critical, your band director didn't raise you right. It's at the point where I can't watch a performance of anything with a family member. They get angry at me for pointing out stuff that's wrong. But I can watch those same performances with more musically inclined types and we'll all be saying the same thing.

There's a point in there somewhere, and that's that it's all relative. But at some point, you have to draw the line and find something you can settle on. Perfect just doesn't exist. It's impossible, given that no performance is perfect.
 
Mar 9, 2006 at 3:16 AM Post #15 of 22

fewtch

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 23, 2003
Posts
9,559
Likes
31
Quote:

Originally Posted by plainsong
There's a point where the obsessiveness is just self-defeating. Everything is compared to this holy grail of live performances, yet live performances are the most unperfect things around.


I think Aerius has a great point about people not really knowing what they want being the most serious issue. Those who want to simulate a live performance at least know what they're looking for, and (many will disagree but) I don't believe it's that hard to get relatively close to a live sound, even with headphones. The question is "how close?" and that's where I think people trip up and don't know where or when to stop. In other words, I don't think there's anything more wrong about looking for the sound of a live performance than looking for the most euphonic/pleasing sound possible (another area where "perfection" doesn't exist, *unless you let it*).
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top