How Hi Fi Has Become a Standard Unto Itself

tima

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I completely agree, these are some of the all time greats in classical music....

I'd like to ask, are "we'" collectively going to be chasing these recordings and artists another 50 yrs from now??
I'd like to suggest, there is always a "changing of the guard" and there are some incredible violinists, cellists and pianists of this young generation, who will be the next "ones".... I feel we need to support these now & any recordings of these should be cherished as one day they maybe the "Glen Goulds" of tomorrow...

Maybe it's not much fun chasing a digital recording of current soloists. Or perhaps another way of saying it is, there are no more classical recordings, at least of orchestra, made with tape, like the "good old days of DECCA"....

Ed

Hi Edward,

I suspect the classics will remain the classics. For centuries composers and their compositions have gone in and out of fashion with a few being timeless. Mahler was ignored for years while Mozart seems eternal. Jan Paderewski was a hot commodity as a concert pianist and composer yet rarely is his music performed or recorded today. Some works are immediately recognized as great and some take time to 'catch on'.

One way new musicians received recognition and gained recording contracts was through competitions and prizes. The von Karajan prize was famous for a while, sponsored by vonK and DG. The international Pozzoli, Chopin and Tchaikovsky Piano competitions still come around every 2, 5 and 4 years. van Cliburn was 'discovered' at the latter, Pollini won the first Pozzoli prize. When Okko Kamu won the first von Karajan prize he was given a really nice recording contract with DG which included several Sibelius symphonies that became a part of vonK's very best Sibelius cycle (1960s) with the Berlin Philharmonic.

I know your tape offerings from UltraAnalogue include many young artists and I think we all applaud your efforts and the encouragement it brings newer performers. And indeed some of these performers may become cherished artists in the future.

Alas, prize money, recording contracts and publicity take money. As do orchestras, conductors, and concert halls. I'm no accountant but it seems there is less money of that sort today than in the past - for a variety of factors. The recent absence of live venue availability has not helped. Classical music on a large scale has waned from what it was when there was more money. That fact does nothing to disourage interest in upcoming performers.


 
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tima

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Can you explain us what you exactly mean by "particular" in this sentence?

When I wrote that I was thnking of Philips and Melodiya though there are others I do not have at the tip of my thought. When my system was not where it is today, I thought some Philips recordings were kinda 'meh' but I appreciate them so much more now. Will note that 'my system' also includes a record cleaning protocol that has revealed much on older albums, such as from Melodiya, that causes me to enjoy those recording more than before I had that ability.
 

stirlingtrayle

Well-Known Member
To further expand on Kodomo's line: "Recording is an art, it is not solely engineering"

To truly record something magical, one has to first consider/control the instruments that are being recorded. Recording violins, they all have different voices and one must be aware how the instrument has been setup. Some have tremendous power & if the player is a soloist, often their violins are setup for ultimate projection, which is often not the most pleasant sound the record. To project, they often have a sharp edgy sound to reach the back of big halls. Obviously, the hall/room/space is critical if the reverb recorded will sound natural. To this end, I have sometimes used gut strings in the violins to create a softer, sweeter sound.

Often there is talk about the classic old tube mics. Even more important I feel is the microphone pre-amp being used. I've found, the resultant sound, of any recording, is the result of the signal path, in the whole chain. It's only as good as it's weakest link. Therefore, everything in this signal path must be at the same top level to realize all the goodies in this chain.

A case in point, was when I found a pair of NOS 1956 WE300b tubes. When these were placed into our custom mic pre-amp, the whole sound spectrum was taken to another level. (I was using new production WE300b before...no slouches!) The same happened when we made a battery supply to the 1st stages of the tubed record & playback amps for the Studers... everything makes a difference. There is no "free lunch"!

My 2c on recording...

Ed
Thank you for this comment. I am curious about this concept of recording something magical. When you set out to make a truly magical recording, are you not attempting to capture a moment in time that is beautiful? And if this is the case, isn't the musician and their choice of how the instrument is set up to convey their emotion, interpretation, and voicing of the music they are playing? While it may sound sweeter to the recording engineer to use gut strings, how does this capture the musician's true intent? Are we recording the make a magical sounding recording, or to capture a magical event?
 

Elliot G.

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Thank you for this comment. I am curious about this concept of recording something magical. When you set out to make a truly magical recording, are you not attempting to capture a moment in time that is beautiful? And if this is the case, isn't the musician and their choice of how the instrument is set up to convey their emotion, interpretation, and voicing of the music they are playing? While it may sound sweeter to the recording engineer to use gut strings, how does this capture the musician's true intent? Are we recording the make a magical sounding recording, or to capture a magical event?
There lies the dichotomy as to the recording and its finished product. When back in NYC and working with many artists, some cared about the final result of the recording and many didn't. The recording engineers some want to make a recording that captures the event others want to take the raw music and create their own vision. I believe this is why we have such diverse sounding recordings. It is baffling that some recordings sound so real and natural and others are just awful. I realize that most recordings were made to be played on the radio and today maybe to be listened to on earbuds but even among them is a huge spectrum of "quality"
I don't really know how to reconcile this diversity as their are albums of both variety's that I enjoy but IMO it is at times very frustrating to figure out why there are such wide swings in the recordings to convey the sound enjoyably.
 
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stirlingtrayle

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There lies the dichotomy as to the recording and its finished product. When back in NYC and working with many artists, some cared about the final result of the recording and many didn't. The recording engineers some want to make a recording that captures the event others want to take the raw music and create their own vision. I believe this is why we have such diverse sounding recordings. It is baffling that some recordings sound so real and natural and others are just awful. I realize that most recordings were made to be played on the radio and today maybe to be listened to on earbuds but even among them is a huge spectrum of "quality"
I don't really know how to reconcile this diversity as their are albums of both variety's that I enjoy but IMO it is at times very frustrating to figure out why there are such wide swings in the recordings to convey the sound enjoyably.
I guess it can be thought of as a problem or as a characteristic. I do believe that recording engineers are intent on capturing the best example of that moment in time. But does the question does come down to "who's moment in time?" If the result of the recording event is a reflection of the musician but is in conflict with the way a recording engineer perceives that event, will it result in poor recording quality? Or if the recording engineer dictates how the recording will sound by changing what or how the musicians do what they do, would that result in a fabulous sounding but uninspired recording?
 

Elliot G.

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I guess it can be thought of as a problem or as a characteristic. I do believe that recording engineers are intent on capturing the best example of that moment in time. But does the question does come down to "who's moment in time?" If the result of the recording event is a reflection of the musician but is in conflict with the way a recording engineer perceives that event, will it result in poor recording quality? Or if the recording engineer dictates how the recording will sound by changing what or how the musicians do what they do, would that result in a fabulous sounding but uninspired recording?
Could be either or neither. :)
 

Edward Pong

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Jun 24, 2013
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Thank you for this comment. I am curious about this concept of recording something magical. When you set out to make a truly magical recording, are you not attempting to capture a moment in time that is beautiful? And if this is the case, isn't the musician and their choice of how the instrument is set up to convey their emotion, interpretation, and voicing of the music they are playing? While it may sound sweeter to the recording engineer to use gut strings, how does this capture the musician's true intent? Are we recording the make a magical sounding recording, or to capture a magical event?
Maybe first let me qualify what I mean by "magical"... it's not just the "sound" of the recording. Many recordings can sound very good, but convey no magic. Magical to me, is a performance that forces one to listen, coupled with a sound that draws you further into the music. When this happens, with a great piece of music, one never tires of listening to that recording.... that is magical.

When I say, we sometimes change strings/bows, of course this is with the artist's input. Everything is a collaboration between the artist, the music, the space & the recording engineer. We always test the effects of any change and come to a consensus before the recording is done, studio or live. Something, I didn't talk about, is the mental/emotional feeling of that artist, at the time of recording. The more fun I can inject into the situation, the more passionate the performance of the artist. In classical music, anyone can "play the notes" but that does not create a magical recording. Performance is everything!

Perhaps Steve Williams or Karen Sumner can chime in on their impressions of my tape, "Tatsuki Narita".... this was a final recording to commemorate our 4 yrs of recording music together. Parisan bow maker Alain Herou worked his magic on a special bow, in my basement, just before we recorded these 5 tracks... all 1st takes!
I felt, magic happened that afternoon...

Hope this helps!

Ed
 
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stirlingtrayle

Well-Known Member
Maybe first let me qualify what I mean by "magical"... it's not just the "sound" of the recording. Many recordings can sound very good, but convey no magic. Magical to me, is a performance that forces one to listen, coupled with a sound that draws you further into the music. When this happens, with a great piece of music, one never tires of listening to that recording.... that is magical.

When I say, we sometimes change strings/bows, of course this is with the artist's input. Everything is a collaboration between the artist, the music, the space & the recording engineer. We always test the effects of any change and come to a consensus before the recording is done, studio or live. Something, I didn't talk about, is the mental/emotional feeling of that artist, at the time of recording. The more fun I can inject into the situation, the more passionate the performance of the artist. In classical music, anyone can "play the notes" but that does not create a magical recording. Performance is everything!

Perhaps Steve Williams or Karen Sumner can chime in on their impressions of my tape, "Tatsuki Narita".... this was a final recording to commemorate our 4 yrs of recording music together. Parisan bow maker Alain Herou worked his magic on a special bow, in my basement, just before we recorded these 5 tracks... all 1st takes!
I felt, magic happened that afternoon...

Hope this helps!

Ed
Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your clarification. Of course, musicians figure out what type of player they are and what setup best suits their innate approach to sound and technique. It just struck me as interesting that a fiddle player would switch to gut strings for a recording. It seems a bit like playing the final round at Wimbledon on clay. But talent is talent, and overcoming changes such as this must be impressive to witness when they deliver an inspired and magical performance! I envy your position!

Speaking of magic, I found Jordi Savall's Beethoven: Revolution, Symphonies 1-5 to be magical, and I'd bet they were all on gut!
 

Elliot G.

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If you are shopping for a single component, making a purchase decision based upon an audio review also doesn’t necessarily help you feel good about your investment if you find out, for example, several months down the road that the reviewer has found a “new and better” (read as ”different”) component to write about. It also doesn’t help you feel good about your investment if the component doesn’t really give you the experience you are looking for in your system.
An Audio Open Mind.

I have a really hard time understanding the negative energy that is expressed on WBF and directed specifically at posts that talk about a product or products that many do not own or have access too. I have said many times that all high-end audio is not equal and not on the same level. I talk to my clients about this, and I personally divide the products into 4 groups. They are the good, the better, the excellent and the extraordinary. The last category is now and has always been a moving target. What is the tip of the spear today won’t be tomorrow! That is the way it has been in the forty plus years of my involvement. The second thing is that a technical advance is not always a sonic advance. There is always a lot of hype about some technical buzzword that is designed to explain why something should be superior. This is just not true and although from time to time it may hold water audio has never been nor will it ever be just “one thing.” It’s not the beryllium tweeter, or the oversampling, or the aluminum cabinet etc. Audio is a system and that should be obvious to anyone who participates here on WBF. I find it really funny that people want to assign all the attributes of the sound of a system to the one piece they want to possess, or they want to put down. When some extraordinary product arrives on the scene it does not make what came before it junk or bad it simply has moved the needle to get closer to the “real” sound I believe that we all are looking for. This is a winding path with no concrete destination it is a journey to somewhere and you will arrive at some time, when and where that happens is still a mystery in my mind. I think that if you want to take this trip and you are willing to learn that you must keep an open mind. I think you should not hear but learn to listen, even if you don’t own the products, even if you can’t afford the product, even if it makes you uncomfortable with your own system since this is the only way to get closer to the music. Most are not willing to take the journey and they get angry and possessive of the past and the present.

Be careful of reviews

Be careful to make judgements just from an audio show

Make sure that all factors are addressed in assembling a system not just the gear

Do your research as to who to take advise from rather than ones just to support your current views

There is no ONE way

Have fun and enjoy the music, I hope that is why you are making the trip
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
377
65
An Audio Open Mind.

I have a really hard time understanding the negative energy that is expressed on WBF and directed specifically at posts that talk about a product or products that many do not own or have access too. I have said many times that all high-end audio is not equal and not on the same level. I talk to my clients about this, and I personally divide the products into 4 groups. They are the good, the better, the excellent and the extraordinary. The last category is now and has always been a moving target. What is the tip of the spear today won’t be tomorrow! That is the way it has been in the forty plus years of my involvement. The second thing is that a technical advance is not always a sonic advance. There is always a lot of hype about some technical buzzword that is designed to explain why something should be superior. This is just not true and although from time to time it may hold water audio has never been nor will it ever be just “one thing.” It’s not the beryllium tweeter, or the oversampling, or the aluminum cabinet etc. Audio is a system and that should be obvious to anyone who participates here on WBF. I find it really funny that people want to assign all the attributes of the sound of a system to the one piece they want to possess, or they want to put down. When some extraordinary product arrives on the scene it does not make what came before it junk or bad it simply has moved the needle to get closer to the “real” sound I believe that we all are looking for. This is a winding path with no concrete destination it is a journey to somewhere and you will arrive at some time, when and where that happens is still a mystery in my mind. I think that if you want to take this trip and you are willing to learn that you must keep an open mind. I think you should not hear but learn to listen, even if you don’t own the products, even if you can’t afford the product, even if it makes you uncomfortable with your own system since this is the only way to get closer to the music. Most are not willing to take the journey and they get angry and possessive of the past and the present.

Be careful of reviews

Be careful to make judgements just from an audio show

Make sure that all factors are addressed in assembling a system not just the gear

Do your research as to who to take advise from rather than ones just to support your current views

There is no ONE way

Have fun and enjoy the music, I hope that is why you are making the trip
Elliot -

Thank you for sharing your very positive thoughts about the process of putting together a great hi fi. I couldn't agree more with what you said. The extraordinary is and should be a moving target, but as you pointed out the other 3 stages - good, better, and excellent - only serve to improve over time because of the places that the extraordinary components dare to go.

You and I have known each other for decades, and you have my total respect for your uncanny ability to create systems that have musical magic. It all started with the first New York Audio Show. I will never forget your set up and demonstration of Lyric's IRS system and everything that goes with it. Although Lyric may be gone, you have carried that legacy along with many others.
 

Elliot G.

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Jul 22, 2010
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Elliot -

Thank you for sharing your very positive thoughts about the process of putting together a great hi fi. I couldn't agree more with what you said. The extraordinary is and should be a moving target, but as you pointed out the other 3 stages - good, better, and excellent - only serve to improve over time because of the places that the extraordinary components dare to go.

You and I have known each other for decades, and you have my total respect for your uncanny ability to create systems that have musical magic. It all started with the first New York Audio Show. I will never forget your set up and demonstration of Lyric's IRS system and everything that goes with it. Although Lyric may be gone, you have carried that legacy along with many others.
Thank you Karen, coming from you that is a wonderful compliment. I have told many that your rooms are wonderful and at the time was by far some of the best sound I have ever heard. I still want you to try our speakers some day :)
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
8,553
806
590
Metro DC
An Audio Open Mind.

I have a really hard time understanding the negative energy that is expressed on WBF and directed specifically at posts that talk about a product or products that many do not own or have access too. I have said many times that all high-end audio is not equal and not on the same level. I talk to my clients about this, and I personally divide the products into 4 groups. They are the good, the better, the excellent and the extraordinary. The last category is now and has always been a moving target. What is the tip of the spear today won’t be tomorrow! That is the way it has been in the forty plus years of my involvement. The second thing is that a technical advance is not always a sonic advance. There is always a lot of hype about some technical buzzword that is designed to explain why something should be superior. This is just not true and although from time to time it may hold water audio has never been nor will it ever be just “one thing.” It’s not the beryllium tweeter, or the oversampling, or the aluminum cabinet etc. Audio is a system and that should be obvious to anyone who participates here on WBF. I find it really funny that people want to assign all the attributes of the sound of a system to the one piece they want to possess, or they want to put down. When some extraordinary product arrives on the scene it does not make what came before it junk or bad it simply has moved the needle to get closer to the “real” sound I believe that we all are looking for. This is a winding path with no concrete destination it is a journey to somewhere and you will arrive at some time, when and where that happens is still a mystery in my mind. I think that if you want to take this trip and you are willing to learn that you must keep an open mind. I think you should not hear but learn to listen, even if you don’t own the products, even if you can’t afford the product, even if it makes you uncomfortable with your own system since this is the only way to get closer to the music. Most are not willing to take the journey and they get angry and possessive of the past and the present.

Be careful of reviews

Be careful to make judgements just from an audio show

Make sure that all factors are addressed in assembling a system not just the gear

Do your research as to who to take advise from rather than ones just to support your current views

There is no ONE way

Have fun and enjoy the music, I hope that is why you are making the trip
We all possess the ultimate tool for system evaluation. Our ear brain interface. I started out with my mothers'hifi console. Better is the enemy of good
My first step up was hifi shows when I was teenager. Then I got a drivers license and could hunt down the occasional esoteric hi fi shop. Often owned by some weird guy working out of his home. Along came J. Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson. My money and knowledge increased.
I accepted advice from a lot of people. I tried my best to stick to this mantra," To thine own ears be true." Once and awhile strayed from that I paid the price of inferior sound and wasted money.
No matter what anyone tells you the ultimate goal i.o is how close can you get to the illusion of real music in real space within a given set of parameters. Nothing else really matters.
 
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Karen Sumner

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Apr 18, 2021
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Thank you Karen, coming from you that is a wonderful compliment. I have told many that your rooms are wonderful and at the time was by far some of the best sound I have ever heard. I still want you to try our speakers some day :)
Elliot -

You can count on my visit to Boca as soon as I am free from the ice block that has imprisoned me! Please keeping sharing your music and hi fi experiences on these threads. No one will be harmed, and I hope that we can continue to benefit from each other's wisdom.
 

Elliot G.

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Jul 22, 2010
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Elliot -

You can count on my visit to Boca as soon as I am free from the ice block that has imprisoned me! Please keeping sharing your music and hi fi experiences on these threads. No one will be harmed, and I hope that we can continue to benefit from each other's wisdom.
It will be my pleasure to host you for some listening and perhaps lunch or dinner. Stay warm :)
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
377
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We all possess the ultimate tool for system evaluation. Our ear brain interface. I started out with my mothers'hifi console. Better is the enemy of good
My first step up was hifi shows when I was teenager. Then I got a drivers license and could hunt down the occasional esoteric hi fi shop. Often owned by some weird guy working out of his home. Along came J. Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson. My money and knowledge increased.
I accepted advice from a lot of people. I tried my best to stick to this mantra," To thine own ears be true." Once and awhile strayed from that I paid the price of inferior sound and wasted money.
No matter what anyone tells you the ultimate goal i.o is how close can you get to the illusion of real music in real space within a given set of parameters. Nothing else really matters.
Hi, Greg -

I couldn't agree more that we all possess the ultimate tool for system evaluation — our ear-brain interface. Searching for a hi fi system's ability to bring us closer to musical truth, though, is no different than other pursuits that require a finer sense of discrimination and skill — like appreciating fine wines or gourmet food. We all know what food tastes like, and if our hearing is within the normal range for our age, we can hear music, but do we really know enough about music to be able to recognize when a facsimile of that music on our hi fi falls short of the believability mark? (Thank you Elliot G. for this analogy!)

To take the analogy a step further, if one is interested enough and has the means to to take the hobby to the ultimate level, it requires even more from us in terms of investment, concentration, studying, practice, and experience. Although it is in no way equivalent, seeking the ultimate from a hi fi at least begins to approach the expertise required to play an orchestral instrument on a virtuoso level. Ironic isn't it that more than a few of us have to settle for hi fi rather than playing in an orchestra or any other type of music performing that requires a high level of art and skill?

At the end of the day, because our auditory memory is short, and we have a tendency to adjust to "the new normal" when we make a system adjustment we think we like, we all need to invest more time in listening to live acoustic music if we want to try to recreate the ultimate facsimile of a live music listening experience. In the long run, this part of learning is vital to be able to discount bad advice and its unfortunate consequences in terms of finances and time.

Thank you, Greg, for weighing in and sharing your experiences. Based upon what you said, I suspect you've listened to a lot of live music.
 

dbeau

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Apr 20, 2018
132
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OKC,USA
. Although it is in no way equivalent, seeking the ultimate from a hi fi at least begins to approach the expertise required to play an orchestral instrument on a virtuoso level. music.
So far enjoying/learning from you and others on this thread BUT have to disagree with the above. Thanks for your continued sharing.
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
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So far enjoying/learning from you and others on this thread BUT have to disagree with the above. Thanks for your continued sharing.
If you are a virtuoso musician, I apologize for the reference and understand why you are taking issue with the statement. Thank you for reading and sharing!
 
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Atmasphere

Industry Expert
May 4, 2010
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So far enjoying/learning from you and others on this thread BUT have to disagree with the above. Thanks for your continued sharing.
A long time ago I had to sort out how to create a reference. To that end I got a virtuoso to play an instrument live while I experiemented with microphones, mic preamps and mic placement and listening to the mic feed in a different room, comparing it to the actual. There is a different way to interpret Karen's comment- which does not require you to be a virtuoso yourself.
 

dbeau

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2018
132
66
113
OKC,USA
If you are a virtuoso musician, I apologize for the reference and understand why you are taking issue with the statement. Thank you for reading and sharing!
Not a virtuoso nor will ever be (easier to attain a higher level as audiophile) but a classical guitar player who studies with international virtuoso and performer so understand my, and others limitation, as can not 'buy' nor assemble 'music' as in our mutual audio pursuit.
I did not intend to diminish your stance and apologize.
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
377
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Not a virtuoso nor will ever be (easier to attain a higher level as audiophile) but a classical guitar player who studies with international virtuoso and performer so understand my, and others limitation, as can not 'buy' nor assemble 'music' as in our mutual audio pursuit.
I did not intend to diminish your stance and apologize.
I have the highest respect for the work, focus, and talent it requires to achieve a high level of musicianship, and you rightfully should have taken issue with my statement under the circumstances. I play piano and guitar for relaxation and pleasure, and I humbly default to hi fi and going to live music performances for a deeper connection to music.

Achieving the ultimate in hi fi is hard work, however. It takes more than identifying what one likes to hear. If one is not, or hasn't been, a musician, or if one hasn't spent a lot of time listening to live acoustic music, there is a challenging learning curve ahead. Beyond knowing music, there is also a need to understand the technology of audio reproduction and what the acoustical environment characteristics need to be to allow the source material and system to deliver the ultimate listening experience. Consequently, very few hi fi enthusiasts achieve an ultimate hi fi. Those who have such a set up, realize it's a moving target.

The journey required to put together a really great hifi that is not on the ultimate level should not in my opinion require endless experimentation and expenditures unless that's what one wants to do. I believe our industry has a responsibility to give people who are interested in putting together a better hi fi more and better guidance than it currently does.

By the way, why aren't more musicians interested in better hi fi systems? Is it because they have real ultimate music experiences which a hi fi can not possibly replicate? Could it also be that when they listen to a generally acceptable playback system, they are so imbued with what the music actually is from their experiences, that their brains fill in the gaps? What do you think?
 

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