Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Everything Matters and Nothing Matters Part 3
Recently I was sitting in Adelaide’s verdant Botanic Park on a fine Autumn afternoon enjoying another high energy, high volume performance by a Womad artist when I came to contemplate the qualities of the sound my ears were absorbing. Loud, dynamic, spacious, detailed and enveloping were just a few of the adjectives that fluttered past on the wings of music. Wow, imagine this in my lounge room! Well no, it would be a nightmare! Our household couldn’t function under these conditions. If I wasn’t confined to a sound proofed listening room, nobody could talk and the neighbours would be battering at our door.
Well I know people who have sound proofed music listening rooms, but the time in them can be a solitary affair.... And do they achieve the illusion of “being there” that so many audiophiles say they aspire to? Well I say, without meaning to be derogatory, “only in their imaginations”.
No matter how much money you spend while aspiring to the perfect sound system, what you achieve is only a pale replication of the original performance. You may come close to rendering the information stored in your chosen medium with some fidelity, but there are so many technical processes between the artificial environment of the recording studio or stage and your ears that one should never forget that the final result is nothing but a highly processed sonic illusion. One that the producer may not even mean to represent the original live performance and one you find pleasing, or you don’t.
Many people have a consensus about what they find pleasing in “Art” and there have been studies to measure the parameters that the human brain finds most aesthetically rewarding, but is clear to me that this is contextual. You know, loud noisy music for dance parties etc. In short, we need different music and different sound systems for different listening spaces. I will settle for a small scale system for the study and something more grand for the main listening space without embarrassment.
Even the revered DAC man, John Darko recently admitted in his review (http://www.digitalaudioreview.net.au/index.php/audio-reviews/digital-source-reviews/item/338-nad-wireless-usb-dac-1-pcm1781) of NADs Wireless USB DAC 1 (PCM1781) “I have a dirty secret: I'm not a 24/7 audiophile. In discovering new music, I fire up YouTube links, dig Soundcloud mixes and play emusic.com previews on the Air itself. The Air has no formal audio connection to the myriad gear that sits at the other end of the room so - with heavy heart - I confess to playing web-browser-constrained music via the Macbook's painfully puny in-built speakers. For shame. I am not alone. Many, many of my younger pals sit on the couch and listen to tunes - they listen via their laptop speakers too. They do so because of convenience. Fair enough. They hate wires because wires maketh life messy. Also fair enough. However - at the risk of echoing Neil Young - convenience is massively denting the quality of the music listening experiencing."
Which brings me back to my original question. When does this matter?
To be continued....