Is the fidelity of reproduction directly related to one's ability to experience the art of music?

Many years ago, I sat at a table with about eight audiophile gear reviewers and asked the question, "Is the fidelity of reproduction directly related to one's ability to experience the art of music?" There was a pregnant moment of silence—you could almost hear the grinding of gears in their heads—and then answer, unanimously, was, "No."

One wonders then, if the gear isn't directly coupled to the appreciation of music, why review gear at all?

My quest to understand the relationship between the appreciation of art and it's relationship to fidelity began when, one day long ago, I was painting an office. The space was bare and I was preparing it for occupation. As I lay on the floor slowly scooting along painting baseboards, I listened to a to a cheap boombox playing Muddy Waters in another room down the hall. No, "listened" is the wrong word; I experienced the music. I was enthralled; my movements, my brush strokes, my conscious state, were completely entangle with the blues; I had become one with the music. It was ecstasy...and the fidelity was absolute crap.

So, what's going on here?

I liken "experiencing the art of music" to a meditative state. Once I've connected with the music and become entangled within the artistic expression/personal experience, the objective mechanisms of sound transport and it's fidelity matters very little. The objective world melts away and I become subsumed in the art itself. That the bass may lack extension or the treble is slightly grainy makes no difference what so ever. In fact, a mental focus on these attributes can completely collapse the meditative state of mind; objective criticism and subjective experience exist in two different domains. (See more here.)

Well then, does fidelity matter at all?

Yes. Let me offer this metaphor: Is one's quality of meditative state superior on a bed of nails or a La-Z-Boy chair? It's possible an Indian yogi would say being on a bed of nails allows a superior meditative state because if one can get past the discomfort one must have achieved a high state of meditation indeed. And that's what happened as I lay on the floor painting: I had completely let go and became one with the music despite the discomfort of the moment. But here's the thing, I'm not disciplined enough to do that on demand. Generally, I'm much more apt to really "get into" the music from a La-Z-Boy chair. It's simply more comfortable.

The analog here, of course, is that a boom box is like a bed of nails, and a terrific audio system is like a La-Z-Boy chair. Great audio gear is simply much more pleasant and comfortable experience. The resistance to the listener achieving a state of oneness with the music—for lack of a better phrase—is reduced. Further, understanding that the gear, like the chair, is to provide the comfort within which the listening experience is instantiated, allows us to understand that fidelity is but one attribute of comfort delivery.

For example, this understanding lets us see that the physical comfort and ergonomics of a pair of headphones may be just as important as sound quality in delivering the ability to connect with our music. Or if we over-spend when trying to get better sound quality we may sabotage our experience due to the stress of needing to get a return on the extravagant expenditure—which is why we sometimes see people recommending a pair of Koss Porta Pros. Such good sound from something so cheap is elating.

I also think this understanding may, in part, explain why women and professional musicians tend not to be audiophiles. The professional musicians have an in-built ability to directly access the music due to years of training; and women may just not worry about the gadget and focus more on the emotional connection.

For me personally, the most important aspect of this view is to understand that when doing the subjective part of my reviews, I need to be evaluating the degree to which a product is able to resonate with my sensibilities—does a flabby bass or harsh treble annoy; are they comfortable to wear; do they suffer from a lot of wind noise when outside; or does the cable get stiff and microphonic when cold. And it is critically important not to review my state of bliss while listening, as that is mine alone and not necessarily reflective of the ability of others to achieve oneness with the music. In other words, I need to review my experience with the chair, and not the experience of my meditation with the music. In fact, when I do my reviews I listen to a list of tracks and snippets that i'm so familiar with I no longer have any emotional desire to connect with them. Readers will have to decide for themselves, based on my description of the chair, so to speak, whether it will suit their particular preferences and support their listening experience, or not.

Not understanding this distinction is the downfall, it seems to me, of many subjective reviewers, who go on and on about their personal ecstasy using a product, but leave you wondering about the merits of the product itself. It's why you don't read a lot of flowery prose in my reviews or comments about how I was enthralled buy the lush strings on a particular piece of music; my experience and yours are likely, at that point, to significantly diverge, making my experience irrelevant.

The moral of the story.
While it can be good fun researching and tweaking the perfect chair (listening system) for your listening comfort, there comes a time to place whatever chair you have before the altar of that holy thing called music. At that point, you should sit down; completely forget about the chair (because it's not the important thing); and become one with the art of music.

COMMENTS
AllanMarcus's picture

The journey is the reward
- Chinese Proverb

:-)

AllanMarcus's picture

I'm pretty sure my wife isn't looking for an emotional attachment to her shoes; she is just looking for the perfect pair for each situation. That is not unlike having one set of cans for jazz and one set to rock. I think it's more of a socialization gap that men like to have better tech (be it cars or cans) and women like to have a better appearance (in general, of course).

sszorin's picture

"I think it's more of a socialization gap that men like to have better tech (be it cars or cans) and women like to have a better appearance (in general, of course)."

Women see and experience the world differently.

castleofargh's picture

"And it is critically important not to review my state of bliss while listening, as that is mine alone and not necessarily reflective of the ability of others to achieve oneness with the music. In other words, I need to review my experience with the chair, and not the experience of my meditation with the music."

that *100000!!!!
most people give a feedback of how happy they are with some new toy and it's really counterproductive. because sure we'll want the product thinking it will give the same experience, so at a commercial level it's effective. but it's also very much a lie as people end up with a desire for something that isn't the product.

about enjoyment of music vs quality of the medium or knowledge of the listener, it's a universal question about art and pleasure. something doesn't have to be technically advanced to touch people. in fact very often artists lose themselves in technique to impress their peers. they end up making some elitist talent demonstration instead of something good/nice. any artist at any level is confronted to this. something can be crap for the "masters of the art" and still touch millions of people(doisneau, blair witch project, one direction, pizza ^_^).

anyway for audio gear it doesn't really matter all that much, as most audiophiles seek a concept, an idea of hifi and don't actually have a clue what it sounds like. so it's more about thinking you have it than actually having it. in that respect knowing more about music is limiting our enjoyment because we know when we're given cat food for 1000$.

Jazz Casual's picture

I try not to rationalise the pursuit of acquiring a new piece of audio gear that is invariably more expensive than the last by attempting to attach a higher purpose to it. It's unbridled materialism and we do it because we can. I enjoyed listening to music just as much before I got into this hobby - probably more so. I just spend more of my listening time critically evaluating how it sounds through my gear, which probably make me an audiophile. What a depressing thought.

SevenPlus's picture

Great article, but I disagree with your analogy between a bed of nails and the cheap boombox. I would argue that the cheap boombox could be analogous to your La-Z-Boy chair...

A bed of nails is uncomfortable to all normal people. Even a caveman lying on grass would feel more comfortable than that. You La-Z-Boy is better but you only THINK is super comfortable, because you are not a true couchophile and you never experienced high-end couches. Such as the NGVT-3000, which creates a near zero gravity field while making you feel as if you are lying on a cloud in heaven. If you got used to something like GVT-3000 then it would be extremely difficult for you to feel comfortable on your low-end La-Z-Boy ;)

The analogous to the bed of nails in terms of sound would be the screeching sound of nails on a blackboard... a sound that almost all people would find uncomfortable. A cheap boombox on the other hand could be pretty good. For example, a teenager who never experienced anything better would be able to connect with his boombox music and fully enjoy it each end every time without any effort. The fidelity of the boombox would NEVER be an issue for him.

Conclusion:
By getting used to high-end gear you are making it harder for yourself to find enjoyment in more ordinary situations. Even worst, if you are a perfectionist trying to find the "best" gear, then your enjoyment will further diminish as you are (consciously or subconsciously) analyzing the technicalities instead of enjoying the art.

DaveinSM's picture

While audio fidelity means different things to different people, I think that most people can agree that the major goal is to reproduce the recording accurately. That said, I've found that the quality-- and type-- of the recording matters much more than the equipment on which it is reproduced. sure, poor equipment-- and/or headphones for that matter-- will never allow a recording to reach its potential. But so often people throw tons of expensive equipment to try to futilely dig out sound quality that just isn't there... That was never there.

I make a big distinction between live recordings that have been well liked and mixed and studio recordings. On a high fidelity, highly neutral and accurate system (like mine), you will hear what the artist and producer wanted you to hear when they made and mixed that recording. (let's not even get started on the loudness wars). With overdubs and numerous retakes and tweakings, it is a representation of a performance that never existed (at least not all at one time). But with a well-miked and recorded live performance, it has the ability to more closely approach what it would've sounded like if you were there, fifth row. And even then, a lot of iconic live performances-- in rock history, anyway-- were touched up afterwards in the studio. But I still believe that if audiophiles truly want to hear the musical truth and be transported to an actual performance-- accurately and convincingly-- they need to listen to a recording of a well-recorded live performance in the most neutral and accurate system that they can put together. That is not as common or as simple as it sounds.

tony's picture

I listen thru a pair of Sennheiser RS120s mostly , a pair of HD580s at the Base Station . I do my work wearing the Wireless set marveling how good my music collection has become , it plays from my iMac on shuffle . I need a certain amount of music each day , the amount varies for some unknown reason but I crave it . My 580s are much better than the 120s but the 120s are superb as I listen . I know that I need the RS220s and a better DAC but I can live with what I have , I'm in musical heaven , I buy a few new CDs every week , any music type thats recorded properly and listenable , it's all wonderful .
I know people that are Gear collectors , they have systems in each room of their house , thousands of LPs , scads of Wire products , they might own every headphone Grado ever made along with quite a few little Amps and quite a few in-ear monitors , these people live for their next purchase !
I'm learning by following along with you and your writings , you are a researcher putting the puzzle together , you find another piece to the puzzle and write about it , who else does this ?
Thank-you for putting enjoying music into perspective , I think my ears adjust to what I have yealding a good result , I'm in no hurry to step up to a MSB Analog DAC , a SPL Phonitor 2 , the HD800s and an everyday pair of RS220s but I suppose I will end up with all these items sooner or later .
Thanks for not repairing Microscopes anymore .
Tony in Michigan

ps . Bottlehead are selling that Monoprice cheapie headphone , modded out , for $150 & they are about to do a DAC for $1,500 +/-

donunus's picture

Keep doing this kind of thing. I agree with what you have written plus it was fun to read. I also want to add something about what one guy said above though about being used to high end audio making one less likely to be able to enjoy the music as easily... that is true as well which is why we all need to learn to get back into that soulful zone and get out of analytical mode.

johnjen's picture

"Is the fidelity of reproduction directly related to one's ability to experience the art of music?"

I'd say yes, but mostly from the POV of 'poor' fidelity being, or contributing to being, a distraction from the "art".

This isn't to say one can't "experience the art of music" amid 'distractions', but (like the bed of nails), it does require much more concentration, practice and intention.
Put another way, if the music is distorted enough such that the original instruments are difficult to identify by simply listening, or worse are so distorted that it is 'painful' to listen to, this alone may not in and of itself be a sufficient distraction, but it does make for a distorted experince of the artists intention.

For me, 'allowing' myself to 'tune into' the artists intent by surrendering to the moment, which is another way of saying shutting off my mind chatter, is essential to getting 'sucked into' the music (the art).
And with 'better' fidelity (lowered amount of distraction), this is more easily accomplished.

I figure it’s the ability to 'let go' of the minds function of analyzation and the usual consequence of the ease of succumbing to the remaining distractions that 'lower' fidelity brings, is the crux of this, as I see it.

Instead, to be able to 'go with the flow' of the music and the entire experience of the performance, that is the 'draw' or fascination with my preoccupation with 'better' fidelity.
To make it 'easier' to get sucked into the performance AND while there to be enthralled by what is experienced in that 'place', IS what high fidelity is about.

JJ

Claritas's picture

When I was learning the standard classical repertoire, I was focused on understanding structure and interpretation. Although I had an adequate set up, I didn't pay attention to the fine points of sound quality.

Now that I know what to listen for, sound quality matters a lot more because I'm trying to enjoy the music to the fullest. I've become accustomed to better sound, and I want it wherever I am.

Argyris's picture

I've spent a little time thinking about this, and I've put together a series of analogies to hopefully get across how I feel about fidelity and its relationship with and impact on enjoyment. Forgive the length; maybe I should consider cleaning this up and making a proper essay or blog post out of it.

Like many people, I wear eyeglasses. Ideally, a proper eyeglass prescription is supposed to correct your particular vision problem (in my case, myopia) and give you perfect 20/20 vision. This is a lot like the "perfect" "accurate" headphone that is supposed to produce, say, exactly what mics heard.

However, nothing is ever ideal. For instance, glasses don't cover the whole field of vision, so there's a constant area around the lenses that is out of focus. Also, I happen to have astigmatism, meaning that in addition to poor focus, my sight distorts shapes. My lenses are designed, therefore, to correct for this shape distortion. However, it's not a perfect correction. If I move my head back and forth and pay close attention to the edges of my vision, the lines in rectangular objects in particular subtly shift from the perpendicular.

All these issues detract from the "perfect" vision (akin to, say, a live concert performance) that I would have if I didn't have to wear correction lenses. Plus, every time I get a new prescription (last time was over three years ago), I experience something all eyeglass wearers know about: bubble vision. It takes about two or three days usually to get used to a new pair of glasses, but once I do, all the aforementioned defects--which seem enormously distracting at first--eventually fade into the background, and the vast majority of the time thereafter I don't even think about the fact that I'm wearing glasses. I just concentrate on what I'm seeing.

This is like getting used to a new piece of audio equipment. As long as it's convincing enough (just what qualifies as convincing is going to be a personal call), it might sound a bit odd at first or in direct comparison to other gear, and objectively speaking it will never actually deliver a "perfect" rendition (e.g. all audio equipment, like every pair of eyeglasses, has limits), but at some point it usually disappears, and all that is left is the music. The flaws are still there, some of them endemic to the listening device (e.g. we've all gotten used to the stereo field following our head movements when we wear headphones, even though this would never happen in nature), but we don't focus on them anymore.

All the above is what I think of when I use the term "transparency". It's not the same thing as perfection; it's quite simply the quality of not getting between an observer and what they're trying to observe.

To keep with the eyeglass thread, just today when cleaning my lenses I noticed that the plastic is actually a subtle shade of yellow, and not perfectly colorless as I might have expected. It might have yellowed with age, the color might be a byproduct of the manufacturing technique that makes my lenses go dark in sunlight, or it might have been an intentional choice, since slightly yellow lenses would screen out the fatiguing bluish light from computer monitors. Whichever is the case, I never noticed the coloration before, and even now that I know it's there, I'm struggling to actually perceive it.

Similarly, I know that both my main headphones have flaws (in both cases, tipped up treble), and I also know that they sound different from one another when directly compared. One of them is presumably closer to "neutral" or "accurate" than the other, and it's possible that neither is very close at all in the general scheme of things. But when I'm wearing one of them, I can't imagine or care what the other one sounds like, and the flaws rarely affect my enjoyment, unless I happen to hit a recording that makes these flaws obvious. Even then, it usually elicits only a mild twinge of annoyance and maybe some fiddling with the volume knob.

However, it's possible to go too far. When I was in middle school, I knew a kid who had a pair of glasses that were strongly tinted blue. They weren't sunglasses--they were his daily pair. I actually tried them on just to see if maybe they looked a lot more blue to observers than to the wearer. Nope, the entire world was suddenly cerulean, like somebody had replaced all the fluorescent lights in the room with blue incandescents. Everything that wasn't blue was reduced in contrast, with red and orange objects predictably suffering the most. I have no idea how anybody could want that, since it drove me bonkers in just the few moments I experienced it. I can only imagine that that kid came to quickly regret going with that color. Or, maybe he absolutely loved it. Who can say?

In my case, I had a negative reaction to the very first decent headphone I ever spent time with, the infamous M50. I ultimately returned it, after extracting almost zero enjoyment out of it. IMO (remember, this is personal), the midbass was too boomy, the upper mids were too polite, and the treble was too biting. I also had trouble finding a center image. Nothing sounded right to me, no matter how long I spent listening. The M50 was, to me, a lot like those strongly tinted lenses--I just couldn't get past the coloration to focus on the music itself, and I vividly remember sitting on the couch, staring at the wall, and cycling through my music collection, only to be left cold by everything.

So, to wrap all this up, when it comes to the question of whether or not fidelity can impact enjoyment, I would say that it depends. Everybody has a different range of variation they can tolerate or get used to, as well as different tastes overall. When gear falls within that range and accords with those tastes, even if it's "colored" from an objective standpoint, I believe that the lack of strict fidelity will at most have only a minimal impact on enjoyment. But once you're outside that realm, when there's that persistent sense that nothing is right, then I think it can have a strongly negative impact. There's a very big difference between how I listen to music on my current headphones, either walking around in pure bliss or relaxing and taking in a complex soundscape; and to how I felt sitting on my couch with the M50, unable to tear down the wall between me and my music.

Maybe I'm just too picky; maybe I don't give things enough of a chance. But I'll say this much: for me, the search for audio nirvana has never been about listening to gear. It's about finding something that I eventually can't hear anymore, something I hear through, leaving only the music.

Rabbit's picture

Many of my colleagues listen to music on bog standard gear and really love it. They are indeed musicians and my own theory on this is that musicians are perhaps better at replacing missing information in their heads and the medium used is not as important.

Most don't seem remotely interested in £1,000 headphones and actually consider it a waste of money!!

Having said that, younger musicians (I'm old school) are more aware; especially if they are studio electronic type musicians, although many live stage performers still don't really dabble that much to be honest. Quite a few of my friends consider me freaky with all the headphones that I own, saying that I only have one head!!

For me, sampling headphones and writing about them can be very difficult since I also adjust very quickly to their sound unless they are extremely poor headphones.

Great article Tyll and really well considered. Thank you.

Argyris's picture

As a musician myself, I can tell you that musical performance and audio have very little to do with one another, at least for me. I can make music just fine on my keyboard, which is from the early 2000s era of sampling, meaning that it might sound like a piano if it's buried under 150,000 watts of other instruments, but otherwise nobody would ever mistake it for the real thing.

Not to mention, I use the built-in speakers when I'm just banging the keys and improvising, which aren't exactly a paragon of fidelity.

On the other hand, I have absolute pitch, which I think does have something to do with my audiophile tendencies. But this is a very rare ability, and one certainly doesn't require it to be a musician.

I'll put it this way: it would bug me a lot more if a keyboard were suddenly tuned way off A=440 than it would if the onboard piano samples weren't all that convincing, or if the set of tracking phones I was using had a wonky frequency response.

mikeaj's picture

Though it's true to some extent, the notion that musicians largely do fine off low-end playback equipment because they can fill in the details themselves carries a strong audiophile slant and misunderstanding, from what I've seen.

Consider that attention is limited and everything that musicians focus on that most people don't or at least perhaps not to the same extent: musical structure and form (macro-level organization), harmonization and progression of chords (this is a big thing; I've literally heard that music can be difficult to listen to and enjoy because you're always analyzing the progressions out of ingrained habit), melodic progression, rhythm and deviation of timing, balance between different sounds, articulation, etc. Well, I suppose rhythm, dynamics, timbre are largely what audiophiles latch on to, but generally the elements dealing more with structure and interpretation are more in mind of those who need to understand it to perform well.

Anyway, the majority of those things aren't so much influenced by audio fidelity.

On the flip side, do note that musicians would rather sit in the better seats in the house for better sound, they do complain that they can't transcribe well on a crappy stereo system and may put on even low-end headphones for that, and so on. And musicians are a diverse group. The mythology is stretched a bit too far.

For me, I just want a system that doesn't sound obviously lacking and misrepresentative.

thelostMIDrange's picture

I agree that some musicians tend to 'fill in' some blanks but more often, I, speaking as a musician, am just more sensitive to sound and can dig deeper into a tune. The result of doing some of the work, what might be called active listening, is that I do not need and in fact do not want a sound that comes to my ears all on it's own. One reason I find the sennheiser 800 a chore to listen to. Many phones are too detailed and punchy to my ears. I like to dig deep into the bass more than other frequencies and find punchy in your face bass an absolute distraction. Most modern people have this bass addiction, I have an affliction to it. But I play bass so, that relates to the 'filling it in' aspect. But I also play lead guitar and I like that right up front so the same idea does not apply there. I also blow trumpet and I like that a bit back in the mix so....

The real issue is teh schooling of young kids and taking music and instruments out of the schools. Parents should lovingly suggest their child pick an instrument and learn it. It's great for the brain and really rounds out the personality. It also becomes valuable when it comes time to pick headphones. But generally I also don't see any direct correlation between musicians and their need for hifi. I am one who is into both but many seem to be fine with one and not the other, as the panel concluded. Maybe a musician has more to 'get into' meaning heshe can relate more to certain playing tehniques or ways of expression and is not so depentent on the 'sound' in and of itself to carry the weight of the enjoyment.

Now get out there and learn a tune on something !

thelostMIDrange's picture

that when I say i'm into both hifi and playing instruments, I highly suspect i am not into hifi to the extent those who donot play are into it. I feel they need an overabundant too highly detailed, too extraordinary sound. It is a serious prolbem when HifI gear is made by non musically minded because they tend to overdo it. But it's also part of the larger modern culture of no taste and overdo'ing.

Rabbit's picture

By filling in blanks, I mean for instance .....

I look at a music score and can hear the music in my head before I rehearse it. That's filling in blanks that haven't even been played yet.

Most of the guys I work with just wouldn't spend big money on gear. If deep bass is missing, it doesn't stop their enjoyment of the music since I think they're 'pulled along' by the music more than by the gear. Of course not in ALL cases, but a great deal of the guys I know.

Having said that, give one of them a good headphone and the eyebrows go up while they pause and give it a thought. ;)

Rabbit's picture

By the way. I've recently been working with older kids and one thing seems very apparent.

Very sad that they see it primarily as a business nowadays and are heavily into target audience and potential sales. Musicians' outlooks have changed dramatically since the 70's and there seems to be less drive to experiment with sound over here in the UK.

One stated aim from one particular student ....... To crack the American market!!

It seems that the more bass people crave, the more that these types of musicians will supply. Supply and demand and all that .....

Jazz Casual's picture

Hi fi isn't on the radar of musicians that I know. They aren't discerning about what gear they hear music played back on, and this is reflected in the gear that they own for that purpose.

zobel's picture

Musicians of note, (no pun intended), have acute interest in the recorded sound they produce and go to very great lengths to get the sound right on their recordings. They also, naturally, would like everyone to be able to hear what they are in their music. The sound of their instruments, or voices, is basic to what makes their music good. They are passionate about their axes, and spend countless hours getting their sound right and recording it right. I want to hear as much of what they are doing as possible.

I agree that live music is sometimes hard to beat, but often a good recording over a good system will give you more of the sound of the music than the PA at the concert ever could.

I agree with Tyll about trying to be objective in reviewing headphones, and using test music that he isn't emotionally involved with is a great idea, and makes it much easier to not gush about the music and just focus on the sound. And he is right about having cans that feel good to wear is critical to getting into the music. But in the final analysis, he will tell you what floats his boat in sound, and fidelity, which is why he backs up his words with some measurements, numbers and graphs that we can hopefully relate to in finding some cans that will work for us. Beyond frequency response charts, which are crazy anyway above 4Khz, the distortion charts, and square wave charts, and sensitivity figures can tell you a lot about the cans he has measured. Unlike loudspeakers though, there is this big issue about your head and ears, and wearing something on it, (or in them) when it comes to cans. It gets complicated. You might like several sets of cans for different reasons. What might be interesting to know, is if you could only have one pair of cans what would they be, and why?

Jazz Casual's picture

"Musicians of note" - spoken like a true armchair audiophile.

Bobs Your Uncle's picture

To experience Transcendence is to relinquish dependance & the fallacy of control.

Rabbit's picture

You are right in that musicians are keen to get a good sound out there and they perform to the absolute best of their abilities. However, once recorded, in most cases it's out of their hands and goes to 'production' where mixes are manipulated to (apparently) sound good on CD. The performer normally doesn't have much control over this.

Being more 'objective' is way more useful in getting an accurate description imo as well. It's the working out of what the most important elements are with regards to how we perceive music that are important. Data needs to be relevant so we need to know what the relevant data actually is with regards to our hearing.

The different types of 'adjustment curves' that Tyll has spoken of before are kind of showing that we haven't (yet) really determined what 'flat' is on a headphone. Our understanding is way ahead of the 70s, but still not there yet really in the determination of what constitutes a flat, uncoloured sound in a headphone. A very difficult area since the room is so different in everyones' ears and we all seem to perceive things differently.

xnor's picture

Superb article and man. :D

ultrabike's picture
Agree :)
dreamwhisper's picture

As long as it encompasses the full frequency spectrum, studies show that audio can neurophysiology reprogram the brain to react to stress differently.
Vibration felt through the lower half of the body can act as therapy for years spent in industrialized education with deactivated glutes.

But beyond that, hearing is one of the fastest, if not the fastest ways of interacting with the brain sensually.
Visual interaction is also fast forms of stimulation. (and our relationship to visual information is correlated to coffee intake apparently ._.)

Anyways, a good writer knows how to stimulate all of the senses to create a story.
Narrative is part of audio, as it helps create a reference to help us understand new sound. But that's really about as far as it can take us.

It mostly boils down to full frequency response and a certain amount of low frequency vibration to resonate the listening space.
People like to balance the frequency response with the bass resonance, but in a treated recording space and listening room of a studio there is much less resonance and high frequency reflections.

But it's not a perfect science, even in the treated space of our recording studio.
Too many bass traps, too many gobos and too much high frequency diffusion (rock walls etc)can actually sound a bit distant and empty.

The best sound I've personally ever heard was in a circular room, and I haven't studied the science behind it but it's likely subjective AND self-referential, dependent on your location in the room and your awareness of the music as you (And it) pass through it.

In this way audio reproduction is a moving target, and the current movement in audio seems to be to record sounds free of reflections and resonances (unwanted signal), and then add them in later in the form of sophisticated reverbs, overtones and other DSP effects.
It makes some sense that if you record the base note you can add the rest of the overtone series with greater ease and less interference from tangential base notes.
Auto-tune is a bit too monochromatic for my own personal taste, but you can see how this would fit in here.

Anyways, frequency response, base resonance, and the last part would be overtones, added as needed. (in the pro audio and audiophile world)
But keep in mind that any sound at the right frequency can relieve stress and facilitate relaxation, which would be the primal goals of a listening experience.

dreamwhisper's picture

Tyll, if you ever felt like writing a memoirs of your life story and experience in the industry I'd buy it.

You could even release it on audiobook lol :))

Jim Tavegia's picture

think that listening on a bad stereo or a poor set of cans = to lying on a bed of nails. If you don't know that there is something better I think you a much less likely to even think about playback quality. Once you do know, sensible life as we know it is gone for ever. The pursuit of something is often, painful, expensive, and sometimes fruitless, and then buyer's remorse kicks in. That I hate.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

...establish the individuals relationship with music. I think this is the most important point when pondering further questions. By and large most people have some relationship with music. However its been my experience that the relationship each person has with it can vary drastically in degree. Some people enjoy it once and while if they happen upon it...others seek it out at times (driving)...others are more active in when/where they listen (socially)...others are not just content consumers but also creators...others are passionate about it to the degree of actively seeking it out and consuming it..and so on. Do note that there is no right or wrong with any of these relationships...just note that they differ.

When it comes to the subject of fidelity...i believe that individuals on the latter end of the spectrum i provide are more likely to appreciate and benefit from improved fidelity. Thats not to say that the others wouldnt...its just that these are more likely to appreciate it. And even when you get to the more musically passionate group..fidelity isnt necessarily a primary objective...for just as Tyll describes with his painting story..its not the fidelity or sound system that made that moment..its his personal connection with the music and situation that made it. Thats the incredible power of music. Nothing in the world is like it. And when it hits you...wow...just wow.

My personal experience is that i am a long time absolute passionate lover of music. In the past few years ive discovered the world..thanks in a big part to this site..and specifically Tyll...of improved fidelity ways to consume the music. It has not changed my ability to appreciate the art of music at all...but it has drastically changed and improved my overall experience with the appreciation of music. Im hearing things ive never heard before...or, rather....hearing things ive heard countless times before but hearing them with an entirely new soundspace. Thats fabulous. Thats the power of being passionate about music and the way we consume it.

Peace .n. "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams". w. wonka

3ToF.

nnotis's picture

I'm going to have to disagree with the analogy at the heart of this piece. Listening to recordings with crappy monitoring equipment is like walking through a museum with the lights off. You can see the fundamental lines and shapes of the paintings, but nuance of color and brush stroke information is totally invisible. Listen with with uber high fidelity equipment to "turn the lights on" and swim in the details of your choosing. Low end stuff simply can't resolve enough of a recording. As someone who values the details as much as the big picture, that effects my enjoyment a great deal.

zobel's picture

It's like, would you enjoy a movie via imax over that movie via iphone? No brainer!

Jazz Casual's picture

That's the problem with analogies, they can be so exaggerated that they add no real value to the topic being discussed.

zobel's picture

How low can you go, in terms of fidelity, before the lack of it affects your appreciation of a piece of well recorded music?

Jazz Casual's picture

That's a rhetorical question.

zobel's picture

I realize that would be a different answer for different people, but where do you think the line is? It is a silly question to ask if the quality of sound reproduction affects appreciation of recorded music. That is a no brainer.

Jazz Casual's picture

I don't draw such lines. If I did then it would probably be in pencil so I could erase it as the position would change depending on my mood and other factors (tangible and intangible).

zobel's picture

But for a full frequency range recording of music, with good dynamic range, and nice spatial information, and low noise and distortion, So as to not affect FULL appreciation of the recording I would rate the aspects like this:

Frequency response; My ears want a bass extension flat to at least 30 Hz, with good quick impact, and no boominess that blends seemlessly to a smooth flat midrange with no obvious peaks or dips that transitions effortlessly into a natural airy open high end that doesn't have to do anything above 18Khz for my hearing.

I would miss the acoustic power needed for a big dynamic range, and visceral slam, but if we are talking headphones, the body slam isn't really much of a factor, and most have plenty of dynamic range given enough power. For both headphones and speakers I appreciate enough acoustic power to really fill the room, or my head at comfortable levels and with lots of impact when required by the music.

Spatial information and imaging are somewhat less critical for me to fully appreciate most recordings. I miss it more over headphones than loudspeakers. I can even almost live with mono in a room, but not in my head.

When it comes to noise, don't want to hear any. No hiss, no hum, no noise I can identify. I realize that noise is only apparent when it rises to the level where it can be detected over the ambient background noise in the listening environment, so that level will vary. CD standard has more than adequate signal to noise for any system or environment, so if the associated gear can keep up, piece of cake! If not, noise acceptability will vary in different environments.

Finally, and perhaps hardest to really quantify, is distortion. This is such a big topic I'll just stick in this link;
http://www.parallelhomeaudio.net/TypesAudioDistortion.html
It covers the entire subject well. Just to generalize I would say any good CD player, even a good portable player through any decent amp delivers music at low enough distortion to totally float my boat, and not get in the way of full appreciation of recordings. For me, players and amps under $1000 are adequate.
I design and build all my own speaker systems, so naturally they all satisfy me, each in there own spaces. If you want to really appreciate a speaker system, become a speaker builder and do the hobby for several decades passionately, or find a good kit and build it yourself. There are lots of them out there, and if you can build the cabinets on your own, you are way ahead of the market for the money.
Not many of us build our own cans, kudos to those who do, or who mod their cans to their liking! I just mainly go with some Senheisers, like my old HD600s, and some others, like the HD380.
Everyone can find good cans that will give them enough performance to not get in the way of the music, but provide a level of fidelity that will allow full appreciation of their recordings or their streamings. They don't have to cost $1000.They don't have to cost $500. They have to work for you and your head. They need to work in your environment.

We are loving the music and this hobby, and each other and each other's ideas! Happy Thanksgiving!

Jazz Casual's picture

Well there you go.

thelostMIDrange's picture

Consider this. There are shades of light and dark. The first assumption in the analogy was that the lights were originally 'off'. But not totally off because you suggested a person could make out the lines of the art. So there were some dim lights on. Then you suggested they turn on the lights and behold, there was the artwork and all the detail. Fair enough. The first scenario is a dull sounding headphone like the original beats or a set of ear buds. They are substandard listening devices. We can all agree. The analogy holds on that point because we would all agree a very dimly lit museum is not going to reveal the artists intentions. Then we come to the second situation presented which was a fully lit museum and a true revealing hi fidelity headphone like a sennheiser 800. Sure now you are going to see every detail possible.

My suggestion is that the museum being lit artificially by man made lighting and a super detailed headphone are both unatural and overly detailed. I know it's heresy to even suggest that there is such a thing as too much detail or a TV that is too bright. But I believe there is and TV's nowadays are unatural and fatiguing, as are upper end headphones. They are all artificial in that they reveal a bit too much and they do so by sacrificing midrange. In order to reveal sounds detail, the easiest and only way, after a certain point, is to strip away warmth in teh mids to allow upper end to overstep it's place. Then the sound appears more detailed, and it in a way, it is more detailed in an objective sense. The point you most of us never notice or appreciate is that after a certain point, the extra detail comes at a cost. Something is sacrificed for that last bit of extra-ordinary-ness. And that cost and 'sacrifice' is natural sound with a rich midrange. Look up the definition of sacrifice.

Same with the museum. Maybe the best light under which to appreciate a painting or scuplture is natural daylight, or perhaps even outside. And not necessarily a super bright uncloudy day either. Maybe the best light to appreciate the detail is a partly cloudy day, right next to a maple tree and over a few hours you see it in a few different shades of semi cloudy with no tree shade and uncloudy with some tree shade. But to have neither some clouds or some tree shade results in fatigue because the human nervous system has design parameters and they may be set up in such a way that the most enjoyable situation to enjoy and appreciate either art, is one which is balanced and natural, not ones that are the most bright. Those who understand this can then design a museam and a headphone in a more sophisticated and profound way instead of allowing detail to be the guiding design parameter, because that seems a simplisitcly caveman approach and one which an early computer would have thought up. It's missing the whole point of life and art becuase of a wrongheaded and unexamined asumption about the nature and meaning of both.

nnotis's picture

With that big 6 Khz spike, perhaps you could think of the HD800s as being equivalent to some harsh fluorescent light source. Perhaps by "too much detail" you're simply referring to the practice of bumping treble? In any case, there is no headphone that offers a perfect reproduction. If there were, we'd still be annoyed by imperfect recording equipment.

Jazz Casual's picture

You're overthinking this. The analogy was simple enough and not applicable because it was an extreme example.

thelostMIDrange's picture

the analogy is as good as any analogy is and the point I was making was much more central and coherant than anything offered to the contrary. There has been a serious sacrifice in rich midrange through an ever increasing search (addiction) to ever more and more upper end detail. If art were best when it was most detailed, art would be looked at through a magnifying glass and surgical lighting. And that is what the upper end headphone gear sounds like by analogy.

Jazz Casual's picture

UM... OK.

thelostMIDrange's picture

And it's not just the expense.

Jazz Casual's picture

There's also the prestige. ;) By the way, an effective analogy is short rather than rambling.

thelostMIDrange's picture

Seemed to have touched a sore spot. Did someone's mama scold him for being verbose? Sounds pretty prestigous. Just working out the old thought muscle. Whether you or anyone reads it is their own choice. If that choice is too much of a burden on you, perhaps you should stick to twitter. If anyone thinks they will shame another into 2 sentence blurbs because he's part of the forced brevity generation, has got another thing comin! One man's rambling is another's way of working out an actual individual independent thought, as messy as it may be. If you are unable or unwilling to impose structure onto seemingly disconnected but ulitmately coherant thoughts, why would you read any post longer than two sentences? You can surely see text and it's general length can't you? Just skip any post longer than your attention span can tolerate. Simple solution. Plus that way others can continue to live freely and express their ideas in the manner that suits them best.

Back to the topic after that rude interuption. The reason these articles come up is because the headfi industry is befuddled. It cannot put its finger on why so few people roaming the planet display the slightest interest in overly fidelated sound. Yes that is a word. It means sound that has been ruined by too much fidelity. Now how could I possibly explain this in two sentences? So because sound and music is powerful and infectious, almost literally, it has the power to inform or misinform a consciousness. The world shuns hifi pursuits not because they want to be unprestigous, but because they have not totally lost touch with their humanness and can smell an over fidelated sound a mile away and do not want to be infected with such a virus. Maybe to them, music with extraordinary level of detail feels like a bed of nails and not the barkalounger.

Furthermore ! Prior to 1981, music was primarily if not totally, a purely auditory experience. Once music videos came on the scene, people started judging music not only by it's sound, but by the appearance of the musicians. Surely this is going to have an affect on the listening experience generally and I suggest that it severly detracts from it. Because of this people who live live visually, undernourish their listening abilities and therefore need a higher level of stimulation, sometimes in the form of extra detail, somethimes extra bass, sometimes extra affect whether it be soundstage, or instrument separation etc ad nauseum. Similarly, never learning an instrument will cause the auditory system to wither on the vine. Add these two things up and you have a perfectly reasonable and well thought out explanation as to why people differ as to what constitutes a sonic barkalounger.

And I believe these ideas add more value to a forum, freely offered I remind you, than do two sentence snap responses from a dull nervous system.

Jazz Casual's picture

It's really not about me being personally offended, how my "mama" treated me, twitter (which I don't use by the way) or the state of my "nervous system". It's entirely about your meandering analogy.

peterroumian's picture

yeah but there is a point at which meditation is impossible. Try meditating on a single nail. You can't. So sad that many people listen to laptop speakers and not get to the bliss at all.

thelostMIDrange's picture

We all pop out of our mamas with certain kind or degree of nervous systems. I'm not certain if there are classes or if it's a case of degree, or both, but it is the nervous system that listens to sound and music, not our ears so if someone is interested in understanding anything about head or hifi they would be wise to familiarize themselves not only with the nature of their particular system, but of the history and research regarding them more generally.

And this directly relates to the topic at hand because it's a question about why differnt people regard pleasant sound differently. I have already laid out my thesis and will flesh it out some more so causal jazz listeners can more fully appreciate it's merit. It's a topic I did not just start thinking about and have been doing so for 20+ years and have no plans of stopping because I am fascinated by music and sound and it's relation to people and culture and specifically, the history of it's evolution/devolution.

I am young enough in spirit to care but old enough to have lived through a purely analog age and a digital re/devolution. The music I listen to was made during an analog age and it all sounds best on that medium but it does not matter in this case becuase the nature of nervous systems and music transcends mediums.

One quick word about alcohol before i continue. I believe alcohol in all its forms, is a dulling agent. This is known from first hand experience but is also born out in more objective study. It may in fact relax someone who is nervous for intellectual reasons but biologically it is a depressent and is messing with your nervous system and therefore your hearing. All these headfi and hifi meets where everyone is imbibing is not the best condition to critically audition and compare gear. My thesis is that it dulls the hearing capacity and therefore it takes more extra ordinaryness in terms of details or other aspects of sound, to excite and impress the listener.

Further, I wonder if those super into hifi do not have less sensitive systems in some way. In one way, they tend to be sensitive souls because they at least care about the nature of sound but in another, more physical way, I wonder if they are not less sensitive. It's these souls that require that extra bass slam, the furthest extent of detail or soundstage and without it they find it harder to get into the music. A corollary to this that I believe these people tend to regard music more as sound to be heard than it is music to be appreciated. This also relates back to whether or not they have ever learned to play an instrument because this is another fact in my experience.

I distinctly recall the before and after with regards to my prior and post ability to listen to music once I had learned to play guitar. It was 30 years ago but still the difference was so apparent it has made a lasting impression. After a couple years of learnign by ear, all my favorite guitar runs, I had found that my entire listening of the music had changes and I had a much deeper appreciation and ability to dig into the music whether it was poorly or well reproduced. Yes it helps if the detail is there but its not entirely necessary. And this brings me to my last point for now regarding detail and how it relates to the topic.

In contrast to most audiophiles, I believe the pinnacle of gear is not that which gives me every last detail, but those that give me most of it but leave me wanting that last little bit. Becuase I know that that last little bit of extra ordinaryness comes at a price, I am able to rest easy and do not feel cheated. Quite the contrary, I feel the rich midrange which has not been sacrifices more than offsets that last little bit of upper end detail or down low bass impact, both of which necessarily interfere with accurate and potent midrange. This seems to be the result of some natural law of acoustics or sound reprodction and is not of interest to me anymore than wanting to know the reason for gravity. I just accept it as part of living and get on with playing my guitar and enjoying music not as sound but as an expression of the human spirit. A spirit which is being assaulted on every front by our culture and food/water/air systems.

thelostMIDrange's picture

In terms of whether or not is unfluences the outcome or end product. I suggest it might. Now imagine heafiers who do not drink but smoke. Whatever it may be. It will influence what he hears and how much detail he can tolerate, and for how long. cigs and weed work in opposite directions providing a slowed down more intense experience in one state and a faster more agitated state in the other.

This possibility, is similar, I propose, in terms of the differene between different people (and their respective nervous systems). Now imagine these different states of hearing and how different they can be. For one nervous system in one state, the sound is perceived quite different and there can be such a thing as too much detail......ponder that !

thelostMIDrange's picture

Such a strange obsession coming over me
Seems like I can't face that i am stuck with reality.
Need to find the answer
Need to find a way
I don't know what I'm doing here
From day to day
As far as I can see now
The reason's very clear
Is there nothing left for me

[Chorus]
Here today, gone tomorrow
I hear you say
No more joy only sorrow, no other way
Here today you're gone tomorrow
I hear you say

One last time before you walk away
Bent on self destruction
I can feel the pain
This advice you've given me
Is all in vain
As far as I can see now
The reason's very clear
Is there nothing left for me

[Chorus]

Did I hear you whisper...
Almost reached that point now
The point of no return
Getting closer to that edge, ooh I'll never learn
As far as I can see now
The reason's very clear
Is there nothing left for me

Songwriters: ROBIN MC AULEY */MICHAEL SCHENKER

Here Today Gone Tomorrow lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

thelostMIDrange's picture

to tolerate life as a sober reality. We run for the headphones to escape, which is totally understandable because of the harsh upside down world. I'm suggesting the average person finds more solice in natural, moderatly detailed sound. But they also require a sound that does not fatigue. And unatural instrument reproduction is fatiguing to anyone who knows what they sounds like in reality. Speaking as one of the masses, I say the indusrty is failing them because i don't hear enough choices and have to mix new gear with old to get quality sound. settled on a '79 technics Direct drive and an old '83 quality SS preamp.

Jazz Casual's picture

Putting on tin foil hat now and marching to der bunker.

thelostMIDrange's picture

Please consider adding something of value to the conversation. There are many non tinfoil points being addressed and insults are not a productive forum of response.

thelostMIDrange's picture

and we will get into a nice back n forth regarding the points raised. These threads basically end after a few days in any case so consider it just a space on the net for two people to hash it out. You can insult as much as you like as long as you offer some substantiaed something about something related to something that was said......deal? I've already given thanks, so I have some free time now if that works. The first point i'd ask you to address is, in your non tinfoil world - are all people the same at birth. and second do you believe there is only one constant state of consciousness, because if the answer to both of those yes, we got some basic work to do before we can even get close to discussing the topic. I'm willing to work with you though regardless. Are you in? or no time?

Jazz Casual's picture

It's just a different kind of compulsive behaviour. ;)

thelostMIDrange's picture

now write another sentence and say what compulsive behavior you are referring to....and then answer the two yes or no questions i posed. It's right up your alley. One word sentences

Jazz Casual's picture

Thank you for the invitation to join you in what promises to be a wide ranging discourse, but I will decline your offer. You're monologue is taking up more than enough bandwith for the two of us as it is. No doubt you will carry on without me. ;)

thelostMIDrange's picture

In fact, to ease your concern i'll paypal the site .00000000001 cents to cover the costs.

thelostMIDrange's picture

foil. "in literature, a character who is presentedas a contrast to a second character so as to point to or show to advantage some aspect of the second character. An obvious example is the character of Dr. Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Watson is a perfect foil for Holmes because his relative obtuseness makes Holmes’s deductions seem more brilliant"

Jazz Casual's picture

It was a polite way of saying no I'n not interested and reminding you that this isn't your blog.

thelostMIDrange's picture

If you stop now this one will end completely never to be read again. You're fake concern for bandwidth and thread conciseness is a little too much. And you have raised subtelty to an art. You say things so quietly, you say nothing at all. All this time we could have discussed the topic but you offer nothing of substance. I cannot point to a single sentence of yours that sheds light on a aspect of the topic. I'm going back for more turkey. I can't wait for you next dismissle of addressing the topic. For someone so concerned about the site and it's content, you're doing little to add to it

Jazz Casual's picture

No great loss. I suspect Tyll would have a similar view. Enjoy your turkey and please take your time digesting it.

thelostMIDrange's picture

bathro...

thelostMIDrange's picture

So, are you the designated guy on the forum, appointed by the central scrutinizer to keep everyone in line and brief? Do you religate alotted spaces of time a person gets to make a point? Is there a manual or rulebook somewhere one can read in order to get into compliance?

In any case, this back n forth is a waste of bandwith. that i can agree on,

so Back to topic.

What is your belief with respect to the topic? what is your explanation for the masses total lack of interest in high fidelity?

I believe the masses will never care because most people are litearlly lost at sea and just trying to survive another day. Then the other extreme is people who are way into fiedlity. I have made a case that there is a substantial group in the middle who would like to get into it, but when they do, they find most the products to be odd sounding, too expensive or too overdone in some aspect or another. How do feel about such ideas? I've spoken with tyll he said you can have as much space as you need to flesh out your answers. In fact he said that is the whole purpose of the forum, for people to bounce around exotic or controversial ideas to see if anything new results. So don't worry so much, For such a casual guy you seem overly uptight about how this forum is run.

Jazz Casual's picture

Now who's getting personal? ;) If Tyll has given you the green light to continue clogging his blog with your waffle then be his guest but I won't be indulging you. As far as my views on the subject of this thread are concerned, I refer you to my first post.

thelostMIDrange's picture

and all your concerns about lack of web storage are proven incorrect.

Jazz Casual's picture

Are you still here? Then it's a good thing that I dropped by.

There's really little point in being sarcastic if I have to explain it to you. It really should go without saying that a lack of web storage was the least of my concerns. A waste of space is more to the point. Or do I have to explain that too? ;)

Moving on again now like every one else did some time ago. Perhaps you should do the same.

thelostMIDrange's picture

Most human progress has been met with considerable resistance. The evidentiary basis for this assertion can be directly extracted from the history of progress.

Jesus Christ. Jesus was crucified for challenging the money changers. St. Mark tells us that "the scribes and chief priests . . . sought how they might destroy him . . . " [St. Mark 11:15-18].

Galileo Galilei. Galileo was accused of heresy for proving that Copernicus was right. The new power of Galileo's scientific method -- consistent knowledge from experiment, quantified with mathematics -- doomed the Ptolemaic doctrines of the clergy of his time. But not without a vicious fight. The great physicist Emilio Segrè gave an account of why the Holy Office in Rome tried Galileo and condemned him in 1633.1 Science, as challenge to the World Order, would simply not be tolerated. But, as explained by Segrè, the condemnation of Galileo was not without its consequences. The authority and prestige of the Church were damaged. Not only were Galileo's books banned, even the Academia del Cimento was dismantled -- ironically, wrote Segrè, "five years after the foundation of the Royal Society"2 in England. Thanks to the Church, Italy lost its leadership position in science. The stupidity of the Enemies of Progress has sometimes no bounds.

James Watt. The steam engine revolutionized the use of motor power, and kickstarted the industrial age -- first in England, then in the rest of the world. In the summer of 1765, James Watt made a strategic invention: the separate condenser for the steam engine. England's industry, wealth, and naval power would have been inconceivable without the steam engine.3 Frederic M. Scherer (a Harvard-trained economist and a participant in the Harvard Weapons Acquisition Research Project) described Watt's invention as "one of the most famous 'inventions' of all time."4 He studied the connection between the innovation process and economic growth, and presented his findings in Innovation and Growth. If you did not know that Scherer was writing about the tribulations of Watt and his partners in the 1770's, you would think that he was writing about Canada's entrepreneurs in the early 1990's. The R&D and the commercialization of Watt's invention were hindered by a chronic lack of financial support. Here are some of the findings of Scherer. Watt's partner, Dr. John Roebuck became bankrupt in 1773. Matthew Boulton, a manufacturer who acquired Roebuck's share in Watt's invention, had his own financial difficulties -- he had to sell his wife's property to keep Boulton & Fothergill solvent. Apparently, "with the exception of Boulton, none of Roebuck's creditors placed any value on the engine patent"5 [my emphasis].

Chester Carlson. Chester F. Carlson, a physicist with a degree from Cal Tech, created xerography. The first test of the electrophotographic copying process was done on October 22, 1938.6 According to John Dessauer's account, Carlson's budget for materials was $10 per month.7 Carlson could barely afford one employee. To develop and market his invention Carlson approached International Business Machines and 20 other companies. According to Dessauer, "not one of them saw any commercial future in his [Carlson's] black box"8 [my emphasis]. Carlson was politely turned down.9 But Carlson's relentless pursuit of innovation ultimately resulted in employment for 1,800 in 1959, 49,335 in 1969, 104,736 in 1978 . . .10

Many years later, shortly before the introduction of Xerox's 914 copier, IBM had yet another opportunity to "buy into" Xerox.11 Reportedly, IBM turned Xerox down, partly on the recommendation of Arthur D. Little Inc., a prominent contract research firm. Apparently, the research firm believed that the nationwide market for the Xerox 914 would amount to no more than 5,000 units!12 In the first eight years since its introduction, the 914 generated about $1.5 billion in revenues. In seven years, Xerox placed 190,000 copiers; and total employment at Xerox skyrocketed from 900 to more than 24,000.13

Xerox itself was not immune to "fumbling" some of its own future.14 Alto, the first personal computer was invented by scientists at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). The first Alto was operational in 1973. Unbelievable as this may sound, the first personal computer commercial was televised by Xerox15 -- not IBM, not Apple. But, a numbers-oriented, "risk-averse" management, with, allegedly, "no technical instincts" ("'bean counters'")16 could not or would not convert Xerox's technological innovations into one of the greatest business successes of all time. Xerox did benefit from its technology; but the more than 25 million personal computers that were sold by 1987 to Americans17 were sold mostly by Apple, IBM, and other American and Asian "clone" makers -- and not by Xerox.

Scott Cook. According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit Inc., was turned down by "some of the finest venture capital firms in the country."18 Apparently, in the late 1980s, Intuit had difficulties paying its telephone bills, almost lost its furniture because of "overdue accounts," and could not afford to pay all its employees! Notwithstanding the difficulties, Cook's "entrepreneurial gamble" worked. Cook, reportedly, agreed to sell Intuit Inc. to Microsoft Corp. for about $1.5 billion dollars in stock. But the deal was called off, apparently, in order to avoid lengthy litigation against the U.S. Justice Department. Ironically, many banks now rely on Intuit or similar software for the provision of electronic banking services.

Imagine, some of the greatest ideas and patents of all time having had no value to creditors and bean counters! Notwithstanding modern propaganda, the struggle of the entrepreneur-innovator continues: progress, as product of Capitalism, is a fraudulent myth. As a matter of fact, progress is nothing but a continuous struggle against the established Capitalist order. When it triumphs, progress does so despite the Solomonic creed [Proverbs 22:7]. It follows that if Man wants to change the nature and rate of progress, he must first overcome not only himself, but the true obstacle to that goal in himself -- the Solomonic creed.

Hegel and Heidegger on Progress. The nature of progress is most intricately connected with Spirit -- as self surmounting itself. The connection between Spirit and Time was an important subject matter of Hegel's philosophy; the connection between Being and Time was an important subject matter of Heidegger's philosophy. Following Hegel, for Heidegger, " . . . 'progress' never signifies a merely quantitative "more", but is essentially qualitative and indeed has the quality of spirit. 'Progression' is done knowingly and knows itself in its goal. In every step of its 'progress' spirit has to overcome 'itself' "as the truly malignant obstacle to that goal". In its development spirit aims 'to reach its own concept.' The development itself is 'a hard, amending battle against itself'"19 [my emphasis].

Jazz Casual's picture

Do you like headphones?

Rabbit's picture

It's always surprising to me how hi fi discussions curdle and become a battle of 'who knows more than me?'

This is an interesting discussion that has been totally destroyed by egos. Perhaps I can now be the focus for both of your anger now and you can have something in common perhaps and stop the awful to and fros?

Guys, it's only a discussion about the perception of music. You both really need to know when it's time to stop.

Jazz Casual's picture

You're quite right Rabbit in one sense but ego and anger really aren't the motivating factors for me here; intolerance and mockery are however. ;)

thelostMIDrange's picture

intolerant of those who have more than two sentences worth of thoughts rolling around. When a society gets to the point where no one can express any kind of disagreement or constructive criticism without being labeled a troll or some other defamination, we are in a sad place. And that is where we are at with all the unspoken rules about how long you can post or of what content. Ridiculous and pathetic. A society will crumble, as ours is , when political correctness and false tact rules the day. That doesn't mean i endorse base direct attact and i don't see any of that here. There's a ton of valid on point observations encoded in comments and if one chooses to use a forum as his own online diary for working out a thesis, that is his right, especially when the thread is at it's end. With all the war and injsutice going on these days, long posts of seemingly dubious content is your biggest concern?

Jazz Casual's picture

It's not just about the length of your posts. I'm bemused as to why you feel compelled to make someone else's headphone blog your soap box. Have you considered starting one of your own?

thelostMIDrange's picture

Is it a trivial matter? What about the change of music preference and sound preference over the century? Sound and therefore music and reproduced sound, is important to a degree larger than what a 2 sentence quip can accomodate but you win pal. Keep your Gman jr comment watcher badge and I'll leave the blog so this thread can end with a whimper instead of a thought provoking and potentially inspiring interchange. I barely got goin' believe it or not. 5 gold stars for jazz casual. Soon you'll get a promotion to thought monitor class B with an increase of chocolate rations. I hope your goal of reducing the content to this blog is as successful as orwells vision of reducing the dictonary to 100 words. You're quite a visionary.

Jazz Casual's picture

I think not, and please spare me the hackneyed G-Man and Orwellian references. No one is policing your thoughts here. I can't stop you from blathering on about matters that aren't even tenuously related to the blog topic - obviously. The fundamental point that you continue to miss or ignore, is that this blog is not "your online diary for working out a thesis" and nor is it your "right" to treat it like one. You are a guest here, just as I am and Tyll is our host. You would have worn out your welcome long ago if this were my blog. ;)

sszorin's picture

The reviewers were not wise enough. The fidelity of music reproduction IMPROVES / FACILITATES "one's ability to experience the art of music" What a joy it is to be immersed in sound of a well mastered music on a sound reproduction system of good quality. Would those reviewers have enjoyed watching a good film with a sheet of wrapping plastic in front of the HD screen ?

zobel's picture

Your summation of this topic is totally to topic, and 100% correct. This is a good analogy, and even though it seems to have been casually dismissed, was appreciated. Thank you.

Jazz Casual's picture

Yet another extreme analogy that serves no useful purpose.

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