In Pursuit of the Art of Tone, Part 1, I discussed learning how to pursue a style of musicality for your hifi that lights up your heart & mind to transport you into a state of musical bliss during listening.
I mentioned that I believe that there is no absolute sound that is best for every person, but that there very well might be one that is best for you, and I recommended you pursue your own unique path of adventure in discovering the music you enjoy and the style of hifi musicality that best brings out what is important to you during your listening experiences.
In hopes that it might give you some ideas for your own adventures in music and hifi, I told you briefly about about my personal journey in searching out my own vision of ultimate musicality, how that adventure in hifi and musicality has been evolving over the decades, will likely continue to evolve over the rest of my life, and how I’ve gone about discovering what is important to me in musicality.
I discussed how as a hifi writer I’ve practiced Listening Unnaturally to Get an Understanding of the Nature of Things, so I could tell you about what I hear and feel while listening to music, and how during that process I began to discover the sorts of specific things in the reproduction of music that brought me the most pleasure in my listening.
I talked about how it is important to discover what you like, why you like it, and how that will empower you to explore greater depths in pleasure when listening to music as you pursue ‘the art of tone’ in achieving the sort of musicality that is most meaningful to you.
I love pursuing the ‘art of tone’ in my hifi’s, fooling around with hifi gear with my friends, and telling you about it all!
In closing, I promised that in the next part of this discussion I would continue to tell you more about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why, and about some of the milestones of illuminating moments along the way, and realizations about certain underlying principles that are helping me to get there.
What I will describe applies uniquely to my personal tastes, the aspects of music reproduction that gets me excited, and that I find pleasure in for the music I love to listen to the most.
By sharing my thoughts & feelings about the discoveries of my music and audio journey with you, I hope that I can relay to you some ideas that might apply to your own adventure in music and audio, so that you might find a few things out that will help you enjoy your music & audio even more than you do now.
It’s About the Music You Love
We all enjoy certain types of music more than others, and that is part of what makes us uniquely us. The music we love depends upon what music we are exposed to over our lives, why it is meaningful to us, and how it makes us feel.
We might favor jazz, classical, rock & roll, heavy metal, blues, gospel, opera, hip hop, rap, grunge, folk, reggae, rhythm & blues, soul, country, dance music, easy listening, electronic or acoustic music, new age, popular music, or particular musical styles associated with our culture, or we might enjoy a broad cross section of musical styles, or still be exploring the world of music to discover what we enjoy.
Anyways, as you pursue this hobby of audio, it’s about having fun with your adventure and getting the most pleasure you can out of the music you listen to and love.
One of the most important things a music lover and audio enthusiast can do is get out and listen to live music. Besides just being fun and a wonderful experience, getting out and listening to live music will teach you a lot about what real instruments & music sounds & feels like, and it will greatly help you along the road of achieving your ultimate musicality for your hifi in your own life by serving as the benchmark for musicality.
I have also found it to be very rewarding in my pursuits of musicality to gain more of an understanding about the fundamentals of music, and I would like to recommend to you Dr. Robert Greenberg’s Understanding the Fundamentals of Music DVD course that is available from The Great Courses.
In this highly valuable and entertaining course Dr. Greenberg will teach you about the music fundamentals that you see me refer to, like timbre, beat & tempo, meter, pitch & mode, intervals & tuning, tonality, melody, and texture & harmony.
Having a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music when you listen to recorded music is very helpful, as it allows you to have a much greater understanding of the music you are listening to, and a greater awareness of how well your hifi reproduces those fundamentals of music when you are listening.
Getting a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music, and listening to live music, are important benchmarks and milestones of illumination along my path in pursuing the ‘art of tone’ in achieving my vision for ultimate musicality from my hifi’s, and I believe that would be of great assistance to you as well.
Start Now With What You Have
As you begin to discover for yourself what is most important to you in your music listening, you don’t need to do anything but listen to music, begin to understand how it makes you feel, and why.
You don’t need to go out and buy new hifi gear to gain understanding, unless of course you don’t have any hifi gear yet!
We all live in different sorts of spaces, small or large, private or not so private, have limitations on our resources, deal with constraints of one sort or another, like how loud we can play music, or when, and so we each have uniquely different needs for a hifi to fulfill for what we enjoy about listening to music.
Start with the hifi gear you have now, listen to the music you love, and practice a little mindfulness in listening to understand what is most important for your enjoyment of the music, but don’t get so wrapped up in trying to figure things out that you don’t take time to listen to music just for the sheer visceral pleasure of it.
Your Listening Room and Equipment Setup
The room that you listen to music in, and how your equipment is setup in that room, has an enormous influence on what you hear and feel as you listen to music.
Small rooms, medium sized rooms, and large rooms all have a relatively large and different influence on what you hear from your hifi when playing music. How ‘live’ or ‘dead’ sounding the particular room is has a significant influence too.
Where I live, I have one medium-large room that is a combination of living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance hall, in a sort of nuevo bungalow style, that serves as my primary music listening space.
It is far from an ideal space with its irregular features and reflective surfaces, but I have learned how to make it work for me.
I also have one medium sized bedroom, one small bedroom, and one small office/bedroom that I have audio or audio/visual systems setup in as well.
I am in various stages of optimizing each of those rooms for my tastes, and I have to live with the constraints that each of those rooms impose upon my listening and setup of equipment.
Sometimes we have a choice of where to position our audio equipment in a room, and sometimes we don’t.
If you do have a choice on where you can position your audio equipment in a room, I recommend you experiment with it a bit to find out how much of a difference it can make, and which sort of positioning you prefer.
Loudspeaker positioning in a room makes a big difference in what you hear musically & sonically, and depending on your tastes, you will likely prefer one positioning over another.
If you move your speakers closer together they tend to sound warmer, and if you move them further apart they tend to sound less warm.
If your speakers are sitting up flush against the front wall, they will sound vastly different than if they are sitting out into the room a bit.
If you move your loudspeakers out into your room you will tend to hear a more spacious presentation.
If you sit close to your loudspeakers in what is called a ‘near field listening’ position, you will hear more directly the sound of your loudspeakers, and lessen the influence of the room on your loudspeakers’ performance.
Try varying how far apart you place your loudspeakers, how far out into the room you place them, and how close you sit to them, and see what sort of arrangement you enjoy the most for a given room.
If you enjoy photography, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the ‘rule of thirds’ for composing the visual elements in photographs, and it turns out that there is a similar idea in audio for arranging loudspeakers and the listening position to get a nice ‘composition’ from the music you hear from your hifi.
For the rule of thirds in audio, the loudspeakers are placed one third of the distance of the rooms depth out into the room from the front wall (the wall you look at when listening to music), your listening position is placed one third of the distance out into the depth of the room from the rear wall (the wall behind you when listening), and the loudspeakers are centered on the one thirds points of the width of the room.
Then once you have everything positioned at the one third points, you move your speakers and listening position around until you achieve the tonal balance you like the best.
In practice, very few people have a listening room with dimensions that will allow you to utilize the rule of thirds in the way I described it (I don’t have a single room like that in my home), but it is still a useful idea generally, and you still can move your speakers and listening position around in any fashion that strikes your fancy until you find what positioning you like best within the constraints imposed by your room.
Don’t be afraid to try things that are far outside the rule of thirds, or normal conventions generally, as you may find that you prefer a non-traditional arrangement in your room, with speakers positioned across the corner of a room, for example, or a seating position that doesn’t form an equilateral triangle with your loudspeakers.
Try thinking a little non-linearly in your positioning of loudspeakers and listening position in you room, and see what happens.
Finding out how how positioning your loudspeakers and your listening position in your room will help you understand what you like and don’t like in the way your hifi presents the music.
You can get a lot of guidance on how to set up your equipment in your room from Jim Smith, who quite literally wrote the book on that subject, and if you don’t already have them, I encourage you to order Jim’s book and DVD set, as they will be important resources for you over the years. You can order Jim’s books & DVDs from Amazon, or directly from Jim’s Get Better Sound website.
Getting a basic understanding of how my rooms, and of the positioning of equipment and my listening seat within them, was affecting the overall musical & sonic performance of my hifi was another major milestone of illumination along my path in pursuing my vision for ultimate musicality from my hifi’s, and I believe it will be of great assistance to you as well.
I didn’t get nearly as far as I wanted in my discussion about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why, but I was able to share with you a couple of important preliminary milestones of illumination for me along the path of my musical and audio journey.
The first milestones I mentioned were about the importance of getting a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music, and listening to live music, as important benchmarks of comparison for achieving one’s vision of a personal ultimate musicality from home audio.
The other illuminating milestone I mentioned was about getting a basic understanding of how rooms, and the positioning of equipment and listening seats within them, affects the overall musical & sonic performance you experience while listening, and how by moving things around within a room you can find positions that extract the maximum amount of musical performance from your hifi in the way that best fits your personal tastes.
In Part 3, I will continue to describe some of my more illuminating milestones in music and audio, and I’ll go deeper into my discussion about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!