Critical Listening to Evaluate

Posted on March 14, 2014

This can be a tough one. Music should take us to another place or time. Listening should not feel like work or bring anxiety because we are spending hard earned money on a new product. Having done a lot of critical listening the past few years with my money on the line, I think I have come up with a few ideas to make this process easier with more definitive conclusions.

It is great that many dealers are offering 30 day or more in home M.B.G. trials. Because in the end you want to say this product makes me happy and I can live with it for 5-10 years or more. You will never reach this absolute conclusion in any other way. But before we consider a product, we must first ask ourselves what are our goals. What are we trying to accomplish. Do we want more of something specific;bass, volume, detail, depth of stage, etc. or less of something, grain, boomy bass, sibilance, smaller speakers, but why?

When I first realized I could almost put performers in the room, that was it! That became my goal. If a product or procedure makes music sound more live, it’s better period. You are more drawn into the performance, not really thinking about this or that.

This is of utmost importance! You have to use recordings you are absolutely familiar with. I don’t care how good a recording is. If you don’t know it you don’t know if a product is making a difference in your system. You should use 10, 20 , or more records or CDs you know extremely well.

Some of them should include acoustic instruments. For the most part a sax sounds like a sax. But a Strat can be made to sound like a Les Paul and a 100 other things. I even use some records that have things that annoy me. And if those annoyances are diminished, the product is better for me, period. I love everything from Streisand to Sabbath (for a beautiful song check out fluff). I even like some Michael Bolton. Yeah I know. I have a genetic defect.

My point is, if I have to choose between analytical or forgiving, I will lean towards forgiving. Lets face it, many of our recordings are not that good but the music is and I want to enjoy all of it.

Now for the listening. This is where my method differs from most. DO NOT listen for anything specific! Pick up a book or a pen and write your family or do something at the LS. The music will reveal itself to you. If there is something annoying you will feel it. Like the neighbors barking dog, when those annoyances are gone, you will notice. Your attention will be drawn to the music and that’s when you know it’s better. Or when you’re doing your thing and all of a sudden you hear a bell or triangle you never heard before, or that instrument sounds like he’s right behind the speaker, I promise you, you will stop what you’re doing and listen, and you will know it’s better.

You’re not trying to hear a difference. You just are! If you’re struggling to hear if something is better for you, it probably isn’t. I don’t care how much it cost. Some differences will be subtle. But my method will reveal these to you.

Don’t be deceived by what’s immediately more. After 20 records you might find more is too much and if not – Great. But when you’re just at ease, and that single kick drum just hits you in the chest or you hear the wood in that stand up bass, that’s exciting!

There are many times we can get huge improvements by not spending money. But sometimes a new product is the only way to bring us to a new level of enjoyment. I think this process should be a learning experience and enjoyed.

I think the bottom line is this. Does this product or procedure make you want to listen to your music more? If you can answer this question definitively you will make the right decision.

The music is the magic…


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