Listening to Music on the Hi-Fi
Listening to music on the hi-fi is what it is. Listening to music on the hi-fi is two treats in one. Listening to music on the hi-fi is:
1. Listening to music
2. On the hi-fi
And how great is that? Really. What else can we want from this life? Sure, a house in California, NJ, with windows that open out into a great, big, Peruvian backyard with pools of green jade and mountains covered in red lichen and your own personal PATH station with a three-minute commute right to your own comfy, perfectly-ergonomic office chair might be nice, too. But still. How much more can we really ask for?
I'm listening to the cheap-ass PSB Alpha B1 loudspeakers. I mean, I'm listening to 2005's self-titled album by Broken Social Scene through the cheap-ass PSB Alpha B1 loudspeakers. "Cheap-ass," in this case, equals $279/pair. In the couple of weeks that I've had them in the almighty system, I haven't taken the time to make any direct comparisons between the PSBs and their Canadian cousins, the delightful Totem Arros. However, I can easily say that some differences made themselves immediately apparent, right from the giggity get-go. And I would hope so, being that the PSBs cost about a grand less than the Totems. If they sounded the same, I'd write a letter to the editor, cancel my subscription, turn in my audiophile badge, ban myself from the forum, I don't know all what else. It's a damn good thing, then, that the Alpha B1s couldn't quite capture the straining urgency, with the same sort of flesh-and-blood warmth, in Nick Cave's voice when he sang:
Through the windswept coastal trees
Where the dead come rising from the sea
With a teddy-bear clamped between her knees
She says, where can my loverman be?
I say "it's a damn good thing," but you know I'm lying. In fact, it's kind of a crying shame. It's almost as though Nick Cave's got some other stuff on his mind. His woman needs him, and he knows she needs him, but, on this particular day, through these particular $279 speakers, Nick Cave just isn't really in the mood. His voice is a bit distant, gray-blue rather than red-orange. He can do better. I've heard him do better. For a thousand dollars more, Nick Cave is turning mirrors into walls and emptying out the peopled halls, he's nailing shut the windows and locking the doors, he's running his fingers through your red hair. It's wild and even a little bit naughty.
Getting back to Broken Social Scene, something else became clear to me as I tried to make sense of all the strings and samples and hollers and horns: Play these speakers loud, and they will distort. Which isn't a very big deal when you live in a 350-square foot apartment. Actually, your neighbors will probably appreciate the fact that you've decided to turn the volume down. Doing so, by the way, will draw your attention to how well these cheap-ass speakers can float an image. Despite the speakers' small size, and, even in my small room, instruments are convincingly drawn about a fairly wide, deep soundstage. The PSBs may not have the grip on my room that the $2000 DeVores had, but still, I'm able to enjoy the music and the magic.
Broken Social Scene, by the way, are chugging along, doing their thing. My season in audiophile hell has led me here, another album of early blog days. I'm tempted to call it a rock album. But it's as much hip-hop as it is rock, as much disco as it is hip-hop, as much jazz as it is disco, as much soul as it is jazz. No matter how you look at it, it's most certainly the devil's music. What's worse is that, listening to it, I get the sense that the engineers broke every purist rule in the book. It doesn't much sound like music at all. And, for that matter, it doesn't much music like sound.
But I'm loving it. It's a hell of a lot of fun to listen to on the hi-fi.