Pace, Rhythm, & Dynamics Letters

YES! YES! YES! Finally somebody wrote an article about the stuff I like---namely pace, rhythm, and timing. Kudos to Martin Colloms for providing me (in November 1992) with some explanations for something I couldn't even explain to myself.

The salesman who first introduced me to the Linn LP12 invited me over to his house to listen to his system. I brought some records along with me that I thought "sounded good." His system consisted of a Linn LP12/Ekos/Asaka, Exposure electronics, and Linn's Kan II speakers on their dedicated stands. This was the first high-end system that actually impressed me. I had heard other (more expensive) systems in audio stores that "sounded good" but did not make me want to empty my bank account.

His system had a certain something that kept me transfixed in my seat wanting to hear more. It was definitely not anything I had previously associated with a good stereo system. I was seated about 5' in front of the speakers, far to the left of the center---definitely out of any sweet spot that may have been there. There was no soundstage or pinpoint imaging of any kind here. The speakers, being very small, would sound very stressed when trying to produce any relatively deep bass. They didn't bottom out, but were just never able to let go of the bass notes. They also did not play very loud. But---and this is a big but---none of this mattered in the least. What I heard was not "good sound," but music! Ever since then I had been trying to figure out why I liked this system so much. After reading some of the British hi-fi mags I noticed that a lot of them kept talking about pace and timing. This seemed to describe, for me at least, what I liked so much about that system. MC's article pretty much confirmed this.

One thing that I inferred from the article is that it is difficult to make a component that has both an abundance of good sonic qualities and good pace, rhythm, and timing. This seems to be true, at least among the products that I auditioned (and could afford). I tried to build a system that would give me some of each quality. My Linn LP12/Akito/K9 and the Linn Kan IIs provide the pace, rhythm, and timing, while Moth Series 30 electronics provide the openness, transparency, and soundstage. This is still a compromise, though. Even though the Moth electronics "sound" great, they don't quite let all of the musical excitement---ie, the pace, rhythm, and timing---come through. Hopefully, with this introduction by MC, you guys will include comments regarding pace, rhythm, and timing in your reviews. Then maybe I'll be able to find musical nirvana instead of compromises.
---Michael Cole Federal Republic of Germany

Martin Colloms's "Pace, Rhythm, and Dynamics" (Stereophile, November 1992) is a wonderful discussion of the musical experience. I hope it will help further the ongoing changes taking place in assessing the quality of audiophile equipment.

My own experience with the significance of pace and rhythm occurred several months ago. When I moved, I had to change my setup and increase the distance between my preamplifier and the power amplifier. My interconnect was not long enough, so I temporarily inserted a 3' one from Radio Shack to make up the difference. When I played the classical LP I had most recently listened to in my previous abode, the music sounded slow. The notes sounded disconnected and unrelated to each other. All sense of life and rhythm disappeared (yes, classical music has rhythm too!). It was as though the same music were being played by different and totally uninspired players. I checked my turntable speed and amplifier voltages and they were normal.

I was puzzled but wondered about the added interconnect. I temporarily moved my power amplifier out into the room so I could connect it without the Radio Shack insert. Sure enough, the music returned to "normal," with the same lively rhythm and faster pace I was used to. The happy ending is that I was inspired to upgrade and bought a higher-quality interconnect of proper length and significantly improved the sound quality of my system.

This experience made it clear to me that the pace and rhythm of reproduced music has little to do with clock measurements. It will be a great challenge for equipment reviewers to find a set of objective measurements which will correlate with this whole musical experience which Colloms has artfully described.
---John L. Hodge Montpelier, VT