Light and Airy

"Guess what."

Here at Stereophile, we like our humor like we like our speakers: light. We got that jewel from Elizabeth's two year-old, the fabulous Morgan Jet. A few inches shorter than a Totem Arro, it's amazing how easily one falls for her. The blue eyes do it every time.

JA dropped his weary head onto a Creek integrated amplifier and moaned: "Oh, how did I grow to be this old and still fall for that joke?"

In other news, it's a glorious day in the neighborhood: sixty-six delicious degrees and not a cloud in this New York City sky. The girls are getting anxious; several bare bellies winked hello on my walk to RadioShack where they did not have the proper fuse, a 10A slow blow, for my Moscode.

A couple of sunny mornings ago, I unscrewed the fuse cap which lives near the power cord, pulled it away from the amp, and inspected the fuse. In place of clean glass and shiny wire, I found a burned out mess of grime and smudge. No wonder my poor Moscode has been so silent. I would be, too.

Then again, earlier today, I mentioned to JA:

"I'm still having trouble hearing differences between my loudspeakers."

He nodded: "You don't have enough experience to identify the subtle differences. If you heard a dramatic difference, something might be wrong."

How does a guy like Bob Reina, for instance, do it? Have you noticed how clear, concise, and definite his comparisons are? Take any one of his reviews. His work with the Totem Rainmakers, for example:

I compared the Totem Rainmaker with the Aln Li'l Rascal Mk.II ($600/pair), the NHT SB-3 ($600/pair), and the Aln Petite ($1000/pair when last offered).

The Aln Li'l Rascal Mk.II had a richer, more liquid lower midrange, but was similarly detailed and natural in the mid to upper midrange. The Aln, however, exhibited less high-frequency detail and less sophisticated high frequencies when compared with the Rainmaker. The Totem was a bit warmer in the midbass than the Li'l Rascal, but a bit cleaner in the upper bass. The dynamic performances of the two speakers were very similar.

The NHT SB-3 was warmer, richer, and less detailed than the Totem, with less detailed highs as well, but sounded very well balanced. The NHT was forgiving and subtractive at the frequency extremes compared with the Totem, but had a similarly rich and natural midrange, though with much less detail than the Rainmaker.

The Aln Petite had the most detailed and sophisticated high frequencies of the bunch, with an upper bass and midrange that were as natural and detailed as the Totem's. Bass extension and high-level dynamic performance were inferior, however, to the Rainmaker's.

How does he do that? I want to do that! The dude's no joke.

I sighed. JA took a few steps toward his office, before turning back:

"You know, not being able to hear a difference is still something you can write about for the blog."

I nodded before turning to Elizabeth:

"But I already did."

I realize I can be terribly undisciplined, hedonistic. When listening to music, I take in the whole, rather than examining individual parts. And this isn't the best method for hearing differences. What's a chicken-butt to do? I'm thinking of bringing home some Test CDs. I'll listen to signals and crap, in an attempt to find out what my speakers sound like. Because I sure don't know.

Buddha's picture

Maybe you're just not neurotic enough to be an audiophile or reviewer.

There are those who think hi-fi is so frequently offputting to women and musicians because they can listen through the badness of gear to actually hear what's going on. The interviews with famous musicians often show us that their systems are not exactly the to the level of persnickety-ness that audiophiles would expect - they listen to music and we listen to gear.

Even if they can hear the difference, the majority of their brains vote that they don't care," 'cause they ""get"" the music just as well", either way.

Maybe that's also why so many people say how good their systems sound when they are loaded - it allows them to listen to the music and not the interconnect or power cord they just bought.

Bring your ears and a note pad to the H.E. Show, plan on a little more time in each room, and we'll try to infect you with the disease proper, for better or ill.

Hope you're feeling better, too.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>Maybe you're just not neurotic enough to be an audiophile or reviewer.I don't think it's in my soul, but I can learn.>Bring your ears and a note pad to the H.E. Show, plan on a little more time in each room, and we'll try to infect you with the disease proper, for better or ill.Will do. Looking forward to it, too.>Hope you're feeling better, too.I'm listening to Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, and eating a bag of microwave popcorn, trying to gain back some of the weight I lost while being sick. Yes, I'm feeling a bit better; thank you very much.

Al Marcy's picture

Test CDs? God, I listen to Test CDs. And I am a crazy old man who has hunderds of audio toys and chooses to listen to a Sony 400 DVD changer," a Teac AG790 stereo rcvr and a pair of SDAT SB-E70 speakers made of 3/8"" particle board. OK", OK, I bypassed the tweetter Xovers with 8.2nF 1% 600V film/foil caps I got on Ebay for a nickel each. Beware the Bandersnatch! Health is just something that allows you to be miserable due to lesser problems ...

Monty's picture

Like anything else, there is a learning curve to critical listening. I think anyone could learn to do it. However, I also think it is important to become intimately familiar with your system and music to develop a benchmark from which to measure changes. Years ago, I bought the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration CD thinking it might help me along in understanding the aspects of reproduction. It helped a little, but not all that much. The music was worth the price of the disc, though. There is an old saying that says," ""The teacher will appear when the student is ready to learn."" This seems to have been the case in my life quite often. If you think about your experiences with audio", you can imagine walking into a hi-fi store looking to buy your first system and having to choose the gear. This is where the dealers all too often miss the boat. First, people have to have confidence in their ability to make a decision...and that comes from education. You're getting yours, even if it doesn't seem like it.

Buddha's picture

Monty, you make a great point about systems.

I think Stephen is at a bit of a disadvantage because most of us litened to our first system probably for years," with loooong intervals between new items in our homes.

Stephen hasn't had the ""luxury"" of living with the same system until he ""outgrows"" it or gets so used to a given style of sound that new sounds jump out at him.

He's like someone who's never had ice cream suddenly being thrown into 31 Flavors!