The Pursuit of Hi-Fi Happyness

I can do this. It'll be alright. I can use these same words all over again and still love myself. I can use yesterday's forum post as today's blog entry, and people won't hate me. By doing this, by re-posting, I may even reach a few readers who haven't already seen it in the forum. And, hey, I'll even edit it a little bit, so that it's not exactly the same. Here it is:

Part of me thinks that this is exactly what I want. I want to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.

Then, I think again: The Exposure gear does this for me. It allows me to sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. But when the Exposure gear is in the system, I actually listen to less music. When the Exposure gear is in the system, I don't find myself in the middle of proofreading or shopping for groceries or on the subway or whatever, distracted by thoughts of being home and playing CDs.

When the Musical Fidelity gear is in the system, however...

Art Dudley is always talking about gear being "musical." This musicality is something he craves. It's what makes a component great. The Exposure gear, I think, is more musical than the MF gear, and I love it for that. But, I'm left to wonder: Is that what I want?

I'm not sure. It doesn't seem so.

Speakers are different. When I listened to the DeVore Fidelity speakers, I found they held a great respect for the music. They seemed powerful and controlled. They seemed sober. And sure. They seemed to know what the music was all about, and allowed the music to be itself. That's why I loved them.

But I'm wondering: With the electronics, do I want something different? The Exposure components, like the DeVore speakers, are in love with the music. The MF gear, on the other hand, loves itself more than anything else. Musical Fidelity gear loves itself even more than the most beautiful song. It loves the sounds, not the music. At least, not all of the music. And I respect it for that. Besides: I love the sounds it makes.

What am I talking about? System synergy? Maybe. But I think I'm also trying to ask whether, as an audiophile, personally — and maybe for others, in general — am I, are we, fooling ourselves into thinking we're in this for the music?

I read this interview with Jonathan Lethem where he's talking about realism in art. And he says that he's completely uninterested in the question of realism, that, in terms of art, realism is actually beside the point.

"When you admire, say, a song by the Talking Heads," he asks, "is it because, in some way, it's realistic?"

This made a lot of sense to me. To appreciate an unreal thing based on a certain level of realism that this unreal thing approaches is superbly ass-backwards. But, in hi-fi, we do this all the time. We say, "It sounds so real!"

Who are we shitting? It doesn't sound real. It sounds really cool, it sounds really fake. It sounds so fake, in fact, we almost think it's in the room with us.

Or am I wrong? Am I missing something, confusing things? This is all kind of fascinating to me, and silly, and troubling.

Is it possible to listen to music and listen to the hi-fi? Or are they two entirely different activities, incomparable and incompatible? Right now, for me, they seem to have nothing in common, whatsoever.


There. I did it. Please don't hate me.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>Listening to music on a hi-fi is what it is. It

michaelavorgna's picture

I'm with Jonathan Lethem on this one - who cares about realism when we're talking about representation. Semiotics? "Representations which become familiar through constant re-use come to feel 'natural' and unmediated, and can even shape what we accept as reality (at least within a genre)." Then again maybe that