I’m very fussy about sound. It’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing when I’m trying to get the most out of an audio system or room, but mostly a curse when I just want to kick back and listen to some music.
I also don’t take part in arguments about cable, speaker placement, or anything audio enthusiasts love to debate. I know the rules, I have a fair understanding of the science, I know the guidelines, I know what gear is good and what isn’t, but I also know there is far more to sound than meets the ear. All of the subjective unknowns that go far beyond the “settled science” of audio really can’t be debated properly – there is just too much we still don’t know.
That’s cool, I really can’t argue with you except to say, I hear what I hear, and even though the change is subtle depending on the quality of the recording, it is consistent.
Confirmation bias? Psychoacoustics? Imagination? I don’t know and I don’t care. To me, when I take my glasses off the improvement in what I hear is consistent and describable. I have spent my ten thousand hours learning how to listen to a soundstage and learning how to critically listen to music, and apparently the result of all this work is that it all sounds better when I take my glasses off. There is a thing called Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) that pretty much explains what I am experiencing. HRTF describes the response of our ears when a sound reaches our heads. Our ears and ear canals (obviously!) all affect how we perceive sound, but so do our nasal and oral cavities as well as the shape and size of our head. What this means is that our individual aural processing has developed to hear sound accurately after taking into account all of the variances in our physiology. If we change any one of those parameters our hearing shifts slightly. So take that people who scoff!
This is why I never argue with anyone about what they hear. Of course, I hate that snake oil merchants are an accepted part of our industry, but when it comes to legit levels of quality and subjectivity, there is far too much to the subtle science of audio to dismiss out of hand someone else’s experience with sound. If you wear glasses, try an experiment the next time you are listening intently to your music and listen with them on and off. I can’t be the only one…
By Jack Sharkey for KEF