On a forum I frequent, a question came up wondering why there are people who do not aspire to find and appreciate the best sound quality possible. The answer is probably obvious on the surface – it’s just not something that interests them. Like some people don’t have a care for paintings or photographs, or interior design, or anything else a person could be passionate about.
But on another level, on my level, what about people who do like music, but don’t like crappy sounding audio systems? There’s a few sub-questions in there, like: Why don’t you have the best-sounding stereo possible? Why don’t you own the highest-rated-in-terms-of-sound-quality CD for each of the albums you own? Why aren’t you into vinyl? Why aren’t you also up in arms about people settling for MP3 and earbuds or playing music through their phone’s speaker?
Because I used to own a dedicated stereo system and because I plan to own one in the coming future, I felt that I needed to consider this question. There is a certain “floor” of quality I insist on, but as far as a “ceiling”, I can’t be sure.
Regarding playback systems, I am not compelled to buy $3k speakers or $6k amplifiers to get the sound quality I require. At the same time, I can’t really tolerate a $100 sound system either. I swap out the stereo in each car I get, always to an improvement. Despite having sound systems at the house, none of them are really satisfying. My home theater system is a booming, bass beast – not good for music. I have a couple small speaker docks that are ok for background music, but not for listening. My best sound system is my computer running through my Event studio monitors. Next year, I’ll get my listening system for the living room.
When I do buy my stereo, I’ll be buying what my budget allows from a quality brand. For a true audiophile, this wouldn’t be satisfactory. Consumer brands have lots of quality problems, and they would be able to identify what they are. I wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be able to tell by listening either. After all, I don’t have any opportunity to compare systems, since I don’t have any friends (with stereo systems). Neither do I have the money to swap out components to try and make small to moderate improvements that I may not even notice. So, what I have is what I hear and what I will enjoy.
As far as listening goes, I’m not sure I have the ear to be an audiophile. I can identify obviously bad sound (like my theater system), but after a certain point, I can’t identify differences. I can say that I don’t like it, but I wouldn’t be able to explain why. More discerning people could say it was because of compression or eq or “presence” and some of the best could say it was because of speaker placement or wiring or the amp’s power supply. I can’t do that.
The last piece of the loaded question is why not take the time to evaluate different masterings of albums to have the “best”? My current stance is to own a version as close to the original as possible. Before, I didn’t really have a position. I’d just buy whatever was available. I’ve decided that the original mix/mastering is the authority. That’s what people liked. A remaster is not a re-release. It’s not like an album from 1986 is going to re-enter the charts because it was remastered. All remastering is for existing fans. It’s like version upgrades of software.