A new year stretches out beyond our view yet I see a path filled with hope, music, and gear.
I’d like to start by going back, way back, to the first review I ever wrote which appeared in the (virtual) pages of 6moons in March of 2005:
The ability of a system to allow the recording to unfold is usually conveyed in ultimate terms as bringing the performance into your listening room. By contrast, the PHYs invite you into the performance. Maybe a subtle distinction but I’d like to suggest that listening in to the nuances of music as opposed to being wowed by the presence of the musicians may just let us enjoy something that’s more about the music and less about the gear its playing through.
This quote, which is among my favorites, from Jean-Marie Piel, Journalist and Joint Editor-in-Chief for Diapason, followed:
The essence of an interpretation lies in working on the infinitely small — be it an attack on a note held back for a fraction of a second (perceptible if the preceding note is reproduced neither too short nor too long), or be it a note that develops in itself; or, on a larger level, a crescendo or diminuendo encompassing several notes — all of which gives music a sense of direction, its palpable dynamics, its quivering life, and all of which, in the end, lies in the nuances.
As you can see, my tune hasn’t really changed. When reviewing a piece of gear, my focus, my interest, lies in what’s going on inside me. How does a given piece of gear in my system affect the way I respond to music. This approach necessitates the need to listen over time — weeks at a minimum. It is my belief, based on experience, that if we don’t give these things time, our preferences overwhelm our perceptions. This is, to my mind, common sense. It is also the case that if you want to handicap the ability to perceive difference, there’s nothing better than rapid A/B “tests”.
The Subjective Review
I’ve seen any number of people type these words over the years, subjective review, as if there’s such a thing as an objective review when it comes to listening to music on a hifi. While I’ve never seen such a beast, I’d imagine it would taste like cardboard. I’d rather eat cheese.
A HiFi Joke
I invited a few Audio Precision Analyzers over for a listening party. Worst guests ever! All they wanted to do was take my hifi apart and listen to test tones through components.
My intentions as I travel through 2021 is to continue to seek out interesting gear and do my level best to communicate how it affects the experience of listening to music through it. Whenever possible, I will also include comparisons to similar gear of equivalent cost which can be an effective way to talk about relative performance and value. And I give you my word that every review I write will be of the subjective variety.
Music will remain a weekly focus as one of my greatest pleasures in life is listening to new music as much as possible. I give myself a “D” for my coverage of Art & Culture in 2020 and will work to include more of the other things I love outside of hifi because man cannot live on hifi alone.