Hifi as recovery

I like nothing better than to lay some toys on the ground for the kids and put in a good record. After a long day hacking around chasing children, it refills the cup.

Hifi as a Sanctuary

Life is not easy. To paint a bit of a bleak picture – even if you have all the money in the world, friends, family and health – the slow ticking of time in the background tells you It’s a losing battle. None of us will get out of here alive.

So what to do? Well among countless other mindfulness and health exercises, we should engage in activities which take time out of the equation. I mean those activities that engage us so fully, we can’t hear the ticking and the tocking. Time seems to stand still.

This is a sanctuary of sorts. This is music, audio and hifi for me.

Hifi and science

On an anecdotal level, hifi music often overwhelms everything else I am doing. When I hear a song that I like, on equipment that i like, nothing else really matters. I am happy and absorbed, and ensconced in the sound.

On an evolutionary level, why do we humans enjoy music? Why do we dance? What is it about certain sounds that makes me feel like i do? What is the evolutionary function of music? Are these feelings and effects all just neural impulses? If so, to what end?

Luckily I am not the first person to think about these things. I have just come across a book that I hope will help me answer some of these questions, or at least explore some of these ideas.

Hifi and WW2

Cognitive dissonance is tricky to deal with.

In Germany after the war, Allied forces found a new recording technology – magnetic tape. This provided a huge leap in audio fidelity ahead of disc recordings and rapidly became the dominant mastering medium for sound. The Nazi’s had used it for a while already for broadcasting. It later enabled multi-track recording and led to the first hifi systems being created.

Fast forward 74 years and here we are, the audio equivalent of the autobahn. A Nazi legacy item that audiophiles and musicians couldn’t really do without. Magnetic tape enables those timbres, tones and spacious melodies.

Of course it would have been infinitely better without the war, and with Nazis never having existed.

But here we are.

Hook line and sinker

I have this old stereo amplifier. I bought it from a slick salesman. He linked the amp up to some INCREDIBLE speakers in his made-for-purpose listening room. I was blown away and handed over too much cash. I’ve been trying to patch together that same sound ever since.

The thing is, I WANTED this to happen. I wanted to hear the perfect set up, I wanted to hand over my money and yes deep down I even wanted the frustration afterwards of not quite getting the salesman’s sound.

We humans are strange animals. A quest is often more fulfilling than a destination. But demonstrating a destination is a powerful sales technique.

Hook line and sinker.

Roon + Tidal

I have recently signed up to both Roon and Tidal. So many websites and commentators are raving about it.

Linking your Tidal account to Roon gives you endless volumes of high fidelity music and MQA format recordings in a beautiful package.

It is convenient, sounds great, and the Roon software is staggering – it needs to be experienced to be understood but to me one of the key things that Roon does well is give you suggestions and notes to read while you listen to a track – this combination is key. The reading element brings back the old LP / CD cover notes vibe to streaming music. A wonderful thing and I am sold.

Now to optimise the Roon Core / DAC / MQA combinations! Can’t wait.

Affirmations

This week I have had two very conflicting experiences on the net. One was a Twitter exchange which devolved rapidly into aggressive one-upmanship. That wasn’t fun and so I am off Twitter (again!) – I just don’t have the time to get good at Twitter.

Another was an invitation by a reader of my blog to answer some questions on music and audio. It was really enjoyable and I see it as a privilege to be asked to write about something I love so much. Rafael’s blog can be found here. I presume my questions and answers will show up soon enough.

On a more personal level, it is really satisfying to get an ad hoc request for writing about audio. That is exactly the sort of thing I want to do more of. So, two affirmations – one with regards to my poor Twitter skills. One encouraging my writing and my love of audio.

On reflection, this has been an excellent and productive week so far 🙂