Today’s Hi-Fi is Better than Yesterday’s. (Possibly)
If I may be permitted a dangerously broad and rather sweeping generalisation, most hi-fi systems today – from the pretty basic, to state of the art – give far more evenly-balanced results than those of (say) twenty or thirty years ago. That’s certainly so in my case. For this reason, the sonic difference between Great, Good, and Average recordings is no longer as pronounced as it once was.
A downside of this is that there’s now less incentive to buy new CDs of works one already has unless they’re exceptionally interesting or unusual, musically. CDs don’t wear out, so even if you play a disc 24/7 it’ll last forever. The lure of a new Rite of Spring, with deep powerful bass drum bangs that literally shake the foundations of the house, is still there, but it’s not as strong as it once was. I can live without it, thanks.
Improved sonics are fine and dandy. But better sound will not necessarily deepen your insight into the music, nor enhance your enjoyment and understanding of it. Indeed, impressive sound can actually be obtrusive and get in the way. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself listening to the impact of the bass drum and its powerful attack and floor-shaking depth, rather than the music.
Like the man in the Flanders and Swann song, I freely admit I used to derive a lot of pleasure from listening to High-Fidelitee. Alas, not any more! Now, when hi-fi friends come over and ask to me to demonstrate the new amp or CD player I’m currently reviewing, I feel slightly stupid standing there playing brilliant colourful music just to impress them. It all seems rather pointless and juvenile.