Paul McGowan writes:
I mentioned that the first step in setting any system up is to get to know your music well. This can serve you in many ways: including bringing your collection of music to an audio show to hear what it sounds like. This only really works if you’re intimately familiar with a certain cut of a disc.
So what does “intimately familiar” mean? Does it mean you’ve memorized each and every note and know exactly what that sounds like – and look for the same on a new system or following a change you’ve made to your own? No. It means learning an overall feel for the piece – an overview if you will – focusing on the big, rather than the minute.
For example, my friend Rick Becker wrote to me the following “I find it interesting that some recordings produce an ‘I am there’ imaginary response, while other recordings produce a ‘They are here (in my listening room)’ imaginary response, usually dependent upon the recording technique”. Well said and it helps explain what I am referring to – because Rick is taking in the overview of the piece and how he relates to it.
We’re all a bit different in what resonates with us in the quest for better sound – and how our sound memories work – but if we try and relate to the big picture of a piece of music and focus on the way the music makes us feel, whether it’s great for toe tapping, or perhaps as Rick puts it “the musicians in your room or you in theirs” or distant, or thin vs. fat, real vs. recorded. It’s as if you’re writing a mini review in your head.
Learning this technique will prove invaluable to you for judging equipment, rooms, setups. I was at an audio show and walked into a room where they were playing a cut of something I am extremely familiar with and it sounded completely out of whack. I wanted to go over to the setup guys and change things – I could have fixed that system within 10 minutes because what was wrong was so obvious to me – but of course that would have been out of line and I kept my mouth shut.
The point is this: I knew the cut so intimately that I could have finged around with just the speakers enough to get it right. Only my intimate knowledge of this cut made that possible. So learning your library – from an overview perspective – is key to starting your quest to better sound within a given room.