Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oral Sects

Do audiophiles have a special language of their own, or is it just a symptom of the perception on how skeptical people see as the persistent delusion that everyone of us perpetuate on a daily basis?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since I’ve learned how to read and write, I’ve always had a closeted fascination for anthropology. It might be because there’s been a consensus in the anthropological community of late that of all the 6,000 languages documented globally, only half of them are taught or passed on to the next generation. Is this a foreboding that the audiophile community is in danger of waning away into oblivion?

The terms that are also used by those- analytical- bunch called “engineers” whether of the electronic, acoustic, or of the communications persuasion will not be discussed here to avoid duplication. Here, we concentrate on the more subjective terms that can only be assessed by first hand listening.

One of these subjective terms is called “audiophilia nervosa” which means someone is more concerned on how there favorite musical piece. For example Beethoven’s Ninth/Ode to Joy will sound on a certain brand or audio system set-up as opposed to whether the music in question is well-performed or inherently well-composed in the first place. To me, this is the root cause of some audiophile’s apparent dissatisfaction of their hi-fi equipment they already have. Thus spending ungodly amounts of money in perpetual equipment upgrade in search of that “perfect sound”. If you think you are suffering from this sort of mental illness, better take a long hard look at your record/music collection.

Musicality is also a very subjective term. It means when certain stereo equipment can replicate not only the sound of the recorded music being played but also the emotion the artist or performer is trying to convey. As opposed to sounding just like a collection of electronic equipment and speakers. A certain audiobuddy of mine has a rig with a penchant of replicating the sound of a heavy metal band drum kit, albeit a drum kit being played in an acoustically treated space. Civilians/non-audiophiles hate my audiobuddy’s system for the reason that they can’t hear the tweeter working. All they hear are various cymbals, rim shots, and drum skins. Mind you these are the same “civilians” who like their tweeter to sound like a cricket or a cicada screaming its guts out.

Imaging and soundstaging is more akin to using visual descriptions to gauge your audio system’s capability. The individual sounds comprising a sonic ensemble. And how accurately your audio system differentiates them in their respective locations in space is known as imaging. While soundstaging is about how your audio system projects the sum total of the individual sound images from left to right of the speakers or to the front to back of them. Soundstaging usually applies to traditional two-channel stereo where the performance is happening in front and this is the way we preferred it. The lead guitarist never ever sneaks up behind me in real life.

To me, the one that takes the cake is the term called “British sound” or to describe a sound system as “British sounding”. To me, it might be because the Brits have been making hi-fi kit for a much longer time and in greater variety when compared to other industrialized nations. Or more likely, it’s because the typical British audiophile has a certain size and construction of listening rooms: medium sized in global terms, wood floored, and with walls made of plaster or brick. They also prefer a more upbeat sound, or they prize the sense of pace, rhythm, and timing in their audio systems.

So, there you have it. Feel free to drop us a line if there’s anything that we missed, or if you have a first hand experience about these mysterious audiophile phenomena.

1 comment:

Heidi Gail said...

Such nice "wordplay." I'm a newbie when it comes to things hi-fi, and I'm still developing my audiophile vocabulary and ear "pallete." Check out Stereophile magazine's website at .