A U D I O... P A P E R

FEB 2001
by Steve Deckert




Ironically this is all about that invisible barrier between listening to music live and listening to your stereo. I’m trying to get out of my listening chair and walk straight into the illusion that my stereo system creates and experience the source. To do this I found out that step one is to understand MUSIC has nothing to do with listening.

Listening is something you do with you ears. We listen to words, and we listen to sounds. Music is something you experience with your entire being. Unfortunately most audiophiles listen to music., no actually most audiophiles are caught in the internal hell of listening to their gear. This is an analytical impulse fueled by the combination of testosterone, the fascination for buttons and years of being feed meaningless techno-babble. It is the lowest form of "listening" as it were – audiophile puberty. MUSIC is not heard, it is felt – experienced by your body, and your soul. It is primal not technical, not digital.

To experience (not listen) to music requires either real music, or a damn good illusion of it. Unless of course you’re not an audiophile in which case you can experience music from some pretty half ass gear. Case in point; Before I became and audiophile I owned a EICO receiver (kit built) and a pair of Bose 301 speakers which I favored installed against the ceiling in the corners. I sounded way better than the Pioneer receivers I grew up with and even the Harmon Kardon gear that also wasn’t too shabby in the 70’s. I enjoyed playing records on that system for 15 years, and listened to it every day. I experienced the music, had a mild love affair with my stereo, and stress was never part of the experience. (Today I could no more listen to that then I could enjoy sticking ice picks into my head.)

However, the mind continually evolves, as does ones hearing once the audiophile gnome is switched on. Once this happens and audiophile puberty begins, nothing sounds consistently good because you’re overworking your conscious mind by analyzing everything instead of experiencing it. Like all genetic switches, the audiophile gene is irreversible.

So if you have this gene, the fastest way through puberty is knowledge. The fastest way to knowledge is the Internet – not magazines or trade literature. I’m certainly not the only one who’s full of it. (knowledge that is – okay maybe the other too.) The net is full of sincere and seasoned audiophiles with information that seems to go against everything you thought you knew.



Step one into understanding the other side of music playback (making recordings) is to understand what you are playing back! Music. Best way to understand music is to create it. Now, I did grow up with music, took piano lessons but hated reading music, loved playing by ear. Naturally this stopped my progress and after a few years I quit. Compared to people I know who are musicians, this isn’t much musical experience. Great musicians are formed at an early age as the mind is still developing. For them, those areas of the brain are larger than for non-musically active people.

I decided to become a drummer. Now, why I decided to take on an instrument that requires all 4 limbs to function in perfect harmony and independently of one another is beyond me. Waiting until your almost 40 years old isn’t exactly the easy plan, and then being too stubborn to take official lessons add up to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever attempted to pull off.

Having mastered the adolescent side of being an audiophile – the analytical side, it was incredibly difficult to listen to myself stumble through the beats and fills. My long time friend Paul was a bass player, and his friend Joe played guitar. We sucked bad and it was excruciating for me to listen to during and after each jam. It was also difficult being the worse one and having the least experience. Nevertheless we persisted, and occasionally something interesting would happen… we would sound good. Now, this was my first real first hand experience of the power of music. When three guys who in general suck, can get into a groove that actually sounds impressive, you have to know something else is going on. And in fact something else is going on. Music. I’ve seen it take over and make the musicians minds become one, and raise their abilities an entire level or two above their capabilities.

This magic power of music, a living entity that exists through all dimensions. When properly summoned by the music makers it channels through them to manifest itself. It happens to us all the time, and I’ve observed that it happens to all musicians. It is the magic of a live performance – a genuine energy (entity) that exists in that space at that time for all to feel. And gee whiz, you can see it on an oscilloscope, so no wonder it’s to friking hard to re-create on a digital stereo. Naturally it’s even harder to capture in a recording studio where you have each musician playing in isolation. The actual sound quality of the recording may be better, but the polished and mechanical compilation of it lacks the spirit that invented it.

I have personally had this happen hundreds of times, and it is incredible. I can prove it exists because I’ve recorded every minute of every jam we’ve ever had. In the first year when we, and especially I really sucked, you can listen to hour after hour of recordings spanning an entire year and fully agree that I was a very green drummer. But hidden in these recordings are moments when the power of music took over, and you can hear me do things which even the most accomplished drummers wouldn’t laugh at. Things I could never repeat, even today.

These rare at first experiences were the reason I didn’t get discouraged and just give up. Now a couple years later it happens at least once almost every time we play. Now any musician who’s reading this would be thinking duhhh……. But since I never actually grasped it until it happened to me, and I’ve attended many live concerts, I figure many audiophiles who aren’t musicians wouldn’t know it either.

So, the first major revelation in my quest to investigate the other side of audio playback turned out to be spiritual rather than technical. This of course explains why it’s so difficult to recreate musical euphoria on stereo systems. That and the fact that once the audiophile gnome becomes self aware, hearing continually evolves and what sounded good last year may sound like crap this year. All of this puts real pressure on audio gear. Since the act of listening to speakers is largely a function of the brain’s interpretation of the stimulus, there are two ways to enhance the performance of your listening experience. Mind altering drugs, or Triodes. The later as being legal and much safer, not to mention more effective in many ways.




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