Soundhead 2 : The 8 to 9 Basic Sound Groups

We divided components and speakers into 7 or so basic sound groups in the Audiophiles Guide to the Galaxy (speakers, amps, preamps, cd players). These categories are:


This allowed us to both 1) include components and speakers that were not in our opinion the BEST allround components (like MBL), and 2) be more inclusive of other peoples tastes (like the vast numbers of people whose overwhelming priority is for impressiveness).

It is not clear if these categories are formed from:

1) The desires different people have for different types of sound during various stages of their maturity

2) The purposes of the designers when building their products

3) The purposes of the components that they just so happen to have irregardless of their designers intentions

4) The cosmologically fundamental goals of sound reproduction

5) Just a convenient yardstick to use in order to parsel things out so they are not all in one big messy pile

Not sure it matters one way or another.

But we use this methodology in our show reports as well as the Audiophile’s Guide – and some people have asked us to better define these categories. It is kind of a ‘you know it when you hear it’ kind of thing, but here goes anyway:


The most commonly desired category. [1] A big soundstage, powerfull bass, lots of macrodynamics. [2] Lots of midrange detail.


The most neglected category by the very high-end. [1] Competent sound (dynamics, frequency balance, soundstaging, timbre is not terrible). Nothing offensive.


Enjoyable plus something extra. [1] Timber and note envolopes altered to sound more like music does when the listener has consumed alcohol


Also enjoyable and pleasant [1] Exaggerated subtleties.


Often thought to be at the end of the high-end rainbow, but repeated experiences with blues and melancholy music pushes one to go farther. [1] The music pulls at the heart in the direction of the emotional content of the musicians’s message. This effect can be of varying strengths. [2] Leads to mood swings and to listening to more ‘fun’, lighthearted music than before.


True timbe and note envelope development. [1] The subtleties of the sound is real. The correctness of the macrodynamics, level of detail, etc. is not necessary for this category


The ‘Absolute Sound’. Comparable to the real thing. The most often mistakenly heard category. [1] Able to suspend the listener’s sense of disbelief. Transparent – ability to ‘see’ the stage and the musicians. [2] Sufficiently technically correct reproduction but only to the degree where it satisfies requirement [1].


The voice of God. Contact with the Cosmic Consciousness. [1] Somethings occur inside the listener which are not typically associated with listening to music. The music becomes a pathway to experiencing things and ideas that are beyond the usual daydreams one has had before, and in fact, quite strange, but in a good way. [2] Rampant confusion and respect caused by [1]

It appears that Sweet and Sophisticated are subsets of Enjoyable and Natural a subset of Real. So maybe there are only 5 categories.

But wait!

We have been thinking of adding another category that has been kind of included in Magical. And that is “Messenger” or “Communicator”


That the sound is able to communicate not just the emotion, but the musicians state of mind, their intentions during playing the song, the intentions of the author of the piece, the particular skills of a particular musican playing a particular riff, etc. The sound is able to communicate the excitment and anticiaption and confusion of the audience.

It looks like we will have to add a Messenger category. Not sure if this is a property of a component or really of a system as a whole, though.

OK. Anyway – this is how we look at the sounds of various components and hopefully this will help people better understand how we evaluate these things.

Oh, and then there are components and speakers that embody combinations of the above…. like our new Mini Exquisites’s 🙂 [And many other fine products as well, of course… :-)]