The better it sounds the less Real it is…?
This attitude annoys me.
Many people believe “The better it sounds the less Real it is”.
Another say to say this: “The better a system is, the worse it sounds”.
That the ‘Absolute Sound’ produced by a audio reproduction systems [aka hifi] should usually sound aggressive and unpleasant and, conversely, if the music produced by a sound system is enjoyable and engaging – it must not be the Absolute Sound, it must not really be sounding like the real thing.
This sentiment has been a commonly held doctrine since solid-state mugged audio in the 60s, and wildly expounded and pontificated upon [albeit implicitly] since digital smashed into audio in the 80s.
It has two underlying extremely pessimistic assumptions:
1. that the current state of high-end audio reproduction is so poor, that if it actually attempts to be accurate, it will of course sound unpleasant most of the time, and
2. that the quality of the source material is so poor, that even were the reproduction to be flawless, the sound would not often be all that pleasant to listen to
There are many, many people who believe this, people in important positions in our industry, and they are a very vocal group. In a large sense, they are the ones who, after selling this idea to themselves to explain all the horrible sounding gear that passed for ‘the best’ for so many years – they then proceeded to sell it to everyone else.
This is not just “Krell on Wilson”, that was only a symptom. This is JV’s snidely comments about ‘As You Like It’ systems that actually [can you imagine?] sound good. This has even impacted JA and Mike Fremer, as one looks at their choice of systems over the years. [HP has been less infected, IMHO]
What does it do to an industry when the most prominent figures think that, by-and-large, the goal of the products produced by that industry should NOT be enjoyable? Maybe it does to that industry the same thing that, uh, has happened to ours?
Seriously, if we somehow just sent all the press, dealers and manufacturers who think this way to Tahiti for 5 years and only presented and sold systems that actually sounded good [and, I would argue, actually sounded like music], it would be [I hypothesize] the start of another Golden Age for our hobby.
[in the next post, we will talk about how it is perhaps the misshapen and gnarled misinterpretation of the Absolute Sound that has kept the industry in this cul-de-sac, sonically if not economically]