Evaluating Gear using the Heart versus Mind Approach

Different than Warm versus Cold Sound

Looking at gear in terms of where it lies on the Heart < --- > Mind scale is different from comparing things based on their sound’s relative warmth or coldness. For one, we are talking about the effect on the listener and not some under-defined properties of the sound [typically 2nd harmonic distortion and plentiful micro-dynamics versus overly aggressive note attacks and/or flat note tops and minimal ability to render subtleties].

For another, we are removing any assessment of the quality of the sound. Sound quality is on a whole separate scale. We can talk about high-quality and low quality components and why they are of this quality completely separate from talking about whether they primarily target the heart of the listener or their mind.

How to Assess Basic Quality

How the component performs with respect to our 3 main mental Music Processors gives us a sense of the basic quality of a component [the other, Pattern Detecting/Matching Processors help us assess the drug-like possibilities of the component]

Our Believability Helper Processor

How much effort does our mind have to exert to convince us that the sound we are hearing is actually music. Typically non-audiophiles ignore how much effort they are putting into this processor and almost all audio gear sounds believable to them.

Our Whiteout Processor

How much of the sound is so bad that we have to completely erase as it is coming into our ears. This may vary for person to person: for me it is often the beginning of each note that I mentally erase when the sound is too aggressive. Hard to do this forever [more than a few seconds :-)] though.

Our Rainbow Processor

How much of our mental energy are we having to add to make the sound sound Grrrreat.

How to Assess General Location of a Component on the Heart versus Mind Scale

This is hard to put in words.

For me, I figure out which part of me is listening to the music. If it is mostly mental: hear that awesome note, hear that tight bass note, boy those chines sound so beautiful – then you know that the sound is appealing to your mind.

If you keep getting swept into the music, having to fight to ‘maintain’ your adult [cool, calm, collected] demeanor when others are around, a feeling of wanting to smile or cry or dance, then the sound is appealing to your heart.

Some gear doesn’t appeal to either Heart or Mind. This kind of gear is unappealing and one has to rely on one’s Rainbow Processor to make it appealing in some manner.

Usually the sound of a piece of gear is a combination of Heart and Mind and depends somewhat on one’s mood to start with, and also the particular piece being played [but not as much as one might think].

Building Systems

Usually we build systems for people that balance Mind and Heart, with good doses of both, unless they really have a preference one way or another. This is kind of like balancing a warm component with a cool component, except that it works independent of how warm or cool the components are [terms which are derogatory terms to many people] – instead addressing directly what affect the listener wants to achieve. For example, one can build a Mind-centric system composed completely of what some would call warm tube gear.


We apply this approach to the real-world and compare popular gear using their position on the Heart < -- > Mind scale.