A funny thing happened on the way to Pluto

.. to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new emotional experiences and new states of mind. To boldly go where no music has taken us before.

Teeter-tottering on the line between Heart Sound and Mind Sound [see sidebar] …. there is a place. It is easy to feel helpless in this place.

The heart has what it wants, fully occupied and defenseless against emotional content that plucks the heartstrings and exercises our hormonal responses to sonic stimuli.

The mind has what it wants, fully occupied with sufficient resolution and veracity and verisimilitude as it exerts itself examining the fractal landscape of finer and finer audiophile attributes… seeking out flaws and entertainment [does the mind really do anything else?], so much so that our ‘CPU is maxed out’.

In this place – to an observer we appear catatonic. We look not that much different from just someone really, really focused on listening to the music. But there will be tell-tale differences.

Like not moving for extended periods of time. Not even a little bit. [I see people come out of this by irritably scratching and rearranging their position as they come back from this kind of out-of-body experience. Yep, sometimes this just means the sound sucks. But this is not what we are talking about here].

This is not ‘listening to the music’ like a musician or lay-person. This is not ‘listening to the sound’ like an audiophile. This is using music as a kind of propellant [or drug ūüôā see sidebar] to go ‘places’.

End of part I.


The Holy Grail of High-end Audio

From my point of view the Holy Grail of High-end Audio is

  • not about technology
  • not about sound and resolution and dynamics [though they are so much fun!]
  • not even really about the music [though I have my preferences]
  • It is about the experience: how it makes me feel and the ‘places’ it takes me.

Haven’t been posting a lot lately. A lot of this is because we have kind of been stuck travelling around the solar system and out among the stars.

See, it just so happened that we got the big Acapella Apollon loudspeakers, the Audio Note flagship Gaku-on amplifiers and the flagship Harmonic Resolution Systems equipment rack AND Roon all at more or less the same time.

Didn’t plan it this way. Would have tried to avoid it if we could do it over again. But here we are.

The OVERWHELMING improvement in the quality and depth of the experience, over what was already one of if not THE best in the Bay Area [my apologies to those who are burnt out on the all the lying superlatives tinged with righteous indignation that the poor internet in drowning in these days – but how else am I to describe this experience?], has been so significant that my ability to focus and report on what we are hearing is extremely difficult.

Let’s come back to Earth and talk about Roon.

Our audacious goal had been to make Roon sound as good as or better than other most other systems when they play vinyl or CD.

We lucked out in that the Audio Note level 5 DACs are a great match for streaming music. Their design has always been great for making average redbook CDs sound like they are supposed to [as opposed to the majority of other DACs that emphasize the flaws and only sound good on ‘audiophile-grade recordings’]. And this has translated perfectly to making streaming music sound like it is supposed to.

When the industry went from vinyl to CD, all we got was a little more convenience. Going from CD to streaming, we got literally 1000s of times more music. For old timers like me this is like Christmas over and over and over again.

I thought I had all of Frisell’s albums. Nope. And Jarre’s and Floyd’s and Neil’s. Nope. So many [new to me] albums of my favorite artists to be played. And more or less for free. [ And I can find them when I want to ūüôā ]

And they sound GREAT.

I mean, what can I say? [I can say the EMM Labs NS1 is a big step up over the old Auralic streamer. More detail, flatter response, less grunge. There you do, standard audiophile stuff]

This whole thing has been almost a religious experience [and I wonder about that ‘almost’]. The experience is ongoing …and I will write more about the Experience until I am better able to write about the nitty gritty audiophile details.

The cover photo is from the 10 hour long video [it gets boring after like a minute, IMO, but cool idea]:


Ear Caressing Sound

This one of three posts on Ear Caressing Sound, Body Caressing Sound and Soul Caressing Sound.

These are hard to describe, but we’ll give it a go. Of the three, I’ve found Ear Caressing to be the most rare, Body Caressing less so, and Soul Caressing the most often experienced of the three. But YMMV.

Ear caressing is partly a physical sensation and partly a sonic effect.

It occurs when the ears are buffeted by sound in such a way that it feels almost like someone is whispering in both your ears at the same time [or nearly the same time.¬†The different arrival time of the caresses is not disturbing at all, but kind of playful, and much like waves in a swimming pool as they splash the sides of the pool – it feels like the caresses are part of a physical whole that is very organic in shape. Now that I think about it, it is very like having your ears slightly underwater near the edge of a pool, and the feeling of the water kind of ‘splashing the ears’ in a random,¬†but very natural,¬†rhythm].

It is this extremely intimate, very human, warm, perfectly natural feeling. As if there is a person whispering to you and it is your loving parent, spouse or lover.

You feel their ‘breath’ as ‘they’ speak to you, but their words are the music you are listening to.

It is kind of like a headphone effect if headphones could move that much air.

This has happened to me only a handful of times, and¬†fairly recently at that – or perhaps it’s uniqueness has just not called attention to itself until recently.

If fact, it has only happened with the Acapella Atlas horn speakers, and only when they are setup a certain way. They are very close to being setup that way now, but not quite. I am not sure that Neli or Kevin heard this effect – and during setup all I have been able to do is mumble incoherently something like ‘Wait I think this position is interesting’ before they all talk about how¬†one speaker ‘looks’ like it is too close, or pointing out instead of of in, or all the other hallucinations involving speakers in the uneven mostly octagonal-shaped room late at night.

I do not know what event or combination of circumstances have allowed me to experience Ear Caressing now.


1. It requires horn speakers and their ability to create distinctive dynamic waves of sound and we haven’t had horn speakers here for 10 years or so

2. It has something to do with the shape of each of our ears and how they uniquely capture and guide sound waves into the ear canal – and I was just lucky that my particular ears interfaced this way with a particular setup position of these particular speakers.

3. We had the speakers setup here to within a fraction of an inch of where they are supposed to be, and that we rarely get this lucky where the speakers are setup so perfectly

4. It just didn’t ‘click’ that this ‘effect’ was an effect worth distinguishing from other ‘effects’. Certainly I know I have experienced Body Caressing Sound many times before, but did not think to identify is as something kind of unique until after I had thought about and called out Ear Caressing as a particular effect that could be discussed and … pursued.

And I *do* want to pursue this effect.

Sometimes it is a lot like our Mother whispering into our ears that they love us, when we were very, very little and trusting and could still believe that someone could really love us THAT much.  More often it is like she is whispering a fantastic tale, her warm breath gently playing on our young ears, in such a way that we could not help but believe that the story was true.

There is something about this kind of sound that gets around our usual defenses and cynical calculations and automatic emotional responses – to go right directly to the heart of us.

But I won’t be able to pursue it unless I can convince Neli that it actually exists [not an easy task will that be :-)]. Hmmmm…..