Why we do what we do, and why you should care…

The Home Music System

“Our system” “my hi-fi” “the stereo.” These are terms people use to refer to the machinery used to play back recorded music in the home. Generically, a music system is an assemblage of electronic and electromagnetic component parts into a whole designed to present recordings and broadcasts of music for the pleasure of listeners.It can be as simple, I suppose, as a boom-box, although the idea that a “system” can be made up of one device is a bit of a stretch, or more like a shrink. Here the boom-box serves us better as the base line, the device easily demonstrated to be insufficient to support listening to music. At the other end of the spectrum, a music system can be as involved as a dedicated room filled with the most arcane examples of the audiophile designers’ art that appears to the newcomer as though a mad scientist has brought his lab home with him.

Let’s briefly explore what makes some people drawn toward the latter- the rarefied heights of the hierarchy- and why a healthy injection of it into the lives of all lovers of music might be a very good thing.Do you have a passion? I don’t mean for a person/people, your work or sleep. I mean, do you have something you can’t wait to do in your free time? It might be cooking, or playing tennis, or reading novels, or cycling, or wine. Anything you tend to be way more attracted to and absorbed in, not to say obsessed with, than the “average person,” whoever that is.

For me, ever since my late teens, my biggest passion has been for “listening to music.” I realize that someone looking at the primary place I do this, my “listening room,” might observe that I am an audiophile, or even a budding mad scientist. And someone looking at the spare bedroom upstairs might think I am a record collector. But I am a self-described music lover, and part of a sub-species of music listener who prefers recordings to concerts, all things considered. I  have chosen to do what I do for a living partly because it so deeply involves my love of music as a listener, and, while many who meet me express a degree of envy that my work looks like play to them, there are those who insightfully wonder if I ever burn out on music. The answer is I do not. I am still, more than thirty years into it, likely to come home from a work day and turn on my music system for more.

Why? Listening to great recordings on a well set up, high resolution music system does something to me that no other experience does. It transports me to other worlds, instantly both strongly evoking past memories and emotions while opening up new and inspiring insights into the arts and humanity. It connects me more deeply to who I am at the same time as it shows me similarities with and differences from others. And sometimes it just forces me to stand up and dance (which I do terribly and in private) or sing (which I do only reasonably and sometimes, unintentionally, in public). I love what it does to and for me, how it makes me feel. And when I am away from it, I crave it. It’s pretty much the same story with all of us here at Ultra Fidelis.

So how can our mania help you? The difference between a music playback system that fails to excite the music lover in you (here comes our boom-box) and one that does boils down to what I call “The People-In-The-Room Phenomenon.” That is, the ability of the playback system and recording to convince you that you are sharing your listening space with living, breathing performers, in other words that there are “people in the room” with you. For any given music lover, there is a line, albeit a fuzzy one, on the other side of which this phenomenon occurs, and, once it does, the music changes from background to front of mind and becomes a wholly participatory experience. When the degree of realism to the sound of the system is sufficiently great, you become almost involuntarily caught up in the music. It’s as if your brain is telling you that it would be impolite to ignore these musicians who have shown up to perform for you. You better pay attention! Of course this doesn’t mean you can never multi-task with a great system playing music, letting the music waft in and out of your primary focus. But it can be challenging!

I had a younger couple in the store recently. They drove quite a distance as he is a long standing customer who has moved away, but remains a loyal supporter. She is his wife whom he married since he moved and whom I had not met. The purpose of the visit was to audition a pair of speakers for a possible system upgrade path, and they both sat on the couch- he in the center, where the sound is most engaging, and she beside him, intent on catching up on some work on her smart phone. They brought some music on the trip, but not his usual batch of go-to familiar recordings for an audition, so we played some of their music and some of ours. For a little over an hour, we listened and talked. Initially, while the music was on, she appeared to be working away. He would listen intently, and we would discuss what we heard, and then listen some more. At the end of it, he felt sure he wanted to make the change to their system at home, but he asked her if she too had heard improvements. She immediately indicated she had. In fact, she said, it had prevented her from being able to concentrate on her work, so she had simply put it down and listened. She summed it up by saying the sound, “caught my breath and made me just want to listen to the music.”

Bear in mind that this couple has a very nice music system at home that sounds wonderful. For all practical purposes, we had replicated it in the store except for the speaker change. Their experience at the audition, hers in particular, demonstrates how important this fuzzy line between boring sound and great sound is. At this audition, it wasn’t fuzzy at all. They had both crossed back into the realm of listening to music with fresh ears and full excitement quotient, she without even intending to. There were, once again, people in the room.

It is a constant source of amazement, and pleasure, to me, both in my own experience, and observing friends and customers, to see the effect of listening to music on a really good, properly set up system. The mind can really dig into the music when the sound is so good there is no need for the brain to figure out what’s going on. Every nuance of composition, performance and musicianship is instantly much more apparent to even the most casual music lover. The seemingly complex, abstract language of music is unveiled in all its glory and with a direct pipeline to your emotions. It is debatable whether the greater benefit of this is the joy in rediscovering familiar, well-loved music, or the thrill of the door thrown open to the whole world of new experiences in new genres, but any way you slice it, it is life-changing.

Here is where you come in. You don’t need any special talents or tools to discover what kind of music system is right for you. All you need is the desire for it in your life. You simply come in to the store, perhaps with some favorite music (but we have quite a bit on hand if you don’t), and listen. We will be your gentle tour guides on the amazing journey to find those people hiding in your room at home and bring them out to perform for you. You just decide how much of it you want, something at which we have some significant expertise in helping you determine, and then our team comes to your house and makes it happen. Simple and painless!

Our experience tells us that setting up a pre-arranged time, perhaps even when we are closed to walk-in traffic works best, but if you are more comfortable just walking in, we certainly understand. Any way you choose to do it, we look forward to joining you and providing the support on your personal musical exploration.

-Jonathan

 

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