Enjoy the Music.com

The Absolute Sound

From The Editor...
August / September 2005
By Robert Harley

Music First

  My article this issue on getting the best sound from the iPod will no doubt trigger an avalanche of letters, Apples ubiquitous portable music player (ten million sold and counting) has caused a polarizing division among audiophiles, who consider it either a wonderful new way to access music or, as a letter writer in the previous issue suggested, one more step in the downfall of Western civilization.

The anti-iPod faction sees the device as yet another example of how modern life diminishes richness in experience. The iPod substitutes focused listening to music with  listening to music as if it were sonic wallpaper to our daily activities. Not only is music reduced to a secondary role, but it is also compressed and squeezed with no regard for quality and — to add insult to injury — reproduced through cheap earbuds. Such a device doesn't honor music; it trivializes it by reducing listening to a background activity unworthy of our full attention.

I have a different view. Audio hardware exists for one simple purpose: to connect people with music. The iPod happens to be remarkably adept at doing just that. It allows me to access, easily and instantly, nearly 200 hours of my favorite music just about whenever and wherever I want. It brings music into my life at times when and in places where I wouldn’t normally be able to listen. It expands the opportunities and possibilities for enjoying music. How can anyone argue that’s a bad thing? A tragic consequence of being an audiophile can be the inability to connect with music unless it's reproduced at some "acceptable" level of sound quality. How ironic that those who pursue musical pleasure most intently are the quickest to deny themselves that pleasure because the sound quality is beneath their level of refinement and discrimination.

Moreover, asking whether the Pod is a musical marvel or the sonic equivalent of "pasteurized processed, American cheese-type food product" is ascribing to a piece of hardware characteristics that it cannot possess. The iPod’s ability to enhance or diminish our lives does not lie in circuits, hard drives, displays, and thumbwheels but in our own minds and hearts. The iPod's value as a device for enjoying music isn’t intrinsic to the hardware; it exists in our relationship with music. If we care about music enough to buy an iPod, catty it with us, and use it in a way that connects us with music, then the iPod has quality. If we don't care enough to make music an important part of our lives and use the iPod in a way that reflects that lack of caring, then the iPod is a low-quality device.

In fact, what separates high-end audio from mass-market audio isn't the price tag and brand name, or where the product is sold. Rather, the difference is solely a matter of the designer's attitude. I'd argue that a $700 power amplifier created by a designer who cares so much about how his customers experience music that he relentlessly pursues every possible circuit permutation and painstakingly evaluates every part is more high-end than a $5000 power amplifier designed without such dedication. If the designer is skilled and caring, the product can't help but be of high quality. As Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: "Care and Quality ate internal and external aspects of the same thing."

One person's entire musical experience may be limited to listening to massively compressed iPod files while he is preoccupied with other activities. Another may use the iPod as I described in my article — as a vehicle for connecting with music when he can't sit in front of loudspeakers. With a caring approach to getting the best sound from the iPod, and using it in a way that values the listening experience, the iPod becomes a device that honors, rather than dishonors, music.

Let the avalanche begin.

 

 

     
 

Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

 

Videos
Enjoy the Music.TV

 

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Show Reports
The HiFi Summit Q2 2021
T.H.E. Show 2021 Report
The HiFi Summit Q4 2020
The HiFi Summit Q2 2020
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2020
Florida Audio Expo 2020 Show Report
New York Audio Show 2019 Report
Capital Audiofest 2019 Show Report
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2019
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
AXPONA 2019 Show Report
Zagreb AV Show Report 2019
CanJam Singapore 2019 Show Report
Salon Audio Montreal Audio Fest 2019
Click here for previous shows.

 

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty

 

Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

 

Partner Print Magazines
audioXpress
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

 

 

    

Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright©  1995 - 2021  HighEndAudio.com and Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.