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July 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Which Came First?
Article By Roger Skoff


  I became a Hi-Fi Crazy just for the sound of it, and, as I wrote in a previous article, it took me something more than half a century to discover that somehow over the course of time I had become a full-blown music lover, too. Although that was certainly true for me, I would guess that I'm the exception and that most people, while they seem to follow a similar path, tend to follow it in the opposite direction: Instead of starting out as audiophiles and becoming ensnared by and enamored of music as an unsought additional pleasure, most of them seem to start as music-lovers, and only much later find that their love for music and their desire to experience and enjoy it in its full measure has led them into a commitment to Hi-Fi and great sound.

You know how it is; we're all exposed to music from our infancy – first as lullabies sung to us by our mother, then to singing "I'm a little teapot" in pre-school or our earliest grades of elementary school; then to showing our belonging and full membership in our group of High School peers by loving, dancing to, and conspicuously becoming fans and devotees of whatever music of whatever genre the group has declared to be "cool".

As we grow up, we're exposed to – and even immersed in – music for many or even most of our waking hours: Wherever we go and whatever we do, it's on the radio, it's the background to every movie, every television program, and every commercial; it's on our iPods and our smartphones, it's playing in every store and business; in every elevator; and, in fact, just about everywhere.

With all that exposure, some of it is bound to "stick", and when it does, instead of just listening to it, we find ourselves humming it, whistling it, and sometimes, with the very best or most infectious of it, we find ourselves wanting to buy it and make it our own.

Of course, if you’re going to own it, you're going to need something to play it on, and buying that very first playback system, no matter what it is, is the very first step in what – at least for some of us – will eventually turn into full-fledged audiophilia.

Again, you know what I mean: You buy a thing because you like and want to play a song (or a rap or a symphony) and you love what you've bought, but then (little-by-little, a little later, as Ken Nordine so wonderfully said) either you hear something that makes your song (or your rap or your symphony) sound better or you notice that whatever you're playing it on sounds great, but could actually use a little help with its ________ (fill the blank: bass, treble, clarity, whatever) and although at first you decide that it's not worth troubling yourself about, eventually it's that little lack or flaw or whatever that you put in the blank that's the only thing that you find yourself listening to, and then it's time to go out and buy a new playback system.

That's the start of it, and for many of us there's never any end: Wanting to hear our music at its very best will keep us following the primrose path of real or imagined improvement and our system and the equipment that comprises it will become our "Tantalus' Cup" – always promising, but never quite delivering ultimate sonic satisfaction.  No matter how much time or effort or money we devote to its perfection, there will always be one last little bit more to go; one final touch before it's finished.

The other side is the way I came in: The sound was what hooked me and, as long as it was well-recorded and thrillingly realistic, I really didn't much care what it was that I listened to. That very lack of discrimination allowed me to be drawn to whatever it was that sounded good, regardless of its style, mood, or genre or, in many cases ― Do you remember that famous 1985 recording of Mike Skeet pounding on a metal garage door? (HiFi News & Record Review Test Disc HFN003) ― the fact that it wasn't even music at all!

Thinking of that; thinking of all the recordings of ping-pong games, railroad trains, jet planes, and even (although I don't remember what record it was on) an atomic bomb blast; and considering how many other people must have bought them and played them, too, either for their own enjoyment or just to show-off to their friends, it occurs to me that maybe I wasn't such an exception after all!

Whatever the case, I and however many others of us there may have been were led by our quest for good sound to anything at all that might have sounded good, including almost any kind of music imaginable and, as with music lovers getting "trapped" into becoming audiophiles and equipment crazies, we audiophiles and equipment crazies found ourselves, whether intentionally or not, becoming music lovers, too.

It's sort of like the old question of "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Either the music or the sound can come first; both seem to have the same ultimate effect; and all that really matters is that you...

Enjoy the music!
















































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