What Do You Listen For?

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by moviemusic, May 4, 2018.

  1. moviemusic

    moviemusic AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Seattle, WA
    Possibly a noob question, but...

    I've read a lot of reviews and discussions about different equipment, albums, the whole shebang. However, the part I'm curious about is this: what are people actually listening for? If you're auditioning a new piece of equipment, what kind of improvements in sound quality are you listening for that would make it a keeper? I mean specifically--a lot of people talk about things like 'rolled off treble' or 'weak midrange'--but what does that even mean? What do you listen for that would indicate a 'weak midrange' or 'really tight bass'? Do you listen for certain instruments, to see how well their sound is replicated--for instance, I've read that apparently cymbal crashes and decays are very hard for speakers to reproduce accurately? Or specific kinds of music, where you know what it should sound like, because you've heard it played live? Or are you looking to hear background sounds and other subtleties in a recording that a lesser system won't even reproduce? Or something else?

    Obviously, everyone's ears are different. I'm just curious what other people's criteria (and priorities) are when judging sound reproduction. :)
    Tom White likes this.


    Please register to disable this ad.

  2. Balifly

    Balifly Listening Subscriber

    Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Listen to/for which ever musical instrument you may be familiar with. :music:
    Bill Ferris likes this.
  3. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

    Eastern Bamastan
    As much of what is going on as I can hear. Good gear lets me do that without drawing attention to itself or getting in the way.
    Last edited: May 5, 2018
    triode17 and Bill Ferris like this.
  4. jackwoz

    jackwoz What Noisy Cats Are We...

    8Mile & I-94
    I listen to the snare drum, how far away it sounds. Am I next to it, in the front row or back in the bar,, It's my measuring stick, if the sound is good, it draws me in..
  5. Roadrash

    Roadrash AK Subscriber Subscriber

    St.Louis MO
    The only time I listen for anything is when I make changes in my system, other than that I listen to it.
  6. Todd Dodds

    Todd Dodds AK Subscriber Subscriber

    South of Asheville NC
    I'm still a beginner, so I keep it simple. I wouldn't know a 3rd order harmonic from a pimple on a monkey's butt. Right now, I concentrate on imaging and staging. Learning good bass from flubby bass is easy enough. Carts...yeah, you can identify differences, but I think the folks that get all into the sounds of tonearms and tables are either supernatural, or just pulling our novice legs.
    It's like any other hobby...experience counts.
    Bodyblue likes this.


    Please register to disable this ad.

  7. JoeESP9

    JoeESP9 ESL's & tubes since 83

    Philadelphia PA
    I concentrate on trying to make my system sound like the Philadelphia Orchestra does in my seat at Verizon Hall in The Kimmel Center.
    Audiovet, stish, Bill Ferris and 2 others like this.
  8. dcmfan

    dcmfan AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Welcome 2 Missouri
    I listen for lifelike sound. Tough to explain, but I know it when I hear it. With better gear I catch myself thinking about the performance. With lesser gear I tend to think about the recording. The best is when I completely forgot that I'm listening to a stereo at all.

    Someone mentioned snare drums and I also listen closely to the drums. They should have a sharp strike and full sound. If the drums are right, everything else tends to fall into place.

    I also aim to set things up so the sound is detached from the speakers. When it's right and with a good recording, the sound is three dimensional and placed around the speakers, not anchored to them.

    Also, I pay attention to how easy it is to follow any part of the recording. Better gear makes it easier to follow a bass line or vocal inflection compared to lesser gear. (Same applies to setup - when speaker positioning isn't optimal, this takes more concentration). When it's all dialed in, my attention can jump easily from one musical element to another.

    One thing that helped me a lot was listening to some well set up high quality gear. If there's a retailer nearby, stop in and see if they will demo something really good. You'll probably find that you already have a big portion of what constitutes good sound, but you might also notice some things about the sound that you can be on the hunt for.
    Audiotfoot, red 111, bobins08 and 2 others like this.
  9. robert_kc

    robert_kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Midwest USA
    I agree.

    IMO reproduced classical music has a clear benchmark - i.e., a live performance of classical music performed in its intended venue (i.e., symphony hall or opera house) with no electronics involved. Period.

    Here’s my local venues for classical music and opera:



    OTOH, if you listen to electronically generated music … then I can’t offer an opinion. I suppose: “whatever floats your boat …”

    I respect the fact that different people enjoy different types of music. With that said, there’s a difference between “high-fidelity” when talking about classical music, and electronically produced music …
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
    Audiovet, doctor fuse and oblomov like this.
  10. quiet

    quiet AK Subscriber Subscriber

    I found it easier to pick out the things it's doing wrong and fix them first then start looking for the missing finer parts.
    Such as are the speakers to close to the wall, to close to the floor, does the room have an echo, are you over driving a small amp into hungry speakers, is the sound very different as you move around the room,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    If the rooms bad you can't hear the good stuff. And you'll never get better than mud.
    I suggest you pay attention to the acoustic instruments first. If you get that going good the electric distortion will follow soon after.
    Do you have an acoustic guitar handy? If not get one. You'll see why when you start plucking on it in the room. I used the kids piano.
    Perfection is allusive at best. What I'm using is a compromise from the start and can never be better than that compromise but sounds marvelous none the less.
  11. just dave

    just dave vintage rules!

    Oak Forest ILL.
    Acoustic jazz,the sax and the bass have to sound clear.Classical,the size of the hall and the tone of individual instruments when there's a solo.Rock, the dynamics,the punch of the drums and the clarity of the guitar.Blues,vocals having a little warmth to them and like rock, the guitar gotta sound "right there".


    Please register to disable this ad.

  12. tom67

    tom67 Active Member

    Palm Beach Gardens FL
    I listen for clarity.......choral music is perhaps the most complex and difficult to reproduce on a home audio system......My favorite test is a cd from Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If applause sounds like rain and the instruments lack clear separation and vocals lack definition, I know I have work to do. As a bonus, the MTC has one of the world's greatest pipe organs with almost 12,000 pipes which is a plus in setting up your bass management.
  13. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

    It is a wonderful reference for large scale choral. Their even larger conference center on the square is similarly equipped. Wifey and I were in SLC in December and attended one of the Music and the Spoken Word performances.

  14. Tim64

    Tim64 Super Member

    Southern Oregon
    It's subjective but what I listen for when I make a change in my system is this. Can you hear any new details from a very familiar recording.? I have three I use and know them inside and out. I like nice clear vocals and want to hear the distortion in the guitars if present (Grand Funk). And on cymbals and drums can you hear the attack on them. I prefer good clean tight bass over deep flabby fake bass. My speakers only go down to 40hz but if the bass is there they will reproduce it. I also prefer my Foster horn tweeters over dome tweeters and my Rola cloth surround woofers have very good midrange for being 10" in diameter. The more you get into this hobby the more you will figure out what works for you and the sound signature you prefer. Most of all have fun doing it and take your time.
    Last edited: May 5, 2018
    Roadrash likes this.
  15. ev13wt

    ev13wt Super Member

    I use a measurement mic, try to tame stuff. Then I listen and tweak.
  16. darkblue94

    darkblue94 It wasn't me. Subscriber

    Beaverton, Oregon
    I can't hear the stick striking the them. :confused:


    Please register to disable this ad.

  17. Superampman

    Superampman AK Member

    Kitchener, ON.
    How 'real' does it sound. That's the key. Short comings simply lower the degree. First in your face impressions are very useful when you have a reference, whether live or not. When you start getting analytical, you begin finding fault. So if you're auditioning gear, you should bring recordings of your own that you're really familiar with, favorites. It doesn't matter how good the recording is. The Brits got it in a nutshell imo...PRaT, translated Pace, Rhythm, and Timing.

    OTOH, some people, apparently,(although I've never met one), prefer sound that does not have a high level of realism.
  18. Condorsat

    Condorsat Audio Enthusiast

    Such a cliché (sound like live music)... but I'll use this as an example. A local branch college has an Arts Center auditorium. Some well known acts (my age group) have performed there over the years (amplified music). I like the way it sounds at that venue (bass, clean but resonant). I usually sit in one of the left or right (of piano) wings.

    I've tweaked my rig to sound similar. The bass is highly important to me .. when I get that right .. the rest of the system just falls into place. Bass is what I spend the most time on getting right.
    Last edited: May 6, 2018
  19. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Smart Ass Sponsor Subscriber

    San Francisco Peninsula
    Ok, I don't think I need to say anything in this thread as you did it for me touching on most points.

    I'll just add that the media quality, the recorded quality will all effect the above. In fact one can't even determine if the system sounds good with inferior media.
  20. dcmfan

    dcmfan AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Welcome 2 Missouri
    Great point! And EVERYTHING matters with a lot of this- especially with vinyl- turntable/cartridge setup, speaker placement, room construction and size, etc etc.

    I find that it’s easy to get pretty good sound (guitars sound like guitars, etc.) but to make the leap to the next level the sound changes become more subtle. You made a good point in other threads where you urged people to take time when doing A/B comparisons. It can take some extended listening time to get a full impression of what’s going on.
    red 111, quiet, stish and 1 other person like this.

Share This Page