hifi should have a life of its own

the great thing about hifi kaki being my reviewer is, we both look for the same things in hifi, that's emotional conveyance. some call it the "goosebump factor", while others call it the "connection". whatever it is, hifi without emotions is just a piece of hardware converting signals into wavelengths.

often, a piece of hardware is so technically accomplished that one cannot fault its technical prowess. it has all the hifi fireworks and pyrotechnics but when it comes to the ultimate human touch, it is no longer just about technology. maybe that's why analogue still rules.

subjective as it may be, emotional conveyance in hifi is more than tapping your foot or (you) singing in unison with the singer. to us, it is about how much you understand the singer's message; the kind of mood he/she is in while singing the song; his/her willingness to sing; his/her intelligibility; whether he/she sings in total sobriety or absorption; his/her whole gamut of expressions and more. all these can be easily discerned in a high-resolution system; nothing can escape.

a piece of equipment can be technically flawed but emotionally communicative or vice versa, technically accomplished but emotionally void.

to both of us, we much prefer the former.


GCK said...

Maggie, getting the emotion of the singer through in a system is the most difficult part of all the hifi attributes, IMHO.

km ng said...

Why is it in many Chinese female singers I heard have very close miking which emphasize to the extreme - the singer's breathing, the "ooohs" and the "aaahs" and the throat, nasal, lips and tongue noises?

Are these emotions?

Or are these "exaggerated and orchestrated" emotions?

I think in many cases, it's more of the latter. Many listeners I know get an emotional high on hearing these details.

For me, I think I can get more emotions of the same by watching porn. :)

john said...

I get my goosebums from technically accomplished gears listening to performers that give their all...

And I do not use livec music as reference,I use mastertapes.If you could hear cd that has been directly copied from mastertapes ,you would realized how much informations,especially stuff like low level details etc that has gone missing during ordinary pressings.

Ken said...

I personally feel that this tech vs emotion argument will go on forever. Much like SS vs tubes!

Some people like the bloom and euphonia of SETs. Some people like the power of SS. Some people like details aplenty.

For me, I want everything because I have an eclectic taste in music. But then again, I have never heard a system that can do everything.


viv said...

what induces goosebumps in one person might induce sleep in another person..

to each his own as the saying goes

Ric said...

Viv,I must agree with you..

I get sleepy watching porn and get goosebums watching good actors like De Niro,

Anonymous said...

I would aim to reproduce the ambience of being in the same concert hall with Marsailis Wynton.The "feel factor" leaves a long lasting impression with the performers.Some sway for technicalities and some towards musicality.As for me, my journey continues towards reproducing the memorable "feel". Personal choice.


GCK said...

KM, I don't refer to what you mentioned as emotion. Somehow you will feel connected in a sense to the singer. It is as if they are crying their heart out to you or showing their happiness to you. I don't think the 'ooohs and aaahs' will make me feel the emotions.
Maybe Maggie or Hifikaki can express it better than myself.

joe said...


It is ok to aspire THAt,but a lot of the time the restrictions of having that is damaged during the time of recording,with multimiking and overprocessed recording...Nothing invented so far can overcome bad recording....

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

there is good porn and bad porn ;-)

asian (audiophile) recording engineers are more fixated on micro details whereas western recording engineers go for musicality. that's why the best recordings are always done in the west.

let me illustrate my point on "emotion" by using rickie lee jones "hi-li hi-lo" (track #3) from her excellent "pop pop" album. many systems play this track much faster than it is intended to be, making rickie sounds hurried and rushed. some system make rickie sounds much younger/older than she really is. a good system is one that really correlates her singing with the lyrics. it is a sad song so the emotions must be sad, jaded and forlorn. if rickie were to sound rushed then the emotions of love lost wouldn't be captured that beautifully in the music.

there are many more such examples.

totally agree with you. i own the master tape of 2v1g ;-)

jacques said...

Ken ,

I beg to differ.

with all the confusions in hi fi , there are a few certainties that all of us hve accepted:

1] Analogue ALWAYS Beat digital.A rega P5 TT will humble Spectral seperates that cost 50 X more.

2] Tubes ALWAYS sound better than SS.Doesn't the best of SS aspire to sound like Tubes?

Having said that,I still use digital playback and SS amp.If you choose carefully [AND Spend A lot!!!} you could get a CDP that would sound :A bit analogoue: and an AMP that sound :A bit Tubey:

Ken said...


I don't know if anyone agrees with me but I find that the latest generation of SS and tube gears are verging in terms of sound, which practically means that tubes sound almost like SS gears. Which may not be something I like.

I own a tube preamp (ARC LS5 Mk II) to go with a SS pwr amp (Rowland 8) and cd player (Meridian 508.24).

Anonymous said...


I could not agree with you more. "liveness" and "volume = fullness" is as close to it as I can think of. I will not get into the debate of analogue vs digital but one will need to decide which is best. I have.

Some recordings are bad but some are superb with near perfect reproductions albeit audiophile CD or direct to disc, half speed recordings on LP.

Both the hardware and the software are the limiting factors to perfection but nothings perfect i guess.

Enjoy and strive.


hifikaki said...

I can’t say it any better than maggielurva on the emotional connection that we look for when we listen to music reproduction.

Maggielurva have touched on the vocal performance aspect, which I agree wholeheartedly. I just like to add that this emotional connection is not limited to vocal performances, which some seem to think so, but from instrumental performances too.

All concerts or live music performances that I found memorable, emotionally connected to me. These occasions could come from something as big as a full blown symphony orchestra or as simple as listening to my children’s violin instructor playing solo. I believe if I ask anyone to name their musical experience that have made a mark in their memories and think whether the music connected to them emotionally, the answer would be a 100% ‘yes’. This would apply to all genres of music – pop, rock, classical, jazz, country etc., whatever your musical inclination is.

All musicians worth their salt convey such musical emotions in their performances, it is like their ‘signature’, it is not conveyed simply with a few ‘sighs’ or a few tricks on their instruments, but via wholeheartedly immersing themselves in their music making and conveying their musical message to the audience.

This emotion can be captured on recordings. And if it is, then a true high fidelity system must reproduce it (otherwise, how can it be called ‘high fidelity'?). I believe this is not a mere system feature, like deep bass, smooth treble or wide soundstage, but a hifi system’s fundamental. A system that cannot convey emotion is seriously, even fatally, flawed, in my humble opinion.

And it is not dependent on how expensive a system is, I have been left cold by some megabuck systems, but there were also megabuck systems that made me wanted to listen on and on, and inspired me to want to own such things (some that have impressed me in the past - Audinote+Avantgarde, Krell+Wilson Grand SLAMM, and of course also maggielurva’s Meridian+Audio Research+Magneplanar). And there were also entry level / mid-range systems that have oodles of this capability (for example Quad+Harbeth),

The problem is this capability in a system is hard to analyze or get broken down. And we, as audiophiles, are more easily swayed by hifi parameters. How nice if we can occasionally stop analyzing a system’s resolution, bandwidth, soundstaging etc., and just ask ourselves whether we have enjoyed the music as it was reproduced and whether it has touched us. Isn’t this our purpose of listening to music in the first place?

Just some quick examples of instrumental music from my favorite music that can evoke powerful emotional connection:
Classical (heard via a great performance):
-Beethoven Symphony #9 –will uplift your spirit and give you new hope on the humankind
-Shostakovich Symphony #5, 3rd movement, which describes the desolateness left by war, will leave you emotionally drained
-Mozart’s late symphonies - sunlit and optimistic (except probably #40), great for one’s soul after a long hard day

Some from Jazz:
-Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – the coolness of Davis’ trumpet and Evans’ piano combined with the hot saxophones of Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, what more can one ask for?
-Sonny Rollins’ Way out West – simply infectious joie de vivre

built62 said...

what's the difference between the master and those we bought?

lesser emotions?

GCK said...

I have listened to it. The master got more air or ambience information.