Is musicality what you first thought?

Sliced Bread

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Jul 28, 2010
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So I have been in and out of this hobby for many years. I started when I was just a teenager and I am now in my early 40’s, though my passion for HiFi goes all the way back to listening to my fathers Arcam system when I was a young child. I still remember to this day enjoying that lovely bouncing heartbeat at the start of Pink Floyds dark side of the moon which sounded so nice from those big sealed speakers.
Years later just after I left school I had my first “proper” budget Hifi. Bass was very light, but still usable and had lovely tones to it and it introduced me to what a good Hifi can do with vocals. Vocals on this system where delicate, fluid and had very nice low level dynamics.
Being a teenager though I decided the bass was not enough, so I sold it and bought an appalling midi system with overblown bass.
My music was ruined!
Years past and I listened to less and less music.

Then Dolby Digital came out and I was back in the game, but this time with a new requirement. I still wanted my long lost music, but I also wanted high octane Cinema in my home and I got the later and I *thought* the music too. It took 3 speaker packages, 5 receivers and thousands of pounds to get there, but now movies sound better then ever and I thought this true of music too, even though I was hardly listening to any. The midrange is transparent with realistic vocals and the bass is flat (ish) down to 25hz. In other words, it past the demo room test. The ingredients are all there and yet over time I listened to very little music on the system.

I thought I was just bored of my music.

Then the lockdown happened and I’ve been forced to work from home. In order to break up the monotony I installed a pair of little Ruark Mr1 Mk2’s:

https://www.whathifi.com/ruark-audio/mr1-mk2/review

They’re expensive for pc speakers but cheap in HiFi terms and a fraction the price of my main system. At first they left me a little cold but as they’ve run in there’s a non-showy fluidity to the sound that sounds natural and draws you into the music. Don’t get me wrong they’re not perfect by a long shot. Bass is dry and they do not work for every track , but there is something about the sound that is very enjoyable and I find myself listening to track after track. I can once again hear traces of that fluid midrange I enjoyed in my first HiFi. Stranger in Moscow is truly captivating with the vocals brimming with emotion. Stereo imaging is impressive too once positioned write. If I shut my eyes I could be back in my bedroom in my late teens listening to those tracks all over again.

And my point?

Why are these “cheap” little speakers with so much going against them so much more musically engaging than my main system which images like a champ, digs out the tiniest detail and can rattle the house when needed.

It’s made me reassess everything I’ve been searching for in this little hobby of ours.

Does anyone else have similar experience? What have you learned?
 

rymidd

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Feb 24, 2010
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I remember a old Sony midi system, paid about £50 used , being more satisfying than a decent separates system about a grands worth. not because the Sony was a bass machine. it just sounded more mellow and pure
 
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Roby

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Jan 17, 2012
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Same here dropped out about 5 y ago
I don’t know still love music but got bored out of the search en spending money an most of all I’m never home so was thinking I don’t use it enough to justify the cost

never less I I started listening again still enjoy the system I havebot while working the TT is not an option
So digital was the way an there I ws missing controle the feeling was less om my cheaper HT

so I decided to change the streamer from a 8y old SBT to a BS Node I2
Didn’t solve my problem now now I’m waiting for some power strip an cable will see if that improves compared to the 10€ power strip I use now

this all to say I noticed one thing if your system is extremely revealing an the record is very bad it take away all musical enjoyment

in opposition to a good recording which will be mind blowing
 

Sliced Bread

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Jul 28, 2010
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Same here dropped out about 5 y ago
I don’t know still love music but got bored out of the search en spending money an most of all I’m never home so was thinking I don’t use it enough to justify the cost

never less I I started listening again still enjoy the system I havebot while working the TT is not an option
So digital was the way an there I ws missing controle the feeling was less om my cheaper HT

so I decided to change the streamer from a 8y old SBT to a BS Node I2
Didn’t solve my problem now now I’m waiting for some power strip an cable will see if that improves compared to the 10€ power strip I use now

this all to say I noticed one thing if your system is extremely revealing an the record is very bad it take away all musical enjoyment

in opposition to a good recording which will be mind blowing
Thanks, that’s a good point and I think that is definitely true of some over analytical systems. I think I’m my case it’s something else. I think it’s missing low level dynamics...or maybe what makes a good HT system is not what makes a good music system.
 

Sliced Bread

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Being engaging and analytical are separate things, but for me hifi should (and can have) have both. It's an unbeatable combination.
I’m sure you’re right, but it’s very hard to find.

I searched for it but missed.

Don’t get me wrong films are great and music is ok, but just not engaging.

I guess my question is what is the missing ingredient. Timing, subtle dynamics? Big question.
 

abacus

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Sep 24, 2008
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If you want to get the best out of your PC get yourself a professional audio interface and some near field monitors then set them up to suit the room/position.

A good system is when everything gels together which can only be done by careful listening of various combinations before purchasing. (If you don’t follow this rule then you will be constantly swapping equipment or get sucked into the desperate world of believing that exotic cables (Or anything made by Hi-Fi cable manufactures) make a difference)

Theoretically if a manufacture designs every part of the system then it should have perfect symmetry, however as most are built to a cost and market this very seldom applies.

Bill
 

Blacksabbath25

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Sep 20, 2015
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Musicality means meany things to other people but for me its being in love with the music you listen to and liking detail , warmth , involving feeling and never getting fed up with listening to your HIFI because at the end of the day music is what matters .
I do feel your speakers give you the biggest part of that involvement if your get this wrong then the speakers will sound cold , over blown bass , no detail and of coarse the music quality matters you loses all musicality and uninviting to listen to
 

12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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Don’t get me wrong films are great and music is ok, but just not engaging.

I guess my question is what is the missing ingredient. Timing, subtle dynamics? Big question.
I think hifi manufacturers have sonic 'signatures', or at least they used to - some having a reputation for being easy-going, others for prizing speed and dynamics over anything else. The former is easier to listen to, the latter more involving. But it's possible to have your cake and eat it, I think.

The big things for me are the ability to make voices and instruments sound natural, the ability to stop and start percussion and bass on a sixpence and a convincing soundstage.

I wonder if the biggest thing isn't the middle of those three, in terms of what might be deemed to be 'engaging'? A bass drum that stops and starts with realistic suddenness and bass lines that sound as taut as the real thing (and I play the bass so am not just making all of this up!) are the things that get people's feet and hands tapping. I see it with visitors even when music is pretty quiet.

This is part sonic signature and part down to other things, but I think isolating kit from vibration plays a big part.

FWIW, I don't believe HC is the way to go for stereo music and my systems will always remain separate., but I can see the appeal of a single setup.
 

Sliced Bread

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Jul 28, 2010
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I think hifi manufacturers have sonic 'signatures', or at least they used to - some having a reputation for being easy-going, others for prizing speed and dynamics over anything else. The former is easier to listen to, the latter more involving. But it's possible to have your cake and eat it, I think.

The big things for me are the ability to make voices and instruments sound natural, the ability to stop and start percussion and bass on a sixpence and a convincing soundstage.

I wonder if the biggest thing isn't the middle of those three, in terms of what might be deemed to be 'engaging'? A bass drum that stops and starts with realistic suddenness and bass lines that sound as taut as the real thing (and I play the bass so am not just making all of this up!) are the things that get people's feet and hands tapping. I see it with visitors even when music is pretty quiet.

This is part sonic signature and part down to other things, but I think isolating kit from vibration plays a big part.

FWIW, I don't believe HC is the way to go for stereo music and my systems will always remain separate., but I can see the appeal of a single setup.
Some good points here, especially this part:
“The big things for me are the ability to make voices and instruments sound natural, the ability to stop and start percussion and bass on a sixpence and a convincing soundstage.”

This is where the emotional engagement is and what separates a system that pulls you into the music to one that is going through the motions.

I’ll reflect on vibration isolation, but I think something more drastic is needed on my side.
 
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simonali

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If anything I've gone the other way in that I listen to too much music, thanks to Spotify and listen to this supposedly lo fi stream over Bluetooth for extra convenience. It's all about the music and not whether it sounds perfect. In fact, I listen to most of it through a JBL Xtreme 2 which I think sounds great!

There's so much to listen to out there and so little time that why bother to worry about whether your hi fi is doing it justice? Chances are your hifi sounds nothing like the monitor speakers where that album was mixed and you're not hearing what its producer intended anyway. Just hear it and enjoy it. And maybe watch some Rick Beato videos first if you're not convinced by some bloke on a forum...
 
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abacus

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The biggest elephant to music is the room and unless you can get it acoustically treated you will never get an optimum performance, however all professionals use room correction software/hardware as well to get things really top notch.

An AVR has room correction built in (Some good, some brilliant, some so, so) which can help to reduce room problems and so in most cases will always get a better sound quality then a normal stereo amp, however if you add external room correction hardware and software to a stereo amp then you move into a whole new level of musicality.

Bill
 
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12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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Some good points here, especially this part:
“The big things for me are the ability to make voices and instruments sound natural, the ability to stop and start percussion and bass on a sixpence and a convincing soundstage.”

This is where the emotional engagement is and what separates a system that pulls you into the music to one that is going through the motions.

I’ll reflect on vibration isolation, but I think something more drastic is needed on my side.
I guess that's why bass and drums are known as the rhythm section!

Just had a listen to a few bits and bobs with this in mind - some Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Jam's Start!, Bob Marley's Exodus and Elvis Costello's Pump It Up. It should move you in both senses, I think.

The other issue is that whatever your allotted budget for AV, it's divided amongst more speakers and more channels of amplification - ergo these are not likely to be as good, on average, as two channel gear of a similar price.

It does sound as though you feel you are missing something important, and I hope you find it.
 
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Sliced Bread

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I guess that's why bass and drums are known as the rhythm section!

Just had a listen to a few bits and bobs with this in mind - some Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Jam's Start!, Bob Marley's Exodus and Elvis Costello's Pump It Up. It should move you in both senses, I think.

The other issue is that whatever your allotted budget for AV, it's divided amongst more speakers and more channels of amplification - ergo these are not likely to be as good, on average, as two channel gear of a similar price.

It does sound as though you feel you are missing something important, and I hope you find it.
Thanks 12th!

Fingers crossed!
 

stereoman

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Mar 22, 2016
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Musicality has nothing to do with superb quality of sound. You can get much more musical system for 300 quid than a 3k one. Hi Fi systems are more tuned towards sound analysis and can never guarantee musicality.
 
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Sliced Bread

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Go on, have a laugh.
As an example,
My current system cost me just over £6,000 before cables, rack etc
AVR - £2200
Stereo speaker - £1250
Centre - £500
Rear -£550
Subwoofer - £1500
Sonos Connect - £350

In my office I have a pair of Ruark Active Speakers at £330 connected via Bluetooth to my phone.

The HC system is awesome with films and has on paper all the ingredients for good music, but I honestly find the £330 Ruarks more engaging with music...no question.
 
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