Critical Listening Vs. Listening for Enjoyment

In order to do the work we do, our approach to audio has to be fundamentally different from that of the audiophile who listens for enjoyment. Critical listening and listening for enjoyment go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing.

The first of these — developing and applying your critical listening skills — allows you to achieve good audio and find the best pressings of the music you love.

(Developing critical thinking skills when it comes to records and equipment is important too but that is not the focus of today’s commentary.)

Once you have a good stereo and a good record to play on it, your enjoyment of recorded music should increase dramatically. A great sounding record on a killer system is a thrill.

A Heavy Vinyl mediocrity, played back on what passes for so many audiophile systems these days — regardless of cost — is, to these ears, an insufferable bore.

If this sounds arrogant and elitist, so be it. Heavy Vinyl records are fine for some people, but for about the last fifteen years we’ve set a higher standard for ourselves and our customers. Holding our records to that higher standard allows us to price our Hot Stamper pressings commensurate with their superior sound and please the hell out of the people who buy them.

For those who appreciate the difference, and have resources sufficient to afford them, the cost is reasonable. If it were not, we would have gone out of business years ago.

Hot Stampers are not cheap. If the price could not be justified by the better sound quality and quieter surfaces, who in his right mind would buy them? We can’t really be fooling that many audiophiles, can we? We talked about our approach to audio in a commentary we wrote decades ago:

We have put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.

It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.

If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.


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