Are You Enjoying the Music or Listening to Your System?

Combing through my emails recently, I noticed one from The Music Room, a company that buys and sells audio components. I expected to read an email blast of the latest audio gear they had taken in to sell. However, I opened it and saw that it was an editorial letter from the CEO and founder, Joshua Jackson.

This letter, titled “Finding the Sweet Spot” had a significant impact on me and maybe it will on you too. A few weeks after reading it for the first time, I went back and reread it. Once I had finished, I emailed Joshua to ask his permission to share it with our readers.

Writing a Review

My friend often ask me if being a reviewer has impacted my enjoyment of music. While my immediate knee-jerk response is no. Upon further review, I cannot deny that the impact of listening to equipment has, to some degree, impacted my enjoyment of listening to music. On the other hand, the ability to listen to a lot of equipment has allowed me to raise the performance of my system to a point where I can enjoy music at a personally more impactful level. It is truly a double-edged sword.

I read an article a while back, and I will apologize up front as I cannot recall the author. So many articles come across my desk that it is hard to remember their origin. This particular article was about listening to your system, and the author posed a question for you to ask yourself. Hint: There is no right or wrong answer, but be truthful to yourself.

Do you buy equipment to listen to music… or do you buy music to listen to equipment?

I must admit that at different times in my life I have fallen into either camp. Regardless of the camp you’re in, either one is a perfectly justifiable reason for you to enjoy our wonderful hobby. Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of chasing a system upgrade, and we lose sight of how lucky we are to experience audio at the level that we do. I am often reminded of this when I take a vacation or am otherwise forced to not be involved with my system for a period of time. When I return, I sit down and listen for the first time. Then, I wonder why I ever thought there was anything wrong with it.

After the past year that we have all been through, when I opened Josh’s email it had a particularly strong impact on me. I would like to share it with you now in the hopes it impacts you in some small positive way…

Enjoy your system and your music…. Peace!

Joshua Jackson’s Email

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of “perfection” in this hobby. We may not even know what perfection sounds like – or if it even exists. What we do know is that we will know it when we hear it, right? So we just keep chasing it — that ever elusive level of performance that will satisfy all of our sonic cravings. 

My Advice to You

My advice to you? Find a system that draws you to your listening position and keeps you there – regardless of price. You’ll know you’ve found “perfection” when you’re glued to your seat – getting up only to cue the next album. For me that system looks like this: Harbeth SHL5 speakers on Ton Traeger stands, REL T/9x subwoofers, Aesthetix Mimas integrated amplifier, PS Audio DirectStream DAC. Audience Ar6 power conditioner, Rega P10 turntable, Bluesound Node and Nordost cables. Could this system be better? I have no doubt it could with some tweaking. Do I NEED to improve it right now? Hell no! What I need is to take a break from improving things and just enjoy what I have. 

Enjoy the Music

I was reminded of something today. All of that research, scheming, planning and chasing of ultimate fidelity can become a big distraction – a distraction from what really matters most – enjoying the music we love.

I’m blessed to have access to some of the best stereo equipment ever made – a never ending stream of the greatest hits from the past 5-6 decades. I also have the privilege of having dozens of the best current brands in the world as authorized partners. It would be so easy to get caught up chasing the glitz of the gear, and I often do. But tonight, as I am sitting in the sweet spot listening to a terrific live album, I am trying to breathe this musical experience in deeply… and hold it in for a moment before exhaling.  

The gear is great. I love it. It can be so much fun. But music? Music has power. Music can heal. Music enlivens our spirits. Music can pause the passing of time, and bring people together in ways that no other force on the planet can do. But the power of music will only reach us if we sit still and listen. 

I know that you don’t read our emails because you’re looking for advice, but I’m going to offer some today regardless – stay with me.

Find Your Sweet Spot

Find your sweet spot and stay there for a while. Forget about the gear, and give thanks for the music that enriches our lives so much. Find a way to support musicians – this past year has been tough on those that were forced off the road. Maybe you’re ready to get out to a live show again. I know I am. If this past year has brought you good fortune, consider supporting musicians financially. If you’re looking for a way to do that, we’ve recently discovered a wonderful organization that we’re excited to partner with called Playing for Change. (Check it out.)  

Give Everyone Compassion

Lastly, a new friend in this industry recently gave me a wise perspective that I’ll pass along. He said “the best way to approach your world right now is to give everyone around you compassion.” 

 Everyone has been through some things this past year. Some among us are still struggling mightily. It’s not just our physical health that has been under attack this past year. Those internal struggles are real, and we’re good at hiding them. Please exercise some compassion to those you meet today – even if only passing someone briefly on the fast lanes of the World Wide Web. You never know what they might be going through.

Compassion – that’s the “sweet spot” that we all need to be in right now. Let’s get in it and stay there for a while. Forget about expecting people to be perfect or to even agree with you. Just be thankful that we have each other. That’s the sweet spot. I’ll see you there.

2 thoughts on “Are You Enjoying the Music or Listening to Your System?”

  1. Yes, very important to smell the roses. As I was reading the article, I thought that for women in particular there is an acute reaction to hearing a baby cry that activates a primal instinct to soothe, nurture and protect.
    Fast forward to the man cave, our babies in front of us, two speakers left and right, and yet something doesn’t sound quite right… The struggle between hearing harmonious sound and something that is not quite right is part of what fuels audiophilia, but at the end of the day, it is that enjoyment of sound for sounds sake, that soothes and beguiles and thrills.
    Happy Listening!

    1. “but at the end of the day, it is that enjoyment of sound for sounds sake, that soothes and beguiles and thrills.”
      I love it Ric! Well written. Coincidently, I have a sign in my listening room that reads “Audio Playpen”
      Keep listening and enjoying the music for music’s sake… -ken

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