May have started as a Quixotic quest to make our hi-fi rig sound like live music, but does tweaking our hi-fi rigs to make them sound better than the real thing nothing more than ear pornography?
By: Ringo Bones
The concept may have started when some audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts who can’t take some of the dark and brooding aspects of Vladimir Horowitz’s piano playing resorted to tweaking to make the famed piano player sound like the bright and breezy Liberace. From then on, audiophiles have used judicious choice of analog and digital interconnects and speaker cables and tube / valve substitution and Rubycon Black Gate capacitors – with varying success – to make their favorite artists sound like the way their respective egos intend them to sound on their hi-fi rig. But is it still keeping up with the spirit of owning a hi-fi in the first place – that is the life-like reproduction of music in the home? I mean is the concept of ear pornography nothing more than the really Quixotic quest to make your hi-fi’s sound reproduction abilities better than the real thing / real life?
The hi-fi inconvenient truth is that we don’t actually listen with our ears, we actually listen with our minds and our emotions (or egos?). In short, how much we hear depends very much on how much we want to hear. Subconsciously, our mind can block out everything but the music or scrutinize the most subtle nuances of the musician’s rendition of a certain piece of music or the recording engineer’s production techniques. Every hi-fi enthusiast has a preference somewhere between these two extremes of auditory scrutiny.
To the uninitiated, the clean and clinical sound of contemporary digital-based hi-fi can be a pain in the ear to anyone weaned on the mellow and mellifluous sound of yesteryear. Choosing the right interconnect cables to make the audiophile recordings - if they have one - of your favorite artist. Like Taylor Swift, Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt, Anneke van Giersbergen of the Gathering or Liz Phair sound like a Central Asian Bardic Diva may seem like mere ear pornography to the unsympathetic audiophile. Strange, given that people who are generally offended by conventional pornography are more often than not suffers from poor body image. Does this mean that people who are offended by ear pornography are either tone deaf or is not blessed with a decent singing ability? Still, there’s a good chance that worthy audiophiles will probably know ear pornography when they hear it.