Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Dear Get Better Sound owners,
Welcome to the twelfth issue of Quarter Notes!
Quarter Notes is a quarterly newsletter for Get Better Sound readers, expanding on the Get Better Sound manual, as well as introducing new and timely subjects. This issue definitely has a new subject!
Best e-mail address
Since you’re reading this, the e-mail address that I used to notify you must have worked. However, the only e-mail address I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound order.
If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the e-mail address I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.
Through the Sound Barrier
I’ve waited to release this issue of Quarter Notes until my new project was ready – Through the Sound Barrier. It’s ready now, and I want to tell you how and why it came to be.
As many of you know, I never expected to be doing over 50 (!) RoomPlay™ voicing sessions in the past 4 years. In fact, when I wrote GBS, the thought never occurred to me. It was you – the Get Better Sound owners - that requested it, and after I did a few, and I saw how well they were received, that I decided to give the sessions a name – RoomPlay™.
In the same way that I originally never thought about doing voicing sessions all over North America, neither did I expect to learn something as important as the discoveries I made on these voicing sessions. These findings tugged at me as I tried to think how to apply what I had learned. Finally, I decided to offer this info in a usable format for all audiophiles who love music. The question was – what format would work best?
I knew that it couldn’t be just a book. Nor could it be just a DVD. At the very least, the project would require a book, a very special CD, and an informative DVD.
On top of that, there’d be questions, some of which might have or require a very timely application. So I decided to include podcasts, as well as the Quarter Notes newsletters – just like the ones you’ve received.
The idea is to provide the potential for achieving what my RoomPlay™ clients have received (and potentially even more). Why? Because I do not plan on doing RoomPlay™ sessions for more than another 12 months or so.
Those who have done these sessions with me know that it is an intense time. For me personally, it’s very draining – emotionally, mentally, and physically. My boss (AKA Pam Smith) has expressed concern at the condition that I’m in when I return. Hey, all jobs are draining. Maybe I take mine too seriously, but when SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) is concerned, I need to pay attention. :)
Here’s the main thing that I have observed - over and over. It seems that the better our components are, the greater are the opportunities to encounter barriers to enjoying our music! With very few exceptions, I’ve seen it almost consistently. In fact, some of the most advanced systems I ran into were initially the least satisfying from a musical involvement standpoint!
But it’s not just the most advanced systems that can cause trouble – it’s any audio component system that an audiophile assembles in the hope of getting better sound and hopefully, greater musical enjoyment. I know that this seems counter-intuitive – how can it be?
A different kind of Sound Barrier
Thinking about how to describe what I have observed - and have known for a while (this is not a recent phenomenon; I just never recognized it for what it was), the simplest description is sound barrier. Sounds become a barrier to ultimately allowing the music to speak to us in a powerful way.
Here’s what happens – as our systems get better - and we think about getting them even better – at some point they become good enough to make some really interesting sound. In fact, we think about the sound and compare it to the sound that we have heard – or heard about – from other systems. I have no issues whatsoever with an analytical look at our systems from time to time. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean that listening to the cool sounds can slip in front of our goals as music lovers. Listening to “audiophile sound effects” can become a distraction from the main event. We don’t even recognize it when it happens.
In my experience, most systems that are created to reproduce this type of hyper-detailed, clinical sound generally fall well short of the musical involvement that they could easily produce.
Amazingly, at the very moment that I was typing (1-26-13) the paragraph above, an e-mail came in from a RoomPlay Reference™ client. It is exactly on point. Since my client was local in the Atlanta, GA area, I had gone to hear and evaluate his system. It was technically VERY good. It played all the things that we as audiophiles expect a great system to play. But when I heard it, I recognized its great qualities and one that wasn’t so great – it was musically boring.
In his RoomPlay Reference™ session, we had gone through the issues that he could address to lift his system to another level. His response was so pertinent that I asked him for permission to quote part of his note. He said:
Wow!!! I'm actually sitting here just about reduced to tears listening to Lucinda Williams sing "Blue." Holy crap! Think I'll stop for a while and listen to music; there is so much stuff I want to hear right now. Everything sounds different but fantastic in its own way. This is incredible Jim. Can't thank you enough.
Then, he sent this additional note last night (1-27-13). Quoted and edited for brevity with his permission:
I never would have had this happen without your help. Forty years I've been trying to find this experience. I'll be up all night. Now it's Clannad; harmonies are stunning, rich, and pure, like being surrounded by a choir of angels.
One more on 1-28-13:
Before last night, yes it all sounded good and very technologically advanced, except that now the system is absolutely compelling to listen to. In fact, I'm taking the afternoon off to get an early start on a listening session so I don't have to stay up so late!
In case you are not a Lucinda Williams or Clannad fan (or even if you are), this is NOT about what kind of music you like. I promise you that YOUR music has another level of involvement available. You only have to want it.
The (sound) barriers to this higher level of enjoyment are not insurmountable. In fact, I took this client through what he needed to do (as a kind of test - though to be fair – he didn’t know it). With my help, HE accomplished this level.
That's the crucial point. I did not voice his system: he did. That is what Through the Sound Barrier is all about.
It’s about empowering audiophiles to reach another level of musical involvement. Once they know how, it’s eminently achievable. That is what Through the Sound Barrier is all about.