Sunday, October 14, 2012

Music: Different System - Different Sound

This article was originally written 5 years ago (July 2007.) It's been revised before this republish.

This won't be news to you, but I just got hit on the head (again).

Upgrading your headphones and/or sound system is a huge win for your music enjoyment and learning. Hearing music on more than one sound system provides interesting perspectives on the same song.

I have a song I've heard at least 20 times in a dance class I attend regularly (this was over a few weeks' time). I love the song so I purchased a copy and started playing it on my computer, which has a really good set of speakers.

The first time I heard it on my system I realized I had missed many of the subtle background vocals while at the class. I had a great time going over the song reviewing what I had been missing. It was like the restaurant comping your dessert because it's your birthday. (Dessert just seems better when it's free.)

What does this mean to you?

If you are working on really understanding music, be sure you hear it on quality systems, and I don't mean those $18 earbuds that sometimes pass for headphones. Even with years of ear training, some systems make it much easier to actually "hear" the music, and all the subtle details.

In an ideal world, you'll hear the same music on different systems!
You'll be amazed because you pick up different things on each system. Some systems bring out the bass, some make the voices clearer, some allow you to hear that groove layer clearly. This makes a big difference if you are listening to the different instruments, and learning how they all fit together.

Some may find it silly, but one of the big criteria for my auto purchases is the quality of the sound system. I want excellent sound in the car and that is one area I don't compromise. My current car color wasn't my first choice, but it had the sound system I wanted, so guess what I did? I bought the one with the upgraded sound system and the color was one of my secondary choices.

(The color actually hides the dirt MUCH better than my original choice, and that has been a major win for me. Put that in the "better to be lucky than good" category. My next car will be a similar color.)

Upgrading your sound system gives you an excellent excuse for upgrading your car as well, ("Honey, think of how well I'll dance with the sound system in that Lexus...")

It's hard enough to learn about the music, and inferior speakers or earbuds make learning tougher than it should be. You can always upgrade your earbuds, and if you are serious about listening to music I recommend you do that sooner rather than later.

Here are some ideas for upgrading your earbuds:
Take this link to find reviews on

The last time I looked, decent quality earbuds started around the $50 range.

The brand I use regularly is called "Sennheiser" and they are excellent. Sony also makes some great earbuds and there are many others too.

If you are listening at home, Best Buy has some amazing surround sound bundles and they are under $600. You can spend half of that for a decent stereo system, but just be sure to upgrade your earbuds if that is your primary listening environment.

I've also upgraded the cheapy speakers on one of my computers, so my listening from downloads sounds great as well. (Hint: Get a set with a sub-woofer or Boss makes a great pair designed just for computer systems. (Bose Site, you can get these for less at many retailers, but even the least expensive sound great.)

In other words, don't spend hours and hours listening on cheap equipment if you have any options. You'll learn faster when you hear more on the better systems, and it's a lot more fun. As your ears become trained, you'll hear more even when the only thing available is an inferior system, or on a crowded, noisy dance floor.

Your overall enjoyment of music will increase and you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you hear on a higher end system.

That enjoyment will be reflected in your dancing over time.
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
-Mark Twain

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero