By Jack Sharkey, April 8, 2014

I write and speak the Gospel of Good Sound whenever I get the chance. In fact, because of that I have very few friends anymore. They all want to play Mah Jong and talk about Prilosec Vs. Zantac and all I want to do is talk about phase-coherency and speaker efficiency. I am an audio outlier. A high-fidelity voice in the barren desert of a culture that is slowly turning it's back on the beauty and art of sound. I sometimes lose hope that the very idea of actually caring about how things sound is a concept that is slipping away from us.


But then my kid comes home from school and commandeers my stereo and I realize all is not lost.


Last summer my daughter was home visiting for a few weeks and she had an epiphanal moment about sound. We talked about it then, but I forgot to take notes. Instead, I asked her this week to send me an email with her thoughts on the subject.


Here's how the actual email exchange went:


Me: Remember that time you listened to a song in your car and then you listened to it on my stereo and you were like 'wow I heard so many things I hadn't heard before?' That was a good time. Also, a reviewer in the UK just had his 16 yr old son review the X300A from his POV. It was excellent. You want to write a piece about your experience and I'll weave it into a blog piece? Basically I'm just stealing this other cat's idea but I like it.

Kid Unit: Hahaha yeah definitely! That would be fun!


So, here, without any fears of charges of nepotism is her unedited re-telling of her epiphany about the power of good sound:


Palma Violets 180

"My favorite musical purchase of the past year is undoubtedly Palma Violets’ debut album “180.” I’ve listened to that record far more times than I’d like to admit, and I’d like to think that I know it inside and out. Unfortunately for me, I bought it while I was away at school and away from the necessity that is a good sound system. For four entire months I had three means to listen to that record (and everything else I own for that matter) and they were 1. Earbuds (used primarily on various forms of public transportation - not ideal for actually hearing a song) 2. My built in computer speakers (the bass was virtually nonexistent, which is sad, because the bass player is my favorite guy in the band) 3. My car speakers (by far the best of my three options, but still…).

Knowing this band, and having been to several of their insane live shows, I wasn’t expecting that their record would be particularly well-recorded from a technical point of view, the music is loud, rowdy and slightly chaotic – everything you want rock and roll to be, not necessarily what you’d expect a high-quality recording to be. Plus, given my limited means of actually listening to the music, I hadn’t been given any reason to expect much, because I hadn’t been hearing much. Thankfully, I came home for the summer, and thankfully, we have a pretty rockin’ speaker set up (I don’t know what we actually have… feel free to stick it in here!).*

I took the first available opportunity to listen to “180” on it as loud as I possibly could, and if I was prone to overstatement, I’d say it was life-changing. Not only was it great to just listen to loud music, it felt so good to actually be able to hear all of the instruments. I learned that there’s actually a tambourine in the opening track, ‘Best of Friends.’ I’d listened to that song about a million times and had never heard that before. I could finally hear the bass, and apart from filling out the bottom end, I could hear different rhythms from the interplay between the drums and bass that I’d never heard before. Also, while this is not a band that uses a particularly large number of instruments (it’s one guitar, one keyboard, bass, drums, vocals, and apparently some extra percussion on occasion), everything sat in its own place so well, I could hear that the recordings are actually really well done, and really clear. I was just sitting there listening to it completely amazed. I knew that good speakers made listening to good music so much more enjoyable, but to sit and listen to a record I’d been playing nonstop for months, only to find out there were things about it I was missing because I’d been listening to it on less-than-ideal speakers was really eye-opening."

* - The system she listened on was the spouse-approved system in the living room consisting of a Yamaha receiver powering a pair of R300's and a R400b sub. 


Do your life a favor and check out your favorite music on a system that actually moves some air around your head – you'll be happy you did!


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and not necessarily those of KEF or its employees.