Much younger, I used to listen to music without ever thinking about sound quality. It simply didn’t dawn on me that a better sound quality could translate into more elevated musical experiences. My younger self was purely a music lover and unaware of the importance of sound quality. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.
This got me recently to wondering what kind of conversation I’d have with my pre-audiophile self. So, sensing that my younger self was missing out on a lot of joy, as soon as I received my Amazon-ordered EM SpaceZ Time Machine © (fitted with the upgraded sound system, of course), I went off to join the younger me at my old home to chat about audio and music listening.
This is how our conversation went word for word:
Younger self: I guess I don’t really care how my earphones or speakers sound. Sound quality isn’t something I pay attention to because it’s not important to me. For me, music is music no matter what equipment it’s playing on. It still moves me.
Older self: True. You were often moved by music. It helped you—us—get through a difficult stage in our life. Music became our best friend.
Younger self: Exactly. Music reached my heart without the need of any of that fancy equipment (pointing to a photo that my older self brought of his gear), including those speakers that look like doors (my Magnepan MMGs). I’m not missing anything.
Older self: How do you know you’re not? How can you judge something you haven’t experienced yet? Better sound quality will bring you further into your music than you know. It’ll reveal worlds you never knew existed. I’ve experienced many such occasions. And I wish we’d started experiencing them earlier on.
Younger self: Well, I’ll become you, so I really won’t miss anything.
Older self: But life is short. And you only have so much time in a day. If you can, doesn’t it make sense to elevate your music to the next level now?
Younger self: Maybe. But I don’t have a lot of money to spend on audio. I need to eat, go out to drink and meet girls. And you already told me how much you spent on your speakers, amplifier, and the Ack, Cack… what do you call that thing again?
Older self: DAC. And you don’t need to spend as much as I did to dramatically improve the sound of your system. An investment of $100 on good audio cables will make a difference, and a couple hundred bucks on the rest of your system could up your game significantly. Knowing how much you love music, I promise you’ll never regret spending that extra money.
Younger self: $100 on cables? It sounds ludicrous to me, wires changing the sound quality. Audio dealers throw in free cables when you buy something from them. Anyone who’d spend $100 on cables is crazy.
Older self: So you think you’ll be crazy when you’re older?
Younger self: It looks like it.
Older self: How about spending 10 grand on a car? Is that crazy? Even though you don’t even care about cars?
Younger self: I need a car to live a life. I can live without a $100 speaker cable.
Older self: I’m glad you brought up the subject of living a life. Wouldn’t you say listening to music is a huge part of your life? More than a car is?
Younger self: I guess.
Older self: Then doesn’t it make sense to spend $100, a fraction of the price of a car, to improve on something as meaningful, and that occupies so much of your time and attention, as listening to music?
Younger self: Except those free cables give me the same music as those $100 ones.
Older self: Trust me—trust yourself— when I say a better cable makes a difference. A better cable gives you the same song, but not quite the same music. It’s more developed. I remember when we tried audiophile speaker cables for the first time, from Audioquest. That day, the music took on a whole new life. It flowed out with a newfound clarity and realism. We were hearing the same songs as before, but not quite the same music. Of course, you have yet to experience that day. But I have. And you’ll be glad when you do.
Younger self: How many speakers and amplifiers have you gone through?
Older self: 17 pairs of speakers, 20 amps. And every time the upgrade in sound worked—and it happened again and again—I heard the same songs, but not quite the same music.
Younger self: Would you say you played every card perfectly?
Older self: I made mistakes.
Younger self: I’m all ears.
Older self: As I was pursuing the “perfect sound”, I lost the ability to appreciate the present moment. And it took me a long time to get it back. Please remember that the moment you have in the here and now is more perfect than the parts it consists of.
Younger self: What do you mean?
Older self: In the very moment you’re listening to your favorite music, you may feel that some things are lacking. Your audio system, for example. Or your mood. Or your health. Or your relationship. But know that it’s a moment with its own life, and that you can still enjoy it. A moment can’t be improved upon because it’s already perfect as it is and exactly as it should be.
Younger self: I see. What else should I watch out for in the future?
Older self: You’ll enter a phase when you’ll spend too much time thinking about upgrading. When you reach that point, try to remember to spend less time craving and more time enjoying.
Younger self: But if I change my behavior, won’t this affect the space-time continuum and alter the course of our future?
Older self: Well, we were already screwed when I bought this damn time machine on Amazon, don’t you think?