Quote: “I sometimes quickly switch between filters to see what difference they make to a track. now the .4 sec gap interrupts such fun experiment during which my brain stops processing.”
Its great to read that you are enjoying yourself, having fun with your audio equipment.
Your post brought some interesting thoughts to mind that I trust will be both thought provoking and helpful.
Irrespective of the .4 sec gap. Even if the switch was virtually instantaneous, the manner in which the human brain deals with audio is such that within milliseconds of audio entering the auditory canal, passing along the auditory nerve to the brain and entering short-term memory.
A reductionist process then ensues which strips away a certain degree of harmonic information the brain deems is not absolutely necessary. Retaining the fundamentals and a harmonically minimised version somewhat of what we heard. This, is packed away neatly and tidily in our long-term memory.
We could think of that process as being somewhat similar to the algorithmic processes deployed in lossy MP-3 players. Where C.D.’s and lossless files are stripped and reduced of their harmonic content to some degree, enabling and facilitating greater, more efficient, long term storage capacity in a space that has finite limits.
This is why A B, A B X testing etc. et al is strewn with so much inconclusive and contradictory “expert” opinion.
When what one remembers one heard, is actually slightly different to what one actually heard in fact. As one listens again, our brains can deceive us.
How do we get round that issue? I would like to propose two approaches that both work brilliantly, used by highly respected experts, but which paradoxically, are the exact opposite of, being diametrically opposed to each other.
The first, is to follow the principle that as in life, “first impressions are always of supreme importance”.
Concomitant to that principal is the unassailable truth that “you never get a second chance to hear something, for the first time.”
Therefore, the ability (experience, training, judgement) in absolute immediacy to accurately and precisely discern the nature and character of what one is hearing; can reliably inform one in a trustworthily dependable manner, of exactly what one is facing and dealing with.
Very experienced recording and mastering engineers are usually good at that.
Listening over and over, repeatedly switching, can give an overall impression and may make specific differences, more obvious.
However, the problem with that is it’s often the case that particular aspects of sound one instantly disliked and rejected at first as being incorrect or undesirable; can gradually seem less obtrusive, be embraced and ultimately, wrongly found acceptable.
As by repeated exposure, the ear and brain imperceptibly, progressively and sequentially with each passing incidence of exposure, increasingly find what was initially disturbing, accommodated by the susceptibility involved as the brain flexibly adjusts itself to a novel tonality.
The issue here is no longer the differences in the equipment, but rather the manner in which your ear and brain responds now to a sound which it responded differently to, a while ago. There are a great many cultural analogies from a historical perspective that could be considered as to our ability to adjust to find acceptable, what was previously unacceptable. Its just that this happens a lot faster!
Please note that the first can involve a deeply pronounced sense of concentration, a certain passion and level of intensity, in any case a high degree of engagement and a totally focused, decisively discerning ability, to make good judgement calls.
The second is the precise opposite and involves an altogether deeply relaxed, state of mind and being.
The basic principle behind this approach is that which often affects great artists, songwriter and composers.
For it’s often the case that when they stop trying to create their art and are not thinking about that at all, completely relaxed, perhaps distracted, focussed on something else entirely.
Eureka! Inspiration strikes, kicking dust in the face of the perspiration they were utilising so hopelessly, and a completely transcendent breakout occurs that lifts their level of creativity to an altogether higher plane.
Why is it that when I am not concentrating on music, laid on my back wiring musical and audio equipment, reaching under equipment but with music on in the background; I notice things I never heard before in a recording that was very familiar? It has to be related to the state of mind!
Years ago, a group I was in was greatly helped by a gentleman (sadly no longer with us) who often employed and benefitted from precisely this manner of listening. Rupert Neve would put music on in the background, while he worked, concentrating on something else entirely. Often, particular aspects of sound and tonality would suddenly come to his attention and he would learn something regarding his audio equipment, without even trying.
He would thus come to fully appreciate the hallmark characteristics of components in his designs, almost by a form of osmosis. Subconsciously assimilating their tonal nature simply by a form of cultural exchange that happened daily, seemingly without any expenditure of effort. This is of course, not the whole of Rupert’s approach to audio design, not in any way whatever, but rather, one unusual aspect which reveals an important and often ignored truth.
Strangely, we both had JVC Hi-Fi’s at one time, and on his audio-systems radio providing background music while he was working on certain things, he would hear a radio station playing music, perhaps from the other side of the world, and recognise the exact broadcast console that the music was being played through, which he designed, carefully selected the components for and manufactured. He could tell all that quite readily, without concentrating on what he was listening to, because something about its tonality, shone through the air waves at him, that he recognised.
I have a couple of friends, (one sadly no longer with us) whose names would be familiar, who exactly like me, would employ a strange trick when they had finished a mix, that seems completely counter intuitive.
Instead of sitting in front of the console in the ideal listening position to judge the balance of a mix they had finished, they would leave the control room and stand in the corridor by the edge of the open door and listen to how the mix sounded, from that entirely different perspective.
Like me, they might learn things about the sound balance that weren’t so obvious at the ideal listening position. This goes to a profoundly deep place for me and involved long conversations (outside the scope of this thread) with hit making session musicians as to how ordinary people (non-musicians and non-audio people who they made music for) relate to music.
The salient point is, most ordinary people (non-musicians and non-audio people) listen to and enjoy music in a completely different manner to the typical music and audio geek individuals that expend huge amounts of money, time and effort, endlessly argue about triviality and minute’ and search for and try to attain a degree of sonic perfection, that they find profoundly impressive.
Nothing wrong with that of course. Its good, but it’s not everything.
The point is, could we, by paradoxically listening to musical sound in a manner that is completely unconcerned and totally unabsorbed by the quality of sound; notice and learn something significant about the quality of tonality, we would otherwise have completely missed?
What I’m discussing here is really all about the state of our mind as we listen. About more fully appreciating how our brains actually work in regard to sound. I myself have found this technique useful at times and over the years have been very pleasantly surprised, in fact highly delighted, to find that far more impressively notable figures have found the same truths, and used the same techniques, quite independently of each other.
Most ordinary people listen to and think about music differently to most musicians and audio people.
There are particular artist’s whose music concerts will only attract musicians and audio people.
Understanding the reasons underlying that phenomenon, facilitates the ability to make hits.
Instead of changing the equipment, could we learn by changing the way we listen?