From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Listening to Music: Friends, Wine, Audiophilia, and Las Vegas

Dedicated to Steve and Wayne.

Every January, I travel to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, in particular to hear the latest in high end audiophile equipment. [But really it's just an excuse to meet up with my Chicago lawyers and eat and drink.] Each time I make sure to visit the Burmester suite to hear what I hope will one day be my stereo system.

Now all I need is $500,000. Then the neighborhood will be introduced to Miles Davis and John Coltrane in true style.

Inevitably we get around to talking about the differences between tubes and solid state. Tubes? Vacuum tubes. Most people under the age of 40 may never have seen a vacuum tube, because the transistor and then the IC chip has made tubes ancient history in every industry except high end audio.

Now to the point. I never realized how complex it is to listen to music. You know that old saw about a person uses only 20% of the brain. I'm not exaggerating much when I say that we are using nearly all of brain. The cerebrum is involved in keeping time, parts of the midbrain is involved in the emotion, the frontal lobe takes all the info and does the higher level processing. I can't do justice to all the neuroscience involved, but I can recommend Daniel Levitin's "This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science Of A Human Obsession."

Now back to some Miles Davis and a nice Sauvignon Blanc.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! Gotta admit, all my amplifier arrays are all QSC / Crown Solid-State-based, it's considered too old-school for our time to go tubes, and especially when you get to high power applications requiring 50-100KW's of power @ 8-ohms, tubes are just inefficient.

    On the other hand when it comes to home audio where your going 500-1000w max maybe then it maybe possible to use tubes. One BIG thing I have noticed when using tubes is that sounds are just a lot more warm & classic, not so crisp / polished from todays transistorized amps, hell even when low freq. base tones hit hard (50-120hz range) tubes seem to carry the higher frequencies very clean undisturbed, but with solid state today when the bass hits hard, the amplitude (volume) of the higher band frequencies seems to drop quite a bit, sometimes even get distorted.

    Hopefully one day you can get that Burmester set! Next year i'm going to CES for sure, missed it the last few years!