When I have the opportunity to critically listen, I will seize the moment. I may choose any number of enhancements to elevate my enjoyment. Regardless of what those may be, I enjoy variety in my personal, sometimes isolated, moments with music. The freedom of choice with customizing my audio experience, allowing me to sequence some new albums to discover or create a unique trip down memory lane. I spent too many years stimulated by predetermined and repetitive music selections or playlists. A handful of radio stations that have played legacy artists and songs over the last 20 years, even “Top 40” stations that can wear out a song over the course of a week given the “correct” circumstances of exposure; modern radio ruined a lot of music for me due to overplay. Some critically acclaimed artists to me are ruined by their handful of hits that my ears and brain instantly recognize as “(song title here) played on (radio station here) in the car”. The sonic signature of the station with the limited sonic range of the tracks being played robs my appreciation of countless songs.
My history with enhancing my music consumption started as early as high school, when I would dedicate time to listening to a licensed recording of the suites the symphony would select for concerts. Once I became of age, I would occasionally have a craft beer with the album I was enjoying. These listening sessions became a way to discuss music as an art form, beyond trying to catch lightning in a bottle with our ears on an early Friday morning. When I looked for that type of engagement in music online, I became wrapped up in the gear instead of the media that was feeding the equipment. Around four years ago, I finally started to swing back to music appreciation. I added some music critics into my weekly online digest, I gradually shifted from gear talk to music discussion, and I started to feel more comfortable using the gear I had to appreciate the music I had not heard yet.
Backtracking to a few years ago, the reason why I even hopped into the online discourse around audio gear and music was because of DMS (formerly DMS3 TV) and his YouTube content circa 2016. I viewed his channel regularly, tapping on notifications to view the content upon release, just the same as I would from Tyll, Jude, and many others covering the audio gear space in that era. DMS and his content stayed in the digest ever since, no matter what the reason was for adjusting my online engagement as a whole.
Fast forward to CanJam NYC 2020, and we crossed paths amongst mutual friends at the event. I gained significantly more respect for him as a person during that event than the days before CanJam watching his uploaded content on my phone.
After a period of time that felt significantly longer than two years, we got in touch because of a loaner tour I was hosting. A few messages later, and met DMS at his offices with my car full of gear. The goal of my trip was to experiment with THC, and take a more academic approach to mixing music and cannabis.
DMS’s video took a look at how he and I can enjoy mixing high-end audio and cannabis. However, I sought out to understand how other music-appreciators went about their rituals. I created a questionnaire that asked a few simple questions.
In compiling the results of the group, I found some interesting highlights to share. I will be revealing my answers along the way.
How often do you have a dedicated music listening session?
For the first question, the folks surveyed seemed to have about 3 listening sessions per week.
Flux: I tend to have a music session of some kind happening every day, but critically listening or going through a particular routine also tends to be in the 2-3 times per week range. I’ll get in the sweet spot of the speakers or tailor my headphone experience in a specific way to maximize enjoyment in the moment.
Where do the sessions take place? Where are they located relative to your routine behavior?
The sessions, unfortunately, seem to be unique to the person answering. However, the common thread amongst the settings ends up being in a relaxed place or position. Most folks mentioned a place in their home that is a dedicated retreat.
Flux: I tend to be at my computer desk because of the headphone system nearby and its sound. I balance myself between speakers and headphones about 30-70 respectively. I enjoy using EQ on my speaker systems to correct for suboptimal rooms, but I appreciate the floorstanding speakers over my open-baffle speakers. With headphones, I will frequently add a sub-bass boost to headphones, and may do some correction beyond bass should the headphone or mood call for it. The floorstanding speakers have a higher percentage of critical listening sessions compared to my desk, but the desk allows me time to enjoy music at all hours of the day and night.
Is there a ritual you perform for any sessions over a given time frame? Do you use anything to enhance your listening experiences? How often does a change from your routine occur?
Amongst everyone surveyed, the most important take-home was that those surveyed went above and beyond their routines for listening sessions at least once per month. Sometimes it was taking a shower and creating a therapeutic release, other times a person would indulge in something (responsibly) to add some stimulus to the session.
A few people were willing to open up about their relationship with THC. Marijuana, weed, edibles, etc.; it’s currently a frontier that seems to separate a few people’s testimonies even though it’s a legal avenue for a significant portion of the folks surveyed. Some folks enjoy it occasionally or regularly, others may distance themselves from it, but one thing is clear to me: all of the people involved in this project welcome some form of music enhancement. While it is an elementary assessment, it is a common thread amongst everyone here. Breaking a pattern, adjusting the set and setting of the music consumption, we are willing to go the extra mile.
Flux: Ultimately, THC and hifi was the reason for me starting this project in the first place. I wanted to break down a potential stigma of consuming THC over alcohol or other legalized substances. For what seems like a fraction of the cost of various doses of alcohol, THC allows a mood enhancement and a different level of engagement with music consumption.
I will mix things up. I’m no stranger to an evening cocktail. I enjoy the assisted unwind behind a chewable product. Regardless, I appreciate the ability to create new experiences when I have the available time.
What are the mediums of your music enjoyment?
The surveyed group preferred speakers over headphones for enjoyment, even if the participants had access to headphones and speakers. More common, however, was the love for speaker listening when someone indulged in a special act or change to their routine. Additionally, more of the surveyed folk preferred digital forms of playback compared to analog. Analog seemed to be more in-line with a special change-up to digital routines.
Flux: I have spent years understanding the relationship of digital components, so naturally my consumption revolves around the digital realm. I have multiple digital options at my computer desk, and use Roon as a way to stream Qobuz and local files to my living room where my speakers reside. I may venture into physical media with time, but for now I appreciate the small footprint of terabytes on a digital drive.
First and foremost, thank you to DMS and his family for being gracious hosts. Second, thank you to all the folks who participated in the short-form questionnaire. I learned more about my peers in this project and just how similar our behaviors line up, even though we may come from various backgrounds and live different lives.
Music is why we do this. Enhancing that experience allows us to create memories or add onto previous ones with new stimuli.The gear is more akin to the utensils you use to enjoy music, music is the fuel that keeps us going. We may enjoy our gear to different degrees, but we all take time to appreciate wiggly air.