Musicality: Does it reside in the system or the listener?

Musicality is one of those terms that doesn’t really have a firm definition. Seriously, if you look it up in a dictionary it will just refer you to musical, which is defined as “of or pertaining to music,” like that even means anything! Yet we hear the word musicality tossed around a lot on the Audiogon forums. Is musicality something you should try to obtain through your system and its setup? User Sabai set out to find it’s true meaning, and people had A LOT to say.

SABAI: I am upgrading my system like a lot of us who follow Audiogon. I read a lot about musicality on Audiogon as though the search for musicality can ultimately end by acquiring the perfect music system — or the best system that one can afford. I really appreciate the sonic improvements that new components, cables, plugs and tweaks are bringing to my own system, but ultimately a lot of musicality comes from within and not from without. I probably appreciated my Rocket Radio and my first transistor radio in the 1950’s as much I do my high-end system in 2010. Appreciating good music is not only a matter of how good your equipment is. It is a measure of how musical a person you are. Most people appreciate good music, but some people are born more musical than others and appreciate singing in the shower as much as they do listening to a high-end system, playing a musical instrument, or attending a concert. Music begins in the soul. It is not only a function of how good a system you have.

Musicality resides with the listener. The equipment resides on the shelf. We are all striving to create the best system we can. But my own sense of musicality — how I hear what my equipment produces and how much I appreciate what I hear — is the ultimate determinant of how much I am able to appreciate what my equipment produces.

For many of us here, purchasing equipment that we hope will improve the quality of sound makes a big difference to our enjoyment of the music. I know this makes a big difference for me for most of the music that I play. There is some music that I play that speaks to me no matter how bad the recording and no matter what equipment it is played on, but good quality recordings played on good equipment are such a pleasure to listen to that I cannot deny the importance of the improvements I have made to my system.

HELLOFIDELITY: At the end of the day, I just want to have a better experience with MUSIC, and will always choose a component and system based on this. I don’t care about technical specs, loudness and analyzing sound….I just want the music to sound as good as possible. Some “hifi” gear and systems sound dead, lifeless. It seems like some people want to “analyze sound” instead of listen to music. While I have a great appreciation for technical engineering and design, most of the gear is not something I would want, because of both the price and the lack of “musicality.”

TVAD: In my opinion, a musical system is one that let’s you forget about the equipment and allows you to listen to the music without analyzing the sound. Simple as that.

PHILJOLET: I think musicality is whatever conveys the music experience to YOU. In other words, a personal thing. For me, it is dynamic range and tone.

BLINDJIM: It is the single most indescribable facet of music. It is life and breath where none could possibly be. It’s the allure and intrigue that simply shouldn’t occur.

AUDIOFEIL: I can’t define it, but I know it when I hear it.

So maybe musicality isn’t something that can be defined or measured.  It is something you just feel.  It’s that “ah-ha!” or “ahh” moment when it all clicks. Your system and its components can attribute to this feeling, but we think it has to be inside of you, too. And when you get it, what a beautiful moment it is. Sometimes you’ve got to get out of your head and let it into your heart.

To see Member comments or join in the discussion, click here!

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