That “warm and embracing sound”

Audiophiles anxiously looking for HiFi knitwear

Author: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Pubblicato: August, 2020

[Warm and embracing]

The most common form of self-harm is using a sharp object (a knife, a pair of scissors) to cut one's skin. Instead, I normally prefer to browse the web searching for second-hand HiFi ads, in the hope of finding a rare bird, in the middle of tons of useless vintage garbage. On the other hand, browsing through second-hand ads can be highly informative: it makes me understand the kind of sound most would die for.

It came as a huge surprise to recognise that audiophiles do not search for HiFi components, rather for warm and embracing knitwear, wooly jackets and the like. The phrase warm and embracing sound seems to be the real audiophile abracadadra nowadays.

Let me put this straight: a pullover can be warm and embracing, not a HiFi component or a sound, and let me explain why.

Warm. This adjective commonly refers to a certain, precise kind of sound. The real meaning of warm seems to be rather obscure to many audiophiles. Hence, let me translate it into something clearer.
A warm sound is never aggressive in the mid-high range, and the high frequencies appear as attenuated, quieter, as well (for example, the sound of the cymbals). As a result, such kind of sound has a “tilt” towards the bass frequencies. Even the amount of musical information extracted from the tracks is limited, never in your face. There are “details”, but these are not the first thing that catch your attention. A warm sound is the opposite of a cold sound, which is rich in high frequencies and details, with a tight, less prominent bass range. Overall, the sound seems dry, certainly not mellow.

Embracing. This is quite ridiculous, when referring to a HiFi component. We're not referring to a Home Theater system, where the sound has to surround the listener, for obvious reasons of realism. Knitwear can be embracing! Why should we be embraced by the sound? In real life, music hits you in your face, frontally, be it from an orchestra in a concert hall, from a band in a jazz club or at a rock concert. You won't hear violins coming from behind you, and drums from beneath you! Depending on the music hall, there might be a small portion of reflected sound (by the walls) and that's all, but you'll see the sound in front of you, always.
If you think the sound should embrace you, you've never attended a live music event, of any kind. Perhaps you are used to the sound coming from different points in the space that can be experienced in a dance hall. Of course, there are exceptions, for example multichannel recordings that need to be reproduced by a multichannel system.

Now, this warm and embracing sound is frequently described by sellers of vintage gear in their ads. They always write something that reminds you that warm and embracing sound of the past. Generally, this kind of sound is typical of vintage garbage gear, which sounds muffled, with overblown and uncontrolled bass, non-existent treble and poor in transparency and dynamics. Is this the kind of sound many audiophiles are looking for? If yes, it has nothing to do with reality. Have you ever listened to a non-amplified drum kit, played right in front of you? The cymbals destroy your ears, and the kick drum devastates your stomach. Have you ever heard a soprano, singing in front of you? Or the dynamics of a grand piano? The electric guitar of a metal band? Do they sound warm and embracing? Certainly not. And your HiFi system shouldn't reproduce these sounds as warm and embracing.

I believe this trend is a consequence of the fact many listeners/audiophiles do not attend live music events. They don't even know how aggressive and ear splitting a real musical instrument can sound! Is it a problem? Not really, just call your system MyFi and not HiFi! You'll be glad with your “audiophile knitwear” and we'll be more than happy with our imitation of reality.

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