How to listen

In this video the US dealer, Bill Parish, gives his view on how to listen to music through a good quality HiFi system.

In a nutshell he says it’s about whether a system makes unamplified music recorded in a particular room sound like live music.

To be able to judge this, you need to have listened to unamplified music at live concerts for many years and fairly often to keep your ear in.

He recommends using 2 or 3 reference tracks of different kinds of unamplified music that you like, but varying them over time so as not to burn out your enjoyment of those good tracks.

Bill’s view is the same as my view.

(I remember that good old Thomas from Switzerland used to have a similar view.)

It also seems quite close to JV’s view as far as I understand it.

What do you think?

Personally, whilst I can respect this view, I’m kinda done with the “rules badgers”.

I listen to my music, not my hifi. I spent far too many years chasing the “rules” when I should have been enjoying the music.


So, essentially, after some decades of listening to live music you finally qualify as being sufficiently competent to appreciate recorded music.

What utter tosh. We all look form hear and appreciate different things in our musical lives. The aspects I love May leave others cold and vice verse. Are any of us wrong for enjoying what we enjoy?

What… utter… tosh.


Unless you aim to be a system component designer, identifying minute changes/differences in sound, assessing the effect of each constructional change and finding ways to develop improve them (to your ears), or a reviewer seeking to identify even the smallest difference between system components, how you listen is simply down to what gives you pleasure or whatever else you want from listening.

For some people it might be that same critical analytical approach, and for them learning how to listen to hear those differences may indeed be necessary. For others it may be analytical in other ways, e.g. a musician seeking to hear how the musicians play their instruments, e.g. bowing technique, or a music producer listening to how the music was assembled and mastered, e.g effects used, and as musicians/producers their own learning of technique will inform their listening.

As for others - I suspect the vast majority - listening is simpler, primarily absorbing the sound combinations and feeling the emotion in the music, whether or not also picturing the musicians in front of them, e.g at one point focusing on a drummer, or guitarist, or violinist etc., listening to and appreciating their playing.

I am in that last category - and maybe for that reason I don’t get hung up over minutiae of effects of tweaks others pursue.

1 Like

I fear I am failing then.

How I am listening this morning is going through the Tidal new releases, in my dressing gown (is that suitable attire for serious listening?) whilst MOTD highlights are on the TV and I’m browsing the iPad.

So I’m not even giving the music my full attention.

And yet I have thoroughly enjoyed two complete albums and flicked through ten others!

I don’t think Bill is putting anything across that wil set the world on fire.
I’m sure being a high end dealer he has come across many items that have put into question and challenged his listening. (You would hope)
Perhaps a hifi presentation that didn’t suit his preferences to familiar music and sounds - “like, huh that don’t sound right” knee jerk reaction.
Spending some time with it could be more - “like, hang on I think I’m onto something here” Taking an open minded step towards a different account of listening to things.
Yes, we all know how to listen to music, but there’s no escaping the hifi.

IMHO, quite a rambling vid, which discusses self-evident things e.g. that electronically processed music is very different to live music (so many issues & factors here), and even the latter differs as to where you’re sitting/standing, as things like percussion instruments can sound very different towards the back of an auditorium than they do at the front.

Classic YMMV stuff.

Trying to brainwash. :exploding_head:

Good brainwashing ensures a clean brain. No good for anyone who likes having a dirty mind.


You knew this was coming Oops again. :wink:

Listening has always been in my book a creative process.
Rather than having everything handed to you on a plate, you need to know what you are listening for.
You can of course listen as if it’s a blank piece of paper.
You could then go on to make sketches.
Some outlines. Some perspectives. Some colours. Some appreciation of space and negative space.
Distortions, perhaps going into abstractions.
But it needs the listener to listen.

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.