Silly psychoacoustics

After about 40 years of audiophilia nervosa, I was recently surprised by a British dealer describing a qualitative characteristic of a interconnect cable, specifically the Naim Hi-line. I am familiar with terms that describe the listening experience such as texture, ambiance, depth, transparency, soundstage, imaging, atmosphere, emotion, punch, natural, smooth and so forth. The Hi-line was described as being possibly able to provide more “color”. Strangely enough, I’ve never thought of a brass section painting a picture in burnished golden brown or a bass line growling in jet black…Frankly, although perhaps not new to you, I found this to be wonderful as the palette of colors allows for an infinite variety of mental imagery while listening to music. I don’t know if the Hi-line or any other component can afford or facilitate this psychoacoustic interpretation, but I’ve decided I want to see more color in my music. How lovely is that?


Synaestesia is a well known phenomenon whereby two senses are associated - hearing and colour being a well known one.

Several composers have/had it. Sir Arthur Bliss actually composed A Colour Symphony.

So perhaps a Hi-line adding colour is not so far fetched!

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Colouring the music is a concept that has existed for a long time, meaning changing it. Most commonly, at least as far as I have read, it has been in descriptions of speakers, where standing waves, vibrating panels, resonances etc create a non-flat response. But also other components.

Some people like the result, perhaps where it emphasises part of the frequency range that to them conveys excitement, maybe like making the sound of a snare drum more prominent. Or simply perhaps because to them the true sound of a recording is not what they really like, and want it ‘improved’ akin to a rock guitarist preferring a distorted sound from an overdriven amp to the pure note of the string.

To others colouration is anathema, wanting to hear the music as it is held in the recording released by the artist and not some modification of it.

The so-called ‘Naim sound’, elusive of a detailed description, and some people suggesting less evident in the more recent and/or higher end models, may simply be the characteristic colouration introduced by the Naim amplifiers.

Ideally, of course, to suit everyone, would be a perfectly uncoloured system, perfectly reproducing what is in the recording, with a magic box by which the user can dial in whatever colouration best pleases them (and the effects could be named, red, yellow etc) impossible dream of course as electronics and physical speakers inevitably adds its own character (colour). And of course a prerequisite for that is a room that adds no colouration - probably in reality more impossible than the gear.


Timbre - the sound quality of a musical note - is also known as tone colour. So to use colour in a description of hifi doesn’t worry me at all. It’s a term I’ve seen used frequently. I can’t be doing with complex descriptions and probably use my stock terms ‘natural, real and engaging’ far too often. Colour is part of that sort of description I suspect.

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Hi HH,
Fully agree. I think it’s all subjective of course and part of the personal experience we all have with music and its evocative properties. Adding to my acoustic conscience an awareness of timbre color is just further enrichment for me. It’s all good stuff.

Thanks, I learned a new word!

Interesting indeed, IB. I think I’m speaking more about timbral color and differentiation of instrument and vocal sounds and the mental imagery they conjure in terms of nuance and equivalence, rather than a “colored” or typical sound of this or that DAC, transistor or valve. Coming from 25 years of valve amplification, I can easily agree on the coloration that lamps can produce; the light, the romantic portrayal, the organic texture. I’m letting my brain wander now into pigmentation as a sensorial addition. Anyway, in how many ways can one enjoy music? Probably indescriptably infinite…

That’s what I like about my Nordost cables. They all have a pretty colour, red, purple and blue. Better than black, white and grey. :yum:

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But Bliss wasn’t a synesthete, apparently. The work is based more on the heraldic associations of each movement’s colour title.

For anyone who wants to try it, there’s a good recording on Naxos BTW.


I believe the composer Michael Torke is a synesthete and has written a number of color pieces, but I’ve only heard his music on the radio.


That is interesting. I was always under the impression (until now!) that he was - not sure where I got the idea from. I really should check my facts before posting. :slight_smile:

@TOBYJUG Dang it, I made the mistake of properly concealing my cables!

Are you sure he was a British dealer?

If so …he cannot spell colour


@anon23139555 Indeed, he assuredly was and still is. It’s that my English has been deteriorated by 200 years of evolution elsewhere. But, you weren’t thrown by one poor letter.

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