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Hearing vs. Listening – Relaxing with a good HiFi...

Thu 03 Mar 2011

Hearing vs. Listening – Relaxing with a good HiFi...

Most of what we love as music enthusiasts is born out of what we hear. As such it’s a wonder we don’t spend more time thinking about why and how we do it. Hearing isn’t something you sit down and lean at school, it just kind of happens. But listening is something different and suggests not just being aware of sound but analysing it too.

A trip to the recent Bristol Sound & Vision show reminded me of how people’s reactions to a particular sound can differ wildly, even when listening to the same piece of music on the same equipment in the same room and at the same time! So why do we have such different reactions to the same thing? Is it preferences to the equipment or room or maybe the music being played? Chances are it’s a mix of both.

But one aspect that can dramatically effect the interpretation of what we hear is often forgotten - emotional response.

How we react to sound varies with the context in which we hear it. A chance listen to a favourite song on a small radio in a busy café will have a very different effect than the same song on a proper “HiFi” system while relaxing at home with a glass of wine. The former experience may just cause a wry smile. The later can transport the listener to a far off time and place, sooth the stresses of a busy day and even bring about a little euphoria.

So a good HiFi system isn’t just a flashy gadget or collection of fancy electronics. Chosen well it can offer relaxation and a little luxury after a hard day. Who wouldn’t welcome that!