Recently, long-time audio enthusiast, Philip G made the sound decision to invest in an all New Zealand hi fi audio system. Consisting of Image loudspeakers, Slinkylinks cables and Perreaux electronics.
“I have four modes of listening to music. The first is sadly, when it is in the back ground – filling in the spaces around what else I am doing. Lets not talk about that mode, we all do it but there is no heart in it.
The second mode is when I am technically listening to the music, when I am appreciating the edge and touch of individual instruments, the squeak of fingers moving on the frets or the touch of husk and catch in a voice. This mode is relevant here because this is coming from me to you through a brand new high end all New Zealand system; Perreaux CD1 Prisma CD player, SM6 MkII Prisma preamplifier and 350 Prisma power amplifier, Image Revelation speakers and Slinkylinks pure silver interconnects. I have just put all these components together, deeply listened to them for the first time and believe me; I can hear all the edges, touches, fret squeaks, husks and catches in quite a different way.
However you can read all about what these systems can do from professional hi fi reviewers – I am not and never will be one of those. Besides this mode of listening also pales into insignificance for me relative to my modes three and four; when my listening is a relationship with the musicians and finally when my listening transports me to an aural landscape where the essential me lives and learns who I am.
Relationships are all about connections. Being in relationship with my favourite musicians, with their skill and dream, bringing them into my world so that they can talk to me is the essence of this mode of listening. When music opens this door I simply feel things, the edges and touches open new windows, the fret squeaks signal the leap to a different strand of emotion and the husks and catches speak directly to me of things I have felt but never quite understood as clearly before.
In Hi Fi talk I love the expression 'straight wire with gain' that expresses the ideal of an uncoloured connection that translates and recreates the skill and dream of the musician to my ear. But think about it for a bit. When you are listening to your system you’re actually joining in a relationship that stretches from the musicians, the producers, sound engineers who’ve created your source through the critical relationships with the people who’ve dreamed, designed created your system. Their dreams turn your source into your experience, like it or not you experience a relationship with them. Who they are, their values and skill matter as much as the technical specs because the relationship I have with the music comes through them.
That’s why putting this system together has been so much fun. Chris Ball of Image made my first 'real' speakers 30 years ago, big flat square things that just blew people away even then. I know what Chris is trying to achieve in his designs at Image, I can see how each step in his subsequent journey takes him closer to his dream. Seeing and listening to the Image Revelation loud speakers in my lounge proves it to me.
And then you discover similar passions in the people behind Perreaux and Slinkylinks; so now in my mind this new system of mine feels like an exploration of how the clean and pure essence of our New Zealand environment becomes a clear and transparent stage that brings Ricky-Lee Jones soaring voice and aching emotion into my lounge, speaking directly to me.
And then there is the final mode of listening, where music becomes the landscape where the essential me can soar and fly. I close my eyes, the room disappears, the edge becomes the serrated boundary of earth and sky of our Southern Alps, the touch is feel of fern leaf, moist from soft rain, the fret squeak is a leap across the forest and boulders of a pristine valley, the husk and catch become the call of voices on the wind and surf of a deep pure world.
Yeah, I know this is probably just weird but when this happens, when your room, your system just disappears and you ARE the music – isn't this what Hi Fi is all about?”