We all have the capacity to enjoy music. Some of us feel a swell of undeniable joy when listening to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ or Holst’s ‘Jupiter’. It is said that the latter caused listeners to spontaneously start dancing in the aisles when it was played. Others like to have a head-banging ball with heavy metal, jump and jive to the hopping strains of Bennie Goodman, get funky with disco ditties, or zone out with some acid jazz. There are so many different types of music that anyone can find something that speaks to them. But you might not realize that you’re listening to it all wrong. There could be a better way. Here are a few helpful tips for better music listening.
- Carefully cultivate music files. The best sound quality starts with the highest quality files, meaning those that haven’t been compressed, converted, or otherwise degraded through digital processing. So you’ll want to be careful about where you download your files. The best quality is going to come from licensed purveyors of studio masters. Although you can definitely save some dough by downloading music files from “sharing” sites (i.e. pirated music), you’re not only committing a crime by doing so, you’re also likely to get poor sound quality as a result. You get what you pay for.
- Comparison shop for speakers. No matter how good the quality of your music files is, your tracks could still sound tinny, garbled, or touched with static if you’re playing them through subpar speakers. Rather than buying the cheapest set you can find, or alternately, splurging on the most popular speakers just because everyone else has them, take the time to shop around. Read consumer reviews before shopping to narrow down your options. Then take the time to listen to several sound systems to select the speakers that deliver the best sound quality. Don’t forget to purchase appropriate accessories, including premium speaker cable.
- Up your EQ IQ. With high-quality music files and fantastic speakers on which to play them, the next step is to fiddle with the equalizer settings on your tuner in order to achieve the best possible sound quality. Some stereo systems have a variety of presets already dialed in that allow you to enjoy the sound of everything from a stadium to a padded room. But instead of relying on these for optimal listening pleasure, mess around with equalizer settings to find the balance that makes your favorite genre or artist sound supreme.
- Cut out distractions. Listening to music can be an immersive experience, provided you aren’t distracted by other sounds in your environment. While you could soundproof a music room in order to get rid of traffic noise or someone watching TV in the next room, a simpler and cheaper solution is to splurge a bit on noise-cancelling headphones.
- Protect your ears. You may want to listen to music at 11, but exceeding a certain decibel level could actually damage your eardrums. If you want to enjoy better music listening for life, consider popping in your DownBeats ear plugs when you go to concerts and keep your music below 85 decibels – at this level or higher you can cause permanent damage to hearing. You can use a mobile app like dB Volume Meter (Apple) or deciBel (Android) to measure with your smartphone or tablet.