Our Special Feature 1/2019 is dedicated to sound quality. We present a number of professionals, solutions and applications that ultimately have the same goal: to produce a listening experience as perfect as possible.
We delve into the secrets of making and producing recordings, take a look at the technical solutions used by Finnish loudspeaker manufacturers and review the art of designing concert halls. We also discuss the cultural meanings assigned to sound quality, particularly hi-fi.
A neologism in the Finnish language captures the essence of this topic well: the verb hifistellä is defined as “having attention to detail, aiming at having a state-of-the-art equipment setup, being snobbish”. While it originally referred specifically to an enthusiasm for high fidelilty - high quality in sound recording and reproduction - it has since come to refer to a quest for the best in any area of life. Significantly, the word carries a slight but definite pejorative tone.
The term ‘hi-fi’ is conventionally associated with men and conjures up images of inflated prices. Recently, however, this stereotype has been brought under critical examination, and there is increasing discussion on the role of women as both producers and consumers of hi-fi in the past and in the present. Scientific research has been conducted on the importance and history of hi-fi, focusing not so much on technological innovations and their inventors as on consumers (See also Creators of sound).
I hope that this Special Feature will encourage readers to take a different look at the various aspects of high sound quality and has something new to offer for both hi-fi enthusiasts and readers for whom the mere mention of the term ‘hi-fi’ usually is enough to make them skip to the next story.
For myself, exploring this topic has made me open my ears to the art of listening in a new way. Although any individual listener experience is the sum of many factors and is influenced not only by technological parameters but also by the listener’s emotions and state of alertness, not to speak of their musical history, I am convinced that even a slight improvement in sound quality when listening to music can improve your quality of life. What a fascinating thought!
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Featured photo by Kirsi Ojala: modular synthesizer of the electro-folk band Sähköpaimen