When Neutral...Isn't Right For You
Is there only one sound, the absolute sound, the right sound?
I take the position that there is no one "correct" sound in an absolute sense – but there is a correct sound for you, the listener.
Let's look at a simple example. When a painter creates a painting in his studio, he goes to extraordinary lengths to arrange and reproduce the lighting. He doesn't just view the subject under that light, and it's the same lighting under which he views the finished work. Now take that painting to a museum or gallery. There's no way the curator or gallery owner can know or reproduce the same light under which the artist worked. Move the painting to a home, and you remove it yet another step from those original conditions – but does that invalidate the new owner's appreciation? Of course not. That owner will doubtless agonize over how to light that painting, but it will come down to informed personal preference at the end of the day – just the same as how you choose components for your audio system.
There are fundamental and objective parameters to follow, whether lighting a painting or replaying a recording. Fluorescent bulbs are a huge no-no when lighting a painting – just as audiophiles would seek to avoid large humps in the bass response or intrusive slap echoes. But once those basic parameters have been satisfied, your perception matters. In an audio system set up at the highest level, the challenge is to meet those technical, objective demands without impeding the music, which sounds deceptively simple. Modern audio systems offer a such high resolution that problems associated with improper or conflicting setup and optimization are often glaringly intrusive. Lacking the ability to diagnose or eliminate those problems, we cover them up – and cover up the music's communicative immediacy and fascination at the same time.
Instead of asking whether the sound of your system is accurate, I'd suggest another, far more straightforward question for you:
Do you MAKE TIME within your busy schedule to listen to music from your home audio system?