Or is it ambience? Same thing. Spelling differs due to US/UK conventions just like aluminum/aluminium. Why is it important regardless of lettering? In a recent video on essential but non-obvious accessories, John Darko made an important point. It's routinely given short shrift but mostly not made at all. I've addressed it for years by including in-situ photos of our various systems. None ever sat in anonymous concrete bunkers with bare walls and just an equipment rack between the speakers. The embedded message was simple. Playback must integrate with our living-room décor if it is to become an essential part of our lives. Whatever room we do our listening in—sitting lounge, repurposed bed room, home office desk top—should make us feel comfortable. We should feel wholly 'at home' long before we ever cue up our first sound. Any listening experience includes all senses. Focusing on just the ears is short-sighted. Why should our other senses process conflicting messages just because the chair is uncomfortable, the air stale, the space messy, the temperature off, the colors clash, the lighting glares, the space lacks personalization? It all feeds back into our playback experience. If we want to make it the best we can, we ought to serve all our senses, not just the ears.
Certainly one guy's lovingly curated interior is another gal's idea of grotesque excess or even clutter. Personal style extends from the monastic to the baroque, from the subdued to the vivacious. Reams of magazines are dedicated to celebrating the enormous variety whereby people from different cultures express their tastes in interior décor. The important point is that our listening space speaks to us at all times. What does the inaudible talking are the furnishings, accessories, colors, lighting, materials, artwork, photographs, books, mementos, rugs, curtains, plants and flowers. It's not about emulating Town & Country; unless that's our style. It's about expressing our own ambience. It's about incarnating our personality so that it creates a supportive sensory infrastructure and feedback loop. Just hanging out in this room—nowhere to go, nothing to do—we should feel cozy, balanced and well served. We should feel nurtured and cared for as though occupying an upscale hotel room whose entire purpose was our creature comfort; and management's hope of us returning.
Part of the concert experience is anticipation and preparation. People get dressed up. They plan a full evening out on the town. There's a sense of occasion. Obviously not every day is a weekend. Dining out swanky across all seven days won't just expand our waist line. It'll deplete our bank account. But creating the right ambiance isn't about spending lots or going all flash. It's first and foremost about acknowledging its importance; honing our sensitivity to the effects that colors, textures and placement plus living things like plants make; then doing something about it. Now space itself becomes an occasion, an anticipation to be in it. Many of us are hyper selective about what we eat because it affects us in such obvious ways. The ambience in our spaces of living and work is another kind of food. It can nurture us, be unhealthy in some ways or just ineffective so neither fish nor foul. Why not go for the first option? By influencing our psychology and sense of wellbeing, it has a direct influence on the quality of our experience, in this case listening. If it were otherwise, why do restaurants spend money on creating a welcoming ambiance? If it were solely about the food's quality, they could serve it in a subway station or underground parking garage, rusty trash cans repurposed as tables. They don't; and for good reason.
Catering to our domestic ambience is no different. We just must make ourselves important enough to feel that we deserve a lovely ambiance. From there we proceed to want it. Finally we simply create it. In the hifi publishing space, much is made of curating a system. But why stop there? A system doesn't exist in a vacuum. It sits in a room. To get at our daily playback allowance and aural vitamins, we must spend time in that room Shouldn't we curate it with the same care, attention—and dare I say obsessiveness?—which we apply to our hifi?
If we don't, we've only done half a job of it. It might already be good, great or even stellar… just not stellar enough. Now it's not yet all that it could be!
Here's Part 2 of this article with some basic tips and resources.
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