We have often lambasted songs, declared tracks as awful or hear other people do it. Through this powerful word of mouth, commendations or desecration, lots of artistes’ careers have been made or marred. But what many don’t know, or perhaps refuse to realize, is that the sweetness of a music track depends a lot on the hearing experience of the listener: what he hears, how he hears it, his state of mind while he’s listening, and the kind of environment he’s in at that time.
All these things determine whether a song is crap in our ears, yet the artiste doesn’t influence any of these. Really, he doesn’t! There’s usually a 90% chance that by the time you get to hear an audio track, the song would’ve been greatly and irretrievably altered from what the artistes and the producers intended for you to hear, this is almost always as a result of file compression and DJ mixing. Most people just plug in any earphone and select any song. But enjoying a song optimally is much more than that. I can say it rests on these secondary factors:
The type of music/audio file:
The most common format for audio playback is the mp3 format. Mp3 files, by character are usually compressed to an extent. But there are other file formats that deliver excellent audio e.g. wma and aac files. So it is mostly better to use wma, but Mp3 works on a variety of players and devices so if you’re using a low-end phone for instance, it’s better to go for Mp3. The bit rate usually determines the amount of compression it has gone through. The decent bit rate for such a file is 128kbps. I’ll spare all the techno-babble but if you wanna know more on mp3 and audio compressions and how to check the bit-rate of your audio file, click here. As a matter of habit, I usually don’t download songs less than 5MB in size, anything less and the quality suffers. In short, if your song sounds like a faulty diesel engine with toddlers gargling in the background then its very likely that you’re playing a low quality mp3 file. For best quality songs it’s better to rip a CD.
The device with which you play your music:
Some devices are excellent media players and some are basically crappy. A Chinko phone(apologies chinko users) for instance will likely not give you a desirable listening experience, the bass would sound like you’re beating a metal gong with a rod and the treble would sound like a local pepper-grinding machine, so if you desire to enjoy your audio more, you better take more than a passive look at the media capabilities while considering your next smartphone.
The kind of audio accessory with which you listen to your music:
This is another hugely determinant factor. Your headsets, earphones, or speakers matter a lot. It is advisable to try as much as possible to invest in a pair of decent headset or earphones. A headset is the one that covers the whole ear canal completely and wraps around the skull. Earphones are just the tiny buds that enter your ears and throw in sound directly into the eardrums. Depending on your style, the earphones are more convenient to carry around and slink in the ear, they also offer more in terms of noise cancellation and flexibility. If you’re travelling for instance, maybe on a bike, or exercising, in a library, a set of good earphones is surely the better choice. But for better audio, more stereo surround sound, and deeper bass, the headsets are more capable.
The kind of audio accessory you can have depends on how much cash you can spare. There are some that can go as low as $10 and others that can go as high as $1000, It depends on what rocks your boat and yet won’t rock your wallet too much. Please, o please don’t go and buy those useless things they sell at all these Ibo boy shops for two hundred Naira! I’m talking from experience, those things won’t last you up to a month before one ear starts showing madness, Give it just two weeks or more, it’ll either simply stop working or the cable would start to cut at the joints. The amount of chicken change you spend on those cheapies added together can buy you a very decent headphone. It’s also kind of disappointing, the kind of earphones that come bundled with our phones (for those of us that buy brand new). They rarely have great output. Manufacturers only ship decent audio accessories with their high-end phones, and one major advantage of ‘follow-come’ headsets,is that they usually last very long.
Other miscellaneous factors:
Your state of mind when listening to the track is one. If you feel cheerful and gay, you may not really chill with Katy Perry or Adele’s heartbreak songs, if you’re equally feeling like rock then LMFAO’s songs may not be for you at that moment. I believe we enjoy songs that relates with our moods more.
Also, the audio and equalizer configurations of your media device can sometimes enhance or kill the listening experience. You cannot set your equalizer at rock and bass boost then expect it to render a Beethoven or Mozart music well. In the same vein you can’t put your equalizer at jazz and then have the right to complain that ‘Kukere’ from Iyanya isn’t sounding nice on your earphones.
Lastly, other issues like background noise, activity of the listener, the shape and state of the listener’s ears, static interference, and dynamic sound settings the studio editors did with the track can go a long way too.
What we’re saying in essence is that, to enjoy your music experience to the best heights, use good speakers/ear buds/headphones, download quality audio file formats, and play it with a good media device.
If you’re willing to go the extra-mile, then you can adjust your music player’s sound equalizer and audio playback setting, buy a super-duper expensive audio accessory, download your songs with at least 320kbps, set music playlists for work, exercise, leisure, sleep, moods etc.
…and if you still want more, then you can go the audiophile way. Rip all your songs from a CD or buy/download the HD lossless version of the songs, get an headphone amplifier, order for some insanely expensive, custom made, high-definition, super-fidelity skull-shattering-bass audio gear manufactured to the minutest detail with your exact tastes and whims in mind, build a house with a sound-proof room specifically designed for music enjoyment (believe me it has been done) , fine-tune your audio equalizer settings sharply with each setting only applying for a particular song, oh yes, and just prepare to be deaf by the time you reach 50 years of age
…and if you’re still not satisfied yet, that would mean you’re going deaf already.
In conclusion, truly experiencing music goes deeper than what is immediately apparent. Depending on your level of audiophillia, try any combination of the above tips and see how much your music experience gets revolutionalised. Enjoy your music.