Or take ‘Songs of our native daughters’ [Smithsonian Folkways Recordings], an album that tells of the struggles of African-American women over the centuries. No mere historical oddity or worthy ethnographic study, here is a collection of songs that wrench the heart and twist the gut. Lines like ‘shackles on our feet, but we’re dancing’, delivered with a defiance that shouts of the human need for joy, a determination that the human spirit shall not be repressed by brutality and cruelty and will ultimately prevail. Here, there’s a visceral sense of participation, of being present at a musical event of real significance. I’m reminded that good art can not only reflect on, or offer commentary on, the world, but can also be an agent for change.
If that sounds pompous and pretentious, perhaps I should apologise, but listening to this system, in CH Precision’s listening room, these are the sort of thoughts that came to the surface. Music is an extraordinary phenomenon, with the ability to connect directly with our brains in a way few other sensory experiences can. And the CH Precision room makes this abundantly clear. What is also clear is that CH Precision’s approach is about preserving the musical event; they clearly understand what is needed, in a technical sense, to achieve that direct route into our musical awareness. And that extends beyond the CH Precision hardware to the supporting ancillaries, and how they interact with that hardware.
It’s not a remarkable room. In truth it’s a fairly prosaic room. And yet, it achieves remarkable things. To CH Precision it’s a tool. A way to evaluate development prototypes, try combinations of partnering equipment, experiment with placement and setup, listen for differences and learn from those experiences. As a reference point it needs to be stable and that stability relies absolutely on the consistency within the system being used and the care and consistency in its set up. It’s an honest room, without pretence, because it’s there to do a job for the manufacturer. But by the same token, it’s not some sterile lab environment; it’s equally clear that CH Precision’s approach is not merely about achieving technical excellence for its own sake. It’s a necessary, but not sufficient criterion. So while it’s not been conceived as a marketing tool, the CH listening room is also, by nature if not by design, a showcase. It’s a sonic and musical reference point. But it is also a place where partners, distributors or dealers can go to find out what makes this equipment so special – and to discover just what is possible when you go to such extraordinary lengths over system set up, ancillaries and partnering equipment. No doubt a higher ceiling or more harmonious dimensions, fewer reflective surfaces or careful acoustic treatment might wring even more from the system, but I left with one lasting impression: those things are ‘nice to haves’ not ‘must haves’. Start with the right equipment, set it up really carefully, and extraordinary things are yours for the asking.