Cerebral versus Visceral?

Generally // Generically 'framed' as Musical vs. Accurate.

I have issue with the above two words being separated as I find that to be musical there must be accuracy or preferably (to me) 'realism.' Further, I believe that both 'words' have been appropriated and attributed with connotations by respective 'camps' and that 'musical / accurate' is generally discussed as being on a continuum or sliding scale with each on polar ends.

Below is a link to a Steve Guttenberg video on the this topic. I like his choice of 'cerebral' vs. 'visceral.' 

He discusses this from a "speaker" perspective...I see it as a SYSTEM result. 

Thoughts and Reaction?

"With some speakers you feel the music, and with others you just think about it."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWqcu1wR1sw
Experienced this yesterday when comparing the B&W 702-S2 with the middle range Sonus Fabers.. The B&W's made me really cogitate on what I might like about them, while the Sonus Fabers gave me goose bumps and I stopped being so analytical.....
I recently experienced it also. After a couple of changes in my system, an amp went from being very good to exceptional, especially when judged purely from a 'visceral' point of view. 

I am still working on the right (optimal) balance between 'cerebral' and 'visceral' for my system / preferences.
I think the cerebral vs visceral/emotional listening experience/system it's an interesting question and SG is far from the first to bring it up.  It's been an audiophile chestnut to kick around as long as I've been in the hobby.

I think most of us would recognize the phenomenon in ourselves.  How many of us have found ourselves seemingly effortlessly engaged in music on our car stereo (even a not-so-great car stereo) sometimes in ways that seem to come with more difficulty from our main 2 channel systems?

That kind of thing.

The problem is, what amounts to a more "visceral/emotional" system vs cerebral tends to vary among audiophiles.   One will feel only an old school British monitor will get them into the music and make them "forget" about analysis, others will say they need much more impact and aliveness to do the same, hence horn speakers or whatever.

So in a way when someone like SG starts to discuss cerebral vs visceral, there is a tendency to at least start implying one has made some sort of objective discovery, e.g. "This system is *inherently* more emotional."
Whereas given the subjectivity in this hobby, it doesn't really pan out that way in practice.

(I certainly get conscious of the cerebral vs visceral in my own quest, and to that end I find palpability - a density and air-moving punch to the sound - to be something that engages me.  Just like Steve G I long ago abandoned my Quad ESL 63s because of it.  And yet, there are audiophiles who would never depart from their ESLs.  And so it goes...)

Gee, if only I had a system with Marantz and JBL components...
wait a minute, I do. 👍

Like SG says, it sounds right within the first 10 seconds. Almost every time. It's a system I don't have to think about unless the upgrade bug is bitting and even then, whatever I'm listening to lulls me back to the music and I just give up on the thought of that MacBook with the Holo Spring DAC and drift off.

It's music that I can feel even at moderate levels and I'm not talking about bass or SPLs.. It's everything. If your system can't elicit some kind of sensation that you can feel in your skin, your body, engaging your emotions, without turning things up to lease breaking levels, then there's something amiss with your system.

Sure, the mind is always working as audiophiles are never content but as the music plays, those thoughts should dissipate into the ether and the right system will do it. 

All the best,
Thank god...a new either/or to kick around. Bye bye Laurel/Yanni, hello visceral/cerebral.
I want to expand on @nonoise point.

One really interesting idea I've been thinking about for a while is where exactly in our body do we perceive music? 

The idea that the ear/brain mechanism is the only part of the equation may not be fully accurate. By this, I don't mean where do we feel emotion. I literally mean, does our skin, and the nerves in that and our viscera play a part in our perception and interpretation of music? 

Like Freud, who over emphasized the mind, and cognition, without taking into account the part our brain/skin/body played in our sense of self and well being, do we do the same with music? I think this may be among the most fascinating future topics. 



I feel that the skin is a receptor in more ways than we give it credit for. There's touch(ing), feel(ing), and the like for navigating our bodies on a daily basis. There's levels of that for everything from simple tasks to making love to playing sports to life and death scenarios. 

It's our skin that was the first organ to deal with life as we evolved and our ears that eventually became the finely tuned instruments that they are. There's still some purpose of hearing left in the skin on a rudimentary level that works in concert with our ears. It's not just the bones in our skulls that aid in hearing, as I see it.

That accounts for frisson, which I've brought up a couple of times before and it looks like now it's relevant, again. It could be that through simple disuse coupled with technology that we don't rely on our skin's hearing ability as we used to but some of us are still in touch (pardon the pun) with that innate ability as simply crunching the numbers statistically would bear out. It couldn't just cease in all of us at the same time. 

Food for thought.
All the best,

I think that you can be quite cerebral listening to the music when picking out the notes, the reverb, the ting that comes out of an accurate system. You can envision it in the minds eye, almost see that musician performing it.

Visceral, or gut, is the excitement or emotion one has, when cerebral gives way to enjoyment. as @erik_squires states "I think this may be among the most fascinating future topics". Agreed!

I love both cerebral and visceral. A.


Thanks for the links. Now I know I'm not crazy and
I want an Emoti-Chair as well. 👍🎼🎹🛋

All the best,
One thing that made me think of skin hearing was a reviewer talking about listening to an ESL with a specially made tube amplifier built without transformers. ESL's like high voltage, so the tubes were hooked up directly. 

The reviewer mentioned sobbing like a babe, and this is actually something that happens at times during massage therapy. People release trauma and it hits just like that. 


I'm not too proud to admit that I had an emotional reaction once, to a demo at an audio show a few years back. It was over in Irvine, Ca. and it was at the Brooks Berdan room. They had a rather expensive TT set up with some top notch electronics and they put on Louis Armstrong's St. James Infirmary and my eyes welled up and a tear ran down my cheek.
It was bliss. 

A hand gently touched my shoulder and he said something like "take you time, there's no rush." I wish that happened all the time.

All the best,