What is this term 'analytical' ?

I see this routinely in reviews & comments and so do you:

It’s too analytical. It’s so analytical that it’s not musical. Etc.

What does this mean? You can actually hear stuff? You picture math problems on a chalkboard? A shrink’s couch?

Isn’t the entire point of this hobby to hear music clearly? But apparently: not too clearly?


It usually refers to a set-up that emphasizes treble/high frequencies. If you listen to a lot of live, unamplified music or play live music yourself, you soon find that a lot of audio systems.do like to give you a bit more treble.

A boosted treble/high frequency response giving the impression of detail at the expense of timbre and tonal contrasts.

It’s an old trick that often succeeds in gaining the listener’s attention.

Hi-Fi journalism is littered with such anecdotes as the following, " I’ve heard this track countless times but I’ve never noticed X or Y before."


The only place you might need this elevated response is in monitoring where you want to put a spotlight on possible issues especially in the so called presence/brilliance bands up to 9 kHz.

It is generally agreed that the industry favourite Sony MDR 7506 headphones employ this frequency response for exactly that purpose.

In domestic audio its a sure fire way to discover the dreaded listener fatigue.


I would say equipment having all the detail up to fault presenting music not as a whole but somehow independently. I would not confine it into highs region only and is rather a subjective term commonly not expressed in a positive manner. Some people can call it detail, accuracy, neutrality but these are softer expressions leading to analytical if in excess.



A system that emphasizes the details of music loosing midrange emphasis as well as rhythm and pace (think musicality / the emotional connection). So the tick of a drumstick against the cymbal is highlighted but voices are typically subdued. Typically a trait of  older and less expensive solid state (not tubed) audio gear. 

High end audio for those that care to pursue it has a very large vocabulary. It takes a lot of exposure to music and to the nomenclature to learn and connect the two. If you are interested, I recommend Robert Harley’s book The Complete Guide to High end Audio. This is an excellent place to start and a reference to reread occasionally.

Good thoughtful answers. Seems like it means what I might think of as bright, or top heavy.

Now if someone would tell me what 'musical' means, and how it's different...

Who knows the brilliant Mingus (I think) quote?

All together now: 'talking about music is like...' 

Too sterile. also, boring with no character....you want/need some warmth to make it more enjoyable over the long term. Too bright can be characterized as fatiguing and full of sharp ssss’s... That’s just my opinion. Musical in my book is if your tapping your foot. 

Agree with audioguy85. You’ll know it when you hear it. The sound is lifeless, sterile, not engaging, boring.  It's different from bright, to my ear anyway.

Let me add, all the notes and details are there, they just don't connect with you emotionally.

Have you ever got your TV really tuned in with new cables, a renderer etc. and the actors no longer look like they are in a movie but you are actually on the set watching the movie or TV show being filmed.

Way too much detail.

Musical is mostly rhythm and pace (and timing). A technical term that takes a lot of time to become sensitive to detect it directly… took me decades. A way I detect it is , does my foot just naturally want to start tapping to the music. It isn’t about details, it is about how captivating the music is. Typically analytical system can be devoid of it.


As an example when my system was spectacularly detailed I would listen to an album with interest… but never more than 30 - 40 minutes. Now my system is incredibly musical and I have a hard time tearing myself away from it after a couple hours. I listen three hours a day… and would listen more if I had time.


To me, the best way for an audiophile to loose his way is to become enamored with details and slam and find his system devoid of musicality. Tubed components tend to be very musical.

What does sterile sound like? What does character sound like? What does connecting emotionally sound like? 

Everything is subjective (see any number of other threads). But analytical is when you are listening to a recording and you find yourself perceiving the individual instruments/voices more and the overall ensemble effect less. It’s not the same as tipped-up treble, but there’s definitely a link/overlap.  Your "detailed" might be my "analytical" or vice versa.

Sometimes hard to explain, but listen to an inexpensive Topping component that has amazingly great measurements and you might get a good idea of what 'analytical' as opposed to 'musical' is. Or not. Lots of people love Chord gear; I find it too 'analytical' for my tastes. 

What does sterile sound like? What does character sound like? What does connecting emotionally sound like?

About all I can add is that it is the opposite of musical. Have you ever heard a system that you would describe as more musical than most? You just get caught up in the music and it makes you want to keep listening? Then go across the spectrum, past the ordinary amount of musicality, way over to where the music is just sound, not music. It just doesn’t engage you. That’s analytical.

Surely you understand connecting emotionally.  Compare your response to your favorite music with your response to music that you just don't care for.  The former is connecting emotionally with you.

Some have pointed out that going for detail can lead you to an analytical system. There’s a similar pitfall on the musical side. When going for as musical a system as possible, you can end up with an overly lush, overly romantic, slow and thick sounding system.



Let me add, all the notes and details are there, they just don’t connect with you emotionally.


Yes, I’ve experienced this a few times at shows.

A quite strange experience.

Something is wrong, or something is missing.

In either case you’re not immediately sure what that might be.


The point of this hobby is to enjoy yourself. The idea that there’s a pure land that has perfect reproduction that everyone would enjoy is folly.  Same for the idea that there is such a thing as an objectively neutral speaker that is capable of reproducing some ideal as the mastering engineers heard it in all cases.



You are going to have to listen to different systems while learning the terminology. Here is a glossary of terminology.





Several weeks ago I wrote a review of a DAC that was mostly about sound reproduction generally. It seems to touch very closely to the issues raised in this thread. As only one line of it refers to the DAC in question I think it’s OK to let it appear here. I’m certain there are other DACs that can meet the standard that I find praiseworthy and the review says so.

"Analytical" is something I’ve been fighting ever since I got into this stupid hobby.

The arrival of "Digital" made things worse.

Some amp and speaker combinations are poor matches for me. I’ve had combinations where there was far to much control over the speaker. It took the rhythm out of the music and made it sound mechanical. There are those that prefer this type of system because I’ve heard their praise with the same setup.

There is something mysterious about sound and our brains that makes it like the saying- beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


"Analytical" is something I’ve been fighting ever since I got into this stupid hobby.

The arrival of "Digital" made things worse.



I felt the same way for a very long time. Always looking for a particular kind of elusive sound - warm, analogue, organic, seductive, human, lacking grain etc.


Nowadays, I have gained considerable respect for digital, especially for its temporal qualities.

However, it's nothing less than a tragedy that we have ended up with decades of recordings that have been dynamically ruined because of the so called loudness wars.


This is akin to putting a 55kph limiter on a Ferrari. Now even if most of their customers wanted such a thing, would Ferrari ever do it?

There are a lot of good answers on here that match my idea of analytical sound. Specifically too much highs at the expense of midrange tonality, and a lack of sense of musical rhythm and pace. The rhythm and pace part may have something to do with the way a speaker interacts with the room. Here where I work we analyze bass burst tones that have been played through a hifi system and recorded at the listening position. These are 16th notes with 16th rests in between. At some frequencies the note can be off at the listening position by a 16th note! It's silent when the note is supposed to be playing, and the note is playing when it's supposed to be silent! That happens because early reflections that are out of phase cancel out the sound from the speaker, but when the speakers go silent the remaining reflections can then be heard. 

In my opinion analytical means lack of body to the tones/sounds

Example: when vocals sound as though they are confined to the 'head voice', instead of the chest, or with a string instrument you hear only the attack without the body of the instrument


@zufan , I hate the adjectives used to describe music. Think about it. All stereos analyze the music. That is their job. The problem is a bad analysis vs a good one.

Stereos do not have pace and rhythm. The music has pace and rhythm which in most modern cases is under the control of the drummer. (or a click track)

In order to know how a system is performing you have to have a known reference. Most of us have no reference because we have no idea what our systems are doing. They have not been measured. We are out to sea without a compass. My reference is flat and equal. Flat does not sound best. I boost the bass a bit and roll of the high end a little. The two channels always have to have exactly the same frequency response curve. Two identical speakers will always be a little different Then the situation can get a lot worse because you put them in different locations. You locate sounds by volume and phase. If the volume (amplitude) of one speaker is louder at certain frequencies those frequencies are going to shift to the louder speaker. What do you think that is going to do to the image. Just because you hear a guitar in the left and a piano in the right does not mean the system is imaging well.  

mijostyn -- How 'bout we start using a new term -- convincing. Does the sound fool you into momentarily believing there's no longer an electro-mechanical intermediary between you and the music? Does the sound you hear viscerally bring you closer to the performance..whether that performance be recorded live or carefully constructed/assembled in the mixing room?

@edcyn , I like that, convincing. I will use that term from now on. I thing we should have a convincing rating scale 1-10/10. My own system I would give an 8/10, not perfect but up there.

The sound that comes from my equipment can be lovely and emotionally absorbing but it is rarely truly convincing. I'd give my modest rig about a 6.


How 'bout we start using a new term -- convincing. Does the sound fool you into momentarily believing there's no longer an electro-mechanical intermediary between you and the music?


What a brilliant suggestion!  'Convincing' - I love it.


On a good day, with a good recording I'd give my system an 8.

Otherwise we're talking 5 or 6.


The only system I heard that got near to what you're describing was a vinyl / tube system playing some 50s jazz LP through the Avantgarde Trios.

I should have stayed and listened longer, but it seemed so outlandishly out of my reach back then that I quickly dismissed it as an unreachable fantasy that might become uncomfortable if I became too familiar. 

Many years later I'd now love to revisit that system to see if it could do the same with other material.

Perhaps someone with more experience of the Trios could chime in?

I dont mind giving a note....

Better system than mine exist anyway...

But i listen music now without even thinking about sound...

There is a qualitative threshold, an acoustic minimal experience, over it, you forgot sound and experience music...

People obsessed by sound dont enjoy this threshold for a reason related to mechanical, electrical or acoustical problem or all these three together.... At any price tag....


“There is a qualitative threshold, an acoustic minimal experience, over it, you forgot sound and experience music...‘

This is a good point. Very true… at some point a system becomes really engaging… and after that… it is just engaging and absolutes don’t mater. Sure.. better is better… but better to enjoy than spend all your time questing for better.