help_outline Skip to main content

San Francisco Audiophile Foundation

News / Articles

The Science of Audiophilia

Qua Veda | Published on 5/21/2022

Recent articles offer a science-based understanding of what inspires many of us to be audiophiles.


I’m sure that many of us can relate to the powerful impact music has on us, so much so that we have devoted a great deal of time and resources to enhance our listening experience.

I’ve recently read a few articles that offer explanations of why music evokes such powerful emotional and physiological responses. I thought I would share my take-aways with you.

Researchers have discovered that listening to some musical selections can cause a powerful physiological response known as "frisson”  – derived from French word for “aesthetic chill”.  

1)    Some of the causes of frisson described in the article were ones I could particularly relate to, including:


  • a “violation of expectations” (my favorite)

According to an article in Frontiers in Psychology, “Expectancy violations (e.g., harmonic, rhythmic, and/or melodic violations) are strongly correlated to the onset of musical frisson, such that some level of violated expectation may be a prerequisite.” 

  • Dopamine.

Dopamine is the body's "feel good" hormone. "And that's why, for humans, goosebumps are pleasurable."  ( read more)


2)    Examples of music that may produce frisson

I especially love music where my expectations are violated.  This can occur in any genre, and does not depend on having a particularly high-end playback system.  However, on really great audio systems, I my expectations have been violated in very good ways by almost any music played through them!  As an audiophile, I’m hoping to experience musical frisson as often as possible.


Just a few random examples of music I listened to recently that gave me some frisson. (Links for convenience, not great quality sound)


But wait…  There’s More!... A whole lot more !!


A 715-song playlistwas curated by a team of neuroscientists and is available on Spotify.  


No doubt, you have many of your own examples.  I found the science behind this to be interesting, and it has increased my awareness and appreciation for the music we love.


Happy Listening,