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Positive Feedback ISSUE 58
november/december 2011


Dedicated to a Fellow Music Lover
by Albert Chieng


First of all, I would like to thank Positive Feedback for giving me the opportunity to write this article. It has been an idea that has stewed in my mind for over a year and when I finally got up the courage to ask for the chance the response was (pun intended) positive to say the least. As well, I would also like to thank Chip Stern who led the way for me to write this article on behalf of my friend.

It is hard to understand, sometimes, how much of an effect music and the pursuit of high end audio can have on people. The most interesting articles that I have read in this hobby seem to center around a person’s first experience with a sound so captivating, that it has engulfed them into a search for high fidelity ever since. Going back in time I do have a similar story about how I was introduced to the sirens call, and about one special person who helped me along the way.

My uncle’s 30th birthday. I’m on the right.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown…

My uncle, Lawrence Ling, was always the uncle you could count on for the best Christmas gifts. Besides that, growing up, I did not really know him that well except that he was a car nut, photographer and oh yeah, had man size speakers! So logically when I was finally ready to make more financially bad decisions regarding audio I came to him for help (after some trial and error by myself). Before I decided to make my first step in my audio journey Lawrence who was an engineer with a telecommunications firm, decided to indulge in his hobby by opening up a small audio shop on the side. The Audio Room was born as a place for people to come to find out about what the next level was all about. More importantly, it gave him an excuse to try out more gear, discover more music and meet new friends who shared in his passion.

Man sized speakers once upon a time… Gotta love them.

Looking back, my early visits were relaxed and without the pressure I found in the big box audio shops I frequented before I decided to seek out my uncles advice. What began as merely putting my big toe in the waters of audio resulted in me falling directly in. Luckily, Lawrence was my life preserver, always there to be my guide and showing me alternatives. He did this with a lot of people. Instead of going to the most expensive model available he allowed the customer to see the options, talked about synergy and allowed them to take it home to find out what kind of sound could be produced. What struck me the most is that his interactions with customers were more like talking with a close friend and what turned out at first to be a business deal later developed into many great friendships. I frequently visited the store on the weekends only to be introduced to the "gang" of audio enthusiasts who just simply came to hang out and chat over complementary coffee. Tasting the coffee was an early indication that these people were not here for the free drink, but rather to share the hobby and revel and enjoy a little camaraderie. The Audio Room I realized was more a place to develop an appreciation of music and what tools could be chosen to do it. This was done according to what my uncle believed was based on careful research, listening, and above all enjoyment of music. He was the kind of guy that would give advice and lend a hand even if he did not sell you anything. Lawrence would go to your home and help you set up everything just right and relish in the thought that another person could be part of the club. Thus, our friendship grew into something more than just an uncle nephew relationship. I discovered a man who was excited about so many things in life and was willing to share it with the world. His interests would constantly make him multi-task activities where any normal human would be burnt to exhaustion. My uncle took it in stride and worked tirelessly to support his family, friends and perfect strangers who simply for example, would come into the store for music recommendations.

… And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'…

I have heard it many times before when someone writes of the people they admire. They describe that person as almost invincible. My admiration for Lawrence was not because I found him invulnerable but because he was very human, with very human problems. Lawrence during the last few years of his life suffered from terminal cancer. He was given months to live but fought it for such a prolonged duration that it baffled his doctors as to his strength. The way he approached his illness was very much like anything else he did in his life which was with determination and the willingness to be open to new ideas. His fight was one that he never really wanted to make a fuss about. The battle he waged on a daily basis he treated merely as a small setback because he did not let it stand in the way of being himself. He took on this challenge by exploring all avenues of treatment and refused to think there was only one way to treat his illness. Much like the various genres of music he introduced me to; he was always willing to keep an open ear. His strength was not born from desperation, but rather accepting that he did not have all the answers, and therefore how could one group of doctors have all the knowledge?

Sometimes in life people have the opportunity to turn tragedy into greatness. This greatness is a reflection of the human spirit in that we all have the ability to represent what is truly noble and good about our world. My uncle before and during his illness showed that being excited about life and showing people on a daily basis what he was passionate about allowed me to see what was really important. I guess that is why he enjoyed this hobby so much because of the power of music in its ability to bring people together from all walks of life. In the end, not only do I have the memories of the photos he took, hair raising car rides, or the beautiful music he was able to play with the systems he put together, he was able to leave a legacy by the people he touched. Every time I turn on my rig and put music on I think about the contributions he has made in my life. He introduced me to the possibilities of great sound and by doing so opened the door to how to live life and celebrate being alive.

With his loving family and friends

…Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

- Bob Dylan