The following submissions are for the 'Readers Who Want to be Writers' Contest. The authors are not Staff members of Positive Feedback.
Call me hopeful.
With competing format technologies, challenging retail markets, a myriad of consumer choices, and a very aging clientele, I still remain hopeful about this hobby and industry. I even refuse to complain about a 'Product of The Year' that retails for a dizzying six figures. My hope in the future of audio rests in music itself; as long as music quickens and soothes the human spirit, there will be an audio industry and those who pursue higher fidelity. There are a number of strengths and gifts within this industry that will enable a good future. My son and I bumped into these varied gifts at RMAF this past October. I've asked Ben to be a second voice in this article—he's all of 26 years old.
"So Ben, give me your top five RMAF 2012 experiences…"
'This is what real people do and we want to sell our stuff to real people.' "Dad, that sentence was in the opening remarks of the Peachtree demo, while they used an iPhone and AppleTV to stream music from Spotify to one of their integrated setups. I know Spotify, MOG, Pandora, et al. are not considered to be high-res, but Peachtree has achieved a real balance by serving the music, getting great sound, and remembering where I live. I stream audio and video, store media on my NAS, spin vinyl, and I don't make the big bucks, but I still have a passion for music and feel connected to the audiophiles and companies that understand this."
"Keep going Ben, what's next?"
"Well to that point, it's not only about the what, but also about the who. Ron Sutherland (Sutherland), Alan Yun (Silverline), and Donna Bodinet (SOTA) were noticeably enthused to talk to me about audio and field my questions. Ms. Bodinet helped diagnose a possible motor problem with my turntable; Yun pulled his top-of-the-line speakers in a busy room in order to demo his little Minuet Supremes Plus that I was interested in; and Sutherland knew I couldn't afford his products, but took the time to talk about his phono stage designs. They gave me individual time and provided insight after learning about my setup; furthermore, they were very considerate and excited in doing so. Again, it was great to feel a connection with people in industry who show an interest in me."
"Yeah, personal interest and a personal touch make all the difference. That reminds me, Ben, you need to send your SOTA table in for that motor and suspension mod, but that's another conversation… Any other memorable experiences at RMAF 12?"
"Yeah; two rooms—completely different—that I didn't want to leave. First, the Wilson Benesch room with DeHaviland electronics was really dialed in; it sounded wonderful. I can't even imagine owning such audio jewelry (makes me nervous to even breathe on it), but that room—to my ear—was as close to perfect as I have heard; easy, unstressed, clear, clean and rich sound."
"But my favorite room, Dad, were the guys at Zu Audio. We walked in as they were about to spin some 'Dub Step' and demo their subwoofer line."
"I remember, Ben, I had to ask you what it was and also had to step out!"
"Yeah, you had to leave. Got loud, didn't it?"
"My ears can only take so much volume; I thought the walls were flexing from all the low-end energy in there, but you were jazzed when you came out of that room."
"I was; I'd never heard the Zu loudspeakers before—until the Peachtree demo earlier in the day—and to go to the Zu room, where they were using my Peachtree Nova and spinning a 'Dub Step' record that I own was just crazy; it was the most delightfully unexpected event all weekend. I listen to all genres of music at home, from Bach to Rock, but it was refreshing to walk into a room and hear Bassnectar instead of Diana Krall (no offense to Diana, a deserving audiophile standard). At that moment, Zu had a new fan and follower. Sweet."
Ben and I talked a lot about RMAF 2012; it was a great experience for dad and son especially since we both enjoy music in our homes. I'm tickled because I want to pass this experience, hobby, and industry to Ben's generation and beyond. Some real gifts and strengths for this industry can be found in Ben's memorable experiences.
Low resolution can sound better than we may want to admit and it can lead a person toward higher resolution. Ben loves his vinyl and would be quick to advocate the naturalness of vinyl over either streaming or CDs. But he's not going to spin vinyl exclusively and wants to enjoy music in many other ways. As a music lover, he's not married to one format, regardless of fidelity. This strikes me as a wide-open opportunity for an industry to address younger music lovers.
Demoing with current technologies and using non-audiophile approved music can connect with newer generations. The Zu Audio and Peachtree rooms immediately connected with Ben because of this. After our first day, Ben said he had heard enough small jazz ensembles and female vocals.
When industry insiders welcome newcomers, important relationships are born. Ben was jazzed by those industry members who took time to talk and politely engage or enquire about his interest in audio. Unfortunately, there were many rooms and people who did not do this! There are lots of insider conversations at RMAF and a person can enter a room, either empty or full, and not be welcomed or helped. With heavily trafficked rooms, I can understand, but frankly, I was surprised by the rooms where no one spoke. I must also add that the lack of hospitality was matched by the consumer who monopolized a room, a dealer, or a demo as if he were the only person in the room. Regardless of venue, dealing with the public is challenging and crucial.
RMAF 2012, as well as the overall industry, can speak to newcomers as well as veterans. Meeting people where they live technically and musically, being hospitable, and showing genuine interest makes a difference. I'm hopeful we can pass this passion of ours along to younger generations.