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10,000 guitars’ wailin’

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With all due respect and great admiration for the very talented Nils Lofgren…. “Keith Don’t Go!”

Seriously I’ve loved Nils’ Acoustic sets, and after many years of audio shows in which another cut and another album unfairly lands in the purgatory of opening cords that just saps a guy’s enthusiasm. One more spectacular piece of recorded music hits the dustbin, forever lost and with it a little humanity as well.

I’m not just an audiophile, I’m a music junkie and music trivia junkie, the quintessential gear queer, the enthusiastic but very average student musician. Perhaps I am just like you!

Perhaps unlike you, I’m  looking at this industry and this hobby both from the outside and the inside…. I’m the average guy looking forward to multi day audio shows, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds, meeting my fellow traveler: sharing a common experience, playing some music… seeing old friends and meeting new.

Occasionally I’m the guy at the audio shows, manning the dealers or manufactures booth.  Most days I’m fielding questions from the audiophile at large…. a voice on the phone, someone in the industry. I love talking to audiophiles and it’s a delight to meet most of you face to face at shows. It’s also a delight to see dealers, distributors, fellow manufactures. Come the opening day of an audio show, I’m having the time of my life, seeing, hearing meeting until…. until something goes very, very wrong! And what could that be, you ask? How in this idyllic escape could something go awry?

Attend any audio show where there are live and recorded demos and you will find the great collective unconsciousness. Within that great collective is the need to categorize everything, and in any such gathering a handful of recordings rise to the top and there will be one which absolutely dominates!

That one recording will get played and played and played and played. At such a gathering you will find yourself in a hotel hall full of demo rooms, where three rooms are playing the same (once great and frequently arcane) piece of music, all at the same time, each room trying to outclass the other.

And then it happens, waves of fear. What will the neighbors think? What will the hapless wanderer think? Will they pass judgment? Will they conclude that “audio is cool” or will they conclude that “audio is the last sanctuary of the chronically introverted social malefactor” and beat a hasty retreat?

If recent history is any judge, I am afraid they will choose the latter, and well…… who can blame them!

Dammit, we’re not miscreants…. we really do care about the arts: audiophiles are interesting multi faceted individuals and most of us are pretty cool! It’s that darn herd mentality that takes hold when a few hundred of us or a few thousand of us gather in hotel’s and convention centers for a weekend of compare and contrast.

And with that lead-in the question I’ve been dying to ask!

Why is it that we all agree that the ubiquitous hotel room sounds like crap, no resemblance to our preferred listening spaces. And yet at the same time we haul out our most treasured “guilty pleasures” and beat them to death with the assertions that we’ve just proved or disproved some long held proclivities with respect to the hardware under the most flawed test conditions possible? And how boring and un-informative is that?

Knowing it’s going to degrade to this miserable state makes me sometimes wish that I’d heed the call, “Keith Don’t Go!”  But “Go” I must and in the going hopefully help move the experience to a place more inviting to “new-blood”, a place that better showcases who we are and what we do, and what is possible.

Now there are some shining stars in our hobby, frequently not taken seriously. These would be the renegades, those who reach out to the new blood, the potential new convert to the hobby, the potential new industry affiliate, the potential new buyers and give them opportunity to hear their music…… perhaps for the first time. These renegades do their best to sell fun and eschew the mundane, and familiar minutia.

Look around…. see the Millennial Generation, there are 84 million of them in the United States…. they outnumber the “Baby-Boomers” by perhaps 10 million. On numbers alone we could expect that our ranks would significantly bolstered by another generation of music lovers, yet we are not. Were we as a group all inclusive and proactive we’d have converts. Lots and lots of converts. As a hobbyist, I’m appalled that we’re missing out. As a manufacturer, more than concerned about the aging client base that is not being succeeded.

One of the basic tenants of any group endeavor is knowing the cost of acquiring the next customer and then factoring that cost into your daily operations.

In the case of audiophiles, I think the price has already been paid as witnessed by sheer volume of music consumption by Gen X and Gen Y…. the sheer numbers of ear-buds flying off the shelf.

Could it be that too many playing of “Keith Don’t Go” and zero acceptance and inclusion of their music has simply shut them out? Could it be that creating a foreign experience with no connection to what or who they are dooms us to extinction?


Kent English is the North American Sales/Worldwide Technical Support of Pass Labs.

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