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Audiophile on the Generational Edge, Part 2 of 2: Jessica Sherrick of “Now Listen Here”

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Read Audiophile on the Generational Edge, Part 1: An Interview with Aaron Sherrick of “Now Listen Here”

It was mentioned that the Sherricks were not to be split up, and, as such here is her interview providing personal and unique perspectives on the hobby and the industry that is Hi-Fi.

Jessica sizing up the …McIntosh

DB: Jessica, what is it that attracted you as a woman and a millennial to Hi-Fi as a hobby and now as a profession?

JS: My father started me on the journey by his instilling in me my love for adventure and fearlessness in the face of technology. Dad worked in the tech field for many years so there always was a computer in the house and I was given free rein to do whatever I wanted. Dad’s comment to me was always: “I can fix whatever you do so feel free to play”. He provided me a safe space to explore, to plug-and-play with both hardware and software. A fine arrangement, as far as he was concerned, because when he would have to travel for business and I was a teen, I’d be called into running the audio and lighting for our church services. No adult was willing to step up and take on the responsibility, so Dad taught me instead. Fearless, I rather enjoyed it, continuing to learn more and more even upon his return from business trips. With the church’s music evolving from a piano or organ into more of a full band each week, I learned how to run the boards to mix instruments and vocal levels so the band did not sound like a “hot” mess. While still a novice at it all by professional standards, I continue to run the audio for the church’s services some 25 years on.

 

DB: How did this background and experience come into play with your now husband, Aaron and your introduction to Hi-Fi?

JS: Not long after Aaron and I started dating my mixing skills became a topic of conversation. With that, it was not long before he had me in front of his stereo with the words “you will appreciate this” as I was sat in the sweet-spot to listen to a few tracks. Since that time, I’ve heard better systems, but that instance, that moment shall be forever engraved in my memory as it set me on a path, into a world I really knew nothing about.

After being married for a few years to Aaron, we were ready to upgrade our Hi-Fi system so we started visiting various Hi-Fi stores to demo equipment under consideration. This was the first time I was really exposed to the process of demoing gear, since I married into the system at home. It was an eye- and ear-opening experience, as we encountered examples of how and perhaps more importantly how not to sell Hi-Fi gear. The salespeople could be off-putting with their pushy attitudes and/or their dismissal of my thoughts and opinions and even Aaron’s on occasion. Conversely, there were those times where I wanted to buy something because I really liked the people in the shop and the gear sounded great.

 

DB: How did these experiences factor into the decision for both of you to open a Hi-Fi shop?

JS: When the opportunity arose for us to purchase a store, I didn’t need to think that hard. I wanted to create and foster an environment where customers could listen to Hi-Fi and share their respective personal journey with others. These are the aspects of Hi-FI, the hobby/the pastime, over the years that I have loved the most. Everyone appreciates different elements of a system, and I love hearing other people’s insights and engaging with them. I may not always agree with them as my criteria, priority and preference is different from theirs, but their personal perspectives provide a means for greater appreciation. And, of course, being able to demo gear in my own familiar environment is nothing to sneeze at 🙂

 

DB:  What is it like when you attend Hi-Fi shows? In the company of Aaron? And when you’re on your own?

Jessica and Aaron keeping it real at AXPONA

JS: The first Hi-Fi show was a little nerve-wracking. We knew we would be younger than most people attending and were not sure how we would be treated because of it; looked down upon, questioned or just plain ignored. And in the knowledge that I would be one of the few, if any, females just added to the apprehension.

I should point out that venturing into hotel rooms with a bunch of guys, with or without it being in the context of a Hi-Fi show is just weird, and from a personal safety perspective, it is the kind of thing women are cautioned against. Did I mention the rooms can exhibit an odor, a certain pungency. (Odors in standard hotel rooms at an audio show are usually from sweaty patrons sitting collectively in a room with air conditioning turned off for the sake of a quieter listening environment. -Pub.)

Since, having attended the first show, the two of us made a number of friends and acquaintances, and for that I generally look forward to attending. There are still those times when people just look over (disregard) me, especially with Aaron at my side. I will get questioned as to Why am I there? And, how was I bribed to come along to the show. I’m not sure they believe me when I tell them that I’m glad to be in attendance of my own accord and was not bribed. It is my hope that over time my honest answers to their queries will change their perceptions a little bit at a time.

I haven’t gone around the show visiting rooms much on my own so I can’t speak to what that is like. However, the few times I have been in the halls alone someone generally stops to ask me the usual questions about why I am there, I’m an oddity after all. If its someone I have spoken with before they often ask what I have liked and why. They still can be surprised when I answer the “why” without the design or color being the first things I mention, if at all. Don’t get me wrong, the design is important to me because I am a graphic designer and lover of interior design but it is not all I care about when demoing speakers. The flip side is that I don’t care how great the speaker sounds, if it looks like a robot it’s not coming home…there will be no daleks in my house. It’s a delicate balance.

I fear the above comment might have readers muttering the vile “WAF” so I want to be clear: the gear has to sound amazing and look good. There are so many options for great sounding speakers it’s not terribly hard to find several that sound amazing and look great in my home at all the price points. To put a finer point on this, if we were talking about a car with amazing handling and performance but it looked like a Pontiac Aztec, would you mutter WAF if I wouldn’t buy it and got a Porsche instead with similar handling, performance and price?

 

DB: How do you interact with manufacturers, exhibitors, dealers and attending audiophiles?

JS: Manufactures and exhibitors generally don’t interact with me since Aaron is there unless I insert myself into a conversation. I am generally seen as the dutiful wife tagging along with my husband and aside from the design, the color options are the most important things to me. Those things are important as I mentioned but it has to sound equally as good for me to consider them an option. Now, there are also the rare few people who call me out because I don’t look completely bored out of my mind. They figure I am having a good time and might even wanted to be at the show.

One exhibitor, for example, was so excited to have a female in the room for their after-hour event and who wanted me to be there, I was brought drinks and food, had my pick of the music, and several questions about what I had liked so far…for once Aaron was the one being looked over. 🙂  Even the other gentlemen in the room were shocked and complimented me on being happy and not glossed over. It was really weird since I was just having a good time with my husband at the show.

The level and intensity of my questions have shocked manufacturers, so much so that some have even asked if I have an “availablesister.

Attendees are generally surprised to see/hear a woman in the room. I do remember at one point you, David [Blumenstein] asked jokingly if I was drugged and/or dragged to the show. Show goers are primarily male and those with wives recount the woes of their counterparts not wanting to be involved and how it was once they did convince them to join them for the weekend at a show.  There are those rare few who will ask me what I have seen and liked so far and if there is anything specific, I would like to see/hear while at the show.

 

DB: How do they interact with you singly as millennials?

JS: “Oh, young people!” “Why are you here?” “What brought you in? Where are you from? How old are you?” There are endless versions of these questions. We also seem to stick out since we go around as a couple and fall into an age range that is something of a minority.

 

DB: And how does that change, if at all, when they learn that you are a couple?

JS: Since women are so rare at the shows, being there on my own doesn’t even seem to register as an option. Not to mention Aaron and I go around the show together. There is the normal “How did you get her to come with you?” and “Wait, you want to be here?” questions but they seem to just assume we are a couple from the onset. And at this point I am generally just seen as the dutiful wife tagging along. Very few people ask me any direct questions if it’s our first meeting and since I can be somewhat shy, this is fine with me.

 

DB: With the forward-looking perspective as to why so few millennials openly are out there in the hobby, the industry, what’s the attraction? What’s the turn-off? What if anything need be done differently?

JS: I have talked with some interesting people the past few years who find my take on things fascinating even when it doesn’t line up with their preferences. It is great to take in their perspective on different systems and products and be able to share my thoughts without feeling like I’m being judged. Sometimes these men are just shocked that I care enough to have listened and formed my own thoughts on the subject, again I’m something of a novelty to them. However, it has taken me years to start talking with audiophiles and Hi-Fi hobbyists. Enough of them come off as judgmental of others opinions and verging on (or are) disrespectful to women that I didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) want to open my mouth around them. I feel like I am being judged or rated when I talk or even ask questions and there is a pressure that I am speaking as an ambassador for all women, so I must do it exceptionally well or it will set us (women) back more in Hi-Fi or confirm what men already think of us. While some of this judgment could also be due to my age, it seems to be more geared towards me being a female.

While most of this is how I perceive the issue as a female, I would say it is similar for younger generations. If I can’t talk with the majority of others in the hobby without feeling judged, why would I want to be in that hobby? If only certain music is the correct music to listen to (and it’s not my preference) why would I want to be in the hobby? If you have to have lots of money to afford to listen to music correctly how could I be in that hobby as someone still paying off student debt and with the added expense of a mortgage and children?

People who are vocal, need to be welcoming and inclusive of hobbyists at all levels of experience and financial status. Do not discount someone because they don’t fit the stereotypical mold, and understand that others will and do possess a differing set of priorities when looking at and shopping for a system. Everything is relative, the best system is the one in a particular moment in time that the Hi-Fi hobbyist appreciates and enjoys.

Aaron and Jessica casting not serious poses at AXPONA


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One Response to Audiophile on the Generational Edge, Part 2 of 2: Jessica Sherrick of “Now Listen Here”


  1. Jon Archer says:

    Audiophiles – public and trade alike – please stop looking gape-jawed whenever a woman walks in to a hifi show room, event or store. Yes, women obviously like music as well AND good quality playback as well. Treat them as you would any other attendee / customer / etc. I.e. with attention, courtesy and respect. That’s part of making ANYONE feel welcome and comfortable. Do NOT call out how rare their presence or patronizing them under false assumptions, however supposedly well intentioned. How would that make YOU feel if you went somewhere predominately female attended?

    Same above goes for anyone under the age of a Boomer.

    And for the love of God : turn on the AC. Even Carnegie Hall uses AC. Not being in a hot, sweaty and smelly room tops hearing a bit more of Nils Lofgren’s fretwork on “Keith Don’t Go” EVERY TIME!

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