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Audiophile on the Generational Edge, Part 1 of 2: An Interview with Aaron Sherrick of “Now Listen Here”

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Some observations:

Hi-Fi shows are a mad, mad, mad, mad world. The prices, the people, the rooms can be all so overwhelming for a newbie, enough to drive them away.

They don’t have the requisite money to spend on the gear with that many zeroes before the decimal-point. Perhaps amongst all the hundreds of rooms at shows, there could be some, possibly a designated section for first-timers where the gear being exhibited is relatively affordable. However, this raises the age-old question If you build it, will they come?

Most exhibitor rooms, and I can understand why this is, are set up as dedicated listening rooms, which may indeed parallel the seasoned audiophile, but not the newbies. What with all the cables, the room treatments: panels and bass traps, it comes off as more of a lab for science projects than a welcoming listening environment. It becomes a fine balancing act, treating the room to sound great, but at the same time making it a comfortable, inviting physical space.

Exhibitors are the lifeblood of Hi-Fi shows and they can make or break the experience for an attendee. From room to room it can run the extremes: some are wildly sociable and enthusiastic, with others being reserved, reticent, to the point of being stand-offish. The latter not being the ideal. They, the exhibitors, also operate under the assumption that a fair number of attendees are at least somewhat educated about Hi-Fi and their presentations are structured accordingly.

Given the above, a dealer is much better equipped to introduce someone to Hi-Fi. Time is less of a factor and the shop’s décor can more resemble an actual home than the inside of a hotel guest room. In that regard, I would suggest that efforts be focused driving prospective Hi-Fi enthusiasts to dealer showrooms than the shows.


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

AS:   When attending shows or visiting a dealer I make it a point to dress nicely— a button down shirt, no shorts, no athletic sneakers. In other words, I dress nicer than I might for a Saturday afternoon Target run. Why? Well, as a younger audiophile, I want to be taken seriously when looking at higher-priced equipment. While I can’t recall a negative experience that led to this behavior, it is a personal assumption. End-of-the-day I want their respect.


DB:  How do they interact with you on your own? As millennials/Gen ‘Xers? And how does that change, if at all, when they learn that you are a couple?

AS:  It really varies, presumably based on the biases of the exhibitor. Some are eager to engage while others won’t utter a word (though half the time I think that’s due to social awkwardness on their part). Of the exhibitors that do engage me they often underestimate my knowledge and experience, but I can hardly blame them for that—few people my age are audiophiles.

As a couple it usually goes one of two ways. The first and most common way is that they look and speak exclusively to me, only speaking to Jess when it comes to aesthetics, e.g. this speaker comes in these colors. The better exhibitors will engage us as a couple, trying to determine our needs and priorities, and then address them.

One of the most humorous experiences was when my wife asked one of the manufacturer reps if their product supported Roon. He looked at her in disbelief and, thinking he must have misheard, asked her to repeat the question. Then he just stared at her for a moment, mouth agape, trying to collect himself. He was completely floored that she 1) knew what Roon was and 2) was interested enough to ask the question. I think it made his day.


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

AS:   I don’t think it’s a turn off so much as a lack of turn on. Millennials and even some Gen ‘Xers have never experienced their music through a Hi-Fi system so they don’t know what they’re missing. Without an experience to set the bar for what’s possible, there’s no desire.

Further compounding matters, listening to music is no longer something you do but rather the soundtrack to your life when doing something else, in other words, a backdrop.

How did we get here? When did listening—active listening—cease to be an activity unto itself? People are busier today than ever before. In addition, there are countless forms of entertainment competing for their precious free time.

Add it all up—limited free time, competing forms of entertainment, background listening, and never experiencing Hi-Fi—and it’s no wonder that so few younger people are into Hi-Fi. But I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground on this subject. The unfortunate reality is that these are not easy obstacles to overcome.

Time, more specifically, carving out the time in our busy lives to listen to music remains a constant struggle. The other three obstacles are somewhat intertwined. If people can be shown that Hi-Fi is cool, be that through product placement, advertising, or some other means, then we can stake a claim for active listening as a form of entertainment and also drive people to visit Hi-Fi stores to experience it firsthand—the trifecta! In recent years there has been a rise in hi-fi systems appearing in television and movies. What we need now is a character whose hi-fi system is an essential part of his or her identify that features prominently in the story.

Lastly, there’s going to have been someone in our lives who motivated us to explore, to be curious about music. For me it was my college roommate whose incessant listening whetted my appetite for new and different genres. It was and is on me to find the ideal system(s) to reproduce that music.

Aaron and Jessica casting not serious poses at AXPONA

Note: Jessica will be the subject of her very own interview soon to follow. No way we’re going to split the two of them up.


NEXT: Audiophiles on the Generational Edge, Part 2 of 2


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