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Tales from the Golden Age, Chapter 2

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In the last installment, I opined on the perceived general demise of the audio arts, recorded music, high end audio, the world as we know it, life, the universe and everything by my brethren and fellow audiophile…. all, so it is said, “Soon to be extinct.”

You may also recall me commenting that as they lament, I am laughing myself to a wicked case of tinnitus, and in general having a grand time playing music, reveling in the gear and the audio friendships in spite of the nay saying from the masses.

I’ve a new batch of loaner cables to audition….some mystery music headed my way from Vinyl Me Please, selected offerings from Music Direct and our friends at SoundStage. A freshly re-haired violin bow, various turntables and phono cartridges to tinker with, and a young audiophile to pollute with vintage Archie Edwards and something we call “the piedmont blues.” And barely half way through Tuesday!

I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking that the music, the gear, the whole audio experience is thriving. We’re legions, and we’re hiding in  plain view….. and most of the rank and file audio aficionados are just not seeing us. And no, I’m not counting all the Millennial’s running around with ear buds stuffed into their heads. I’ll leave them out of the mix and topical fodder for another day and another chapter.

Now, if you’re old like me, you could’ve been there. Some may recall arena rock. For those who missed the festivities or simply cannot recall the moment, that was a relatively short period in history where a concert promotion machine such-as Bill Graham Presents packed a sports arena to several times the accepted and customary carrying capacity for a day of power ballads and big name music acts. A 60,000 seat arena packed with 300,000 paying bodies and some non-paying, would not have been unusual.

Those days are not exactly gone, the milieu different perhaps, re-interpreted by a new generation of music worshipers but far from vanquished. Around the world we have local entertainment festivals such as “Bonnaroo” which this last year headlined Billy Joel, Kendrick Lomar, Deadmau5, Florence and the Machine, Robert Plant, Tears for Fears… and about 100 other bands.

For the cognoscente, there are upwards of 20 such events in North America every year; in fields, on islands, aboard cruise liners. Not all the big name acts in attendance are musicians. Australian electronic dance music duo “Knife Party” are DJ’s, doing re-mixes of other peoples’ work to hugely enthusiastic crowds… to name but one. The progenitor of this DJ envy perhaps being the Buddha Bar franchise which spawned numerous re-mix spin off acts since it’s inception in 1996. Collectively, this is way bigger than 1970’s “Day on the Green”, and much higher energy and audience participation.

I think music impresario, the legendary Bill “Uncle BoBo” Graham would be pleased at the interactive nature of the performances. By and large these events are distinguished by having as the product, the attendee, rather than the performer. The audience as creative and as engaged in the performances as the acts upon the stage. As indicated, it’s a very different scene and a far cry from Arena Rock with a highly complex interplay!

And it’s not all “dirter’s” dancing in the dust at Burning Man, braving the Nevada Black Rock’s fearsome heat, celebrating isolation and self reliance. The expression of “audiophilia” has come to encompass many diverse forms and venues.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to the occasional, mostly annual burn, “Burning-Amp” (  Burning Amp, small by any measure of attendance is nonetheless a significant  and enthusiastic gathering  of  known audio designers sharing creative thought and boundless encouragement;  Nelson Pass, John Curl, Sigfried Linkwitz, other notables. Device makers such as Linear Systems showing new parts. Representatives from DIY (Do-it-Yourself) publications such as Linear Audio & Audio Xpress looking for better ways to share projects and ideas with their readership. Effectively covered in the media by Stereophile and TNT-Audio and still largely unknown outside of a small circle.

This is the good stuff! It’s a year in the making, a long day of video conferencing, lecturing on new designs, old precepts ….. prototypes for ideas still in firmament ….. and oh yeah music. and food and camaraderie, the greeting of old friends and colleagues, the discovery of new.

These and more are the folks I hold-up as the non-traditional, yet contemporary audiophile. They measure quite literally in the millions. They love the music, they love the hardware, they love the friendships and they love the bonds from common things shared. They’ve broken the mold, being an audiophile is no longer about sitting alone in a dark room, with one single chair, listening from the list of approved musical selections.

Is this different… Absolutely. Is it something significant and positive for the hobby and the industry? Yes, but only if we choose to make it so.

And least we forget…… they’re having fun!  Dammit, they’re having fun!




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

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