Our own eminence grise Jules Coleman, in an UltraAudio! Editorial on the then-upcoming CES 2004, mused that appreciation for HighEnd audio is an acquired taste, one that grows out of exposure and mentoring. He thus belabored the dearth of adolescent CES visitor presence, perceiving it as a sign of failure that the already-in-the-fold enthusiasts -- manufacturers, retailers, end users -- do not practice their fair share of evangelism by example. In his recent March 2004 Editorial for SoundStage!, Marc Mickelson considered as naïve this notion of having industry personnel bring younger family members to CES for exposure's sake. He felt instead that the burden of spreading the gospel has to also and squarely be carried by the manufacturers, citing especially Magnepan as innovative in their approach.


This raises an interesting point. From where I sit, appreciation of Classical music in particular is an acquired taste. It is assisted immeasurably by exposure and mentoring, by someone taking your hand to, systematically and starting from beginner to more advanced, introduce you to various masters and styles. Due to complexity and inherent rules, expecting someone reared on Country and Pop to dig Classical if you suddenly fed his or her MP3 player with a Bruckner symphony is expec-ting the unrealistic. To an even greater extent, my personal love of World Music has proven itself time and again predictably con-tagious but also distinctly in need of introduction. Most listeners not already hip to the genre are ill at ease knowing where to begin and not likely to pick up a Senegalese vocalist disc on a lark. Ditto for deep rather than smooth Jazz.


Is the same true for fine audio appreciation though? Does it require introduction, exposure and mentoring during one's upbringing or later? Does it have to be learned? Or does it come automatically when discretio-nary income rises and a lust for toys and luxury goods -- cars, cigars, jewelry, Fine Art, motor-cycles, one's own home -- enter the picture as a matter of adult- hood?


6moons readers and writers are herewith invited to contribute opinions and anecdotal evidence as it pertains to how your love of music and audio developed in your personal life and how you manage to involve family members and friends.


Click here to autolaunch in Outlook Express or write to [email protected], subject "Acquired?". Once our own writers and enough readers have sent in sufficient submissions to cover the subject from a wide variety of angles, I will format them all into a running commentary.


Naturally, this is not intended to become an argumentative debate about who is right or wrong but to gain insights into the different influences and siren songs that lure folks into the fold of this crazy hobby of ours.Take aim and fire away.


To continue the games, here are submissions 2 & 3, with Jim Bosha's first one further down.
Art by Finke
Art by Finke
Question: Is appreciation for fine audio an acquired taste? Answer: No!

A fine audio system is no different then any of the other finer things in life. I certainly didn't need any book learning to appreciate my first Ferrari nor did I need any mentoring to appreciate the woman I married. Everyone who has heard my audio system is very appreciative, but that doesn't mean they immediately rush out and buy an equivalent system forthemselves. The lust to acquire is different from sincere appreciation.

Learning and mentoring only applies to the pursuit of Audiophilia. To be an audiophile, one must learn the jargon, memorize the mantras, and become obsessed with imaging, soundstage, and other concepts that are totally outside the realm of enjoying music or even appreciating a fine audio system.

Ulas


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Good dealers can make a major difference here!

I was scrolling through the 6moons site and found the March "Acquired" column very interesting. I agree 100% that classical music requires long-term intro and learning. I remember going to hear the San Antonio Symphony from 3rd - 6th grades and being totally blown away. That love of classical music which started then has always stayed with me to accumulate to over 1000 CDs (mostly classical and then some jazz and the rock band Rush).

I also agree 100% that listening to and appreciation of better and better audio gear takes time. I can offer my own experiences in dealing with Brian Kurtz of Sound Mind Audio here in Austin. I know my listening skills are better now than they were when I fist met Brain three years ago.

Considering that a vast majority of kids and adults listen to poorly recorded music (whatever the genre) I cannot imagine a person who has grown up on a diet of relative crap as released in recent year to be able to truly appreciate a very fine system. I remember listening to a system at our local Home Theater Store where they had a 2-channel setup with Krell amps and B&W speakers wired up with Monster Cable. I had already spent a lot of time with Brian and that system drove me from the room after about 20 seconds. Sadly, my buddy thought it sounded just peachy. But then again, his own audio rig was not even good enough to be sold by Sears.

Right now, Brian and Casey McKee of Ne Plus Ultra are the only two dealers in Austin who sell anything close to high-end (Brian sells JMLabs, Accuphase, Boulder, AirTight, and Casey sells Halcro, Hovland, Audiopax, Avantgarde etc). The other stores sell low to mid-fi and another store (once Austin's only serious audio dealer, High Fidelity) has succumbed to almost 99% HT. Don't get me wrong. I like HT for movies - but not for my serious music listening.

I also agree on what you said about delving into world music. I really want to visit you someday to get a taste of what is good. Our Tower Records is closing (but they had gone to hell anyway) but our Borders and Barnes & Noble make a semi-decent attempt at world music. Maybe you can find some time to add audio clips of the world music on 6moons?

Mark Wagner

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"Fine Audio" was once, for a brief and shining period, a matter of discretionary income. It stood with Fine Wine, Fine Art and a Fine Looking Wife in the hearts and heads of status-aware, white collar, post-war American males.
It was called "HiFi" back then and all the rich kids' dads had one. My own father, a wonderful, hard-working man, was only marginally "white collar" and referred to our Capehart console unit (of particle board molded into what was advertised as a Mediterranean Style) as the "record player". The record player saw most service with its integrated tuner set to an FM Classical station, providing very low SPL background music for Dad's well-earned weekend naps on the living room couch.

A few neighborhoods and an entire world away however, the Fine HiFis of dads who were exotic things like lawyers and dentists played Jazz. Often loudly. And when those dads took their fine-looking wives away for the occasional Pocono weekend, those HiFis played Rock'n'Roll even louder as my friends and I made a significant dent in the fine wine collection. But more often these dads were not out of town. And I recall nearly fainting from embarrassment once when -- with my head cocked into an unlikely and uncomfortable angle to better investigate a tonearm assembly -- I heard the voice of that tonearm's owner appear from behind me: "Oh oh. Get the net. Looks like we've hooked one!"


There was no way to know at the time how right he was.


These systems always seemed to be made up of AR two-ways (in many cases built into the paneled walls of "dens", yet another exotic upscale item) and an AR turntable, with amplification by HH Scott, McIntosh or Fisher. And those systems did things the Capehart simply could not. The most important of those things being the ability to startle me, at times, with a burst of something that sounded an awful lot like real, live music, if only for a measure or a moment. What the old Capehart could do was play an entire stack of vinyl with one loading. For some reason, the rich guys were happy spinning just one record at a time. Odd as it seemed that these otherwise socially and scientifically advanced people would opt for something so, well, manual, I figured if that's they way they did it, it must be the right thing to do.


At home, I pulled the auto-changer pole out of the console's platter and replaced it with the single LP nib. I removed the stock drivers and replaced them with coax full rangers originally designed, I think, for car audio. Having by this time haunted the better appliance stores, repair centers and the very few proper HiFi shops on my immediate planet, I took my stolen half-knowledge and packed the Capehart's speaker "enclosures" (which were nothing of the sort, being only front baffles with open backs) with pink insulation. I blew scads of dust out of the innards, pulled, polished and re-seated the odd tube and crimped connection, all the while ignoring the dire oaths and threats sworn at me by my mother, a woman unconvinced of my technical gifts and unexpectedly protective of her ability to enjoy her Floyd Cramer albums.


I somehow managed not to break the thing and I swear it actually sounded better. So did mom, bless her. But it was no uptown HiFi. Even with its Mediterranean style. Today it's me in the role of dad in a decidedly uptown neighborhood. And when my kids go to the homes of their friends -- many with dads and moms sporting collars far whiter than my own -- the systems they see, if any, are devoted to Home Theater. It appears for all the world that nobody listens to music. Except in some memorable cases. Not long ago, I arrived at a home a few miles away to collect one of my younger sons from a play date. The dad on hand uttered the words I've learned to fear most in these situations: "Hey, I hear you like stereo stuff. Let me show you something..."


Here was a home music system composed of a book-sized laptop loaded with thousands of songs, all compressed within a bit of their lives. This perfectly nice and intelligent man flushed with pride as he showed me how he can scroll through them all, double-click and listen to his old frat house favorites anywhere in the house (and backyard, for that matter), because the little computer with all its tiny songs was run through a Best Buy A/V receiver into dozens of in-ceiling, in-wall and disguised-as-rocks loudspeakers.


"Cool", I said. Heck, at least it was music. Or was at one time. I guess. But my kid's friends come over to this house, too.


Not long ago, I walked into my listening room and into an argument between two six-year olds. The first thing I heard was my son saying "It does too!" The heated reply from his buddy was "It does not!" They were both staring, eye-to-platter, at my turntable. Turning around to note my arrival, my son insisted "Dad! Tell him! It does TOO play music!"


When I asked the boy if he'd like to hear "it" play music, he responded in the affirmative looking like a (very short) man who was about to win a bet. Next, children born some 15 years after the Last Rights were chanted over the LP watched in utter and complete enchantment as the cartridge navigated the grooves, sending music into the air. Then they both started to dance.


More than once I've had the pleasure of eavesdropping from adjoining areas as my middle child gives slightly boastful tours of the listening room to various visiting pals. His script is mainly composed of "Don't touch that" (true), "Yeah, I know how to work it" (not quite true) and "That thing's worth, like, a jillion dollars" (certainly not true, I've barely ever spent a jilthousand dollars on any one piece of gear). Most recently, I walked into that same room to find a friend of my oldest son just standing, staring down at my little SET amp. He didn't bother to look up at me or away from the amp as he asked "What IS it?" "An amplifier. For music. Like to hear it?" "Yes please", he said.


A few bars into "Seven Nation Army" and my boy appeared, looking for his friend. He gave him that "don't-get-the-old- man-going-we'll-never-get-out-of-here" look sons and daughters are so good at and by the second cut they were back upstairs, slaying the hordes of darkness in Middle Earth with their wireless game controllers.


But hey, you can never tell. So get the net. I have a feeling we may have hooked one that day.


Jim Bosha

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