It is a well-known and generally accepted cliché in the high end that the throbbing majority of professional music makers own lousy or at least decidedly pedestrian home audio systems. Like all clichés, this one is vulnerable to attack, with examples to the contrary available to those -- usually amateur players-cum-audiophiles in a fit of pique -- who would seek them out. But we have to stay real here. For any musician who has achieved a vertiginous level of wealth and fame such as a David Bowie or Yo-Yo Ma, it is as unlikely that he had much more involvement in the selection of that Krell or Levinson system than he had in the purchase of his Sub Zero and Miele kitchen appliances. With such manifest success in any well-paying field comes ownership of the finer things, from cars to carry-on bags. And to ascend the very heights of stardom in the entertainment field is to have the staff to
select those things on your behalf. Even short of superstardom and its endless stream of residuals, there are what most of us would consider modestly successful musicians who benefit in the audio-equipment area through commercial endorsements (we've all seen them) or the gifts of their management and admirers. In other words, spare us all the "But what about so-n-so" pissed-off emails combating this admitted chestnut. Even if you happen to be second violin of a major metro orchestra and have a sound room outfitted to inspire the awe and envy of Harry Pearson, you, sir or madam, are an anomaly; a voice in the wilderness so lonely you could well be considered a cud-chewing member of HiFi's own tiny herd of white buffalo.

A few of our more insecure fellow audiophiles take special umbrage at this phenomenon, casting as it does the not so subtle implication that the higher one's innate musical intelligence, the lower one's need for the bells and whistles of high fidelity fetishism. Oh well. The Musicology departments of respected Universities have explored this seemingly contradictory but widely observable reality and have reached similar implications via scientific method (and here my endlessly resourceful Editor-in-Chief will no doubt add a link to at least one such study, which I've found in the past but can't, for some reason, now. [Neither can I but Stereophile has interviewed many a great musician and confirmed this very phenomenon - Ed.]).

This is the first in what I hope to be an occasional series of visits with real-world, mostly working-class professional recording artists who will share with us, their current and prospective fans, a glimpse of the music reproduction technology they employ at home (when, that is, they're actually home to employ it. Regular touring alone goes some way to perhaps explain this group's mild apathy toward many things domestic in nature, HiFi being only one example).

So lend us that perfectly human voyeuristic impulse and join me for a peek at how the people who make the music listen to it when relaxing among the bed-heads, beer cans and bare feet of home.

A highly sought-after session player on the New York City music scene, Mark Brotter [above far left] has over the course of a 20+year career contributed to the discographies and live shows of several respected bands including Billy Idol, Pal Shazzar, Iron Prostate, Thrill Cycle and Matt Keating. Currently the sticks (brushes, mallets etc) behind college radio darlings HEM, Mark also continues to led his hands to Matt Keating. Recently, Brotter allowed 6moons into his Chinatown loft for a jaundiced look at his music playback system.

I see you have one speaker on top of a bookshelf at ceiling height, the other in the opposite corner on the floor.
Is that bad? "Shitty stereos of the stars", that's almost "SOS".
You're right, mind if I use that? I see you have a double-deck cassette recorder and a dubbing CDR.
I make copies of some live shows and rehearsals for others in the band. Is that bad, too?
Not at all. But, is it me or does it appear that you have different kinds of speaker cable running to each speaker?
Yeah. One broke somehow. The one on the floor had to be a lot longer, and I couldn't find the same kind of wire. Now that's bad, right?
Whatever works for you. So we're not only talking different brands and gauges of cable but drastically different lengths?
I guess so.
What's very cool is that you have a turntable, and it looks like it gets a lot of use judging by the number of LPs on your shelves.
That's cool? I thought maybe vinyl would be seen as shitty by audio people.
I don't think anything could be further from the truth, yet you don't see a lot of 70s era Teac direct-drive turntables these days. Especially those with their front legs hanging completely off the shelf.
It wouldn't fit on the shelf all the way. It's a little uneven I guess but it plays fine. That's really bad, right?
I'm feeling a little lightheaded.
You better sit. Want water?
Yes. But can I sit in another room? You do have another room, right?
(laughs) I kept listening to my albums after CD came out, I mean there's no way I could justify spending to replace hundreds of albums. And why bother? Hey, as long as you're here, one speaker keeps cutting in and out. Can you fix that?
I'll have a look.
For the true table water, not Jim's lightheaded mirage, see Evian's website. Evian is a trademark
solely owned by Evian.
I can give you a CD or something.
Don't worry about it. Unless... do you have any stuff that isn't released yet?
I can't give that out.
Then can I have a couple yards of those albums?
Not a chance.
Are those Cerwin Vega speakers? They were always seen as good Rock speakers.
I don't know what they are. One of the woofers is loose for some reason, a drop in a move, but it sounds okay. Rattles if it's too loud, maybe.
See how the ends of the wire behind this speaker have turned kinda green? That you want to avoid.
Where can I get needles for the turntable? The place I used to go doesn't even carry them anymore.
When was the last time you replaced one?
I don't remember. But I know it's been since high school.
And you're what, about forty years old? Where's that water?
Tap okay? You want to listen to the stereo, tell me what you think?
That's okay. I'd probably just lie anyway.
Fair enough

HEM is currently looking for a new label for their latest release Eveningland. Check their website for release information and upcoming live dates in the US and Europe.