High-end audio is beginning to bore me. In the past two years my home system has been modernized to the point where even today's youth think it is cool. The whole home audio system is easily controlled via phone/tablet thanks to Sonos. All zones, five in total for now, can be selected individually or in groups and you can easily change my home's heating/cooling system via Wi-Fi too! Lights via Wi-Fi you ask? Sure, that is planned yet am looking for an NFC-enabled or some other system that automatically IDs someone and thus their presets/preferences will automatically happen into their surrounding environment. This is available now of course, yet am waiting for a price drop as these things always get better and cheaper over time. So why am i bored you asked? At times the equipment @ RMAF 2012 reminded me of how prehistoric many audiophile $20,000 devices are. It is like those $5000 SACD players when they were first released, now easily beaten by $500 units today and i bet you those $40,000 music networked preamp/DACs on the market today will be worth around $10,000 in a handful of years too. That is what i love about technology!
So all these things going on inside a preamp/DAC would usually mean the signal's purity is being compromised, but far from it. Finally we have enough computational number crunching to handle, modify, room correct, equalize and many other things while still retaining the original signal's quality. No longer do we music lovers have to worry about down-rez'ing due to limited headroom, and thus mucking up the sound.
Meanwhile some in the industry lament "Why oh why can't we get more 'normal people' to relate to a solitary, and perhaps sedentary, lifestyle?" Today's kids are more social than ever via FaceTwit and various apps. And have you heard some of the music being played at high-end audio shows? Do you really think affluent people in the 20's to 30's (and even me in my 40's) would walk into a store and ask to hear 'audiophile' music? By the middle of day two at RMAF i was looking for a chair and some rope to hang myself. Swear to god or on whatever imaginary all-powerful friend with a plan you may have been brainwashed to believe in that if i had to listen to Gwendolyn DuPree and her Magic Singing Lute on another $40,000+ system just to hear the delicacy of her breath and mystical air that floats around her voice one more time... someone... is... going... to... die!
There, someone had to say it and i'm just the guy to do it too. If you think my music sounds like crap, you should hear what runs through my head when you request to hear that chick singer disc for the umpeeth time during the same day. You know, to compare systems and all that, which does make sense actually but i'm on a roll here kvetching on and on so just go with it for now. Thanks.
Now that i have your attention, yes indeed am just as guilty of being a 'music racist' as the old farts who love Gwendolyn DuPree and worship her entire catalog of music yet hate 'modern music'. Many of these same old people seem to worship the same really old reviewer guy. That's cool with me, but what about those who still have their second half of life to live?
BTW, i hear they are remastering Gwendolyn's back catalog in 24-bit/192kHz from the original analog master tapes, with 180 gram 45rpm 4-LP set being released a month later. Order yours today as these are a limited vinyl release of only 5000 box sets! Oops, got off track there for a minute.
Ok, maybe the term 'musical racist' is a bit extreme, so how about we split it down the middle and call it 'Musical Bigotry'.
One very astute reader had a really big set of balls and dared to e-mail me after my NYC show coverage and complain about my harsh criticisms and less than positive comments towards Gwendolyn DuPree's music. He pointed out that i always say "Enjoy the Music" and yet am being a Musical Racist, ooops, Musical Bigot. How dare Steven R. Rochlin show hatred towards a certain genre of music! And guess what, he is right! Sure i can hate Ms. DuPree's music, yet disliking something and completely closing my mind to it is stupid. Of course there is a possibility that a certain performer's music may offer something others may enjoy. Heck, it may even have a few redeeming qualities to it that are great at testing and analyzing high-end audio gear and how dare anyone say bad things about that!
How about i reprint an e-mail exchange that literally happened only days ago between myself and a major and longstanding manufacturer of high-end audio. Here is something that happened during the recent RMAF event:
First, thank you Jeremy for allowing me to reprint our e-mail correspondence for all to see and learn from. Second off, what is amazing is that i was in the room at the exact same time as the other reviewer! Lastly, you are 100% right in who is to truly say just exactly what is and is not 'good music'. This reminds me of the edgy adult cartoon series South Park where this subject was covered.
And again for the record, it just so happens that i was in the mbl room at that exact time period that one reviewer panned the room while i loved it. Sure Nirvana's 'music' may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is not total crap. Ok, it is 50% crap, but it rocked back in the day and am sure many people have very fond memories associated with that music. After all, don't we all have certain music that takes us back to a fond memory every time we hear it play? Yes the room was loudish, but some of us enjoy our rowdy music at SPL levels above 87dB at the listening chair. Who cares about so-called realism when you can dance, smile, laugh and jam out air drumming to your fave tunes? Is it a crime to, eh hem, enjoy the music?
Watch the below episode of South Park if you dare!!!
Am sure more than a small handful of Enjoy the Music.com readers may be less than happy by the above South Park episode. Hell, they probably already feel offended at my article and the above cartoon will only cement their opinion. Sure some music sounds like total crap to your (or my) ears, yet someone else likes it. In my youth as a drummer (1979) many felt that Rush Hemispheres sucked and in 1982 what the Fripp are those guys in King Crimson playing during the song "Neurotica"?
And if you hated that, am sure you'll really hate The Game's song "It's Okay (One Blood)". Who cares if he sells many millions of albums, has repeatedly reached the top of the music charts time and time again and has many millions of fans worldwide, his music really sucks!
And if the above offends you, the below will enrage you enough to send me a nasty e-mail. Here is Lapdance by N.E.R.D. and yes politicians nowadays do indeed sound like strippers to me (and i don't want to hear it).
Am sure no one reading this feels that the high-end audio industry should only cater to musical bigots who demand you only listen to acoustic music; preferably with female singer of course. i'm cool with that.
So were you musically offended yet? Many times over the years my father has been mentioned as, yes, he truly is my role model. Here is a man who has seen some of the world's best singers, songwriters, violinists, orchestras, etc in the best halls all around the world. He loves pianists as well as big and bold classical numbers with percussion. Yet here is this 40-ish guy with three kids in the late 1970's, two being drummers, who listen to Rush and other 'modern bands'. Instead of putting us down, mom and dad not only supported us, they even went to a 1980's Rush concert (and got tear gassed before the show too!) Ahh yes those crazy the early 80's and unruly rock and rollers at a concert. My father embraced the new music and allowed us total freedom of musical expression. Some call it 'fearless music'.
Let us face the facts, generally speaking any music three generations from your prime probably sucks. This not only pertains to new music; ask yourself when was the last time you listened to ragtime? Perhaps one of the cruel jokes played upon man is that his children will listen to crappy music and rebel against said parents to listen to it. Those crazy Gen X, or is it Gen Y now... or Gen ABC-123 baby you and me? And now with all that newfangled recording studio technology it doesn't even sound like music anymore! (To your ears) Sure you'll accept Kraftwerk as 'music' even though there is not a single 'real' instrument there either, but this aural junk below truly has got to go, right?
Back to my fiancé and how that pertains to my life. Before we met, found myself pseudo 'stuck' in the same musical genre varieties for about five years. The new music 'those kids' were listening to used vocoders and phase shifters and all sorts of electronica sound effects. How are we as audiophiles to know what the absolute sound is when nothing is real? Can anyone here tell me exactly how Kraftwerk should sound? Now think back you folks over 50 and ask yourself what did your parents say about rock and roll? Those damn screechy electric guitars and electronic keyboards. Why back in my day we had real orchestras and jazz bands with talented singers who never screamed like Roger Daltrey of The Who.
And then i attend RMAF and here we have the cool kids in CANJAM having a great time. Smiling, laughing, being jokesters and all that versus in the other sections of the show's hotel where we see the typical audiophile guy.... So who is having more fun is anyone's guess <cough>, yet if audiophile companies want to stay in business they might want to pay attention to these kids as they are your future customers. Forget the kids; 45-ish year old guys like me don't want your old crap either.
Nice DAC/controller you have there, you got an app with that to control it? No, then no thanks. NEXT! You have a great 32-bit all-digital preamp but it doesn't have digital room correction? What, no multi-band EQ either? Are you trying to tell me that for $20,000 this digital unit has plenty of processing power yet you never made it more flexible for those who bi-amp and want to use a digital crossover. The reason i say this is here is my confession (finally).
The Past Two Years
What is not said is the unit handles bi-amplification and an array of digital tweaking. And yes there is an app to control the unit too. Looking at some of those $20,000 digital units at RMAF it was obvious the digital signal processing power was there as was high-end analog output, yet there is plenty of 'wasted' processing power that could have been used for room correction and other duties. Worse still, how do you expect to sell these $20,000 widgets to modern up-and-comer 30-somethings who have a tablet or smartphone glued to their body yet there is no app for that? Do you really think someone hip and cool and young will want to buy your device versus a more flexible and easily usable Onkyo receiver?
"But the Onkyo sounds like crap!" you shout at the top of your lungs. Actually it sounds pretty good, and damn good value for the money. Now what if we can take all the digital goodies and app/phone/tablet control capabilities and yet mate it with higher-end analog and amplification. Ahhh, here is where we get NAD, Rotel, Emotiva, Marantz and others. i believe it was a NAD rep at RMAF who told me they do not plan on having an app to control their units. Of course i told him something along the lines of that was stupid and the competition will be eating his company alive in a year or two.
So good music, bad music.... whatever. The point is that the high-end audio industry better wake up and realize their 40-ish and under customers are demanding more and have the money to procure it. And yes, if you plan on sending me a pre/DAC unit you better have an app for that. i'll probably just let the other guys handle the old school stuff, as my life is progressing far too fast and simply refuse to allow 'high-end audio' to pull me back by limiting and inflexible hardware/software and lackluster old school simple dedicated wireless remote control.
And by the way, if you agree with the above article to some degree, are young (at heart) and cool, phat, hip, righteous, down with the sickness or whatever is the current proper terminology plus a good writer looking to play with expensive and cutting-edge audio gear and gadgets please contact me ASAP. Thanks.