Of all the whackadoo cults out there, what’s better than worshipping giant speakers as cathedrals of sound? Music can be arguably attributed to all kinds of miracles. It’s often the spark that initiates relationships, or revives damaged ones. It can trigger memories, and as recent scientific evidence has shown, even heal the brain! If that isn’t a gift from the audio gods, I don’t know what is.
Of course there’s all the other odd quirks that come along with the baggage of religious cults, like chasing down dead-end placebo effects of $10,000 cables and turntables. What is it with post-middle aged white men and their freaky hobbies? If you’ve ever read about weird sex cults or secret societies that perform elaborate blood sacrifice rituals, they’re all creepy, wealthy older white men. That was my impression when I first entered the Axpona (Audio Expo North America) convention on Saturday. It was about 98% white men, the average age probably about 55. I guess it makes sense. Many of them are empty nesters who finally have a little extra money to spend on their hobbies. Ironically one’s hearing is sometimes in rapid decline at that age range, especially if they didn’t protect their hearing throughout their lives. Many have stopped listening to new music 20 to 30 years ago, but are trying to squeeze more and better sound out of their moldy oldies. Music used in the demos was pretty conservative, mostly jazz, blues, classical, opera, classic rock (lots of Stevie Ray Vaughan), and a shit ton of Steely Dan.
But I’m not here to hate. After all, I’m rapidly approaching that age demographic myself, but without the spare money. At least there’s no real harm in the audiophile hobby, no virgins are sacrificed, though a few kids may find their college funds depleted (sorry kid, you should have done better in school and gotten scholarships, enjoy your quarter-mil plus in loans!). In a way, it is a form of paranormal cult. Many in this hobby swear by the almost magical effects of expensive cables and turntable cartridges that defy laws of physics. I may find that aspect of the hobby ludicrous, but more power to them. At least they’re helping fund companies that also produce a lot really solid gear. In a world when music has been devalued and people expect to be able to stream everything for free, and speakers are hidden inside earbuds, computers and walls as if they’re dirty secrets, I think it’s important that there’s some subcultures that still maintain that music is important and valuable enough to worship at the altars of massive sound systems and speakers that dominate a room like large sculptures. Continue reading