My Trip Back to College


Two weeks ago I was invited to speak to an engineering class about audio. Actually my lecture was supposed to be about loudspeakers. I'm afraid the final results won't make the "top ten lectures of all time" list...

When I was originally contacted by a professor at University of Colorado about talking to her class about speakers I suggested several local speaker designers who I felt would have been far better qualified, such as Charles Hansen, who designed the original (and still my personal favorite) Avalon Ascent speakers. I also suggested that Yoav Geva, YG acoustics' designer, but he was in Munich for the High End show. In the end, I tentatively agreed. I had a bunch of deadlines, so if I finished the deadlines, I'd do the lecture.

By late Thursday morning I finished my assignments, so I acquiesced to the "lecture." But since I had been working almost non-stop on articles since Monday morning (when I was first called), I'd spent no time putting together an outline of what I would talk about. That was a bad idea (or lack of one.)

The professor had warned me that it would be a small turnout because it was the last lecture of the semester, so I wasn't too surprised when only 25 students arrived at the lecture hall that easily held 10x that number. What did surprise me was the answers they gave to some questions I asked, such as "How do you listen to music?"

I was fortunate because the lecture hall I was in had a high-tech "clicker" system so you could ask questions and get instant electronically collated answers. What I had expected from my first question was a high percentage of headphone listeners. But what emerged was that 53% of the class did most of their listening through loudspeakers, and only 35% did most listening through headphones.  So much for the "loudspeakers are obsolete" argument...

In retrospect I probably should have pulled a Michael Fremer and gone off on them about the evils of MP3s, why tubes and analog rule, and how cool records are, but instead I spent most of the time explaining basic theories and telling stories about guys like Ed Villchur and J. Gordon Holt.

I didn't notice anyone nodding off or surreptitiously slipping their earphones back into place, so I suppose my lecture wasn't too boring, but for several hours after the talk I kept thinking of what I SHOULD have said...heck if I was really smart I would have just sat back and let them watch the videos from Rocky Mountain Audio least that was a good hair day...

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