We all Need A Hobby, Audiophilia Was My First, But Not My Last

I haven't always been a professional audio reviewer. I started out as a hobbyist, back I the mid 70's. It all began when my music source, a Harman Kardon Nocturne receiver I'd had since high school, died. I went to a place in Brookline, MA. called "The Audio Studio" run by an Israeli named Micheael Shibani. He was also the U.S. distributor for the Israeli loudspeaker manufacturer, Morel. I soon had a pair of Morel 403s to replace my old AR-4x's coupled to a NAD 3020 integrated amplifier and 4020 FM tuner. I also met a fellow who became my audio buddy. He had a Mark Levinson ML-1 and ML-2. He also had Arpanet access through Harvard, which was my first exposure to Internet audio interest groups. Even back then, they were contentious...

AR-hobby1a.jpgAt the time I was a full-time college student and a part -time musician, playing gigs with various ill-fated bands on the Boston college bar circuit. If you asked me, I would have said that music was my main gig (after school of course) and hi-fi was my hobby.

Flash forward forty-plus years and I've come a full circle - Audio is my main gig and playing music is what I do for a hobby. I did not do the flip-flop in a day, it was a gradual process. For many years I had a commercial photography studio in Boston, and THAT was my main gig with music and Hi-Fi as serious but secondary hobbies. Then I began to write for The Absolute Sound in the Early 80's, but it was an after-hours gig and still very much a hobby.

AR-hoby3a.jpgWhen I moved from Boston to Colorado in the early 1990's I continued the full-time photography and part-time audio writing. But gradually the photography gigs were supplanted by writing assignments, and with the advent of digital photography I could see that my skill set (lab work, color processing, black and white printing) were going to go away so I transitioned from a part-time to full-time writing. And the business of photography became a hobby...

During this time, I also began writing for Vintage Guitar Magazine. I began a column called "Acousticville" when I ceased writing for Stereophile's Guide to Home Theater and had some writing time open for a new gig. I've been writing that monthly, and now quarterly, column for the last thirty years...and during that time played and written about the most iconic vintage acoustic guitars and mandolins. That never gets old...

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So, what do I do now for a hobby?

My current hobby is electric guitars. And not the vintage kind, or at least what I consider vintage, which is the "golden" U.S.-made guitar era from the early 50's through 1966. After '66, all the iconic U.S. guitar maker's quality and consistency took a nose-dive. Not even Martin was immune. No, I collect current and late-production Asian-made instruments. My most recent acquisition was a Korean-made Epiphone Sheraton E212 T with exact 1962 specifications. For 1/7th the cost of an original 1962 Epiphone I have one that is in much better condition than an original (if you can even find a clean one) that doesn't break my budget and I don't have to baby due to its high value.

AR-hobby5a.pngCurrent production electric guitars have followed the same curve of better quality and reduced price as Asian-made electronics and loudspeakers - they have become not only competitive in terms of quality and value, but they have actually surpassed their US-made counterparts in terms of their level of fit and finish at entry-level and mid-price points. Once set-up optimally, they are no longer guitar-shaped objects (as most made in Asia in the early 60's were) but pro-level musical tools. So, I buy them, modify them if I wish, tweak their set-ups (including doing my own fret work) and enjoy them. That's how I relax.

My professional life and my hobbies have always cross-fertilized each other, which for me has always been the perfect mix...because all work and no play, even if that work is an enjoyable as high-performance audio, makes you a dull and boring boy...but you all know that because you have a hobby, which is audio. But all you professional high-performance audio folk? Get a hobby quick, I recommend it for your sanity, well at least I think it's worked for me...

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