Whether you know it or not, as audiophiles, music enthusiasts and fans of everything to do with sonic entertainment, each of us bear a certain amount of responsibility to help keep the industry ball a-rollin' 'n a-tumblin' forward. Fortunately many of us relish this activity but I see less and less of that spirit of -- lets call it -- audiophillic camaraderie these days, at least out in the wilds of the "real world." Oddly, in these 21st Century times, its not as easy in some ways to really connect with other like minded individuals, what with the virtual extinction of audio shops that at one point were a sort of mecca for the music minded. So, I propose that we all make a little pact with one another: lets all do our part to help educate newer generations, to get them excited about our music passions in what ever way we can.
If we don't, I fear that at some point the marketplace will disappear and it will no longer be financially feasible for music labels and consumer electronics companies alike to deliver the high-quality goods and services we cherish.This is especially true when you stop and think about some of the devices passing for high fidelity these days which have become quite popular among younger music fans. Frequently it feels almost like we've been taking steps backwards (something for further discussion at another time).
I don't know about you but I've relished this sort of opportunity to talk about my music hobby joys with others who appear interested. I feel good when I've been able to steer them in the right direction towards getting the gear that will satisfy their needs within often tight budget constraints.
Whether it was a friend who wanted surround sound like my home theater set up without spending more than $300 or another who wanted a better vinyl listening experience than he had previously -- all it took was a little big of time and patience on my part. Consider it a good Karma effort. And, in case you are wondering, the former friend got a pretty remarkable Panasonic home theater in a box system which I helped them set up and the latter got an entry level Music Hall turntable. Heck, I've even coached fellow crate diggers at garage sales and flea markets as well as record store owners.
For those of you who are new to the audio hobby: a hearty welcome!
Following are some ideas to consider for the aspirant music fan and audiophile-on-a-budget who may be thinking about stepping up:
Step Up Your Audiophile Reading -- Beyond Audiophilereview.com, check out our parent publication HomeTheaterReview.com for great insights from our many terrific writers. Also look at our friends at SoundAndVision.com and AnalogPlanet.com for valuable perspectives and tips.
Step Up Your Gear -- If you have a lower end record player, be it one that you purchased at a hip clothing outlet or Costco or at a thrift shop, consider stepping up. For about $300 you can get a pretty solid turntable from the likes of Pro-ject and MusicHall which won't eat up your records and will ultimately sound a lot better. Need an amplifier? Speakers? No problem. There are solid affordably priced offerings out there these days such as SVS. You can find some great buys on great sounding systems that won't break your bank.
If your budget is super tight, you can also find a lot of great older gear at thrift shops and garage sales these days so keep those options open... Again, consider your audio system's growth a part of an ongoing amazing journey you are taking. Its not just a static destination...
Step Up Your Review Reading -- When you find a recording you love, do a little research by reading up on them in the aforementioned publications as well as keeping tabs on my reviews here (usually appearing on Mondays and Wednesdays). There are a lot of experienced collectors and audiophiles out there who can help you figure out what the best sounding music reproduction options will be for you to consider -- and the pitfalls to be aware of -- be it a download, MQA or Qobuz stream, vinyl LP, Blu-ray Disc, SACD or DVD.
Step Out Into The Real World -- Get off the Internet and get out into the stores when you can. Real "brick and mortar" music stores are a great place to meet other enthusiasts. You'll be placing youself in an environment with a chance to learn about cool new recordings, getting turned on to new music in a more organic manner than any algorithmic program can possibly offer. I can't tell you how many artists I have discovered from in-store play at music shops and other real world environments like coffee houses: The Cure, The Smiths, Ra Ra Riot, Built To Spill, Real Estate, Fleet Foxes... my list goes on...
Seek Out Places Where Audiophiles Gather -- Search around and look for audio stores (they DO still exists, just not in the numbers of the past). Find a music store that sells records and CDs still (often times they sell audio gear too!). Go to The Big City for a shopping spree. I understand that not all of us live in metropolitan areas that still have many record stores. But... they are out there.
Music shopping used to be great in NY and still is pretty solid in San Francisco where I live. I love going down to LA periodically where I find all manner of obscure things I've been seeking. For that matter, I shop in most every city I visit and I have found great music stores from San Luis Obispo, California to Austin, Texas to Northampton, Massachusetts. I even found a rare Steely Dan promo LP in Orlando a few years ago and my first original pressing Mono Beatles White Album at a flea market in Switzerland! I found the rare SACD of The Carpenters in surround sound at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles.
Do also check online services like meetup.com and you may well find audio related enthusiast groups meeting in your area. I just did a quick search for "audio" there and a bunch came up for my area. Point is: make the effort. Quoting the Grateful Dead: "Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart, you just gotta poke around."
If everyone does their part -- both older established audiophiles and younger newbies -- perhaps together we can help to keep audiophile flames burning so we can all keep enjoy this fun for a long time to come.