The Pendulum Swings Back Toward
High-Quality Music Listening
Anthony Grimani (email@example.com) is
president of Performance Media Industries,
with offices in Novato and San Anselmo,
Let’s not forget that people still love
high-quality music. It’s not about twochannel.
It’s not about two-channel vs.
multi-channel. It’s about the experience
Music can be enjoyed in a non-critical
environment–like the whole house or
tiny earphones–but when performed
with precision and quality, it is emotional
and engaging. Music listening is a social
activity that cuts across boundaries like
social background and age.
The Power of Multi-Channel
Technologically, I still feel that if music
is presented correctly from recording to
playback, it is most effective in multichannel.
I do enjoy two-channel recordings
as much as anyone, knowing that they can
result in a fully immersive experience if you
use good equipment properly installed in a good room. But let’s be honest;
it’s really only completely effective and enveloping in one or maybe two seats
in the sweet spot of the room. The use of extra channels expands the sweet
spot, in addition to the soundfield, to a whole audience.
With multichannel media, the recoding engineer can fill in the
center stage with judicious use the center speaker, and can enhance the
envelopment with the surround speakers. Overall, clients are more drawn
to multichannel music, and it enables the social aspect of music to once
again take center stage. Unfortunately, it’s harder to find multi-channel
music produced with the quality and minute attention to detail that is
common for the best two-channel material. I am, however, witnessing
resurgence in the market for high-quality (hobbyist and/or enthusiast)
music playback. Why a resurgence? I believe there is a social trend–a
pendulum swing, if you will–back toward high-quality music listening.
Perhaps it is a backlash against the highly individualized marketing of
music over the last decade; perhaps it is simply a fad like fashion trends.
Some people never stopped listening. Some people got distracted by film. Now they are returning to music as a
means of focused entertainment.
The introduction of the
very high-end, high-quality
Sonus Faber loudspeaker offers one illustration of
the renewed interest in high-quality music.
One major factor facilitating this
trend is the recent availability of
high-quality audio files via digital
delivery. Many of the 2011 CES
demos I attended used a file player,
notebook, or some other form of
computing device as the source. One
even used a direct high-resolution
stream off smart phones. That type
of technological advancement is
generating excitement about the
return to high-end music. Vinyl and
reel-to-reel are as popular as ever, but
the younger crowd, especially, will
identify with more high-tech delivery
formats. As integrators, you need to
show your clients all the cool stuff
that’s available to them.
One such device I saw at CES was
from Auraliti. For about $800, you get
a hardware box that will play lossless
audio files from an attached hard
drive. (It will serve these files to
other clients on the network, too.)
Plus, it has a very nice internal
DACs with single-ended and
balanced outputs for people with
entirely analog playback systems. A digital output is also provided for use with an external DAC.
High-quality content for Auraliti, as well as the other platforms like it,
can be found from sources like Reference Recordings, Chesky, the Boston
Symphony Orchestra, Linn, NAIM, and Aix. Some deliver it by digital
download, while others send out a DVD containing the files.
Rekindle the Emotion
There is definitely a return to high-quality music in the works. If you
don’t provide it to your clients, then they’ll get it somewhere else. You
can sell high-quality, high-margin equipment if you just demonstrate it for
them. Let them rekindle the emotion. Case in point: I was recently with
a client in Las Vegas for whom we designed a high-end room. After the
calibration, I played him a 5.1 music demo from the handy multi-channel
sampler disc I’ve had for ages. He loved it, and he actually begged me to
let him keep the disc. Music’s not for everyone, but some people will love
it, so don’t miss the boat.
We have recently done a number of projects with separate music
rooms. Often times, people want separate, more relaxed environments
instead of a screening room. They
want a place where they can hang
with their friends. That means that
there will be more exposure to your
work through referrals, and more
equipment for you to install.
Chase Walton contributed to this