February 10, 2011

From Gerald R. Lucas

A Hobby Rediscovered

About twenty years ago, I was an avid audiophile. I remember many a night when Giles, David, and I would haul speakers, amplifiers, and whatever other newly acquired equipment we were enthusiastic about that week into Giles’ living room for a bit of A-B action. Armed, too, with our CDs du jour, adult beverages, and the whole evening free, we would spend hours alternating speaker positions, sitting arrangements, and disk tracks to see what cable, amp, or CD could bring us to a level of audiophile nirvana.

It seems that the three of us came by our shared hobby independently, so we all brought our particular listening penchants to the party. Yes, there was in our meetings the inevitable commingling of musical tastes and equipment biases, yet I think the hobby that brought us together was not only about spending money we didn't have on an admittedly expensive habit. We were fostering a friendship and a life-long love of great tunes and making them sound as good as we could.

Yet, when I moved to Tampa to start graduate school, I got distracted by what was more important at the time. Yes, I took my equipment with me and enjoyed many nights reading Dostoyevsky with Beethoven piano sonatas playing in the background. During these years, the music was only an accompaniment to my literary studies: Tchaikovsky had to take the back seat to Tolstoy's shotgun. This was the traveling arrangement ever since.

I’m not sure what happened, but recently I rediscovered my lost hobby. I know that Giles had something to do with it: he planted the seed again and helped it to flourish by lending me some equipment for my own audio room. Hooking up his Jolida 1701, Snell Type D/IVs, and simple Blu-Ray player (the current weak link in the chain) reminded me what I had neglected for the last twenty years. These are the same Snells that three of us used to listen to back in the day. I enjoyed the experience so much that I'm the proud owner of a new Jolida JD302BRC.

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I’m keeping his Snells (at least for the moment), and I have an Arcam rDAC on the way, so I can stream music directly from my iPod. More on equipment soon.

I can't express how much I’m enjoying discovering music again, everything from Bach to Barenaked Ladies, from Mozart to Mangione. I forgot how much enjoyment really listening to music can give me—the subtlety, the power, the precision, the passion. There’s not only the music, but the geeky part of tweaking everything about the system to squeeze every bit of delicious sound from my equipment. As Autumn says: I don’t even “watch TV anymore.” Indeed, I didn’t watch too much TV in the early nineties, either.

So, I’m back. My wife’s been generous and supportive (as always), and she’s probably an audiophile in the making, too. Thanks to her for putting up with my hobby. And thanks to Giles for reminding me about it.

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Listening Journal: Day 7

16:25 – More BNL. Sweet. Adjusted the speakers a bit; I put a penny under one of the spikes (front left of the left speaker) to level it better. I notice a difference. The bass seems tighter; I’m going to test that really in a few minutes. The vocal position seem more accurate, too—probably the whole soundstage. Listened to Lenny Kravitz, Rush, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Lyle Lovett. Autumn listened to some Smashing Pumpkins while I cooked dinner. Done at 23:00. The Jolida is already sounding better.