Is Hifi dying?

The music industry is dying. Hifi is dying.

If it is dying, it doesn’t have to die for you.

Buy an amp, get some nice speakers or headphones, listen to the music.

Hifi and sacrifice

If you listen to music, you have chosen not to do something else. Sacrifice.

In western culture today the idea of sacrifice is often over dramatized. The words conjure up images of lambs slaughtered, pain, blood, sweat, tears. What is not often explained or acknowledged is how sacrifice happens every second of every day. It is fundamental to achieving anything. It is something we should get our heads around and I think it is something many of us deny exists.

With music and Hifi this means we must choose what to sacrifice in the quest for audio quality and listening. Perhaps we need to eat beans and water for a few weeks to afford those new speakers. Perhaps we choose to listen to an album rather than play sport or talk to our kids. You can have your listening room in the house, but you’ll need to give up on the big social lounge.

Everything is a sacrifice of some sort. And that is the dance we are all doing! 🐵🎧

Searching for the culture

If you are stuck browsing the internet through the bubbled lens of Twitter or Facebook. It all seems like evidence of people living the way you would like them to live, but it all seems so far away.

If this is you, it might be interesting to search for a someone near to you who is in sync with your point of view and then go and interact with that person face to face.

In terms of audiophiles, it is easy to surround yourself with the videos and images of instagram showing hugely expensive systems, all set up perfectly. However real life is a lot more messy. There are normal everyday people behind that industry, trying to make their music sound the best they can. Find a hifi store, a vinyl market, a local audio visual consultant and interact with them.

They might even need something you have to give, and away you go. You’re part of the community now, and away from the bubbles.

Audio and Winning

The Raptors won the first game of the NBA finals yesterday. It’s the easiest thing in the world to recognise. Their goal was to be the biggest, fittest, most organised, efficient, accurate team that scores the most points and concedes the least. They won.

I think the NBA is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but it is not in my interests to try and make it as a pro baller. I’m only 6’1, already in my 30’s and I live in Africa – also I have never played a real game of basketball in my life – to name just a few hurdles i have. I wouldn’t win that game.

So how do you win at audio? More art than sport, there is scope to make your own rules and your own goals. Here’s my suggested list of things to do to feel like you are getting the most you can from your listening:

  • Read about music as you listen to it
  • Understand the equipment which you listen to
  • Play an instrument, even if you do it badly
  • Record yourself
  • Choose your own music, rather than letting the app, radio or the TV decide
  • Create a physical space and ritual dedicated to listening
  • Write about your audio experiences

Audio, Resistance and Caring

It’s not cool to care. Generally, those who care deeply about something are a pain in the butt for those who would rather brush over the details and move along to the next thing with as little fuss as possible.

If you are happy to take the music that is fed to you, that’s fine. Spotify has you covered. You will likely never annoy anyone with your opinions, the cost of your listening equipment, or the attention you give to the sound in your ears.

However, if you care about what you hear – if you appreciate the art involved in making a song, if you are curious about where a piece of music comes from or what is available that is not on the charts or in the format everyone is used to – get ready to meet some resistance.

Audio Responsibility

Who is responsible for the music you listen to? And the interviews you hear? Who decides when your voice gets recorded or not?

In a post industrial world, we have more choice than ever as to how and when we consume things. Take your music streaming service of choice – it likely has ~50m songs to choose from at the tap of a button. This can be overwhelming, which explains the success of Spotify and its algorithms. These ‘tailored playlists’ take the responsibility away from you and the music you hear.

The idea of audio responsibility then, asks us to behave in a more engaged way around music and anything else we feed our ears.

A couple of tips to get started on the road to audio responsibility:

  1. Read about it before you listen to it. This forces you to be an active participant and it makes the experience so much more satisfying. Check out this book to get started: Link
  2. The equipment you use makes a difference. Headphones, amplifiers and speakers are the best places to start investing (responsibly) in your audio experience.
  3. Nobody knows what you want to hear better than you. Not even Spotify.

Here’s to taking responsibility. 🙂

Recording yourself

Do you like the sound of your own voice? The first time I heard my own voice must have been on an old phone message machine we had growing up. It held messages on tiny cassettes which it could play back to you.

Having a very creative best friend, we then started messing around with dictaphones and video cameras. When I got into music and sang in a band, we’d record on anything just to hear ourselves play.

And then came smartphones. Nowadays people are trying to get away from being recorded so often. Google Apple or Facebook hears everything we say. There are full fledged studio apps available at the push of a button/ swipe of a screen.

I seem to hear my own voice a lot these days. Whether it is sending voice notes, or creating podcasts. Hearing yourself forces reflection on what it is you’re saying and how you’re saying it. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s worth a try.