The Entry Level #13 Page 2
So I was wrong again: Evaluating a power cord could be fun. The AudioQuest NRG-X3 delivered more music, made more sense of the music, managed to more fully convey the artists' intentions, and made me a happy guy. If you already own an Emotiva ERC-2, does this mean you have to buy a new AC cord? Of course not. It simply means you have the option. You can wrest even greater performance from the ERC-2, especially in terms of high-frequency clarity and impact. No big deal, thoughthe standard cord sounds fine. Despite everything I've just said, I'd still be more inclined to spend my money on hi-fi's greatest tweaknew musicbut that's just me. I choose music over food, too. I have a problem.
My real problem is with people who say there's no new music worth listening to. People who have difficulty finding good, new music are either looking in the wrong places or aren't really looking. I can walk into my favorite record shop, Manhattan's Other Music, on just about any day of the week, randomly choose from their featured releases, and know that I'm in store for something special. I'm overwhelmed by all there is to hear and explore, and 2011 brought more great treasures than any year in recent memory. (See sidebar, "SM's 15 Favorite Records of 2011.")
But I'm fortunate to have an outstanding record shop nearby. If you don't have a local spot to rely on, remember that the Internet obliterates distance. Online retailers often share useful reviews, offer audio samples, and provide convenient payment options, making it easy for you to keep up with all the latest releases. Audiophile retailers such as MusicDirect and Acoustic Sounds are great resources, but if you're interested in more esoteric sounds, you can try Forced Exposure, Aquarius Records, Bleep, Boomkat, and Mimaroglu. Those are just some of my favorites. If you've got your own favorite resources for new music, please let me know.
You can also buy directly from record labels. I'm not talking about the major labels, which have become almost entirely insignificant. I'm talking strictly independent labels. Indie labels have more in common with hi-fi manufacturers than you might imagine: They're often run by just one or two extremely passionate and knowledgeable peoplepeople who are in the business not for money but for love, and who are happy to provide warm, friendly, personal service. They consistently offer exciting, challenging, and rewarding new work by thoughtful, ambitious artists. I can shop from these labels almost blindly and know that I will be more than satisfied: Type, Experimedia, Modern Love, Not Not Fun, Matador, 4AD, Warp, Tri Angle, Drag City, Thrill Jockey, Domino, Constellation, Editions Mego, Brainfeeder, Digitalis, Root Strata, Sacred Bones, Jagjaguwar, Raster-Noton, Planet Mu, Kompakt, Ecstatic Peace, the aforementioned Ghostly International and Ninja Tune, and so many more.
Now you begin to understand the extent of my problem. One would need a million lifetimes just to begin to properly return the love.
Love, love, love
Speaking of love, I've recently returned from the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, held October 1315 in Denver, Colorado. On the show's opening day, I went to the registration desk to pick up my press badge.
"Are you an exhibitor?"
"No, I'm press. I'm with Stereophile."
"Ahh . . . Stephen. You're the one with all the stories about the two young ladies."
I laughed. "Yes, that's me."
Nearby, another attendee asked if I'd brought Natalie and Nicole along with me. Perhaps I should have. They were in great demand (footnote 3).
Behind me, a long line of audio enthusiasts stretched across the lobby and out through the hotel's front entrance to wrap right around the parking lot. I was surprised and encourageduntil webmaster Jon Iverson, like an unforgivingly revealing CD player, reminded me of what was missing: women and children.
While I'm thrilled to see that I'm no longer the youngest person attending a hi-fi show, there remains a conspicuous lack of women and children in our hobby. Should we be concerned about this? I'm not entirely sure. One can make the argument that hi-fi is, at least primarily, a guy's thing. Nevertheless, I think it's important that we attempt to spread the hobby among a wider audience.
We can start by opening our listening-room doors and sharing our enthusiasm. People appreciate open, honest enthusiasm. We must be willing to exchange our ideas and opinions without passing judgments on others. It's okay to know what you like; it's not okay to tell someone else that she or he is wrong for liking something different. If we speak in clear, everyday terms about the things that matter mostfun, life, lovewe'll always move in the right direction. And we can't just talk about fun; we have to actually have funa scary proposition for some of us, I know, but we can all stand to loosen up a little. It's also especially important that we truly share, rather than merely preach or dictate. We must do exactly what we pride ourselves on doing best: We must listen.
Footnote 3: While attending RMAF, I was comforted by attendees' interest in my dear friends Natalie and Nicole. (Yes, they're real. No, you can't have their phone numbers.) Getting to talk so much about them was a relief because it made me feel closer to home. Thank you.