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Games without frontiers at the Sydney Audio Club

  • I’ve been sounding the ‘different music’ horn for a while now: audiophile societies and store demonstrators need to move with musical times if they are to swell their numbers and attract younger listeners. Playing music with which newcomers are familiar is, initially at least, far more important than mastering quality or delivery medium.

    For retailers this is a matter of survival more than simple manners. The worst offenders are often the older, more experienced audiophiles who rubbish a newcomer’s music taste. As soon as that kind of (pre)judgement spills forth the prospective convert is likely lost forever. My parents hated a lot of my music choices as a teenager (“It’s just noise, where’s the tune?”). Their parents probably hated theirs too. It’s all part of the generational cycle. Thankfully, there’s none of that nonsense at Sydney Audio Club (SAC).

    A third visit this weekend to SAC’s monthly meeting at their Epping venue showed this club to be comprised of like-minded folk not afraid to embrace newer and, for some, more confrontational styles of music. And not a whiff of Patricia Barber or Diana Krall. Huzzah! The listening room is big – 13m x 10m – perhaps disproportionately large for all but the biggest, baddest visiting loudspeakers. On the plus-side, boundary re-enforcement/colouration  is less likely.


    The first half of the meet is dedicated to the exhibiting distributor/retailer and his music choices. This month saw Nicholas Meza of Newtown’s Hifi Trader (my local store) show off Spendor D7 (AU$6699) loudspeakers powered by a Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier ($AU3499), a pairing that readily exposed the vinyl front end’s superiority over the CD player. Jotting up the total on an Rega RP8 turntable (AU$3499), Van Den Hul MC Special cartridge (US$1650) and Rega Aria phono stage (US$1500) you can easily see why; that package will run you double the Saturn-R DAC / CD player (AU$3499).

    After tea and biscuits, the musical meat of the meeting. The system remains the same but attendee-supplied musical choices get spun one after t’other. Some vinyl, some CD. Neil Young’s acoustic live version of “Old Man” (Live At Massey Hall, vinyl) kicks off proceedings and is swiftly followed by the opening cut from Roseanne Cash’s latest long-player (The River & the Thread, CD). So far, so audiophile. Classical pieces and choral turns were also spun from both silver discs and the black stuff. Members listened attentively whether it was to their taste or not. I saw one or two chaps getting busy with Shazam, presumably to later explore further what they’d heard.

    Is this the only audiophile gathering in the world to spin Nicolas Jaar’s “Space Is Only Noise” (Space Is Only Noise, CD)? Doubtful…but it’s probably none too common an occurence. I committed the moment to YouTube for posterity to prove that a) I’m not making this up and b) to other audiophiles around the world that a break from the norm at your local society is not only possible, it’s exciting. The techno-stomp didn’t stop there. Trentemoller’s “Evil Dub” (The Last Resort, CD) went deeper into the lower registers than even the poor Elicit-R could manage (before clipping) when driving the 90db loudspeakers into a room way too big to lend a hand. In a more appropriately sized room there I doubt there would have been an issue.

    To bring the meeting towards its 5pm close, the tunes switched to vintage rock n’ roll. One fella had brought in the Mo-Fi pressing of Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model but elected to spin T-Rex’s “Jeepster” instead (Electric Warrior, vinyl). That’s a win-win which ever way you flip it.

    Each SAC gathering ends with attendees completing a survey about their afternoon’s listening experience, music choices included. I’d be surprised if the results revealed anything but hi-scores.

    Further information: Sydney Audio Club  | Hifi Trader | Rega | Spendor

    Here’s a complete list of what was played:

    Track, Album, Artist
    Your Smiling Face, JT, James Taylor
    Fire of Love, Wanting, Gabriel Anders
    Her Town Too, Dad Loves His Work, James Taylor
    Baby You Can Drive my Car, Rubber Soul, The Beatles
    Flamenco Sketches, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
    Klapa Vestibul, Traditional Dalmation Songs, Cvijet Ceznje
    Who Will Comfort Me, My One and Only Thrill, Who Will Comfort Me?
    Saviour, Music City Soul, Beverly Knight
    Piangonoal Piages Mio, Dolcissimo Suspiro, Tone Wik
    My Same, 19, Adele
    Misa Criolla, The Golden Years, Jose Carreras
    Fairies Wear Boots, Paranoid, Black Sabbath
    Old Man, Live at Massey Hall, Neil Young
    Concerto for 2 Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo in C, Johan Sebastian Bach 2 Oboe Concertos, The English Concert with David Reichenberg and Simon Standage and Trevor Pinnock
    Dinah-Moe Hum, Over-Nite Sensation, Frank Zappa
    A Feather’s Not a Bird, The River & The Thread, Rosanne Cash
    David of the White Rock/La Fiesta de la Tirana, Leyanda, Inti-Illimani with John Williams & Paco Pena
    Send in the Clowns, One Voice, Barbra Streisand
    Space Is Only Noise If You Can See, Space Is Only Noise, Nicolas Jaar
    Mass in B minor, BWW 232: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Thomanskantor Leipzig, Gewandhausorhester Leipziger Barockorchester
    Evil Dub, The Last Resort, Trent Trentemoller
    Jeepster, Electric Warrior, T-Rex
    Three German Dances, K. 605: No 1 in D, Mozart: Complete Edition Vol 2, Weiner Mozart Ensemble

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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