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Building a bridge to the man in the street (reprise) – Linn Lounge

  • The previous editorial on the need for the hi-fi industry to build a bridge to the man in the street solicited this email from Cameron Pope of Sydney’s Krispy Audio. He’s Australia’s distributor for VPI Industries and Manley Labs .

    “Before I got into the hifi game, not a single friend of mine had anything more than maybe Sony earbuds to replace their Apple ones.”, said Pope.

    He continued: “You know the other thing I’ve noticed regarding TMITS? When he does get to hear high-end audio, he’s often so conditioned to poor sound that he doesn’t always like what he hears. A generalisation perhaps but many non-audiophiles are used to augmented bass and treble and find it very confronting when they hear a decent midrange reproduction. I even found this when I suggested a mate move up from his Sony earbuds to Shure (which for me are midrange kings). It took him about a month before he finally said he liked them!”.

    An interesting point that many of us might look past: there’s an education to be had in knowing what to listen out for. Assuming there are some basic objective tenets of what constitutes ‘good sound quality’ the entry-level audiophile must embark on a journey. He can educate himself by turning over gear every few months or by hanging out with fellow audiophiles with similar music tastes and budgets. He can attend socially-centred audition evenings. He can join his local audiophile society.

    Krispy Audio’s down home audition space

    One thing’s for certain – such opportunities for exposure to better sound must be inviting. Judgment of TMITS’ Bluetooth portable speaker or love of poor quality source material must be (temporarily at least) put aside in favour of getting him across the threshold, to sit down and listen to something better. Subjective tastes also play a part – he must find what he likes among a forest of available options.

    So, pour the fellow a drink, offer him a slice of cake. Take the weight off.

    I’ve previously suggested that those hosting hifi demos should treat their guests as if they would visitors to their own house. For some of the smaller distributors in Australia these are one and the same – their hifi demo space is their home.

    It would be disingenuous to state that it’s all about the music – it isn’t. If it were, those Macbook speakers and white earbuds would do just fine.

    Colleen Murphy’s super-successful Classic Album Sunday events don’t see the source material played back through crappy hardware; turntable, amplifier and loudspeaker choices remain points of pride (as well as solid marketing opportunities for the brands involved) but the music is always the number one priority. That’s what makes the Classic Album Sundays brand so strong and monthly events now run in New York and London.


    Music first, gear second is also the modus operandi of Linn Lounge events of which three are taking place down under next week . Linn’s Australian distributor is at pains to point out that it’s a branding exercise for Linn and not a hard sell. It’s a chance for the curious to experience good sound without being whacked upside the head with (what some might refer to as) techno babble or sales pitches.

    Food and drinks are served whilst ‘Studio master’ (24/96 PCM) versions of a classic artist’s music are spun on a Linn system. Occasional breaks afford the presenter an opportunity to expand on a song’s history or point out what to listen for.

    Next week sees Linn’s international brand developer manager Robert Wong conducting three events in almost as many days and as if to immediately contradict the above, Wong’s first stop in Sydney will focus on the specifics of a Linn Exakt system. The Melbourne leg will centre on Johnny Cash whilst Perth plays host to the music of The Eagles.

    And if those artists are too white-middle-aged-male for your music tastes then know that a Linn Sneaky DS will be given away at each event. Entry is free but places must be booked in advance using the links below.


    The Field Of Dreams argument of ‘build it and they will come’ might not hold as much water as we’d like to think, hence the promotional nudge here, but a bridge from the audiophile world to TMITS is necessary for the audiophile world to survive/grow/prosper. Not everyone will cross the bridge but a few will; everyone has to start somewhere.

    Caring about sound quality isn’t an either/or state of being. It’s a continuum. Some are more into it than others and each position along its sliding scale is equally valid. To say otherwise is to fall victim to (inverse) snobbery.

    Ongoing exposure to better sound eventually pools into what one might loosely refer to as experience. This journey might take our newcomer all the way to the summit of Audiophile Mountain or it might see him put down roots somewhere near base camp. Either way, he’s stationed himself at a higher altitude than the valley of laptop speaker and soundbar listeners?

    And if you think that sounds contradictory think of this way: it’s not the hardware that our entry-leveller ends up with that matters most, it’s that he isn’t simply accepting the default position of not caring. Instead, he’s found a taste for good sound (even if he can’t yet afford all that he desires).

    Further information: Linn Lounge Sydney (1st Sept) | Linn Lounge Perth (3 Sept) | Linn Lounge Melbourne (4th Sept) | Classic Album Sundays

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Ome thing bothers me here, John.

      This pompous audiophile generalization of the TMITS being conditioned to “poor sound” sounds a lot like a pot calling a kettle black to me. Audiophiles go on and on about listening to records ” as they were meant to sound” and all that. Bull-f%ckin-sh#t!!

      If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve heard audiophiles say that the sound of a proper pro monitoring setup – what they use in recording/mastering studios, like active PMC or ATC rigs – sound “flat and lifeless”, I’d have more money in the bank than that Dr. Dre chap. They like colouring* their sound just as much as the average street kid with his tacky Beats headphones, just in different ways.

      I dunno, but what makes one type of sound more musical** than the other when both are equally innacurate compared to what the mixing/mastering engineers work with?

      * essentially a nicer word for ” distortion”.
      ** a weasel-word audiophiles use because it sounds more profound than saying “I like it but can’t explain why”.

      Sorry if this sounded ranty, but really, I haven’t even started. Want me to tell you how the term ” reference” has been distorted by audiophile opinion to make it sound like its some holy grail of sound? Oh please, in a mastering studio, reference = Yamaha NS-10s. That’s right. After the engineers are done mixing on their high-end “flat and lifeless” PMCs and ATCs, they run the final mix through these crappy NS-10s and dumb the sound down for lowest-common-denominator type sound systems (Apple ear buds, cheap boom boxes, laptop speakers, etc). That’s what reference really is, not some high-end Sennheiser HD800.

      • Ha! Your observations regarding the (meaningless) term “musical” was music to my ears. Yes, it means coloured. And colour can be enjoyable – we only have to look to Instagram filters to know which colouration we find most enjoyable and how it varies between photos.

        And have you noticed how many manufacturers/retailers have co-opted the language of Pono, describing their products as allowing one to listen to music “as the artists intended”? I have. Look out for it – it’s everywhere.

        Whilst subjective impressions on reference might vary, I think we can agree that HD800 sound better than Apple earbuds? I think what Cameron was driving at with his email was that, if all you’ve listened to is laptop speakers or crappy earbuds, you might initially find ‘better sound’ somewhat disconcerting. A bit like going from Jack Daniels to a single malt? Good sound takes some readjustment on the part of the listener. Anyone moving from Beats to HD800 might initially complain about the absence of bass until they learn that what they were previously accustomed to is bloated, textureless bass.

        • I’m just saying that belittling a person’s taste or prior experience isn’t the best way to preach. Two audiophiles making fun of each other is perfectly fine – I’ve been in many situations at showrooms where some geezer comes up to me and says my choice of music lacks the dynamic range to fully realize what the speakers are capable of, and I’d say, “why thank you, Mr. Pinknoise Smartypants” and continue listening to my jungle – but going to a complete outsider and telling him his setup “lacks PRAT” or his music “lacks dynamic range” just makes you sound like…. a dynamic prat.

          I took Cameron’s quote out of context (was intentional, but I probably failed to make that obvious enough), but in my experience (anecdotal, I realize) a person who’s truly interested won’t write-off a more balanced presentation, even if he’s used to something more V-shaped. All the frequencies are still there, after all, and if said presentation truly is decent, his beloved bass and treble won’t be smeared by the upfront midrange regardless. If the person seems less open or a tad reluctant, you condition him gradually. Eg; Beats Solo -> AiAiAi TMA1 -> Focal Spirit -> Denon D7000. You, know, logical progression, as LTJ Bukem called it. You don’t hand a Beats Solo wearing kid a Bayer T5p and say “here kid, this is what you should be hearing”. He’ll take a listen and proceed to throw the Beyers in your face, yelling “don’t give me a frickin tweeter, you deaf old git!!”

          Fwiw, I like a coloured presentation myself. I own Fostex TH headphones that are capable of elephantine (as Srajan calls it) bass, I like the midrange warmth of Mullard tubes and the rose-tinted world portrayed by Reimyo DACs, and I often played with the in-built EQ settings on my old Event Opals monitors to make the sound a less studio monitor-like. I just don’t think there’s any stone-written ‘right’ method to go about how one listens to music, regardless of genre. All frequencies should be made available to the user. How he sculpts those frequencies depends on his tastes, not ours. Our ‘job’ is to introduce him to equipment that doesn’t go muddy with his personal EQ, and then leave the choice to him.

          Sometimes, I get the feeling this whole institution of muddy basshead cans (and the boomboxes that preceded them) came from an anti-establishment mentality of some sort. I bet a bunch of kids just got sick of their audiophile parents telling them to listen to the LaSalle Quartett all day back in the early 80’s, and decided to distort every sound they could get their hands on, just for the sake of it. Parachute pants probably followed soon after.

          • “I’m just saying that belittling a person’s taste or prior experience isn’t the best way to preach.” <--- did I not say as much in the article, Gan? We're both talking about the same thing here I think. That being an audiophile is a journey that (initially) requires incremental exposure to different products and their presentations.I'd also say that 'writing off a presentation' and 'being confronted by a presentation' are two different things. The latter is a cerebral/emotional process, the former a reaction to that process.

            • Yes, you did. Just that the e-mail quote didn’t, which I already admitted to take out of context.

              I completely agree with your (and Linn’s, though the artist line-up seems a tad too cautious) approach. Music first. Gear second. Promote awareness, not the discipline. It’s just that the message often gets lost the moment someone starts marketing (or worse, evangelizing) – cue inverse snobbery you mentioned. I know because I’ve failed at drawing that line a few times myself.

              I wish you had a forum of some sort. That way my rantings wouldn’t spoil the comments section. I won’t hold it against you if you feel the need to delete any of them, even if it’s just to keep the layout clean.

    2. I love this idea, and we need to see more of it. I as Tweek Geek have tried a few times to get groups going using and it worked okay. The attendees were mostly audiophiles, not people curious about new music or good sound. Perhaps my messaging was wrong. I would love to see this succeed and see it copied. It would be good for everyone.

      • I think the way to nail it is to (cough) ‘borrow’ from Classic Album Sundays’ model without actually using the name Classic Album Sundays (lest you unintentionally communicate an affiliation that isn’t there). Once an alternative name is decided upon, things are set. Get the hifi setup, focus on a good classic album (that’s not TOO obvious), pour the drinks and drop the needle.

    3. Deep down I would like a cheapish system with cheapish parts for maximum experimentation.
      note: One with detail, space and that lovely valve like colouring that makes it all worth while. cheers

    4. Its not so easy trying to get new blood into hi fi now.

      In school class…whenever we had free time in the classroom we inevitably turned to browsing through catalogues. Here…we turned the pages to the stereo section as young testosterone filled teens…and dreamed of owning one of them Pioneer or Kenwood separates. It was almost like Holden vs Ford. Kenwood vs Pioneer…and that was what every teen wanted.

      Out of nowhere, they stopped oggling at stereos and started to oggleat the new technology that was emerging. They turned the pages to mobile phones and bypassed the stereos altogether.

      I remember that day. It was a day in the mid 90s.

    Underworld’s 20th anniversary remaster on 24/96 Blu-ray

    PS Audio DirectStream review (Part 2 – Around The World)