in ,

Fitter, happier and more productive?

  • Tip over into middle age and two aspects of life become increasingly more challenging: 1) staying fit and healthy and 2) maintaining a connection with popular culture. Life eventually gets in the way of both, especially for those with kids.

    Weight gain has its own in-built early warning system: we might feel more sluggish than a year ago or notice that our belt is getting tighter as the months go by. Loved ones might comment on social media photos that we look like we are enjoying life. (They’re being polite). The remedy? A gym membership and a sharper eye on what and how much we eat (and drink).

    But what of the pop culture disconnect? Its stealth often catches us off guard. Rendered invisible to the day to day, it can be a slow slide over a long period. We excuse ourselves from no longer attending gigs with laments of more pressure at work. As the years advance we might begin to complain that all modern music is manufactured bullshit and that they don’t write songs like they used to. In extreme cases, we might refer to electronic music as “doof doof”.

    Besides, iTunes tells us that it would take 27 years to play our digital audio collection from start to finish and that wall of vinyl is plenty big enough – such is the physical side-effect of two decades of committed crate digging.

    We have subconsciously checked out of discovering new music. In other words, we have given up. May as well get the t-shirt to complete the Dad-joker image.


    For the average Joe and his Dad, this matters not. But for the hifi manufacturer demo-ing his wares in-store or on the show circuit it matters hugely, and even more so the older they get.

    At 60 years old, the loudspeaker designer sticking to the tried and trusted tunes of his youth exposes him as at least twenty years out of step with modern music (which never sits still). That’s fine if the manufacturer’s target market is other 60 year old dudes – but what of engaging a younger audience?

    I’m not talking about twenty- or thirty-somethings. I’m talking about the dudes and dudettes in their forties and fifties who chose not to pull the cultural ripcord at 40 and instead kept up with new artists and trends?

    A good example is the nineties’ rave generation. Now in their forties, these guys and gals might no longer choose to spend all night in a club but their interest in acid house, IDM or (cough) “doof doof” is as strong as ever.

    In stark contrast to their twenties, these same techno fans now have the disposable income to invest in better sound at home. However, they might not take an interest if music snobbery effectively bars them from the hardware audition. Ditto those into metal. Or northern soul. Or funk. Or drum n bass / jungle. Or tibetan folk music. Or Russian marching bands.


    Being an audiophile is the pursuit of happiness through the reproduction of one’s favourite music but with better sound quality applied. The genre matters not.

    In the wake of DAR’s Munich show coverage, a handful of manufacturers emailed yours truly in recognition of the dire homogeneity of audio show music and with pleas for “half a dozen tracks that are different, interesting, great sounding and don’t clear the demo room.”

    On that last point, cuts from Trentemøller, F.U.S.E and especially Eat Static might be ruled out. It depends.

    However, the less violent side of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Giant Sand and Kings Of Convenience could be just the ticket for almost any demonstrator. So too might a little bit of (well known) Isaac Hayes and a (lesser known) slice of Prince.

    The ludicrously low cost of entry to the streaming world, even lossless tiers, means that all one need do is spend time investigating music missed since subconsciously taking less and less of an interest in music released since the early 90s.


    If you think that sounds patronising, understand it comes from fives years of first hand experience with audio shows across the world where the same tracks from Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Nils Lofgren and Box Scaggs are heard again and again and again…

    To quote Brian Eno, “The more time you spend on an old idea, the more energy you invest in it, the more solid it becomes, and the more it will exclude new ideas.”

    Besides, it’s a little rude of me to complain about a problem without attempting to also offer up possible solutions.

    Should you not find anything to your liking in 6moonbeams #4, keep a close eye on the pane that sits to the right of Tidal’s “now playing” wheel – it might throw up something more agreeable.

    Further reading: 6moons


    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. Guess it comes down to personality .Lucky me I visited and worked in many countries (in all five continents )and picked up the local music which was always different and interesting . Therefore my taste of music is wide spread from rock-alternative and so on to world /new age music and many more !.

    2. I’m almost 60 and agree with most of what you wrote.
      I’m not very interested in much modern popular music. I’ll readily confess that I’m especially not interested in listening much to misogynistic and racist lyrics. So sorry, a lot of modern popular music falls down that rabbit hole. Doesn’t interest me that for whatever reason it is considered acceptable for musicians to be anti-women and racist, as long as they play certain genres.

      But I do try to listen to new stuff, because sometimes I find something modern that I quite like.
      Recent examples would be Robert Glasper and Esperanza – both of which are very contemporary, but
      more sophisticated than some of what I referred to above.

      And I do like a lot of new music, but my “new” music as I’ve grown older is more in the areas of new jazz, modern “classical”, and various world musics. Some of this music is very challenging – it’s not like listening to the Eagles – but it won’t get played by a DJ. at a club.

      BTW, I’m listening to your Tidal playlist as I write, and it sounds fine to me. I definitely would stay in the audio room if this stuff was playing.

    3. sorry meant to write Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding above. Don’t want to slight those musicians.

    4. Good recordings from artists like Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy/Palace and Vincent Gallo could be good demo material for Hifi.. It doesn’t have to be “lo-fi” like early GBV or early Giant Sand.. For electronic inclinations your post on Automat is one cool example of something still accesible for demo (still uses “real instruments”.). I like their debut disc.. I also actually find some material from Autechre layered and warm in the right system.. Or upbeat stuff from early The (English) Beat or even early Fela Kuti..

      It’s good to see you back John…

      I’ve got to re-watch High Fidelity..

        • Yes, my point exactly. Like late career GBV post 2010, while not exactly slick, the production values have relatively better substance – even with tape hiss and some HF feedback from equipment and all that.. Don’t get me wrong, Vampire On Titus is my fave, but even a cassette copy of that would be enjoyable for me (Bob P. and Co. don’t really shine with slick production a la Ric Ocasek’s..)

          • Oh, BTW, John..

            I can’t seem to post on the DF Red review article. I’ve had it for 3 days now and I’m happy with the purchase. I’ll post my impressions there when things get settled on your site. Thanks.

            • Hey Rick. That has nothing to do with the recent outage. The comments sections on each article automatically closes after 60 days. However, given that interest in the Red is still keen I have extended it to 90 days.

          • I’ve not really kept up with GBV since they split the first time. Alien Lanes and Mag Earwhig were favs in the 90s. Which is the one with Teenage FBI on it? I know it rubbed hardcore fans the wrong way but I like it.

            • Yeah, that was on Ocasek’s (over?) polished radio friendly production.. Do the Collapse. As a whole, the album didn’t have the same cohesive track for track flow even if of course they had some stand out so songs in it. That’s just my opinion.. I kinda liked Isolation Drills a bit better a few years later, with the cool track Glad Girls on it but that album gets a bad rap from some hardcore fans too.. Their reunion post 2010 got them back into form somewhat, not as lo-fi as the classic lineup albums, but still very much raw (and prolific..)

            • Oh, sorry, I wasn’t aware of the of the 60 day expiry.. Anyway, thanks for extending it. Much appreciated.

    5. My two favorite bands right now are Mountain Sprout from Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Black Mountain from L.A. / Canada. I guess that is all I can say.

    6. I don’t get it. That’s a great playlist with Windowlicker and Stagger Lee as masterful choices.
      But Korn?

      NB Love your work and welcome back!

      • Korn included because I saw a great video of Peachtree Audio playing it at Newport and getting a great response. Not my taste at all but very happy to see it played as demo music.

          • I wasn’t all that into Adam F but I did have a phase listening to Alex Reece. Alas, by the time we got to 1998, you couldn’t move in the UK for D&B, especially LTJ Bukem whom I always felt was just too tasteful. At least that Adam F cut you sent has some grit to it.

    7. So I’ve gone to AXPONA the past couple of years and here’s what I noticed:

      – This year I did not hear Diana Kroll, not even once (THANK GOD!)

      – Stevie Ray Vaughn has replaced Diana Kroll.

      – The music selection was better this year overall but manufacturers *need* to have a variety of music with them. I went in several rooms and requested some Funk be played and the presenters looked at me liked I handed them a severed foot. There’s no excuse with modern technology (streaming services, music servers, etc) that I shouldn’t be able to demo damn near ANY song that has come out in the last 25 years.

      – Seeing a bunch of half-deaf blue hairs scatter out of the room during the Elac demo playing Deadmau5 was thoroughly enjoyable. Ditto for the Enigma room.

      – My evidence is purely andecdotal but the crowd definitely was a bit younger this year. Last year I was probably one of the only people under 40 at the show (at least the day I was there).

      – Getting to hear “No Excuses” by Alice In Chains on a really expensive Magico setup was a treat

      • Good to hear things are looking up at shows in some quarters but I don’t think calling anyone “half-deaf blue hairs” helps matters. It creates a bit of an us vs. them mentality which I’m not down for. I’m all about promoting tolerance, which, agreed we tend not to see a lot of when different stuff like Alice in Chains gets played after a more traditional audiophile cut.

    8. Very perceptive Darko. It’s hard to keep up. Imagine guys 20 years your senior. Never mind, you’ll get there. I go to Amazon and listen to new music. New music by youngsters like James Taylor, Paul Simon (his last is terrific), Beth Hart, Habib Koite and Eric Bibb, Ben Harper, David Knopfler, Missy Higgins, and my record of the half year (as is, the year is not yet over), Zak Brown’s latest foray outside his comfort zone. Yes, it is a marvel. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but then, like coffee or wine, it takes a half century of experience to understand the differences between good and very good; and right after we’re all dead.

      I ‘ll cover the downside another time.

    9. Great article. Thank you.
      It takes effort to keep up, and without Tidal/Roon as my vehicle I think I would be more disconnected. Great software. I’ve discovered a lot of new music this past year using this combo.
      Speaking of 90’s artists, I think Lows The Invisible Way is a record that would serve well. Great production (thanks to Jeff Tweedy), minimalist instrumentation and mellow tunes.

      • Y’know – I like to consider myself a keen Low fan and I bought TIW on vinyl but have yet to find any opportunity to spin the darn thing. Shame on me. I think my favs of theirs would be C’mon and TWLITF.

        • TIW sounds great on vinyl! I dig C’mon a lot – Nothing But Heart is a favorite track. Things We Lost in the Fire? Ya – I’ve not got around to this one yet.

    10. I’m in my 40’s and absolutely always open to new music. Anytime a new version of Send in the Clowns is released I add it to my playlist immediately 🙂

      With the proliferation of streaming services, music discovery is both the easiest it has ever been and the most overwhelming that it has ever been. That being said, there is still gads of great sounding music that never makes it to the major streaming services that requires a different strategy to discover (browsing small label sites, looking for recommendations on Internet message boards, etc.).

      Maybe this happens, but it is not clear to me that it does based on my experience at RMAF and CES… Do labels with well recorded, quality music, regardless of genre actually try and promote their wares by distributing copies to manufacturers participating at HiFi shows and retail HiFi shops?

    11. Great article John, you provide a great service, many thanks and I’ll be checking out the playlists. Showing my age as I used to listen to the great John Peel show every night for his undiscovered gems, taste and opinion, as I do yours. The music world is a huge ocean and I appreciate informed guidance to check out exciting stuff.

      Another side of the issue you raise is that on any given day when I sit down to listen to something (not so keen on music on the go) the wealth of choice spanning over 40 years of rock, pop, jazz – not to mention classical is simply amazing and a tad overwhelming. Some 60s Beaver & Krause, followed by a bit of Courtney Pine and Brahms before a later and later bedtime. All at our fingertips, amazing times!

    12. I’m not interested in “maintaining a connection with popular culture”. I am interested in exploring, deepening my experience of the musical world both through live experiences and recordings one thing leads to another …

      If you came around to my place I would not be trying to impress you with my hardware (no double meaning intended). I would like to give you a stimulating listening experience that may currently include; Inar – Bombino; We Pray – Mulatu Asatake and Black Jesus Experience; J-Zero – Flamme Kapaya; Coco Blues – Mbongwana Star; Tribal Dance – Lionel Loueke.

      It’s never been easier to access music and it’s never been easier to mindlessly consume it – some focus provides enormous rewards.

      • What a smart comment! I just got Bombino a couple of days ago…
        Add Hans Thessink band, Jose Conde, Hayes Carll, Chris Stapleton, Cymande, Planxti, Oliver Mokudzi, Altan, Corrinne Baily Rae, Billy Gibbons’ PERFECTAMOUNDO, Habib Koite, and Jon Cleary….just for starters.

    13. how much hifi do you need for doof doof?
      p.s.or for riders on the storm?

      boomer michele
      from rome

    14. Try Philter with the album The Blossom Chronicles, a mix of classical and electronic. I heard one of their songs during a demo of Gryphon speakers and amps. It was fabulous!
      For people who are into classical, why not try Vivaldi Recomposed by Max Richter. It’s again electronic and classical mixed.

    15. Great article that hits the nail on the head especially the comments on dire homogeneity of audio show music.

      i remember with amusement the look of horror when I requested to listen to part of side 2 of Rubicon by Tangerine Dream on cd to the playlist controller who was playing some frankly quite boring jazz.

      I wanted to see what the speakers in question could do with music I was familiar with and I enjoyed emotionally. Eventually they put it on despite the internal strife written allover the playlist controller’s face, when his boss send yes lets play something a potential customer wants to listen to.

    We are back!

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