If my guests are technically savvy, sessions begin with me giving a quick overview of the whats, hows, and whys regarding component selection and room setup. Next, after verifying the precise location of the listening chair with a laser distance measure (more sense-of-occasion stuff), I play a couple of tracks that I know to be well recorded to acclimate my guest’s ears to the system and room. I set average levels to about 83dB or so (C-weighted) to keep tonal balance near the sweet spot of the Fletcher-Munson curve…and to make sure I’m not torturing anyone.
No one says a word during these first two tracks–an unspoken rule that virtually everyone follows automatically. After that, we’ll have a brief discussion about what they’ve heard, and I’ll hand them the tablet so that they can queue up recordings that they are familiar with, possibly including music that they brought with them for the session. Depending on how things are going, I may insert a recommendation or two of my own into the session’s playlist. This will go on for an hour or two or until we break for refreshments two floors down in the kitchen.
While I still love listening intently to music alone, there’s something magical about experiencing playback through someone else’s eyes and ears–seeing how the music affects them and sharing in their reactions. Even when I’m not in the sweet spot, I feel like I’m connected to the music through their perceptions–truly a shared experience. On more than one occasion, the music has brought goosebumps to both me and my guest, even though I was seated on the floor next to the steps.
Enjoying fine playback as a guest in another audiophile’s room is equally satisfying. In both cases, I’m re-visiting familiar tracks on a new system while gaining exposure to really great music that I otherwise might never have heard. As a guest, the pressure is off. I don’t try to analyze their setup (unless specifically asked to do so). I just kick back and take it all in. In every case, I’ve heard or learned something new about the music, the artists, sound reproduction in general, and of course, my host. If their system does something better than mine, I’ll take note and see if I can find a way to improve. But mostly, I’m there to enjoy fine music and fellowship.
Of course, the greatest benefit to all of this is connecting with people. When we reach the end of our days and look back, it won’t be the number of solitary hours that we spent in the sweet spot that will bring us satisfaction but the number of lives we’ve touched and friendships we’ve made along the way. If you don’t have a shared listening session on your calendar between now and the end of the year, I encourage you to make the effort to set one up. It could change the way you think about our hobby too.
4 thoughts on “Building Community Through Shared Listening Sessions by David C. Snyder”
zan stewart says:
November 14, 2016 at 1:11 am Edit
This is not germaine, I know, but are those dogs your or David’s? What a gorgeous Boxer.
David Snyder says:
November 21, 2016 at 9:49 pm Edit
Haha…no. Cute photo, but no dogs at this house.
David Snyder says:
November 23, 2016 at 11:26 pm Edit
I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I have a fun update. I can now stream TIDAL in the Loft at the same level of quality as CD rips on my Synology NAS. The Loft now provides a gateway to over forty million tracks, vastly expanding the range of musical destinations to which the listener can be transported. Granted, not all of them are places that I personally would want to go, but it’s nice to have the option. 🙂
Charles Lin says:
December 4, 2016 at 12:10 am Edit
Wow, Dave, what can I say, after reading your conversation – I am deeply touched by your thoughts, comments and feelings. I cannot agree more with what you said. BTW, I LOVE the picture (of the two cute dogs sharing the listening 🙂