Monday, March 1, 2021

Shared Listening

 Last time I discussed some of the issues about building systems in your home. Today I want to talk a bit about creating a shared listening experience.

Some audiophile systems have an accessibility problem. Either the system is not accessible by others or nobody else has the ability to run the system.

I regularly find issues like these:
• The system is located away from family life.
• It has a very complex setup and operation
• Equipment is too fragile to let "just anyone" use 
• The "owner" does not let anyone touch the system.
• The system design only provides a single person listening position.

These issues can create hidden or public tension and stress around music where there should be none! So the shared listening experience is not there. Now I may be a little harsh here, but I think it is crucial. I do not intend to denigrate the audiophile who has a personal need to build systems for whatever reason! Please enjoy the music but think about including others in the musical experience.

The stand-alone system is not the only culprit. Devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod all provide instant music that has an almost magical feeling. The sound can be a bit like elevator music or the old Intercom system with terrible little speakers around the home. Just not great for "Performance" listening experience.

There is another trend in stereo called multi-room audio. Companies like Sonos, Bluesound, and others have created system designs that allow you to place speakers around the home and synchronize the music playing on them or to play different music as desired in each room. The system designs are a great way to get music everywhere. While the quality can be pretty good, there is still no drive to take time to listen to music together as an experience.

The technology companies named above have also started providing multi-room audio and are very serious about their work, but they do not appear to be serious about the listening experience. Their voice activation systems are very compelling, and it will be fascinating to see where this all goes.  

Do not take me wrong here; there are Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod devices in my home. They all fill some valuable roles in our day-to-day lives. The incumbent multi-room systems like Sonos and Bluesound are most likely feeling the pinch.  

Next time we will take an abbreviated journey through time and start experiencing the future today!

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