Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are Listening Clubs The New Book Clubs?

image from blogs.multcolib.orgIt appears that there's a growing trend in the UK these days called "Listening Clubs" where a group of people get together to listen to a classic album from beginning to end, according to an article by the BBC News. What's more, the playback source is high quality vinyl played through high quality audio gear, in order to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

As we did in the past, the listeners get comfortable, the lights are dimmed, phones are turned off, and late arrivals are encourage to wait until the end of the album before entering.

Anyone who grew up in the age of vinyl knows that listening like this was a common practice back then. You would often go to someone's house just so you could hear a new album, and most often you'd listen all the way through the record. It was just part of every day life back then. You never thought twice about it. Music meant a lot to people (as it does now), but the overall listening experience was way different.

One of the reasons that vinyl records lend themselves so much to this practice is the fact that they real do sound better from a number of standpoints. The audio was much less compressed, which gave the songs some dynamics and created very little ear fatigue (a real problem with today's CDs and especially MP3s these days). And the audio quality in the way the record was made, the playback source (the record itself), and usually the playback system were quite a bit better than we're used to today. In fact, it was difficult to find anyone that didn't have a quality sound system back then. Even the lowliest dorm room's playback was far superior to what's normally found everywhere but the studio and audiophile household today.

We can only hope that this trend extends to the United States, since today's listeners should really be exposed to the joys of excellent music played back through an excellent sound system. Once the bar is raised in what you're listening to, it's difficult to listen to MP3's ever again.

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john said...

Wouldn't it also be fair to say that 15-20 minutes of focused music a side lends itself to a communal listening experience better than 60 minutes (plus) of two singles and some filler?

While fidelity does play a role, the quality of the listening experience is determined so much more by the songs and productions than the playback mechanism.

Six String said...

Well I wouldn't get raise your hopes too high Bobby. I think the BBC had to dig pretty deep to find that example. However, its nice to see someone in the industry thinking its a good thing. When this article was discussed on the Sound On Sound forum all the UK industry's brightest could do was talk it down. "Who can hear £12K speakers in an untreated room" they said. "Its a place to go to meet a certain type of chick" they said. All negative.

I think its great that these relatively young people have the attention span and respect towards the music to actually sit and listen to it. And yes, hopefully they will discover by hearing those pre digital recordings as they are supposed to be heard (well on vinyl at least). And if they can get together in other ways whilst doing it then great. We did that too!

But what chance do the new generation of music consumer have of becoming more discerning if the industry that feeds their musical appetite is as cynical as the above comments suggest. It doesn't sound like an industry that is much interested in changing its ways.

Bobby Owsinski said...

I wasn't aware of the controversy. I don't see how exposing someone to great music and audio can be anything but positive.


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