THE RETURN OF MUSIC AS HOME ENTERTAINMENT
Music has always been an important part of my life. I cannot play an instrument, nor can I sing, but I do love to listen! Some of my favourite moments in time are surrounded by, and include, music. While there are words, lessons, and sounds to take in, I believe it’s the manner in which we listen that can literally change the way music affects us. In interviewing Peter Wolter, owner of “Being There Audio” for this article, he demonstrated how music played through even a modest stereo system can affect us, bringing memories vividly back to life.
He simply dropped the needle…
We asked Peter if there was indeed a resurgence of interest in good sound. Peter agreed and pointed to several trends converging at the same time:
- The resurgence of vinyl records as a quality source for music, especially a much younger age group
- The “Boomer” phenomenon and a (re)connecion with vinyl and music from their past.
- New technologies such as high resolution network players and digital streamers that do not take a back seat to quality.
- A growing recognition that “home in a box” home theater systems can’t and don’t deliver a hi-fi experience.
We begin this story with an “older” couple that most can identify with:“Honey, why not bring the records and stereo up from the basement? The kids are gone so you can finally take back the space and make it your own again. Maybe it’s time for a new system…?”
Like the couple in our story, some readers may have some records and an old system tucked away in the basement, some may be looking for a new system, and some may simply want to upgrade their current system. Our couple doesn’t know it yet, but as they walk through the front door of “Being There Audio” and meet Peter, they are about to begin a journey to help define their needs and what it takes to have really good sound in their living space. Hint-it has little to do with money.
Peter begins with some basic questions to help define the couple’s needs and wants. First and most important: how important is music in your life, and how do you listen to your music? Is the system primarily for entertainment and background? How often do you unplug and consciously select your music? Is music an important form of “entertainment”? Do you listen alone, as a couple, as a family?
And when you do listen, where in the room do you sit?
Then to help define the couple’s options even more: what do you primarily listen to: records? CD’s? FM radio? Is music on your computer and/or devices? Are you streaming music?
Once these questions are covered-comes the big question: “where will it go and how will it look?”
The days of big, cumbersome home entertainment systems – the big black boxes, stacked and hidden behind furniture or inside cabinetry, with an emphasis on multiple speakers and lots of bass sound effects are disappearing. These audio/visual systems can be amazingly good for watching movies and gaming. Unfortunately, when it comes to playing music, most systems and rooms are poorly suited for listening enjoyment.
Where this couple plans to put their system will help define their ultimate purchase, particularly the amplifier and speakers. Based on the room, “bigger” isn’t necessarily “better”. Peter explains, “ A good stereo sound system must match the size and layout of the room and speakers must be positioned as best as possible. Matching the system to the room is essential in creating the sensation of being there, live in the room with your favorite musician.”
Always important is the issue of how the new system will “look” within the existing decor. Some clients will want to have their new system “seen”, as well as “heard”. For these clients, the aesthetics of the system can be as important as the sound, what Peter refers to as a blend of audio and art”. The point is, as most stereo systems are brought back into the living space, the“look” can play an important role in the final selection of the system and speakers. The good news today is that quality sound does not need to take a back seat to good looks. And Peter points out, the “look” extends beyond the components themselves – for example, does our couple need a new cabinet, if so, is the cabinet open or closed? Do they need floor standing speakers, or will smaller bookshelf speakers work almost as well? What colour, or veneer should the speakers be? Can the speaker wires and system cables be hidden? In fact, do we need wires and cables at all?
With all these factors in mind, Peter proposes a number of options, and of course, to help define a budget for their needs. The adage “you get what you pay for” does fit – especially with entry level components and systems. Peter’s slogan “humble hi-end” audio helps set the right tone for the store and underscores his passion for finding the right solution within a given budget.
So why is “a good stereo system” so important to music lovers?
Simply said, a good system gets out of the way. It allows the music to be heard as it was meant to be -to work its magic- to suspend time and place and you begin to hear the music as if from within. There is something special about hearing music from within: you feel it in your heart, your soul, your spirit, and your mind, and it has emotional impact. The sounds, the words, the tones, the background, all move you. They can even change you.
There is a gift in listening to music this way. Now when-ever I play my music (my all-time favourite is Engelbert Humperdink singing “Blue Spanish Eyes”), I simply close my eyes and I am transported away as the moment and magic take over. I am there. A teenage girl in the kitchen with her father, a glass of red wine in his hand, and the girl is watching him with true love and adoration as he sings and dances along to this song. He is happy and silly, and it’s just the two of us there in that kitchen, having a special moment that the girl will never forget. And although he has been gone from this world for 20 years, when this song plays, and the sound moves through me, I am there with him, and we are together, forever bonded by the music.
That is exactly what Being There Audio is all about. As for our couple, Peter has given them their homework. We’ll catch up to them in our next issue…
Written by: Kelli M. Maddocks and Peter Wolter
Photography: Cory Bruyea
Being There Audio, Orangeville