Baby Boomer Music Lovers And The New Gen Z
Within an August MarketWatch opinion piece by Michael Nathanson and Lindsay Stelljes titled Gen Z is starting to make their own money — so pay attention to how they're spending and investing it, it says, "The U.S. is on the verge of the Great Wealth Transfer, with baby boomers expected to bestow trillions of dollars on younger generations in the coming years.
To prepare for this shift, the financial services industry is rapidly adapting to serve millennials, increasingly focusing on financial-planning solutions infused with technology and flexible fee-structures, as well as debt- and cash-management solutions and even non-financial lifestyle enhancements. But just as this is happening, another generation – Gen Z – is forcing the financial services industry to adapt yet again."
It is said that baby boomers are generally those who were born between 1946 and 1964. Will let you do the math of their current age bracket. Stereo vinyl LPs became available in 1957, with stereo radio becoming a reality in 1961. Gen Z'ers, on the other hand, were born between 1997 and 2012. DVD-Audio, with its' Hi-Res Music 24-bit/96kHz multi-channel format, came about in 2000. It is no surprise that during 2019 at high-end audio shows there were special gatherings of those under 40 years old. Without a doubt, they have a very different aural / playback expectation than Boomers of the then same age. The reason I'm bringing this up is in regards to my editorial from last month. It sparked many e-mails and feel the desire to expand on my feelings.
I love stereo. Yes, as someone born in the 1960s that's all there was (and mono of course). At an early age, stereo was the format for recording and playback. Today, there is an abundance of ways to record more channels than just two. Other than music, virtually all movies and video games are multi-channel. The Gen Z listener's expectations are more aligned with more than two channels. I recall a magazine creator.... We know that J. Gordon Holt expounded his passion for surround sound decades ago. Perhaps he was a bit early-ish for it to go fully mainstream as technology had to play a bit of catch-up, yet here in 2020 there's no denying the tools to produce multi-channel recordings and playback has grown and matured. I'll say it again, I love stereo playback, and enjoy multi-channel playback as well.
High-End Audio DeLIGHTS
The British are already on-the-move as Jaguar / Rover has Meridian. And I quote, "Experience your choice of music with more clarity and precision than ever before, thanks to superb car audio tech by Meridian. Innovative technologies deliver all the fullness and clarity of live performance, via your car music player and strategically arranged speakers. With the option of unique Trifield technology for 3D surround sound and Cabin Correction to compensate for varied surfaces and textures, British audio brand Meridian immerses you in the rhythm of the music with exceptional definition, crystal clear highs and full, deep bass." Their basic sound system, according to the Jaguar website, is up to 14 strategically arranged speakers, 380 Watts of amplification, and a dual-channel subwoofer. That's their 'basic' system.
Meridian's Jaguar next-level surround system has 20 front, side, and rear speakers, 825 Watts of amplification, and a dual-channel subwoofer. Sure this is all just car audio, yet it shows the direction that consumers desire and are willing to pay extra for. Seasoned audiophiles know Meridian looks towards the future and helps create it, versus resting on their laurels or wearing rose-colored glasses and stay in the past. But wait, there's more! Meridian top-line Signature Sound within the Jaguar is 26 speakers, 1300 Watts of amplification, and includes a dual-channel subwoofer. They claim this is the world's first in-car Trifield 3D technology that also expands your sense of cabin space. The best home audio systems make your room 'disappear', and am sure Enjoy the Music.com readers have been benefiting from our article about room acoustics and loudspeaker integration.
And then there's VR / AR and binaural, yet that's a topic for another time. Still, it's good to see Grammy earning and legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig promoting immersive audio.
Side Note: One of my fave classical pieces is Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode To Joy". I commissioned a grandfather clock to be created decades ago that uses a set of 12 chimes to playback a small part of Ode To Joy on the hour, every hour. Imagine being dead center, about 10 rows back during the below performance. I bet it would raise goosebumps as the music, the 'choir', and hall's sound immerses you!
Today, we have recording studio quality 24-bit/192kHz stereo within our homes and the ability to playback many channels of Hi-Res Music. Unlike the limitations Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky endured when it came to bringing their music into the homes of their fans, today's musical artists have a way to express their creativity in an immersive 360 degrees. Within a human generation or three and the ability to create music far beyond the decades-old stereo format will be akin to going from mono to stereo back in ~1957. Back then stereo was the new thing! It's time we usher in the next generation of possibilities. As an industry, given time I'm sure high-end audio will follow suit to immersive music as more content is created, which in turn will increase demand. The upshot is manufacturers will sell more channels of amplification, more speakers, more cables, and new digital audio products that provide features that meet-to-exceed consumers' desires. Today, we're merely getting a good glimpse of the future possibilities.
Yes, I fully and whole-hearted respect the two ears and two-channel territory. It is said that back in 1881 Clement Ader invented the first binaural audio system. Yet the moment you take the headphones off and want to enjoy music 'out loud' with others, things get a bit trickier. Perhaps three to five years from now, if we take into account new albums created for 360 audio as the artist intended, then how are two-channel audiophiles going to enjoy their music? Sure there may be a two-channel mixdown, just as we have on some digital discs where there's a stereo layer and multi-channel layer. Yet the mix-down to two channels is not what the musical artist envisioned is it?
Stereo was the compromise to their 360-degree aural creation. How are we as an industry going to pivot to reproduce these newly-created music masterpieces? Perhaps a bit selfish, if I may say, am hoping that orchestra conductors also take advantage of interpretation and recording "Ode To Joy" and many other 'classical music cover tunes' to a more modern and immersive experience on their future recordings.
Gen Z'ers love and enjoy stereo-based classic audiophile music as we have today with the 40-ish crowd, though they also may enjoy listening to Tool, Muse, and other bands too. There are truly brilliant people within our industry and that's what keeps many of us coming back for more year after year. We desire to discover new music and new hi-fi gear too. Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable fame, who has been recording using his brilliant multi-channel IsoMike system for years, has impressed many magazines during shows. Died-in-the-wool stereo enthusiasts have praised Ray for his reference-quality multi-channel recordings, as his four-channel music benefit from microphones suspended on four arms… which are separated by IsoMike baffles.
Will say it once again. What are the benefits of reaching immersivephiles? High-end audio companies will sell more channels of amplification, more loudspeakers, and more cables. New digital front-ends will be created too! If you have a multi-channel system, right now you can stream Dolby Atmos music from Tidal. So this isn't some far-fetched idea, as you can enjoy it right now within your home.
Today we have powerhouses like Sony doing major R&D, plus marketing, joining the crowd with their 360 Reality Audio. Today's musician have access to record their musical creations in far more than olde timey stereo. I hope that we as an industry embrace music lovers, from mono to however many channels one chooses to support, and enjoy, within their homes. There's very little downside in supporting immersivephiles, yet the upside should be too profitable (and aurally satisfying) for high-end audio manufacturers and music enthusiasts to ignore. We may be a few years out for all this to take a major foothold, yet a futurist's 'job' is to forecast the Next Big Thing.
Many decades ago mono lovers had to adapt to stereo. If you haven't done so, perhaps now is the time to start thinking about your next audio system upgrade, and how many channels of audio playback it will support. The next generation of musical pleasures will bring you closer to what the artist(s) intended. Plan accordingly. As always in the end what really matters is that you...
Note: Soundscape CreatorTM and ImmersivephileTM are trademarked by Steven R. Rochlin.