Thoughts After T'giving: We Enter The December Holiday Season
America's day of Thanksgiving is over, with the December Holiday season is upon us for the next month or so, and a New Year about to come. That, alone, is something worth being thankful for.
That's not all, though: The past two years, despite rumblings of continuing health outbreaks, possible new variants, and a possibly risky coming winter, is no longer pandemic. We most of us have survived it and can look forward to returning to good health and the ability to concentrate on other things if not more important, at least more pleasant. We've also survived economic shutdowns, global shortages of goods, raw materials, and energy, the hurricane season, the death of a queen, worldwide and even domestic political unrest and insurrection, the highest level of inflation in forty years, and, to top it off, even more real than usual threats of expanded - or even atomic warfare!
And, to calm our nerves, help us to understand and express our feelings, and always remind us of divine Grace and human greatness. music was with us the whole way.
It's not surprising that, during these and other difficult times, people have always either to pass the time while shut-in, to divert themselves from other concerns, or to inspire them to a greater productive or protective effort turned to music and music-related hobbies and industries like our own with renewed interest.
High-fidelity audio still lives and, while some companies have fallen by the wayside, others remain strong and are doing great things. In fact, right now just in time for Holiday giving or for cheering ourselves up with new toys and goodies we have what may be the greatest availability of music, music sources, music media, and musical playback gear ever known!
In addition to radio and television for us to enjoy as broadcasters provide it, we also have any number of other sources of music that we can access by subscription or for a fee, and just about all of the other music sources phonograph records, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, and even audio cassettes and reel-to-reel magnetic tape (Music that we can own!). Seem to be either enjoying great new popularity or being anywhere from beginning to be, to fully in the process of recovery.
Besides having more media available to us than ever before, we now have more music: Archival re-releases, re-mastering, or new re-interpretations (new or "cover" recordings) are making most of the music ever recorded now available to us, and more new music in every genre, for every musical taste, by both new and established artists is being released all the time.
All across the board, but especially in the "entry-level" and "extreme audiophile" price ranges, new and impressively better sounding audio equipment is also being brought out all the time, with much of it whether because of new knowledge, new materials, new supporting technology, or the desire to still attract new customers in a highly inflationary economic environment offering sound quality never before available, even to the privileged few.
New and better technology plus more than a century of recording experience is also bringing us better-sounding recordings. Equipment and software are currently available at both ends of the recording/playback process now allow us to have music at home or (with headphones) wherever we may be that's not only enjoyable, but both tonally and spatially believable, even as is so often the case with "studio" or other non-live recordings where there was no one "original" recording session, or when the music is (think of Walter/Wendy Carlos updated to the present day) entirely a computer construct.
We've not only got better equipment and better recordings to play on it, but we're learning more every day about how to get all the great sound from our systems and our recordings that they're capable of producing. All the way from better knowledge of how and where to place speakers for maximum performance, to better "feet" for our speakers and equipment to stand on, to better, more effective, and better looking acoustical treatments to improve the sound of our listening rooms, themselves, we are now benefiting from all of the accumulated knowledge of past audiophiles, acousticians, and engineers, to provide a home listening environment where our equipment can really "show its stuff".
And for those who can't, because of architectural, esthetic, cost, or WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) issues, actually improve the sound of their listening room, we now have highly sophisticated and even remarkably affordable DSP (Digital Sound Processor) units that can make the room at least at selected listening positions seem to be acoustically improved and provide greater musical performance, anyway.
It's all about the music and the way it makes people feel, influences their behavior, and lifts their soul. The Christmas season is here, with the holiday, itself, fast approaching. What better thing to give your loved ones or to reward yourself than a gift of music either the music, itself, or something new to play it on, with, or through. Virtually all of humanity's greatest musical works, of every period and every genre are available in recorded form and the equipment to play them on has never been better or more appropriate as a gift.
Visit your favorite dealer and hear it for yourself. Listening with your ears is by far the best way to make sure that what you're buying is really what you or the person you're giving it to will want.
And, if for example, you are shopping for a "newbie" someone who doesn't have your level of hi-fi knowledge, or may not yet have a system at all your dealer may be able to provide insights from his broader range of experience that will help you pick just the right thing. Even if you're not shopping for a gift, just visiting your dealer is a good way to stay current with the achievements our hobby has made in recent years. So, do it. And when you're done with your gift shopping or whatever else your day has held for you, go home, put on some tunes, sit down, close your eyes, and...