SSI 2012 The Wrap
This was my first time covering the SSI show and it was even better than everyone said it would be. A big thank you to Salon Son & Image organizers Michel Plante and Sarah Tremblay for organizing a great hi-fi show. This was also my first time spending any time in Montreal and it was even better than I thought it would be even though I didn't have much time outside of the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure. While I can't point you to a specific concrete piece of evidence, the people of Montreal struck me as kinder, more considerate and generally more genial than I'm used to here in the greater NY metropolitan area.
The view from outside the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure presents a deceptively uniform front whereas inside sounds, images and ideals are divided up among the rooms and people who take over this place for four days every March. Our hi-fi hobby accommodates all manner of appreciation and enjoyment where some people seem to prefer staying close to the music while others gravitate toward the gear and others still appear enraptured with the recording. Likewise the designers of the gear that we are fortunate enough to listen through, and I say fortunate since we are even if listening to music on a hi-fi can feel like something worth complaining about at times, come at this basic endeavor from different angles armed with different sonic ammunition aimed at different goals.
The idea that there's anything absolute in hi-fi, beyond being part of a magazine title, strikes me as pure silliness. Or to be slightly less kind its absolutely misguided since no one is in a position to dictate to others the best means toward their enjoyment of listening to music (or gear or the quality of a recording) on a hi-fi. The proof of what I say is in more than the pudding it's in the amazing variety of ways and means and sounds we encounter when we enter the various rooms (worlds?) at a hi-fi show. How much fun would it be if there was only one?
Of course this means I'm also more than leery of the "Best Sound of the Show" approach but I will make an exception this time. My hotel neighbors had a young child, a toddler I'd guess but we never met, that I could hear each morning through our adjoining hotel room door. Starting from 6 or thankfully 6:30 in the morning, my little neighbor would greet the new day with a curiosity expressed in a joyful repetitive singsong verse consisting of whatever word or simple phrase stuck at that moment.
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy...!" or "It's blue, it's blue, it's blue!". As my reaction would begin to sour after so many repeats I'd try to remind myself that I was once filled with as much wonder and the sheer joy of it all and it's a crying shame that I've come to be the kind of person that would get angry over hearing someone else expressing theirs. The desire to silence other people's joy has no place in hotel rooms or hi-fi shows as far as I'm concerned. So I'd try to retain whatever tiny amount of that wide-eyed wonder I once had as I left my room to enter others.
Of course computer-based audio, a phrase whose best days are behind it but we've yet to agree on a replacement, was everywhere in most every room. But people still have lots of questions relating to how to get, store and play their non-physical media so it's as engaging as their LPs or shiny discs, or how to keep all of that other stuff that comes along with a record like who's playing on it, who recorded it and when, what art was chosen to go along with it, and all that other stuff that adds to and enriches our listening to music on a hi-fi experience.
While the answers are getting easier every day, the means toward these ends are turning out to be as varied as every other aspect of our hi-fi hobby. So its best to keep our eyes, ears and imaginations open to the possibilities and most of all enjoy the ride.