Friday, August 30, 2013

My Turn to RANT: Yes I am a woman, and yes, I love to listen to music

I will let you in on a little secret. I'm a girl. As in a female of the species. I am also part Vulcan, a geek, and a lover of music. Waaaaay back in college, I went through 3 engineering degrees before settling on "General Science," or the degree you select when you were an engineer for 3.5 semesters and realize that you don't quite "get" Calc 4, yet don't want to stay at college an extra year. I really do understand that I may not be your normal chick, but I do love makeup, animal print, and sparkly, glittery things.

As a "Computer Professional" I was used to being an oddity - a woman in a man's world - but when I gave up programming to become a mom, I really forgot that strange combination of flattery and oddity that comes with being the only woman in a room full of dorky guys. I got a refresher when I would go to a comic store that had Sailor Moon doodads and dolls for my kids, or to the store with the paint-able miniatures for bored board games as well as the Pokemon cards that my son wanted, or to a video game store and owned up to having played the original PONG and just about every game system since then. When I went to the New York Audio Show this year with Brent, however, it came back to me in a rush.
Yes it was nearly 5 months ago and everyone
has moved on, what of it?  Sometimes things
have to stew some ...

I'm not sure which was the more prevalent attitude at the NYC audio show: that I was only there to keep my guy company, or that I was some creature from outer space, neither male nor female but some other choice that should only be glanced at sideways, and should never be quite trusted. I sat down at a table of headphones that were really pretty (zebra wood or some such) and had a listen. They sounded awesome, were gorgeous,  and provided me with an excuse to sit down in a chair and listen to music. For my troubles, I was punished by a photographer on the other side of the table snapping a picture, and apparently posting it to the company website. Sigh. Made me feel like some wild animal. I hate having my picture taken.
Lovely headphones ... but for the gawking

In room after room, I was either the only female, or one of two, and I rarely saw a woman representative of any of the audio companies. (Once I even saw one woman that was wearing some awful "traditional" wench type garb for her non-US company. I suppose I should be happy that she didn't resemble a buxom bar-maid, but really? REALLY?) I do appreciate the wooden enclosure that contains the "guts" of a speaker, but not at the expense of the sound. I may not really care about Ohms, Volts, or Watts, but I do care if the speaker sounds phenomenal as well as looks good. I don't think that is a female-only reaction either! [YES!] As a kid, I didn't care about RBIs, batting percentages, and the like, but I loved playing softball and going to baseball games. So sue me! [The company that dressed that model in traditional Austrian Garb for the show was really sexist, I thought, and she was getting self-conscious, too, though the crowd was basically ignoring her and enthusing over the good sound and fantastic finishes on the speakers.  The speakers were phenomenal, but the attitude that thought that was a good idea was definitely from the Neolithic Period.  What was pretty interesting was the chatter was about how many women were at the show and how it was a good thing.  I didn't see it, but I can only imagine what a typical show might have been like.  But I really looked at it that you were a rock star and I was part of your entourage.  People remembered me only because you were my ... arm candy ... which is your point, I think.  Their eyes popped when I told them that while I got you into high end audio, you were the one that got me into vinyl, though.  I don't think that a female as being the one that is pickiest about sound really fits in the typical world-view.]

Our preamp - look at the selector buttons!  Later vintages
are labeled "B1, B2, S1, S2" but not ours!  And to the guys from
Ayre ... we love our preamp, but the buttons ... hrm...
ATTENTION audio companies: women do like to listen to music. Brent and I do not want to relegate the expensive audio equipment to a separate "man cave" so you need to make your stuff sound good and LOOK good at the same time so it can be a part of the main house. I really wouldn't want to give up thousands of dollars of our discretionary income just so a stereo system can sit in a room that I won't use [Boo mancaves!]. I love our special listening times, but I also want to be able to throw on iTunes or Pandora for background music when I do the dishes, laundry or cook dinner.

Make your interfaces simple and straightforward! I want a distraction from the boring chores and an ability to sing along with my favorite tunes without having to remember that I need to set the top box to selection #3, and the amp to the "shooting star" button, not the "planet" button when I want Pandora, but that I need selection #2 and the "planet" for the Squeezebox. [That would be the shooting star, dear, Planet is the turntable and star is the SACD player...] Honest to goodness, I don't want to have to refer to an index card just for my music.

We both would prefer it in cocobolo, and smaller, thanks
Manufacturers:  Make your surfaces and exteriors family room or living room friendly. Our turntable is cocobolo. Our speakers are a nice walnut finish. Even though the Thiels are a bit large, the pretty wood finish makes them feel more furniture-like. I would never want a pair of some cross between a Dalek, a trash can, and some Disney Imagineer construct rather than a piece of furniture. I don't have to worry about overcompensating for anything, but please make your equipment something I can work with!

Also, make sure your representatives don't treat me like an idiot just because most of your customers are guys [our favorite audio guys don't do that - that's why they are our favorites!]. I may actually have influence over the purse strings [influence, selection and veto power - after all you picked our turntable out and pressured me to get it], and believe it or not, I don't want to be treated like a fashion accessory to my spouse. In most rooms at the audio show, this was not an issue, but I did feel like an exotic creature. Believe me, if I didn't care about the decision, I would be far far away from the darn audio show, and not sitting in room after room of things that sound great but often are treated as "testosterone toys."
Nice Sleek

Would this work?

I guess what I'm trying to say in this rant (my first, don't ya know), is that I want audio companies to meet me half-way. Brent and I really, truly want to bring the music out of seclusion and into the whole family's daily lives. I love the fact that even with my simple, non-audiophile setup pre-Brent, I was able to foster a love of music in my kids, in part because I was able to include them in my own love [ Did you know when a song comes on the radio, everyone sings along in our family?  It was a strange experience when I realized it was going on.  And I was joining in ... ] . They knew some disco tunes in Pre-K when the teachers rewarded good nap-time behavior with a disco dance party. They knew a bucketload of 80s pop when the school play was "Back to the 80s" and my daughter even recognized "Mas Que Nada" when the combined (vocal and instrumental) Jazz band chose to perform it this past spring [You're Welcome]. The three of us are likely to sing along with the radio or the stereo, or even just a musical cultural reference. Brent assures me that this is not a usual thing, but it has been our musical life. They both play instruments and sing, and will listen to music while they surf, watch, write, read or otherwise enjoy other tasks. I consider this a part of a well-rounded life, and can't imagine a day without music. How do you foster this as well as support your partner's love of gear? Make the gear family-friendly. Make the gear family room friendly, too! Now if they could do this without making me choose between Brent's desire for new speakers and my desire for a trip to Hawaii, I would be grateful, and probably start believing in fairies and genies and magic wishes again. [Look! Unicorn!]

2 comments:

  1. You both must be commended for your excellent writing and interesting perspectives. It's great to see a team that both appreciates great sound. In my opinion, music (and thus audio) needs to be in a central place in the home rather than hidden away. That's how it is in my house, and my wife often listens from an adjacent room, but she listens and appreciates most of what is being played. I value her opinions about the sound- she has good ears.

    Keep it coming!

    ReplyDelete