Welcome to the sixth installment of our Meet the Audiophile Style Community series. All previous installments can be found here, in the series index.
Please send me a message or email if you'd like to participate. The response so far has been wonderful. It ranges from hardcore audiophiles to those who are more interested in numbers and graphs. None of that matters much because this is all about getting to know everyone and sharing a bit about yourself that others will find interesting.
Thanks for participating. I look forward to publishing more of these in the coming weeks.
Thanks to Audiophile Style community member @Dan Gravell for participating in volume six of this series. I love reading this stuff even more than publishing it.
1. General area of the world in which you live?
I live near a town called Melton Mowbray which is in the East Midlands of the UK.
2. General description of what you do or did for a living?
I am a computer scientist by learning, a software engineer by training and now a company founder by practice.
About eleven years ago I launched a music library management software tool called bliss as a “side hustle”. After about a year it was selling enough to pay the bills, so I jumped at the chance to go full time.
Editor's note: Dan is too humble to post a link, so I will happily do it for him here.
3. What are your hobbies?
Right now: cooking. I’m not one for recipes, I prefer learning how cooking ‘works’, understanding the fundamental techniques of cookery, the basis for common dishes etc.
In general - music is very important to me. I am not really an audiophile beyond appreciating “good enough” sound quality. More important to me is the music itself, the emotions it evokes, and the stories it tells. I’m also very interested in the management of everything around given collections of music.
In the past: wine. But then I became a company founder, and wine is an expensive hobby.
4. When did you start this wonderful journey into music listening?
I had some early dabbles in music when I was in my early teens, but that seemed to get sidelined in favour of computers; programming and gaming.
My interest in music exploded when I went to university. Before that, in the mid-90s, I had begun to get interested; many of my friends were enjoying mostly mainstream stuff - at the time that meant the big Britpop bands like Oasis.
Once I went to university, though, I met a lot more people and was exposed to a lot more music. It was still constrained by the dominant genres of the time; mostly indie and alternative acts, but I got an “education” of the roots of the music I was already familiar with.
5. What was your first “album?”
I often think about this because in contrast to many people I hear this asked of, my answer isn’t as embarrassing as most! At least I don’t think so, but then that’s taste for you.
My first album was Into the Dragon by Bomb the Bass, purchased from a record shop (unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the shop) in the Haymarket Centre in Leicester.
6. What does your music collection look like, number of physical records, CDs, etc... and number of “favorited” albums streamed?
Currently I have 873 albums showing in Logitech Media Server’s list. A vast majority of these were ripped from CDs which are stored, rather than played. I unfortunately do not know the number of CDs we have. There are probably some that remain unripped.
I still buy CDs. I would purchase downloadable music if it was available in FLAC or at least CD lossless quality, and at the same price as a CD, but that is not the case.
I often go “crate digging” at charity shops - you can find a lot of good value releases there. Second hand websites are another goldmine for back catalogue filling.
I don’t listen to streaming services, I have just not felt a compelling enough reason to adopt or even just try any of them.
7. What was your first audio component / stereo?
When I was in my early teens I decided I wanted something to play music from. My selection was the Amstrad MS45, largely because (I think) it packed a lot of features in for the £99 it cost at the time (from memory).
These units have pretty notoriously bad sound quality and are built-to-a-price; reliability was pretty bad. And who on Earth would want a turntable, that was yesterday’s tech, right?
Fortunately for me, my parents considered this a poor choice, and instead insisted on a Sony CFS-DW30L instead:
However, look above deck “A” in the picture - those unassuming RCA plugs on the top of the boombox kicked off my general approach to audio which I can best describe as “make do and mend”. Once I went to university in the mid/late 90s I connected those to my computer’s headphone output, initially playing CDs from the computer’s CD-ROM and then beginning to rip CDs so I could store them on the computer and easily retrieve whatever I wanted to listen to.
8. Is there one component that you no longer have that you wish you wouldn’t have sold or that you wish you still had?
Probably my main fault is the opposite; that I hold on to stuff for too long. Right now I’m listening to my kitchen stereo which is a pretty pathetic Bose Wave Radio I purchased in the early 00s, connected to a Squeezebox. It works and I have too many questions about an optimal replacement, which means I don’t ever get around to replacing it.
9. Is there one current component that you wish you had in your system?
I would love a pair of LS-series KEF speakers. They sound great, they seem really flexible (which fits into my re-use and adapt approach to building home music networks) and they even look pretty awesome.
10. How much time do you spend listening to music each week and on which systems does this listening take place (main system, car system, mobile system, office system, etc...)?
Most of my music listening is while I’m working. I probably spend about twenty hours a week listening while working. Most of my work is technical and to “get in the zone” I generally try to listen to instrumental music only, or music that is so familiar that the vocals tend to just wash over me.
Another example of “make do and mend” is that I used to have some Cambridge Soundworks desktop/computer speakers which were reasonable - but the sprung speaker sockets broke. So rather than purchasing something new I replaced them with some Sennheiser headphones that I still had from when I used to work in other people’s offices.
What I’d like to do is get some of the aforementioned KEFs in the kitchen and use the released-from-duty Bose Wave Radio in my office. Make-do-and-mend again! But I can’t bring myself to throw away stuff that (just about) works.
About five to ten hours of the week we listen to music as a background activity with the kids, normally BBC 6 Music or something like that.
11. What’s the first concert you ever attended, best concert you’ve ever attended, most interesting concert venue you’ve ever attended?
I have not really attended that many live events. The first one, I think, was to see Oasis on their Be Here Now Tour in Sheffield, UK. It was pretty poor from memory - rather detached from the stage and not a great atmosphere.
While at university I joined the Alternative Music Society and went to see a few decent gigs. I remember seeing Portishead in Blackburn in 1997 which was probably the only non-classical musical event I’ve been to where everyone sat down and stayed sitting down! But it was Portishead...
The best gig I’ve been to was Arcade Fire at the Brixton Academy in March 2007. I’d been listening to Funeral for the two years-odd prior and loved it, and just as Neon Bible was released Arcade Fire announced these two gigs in London. From memory they sold out super quick, but somehow a friend at work managed to bag some tickets and he incredibly-kindly let me (and my then girlfriend, now wife) have them.
It was incredible really. As usual the stewards tried to keep people sat down in the seating area - it was never going to work. Intervention was like some quasi religious experience.
12. What components are in your current audio systems and can you provide a photo?
Pretty pathetic really!
As mentioned, the kitchen system is a Bose Wave Radio connected to a Squeezebox.
The office is just a pair of low end Sennheisers.
And in the lounge... a Chromecast and internal TV speakers! Oh dear...
13. Anything else you’d like to say?
I think any online community of any size will, over time, gain its factions and its tribes. People take sides, build metaphorical moats and unfortunately sometimes things end in negativity.
In addition, when we have hobbies we enjoy so much and we begin to build expertise in, sometimes we lose sight of how far we’ve come, and how good we’ve got it.
What I’d say to people is - if you really think a new speaker cable will improve SQ by about 1.5%, think about the people listening to music on Bose Wave Radios 😉