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  • Why Are Audio Clubs a Dying Breed?

    This is one question that has plagued and bothered me for years.

    Is it a sign of the socioeconomic times and people have less free time on their hands?

    Is it a sign of people communicating less in person?

    I think back 25 years ago and there were several audio clubs in the NY Metropolitan area. Of the many I belonged to, nothing was bigger than the Westchester club that sported a membership of several hundred members and always at least 75 or so people at each monthly meeting. Not only that, but the club attracted leading manufacturers to regularly come and show their wares. Levinson (the man and the company). Krell. Sumiko. Aricici. VPI. Tice. Pope Music. DMP Music. Apogee. Altis Audio. Sequerra. Lyric Hi Fi. The Sound Room. Plasmatronics. B&W. Sonus Faber. SME. Graham. Rowland. SOTA. Rockport. So many, I've forgotten 3/4 of them. And the list goes on.

    So what's gone wrong that a metropolitan area with close to 10 million people can't put together one good high-end audio club?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    Myles,
    Why are Audio Clubs a dying breed? Well first you've got to convince me that they were ever very lively. When I was living in Westchester Country in the 90s and 00s, I went to a few meetings. I recall going to a club meeting of the Westchester club on City Island in the Bronx in the early 90s. Jeff Joseph showed up and was just starting his new company, Joseph Audio. It was fun seeing him and his speakers. But I didn't really enjoy myself. At the time, I was a youngish (early 30s) engineer working at IBM and didn't find many people that I knew. They seemed older than me and a bit more well to do than I was at the time. They all knew one another and weren't trying hard to bring in new blood. Now I'm sure that I'm partly (or mostly to blame) being a bit introverted and not working hard enough to get to know people there. But I ended up not joining and not going back.

    Now fast forward a decade and I occasionally logged onto the Audiocircle bulletin board and met some locals there. A group of local NYers started having monthly "audio raves" which were great fun. The group wasn't particularly high end but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the events were fun because they were as much social events as they were audio events. But I see that those events fizzled out after I left the NY area, because there was no strong individual willing to take on the large task of organizing and hosting the events.

    In my own experience, the most fun that I've had was when I got to know a group of people ahead of time and found some common interests that made it worth spending the time and energy to get together and share experiences. In the past that would happen via bboards or offline connections.
    These days, everyone is busy and meeting people in person is harder than ever. The answer that the younger generation has found is Social Media. Youtube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram are all methods of developing a community and getting to know people that one normally wouldn't meet. The demographics of audiphiles tend to mean that audiophiles aren't really comfortable with these social media tools but I think that the answer to your question is that traditional Audio Clubs are a bit of an anachronism and that we need to learn to leverage social media to build new communities that can become the basis of new groups that are better than the old clubs ever were.

    Just my humble opinion.
    ---Gary
    Analog: Scheu + Immedia RPM tonearm + Koetsu Black + Pass Xono or Threshold FET 10pe
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    Comment


    • dsnyder0cnn
      dsnyder0cnn commented
      Editing a comment
      Great comments, and I agree with you that if the local audio club is going to survive, it must successfully make the transition to social media. I think the folks at head-fi.org are doing a pretty good job of this; I've seen them step out of cyberspace from time to time and get together in person at organized meetups that are generally open to the public. It's easier for them since their forum has the massive volume of participation necessary to pull folks from specific geographical areas together. While on-line forums around topics of interest are great fun, I hope we'll find a way to improve the ratio of hours spent face-to-face to hours spent on-line.

    • MylesBAstor
      MylesBAstor commented
      Editing a comment
      The Westchester Club by that time had jumped the shark.

      It seems to me that many clubs have their own websites. In fact, Stereophile carries club meeting announcements and some BBs (audiocircle for instance) give audiophile clubs their own forums. That's how I found out about the NY Raves but never ended up going to any.

      And I really hope that the NY area can get its act together.

  • #3
    IMO, the internet and 'boards like this one have become a surrogate for clubs. I recall the days prior to the 'net when the only way to obtain and share timely information was through your club and/or dealer. Post internet, Joe public can obtain the same info often before your dealer knows about it. You also get a worldwide audience at one place like Audionirvana, and they find each other because of shared interests often within a more specific realm of the hobby. I've been part of clubs that were mainly DIY driven, or classical music aficionados with just a passing interest in hardware, message boards have a way to create their own club with a clearer mission rather that trying to please all people all of the time which clubs try to do.
    Simon Yorke S10 | My Sonic Lab Eminent GL | AcousticPlan PhonoMaster | Wadia X32 | Innuous ZEN Mini Mk II | Valvet Soulshine2 | Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MkII | Avantgarde Uno Fino XD

    "One of the great challenges of this world: Knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

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    • #4
      Being past President and now Treasurer of the Pacific Northwest Audio Society, I've found that you only get out of the club, what you put in it. We have members that are perfectly fine just sitting there the whole meeting like a bump on a log. Then we have other members that participate and actively conduct meetings 2-3 times a year. We have planned events outside the meeting as well. The Club had been stagnant a few years back, but that's just dependent upon how involved the Elected Executives want to be. One year, we had a President that only attended half the meetings since he had personal employment obligations that he had to attend to. On the other extreme, we have members putting in their own money and time to come up with meeting topics, acquire equipment and donating a "little extra" in the dues department.
      This Club has been going for a long time. It has had its ups and downs, but we seem to average 25-30 people at each monthly meeting. We used to have a Newsletter published every month, but it has now gone by the wayside since the internet became the norm, even for us older folks!
      I certainly would invite more Club participation, but you're just not going to see it. I feel fortunate that we do have a core bunch of audiophiles that want to get together, not just only for the equipment and music, but for the camaraderie and to get out of the house!
      Last edited by Bruce B; 03-21-2016, 11:18 PM.

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      • #5
        I've considered this in depth, and several times deleted what I'd written. I attended two such gatherings in two cities while traveling last summer. Neither was any fun at all.
        Last edited by Rust; 03-21-2016, 03:02 PM. Reason: Had to delete some more

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        • #6
          We're lucky out here. The LAOCAS is the largest in the world, and very active (and very well run!).

          I was VP and Program Coordinator of the old Inland Empire Audio Society back in the 1980s. It was a tremendous amount of work to run an audio club and have it be worthwhile to members. It takes a dedicated group to make it work. You also have to be okay with the fact that most members want to take advantage and offer nothing back (while complaining about stuff), and then a few will try to take over and use it for their own purposes. We all quit in the late 80 when a member stole our mailing list and tried to claim she was in charge, using it to get free equipment from manufacturers. Actually used it to gain a position with a major publication.
          Steve Lefkowicz
          Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
          -
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          • #7
            If audio forums are a microcosm of what audiophiles are like in real life, it's easy to see why you can't get more than a few of them in a room at one time before a fight would break out. We seem to seldom agree on anything and we are split into more camps than a National Boy Scout Jamboree. So I guess I'm not surprised that it's hard to hold an audio club together, though it probably wouldn't be for lack of suspenders from the members.
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            • #8
              The day of clubs has come and gone IMO

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                This is one question that has plagued and bothered me for years.

                Is it a sign of the socioeconomic times and people have less free time on their hands?

                Is it a sign of people communicating less in person?

                I think back 25 years ago and there were several audio clubs in the NY Metropolitan area. Of the many I belonged to, nothing was bigger than the Westchester club that sported a membership of several hundred members and always at least 75 or so people at each monthly meeting. Not only that, but the club attracted leading manufacturers to regularly come and show their wares. Levinson (the man and the company). Krell. Sumiko. Aricici. VPI. Tice. Pope Music. DMP Music. Apogee. Altis Audio. Sequerra. Lyric Hi Fi. The Sound Room. Plasmatronics. B&W. Sonus Faber. SME. Graham. Rowland. SOTA. Rockport. So many, I've forgotten 3/4 of them. And the list goes on.

                So what's gone wrong that a metropolitan area with close to 10 million people can't put together one good high-end audio club?
                My music group is still very active. It began in 1975 and still going strong. Members change and regulars come and go, typically due to family commitment, moving away and life throwing things at us. None the less, we meet every Tuesday at my home without fail. Only exception is an audio show when I’m out of town or sickness.

                There are rules, no one can come into the group and try to take over for commercial purposes. That means everyone welcome unless they become a salesman for whatever it is they want to pitch.

                I currently have about twelve guys but it varies every week. There are Tuesday nights where only two or three show up and nights where there are not enough seats. The main focus is music, often one or more members will bring an LP or CD. Last week a newer member brought an Opus 15IPS tape and we played it all the way through. Excellent recording and decent music.

                For the most part we spin LPs and music choice comes from my imagination and/or requests or software brought to the meeting. The main goal is to have fun, we often laugh as much as we listen, especially to old Blues and Jazz material that we all seem to love.

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                • #10
                  Albert's active group, and Bruce and Steve's comments suggest to me that it is a person or few people that have the time, energy and personality to keep a club or group thriving. Myles and I both fondly remember Chuck Lamonica, who was our person in common at the old Westchester Audio Society- Chuck was the one that got me involved, and after he passed, I didn't participate as much (though I kept in contact with a couple of members over the years). I think it takes a certain kind of charisma, for lack of a better word, to run or operate a group and keep people happy (people get pissed off over stupid, petty shit) and have the energy to plan, organize and host these events. For me, at the time, I was a younger member, and didn't have the investment some of the older club members did, but it was still great fun to hear Sid Marks comment on a record, or get another reviewer truly off the record to talk about the reality of the gear and biz.
                  These days, I'm not as gear-centric as I used to be, so that alone is not a lure to get me to show up somewhere. I'd do it for the socialization-- to see and hang with friends of who share a common interest. For obvious reasons, the Internet makes that almost effortless, though it isn't really the same. For example, when I visited Myles yesterday, we weren't just talking, we were listening- in the same space- over the same equipment. Big difference from yeah, I have a copy (maybe a different pressing) and it sounds like such and so over my system.
                  I like having visitors occasionally, but am not sure I have what it takes to operate a club. I would likely participate in one if it was convenient- and that's the other factor- time, effort to get off our collective asses (instead of doing what we are all doing from the comfort of our laptops), travel, conflicting schedules, whatever.
                  We joined a foodie club in Austin that is now national-- Dinner Lab-- and not only made it to a bunch of events- they organize offbeat meals by emerging 'hot' chefs in odd venues. As a result, we met at least one couple that we socialize with outside the club. There are manifold benefits to the in person thing, but it is a commitment. Even for the participants. (I almost sound like I'm complaining- I'm not; I admire those of you who can successfully keep such a group running). We had a few groups for hot cars back in the day, but that got out of hand quickly, and I quit attending events because I saw it as risky.

                  Comment


                  • Rob
                    Rob commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I'd be part of any club Sid Marks is in or Myles, or Albert, Bruce, Ki, you, et al. Since its not feasible in real life a virtual club it is. I've been part of many clubs and like you some were automotive (bmwcca, PCA, POC). The only thing I miss beside track days were the field trips, even the audio clubs went to mfrs headquarters, a recording studio, the symphony and an instrument maker - those were highlights.

                  • Bill Hart
                    Bill Hart commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Sid was fucking hilarious- a real sweetie- at the time, I had that-I'm not worthy- thing since I was young, but he was a mench. I think Myles stays in touch with him. Yeah, some of those club meetings were like the hi-fi mafia. It was cool. Dan D used to show up in a Bentley, i'm thinking- dude must be doing pretty well. Hy, who was the host, was a child shrink, and he had a bunch of fellow head shrinkers that were members. Some of these guys are now listening to harp music in that great listening hall in the sky, but we had fun. Myles was young, skinny and had hair.

                  • Rob
                    Rob commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Those were good times for sure and a great cast of characters. i've found that vibe before but its one of those rare confluences of timing, luck and karma. If Bob Levi comments I'm sure he'll invite one an all to see for themselves how its done...I'll prolly check it out.
                    Last edited by Rob; 03-22-2016, 09:26 PM.

                • #11
                  When I was President and Vice-President, I found out it is a lot of work! Fifty percent of the folks love what you are doing and the others try to form a coup! We needed speakers at the time and I would beg/borrow/steal speakers from local vendors and such to audition them at the club site and in my own home. There was not a consensus after 6 months! I just took it upon myself to purchase a pair and donate them to the club (Aerial 7b) and be done with it! But noooooooooooooooo...... Members were STILL complaining!! LOL We didn't have a decent amp at the time and I would schlep my ML 332 amp each month to the meeting.
                  Yes, it's hard work. Seems like the past 10-15yr. it's just been a few core people putting in 100% for the rest of the club. Some things never change.......

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    I'm interested to know what percentage of meetings of the various audio clubs focus on music versus equipment demos.
                    Brian Walsh
                    ttsetup.com

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      The NYC area does have a few functioning clubs. NJ and CT audio Societies, Audio Syndrome, The Rave and the Audiophile Society (I am a member) to name the ones I know. There is a lot of cross pollination but all seem to to functioning and I have even noticed a few younger member around at a few meetings. I would say these groups generally reflect the state of the industry. They tend to be getting older and membership may fluctuate with the economy. Was talking at a meeting several months ago and we were discussing how in the 80 and 90s the meetings were gear driven. As mentioned in the OP the manufacturers would come and basically sell their equipment either before or after the meeting. Not so much these days. Maybe Krell, Levinson etc aren't demoing much these days but recently we've visited VPI and gone to places like Devore, Sony etc and are going to Harmon soon. Also hear from a host of smaller manufacturers that seem to be only growing in number and making great equipment Last meeting was Roon who came in and demoed their software. Great presentation and I know they sold at least one lifetime subscription at the meeting.

                      For the most part music is listened to at each meeting and it's not all "old people" music. I generally try to host once meeting a year, as I am lucky enough to have enough space. There were a bunch of people that don't generally come to meetings at my last gathering but that may have been for the food I cooked and not the system/music!

                      The moral for me is that the societies are still alive they have morphed from the equipment shows they were in the past to more social events where the focus is on audio and sometimes music.
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                      • #14
                        I'll start by saying that, compared to most of the people here, I'm pretty new at this, having only gotten (seriously) back into high end audio in the last couple of years after a very long absence.

                        Which then influences what I'd like in a club, group, or local society: and that is to learn.
                        Learn about equipment and what works well together ; music of different kinds/styles; what are some good recordings,
                        How to listen/ evaluate equipment, etc. etc etc.
                        Much of that I can get from the internet and forums - so I agree with some of the previous comments about the influence of the internet.

                        Albert made a comment -
                        "...we meet every Tuesday at my home without fail...
                        There are rules, no one can come into the group and try to take over for commercial purposes.
                        That means everyone welcome unless they become a salesman for whatever it is they want to pitch."

                        I have not found that in my area, but if I did, I would attend.

                        What I have found:
                        A group that
                        - holds meetings only at local dealers
                        - Reps / manufacturers that pitch equipment - some new, most not.
                        - manufacturers that complain they can participate only if they are willing provide freebies for raffles
                        - dealers that complain they don't sell enough from these events

                        Not once has there been a discussion of music, or equipment pairings, that I have had the opportunity to see.
                        I did however once hear a dealer talk about how audiophiles spend "stupid money" on high end equipment.

                        Guess why I don't attend?





                        Comment


                        • Bill Hart
                          Bill Hart commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Welcome to the 'club' even if it is not a club- the one thing I learned was there was no single path to truth, beauty or the ways you can make yourself absolutely nuts. If you are not distracted by baubles, you're already ahead of the game. I had bailed a couple times over the years- didn't have the time or energy for it. When I jumped back in most recently, around 2006-7, i got on the horn and SET amp bandwagon, so I was pretty comfortable that the technology was mature.

                      • #15
                        Originally posted by Andy View Post
                        I'll start by saying that, compared to most of the people here, I'm pretty new at this, having only gotten (seriously) back into high end audio in the last couple of years after a very long absence.

                        Which then influences what I'd like in a club, group, or local society: and that is to learn.
                        Learn about equipment and what works well together ; music of different kinds/styles; what are some good recordings,
                        How to listen/ evaluate equipment, etc. etc etc.
                        Much of that I can get from the internet and forums - so I agree with some of the previous comments about the influence of the internet.

                        Albert made a comment -
                        "...we meet every Tuesday at my home without fail...
                        There are rules, no one can come into the group and try to take over for commercial purposes.
                        That means everyone welcome unless they become a salesman for whatever it is they want to pitch."

                        I have not found that in my area, but if I did, I would attend.

                        What I have found:
                        A group that
                        - holds meetings only at local dealers
                        - Reps / manufacturers that pitch equipment - some new, most not.
                        - manufacturers that complain they can participate only if they are willing provide freebies for raffles
                        - dealers that complain they don't sell enough from these events

                        Not once has there been a discussion of music, or equipment pairings, that I have had the opportunity to see.
                        I did however once hear a dealer talk about how audiophiles spend "stupid money" on high end equipment.

                        Guess why I don't attend?




                        Andy,

                        Our get together is mostly about music but if there is something new in the system everyone is invited to vote. If you can find a group that’s formed with friendship and sharing music, then it should work.

                        Commercial requirements change the whole landscape of the get together. My biggest problem over the years is weeding out attendees that come to pitch gear or force their opinion on the group.

                        The peak of this get together was a few years ago when the economy was better and everyone was in good spirits. Andrew Litton was Dallas Symphony Conductor and came most Tuesday nights. That was among the best meetings of all time. Oddly enough he loved Jazz almost more than Classical even though Classical was his “living.”

                        Andrew always amazed me with comments he made about the recordings. We would all be listening and Andrew would say, “Did you hear that?’

                        There was one time that really stood out in my mind. We were spinning on an Oscar Peterson LP and a tambourine being shaken by it’s proximity to the piano. Andrew heard it the fist time through. It did not sound like a tambourine, but rather an additional ringing of the piano. None of us caught it and until we were given a description and five or six additional plays on that cut before we understood.

                        What’s unique about these kind of people was instead of being puffed up about his ability, he was laughing with joy to share his talent with people that loved music. That is priceless and likely how Andrew wins Grammy awards and continues to release dozens of albums.

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