My Audiophile Dinner Party for Millennials Was a Success

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I was first introduced to audiophilia by way of an all-McIntosh system when I was 15 years old. I was still riding a bicycle and most of the music I heard was by way of a handheld AM transistor radio my dad bought me. That McIntosh system transformed my relationship with music and led to, admittedly, a potentially expensive hobby, but a fun pastime nonetheless.  

Over the years, I’ve wondered why that old McIntosh system caused me to abandon all interest in my transistor radio – arguably the iPod of its day. Why was a handheld transistor radio suddenly passé? Why this hobby? Why has high-performance audio thoroughly captivated me for most of the last 50 years? Despite the many years of pondering I’ve done on the subject, about all I can come up with is “I don’t know.” 

Paul Wilson threw an dinner party for his wife's Millennial work colleagues and they loved his audiophile system
Paul Wilson threw an dinner party for his wife’s Millennial work colleagues and they loved his audiophile system

Dinner and Music Plans For My Millennial Guests

Imagine my interest when my fiancé, Holli, informed me she wanted to invite four ladies with whom she works, two of which were married, over for drinks, dinner, and a listening session in the audio room. She also casually informed me they were basically younger or “tweener” Millennials – 26 being the youngest and early 30s  the oldest. Despite this, Holli told me, she got along really well with each one and, having told them about my audio system, surprisingly discovered they were very interested. One of her newfound friends, Kelsey, the 26-year-old, loved Taylor Swift. I have several of Taylor’s CDs on my server and also access to Qobuz, so I was prepared. 

I set about selecting the wine to be served, fine-tuned the hors d’oeuvres, made my meal plans, and began developing an event-specific musical playlist. One of my principal problems was I had little in the way of music that twenty-somethings enjoy ripped to my music server. I can stream, but I am not the biggest fan of streaming when it comes to the best possible sound in an ultra-level system. So I instead decided to buy a few relevant CDs from Amazon. Streaming would happen eventually for our soirée, but not in the beginning when I was showing what was possible. 

Millennial Audiophile Party

Time for Dinner and Music

On the evening of our get-together, we did a quick house tour and as is my custom, saving the audio room for last. When they walked in, they started looking around as if they were on a different planet. Suffice it to say, the 7.5-foot-tall line array speakers and all the acoustical panels on the walls and ceiling were not what they expected. Now the fun would begin. 

I can’t speak for anyone else, but in a situation like this, I have to fight the irresistible urge to go soaring into a potentially boring, technical dissertation about how sound propagates an enclosed space. These people were not in any way interested in hearing me blather on about first order reflections and standing waves. Like many people who have graced my audio room, the science of audio was not their predominate interest. Generally speaking, the principal interest typically centers around playing high-octane music, really loudly. 

In this instance, my mandate was to serve dinner, crank up some Taylor Swift, and call it a night. There we were, however, gathered in the audio room when Kelsey again exclaimed her excitement over hearing her favorite artist, the one and only Ms. Swift. Our evening’s musical roadmap was now made quite clear. Without question, we were setting up to have a very fun, hopefully eye-opening, experience. 

After dinner and the requisite toast with Limoncello, we all headed upstairs where eight chairs awaited our arrival. I like to start with something out of my guest’s wheelhouse, so my first song was from the Andrew Lloyd Weber production of The Phantom of the Opera (buy at Amazon).  The track was “Music of the Night.” I told them to listen for the clarity and accuracy. They could, I informed them, distinctly be able to hear the “th” sounds, as well as the “dh” sounds at the end of words and how the vocalist took a breath when starting to sing. I reminded them to listen to the power of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. They were intrigued upon hearing what all audiophiles know as imaging. Several wondered if I had multiple speakers hidden around the room.  My dissertation tendencies once again started to rear their ugly head. I had to keep reminding myself these people were not interested in audio technicalities as much as feeling the emotional power of music they love, likely sounding better than they’ve ever heard before.

Over the course of the next couple of hours, I managed to answer a few questions, asked almost exclusively by the husbands of my fiancé’s colleagues. And we had a really wonderful time, even if I was indifferent to most of the music. I asked everyone to request a few songs (thank you Qobuz) and invited them to sit in the listening position when their tracks were playing. This was very well received, and as I watched how everyone reacted, what initially began as disinterest, punctuated by discussions about work, became an eyes-closed, thoughtful reflection on the music. Almost without exception, each of these six young people ultimately cast aside their initial predilection of indifference and became engaged with the music. This was the effect for which I was hoping. And all too soon, our evening was at an end. 

Would you bring a young person to your home to hear your audiophile system or take them to a local audio salon? Maybe an audiophile show?
Would you bring a young person to your home to hear your audiophile system or take them to a local audio salon? Maybe an audiophile show?

Audiophile Expectations for Non-Audiophiles…

In no way do I realistically expect any non-card-carrying audiophile to leave my home and suddenly feel compelled to assemble an audio system. I have every confidence none of the six will suddenly abandon their smart phones or Alexa device to play their favorite music. What I wanted each of them to know and understand is that something else was out there. I wanted them to know high-performance audio was a thing. I wanted them to fondly remember our evening of finely reproduced music, and, hopefully, well-crafted hospitality.

My hopeful expectations aside, there is also the possibility that soon after leaving my home, my audio system became a distant memory. Over the years, I’ve had dozens of non-audiophile guests in my home and my audio room. I would, in no way, be surprised to discover whereupon ending our sonic pursuits they left with the same outlook on music (and audio systems) as they did when they came in the front door – which would be fine. Like trying something new at a fancy restaurant, you might like it (or love it), or you might chalk it up to experience and never order it again. I am just proud of anybody who will try something new. 

I’ll continue to enthusiastically promote the audiophile hobby, especially to younger music enthusiasts. If I can possibly create a musical scenario by which a 20-something can sit back and say “wow,” then I have done my job. 

Paul Wilson' Audiophile System
Paul Wilson’ Audiophile System from the listener’s chair

The stated goal of FutureAudiophile.com is not just to provide another source of fact-base, non-voodoo reviews to people who are already into the hobby, but to reach a badly needed new audience of audiophiles who are younger and more diverse. There simply aren’t enough women and younger people involved in the hobby at this point. We encourage our beloved readers to take a younger person to the local stereo store or play them your system. Perhaps even spend a few hours at one of the many audiophile consumer shows with them. 

My colleagues here at FutureAudiophile.com are getting even more creative. Our publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, recently had his 10-year-old son set up his SVS Prime Wireless Pro speakers  for review, including wireless connectivity. Long-time audiophile writer Brian Kahn is currently reviewing four mid-priced turntables and he had his 15-year-old son set up each and every one of them (with careful oversight from Dad, of course, but hands-off nonetheless). Steven Stone wrote about his audiophile wedding gift to his 30-year-old Nephew in Denver that outfitted his Scotch and Music Room with a modest Chi-Fi based system suitable for his AC-DC-loving musical tastes. Rhode Island-based audiophile reviewer and colleague Michael Zisserson brought a 19-year-old neighbor over to hear his bright orange Tekton Design Pendragons during the review process. Outreach is the first step in bringing new people into the hobby, right?

The power audiophiles have is that we’re really technological ambassadors for the hobby. The stereotype of sitting in a messy room in the basement in which only one person listens is flawed and likely not sustainable going forward. When possible, we need to share the health benefits, the fun of exploration and enjoyment of music as art, as well as the often amazing looking/feeling/sounding technology that goes into the audiophile hobby. We have that power. We just have to do the outreach. And take it from me, it is not so very difficult and well worth the effort on so many levels. 

Share with us any stories you have of ideas or examples of how to do outreach to new audiophiles. We love to hear from you in the comments below.  


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Michael Zisserson

Paul, beautiful article. Recently, my partner had a young, just-turned-30 millennial over. It was not the first time she has been over, however it is the first-time she expressed interest in a room she has never been in: My listening space. We then proceeded to get lost in about three hours of musical enjoyment, drawing goosebumps, and even tears from this young lady. She did not believe she could experience her music in such a manner. We are weeks later and she is still thanking me and asking when we can have another listening “sesh.”

She certainly does not have the funding to go all-in to the hobby, however she is considering putting something together to dip her toe in because she spends a great deal of time on her crafting hobbies, with music on. There is nothing more satisfying that bringing that musical experience to new people. Thanks again for this thoughtful article. Hits home for me when I am asked “why?”

Paul Wilson

Michael, my sincere thanks for your kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I had a really great time introducing these young people to a level of musical quality foreign to them. What began as disinterest ended in requesting music and a really good time. It certainly speaks to how much we all like and enjoy the musical arts regardless of genre, level of system or much of anything else. As an audiophile, I suspect there are few things more gratifying than the complete and total amazement of someone who does not know about high performance audio first being introduced to the hobby. I hope all audiophiles are able to experience the satisfaction of demonstrating to a sincere music lover what exists beyond an iPhone with ear buds. Again, many thanks for reaching out!!!

P

Mark Alfson

My wife agreed to purchase for my birthday a couple of years back a pair of Magnepan .7’s. Once home and set up we spooled up some solo Yo Yo Ma and sat together to listen.

By the third piece I found myself slightly embarrassed at the tears on my face when I looked at my wife, who was doing the same.

Having been an accomplished musician herself I was elevated to hear her say “It sounds so real. Like he’s here playing in front of us… for us.”

These are the moments when the hobby really hits home. When it so clearly impacts someone who didn’t know how great music could sound in a home.

Trevor Bartram

It’s great that you got a positive response. I hope you offered to help them with more modest affordable systems. Over the last thirty years the only response I’ve had after playing music from the music room at dinner parties etc is: wow, that’s a lot of CDs, even though most of them are hidden away. Even my musician friends are not as dedicated to recorded music as most audiophiles.
We are living in wonderful audio times: streaming (radio & CD quality albums) is inexpensive, good basic equipment is cheap and easy to operate. That leaves the technofear of setting up the equipment correctly and that’s where experienced audiophile friends come in.

Last edited 8 months ago by Trevor Bartram
Michael Zisserson

Technofear… I am going to steal that term! You make an extremely good point, Trevor. I submitted an article that addresses exactly what you describe. I hope it gets some air-time. I have been fortunate in my journey, however between the housing market, student loans, and multiple once-in-a-lifetime events, I believe it is difficult for millennials and Z-ers to focus on pursuing a big HIFI rig. With Chi-Fi (Chinese HIFI) available, a few select components can make a VERY good system start and provide the audiophile musical experience. The issue is: There is a lot of dirt, and few diamonds. However, get a few diamonds together and it is pretty darn amazing what comes in terms of fidelity.

The availability of inexpensive gear is something I never had unless it was from a 2nd hand store. While the economy and world events have pushed prices of gear up for a million reasons, and “Oligarch audio” brands are trying to convince people they cannot have fidelity without a house-price system, there is a great deal of affordable gear out there. Good manufacturing practices, integrated circuits, and modern design software has allowed manufacturers to bring a high level of performance to lower-than-ever price points.

…And that is a great place for anyone to start!

Nathan Daniels

My answer on how to reach out to non-audiophiles might be controversial here. My answer is to invest in a home theater system.

Love of sound and love of music are not a perfectly-overlapping Venn Diagram. As any audiophile knows, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking and even obsessing about *how* the music sounds….for some of us, it becomes more important than the music itself.

Home Theater is no different in that regard. Love for audio takes many forms. I’ve found that for folks who normally can’t be bothered to sit and listen to music for its own sake, movies are a great way to get folks wrapped up in the transportational aspect of audio. Additionally, with Atmos and other forms of spatial audio, one can approach and even surpass the enveloping qualities of a two-channel stereo system.

This includes music. When I have movie nights, the sound demos tend to start with something that gets the attention, like the Wormhole scene from Interstellar. But we will invariably transfer at some point to music, because wouldn’t you know it, music also sounds great on my system!

Nobody I’ve met has gone out and immediately become an audiophile, but pretty much everyone who’s been over has left more excited about audio than they were before they arrived.

Last edited 8 months ago by Nathan Daniels
Jerry Del Colliano

I am working on a story about Why Audiophiles Hate TVs When The Best Content Is Being Made For Television.

The idea that any sonic reflections that would come from having a TV between one’s speakers is silly when you could be watching The US Open or Billions (or The White Lotus – which is what my wife and I are watching now – very good).

Trevor Bartram

I don’t know about others but I cannot watch a blank TV screen while listening intently to music. I’m interested in both music & movies, so I have separate systems for both. I also have a TV in a back bedroom, so I don’t have to be anti-social & darken the living room during the day. All systems get about equal use.

Mark Alfson

I knew I had converted my wife when she recently suggested we replace the listening chair with a love seat in the upstairs bedroom we have dedicated to music.

One of the best moments in my life.

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