Sound Investments.

Many years ago, I saw an audio ad in a magazine; the headline ran, “When You’re Young, Your Ears are Sharp, but Your Wallet’s Flat.” The ad was for a moderately priced stereo system that claimed to deliver true high fidelity and be affordably priced.

The ad stayed with me, not only because I thought the headline was clever, but because it highlighted an essential paradox of the serious music listener/audio enthusiast. We know that ears lose acuity as we age, so it is “unfairly” ironic that, from a biologic point of view, we are most able to appreciate fine audio reproduction at the same time that most of us are least able to afford it.

So, is there a resolution to this paradox? Actually, I think there are several. The first is “Protect Your Ears.” While hearing, particularly in certain frequency ranges, declines with age, the process can be slowed by taking precautions.

Wear earplugs when appropriate. We’ve all heard stories about rock musicians who have been prematurely deafened by the volume levels of their own music on stage. Similarly, if you’re shooting enthusiast, put the ‘plugs in when you’re at the range. If you’re regularly around loud equipment, ‘plug up, if it does not leave you in even greater danger.

Turn It Down! Rock musicians are not only music listeners who can damage their ears with loud music. Those of us who enjoy listening to recorded music at “lease breaking” levels and are only inviting the wrath of neighbors, we are asking for trouble.

Another part of the paradox resolution is the recognition that music is a positive good and that investing in a good reproduction system is an investment that pays off in many ways. Or, to put it another way, “Living with music is different from living without music. And it’s better.”

About 300 years ago, the British playwright and poet, William Congreve, penned the line, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.” While that is the line – frequently substituting the word “beast” – that has come down to us, Congreve also cited music’s ability to “soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.” In other words, music can be awfully powerful. It can bring forth all kinds of emotions, replace weakness with strength, indecision with resolve.

A good music system, bought when we are young, middle aged, or even elderly is an investment that pays dividends from the first time it plays music – and today’s systems continue paying off for years.

And, the really good part is that as we get older, we often have more time for relatively sedentary pleasures such as listening to music or reading. Just as it is more pleasurable to read a good book than a bad one; it is more enjoyable to listen to music well reproduced rather than poorly portrayed. I believe strongly in living life to the fullest we can, and I have been lucky in my family, my friends, my work and my life. Music has played a part in almost all of it. Sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in back; but music has been a continuing theme throughout. And, the better it sounds, the better life is. That’s why it pays to buy the best audio system you can no matter what age you are.

Enjoy & Good Listening!

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John Strohbeen Author

John Strohbeen was the President and Chief Engineer of Ohm Acoustics from 1978-2023.

John Strohbeen

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