The fun part about my Andy’s Porch casual Sunday series is that I get to help put a face and personality behind the guy that normally just dishes out keyboard news and reviews. This week I wanted to diverge from talking about input devices all together, and talk about the original love of my life. Music.
I recently had a mid-life audio crisis and sold off or gave away over $4,ooo worth stereo equipment. I became so accustomed to hearing music in a studio environment that I started trying to replicate that at home (huge mistake). The money pit was enormous, and I was less happy than before with every upgrade. Now I’m listening to my records on 2 inch powered speakers, a far cry from what I used to have, and am 10x happier than before. This is what happened:
I started my unofficial journey into audio in college, when I ran a record store. Every extra penny went into records. I had lived a fairly sheltered childhood, as far as music was concerned, so I was definitely playing catch up with my library. I had a simple $100 turntable, an amplifier from Goodwill that half worked, and cigarette stained speakers also acquired at Goodwill. In the early days I thought my system was awesome, simply because it worked. Every night I would come home from work, drag the speakers out onto my porch, and just sit there staring at the mountains while listening to my daily finds. There were many times that the first listen of an album would be so moving that I still get chills thinking about those moments, and them remain some of my most vivid memories.
As time went on I slowly started to upgrade my sound system. Components broke (they were from Goodwill after all), and each time I had to buy a new item I opted for an upgrade instead of heading back down the road to Goodwill. The first huge mistake I made was upgrading to speakers that I considered too nice to drag outside. My listening was cut in half by that little change alone. I don’t know if it was the alcohol, or complacently, or just being out of touch with myself, but at the time I didn’t even notice that those magical moments with music were becoming less frequent at an alarming rate.
I eventually moved from Boone to Nashville to finish my Audio Engineering degree. While I was in Nashville I grew so accustomed to being and working in world class studios that I started to subliminally compete with that level of audio perfection with my home system. Listening to high quality audio in a tuned space with world class equipment can be addicting, and is an experience unlike anything else. There is also a reason why studios cost millions of dollars. But any reasonable person would know that a line should be drawn, I just missed that mark completely at the time. The level of my disillusion would be comparable to someone realistically thinking they could get an IMAX movie experience at home. I had absolutely gone off the rails somewhere.
Needless to say, my perfectly fine $500ish setup was now complete shit in my mind, and I started to really delve into the fine details of setting up a perfect audio system. With every upgrade I made, be it 1k headphones, or a 3k amplifier, it was never enough. I started getting frustrated with my setup, because it always just reminded me of what I didn’t have. I had completely lost touch with the joy of music, and was blindly going after a something that could never be obtained, leaving me constantly unhappy and ungrateful.
It wasn’t until I heard the song that I posted above that I had a a huge revelation. I was immediately transported back to the moment I first heard it on my porch, with my shitty speakers, yet nearly in tears it was such an incredible experience. The light bulb in my head immediately switched on. I sat there staring at all the expensive crap that I had acquired, and couldn’t afford, and realized that it had done nothing but make me miserable. I realized that had I just maintained my mindset from those early days, that I wouldn’t feel like I needed anything to enjoy music.
I can’t describe how stupid I felt at the time, but about that time 2 years ago I purged just about everything from my stereo system. I even went back to Goodwill and got some speakers. A few months ago I made a purge yet again, as I felt those thoughts of how my system wasn’t good enough start creeping back into my mind. Now I’ve landed with a simple turntable-phono preamp-headphone amp-2 inch speaker set up. It’s the most minimal set up I’ve had since my first college set up, and like them, it’s also the most I’ve been able to enjoy music since.
The real reason behind sharing this relatively random story is simply to encourage you to be happy with what you have. With any hobby, be it keyboards, computers, gaming, music (are there other hobbies?), it is far to easy to loose touch and start falling into the mindset of “if I only had ____ I’d be happy!” Before you know it, you’ll be stuck feeling unhappy with all you do have, with no way out. In this season of materialism, just remember this little story and try to enjoy what you already have. If you aren’t happy with what you have, there is surely nothing you can buy that will make you any happier.
Photo Source: HoffmanMyster