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The Return of the Music Room

 

Prior to 1960, for hundreds of years any family of means had a dedicated room in their house to play and enjoy music in. The standard daily routine included playing an hour or two of music after dinner every night. Later on with the invention of recorded music and playback, this room became home to the mono radio that broadcast news and music. The family would huddle around and enjoy together.

By the 70s the music room morphed into the rec-room with massive speakers and stacks of amplifiers for drinking, playing games and partying. The rec-room stereo became the status symbol in the home and your social standing revolved around the entertaining that revolved around it. Then in the 80s, the rise of cable TV, and multiple sets in everyroom started to erode the music system's importance. The walkman took music anywhere.

Finally in the 2000s, the internet and music on phones meant that all music was available everywhere at any time. The entertaining that was so central to the home and had so many traditions and rituals faded away. With it, the dedicated stereo faded too and the style of listening went towards background music without much focus of the focus it had in the past.

Today things are changing. We've hit a point of overload with media, choice and in general noise. Many people are realizing that music can play a much deeper role in general well-being, relaxing and in socializing than it recently has with iPhones in cups and $100 bluetooth speakers. The music room is coming back.

Part of the resurgence of a dedicated stereo in a dedicated room of the house is from the simulateanous return to vinyl. Turntables are cool and they command attention in the home. They're worth showing off and when you have people over, everybody wants to play records. It's an instant party. Putting a turntable in your living room with a nice pair of speakers is a great first step towards improving not only the fun, but the memories in socializing. We remember putting the records on. We can share the covers. We can take turns choosing the next songs. This is the backbone of meaningful socializing, just like it always has been.

After living with a turntable system for a while, a curious thing happens. People start listening to music more seriously again. Why? The reason is that there is generally more sound quality in a system like this than what they're used to on their phone or bluetooth speaker and they hear things that force them to take notice. What was that sound I heard? I never noticed how awesome that guitar riff was before. They might even dance! Pretty soon, listening to a record every day becomes something that can't be de-prioritized.

The next logical step is to ask "how much more can i get out of this system?". Starting to optimize where the speakers are in the room is the number one way to imporve the sound for no cost. AFter that, looking at component upgrades is a great step. Each upgrade brings a higher level of musical enjoyment. Soon the one record a night turns into hours of listening. We like to say that every stereo crosses a line to where it becomes "magic", where you're compelled to listen because you know how great it will sound.

Finally, the Music Room begins to take shape. With demographics changing, many people now have a spare bedroom, den or basement available after the kids go to university which is now free for a music room. Any of these rooms offers a great space to escape the distractions of cell phones, facebook and work and will allow a close connection to the music.

What makes an ideal Music Room? First of all, the stereo setup can be optimized without caring about other furniture or conflicting aesthetics. One chair may be enough, or you might want to put a couch or two for couples or group listening. The key point is to set up the "sweet spot" which is centred between the two speakers. This seating position gives a glorious window into the space of the recording which allows you to feel like you were at the concert. Most people today have never heard this effect because mono speakers or speakers that aren't balanced symmetrically, cannot create this reality. When they hear it, it's an intoxicating experience that makes the Music Room come alive.

The next nice thing to consider about your Music Room is the music organization. Having a wall of vinyl is an amazing thing to search through and to look at. We're still physical beings and being able to look and think about what to play next on a wall of records is still way nicer than scrolling through little icons on a glowing screen. Secondarily, consider having a "recent purchases" or "to play pile of things that you want to listen to in the near future. A neat way to do this is to put up a long mini-shelf where you can display current favourites. Record frames also exist to do a mosaic of all time favourites. Whether you also have CDs, you can consider nicely organized storage for those too.

Today, many people are considering music servers. Having started with servers a number of years ago (we use them with all our store demo systems because of the convenience), we know what it's like to live with them day in and day out. The sound quality is great, as is the ability to listen to any song you want at an instant. However, like phones and computers, in all respects we have seen that serious music listening decreases with music servers. They're simply too easy to flip around from track to track or to get overwhelmed by what to listen to next. As in the book The Paradox of Choice, when it comes to soul-fulfilling music enjoyment, limiting your chocie and committing to a whole album is almost always superior. Since a music-room is about improving your well-being, mental health and happiness, we think there is a very valuable choice in limiting or removing the number of screens in the room and slowing down the pace of listening. Your mileage may vary.

When the stereo starts sounding like magic, little luxuries like a great liquor cabinet, really comfortable chair, posters of your favourite artists and nice lighting further enhance the enjouyment of spending time in your Music Room. All of these things can be achieved relatively inexpensively compared to the cost of similar forms of meaningful entertainment such as travel, cars or other hobbies. The great thing about music is that it can fulfill so many emotional needs and can be appreciated in different ways and different times just by choosing another record. What's best is that after a certain point, there is no cost whatsoever. You can listen to a record hundreds of times over the years and always find something new about it. Each time is a cumulative experience where you build history with that record and it takes on new meaning.

At the end of the day, having a dedicated Music Room puts music front and centre. Music is still one of the very best ways to focus and relax. The better the stereo and the more ideal the listening room, the more enjoyment and fulfillment you can get. A dedicated Music Room is an antidote to the hustle and bustle of modern life. Build yours today!

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