DENVER (PTA) — The aim of the Under Forty Dinner is to welcome anyone and everyone attending Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019, who feels they accurately represent the Under-Forty-Crowd — be that literally or spiritually — and gather ourselves with other young audiophiles and industry people. Together in one place, for one evening, we can have a good time, along with sharing and refining our generations thoughts and message about the hobby, the industry, and the future of music listening.
So often it’s one lonely voice of youth: in an exhibit room, on a panel, or in a thread discussion online — solely representing an entire generation or two. Having us together, around one big table, can maybe help us target what we want this hobby/industry to be for its survival and clarify our message going forward.
The idea began simply with no real forethought or complicated plan. Just an email discussion about attending RMAF 2019 between Cynthia (The Audio Belle) and myself. I mention to her how much fun it would be to finally gather all of the young people at an audio show for an evening of discussion and dinner. She asks me to explain my idea further, and I do with the above two-paragraph intro that opens this article.
Having thrown a party or two in my time, I start with the basic “where and when” information, and make a flyer. Still, no real details other than what day, what time, and that it would be at RMAF 2019. No restaurant is mentioned, because that requires scouting as far as I am concerned, and we’d probably only secure seven-to-nine total people surely. So it was not anything to worry about yet.
At this point I’m going to gloss over the many text messages and emails I received from people under forty who caught wind of what was going down. It’s Friday evening, 7pm and day one of the show is wrapping up. What was expected to be a handful of people, has blossomed to nearly forty young men and women in attendance, with a few having to check out early for prior business engagements.
Still, we have no restaurant reservation. The onsite sports-bar located at the Gaylord Rockies hotel is by far the largest when it comes to seating capacity. So I approach the hostess stand, and ask for the manager. A young fellow, about thirty, approaches and I explain our dilemma. Downplaying the gravity of seating and serving an unexpected party of forty people, while up-playing our groups easy going nature and acute understanding of what it’s like to work in the service industry. Just seat us anywhere you can, and we will be more than thankful.
Also joining us for the evening, an interloper and guest of my choosing, the lovely and talented Natalie Kidd (Bluegrass music authority). A now four-year native of Colorado and North Carolinian by birth like myself. She alone represents the non-audiophile public. A control group for the evening if you will. Her friendship and mine goes back many years, and it’s great to have her in attendance to witness this oddball community of young audiophiles.
The dinner commences, and I tap Mat Weisfeld, President of VPI Industries to lead us off with a welcoming statement to all attendees. I then take to doing my best at accommodating my friend Natalie Kidd, while giving equal balance of attention to the Under Forty Dinner, but as I suspected, the introductions, conversation, and seat-hopping is taking care of itself.
Meanwhile Cynthia (The Audio Belle) is roving around the party, video camera in hand, gathering all sorts of ideas, asking questions, and being the delightful spirit that she is. Her YouTube channel is taking off nicely, and I can’t wait to see more from her as she covers audio shows, and evangelizes the hobby.
The dinner came to an end a little before 10pm, and I then propose to those gathered that we open up one of these exhibit rooms and fire up a system for my friend Natalie Kidd to experience for the first time. Of course, bringing along all the willing attendees of the Under Forty Dinner.
Some humming and hawing ensues, mostly about the 10pm “curfew on music” during the show weekend. So we decide to do the right thing and seize this opportunity to listen to a hi-fi system now and pledge to ask for forgiveness later.
Wilson Audio Social Outreach Manager, Tyler Hall leads the way with Natalie Kidd, myself, and twenty-some dinner guests now in tow. Natalie is preparing herself to make a few song requests when we get to the room, inspired by some questioning from Jessica Sherrick, the “Mistress of Fidelity” at Now Listen Here (Lancaster, Pennsylvania Audio Dealer).
We arrive quickly, offer up Natalie Kidd a prime seat in the sweet spot, and fire up her request. The song Natalie has chosen for her first listen is from the Bluegrass genre, “Long Way To Go” by Railroad Earth from their album titled The Good Life.
Unbeknownst to Natalie Kidd, everyone in the room considers her their guest, as we all await her reactions with as much attention paid to her as to the music she’s selected. It’s not often you get to witness someone cut their teeth on a pair of Wilson Audio Sasha DAW’s.
The Wilson Audio exhibit room hosting us that evening consisted of two VTL S-400 II Reference Amplifiers in vertically bi-amplified configuration. One channel of each Stereo amplifier driving a Wilson Audio Watchdog subwoofer, and the other channel driving a Wilson Audio Sasha DAW full-range loudspeaker. Also used in the system, Wilson Audio’s brand-new ActivXO dual-subwoofer controller.
Vertical bi-amplification offers greater channel separation, with one stereo amplifier dedicated to each channel. Moreover, using identical amplifiers in this configuration yields the best integration between the frequency ranges.
The VTL TL-7.5 III Preamplifier drove the main speakers (Sasha DAW) full-range, and the second pair of outputs from the TL7.5 drove the stereo Wilson Controllers for the sub-bass frequencies.
Natalie’s experience can best be summed up by one single statement she made that evening, “These songs [on this stereo system] in some ways sounds better than I’ve heard them live.” She further added “The sound here [ in the Wilson Audio exhibit room] is so present. I could hear all of the strings, hear all of the talent, and almost see it with my eyes closed. My ears were so comfortable. It’s almost better than live.”
It should be of note, that for the sake of the “music curfew”, we were being quite conservative with the volume knob. If Natalie wanted to hear the scale of LIVE music, we could have accommodated.
The song Natalie chose, “Long Way To Go”, did fit in well with the theme of the evening, and it wasn’t lost on the crowd that we as young audiophiles do have a long way to go in the industry, and with cultivating the next generation of audiophiles.
Will I continue to hold these “Under Forty Dinners” at every audio show going forward? Absolutely! (see below)