Moving the hot seat

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Most of us think of the hot seat, sometimes better known as the Sweet Spot, as the center chair in front of our loudspeaker pair. And that would be correct. But as we begin this new year it's instructive to open our thoughts to some new ideas. Why do we think it's so essential to have "the big system" to reproduce our music? Can a bedroom system or a near field desktop pair offer up the same musical ecstasyas our bigger systems? Good friend and sometimes contributor to this column, Bill Low of Audioquest, has a few thoughts of his own on the subject. "At 62, I don't have any more time to go-to-the-music any more than does a 16 year old. As has been said better elsewhere, and for a long time, as long as the “audiophile” world thinks that we have to convert outsiders into behaving as we once did, as of course many of us still do, sitting in a triangle with speakers on the other side of the room … we are doomed to mostly failure. The only possibility for us to earn a larger audience for better sound from speakers (as compared to from buds and headphones), is to bring the hot-seat to the listener. It's a no-go to expect to bring the listener to an otherwise non-functional hot-seat. For me, that means a near-field system with me and my computer in the hot-seat, and my big system in the bedroom. If we can't take such variations seriously, the public isn't going to take us seriously. I've never seen a store with a bed as the hot seat (admittedly a little awkward, but not impossible … the magic of head back, neck relaxed, and sound coming from between one's feet is more than worth the effort) … and most of the near-field hardware I see in stores is shown more like a vignette than as a “sit here and click on that link” immersion. Near-field hardware on a shelf on the wall, or as a clutter of stuff too far from the computer, if there is one, doesn't make the inner light bulb go off. What's required is a simple system with a table, chair, laptop, pair of near-field speakers, and the opportunity for someone to sit down, relax, get themselves completely within the immersive zone, and click on a link, maybe something with broad crossover appeal such as the Mylie Cyrus Backyard Sessions rendition of “Joline” (, and then encourage the potential customer to go looking for videos even more to their liking. Unlike traditional audiophile practices, it doesn't matter whether the video ever gets seen a 2nd time … only that in the moment that one clicks on a Facebook YouTube link or whatever, that the experience is played out more intensely and more effectively, provoking a version of “this is fun, this is how I want to live” … the key being that this is the way one already lives, except better." Thanks Bill. While I have no intention of giving up my main music room and, no I am not going to talk Terri into allowing the IRS in our bedroom, I do think it is worth considering a personal music system and taking it seriously. Near field personal music systems are on the rise and I think there's every possibility that they can be made high end. Now why would anyone want to play Mylie Cyrus? Well after I asked that question I clicked on the link above and you know what? The kid's good. I was surprised. The recording is good as well, although suspicious to me that it's even live. I'll leave it for others to decide. But the kid's got talent. Who knew?
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Paul McGowan

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