A classical defense

To Doug Schneider,

I know that you and many of the other writers on the SoundStage! Network have little or no interest in classical music, but I'm not sure how well that represents the audiophile community and, more importantly, the potential audiophiles to whom the industry needs to be appealing.

I can think of a few reasons why classical music lovers are more susceptible to catching the audiophile bug. First, classical music -- particularly, large-scale orchestral music -- requires some level of playback quality to even become intelligible. Second, the average classical recording will sound better as the quality of one’s hi-fi improves. Can you say the same for the average pop recording? That has not been my experience. Looking at demographic data, those who like classical music tend to have incomes above the median -- certainly a requirement for getting into high-end audio.

Perhaps most importantly, those who enjoy classical music often have the desire and opportunity to hear it performed live. When classical music is performed live, it is usually not amplified. That means these listeners actually know what real instruments and voices sound like. Classical music recordings, in turn, do not tend to employ the heavy effects that are used for recordings in most other genres. Combining those two observations, a classical music listener is better equipped to tell whether an audio system is really being faithful to the musical event. For that reason he or she might also be more demanding of fidelity.

I'm not saying that you need to listen exclusively to classical music -- I don't -- nor even make it the focus of equipment evaluations. But, by ignoring classical music entirely in your reviews and opinion pieces, you risk making your publications irrelevant to what I believe to be a large segment of the current audiophile community and those to whom we have the best chance of reaching out.

S. Andrea Sundaram
Contributor, The SoundStage! Network

Obviously, I can only speak for my own interests, not for those of our staff. But with you being a member of our writing staff, I have no problem putting this issue out in the public eye, because there might be some current or potential readers who feel the same way you do.

I wouldn’t say that I have no interest in classical music, just that I don’t know it well. But I do recognize its importance and value to our readers, so I’ve always made sure it’s well represented in the articles that we’ve been publishing over the years. Richard Freed’s “Keepers” column on Ultra Audio and Rad Bennett’s regular classical reviews that appear in most of our publications are a couple of examples of that commitment to make sure the genre is represented.

Should we cover more classical? Richard and Rad regularly write about it, you and some of the others already use it for your reviews, so it's hard to say. But perhaps your e-mail will spark some interest in other writers to learn more about it. Ultimately, musical tastes are personal and reviewers will naturally gravitate to what they truly like. Should I use more of it, particularly for my reviews? I’d have to learn more about it, and as you pointed out to me a number of times, the eclassical.com site is a great, low-risk way to do so. No promises, but I'll try. . . . Doug Schneider