Games without frontiers at the Sydney Audio Club


I’ve been sounding the ‘different music’ horn for a while now: audiophile societies and store demonstrators need to move with musical times if they are to swell their numbers and attract younger listeners. Playing music with which newcomers are familiar is, initially at least, far more important than mastering quality or delivery medium.

For retailers this is a matter of survival more than simple manners. The worst offenders are often the older, more experienced audiophiles who rubbish a newcomer’s music taste. As soon as that kind of (pre)judgement spills forth the prospective convert is likely lost forever. My parents hated a lot of my music choices as a teenager (“It’s just noise, where’s the tune?”). Their parents probably hated theirs too. It’s all part of the generational cycle. Thankfully, there’s none of that nonsense at Sydney Audio Club (SAC).

A third visit this weekend to SAC’s monthly meeting at their Epping venue showed this club to be comprised of like-minded folk not afraid to embrace newer and, for some, more confrontational styles of music. And not a whiff of Patricia Barber or Diana Krall. Huzzah! The listening room is big – 13m x 10m – perhaps disproportionately large for all but the biggest, baddest visiting loudspeakers. On the plus-side, boundary re-enforcement/colouration  is less likely.


The first half of the meet is dedicated to the exhibiting distributor/retailer and his music choices. This month saw Nicholas Meza of Newtown’s Hifi Trader (my local store) show off Spendor D7 (AU$6699) loudspeakers powered by a Rega Elicit-R integrated amplifier ($AU3499), a pairing that readily exposed the vinyl front end’s superiority over the CD player. Jotting up the total on an Rega RP8 turntable (AU$3499), Van Den Hul MC Special cartridge (US$1650) and Rega Aria phono stage (US$1500) you can easily see why; that package will run you double the Saturn-R DAC / CD player (AU$3499).

After tea and biscuits, the musical meat of the meeting. The system remains the same but attendee-supplied musical choices get spun one after t’other. Some vinyl, some CD. Neil Young’s acoustic live version of “Old Man” (Live At Massey Hall, vinyl) kicks off proceedings and is swiftly followed by the opening cut from Roseanne Cash’s latest long-player (The River & the Thread, CD). So far, so audiophile. Classical pieces and choral turns were also spun from both silver discs and the black stuff. Members listened attentively whether it was to their taste or not. I saw one or two chaps getting busy with Shazam, presumably to later explore further what they’d heard.

Is this the only audiophile gathering in the world to spin Nicolas Jaar’s “Space Is Only Noise” (Space Is Only Noise, CD)? Doubtful…but it’s probably none too common an occurence. I committed the moment to YouTube for posterity to prove that a) I’m not making this up and b) to other audiophiles around the world that a break from the norm at your local society is not only possible, it’s exciting. The techno-stomp didn’t stop there. Trentemoller’s “Evil Dub” (The Last Resort, CD) went deeper into the lower registers than even the poor Elicit-R could manage (before clipping) when driving the 90db loudspeakers into a room way too big to lend a hand. In a more appropriately sized room there I doubt there would have been an issue.

To bring the meeting towards its 5pm close, the tunes switched to vintage rock n’ roll. One fella had brought in the Mo-Fi pressing of Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model but elected to spin T-Rex’s “Jeepster” instead (Electric Warrior, vinyl). That’s a win-win which ever way you flip it.

Each SAC gathering ends with attendees completing a survey about their afternoon’s listening experience, music choices included. I’d be surprised if the results revealed anything but hi-scores.

Further information: Sydney Audio Club  | Hifi Trader | Rega | Spendor

Here’s a complete list of what was played:

Track, Album, Artist
Your Smiling Face, JT, James Taylor
Fire of Love, Wanting, Gabriel Anders
Her Town Too, Dad Loves His Work, James Taylor
Baby You Can Drive my Car, Rubber Soul, The Beatles
Flamenco Sketches, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
Klapa Vestibul, Traditional Dalmation Songs, Cvijet Ceznje
Who Will Comfort Me, My One and Only Thrill, Who Will Comfort Me?
Saviour, Music City Soul, Beverly Knight
Piangonoal Piages Mio, Dolcissimo Suspiro, Tone Wik
My Same, 19, Adele
Misa Criolla, The Golden Years, Jose Carreras
Fairies Wear Boots, Paranoid, Black Sabbath
Old Man, Live at Massey Hall, Neil Young
Concerto for 2 Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo in C, Johan Sebastian Bach 2 Oboe Concertos, The English Concert with David Reichenberg and Simon Standage and Trevor Pinnock
Dinah-Moe Hum, Over-Nite Sensation, Frank Zappa
A Feather’s Not a Bird, The River & The Thread, Rosanne Cash
David of the White Rock/La Fiesta de la Tirana, Leyanda, Inti-Illimani with John Williams & Paco Pena
Send in the Clowns, One Voice, Barbra Streisand
Space Is Only Noise If You Can See, Space Is Only Noise, Nicolas Jaar
Mass in B minor, BWW 232: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Thomanskantor Leipzig, Gewandhausorhester Leipziger Barockorchester
Evil Dub, The Last Resort, Trent Trentemoller
Jeepster, Electric Warrior, T-Rex
Three German Dances, K. 605: No 1 in D, Mozart: Complete Edition Vol 2, Weiner Mozart Ensemble

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance. (Goethe)
    Perhaps it’s the ‘weirdness’ in some of the ‘electronic music’ that goes around since the 90’s that make audiophile-listeners back away from it.
    Maybe some more ‘easy to the ears’ (or mind) kind of music would help.
    I guess usually people like to hear a song with ‘Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse’ and so on.
    That isn’t very typical in most electronic music. (that’s why I also like it, because it sounds different)
    So what about these…
    Boards Of Canada, The Cinematic Orchestra, Beach House, M83, Ulrich Schnauss, Isan, Tycho, Metronomy………

    • Yes, everyone needs to be introduced to electronic music slowly, with the right material. There’s no way 19-yr old me would’ve jumped straight into Jeff Mills without first hitting U.F.Orb and then Orbital’s Brown album.

      Besides, the point of this post isn’t about electronic music per se, it’s about audiophiles being gracious in the face of music that’s not necessarily to their own taste/s and therefore extending the musical reach of their own meets beyond fabled, clichéd choices.

  2. Oh, how badly I wish the TAD rooms would play Trentmoller. I’d give half my (tone)arm to see/hear it happen.

    Funny enough, I once heard a Nujabes tune at a local audiophile meet. Turned out to be the exhibitor’s son “messing around” with dad’s rig. Saw dad yelling at the son, before removing the Nujabes CD and replacing it with … yup, Jazz at the frickin Pawnshop. Sad world we live in. :-/

  3. Are you getting some private time with the Rega Saturn-R or Rega Elicit-R? Would be nice to know what you think of Rega’s most recent DAC.

  4. Diana Krall is wonderful; what’s not to like?!?
    And she plays in very high heels. Groan….