The Art & Science of Sound

An Audiophile's Guide To Romance

by Jack Sharkey for KEF

It’s February 14th, the single most romantic day of the year! Because February is such a horrible month (at least anywhere north of Atlanta), the people who put the calendar together decided that sticking Valentine’s Day just a few short weeks after Groundhog Day would help us cope with our mid-winter funks. But romance is not easy, in spite of what the greeting card and jewelry people tell us. In fact, it’s often a completely unpleasant experience that leaves us looking forward to President’s Day. And that’s just for normal people. Audio geeks are in an entirely different category: A category that rivals gamers, stamp collectors, ichthyologists and people with active accounts. The sad fact is what we think is romantic is generally far less romantic than it actually is.

But music is romantic, in lots of different ways. So allow me to speak directly to the audiophiles amongst us as I try to help you translate your inner concept of romance outward for the love in your life.

Audiophile Romance Don’ts

1. Air Guitar.  Air guitar is right out. There used to be a bar near me that held air guitar contests on Thursday nights. I brought a date there once. Nothing says “what you have to look forward to for the rest of your life is me pretending I’m a rock and roll animal” like a few windmills and Angus Young struts. Leave the air guitar for those endless hours you are alone. Also banned: air drums (even when Rush is playing), air harmonica, air Robert Plant or air Eminem. Got it? Good, you’re on your way.

2. Listening to Rush. Maybe you got lucky, and your love interest is also fluent in the ways of outrageous time signatures and sci-fi lyrics, but seriously, how many love songs are in Rush’s catalog? (Red Barchetta doesn’t count) For the sake of Cupid’s arrow please consider this as you put together your romantic evening playlist. Other artists not recommended: Judas Priest, Metallica, Fall Out Boy and Bjork. Remember, romance is about drawing your loved one closer, not making him or her afraid of you.

3. Don’t Discuss Your Gear. On the surface this seems counter-intuitive. Who doesn’t love gear? (Answer: mostly everyone) Gear discussions during a romantic evening might leave your partner feeling underwhelmed. Yet, as a music lover who is really into audio equipment, long, drawn out dissertations on why your gear does what it does and how much your gear cost you is at the very essense of your being. Unfortunately, this information generally only makes romantic partners wish they had a stomach ache so they could go home.

4. Unfortunately, Stereos Are Not Porsches. It’s a well-known fact that owning a Porsche is extremely helpful in the romance department. Owning a Porsche is a good compensator and an even better ice breaker. Not so much with a stereo system. And for Heaven’s sake definitely not your speaker cables! Break your romantic partner down slowly. Let him or her first hear the wondrousness of the sounds your system produces over a long period of time. It’s an insidious brain creep this audio hobby. You have to be patient. Also, owners of all other German-made cars: Only Porsches work as ice breakers. After that you’ve got to go Italian.

5. Don’t Discuss the Music. “Did you hear that?” and “Wait! This next part is awesome!” generally serve to crush the vibe rather than amplify it. You’ve got awesome stereo gear, let it do for you what you can't do for yourself – set a nice relaxing, romantic vibe while making you seem like a sophisticated and dashing romantic.

Audiophile Romance Do’s

1. Vinyl Can Be Romantic. Every twenty minutes or so there’s a break in the action, allowing you, the fine, romantic host, an opportunity to refill a wine glass or get more cheese for all those toothpicks you put out. Plus, during lame songs, it gives you a chance to spark up some conversation or tell a decent joke or something.

2. Streaming Is A Wonderfully Romantic Invention. Find a decent station on your streaming service and let fly. Particularly recommended are flamenco and Mediterranean music, and old school American soul. However, nothing screams “cheap date” more than those intrusive commercials on your streaming service. Dude, pony up and fork over a subscription fee and keep the mood intact. This will also let your date know you aren’t afraid to drop some coin now and again.

3. When Things Get Serious, Go Jazz. Congratulations! You’ve put some real jazz on for your romantic evening! You are now as sophisticated as the Dos Equis guy or Michael Caine! However, amateurs are advised against going to jazz too soon in a relationship. There are a lot of different songs and genres to choose from and making the wrong choice could be disastrous. (Imagine getting ready to get things sparked up and some dude with an alto sax starts playing. Horrifying.) Also, jazz sends the message that you are ready to get serious, and well, that could have a lifetime of unintended consequences.

4. Tough Out A Rom Com. Sometimes you have to take a hit for the greater good. Maybe your date wants a movie instead of music. Fine, go with it. Maybe a movie about people in Europe baking desserts and falling in love, or maybe some woman rescues dogs and she falls in love with the guy who delivers her bulk dog food but all he really wants is to write Haiku. Whatever! Get your home theater system tuned up and dig on the sweet sounds your system makes as you feign interest. Helpful Hint: Stay engaged enough to nod approvingly or go “awwww” at the right time. If you can make yourself tear up, that’s always a bonus.

5. Music Is Romantic. Music is how our emotions communicate with each other. You’ve spent your money on some awesome gear, now make it work for you. In fact, no matter what your system is like, let music make the date.

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