It was my original intention this week to write a comprehensive vintage audio piece about the MartinLogan Aerius i loudspeakers. A few events over the past two weeks combined with a very emotional weekend at SUNY-Binghamton getting our eldest settled in college gave me some perspective and I ask for your indulgence.
23 years ago, Doug Schneider (Publisher/Founder of the SoundStage Network) and I visited Paradigm outside of Toronto. The company owned Sonic Frontiers as well, and would eventually add Anthem and MartinLogan under a new management group.
Sonic Frontiers sadly vanished; I was the proud owner of 4 of their components and I regret selling all of them. Supporting a hometown brand made me feel a sense of pride.
Doug and I met Mark Aling and Erin Phillips as a result of that original visit to their production facilities.
Mark and Erin have always been consummate professionals and two of the best people in our industry; those of us who have worked with them over the years have nothing but praise for them as people and the quality of their work.
Both of them have had distinguished careers in public relations, marketing, and media — Mark went on to work for Stereophile’s parent company before becoming an independent public relations maven again, and Erin is the incredibly savvy media boss at Pro Audio Technology/Theory Audio Design. Very few people understand tech as she does and nor do they posses her charm and decency.
So it was with a rather heavy degree of shock that I learned 6 days ago that Mark was dying from Brain Cancer; we had just communicated days before about the excellent Clarus cables that I had just reviewed. I donated to the GoFundMe campaign for his family (I think everyone should) and it was with a heavy heart that I learned that Mark passed away on Friday, August 20th.
All of us here at ecoustics offer our sincere condolences to his entire family on his tragic passing. We have a saying in Judaism, “Baruch Dayan HaEmet” when someone passes away and he will be missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to know him over the past few decades.
Mark was easily one of the nicest people in our part of the universe and a true mensch. He was hilariously funny and the world is a very different place without him. If you knew him — you know how true that feels today.
The week before I learned of Mark’s diagnosis, I was very fortunate to record a forthcoming podcast with Gayle Sanders; the founder of MartinLogan, and the current CEO of Eikon Audio.
I’ll save most of the story for the podcast, but interviewing Gayle Sanders was an important moment for me; both as a journalist and audiophile.
When I was 17 years old (1987), I called MartinLogan’s office in Lawrence, Kansas — and much to my amazement spent an hour on the phone with Gayle Sanders. Not only did our conversation make me go down the rabbit hole into this obsessive hobby, but it lit the spark that culminated with my role here at the magazine.
I am forever grateful to both Mark and Gayle for being sources of joy during my journey; which has not always been a happy one.
So what does any of this have to do with the MartinLogan Aerius i loudspeakers?
I’m sure there are a lot of people who think being the Editor-in-Chief of any consumer A/V publication must be the best job in the world.
The friendships are the best part of the gig. Bar none.
Writing and editing any magazine is a 60-70 hour weekly gig. If you think we spend most of that time listening and watching — you’re living a better life than the rest of us.
If you think I have the time to stay up until 3 a.m. cheering for Han as he rescues Leia from the clutches of the Empire — we’re not on the same page.
Long gone are the days of sitting in the dark listening to my pair of MartinLogan Aerius i and crying from the emotional impact of the music.
I could care less about the “accuracy” of the sound back then. I’ve realized lately that I care even less now. That’s definitely going to be a problem for some people and that’s fine.
I call it the “Thieves of Joy” syndrome which is pervasive in a specific group of audiophiles.
How many poorly engineered pieces of high-end audio equipment do you honestly believe still exist in 2021?
I would be more concerned about components that are not reliable, overpriced for no apparent reason, or lifeless and sterile sounding.
That last group often measures the best.
Ask yourself this question — when sitting in the audience listening to live music, do you care how accurate the sound is?
The older I get, the more I enjoy listening to jazz, blues, folk, and classical music in a live setting. Both the live sound of the instruments, human voice, and the emotional aspect of sharing that very intimate moment with the musicians on stage and complete strangers in the club or hall with me.
Driving up to SUNY-Binghamton this weekend, I thought about Mark, Gayle, and how much I miss feeling the music and not over-analyzing it to the point that I stop feeling it in my soul; which feels a bit worn around the edges these days.
I know what I must do.
To be continued…