WoS: How did you get started in the hi-fi hobby?
EK: My dad always had music playing at home. He had an all tube, mono-system, an old Phillips reel to reel and a Clairtone console. So I was surrounded by it from as early an age as I can remember. The next big push came when a friend of the family paid over $2000 dollars in the late 70’s for an incredible system including a Marantz 2385 and a pair of ESS Heil speakers. I just didn’t know that recorded music could sound like that. BTW, this gent still has that system and got it restored recently! So when I was 12 years old, my dad bought me a Sony Quadraphonic receiver at a garage sale. We matched this up to an old Garrard Type A turntable he had lying around, and then all the money I saved up went for a pair of Akai speakers. I basically never stopped playing music from then on.
WoS: Tell us about your decision to start a new audio forum. What makes Hi-Fi Haven different from the others?
EK: I’ve long been involved in the online audio hobby. It started around 1995 in the old rec.audio newsgroups. When the forums began, it seems like I signed up with most of them, and stayed very involved with a number. I helped moderate a few, so I was on the front row of what I saw as a very disturbing change in our hobby. As forums grew and evolved, they started turning into “silos” of limited interests, just coming on line to fight for their side. People seemed to forget that we were all audiophiles, doing our best to put together a system that gave us the greatest enjoyment of our music. Obviously, some would spend more or less than others, some would prefer one type of amplification device or drive technology – as if fighting about those things actually mattered. Audio became a contest with no real victors, and losses for all of us who loved the hobby. I can only imagine how our anger and vitriol drove many away from the hobby. I even found that the negativity of the forums was driving me away from the hobby. This was, of course, a very different experience from talking to people who shared our passion in the “real world”. In all of the audio shows I have visited, all the dealers, designers and manufacturers I have met, I have yet to see anyone get into a fist fight or a shouting match. I’ve liked pretty well everyone in the hobby I have met. And as I talked to them, I found a very troubling thing; many of these great, fun, knowledgeable people had sworn off audio forums because of the constant bickering and fighting. So I came up with what seemed to me a very radical idea. What if I started an audio forum without the fights, no bickering and arguing, no winners or losers. It’s a place for those people who had sworn off the online audio community to come back to and feel comfortable; and a forum for those new to the hobby to be able to ask the most basic of questions without fear of being laughed at or mocked. And that’s why I created HiFi Haven. It is literally, as our tagline says, a place to talk about audio, not fight about audio.
WoS: You’ve been up and running for a few months now, are you happy with how well it’s going?
EK: Yes, I am very happy with how things have gone. The first months were a trial run. We just hung out and tried out the concept. I really didn’t know if anyone else would like or “get” the concept. But the more I shared it with fellow hobbyists, and industry folks, the more great feedback I got. People really liked it. So we spent the last few months working on the technical side, getting the bugs sorted out, and we officially launched on January 1, 2016. We have an amazing moderation staff, but also a very bored one. The community is running so well, that they basically have nothing to do. Hopefully, it will stay that way. The best compliment I have gotten from a number of members is that the site has brought back their passion for the hobby. I can’t imagine how we could be more successful than that.
WoS: How do you envision the site evolving, in say, a year or two from now?
EK: I actually have a few more concepts in mind. There is an editorial viewpoint we would like to share, and that will be launched in the coming months. Other than that, we will just work on growing the membership ranks slowly and steadily. There really is a feeling of family to the site. Everyone is welcome.
WoS: What “type” of audiophile should check out this forum?
EK: HiFi Haven should be the online home for any kind of audiophile. Whether new to the hobby, a long-timer, someone with a system they have scraped together, or a huge megadollar high-end system, they’re all welcome at HiFi Haven. We appreciate everyone’s viewpoint and input. We can learn from everyone’s experiences.
WoS: Thanks for your time, Eric. One last question, what’s the best new music you’ve heard in the past year?
EK: My stepdaughter is my greatest teacher when it comes to new music. She has a great ear and impeccable taste. Of all of the new bands she has introduced me to, I’ve probably enjoyed Panic! At the Disco the most. A great combination of classic influences and a totally modern take on it all.
Interested readers can check out Hi-Fi Haven, at www.hifihaven.org