Why are we irretrievably drawn to the sound of a woman’s voice, no matter the genre – folk, country, rock ballad or a jazz torch song?  Is it because the first real music we hear is the beat of our mother’s heart and the sound of her voice?   Do these primal music experiences create neural fingerprints in all of us that follow us throughout our lives and compel us to seek a connection with the music that soothes our souls and lifts our spirits?

The powerful sound of women’s voices brought me to hi-fi when I was 14.  I started playing piano at 8, but by the time I was 13, I wanted to learn to play guitar and sing folk ballads with all the purity of Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell.  I found a 1940s Martin guitar in a local pawnshop, and $45 dollars later, my life took a direction that became a powerful influence on what I do and love today.  My fascination with these stories of life led to deeper explorations of the origins of old English ballads and Appalachian folk music.   I bought songbooks and LPs.  I found The Weavers, Pete Seeger; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and Harry Belafonte.  I was drawn to the blues and started with Leadbelly and Odetta.   From folk and blues, Bob Dylan’s transitions through all these genres helped me grow into rock music.  All I had was a tabletop phonograph player, and I ached to hear more information from the grooves.

In answer to my quest to get closer to the music, my engineer tinkering father said one day, “Let’s build a stereo system!”  I was ecstatic.  He ordered a Heath Kit integrated amplifier and some speaker drivers and crossover parts from an electronics magazine.  We went to the library and discovered better ways to make a speaker cabinet.  He bought a turntable and tone arm with a diamond stylus cartridge at Radio Shack — my new favorite store.  He built double-walled speaker cabinets with the space between the walls filled with sand to damp out resonances.  Specially angled wood louvers over the drivers threw the sound up and out into the room.  It sounded so real to me at the time.

My dad seamlessly integrated the system into our living room.  The speakers sat on either side of the sofa and served as side tables.  The turntable and amplifier were built into a large TV cabinet. This audio system was my best friend through my teen years as I listened to a growing collection of records.  I spent hours listening with my guitar on my lap, picking out arrangements, writing down lyrics and chords, and singing and playing along until the music became a part of me.  I blew up the amplifier often.  Overheated from its hours of operation in a confining, but beautiful, cabinet, I had no choice but to learn to repair it.  I was a regular at the local hardware store tube testing station (what’s that, you might ask?) — my welcome to hi-fi as a hobby.  I was hooked.

My husband and business partner, Jack, and I share the same passion for listening to music.  I rarely sit these days in front of our audio system with my guitar in hand picking out arrangements, but our current home audio system, a significant performance improvement compared to the Heath Kit days, continues to draw me further into music than I ever could have journeyed without a great hi-fi audio system.  Our listening library has expanded to digital and analog master recordings of scores of concerts we’ve attended.  Thousands of LPs and high-resolution digital files of music entice us every available evening to listen to together and let the music wash away the cares of the day.

I am among the fortunate few whose personal and business life is wrapped together with a strong passion for music and finding better ways to get closer to it.  Definitive and their wonderful staff have the same passion.  In their decades of partnership with Transparent, we have had the pleasure of working with their dedicated staff to put together thousands of incredible music systems. A great hi-fi audio system is an incredible way to expand and get even closer to our most meaningful music connections.

Guest blog by:

Karen Sumner
CEO & President
Transparent, Inc.