Steve Shannon is an Illinois radio disc jockey with a lifelong music obsession who recently discovered SVS after meeting President Gary Yacoubian at an event at Primetime AV in Rockford, IL. During a rough childhood where putting on a pair of headphones served as a release from the tough times growing up, Shannon continued his pursuit of immersive audio experiences as therapy from the stresses of adult life and to get the most out of every listening session.
In this interview, Shannon talks about discovering deep punchy bass he never knew existed after adding an SVS SB-2000 subwoofer, and the side benefit of how it’s made him a better drummer for his live music gigs. He also delves into his love of recorded music and how the Prime Bookshelf speakers provide pinpoint imaging and clarity of instrumentals and vocals on his favorite live albums to the point where he can now close his eyes and point to where the sound is coming from each player onstage.
(0:37 – SVS) Can you talk a little bit about your connection to SVS and how you got to meet our president, Gary Yacoubian?
(Steve) You know, it’s interesting how two people sort of come together. I mean, obviously what put us together was this SVS event at Primetime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that two human beings will actually find a way to click like a well-oiled machine, but I think that’s the power of music and sound. You know, Gary and I first have a great big love for live music. I think between the two of us, we’ve probably seen over a couple thousand concerts, and when I talk about music because of the role it’s played in my entire life, that’s where are relationship really took a great turn because music is the primary reason that I am in radio, is my love for music. You know, they used to say that all DJs were frustrated musicians, and to a certain degree, that’s true for me. I’ve been a drummer since I was 5 years of age, so there’s always been sound to sort of take me somewhere else I wanted to be. I went to my drums to, in some primitive cases, pound out frustration. Others, it was just to move somewhere to find joy. Joy is my favorite word, and music is what brings me more joy than just about anything, besides my daughter, so talking about music is me bringing myself to a joyful place, and I quickly discovered that Gary is the same way, set aside (inaudible 2:11) in developing great sound, even before all of that he was a big music fan and loved the way things sounded before he could apply all his scientific and engineering knowledge. I think, so he and I sort of, kind of, both came up the same way, plus, we both have tremendous hairstyles.
(SVS) I know you do share a very similar look when it comes to the hairstyle or lack thereof, I should say.
(Steve) Yes! Less time shaving, more time listening to music.
(2:49 – SVS) You’re very heavily involved in music, but looking back into your past, was there a moment where you really realized that music reached you in a way and then, sort of a second part of that is when did sound quality and audio performance as part of enjoying music become more important to you?
(Steve) I’m going to give a lot of this to my older sister. We did not have the best upbringing, as many people had difficult childhoods. She taught me something that I look back now and I think maybe that’s how I sort of how I sought out becoming a radio personality. In the kitchen in the morning when we’d be getting ready for school, my parents had an AM radio that sat on top of the refrigerator, and so we listened to talk radio in the morning with really no music. The only sort of music was a jingle for a commercial for some store or some brand of some sort, but my sister was a great big lover of music and I remember how fun it used to be to go into her bedroom, and her bedroom was in the basement, to listen to music on her stereo, and then of course when her stereo progressed, in terms of sound quality, or should I say in this case just sheer volume capabilities, our parents wanted the music turned down but when she bought her first pair of headphones, they looked a lot like the same things the guys wear that land airplane. They were just enormous. But the unique quality of these headphones was that once you put them on, and I’m going to use the word that SVS uses a lot that I heard Gary use a lot when we talked, and I never really realized how important it was, I just never used that word, but it was to be immersed in sound. So, you put these headphones on and the rest of the world was gone, and because we had a relatively destructive upbringing, it was a way to remove ourselves from what was going on upstairs. The things we would hear our parents say back and forth to each other, it was to put them on, and we’d disappear from that. So, to me, that’s when my love of music really started, and it was listening to Michael Jackson’s songs. I couldn’t find anybody else that resonated in my soul deeper than Michael. I’m thinking about here’s a guy, were relatively the same age, and this man is completely immersed in music and he had a rough upbringing, so I found a lot of similarities between he and I, so that’s where my love of music started. I put these headphones on, and SVS, I was catapulted anywhere I wanted to be that was happier than the situation I was really in, and that music love just got deeper and deeper and deeper, and I was always wearing headphones. It was my way to immerse myself in a world that brought me more joy.
(6:33 – SVS) You brought in some, I believe it was the Prime Bookshelf Speakers and an SB-2000 subwoofer, so if we can start and talk a little bit about bass for a second, it’s no secret SVS has some experience making subwoofers so talk a little about what you learned about bass from the event and what the SB-2000 has brought to your home theater system.
(Steve) Well, I’ll say this first, I would never, ever be able to just use the words “pretty nice” about the SB-2000. To me, that is the grandest understatement ever. I have never owned a home speaker product, a subwoofer like this, that in that box, if you think about it, to me, it brings bass that would fill a circus big top, and the thing is, what are the true dimensions of this thing, maybe a two-foot square? Am I about right on the dimensions on that thing?
(SVS) It’s about 17 inches on all sides.
(Steve) Right. And being a drummer, obviously, we’re the deepest track, the deepest frequencies in an audio signal. And you know, like my sister’s headphones, no matter how loud she can turn up her speakers, nothing sounded as crisp as a lower volume in those headphones, and with it being right there on the sides of my brain, I could hear everything, and I could hear the richness of that kick drum and from the smallest mounted tom all the way down to the floor toms, I could feel that work its way around the spectrum. As a mobile DJ, I have subwoofers that I take out to do parties with, and those things do an amazing thing at an incredible amount of volume. What literally blows me away is how tight and thunderous and crisp, and I, listen, you guys are the technicians, I’m not the technician, so some of my words may not be the best way to describe it, but what I’m trying to say is I have never heard bass response at such low volumes like that SB-2000. I mean, normally you don’t get the thunder until you start really cranking that volume up. It doesn’t matter, the volume, that thing performs at a stellar level no matter the volume of your system.
(SVS) You know, that’s a great comment. A lot of people have this preconceived notion about bass, whether it’s they hear the car driving by going, and it’s just this thud, thud, thud, and it’s one-note and it sort of drowns everything out, but when you get the opportunity to hear crisp, clean, accurate bass that’s speedy and transient that starts and stops on a dime, you get a whole new feeling for what audio really is and just that the full frequency spectrum and how powerful it can be, and your comment about being able to listen at lower levels, but still have that sense of impact, that’s really what a great subwoofer can do and where people I think sometimes miss the boat when they think about bass because they do think it’s just a, authoritative thing that sort of takes over the soundstage, but the reality is that it’s more of a foundational thing and it should never take over the soundstage. It should only enhance it and it sounds like that’s kind of what you’re describing.
(Steve) Yes, you used a great expression SVS. You said, “starts and stops on a dime”. Some of these, it’s just really about every other sub I’ve heard, it does sort of (rumbling noise) and it doesn’t die and all a sudden it’s sort of overtaking stuff that the music moved onto yet it’s still there. This thing is just (clapping), it’s so tight and I think it’s actually making me a better drummer because it’s making me pay more attention to how my kick drum resonates with the rest of my drum kit. I honestly could tell you that after about a month, being in the same room with that SB-2000, I completely retuned my entire drumkit based on what I was hearing coming out of that subwoofer.
(SVS) Wow, there’s maybe a secondary practical use we have for it now, drum tuning. Just to emphasize that point, something that we generally tell people, it’s not always the notes that your subwoofer is playing, it’s sometimes the notes that they’re not playing, or like you mentioned, that overhang, that bloated bass, that sort of residual effect that you get with a lesser subwoofer, that sort of muddy things up a bit. That ability to have that driver stop when it’s supposed to and not play any additional notes or put any other output out there is really one of the hallmarks of SVS subwoofers, so it’s good that you’re able to notice that, definitely an important thing.
(Steve) And to get it at the price that it’s at, there’s another aspect that’s unique to my situation but not for everybody, but some of us have living situations where we might be sharing some walls, and if we sort of bring in the beginning of our conversation about going through some dark days, you know at present, I’m going through a divorce. So, I used to have a 5,000-square foot house and I could play music as loud as I wanted, whenever I wanted, but I don’t have that option now because I have neighbors. I will tell you, the first couple of weeks, my neighbors and I got a little closer via text saying “Could you turn the bass down,” and that’s what started to impress me with how I didn’t have to give up that good feeling of that tight low-end at a lower volume, so for those who do share walls or have a very close proximity neighbor, I don’t want you to ever think that you can’t this in your place because “I will never be able to enjoy it.” That is 100% untrue, and I am living proof after now for a couple of months been enjoying this, and now my neighbors and I get along well and the last time we ran into each other outside, they were asking me about music I was listening to because they enjoyed it so much, and he, the husband upstairs, actually came in, he wanted to hear what was producing that sound, and I was very proud to show him.
(SVS) These subwoofers can bring people together. Not just about angering the neighbors, but that’s great. You get that sort of infectious sound quality there that people get a taste of it and they’re like “Well, my flimsy TV speakers and my sound bar just isn’t up to par now,” so that sense of getting other people to understand the value and the quality of having really high-end sound or high-performance sound is great way to make your system more valuable and just getting more people excited about audio.
(Steve) I would not ever settle for, when you can have this and you can enjoy it no matter your volume, it would be ridiculous to choose against it.
(13:58 – SVS) What have you noticed with the Prime Bookshelf Speakers in the sense of your general music listening, maybe things you didn’t notice before from tracks you’ve heard a lot, just from an overall sense about the musicality?
(Steve) Well, like I said earlier too that Gary and I both share a love of live music. A lot of my music collection involves life, concert recordings, and two of my favorites are Prince and Steely Dan, so two of those DVDs are where I started once PrimeTime helped me get everything installed and ready to go. Obviously, I don’t want to listen to this system with headphones, so I close my eyes, and what I noticed right away is that I could close my eyes and I could point to where that horn player was standing in that spectrum. I could point to where Prince was on the stage at that moment. You could just feel everything together but separated enough to where you could almost point on the stage where it was coming from. So, when they recorded this DVD and paid special attention to how everything was mixed together, the reproduction of that coming from those Bookshelf speakers is just as those engineers had envisioned. That to me is incredible and also builds to that completely immersed experience because it’s like everything gets brighter when my eyes were closed and I could feel like I was in front of the stage and where those musicians were spanning from stage left to stage right.
(SVS) Now that sense of imaging is a huge part of what makes a pair of speakers really high performance, exactly like you said, being able to pinpoint where sounds are coming from because it is so accurate and you don’t get a sense that they’re trying to falsely position things in a certain way to just convince you’re actually feeling like there’s a realism to it that you wouldn’t normally get from like I said, a sound bar or a lesser pair of speakers, so that is a big part of it.
(16:06 – SVS) So, now are you doing any home theater? I know you mentioned watching live concert Blu-rays. Are you doing 2-channel listening or any sort of home theater as far as movies?
(Steve) Yes, unfortunately, the way my life is, I don’t get a chance to always sit and watch a movie at once, it turns out sometimes to be 3 or 4-day process. I’ll get 20 minutes watched here, 30 minutes watched there. I do find it is an experience that does takes you away from that screen in that it is so overwhelming that these sounds that normally go right by when you’re watching that you don’t even pick up on, that are picked up by the speakers and that imaging again. Whether it be the sound of a high-performance sports car, the sound of an explosion, the sound of gunfire, you name it, it is powerful. If you have that time to sit and watch a movie that does have a lot of special effects, it brings it all right out there. It puts it right in your face. Like I was talking about with the live music, the imaging is all over the place. I know where the guy is who fired that gun. I know where that car is on the screen based upon the way I’m hearing it. While I haven’t done as much movie enjoyment as I’ve done musical enjoyment, again, the reproduction and the imaging of the sounds that are on that screen, I’ve never heard anything like it.
(SVS) Steve, it’s been really good talking to you. Obviously, you have a lot of passion about music and audio and certainly you’re a kindred soul with Gary and the rest of us at the SVS team here. It was awesome getting to meet you at PrimeTime AV, and I know they’re awesome partners of ours. You’re an awesome partner of theirs as well, so, I encourage everyone listening to check out 97.5 WZOK out in Rockford, Illinois if you’re heading to the neighborhood.
(18:09 – SVS) Anything else you would like to throw out there as far as SVS or audio in general?
(Steve) An emotional connection is one of the most powerful ways human beings can connect themselves to one another. We all have conversations short or long with people all day long, but there’s a moment in the good relationships where there’s a deeper emotional connection, and becoming an SVS customer and understanding, you know, the history of this product and subsequently the organization that’s behind it, it’s a different listening experience when you become an SVS customer because there are so much time and attention to all these details, and to have it come into my life at a time when I needed more immersion in another world than ever before, just like when I was a child. Through what has been some of the absolute darkest days of my life, I have been able to immerse myself in another world, day in and day out when needed, much like therapy or medicine, to go to a better place because of what sits beside my TV and in front of my couch. So, SVS will always hold a very special place in my heart because they brought me joy on days that I thought I would never experience it.