Many years ago I was in a local hi-fi shop looking to buy a used Rega Planet CD player (I don’t remember exactly how long ago this was but a) there was a local hi-fi shop and, b) I was looking to buy a CD player). While discussing the pros and cons of the Rega with the owner who I’m sure was humoring me since I was the only one there, a smartly dressed fellow walked in and announced, “I’m Dr. So-and-So. Dr. So-and-So from Bernardsville said you were the man to talk to about home theater.” Which was mostly fine except that he’d interrupted us, did not excuse himself for doing so, and failed to acknowledge that another customer’s presence mattered. Judging from his tailored khakis, form-fitting polo shirt with upturned collar (starched?), what I can only guess were Italian loafers, and a watch I could have driven home, Dr. So-and-So was used to acting like a pompous ass without a hint of recourse.
“How can I help you?” the hi-fi shop owner responded jovially. “We’re remodeling our home and I want to install two home theaters; A serious one in the home theater room, and a less serious one in the living room. I want to start in the living room and I have $40,000 to spend.” (I’m not making this up)
“I’ll tell you what, I can build you a very nice home theater for less than $40,000″ was the response.
“I have $40,000 to spend.” Dr. So-and-So insisted.
“In that case, I can build you a very nice home theater for $40,000″.
“Our architect will be in touch.”
Many years before that, someone I knew very well was putting together a new hi-fi for their new post-divorce townhouse. One of the components was a Wadia Decoding Computer which used optical fiber to connect to the Wadia Transport and there was something wrong with this cable. I don’t recall what but the owner was an electrical engineer and one of things they did at his work was terminate optical fiber cable. So he had someone make him up a length and when he got it home and hooked it up I remember how excited he was when he heard what he believed was better sound. Seeing as this was a very emotional time being recently divorced after twenty-some years of marriage and living alone for the first time in that amount of time, the idea that a female vocalist seemed more palpably present took on added significance.
Do you remember when Sharon Stone wore a black GAP t-shirt to the Oscars and it was all the rage? I wear black GAP t-shirts most days of the week and no one cares.
I would say that loudspeakers are the most personal of all hi-fi components. Some people prefer planars, others give their shout out to horns, minimonitors imaging like the dickens have some all excited about their stand-mounts, and for others dipole is the only way(s) to go. These choices are simply based on what we enjoy listening to most. One is not better than another in some grand universal sense nor do these preferences adhere to any facts, figures or commonly understood truths the denial of which is akin to not believing in refrigerators. Of course our listening rooms also dictate what speakers can be accommodated but our wallets also bear an equally large part of the burden in terms of overall performance. It is simply an unfortunate truth that a $50 speaker is not nor can it ever be the equal of all others.
Do These Cables Make My Bass Sound Big?
If you round up all of the people who have spent over $80,000 on their loudspeakers, I’d be willing to bet that not one of them bought zip cord to connect ‘em. And part of the reason is zip cord doesn’t match. Similarly find all of the people who own amplifiers costing upwards of $100,000 and I’ll bet you won’t come up with a single pair of Radio Shack interconnects. Why? They don’t match. Just as I’m willing to bet that no one with an integrated amplifier with a retail price of under $200 is using a $5,000+ power cord to power it for the exact same reason. This is not to say that different cables do not offer varying levels of performance, its just putting things into a fuller and more human context.
PT Barnum can get away with saying things about a sucker being born every minute (even though PT Barnum never really said that), but audiophiles using the same line about someone else spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a hi-fi while their hi-fi cost a fraction of that and its all anyone needs is exactly the same as my GAP t-shirts. No one cares because you’re not Sharon Stone.
The Audiophile Ideal
Some people are not driven by numbers, while some are. Some are not driven or driven away by price, yet some are. Some people choose things because they like the way they look or they like the way it makes them feel. And some people want to believe they own the very best even though there’s no such thing when it comes to hobbies and enjoyment and some of these same people want to believe they’ve spent less to get it (which strikes me as being plain greedy). The closest we can come to being right in hi-fi is by trying to appreciate those things that others enjoy.