The new subwoofer

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Wow. Thank you for all the kind letters and words of encouragement on the upcoming book Confessions of an Audiophile. It’ll be a few months before it’s available to read.

Several have asked for one more story before moving on. I couldn’t resist the one about my father, Don, and the new subwoofer that my mom nearly divorced my dad over.

Our sound system was modest in those days: a Rek-o-Kut turntable for the record albums, and a makeshift tube receiver that could switch between FM radio and record albums. The speakers were built into a cabinet fashioned by Dad. Ours was said to be a good sound setup, but my father wanted something better. He was always looking for better.

One sunny summer weekend my Uncle Kent showed up with the “good stuff.”  Boxes were pulled from the trunk of his car and inside were all manner of cool-looking audio equipment. There were big coils of wire, woofers, speakers, tubes, and wild-looking electronic gadgets – and I hadn’t the slightest idea as to their use.

Kent had no idea what they were either, but knew they were something my father would appreciate. I asked him where he got all those boxes of cool things and he winked at me.

“They fell off a truck,” said Uncle Kent with his characteristic toothy smile.

The biggest prize in the “fallen boxes” turned out to be a very large woofer, bigger around than my head. I had to know why we wanted this massive thing.

“Woofers make bass,” said my father. “The bigger the woofer, the deeper the bass.”

From the size of this heavy implement, it was clear to me we would have some really deep bass in our home. I couldn’t wait.

The woofer turned out to be a cause of trouble. It had to go somewhere, and my father decided the perfect home for it was my mother’s hall closet.

In one of his many manic moods, Dad cleared the hall closet of clothing, and cut an eighteen inch hole in its top where he planned to mount the big woofer facing toward the living room ceiling.

Our home was in the then-modern tract style with tall arched ceilings designed by Joseph Eichler. Gibraltar homes was one of the first in Southern California built by the Eichler company, and my parents bought it new for $15,000. Carved out of California’s many razed orange groves, our two-story with a basement home seemed perfect for a sound system according to my father.

Big woofers make bass. For them to work properly they need to be enclosed in a box—the bigger the box the better. There was no bigger, better box in our home than my mother’s cherished hall closet.

After cutting the hole in the top of the closet, which faced into the arched ceiling of the living room, the woofer was mounted and wires were fed to the main unit that would power it. I can still remember their raucous fight when mom discovered the carnage.

“You did what?” as she spied the heaps of coats and clothing once occupying the space now consumed as a woofer cabinet.

She moved out of their bedroom and slept with my youngest sister for a week until things cooled down.

Damn if we didn’t have the deepest, baddest ass bass in the entire neighborhood—at least as long as the hall closet door remained closed. Visitors wishing to hang their coats were always wondering what in the world was going on.

I don’t think she ever forgave him.