The Audiophile’s Cat

The Audiophile’s Cat

Written by Alón Sagee

A few days ago, Hobbes, our creamsicle-colored fur-ball of 12 years was eaten by a hungry coyote. I’m trying my best not to be angry at the coyote (bastard!) that took away a huge part of our family. Forgive me if I have not been able to muster up enough Zen to be wholly successful in that endeavor.

Animals abound here in the wilds of our suburbia, which is nestled between a bay and the wilderness of a state park. Being this close to nature is something we love about our home, and yes, I do realize that these opportunistic predators, who often howl their dark choruses mere steps from our doors, are just doing what they do – unemotionally hunting down prey to feed their own families and survive the cold nights in this valley… They likely never had the thought that what they are killing is anything more than their next meal (bastards bastards bastards!).

My wife, whose heart is also shattered, pointed out that Hobbes, regardless of all the fancy food we fed him, was also a skilled predator and did much damage in his career…“yeah, but he was our predator!” I heard myself saying.

I feel compelled to write this not only as memorial to a beloved pet, the loss of which I’m sure most of us have experienced in our lives, but as testament to the clear, honest and usually unrestrained communication our domesticated animals can convey to us about our lives – even the quality of sound emanating from our elaborate audio systems.

There. I said it.

For over a decade, just about every time I set myself up for a listening session in my comfy chair smack dab in the room’s sweet spot, Hobbes would show up, insisting on lap privileges.

I realize that as cute as that is, it in itself does not seem very remarkable – but what did surprise me at first was the real-time feedback he offered on the fidelity of music reproduction, as well as his preferences of style, loudness and genre. His omni-directional ears were the key. Once I understood the meaning of their movement, or lack thereof, I knew I had a fellow aficionado in position, relaxed and ready to pass judgement on the sounds swirling around us.

When I’m auditioning or reviewing a component, speakers, tweak, or music selection, I listen at realistic acoustic concert levels, or at least with enough sonic pressure to load the room. So, here is how my cat shared his experience with me through the coded language of his ears (this could give new meaning to the term “fuzzy logic!”):

Both ears back, or both twitching rapidly: “Turn it off! Turn it off!” This verdict was usually the result of listening to a sloppy, compressed mass-market recording or an ill-conceived component that simply sounded terrible in my revealing system. If I didn’t act fast, Hobbes would immediately leap off my lap, his sharp claws engaged –– which I also imagine left that wild dog licking his wounds and sorry he picked my boy as a target! Although the feral canine eventually prevailed, it was likely with the unfair assistance of an extended pack of howling cohorts.

One ear stretching forward, one back: “Give me a minute, I’m evaluating…stand by for feedback.” I eventually learned that most challenging for my fur-clad assistant, regardless of musical genre or the effect of a foreign component inserted into a system he knew and counted on, was stridency. He was fine with any system changes, or music selections as long as they netted a rich, effortless and pleasing musical soundscape.

Both ears in neutral position: “OK, this is acceptable, you have my permission to buy this component, or continue listening to this music. I’ll be purring from this point on…”

For me, this was the coveted holy grail of inter-species collaboration.

I miss my furry orange companion and keep expecting him to waltz into my listening room at any a given moment and claim his rightful post on my lap, ears ready to render unembellished feedback on my varied audiophile adventures.

If you have (or had) an audiophile pet of your own, please share your favorite anecdotes with our extended community by leaving a comment. Thanks for reading!

Alón Sagee is Chairman and Chief Troublemaker of the San Francisco Audiophile Society. Alón’s writings for Copper can be found in the following issues:

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