The Audio Cynic

“It’s All About the Music”

Issue 64

When I encounter an audiophile or a show-exhibitor with a massive, megabuck system playing a tight playlist of only audiophile-approved tracks and they tell me, “it’s all about the music,” it is difficult to restrain myself from saying, “don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” In fact, I may >cough< have said that, maybe once or twice. Maybe.

I believe their statement about as much as I believed, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

As I wrote recently, it is possible to enjoy music over some inexpensive pieces of gear, even a clock radio…just not all inexpensive pieces of gear. And while a massive Wall of Sound system might have been needed for the Dead to play to 100,000 people, seeing a quarter million worth of gear and six LPs makes me a little crazy. I have nothing against  big systems if there’s evidence that they are actually paired with a comparably-large music library. Michael Fremer may have a big-boy system, but he also has tens of thousands of well-played records (and somehow seems to know where every last record is, as witnessed by him happily leaping like a forest gnome to fetch the next delight). I’m happy to see gear being put to work—and worked hard.

In certain circles—just not here in the US, for the most part—a major sound system imbues status upon its owner. I’ve encountered wealthy owners who have carefully and scrupulously assembled major systems that were meticulously matched to the owner’s home,musical taste, and considerable collection of music. Good on them. I’ve also encountered folks who have said, “I’ve got a mil and I need three systems, one for each house—what should I buy?”

I admit to a twinge of envy when I encounter deep pockets like that, but there is also a cringeworthy aspect to their efforts: imagine gray-headed, overweight me suddenly showing up with a brand-new, bespoilered red Corvette and a 23-year-old girlfriend named Tiffini: ooghh. Just think of it as Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class come to resplendent, tacky, life.

Youth may be wasted on the young, but we geezers often attempt to recapture a piece of our youth by fulfilling our adolescent dreams, once we have the money, time, and space to do so. Whether that’s endearing, or desperate—I’ll leave for you to decide. I admit to succumbing to that syndrome in some ways. Just not Tiffini.

Writer Pamela Druckerman notes that although there were references to middle-age discontent even as far back as Dante’s Divine Comedy, the term “Mid Life Crisis” was coined by Canadian  Psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques in a 1957 paper presented before the British Psycho-Analytical Society in London.  The extended lifespans and increased leisure time allied to modern society (until recently, anyway) allowed a certain prolonged self-examination that earlier times may not have. Some might say “self-indulgence,” but others view the phenomenon as both inevitable and positive, an opportunity to re-align one’s priorities.

…and yet, and yet: such assurances might, in themselves, be attempts to qualm the existential angst of a midlife crisis. Fine. Be that way.

But if you spend a million bucks on a stereo, you’d better play more than Diana Krall and “Keith Don’t Go.” Or prepare to be mocked. Mercilessly.

And BTW: Tiffini only loves you for your money.

This is Hef. Don’t be like Hef. Can’t you see how miserable he was?

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