Twisted Systems

    When Domestic Bliss is an Audio Miss

    Issue 167

    When you walk into my apartment you stroll past the art in the foyer, and a dining room table, and enter the living room. (It’s the photo above.)

    Look around. You’ll see photos on the wall, and nice furniture and various tables (all covered in books and magazines). You’ll also see a rather large philodendron plant that has occupied the same space (after six transplants) for 55 years. You read that right. 55 years.

    It’s an aesthetically pleasing environment, perfect for socializing.

    To most women who enter (mostly wives) there is always an acknowledgement (“amazing!”) of the reimagined design and transformation of the foyer/living room area that was created following a five-month renovation in 2019.

    The entire apartment was taken down to the studs and totally rebuilt.

    We (meaning me and my wife) only sit in the living room when guests are visiting. The apartment is large enough that we each have our own sanctuaries which reflect our own interests.

    Most of the women sit in the living room and begin conversation. Most men, however, look around and notice there is no TV.

    That’s right, no TV.

    In fact, one would have to look behind the plant and a strategically placed floor lamp to find a small pair of Sonos speakers.

    This was the agreement my wife and I made following the rebuild. She didn’t want to see any distracting technology in the living room. She also felt that a TV is the most distracting technology of all.

     

    No TV in sight! Courtesy of Jay Jay French.

    No TV in sight! Courtesy of Jay Jay French.

     

    My reaction?

    I was into it, although I did tell her that, minus the TV placed on a wall somewhere, I doubted that we would ever be in the living room when there were no guests around.

    I was right.

    We never sit there without guests in the apartment.

    I walk by the living room every morning and stare at it for a minute or two and remember back in the “old days” when all my apartments (whether I was single or married) had a stereo system in the living room.

    Now, the living room may as well have a velvet rope on stands (like a Smithsonian exhibit) as we pass by it every day.

    My stepdaughter (when visiting) does sit there and reads, or is on her computer/iPad or cell phone. That’s about it.

    Hey, I don’t have a problem with this arrangement because, in my sanctuary/studio, I have all the high-end audio toys and a 65-inch flat panel TV on the wall, plus a surround sound Sonos system.

     

    "So I got me an office, gold records on the wall..."

    “So I got me an office, gold records on the wall…”

     

    In my wife’s sanctuary, she has a 55-inch flat panel and a Sonos surround system.

    This has now led me to observe other friends’ houses/apartments to see if any audio systems are visible in the main listening room.

    My observations?

    Very few have anything more than a Sonos set up.

    I’m not a shill for that company. They have just done an incredible job of cornering the market for casual listeners who want convenience, and it seems that most of my friends have just given up to it. That includes guys I grew up with who all had the latest stereo gear in their apartments.

    That really makes me wonder…who the hell is buying all this crazy expensive stuff that Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, HiFi News and Hi-Fi+ write about every month?

    Forget the fact that the most recent HIGH-END hi-fi show in Munich had many more insane turntables and arms than I’d ever seen!

    If you go on Instagram to World’s Coolest Hi-Fi, you’ll see some really crazy stuff but also some rather pedestrian gear as well. The point of this need to show the world “what you got” is more than just the gear itself. It is also how it is displayed. Some of the more inexpensive gear is surrounded by plants and/or expensive shelving.

    That says an awful lot in regards to that old high-end salesman cliché, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

    Well, back to my apartment. If you never walked into my studio, you would never know I was in the music/entertainment business.

    That is how disconnected my living room is from my hobby now.

    I’m actually fine with that.

    Is anyone else dealing with this kind of new reality?

    I would like to hear from you if you are.

    Till next time…

     

    Header image courtesy of Jay Jay French.

    7 comments on “When Domestic Bliss is an Audio Miss”

    1. My primary first floor great room space has a TV which was chosen just to blend in with the background, and, horrors, a soundbar. The bar was specifically chosen to be low profile and to blend with the TV bezel visually. That was more than good enough for that living space. We both like to watch the news, or sports, and some movies and it fits well (the new bar is Atmos capable that is kind of fun).

      Just as with you, there are other areas of the home that the stereo lives in. The office with a desktop nearfield system or the basement rec room (“my workshop” as my significant other calls it) with full sized towers, subs, cables and various analog kit. I am more than content with that.

    2. My wife and I have always been in agreement that there is no place for a TV in either the living room or bedroom. In addition to the living room, we’re fortunate enough to have space in our home to support a casual family room, where a 42” flat screen (modest by today’s standards) gets a couple of hours use on most days – typically split between early morning and late in evening. For casual listening we have a Sonos outpost in the living room as well as in the kitchen and my wife’s office. The ‘real deal’ system occupies a dedicated room in the lower level of our home that has extensive acoustic treatments and produces sound that at earlier times in my life I only dreamed of. To us, this is an ideal arrangement, but it’s taken a lifetime to achieve a home with the space that can support this arrangement. I commend you for a similar achievement in an apartment environment.

    3. My wife knows how important music is to me and has never complained about the stereo in the living room. But TV, we’ve both been on board minimizing it. If it didn’t fit in a cupboard or the (unused) fireplace, it wasn’t bought. So when our kids moved out, we each
      got a room and the stereo moved to my “music room.” But I kept a music system in the living room by adding Magnepan MMGW, wall-mounted speakers and a sub that hides in a corner. A tiny Class D integrated amp from Teac completed the system about as unobtrusively as possible. A win-win!

    4. Another great article Jay Jay. My Wife & I too never liked having a TV in the living room or even any semblance of an audio system. All the toys went in the basement in a dedicated room. Well in Central Arizona (Phoenix), there are no basements so my dedicated room with all the toys is in the living room while my Wife’s “sanctuary” is the room next to the living room/listening room. Which is the very large Kitchen/Dining Area. Both wen through renovations after we bought this typical mid 1960’s built Arizona Ranch House.

      We don’t entertain as much as we used to. But when we do, it’s mostly in the Kitchen/Dining Area. The Living Room is a more hangout for “da boys” while “da womenfolk” are in da kitchen doing their thing.

      I’m not trying to be chauvinistic, it just always seems to work out that way when we have people over. Especially if it’s my Audiophile friends and their better halves.

    5. At the risk of admitting to being a slow learner, I decided not to remarry for a third time. So, audio bliss is a little different for me. I share 5 acres and a small house with an Airedale Terrier. In one sense, maybe it’s the same issue. I live here by his permission. I doubt the house is much bigger than your apartment.

      My office already has multiple purposes. It houses my guitars, my library of a great many books, the computer equipment where I formerly made a living as a software engineer before I was forcibly retired by the COVID and also my digital photography processing equipment. It’s maxed out.

      Thus, the audio system had to live in the living room. I live on a dirt road, so the audio equipment hides in a 4 bay cabinet to shield if from the constant stream of dust. I have 1.2 kW dedicated to Stereo. That combines with additional power and subwoofers for the surround system to bring us up to 2.94 kW in theatre mode. It’s certainly not insignificant, but the 42” TV is. It looks like a nasty black blemish on top of the beautiful cherry cabinet.

      A year ago, I was thinking of getting a much larger 8K TV to watch Blu-ray concerts, which seem to have now largely moved to pay-for-view. Whenever I turn the TV on these days, it seems all the programming is about death and destruction, so I’ve abandoned that idea. Besides, I believe in owning my media. I’m too cheap to do much streaming.

      Instead, I turned the TV over to the pup. He loves to watch National Geographic Wild, or any other channel featuring wild animals. I’m fine with that except for the fact that he also demanded the use of the hot seat.

    6. Our tv in the living room is recessed beside the fireplace and can be extended for viewing. It is visible but not the light sink most flat panels are. For music we have a Naim Mu-so 2nd gen placed on a console under the open stairs. The new Mu-so is roon ready so it ingrates well with my Nucleus+. It also sounds great for social background music but can be cranked up when needed. It was a compromise with my wife. I got the loft upstairs for my system and office where I have a 65″ tv.

    7. Jay Jay,
      I’m late to the comments (I fell behind on Copper issues, but getting caught up again), but I feel uplifted to know there are others out there without a television or stereo in their living room.

      Indeed, I only have one TV in the entire house, in a basement family room. I have a full-blown audio room in another corner of the basement, which opens out to the garden and becomes the focal point of any gathering of friends and family by the end of the evening.

      I have a few Joe Walsh records in the storage along the wall, but no gold records in my “office”.

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