True accessories

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What’s a ‘true’ accessory? A product that hasn’t much purpose in life other than serving as an adjunct to another. Yet this definition is a tough one for, other than an old console stereo, what equipment is not dependent on something else to make music? Amps need speakers and inputs, preamps need ins and outs, DACs the same. So it’s a tough one. I might argue that an interconnect or speaker cable does nothing on its own, therefore it must be a true accessory, though my friend Bill Low of Audioquest argues otherwise. Bill believes cables are as much components as turntables and loudspeakers, for while they do nothing on their own, nothing can do anything without them.

I started this series suggesting accessories can be defined by their classic meaning: a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive. And what stereo equipment might qualify under this strict guideline? Perhaps racks, which help organize and make attractive. Or plug extension strips adding more outlets enhancing versatility. And what of usefulness? A power cord where none are built-in certainly makes products useful – yet I don’t think that gets to the core of the category.

Would we be correct in suggesting products like Power Plants, Power Conditioners, Digital Lens, jitter reducers, tape degaussers, isolation blocks, TICE Clocks, VPI Bricks, snake oil, and cable lifts are true accessories, effective or not? I think that brings us closer to understanding the meaning and tomorrow I want to take a look at one of these classic products.