“You can see wires

November 3, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Reader, Jack Flory sent me this touching story of becoming an audiophile and I wanted to share part of it with you.

I don’t remember the exact date that I became a budding audiophile, but it all started in 1965 when I was in the seventh grade.

My parents were building the house of my mother’s dreams. My father agreed as long as he was allowed to put a newfangled Stereo in the living room. It would be a huge upgrade to our ancient record player that lived in a wood box on a table. So, off we went shopping.

It was a cold rainy night on the east coast and we went stereo shopping, riding in our venerable and well-ventilated Army Jeep. I hid under a blanket in the back until we got to the store that sold Marantz and McIntosh equipment. And this is when it happened. I listened to music played through a system of McIntosh components connected to a pair of Klipschorns. I was hooked. I wanted that system in our home, but the look on my mother’s face wasn’t promising. I was so enamored with the fidelity of the music, I asked the salesman, a friend of my father if he had room in the back such that I could move my bed in and stay there. The parents were not amused. However, they did consent to allow me to stay there under the salesman’s supervision for a short time as they did other shopping in the mall as long as I sat in a chair, didn’t move and didn’t touch anything. That would probably be labeled child abuse today. On the way home, my mother issued her edict from the front seat. “John, I don’t want that in my house. You can see wires.”

And there you have it. Classic. Even in the 60s, the sight of wires or the workings of a stereo were unwelcome in so many homes.

I remain convinced this is one reason our systems remain a niche category despite the fact I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love better sound.

(In Jack’s much longer version of the story, the family finally settled on a Zenith console stereo with no visible wires)

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40 comments on ““You can see wires”

  1. It’s a day for touching stories then.
    Beautiful little 4yo ‘Cleo Smith’ was found alive, & apparently well, by West Australia
    Police after being abducted in the night on October 16th & held captive until 19hrs ago.
    It’s a miracle.
    Australia, & the world, rejoices 😀

  2. A very cool story. Thanks for passing it along Paul.

    If wires are the primary ‘turn-off’ factor (when was the last time you saw them in any equipment marketing photo’s) Then where’s the ‘high-end’ high tech wireless to get the signal from component to component? Or at the very least to the speakers where mono blocks can be hidden behind them?

    As progressive as the 2 channel audio family claims to be, overall not much has changed since 1965 to appease “the wire issues”. In fact just the opposite has happened, and now ‘proper wires’ can cost as much as a house in some parts of the country.

    So maybe the reason ‘our systems are a niche category’ is that the designers and marketers want it that way…

    To reinforce my point of pictures here’s a link to a landing page…

  3. We literally built our house in 2013 around the concept of my wife having to not see any wires…. HDMI, line cords of any gauge, or God Forbid, big thick AQ speaker cables. I came close to having to drill humongous holes in the hardwood floor to run my cables thru the basement for the main system. No open racks allowed here either. Mike may be on to something.

    1. Hello Bob,

      ‘Mike being onto something’ is a rare event 😉

      As I think about things, the maze of wires and power cords ‘in the forbidden zone’ is not easily dealt with. A couple of things I had to do when my system resided in the aforementioned zone were,
      Having a few removable floor boards that fit tight when reinstalled to route wires under.
      Changing an old wood burning fireplace into an equipment area and then hiding the equipment behind a dark fireplace screen when it wasn’t being used. (Was a historical house subject to the hysterical society rules)
      Think of all the possibilities… high tech nano particle wire trays to minimize any electrical or rf interference…. Custom finishing of wire tray covers to match flooring… speaker wire connections on the bottom of the speaker that feed directly into the wire trays. And on and on….


      Now I have my own ‘zone’ where cables wires and equipment can stand proud…. like a strutting peacock.

      1. Mike the removable floorboard idea is great. I have a triple-width salamander rack with doors and (naturally) side panels so most of my maze is pretty well-concealed, and I got some antique glass insulators in a cool blue color to use as speaker cable elevators, so that looks kinda artsy-fartsy and matches the exterior color of the house. With the speaker cables being the only thing now showing, we have achieved a stable detente. 🙂 But at one point I considered plugging a 2nd subwoofer into an outlet that is not hidden by the rack, and that plan got shot down at hypersonic speed.

        In my first IT job, about a million years ago now, my desk was inside a wiring closet.. I loved being in the wiring closet, and nobody could find me in there, and life was good. 🙂

        1. Hello Bob,

          I know what you mean by detente. The words ‘hypersonic speed’ shortly after detente made me laugh out loud.

          It’s amazing how creative the male human species can be while maintaining ‘peace’ when it comes to their audio ✌️ 😀

  4. It took some time, until my wife accepted the speakers in the room (away from the backwall) wired to the open rack. It took also some time for her to accept the stacks of records nearby the hifi-gear. Sometimes (not often) she’s sitting beside my and has to admit that the sound’s great. But it was a long road to get to this point. We know eachother now for 15 years, I was always having hifi-gear. Lucky me, that there’re no more questions when new records arrive 😀

  5. Is there anybody having a proposal how to make the 40 to 50 wires of my main stereo system featuring a pair of subwoofers invisible? 🙂 My office system featuring a pair of active WLAN speakers fed by the same Roon server as my main system has just three cables completely hidden by a carpet.

  6. So you can have a hifi system but no wires I find this amusing at least the wires have a point for being there,unlike all the other pointless tat that ends up everywhere.

  7. To further complicate the issue of wires and their location I believe it’s advised that mains cable and signal wires should not be run parallel to one another and where they cross it should be at 90 degrees. Try achieving that in an average home while maintaining marital harmony. My wife isn’t keen on the jumble of wires but is, fortunately for me, in a state of acceptance. When she says she doesn’t like the look of something I suggest she looks the other way. Thankfully we share a similar sense of humour.

  8. As previously mentioned several dozen times, the wife chose the speakers so she cannot object, and she still likes them. She was not told they needed cables and does object quite vocally at times, even though only a few inches are visible.

    Given we have an extensive speaker system in the ceilings through most of the house that are completely concealed, unlike big ugly Sonos blobs, I can see her point of view.

    The difference is that hi-end audio companies like PSA and thousands of others take the view that if you are going to have uncompromised great sound, you are required to have a room full of ugly wires and boxes. Of course audiophiles consider them pretty, but no one else does. Others take the approach of making hifi that looks like a small sculpture, such as the Linn Klimax DSM and Devialet Expert, which have stood the test of time, or if they are ugly at least they are informative, like NAD M33 or Rose 150. I suspect wireless speakers will become pretty much a standard option in 5 years.

    p.s. So far as “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love better sound”, most people who have heard my stereo are completely indifferent to the sound quality because they are not audiophiles, whereas I suspect most people Paul mixes with are audiophiles or are in the audio business. Generally I suspect most people are indifferent to better sound and, even if they do care, only aspire at best to a level closer to Cambridge Audio EVO or NAD M33. My impression is that making products of that quality at the right price is far harder than making hi-end audio.

  9. My family had an appliance store from 1961 until 1980. We sold Zenith products, including console stereos. To my young ears they sounded fantastic. Especially the “special albums” Zenith would release to highlight the sound of their stereos. It was in listening to those records at the store where I was really introduced to Harry James, Louie Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. As in this story it was jaw dropping to me how good music could sound compared to the AM radio I had. My father bought one of these Early American Zenith stereos and me and my sibling spent hours and hours playing albums on it. Really good times.
    I had the Zenith demo albums until a few years ago when they were ruined by a leaking roof.

  10. Great Story Paul and the big picture here is that was very true. Things we did 30 years ago are now labeled as neglect and abuse and would no doubt today end up in family court with the children being removed from the parents. What has happened to America? I often look back at life events in my past and find the same ending. A normal day back in the 80’s but Jail time in 2020. Anyway I too heard a McIntosh many moons ago back in my military days and was impressed. I never heard any other McIntosh equipment since. Whenever I see any equipment with this brand name for sale it starts and 1K and ends? For now I must be satisfied with a Bryston 4B and Audio Research Pre-amps coupled to VPI Classic 2. Perhaps one day I will look into PSI amps. I know you claimed in the past Brystons to be harsh to your ears. I like your trade in and try out policy and may try it someday. Thanks for the great videos and informative articles.

  11. That impression must have been similar to mine when I experienced my first hi/end, quality audio system — a JBL Paragon speaker system driven by Mac electronics. That was in the early ’60s.

    I do agree about wires and have done my best in hiding them in all of my systems over the years. But I never had to resort to a console! ;^)

  12. My first encounter with one of the old console systems was at my aunt and uncles house. I was amazed at how much better it sounded than my tiny little transistor radio. Perhaps it was the mention of those old systems that finally cured my brain lock. I’ve been trying for literally months to think of the name of an artist and album my uncle had way back then. While reading this am it came back to me, wholly unbidden and unexpected. Boots Randolph Yakety Sax. Weird how the brain works, mine even forgets the mass of wires behind my system. My wife tolerates the wires going to the speakers, but there’s no way she’d tolerate being able to see all the interconnects and mains cables. That’s my main reason for not having a minimalist “on the floor” arrangement for my equipment.

  13. I believe that console stereo was how many of us began our journey. It was furniture as well as a music player. It was my benchmark at that point in time. Then my Dad bought an electrophonic for us 3 boys. It was not until I walked into Pacific Stereo that I found a new world of sound. The journey continues.

  14. Shortly after we were married and I was setting up my stereo.

    Wife: Do we really have to see all those wires? They are so ugly.
    Me: You are starting to sound a lot like my ex-wife.
    Her: You never told me you were married before.
    Me: I wasn’t.

  15. I posted some of this in the past. My wife describes our stereo system as two uglt big speakers that sound really good, a nice looking turntable, a beat old RTR tape deck and a bunch of boxes and cords. All of the amps, DAC’s, Power Plant, etc. are boxes and all of the cables, regardless of type, are cords.

    Now, here is the crazy side of this. First, my wife is a retired IBM Distinguished Engineer and has a Ph.D. in computer science. She is clearly smart enough to understand exactly what each of the boxes and cords does, but she just won’t go there.

    Second, we try to spend time everyday just listening to music. She loves to listen carefully and she points out things in the music to me that I have missed. She clearly loves music and good sound, but the gear that makes it possible she just tolerates.

    I think this goes a long way in explaining why there are so few female audiophiles.

  16. Then we went through a period where audiophiles loved to show off their thick cables, the bigger the diameter the better. It’s good we got past that. Size isn’t everything.

  17. “In Jack’s much longer version of the story, the family finally settled on a Zenith console stereo with no visible wires.”

    This horror story would have been perfect on Halloween.

    1. Now there’s an idea for Paul’s Post, Hi-Fi Horror Stories, but as they could discourage rather than encourage, it might not find favour. Or it could be a follow up to ‘99% True’.

  18. “You can see Wires”…not in my home!

    Our home theater (in the family room) resides in a large entertainment center…all wiring is hidden behind it!!

    My “Dedicated” stereo music room, well, maybe a little visible, but since I’m a loaner listener…No Problem! 😉

  19. I can identify with many comments- except I am the one who does not want to see wires. (My patient wife only talks about how far the Maggies and RELs are 3′ from the front wall.) I want to live and listen in an elegant living room. No sensory deprivation listening room for me.

    To the right of my fireplace The wall was opened up to create a recess for all the electronics. Only see the beautiful (to me) fronts of my system. Installed wood cabinetry with marble top below and a 7-shelf Salamander rack above. Good news: forest of interconnects and ac wires, and PowerPort outlets are invisible. Bad news: it is a tedious, time-consuming process to pull out equipment for different reasons.

    To hide speaker wires I had contractor drill through brick above and behind the fireplace to put in a 1-1/2″ diameter plastic conduit for speaker wires. Had to be high enough and offset so they don’t cook when fireplace is going. Contractor just could not understand why speaker wire conduit needed to be so big. He thought I should run the wires on the floor in front of the fireplace! On the other side of the fireplace I had to drill holes through mirror-image marble tops and base cabinets to bring the cables down to floor level. Good news: Only 3′ of speaker cable is exposed behind the Maggies. Bad news: As I look for new cables, I will have to pay for 25′ lengths. 🙁 My cable lifters are Cardas because they are same colour and tone as the matt-finished wood floor. Then came the RELs (dam that PMcG guy). They had to be threaded through the same conduits and holes, and special ac wiring routed from the P-12 regenerator.

    To me, great music is magical- whether it is the Philadelphia Orchestra live, or the St.-Martin-In-The-Fields shoe-horned into my living room. The environment in which I listen should foster the magic.

    Thank-you to those who waded through this long treatise. Never have mastered a talent for 1-5 word responses, as have others in this hi-fi family!

  20. FR Did you read new comment Posted today from November 3 posts right above this. Our audio community is being trolled by Hot Brazilian Women now. This is too much. Personally I think the women from Venezuela are absolutely gorgeous. The mix of nationalities are quite remarkable and the women are so unique looking. There are so many in South Florida that it’s driving me crazy.

    1. Hi Neil,
      Firstly, if you don’t ‘reply’ to one of my comments then I will never get notification
      of it by e-mail; I thought that you would’ve been aware of this my friend.
      Secondly, I see no mention of “Hot Brazilian Women” in the comment posted
      above yours…am I missing something??

  21. Damn I can’t find it now. I sent you an email directly not through Paul’s posts. I know I’m not dreaming but I don’t know how I’m going to find it now.

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