Like a lot of folks, I enjoy sports cars. If I am to be completely honest, really fast sports cars. Until recently, however, I never owned one. I had always driven a nice, comfortable, common sense sedan.
Back in January of 2020, I made the decision to replace one of my cars. Typically, when a car gets to be about four or five years old, I get a new one, make the older car a second vehicle, used mainly to run around town, and sell the now third, and oldest one. It works well as I will have a new car for business travel and an older one to drive to the store. And carry junk. And lumber. And so on…
In January of 2020, I found myself at a crossroad of sorts. My very practical 2011 car had just over 130,000 miles and ran flawlessly. I am nothing if not meticulous when it comes to taking care of an automobile. I am religious about maintenance, washing, waxing and taking every realistic measure to ensure my cars look as new as possible for as long as possible.
Still, this car had reached the end of its life for my purposes. I simply don’t want a more than ten year old automobile. Period. The newer car had relatively low miles and was, in fact, still under warranty. I was giving strong consideration to replacing the older one with a shiny new model.
While at a friend’s house for the New Year’s holiday, dinner discussion one evening turned to cars. My friend Matt is a sports car fanatic. He currently has seven that include a Ferrari, two Maserati’s, a Porsche and several others. Matt was making an impassioned case that I should buy a Maserati.
“Are you serious,” I asked? “Why on Earth would I want a Maserati? I am far too practical for something so unnecessary.” Matt’s response? “Is your audio system really practical?”
Good point. Given the cost of most audio systems, practicality is not a descriptor I’d attach. Forgoing any semblance of pragmatism, I looked online, found a Maserati, and after confirming that Matt thought it was a good deal, I bought it.
This completely upset my equilibrium for cars. Yes, I got rid of an older car and replaced it with a new one. Yet, I still had a mostly new car I was in no way ready to retire. Moreover, this new car was not one I would be driving for business. Also, I would be very hesitant to take it to a shopping center for fear of door dents and who knows what else. And I don’t really want to run the miles up because that kills resale value (which is pretty poor anyway). It uses premium fuel and get really, really, terrible gas milage. Potential speeding tickets. All in all, an exceedingly impractical automobile purchase.
While all of that is completely true, nothing countermands the fact that I absolutely, positively, love, love, love to drive this car. Does that somehow sound like a high performance audio system?
Putting the car in sport mode, manual shift, hearing the exhaust note, and using the paddle shifters to run my way at near red line through all eight gears while letting loose the twin turbo engine is a blast. One cannot help but be impressed. Despite the many reasons I can come up with why this was a foolish purchase, and there are several, none of them can replace the immense sense of excitement I get behind the wheel.
Compare that to a high-end audio system. Expensive? Yes. Impractical? Absolutely. Portable? No, not even close. Produce a glorious sound? Oh, my stars, yes. Provide joy, excitement, and an emotional connection to music, something everyone loves? Need the question even be asked? Obviously, of course it does.
I am very fortunate to be able to allow myself two luxuries in life. Well, make that three. A nice home. A really fun sports car and a killer audio system. In many ways, having these things are a payback for all the years I put in long hours, thousands, if not even a million or more miles of business related travel, hotels, bad food (and yes, good food also), downturns in the economy, loosing business, getting new business, and all the many challenges life presents.
Now in my early 60’s, I feel like I can, even should reward myself somewhat for putting up with everything life threw at me. I’m very fortunate to be in a position to purchase these, what, call them “toys,” and take full advantage of what they have to offer.
Most of my close friends pretty much think I’m basically crazy. “What on Earth does Paul need with that car?” Yet each of them loves to ride in it and better still, drive it. Only then do they really get it. They also love to listen to my audio system. They ooh and ah at what they hear. Okay, good and fine. Yet none of them, none of them, really wants a luxury stereo system. The car? Well, maybe.
I also find it sort of interesting high performance audio tends to get a questioning eye from non audiophiles. Those that marvel at the sonics of a great system scorn its purchase. “That’s not for me” they tell you. “Too expensive. Too impractical.”
Personally, I have decided to basically stop worrying about what anyone thinks by my choices of ways to entertain myself. If someone, anyone, thinks an expensive stereo system is a waste of money, that’s perfectly fine. Same goes for sports cars. Most of my friends can afford a sports car and a great stereo. They have decided on different choices. And that is perfectly fine and their business. It will not change our friendships.
In my mind, anyone who believes a high performance audio system is unnecessary has never spent a lot of time listening to one. Those that believe an overly expensive sports car is equally foolish are absolutely entitled to their beliefs. Any hobby is really nothing more than a diversion – a way to make our collective lives more fulfilling.
There is a bottom line that essentially obviates this discussion. And I hope audiophiles everywhere will agree. It’s our money, our hobby, our passion and we’ll do with them exactly as we please. Agree or disagree. Either one is fine with us.