Written by 6:55 am Audiophile

Building Her System

Paul Wilson looks at the process of putting in a new audio system when it’s not just one person’s living room…

Ar-her sys1.jpgBuilding an audio system is a process that requires a lot of research, patience, decision-making and compromise. Perhaps no greater source of compromise comes from that of an audiophile’s wife or significant other.

First you tell her you want to build an audio system. While she is watching a movie you are huddled over the computer absorbed in audio web sites. Then you tell her you are going to an audio show. For that, you will take Friday off from work, spend money on a plane ticket, rental car, hotel room and meals and will be back Sunday afternoon.  She smiles, kisses you on the cheek, and tells you to have a good time.

One of the first pieces of new gear to arrive is the rack. It’s the foundation of the system – a building block for pure music reproduction. You see a sonic marvel, but she sees a chrome, glass, or wood shelved monolithic monstrosity. When she tells you it has no redeeming aesthetic or artistic expressiveness you tell her it is the pinnacle of vibration control. Okay, go with that.

Ar-hersys3.jpgPerhaps even more visible than a rack are speakers. Sixty inches tall and “what are these spike things?” she asks. Speakers are certainly the one component that sticks out in a room. She cannot seem to understand why you would spend the better part of an entire day putting tape all over the floor and keep jumping up off of the couch to move each speaker a millimeter or two at a time. You assure her that all your efforts will deliver the most convincing soundstage she has ever heard. When she asks what on Earth is a soundstage you just shake your head and go back to speaker measurements…

Next come the components themselves. She is completely baffled when she notices these two big metal boxes sitting on the floor on some weird looking short wooden platforms. She also cannot seem to understand why you have so many boxes. “What exactly does all this stuff do?” she asks. When you try to explain that separate components lead to a more realistic musical experience she rolls her eyes and leaves the room.

Now comes the room. More specifically the room’s treatments. When you start removing framed artwork from the walls and instead hang wooden or cloth panels she is completely taken aback. “And what are these fabric covered things in the corners?” “Bass traps” you explain. Now the protesting begins. This may take a while.

AR-hersys4.jpgThe next development is the “rat’s nest” (her words) of wires that are visible behind the stereo. Why you cannot hide them more completely is lost to her. You dare not tell her that these “wires” cost and that you want the shortest cables from one component to the other because of it. Hence, the rat’s nest.

If after all is said and done you are not sleeping on the very couch you sat on to set up the speakers, you now can confidently listen to your system. Now is the time that you can finally repay your wife for putting up with your madness. Payback comes in the form of glorious music. Listening to “your song,” the one that defines you both, the one that holds such a special meaning, in a way that neither of you has ever heard before. After that magic song finishes you turn to her and ask, “So, what do you think?” She replies that it sounds “nice.” Nice?  That’s all you’ve got?

W. A. F.

All audiophiles with a significant other understand “wife-acceptance-factor.” That indefinable variable that plays so crucial a role in what components are used in a system and how much that system costs. That we owe our wives or special someone a debt of gratitude for allowing us to fuel our driven passion is obvious. Hopefully, sooner or later, she will walk in on a listening session and tell you that “it now has more bass extension and the highs are not rolled off nearly as much as before.”

And my audiophile friends, that is audio nirvana.




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