Written by 5:00 am Audiophile, Audiophile News

Have You Ever Experienced Audio System Withdrawal?

Paul Wilson looks at audio system withdrawal…

Depending on the context, withdrawal ranges in meaning from removal of something, to trying to kick a drug habit, to emotional detachment. Needless to say, the addiction meaning is quite serious. “Withdrawing” from the dining room to the great room is much less ominous. Like so many words in our vocabulary, different meanings are denoted based on how the word is used – whether written or in speech. 

I was talking with an audiophile friend recently who was telling me his tubed preamp developed some problems which necessitated return for repair. This is, of course, the irritating side of the audiophile hobby. Regardless how much any component may cost, irrespective of superior excellence in the component’s design and manufacture, regardless of how glorious it may sound, sometimes things break. There are times, for some unknown, inexplicable reason, something just stops working. When it happens, our level of frustration grows exponentially. 

We have all experienced this in some form or fashion. Maybe the software for the music server abruptly started acting crazy. Maybe the streaming device suddenly became unable to connect to the Wi-Fi network. Maybe the speakers precipitously, and without any easily definable reason, started making some weird noise. Worst of all, the system was absolutely perfect and sounded magnificent just minutes before. Now, “poof,” some idiotic problem. 

We all must succumb to the irascible tendencies our systems have to malfunction without warning and at the worst of all possible times. When these problems do occur, and if we are unable to get things back on track, and if we have exhausted everything we know to make things right, it becomes a sad and unenviable realization we must do the most dreaded and despised thing of all – send the component back to be repaired. 

This was the position in which my friend found himself on the day we spoke. He summarized things pretty much this way – “I had to send my preamp back to be repaired. I hated to do so but I had no choice. I’ve been without music for several weeks now. And I’m going through system withdrawal.” 

There it is. Withdrawal. In audiophile parlance it means not being able to listen to your audio system. Why and how is basically irrelevant. About the only factor that matters at all is when – when will my system be back up and running? I want to listen to music!

Withdrawal is borne by not only system malfunction but also absence – the inability to actually get into the audio room and play a song. My last trip to Europe lasted just over two weeks and during the return flight, I honestly did not think the plane would ever arrive in the US so I could go home. Such was the anxiety brewing in me over the Atlantic Ocean and my desire to sit in my listening chair, dim the lights, close my eyes and become enraptured by music. 

However we are separated from our audio systems with the resultant condition being no music, we tend to develop a certain sense of withdrawal, do we not? That feeling of anxiety and longing for our trusted friend. System enjoyment comes in different forms. For some of us, the satisfaction of singing along with our favorite song. For others, attempting to rectify that gnawing feeling the speakers are only a “few millimeters” from their ideal position. It doesn’t really matter exactly how we enjoy our systems, only that we can on our own terms – not a time frame imbued upon us by some unseen, unknown entity. 

I know this firsthand as in November of 2019 my amp went into overload protection and refused to reset itself. I first turned it off, waited a few seconds and turned it back on. That didn’t work. I unplugged it from the AC power and plugged it back in. Nope. And in what I was quite certain would fix the problem for sure, I began screaming and cursing at it – which also failed – imagine that. It took a full three months for the amp to be sent to the California service center, wait for circuit boards to be manufactured, installed, tested, and the amp returned. I nearly went crazy. Because nothing I did was an acceptable substitute for my main system. 

That is also a problem, right? The stupid thing breaks, we have to send something back for repair, and any and all “plan B” endeavors to play music basically fall woefully short. Because at the end of the day, plan B orchestrations simply do not rise to the compatible level of enjoyment of the main system. 

Eventually, my friend got his preamp back and once again resumed listening to music. Eventually, I got my amp back and the three months my audio room was dark and silent slipped from memory. Getting to the other side of audio withdrawal eventually happens. We get over it because the whatever got fixed, got returned and now operates normally. And musical bliss occurs once again. 

But as any of us who have been through this knows only too well – being without your beloved system, in and of itself, is the audio way to experience withdrawal. 

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