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the finer things in life

I've always admired people who appreciate the finer things in life; the ones who know the difference between the everyday and the exquisite.


These people have developed a lifestyle. They have finely honed sense of good taste, and it shows in everything they do and everything they own. They satisfy their sense of sight with beautiful things; designer clothing, fine art, and great architecture. They satiate the senses of taste and smell with fine food and drink. They upholster their furniture with quality fabrics and carpet their floors with the finest wool to titillate their sense of touch. They appreciate quality and think nothing of spending the money to get it.

Sadly, they often overlook the fifth sense. They settle down on their one-of-kind designer couch with a glass of cognac and a Cuban cigar, dim the lights in the penthouse apartment overlooking the water, and turn on the $100 home theatre system they bought from some big box store to listen to some music.

What's wrong with this picture?

People who happily shell out a hundred thousand dollars for automobile, tens of thousands of dollars for a vacation, or hundreds of dollars for a bottle of fine wine, will, for some bizarre reason, settle for sub-standard audio quality.

There may be a number of reasons for this. However, the most likely reason is a lack of knowledge.

There is a plethora of magazines, websites and television shows that tell you all about cars, clothing, interior design, cigars and fine liquors. Unfortunately, the last ten years has seen a generation decline in the number of resources addressing truly high-end audio. Few magazines have survived the heyday of the 70's and 80's. I don't know if there are TV shows that address the subject in any way.

Designers and (sadly) many architects are clearly blissfully unaware of the subject. They want in-ceiling speakers so as not to detract from the appearance of the room. They will stuff the speakers in a corner behind a couch, or place them in a bookshelf. At no point did their education address the concepts if acoustics. To them, music is something you have on in the background of your life, not something you sit down and actually listen to.

Obviously, if you are reading this article, you are not one of the educated =. You have already discovered a guide to the pinnacle of audio delights. Now the only question is, how much are you willing to invest in this quest for aural gratification?

Due to the power of inflation we have seen a steady decline in what a dollar will buy us. Recent statistics indicate what you could purchase with $20 in 1980 will now (2006) require $50, or 2.5 times as much. We accept this increase cost on most areas of our lives. We know that a fine automobile or truly great dining experience is going to cost more than it did 25 years ago. However, this logic seems to fly out the window when it comes to high-end audio.



Perhaps this is due to the fact that audio products at the other end of the spectrum (pedestrian consumer audio) have actually decreased in price over the last ten years or so. This is primarily due to the employment of cheap overseas labour and "cookie-cutter" electronics. These products use inexpensive mass-market parts that were designed with nothing but a price point in mind. They may have apparently good specifications on paper, but one listen will quickly reveal that they sound like what they are…cheap!
Brash high frequencies complete with boomy, one note bass, and smeared midrange.
The sound is truly horrible, yet the average consumer has come to hear this as "acceptable".

High-end audio comes at a dear price because it takes a lot of research and development to produce products of outstanding calibre. It's the same as a top-of-the-line car or perfectly crafted bottle of wine. Time and experience combine with the finest "ingredients' available to produce a product that transcends the everyday experience.

The reason I keep referring to the price of an automobile is because I think that the investment in your car should be comparable to the investment in your audio system. The car, after all, is merely a tool to get you from point "A" to point "B".

A high-end audio system will do so much more for you than a mere conveyance will ever do. Quality music reproduced by a quality system transports you beyond the realities of day to day drudgery. It soothes your soul and invigorates you in a way that nothing else can hope to do. Great sound recharges your psychic battery. It lifts you up and takes you away to your own personal state of Nirvana. No matter what you spend on the other epicurean pursuits, they will never conjure up the same kind of inner peace and tranquility as well played music, reproduced on an intelligently assembled audio system.

So please, I beg of you, put your priorities in the proper order. Place aural pleasure at the top of the list, where it belongs. It is the foundation upon which all your other pleasures should rest. The wine will taste better, the leather will feel more supple, the surroundings will appear more elegant…everything will be enhanced in the presence of the best sound reproduction equipment money can buy.

So put down that glass of Bordeaux, get your butt off that fine Italian leather chair, go out and od some research, and then purchase some truly exceptional high-end equipment. Make you life a better one through high quality audio. The rewards are priceless.

Originally published in the Inner Ear Report 2006


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