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The “listening session.” Sounds harm less enough. Young children are told to “listen to their elders.”
Coaches instruct athletes to “listen up.” Listening is a passive sort of thing, isn’t it?
Wrong! A listening session requires the physical abilities of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the technological vision of Bill Gates, the knowledge of physics and mathematics of Stephen Hawking, and the whining capacity of Jerry Seinfeld.
After years of watching my audiophile “listen,” I think I’ve got a clear picture of what’s involved. First, you’ve got to get the right conditions:
Weather: My audiophile explains that 20 humidity is key. Futures traders have a meteorologist on staff to predict crop conditions, helping traders deter mine whether to buy or sell. Why should audiophiles settle for less? A 900 number staffed by an audio meteorologist could clue you into good listening days.
Late night is better: The electricity is cleaner. There are fewer spikes, fewer TVs and computers on the AC distribution network, and the neighbors just love hearing the Batman soundtrack at 3am. A new moon is optimal. A total lunar eclipse will also work. And don’t dare turn any lights on.
What if conditions are not right? Should you reschedule your listening session?
Never! This is where some good whining comes into play. Next, check out the room conditions.
Room treatments: Are all the Room-Tunes securely fastened? It doesn’t matter audiophiles feel compelled to move each one just a little bit. And those marks from the adhesive fasteners make such nice designs on the walls. Wow, doesn’t that mark look just like the Altis transport? Cool.
Time for the Shun Mook placement check. For some reason the disks always seem to move. Could it be I keep stepping on them because they stick out three feet from the speaker and are the same color as our carpeting? May I recommend little flashing beacon lights on the tops of the disks? 1-1mm, the XLO color scheme (bright purple, green, and brown) is beginning to finally make sense to me.
That looks good. On to checking the equipment.
Speaker placement: The average time required to find the appropriate placement for speakers is six months. Which roughly coincides with the amount of time an audiophile will own any piece of equipment.
Tubes: Testing your tubes before the session takes time, but ensures that all tubes are ready for action. To test or not to test, that is the question. Silly, did you forget about the whining? Forget the testing! Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pull out the silver polish and clean every one of the tube pins. And don’t forget the connectors.
The system now sounds perfect. The obvious thing to do is to change something.
Record and CD cleaning: The first time I heard my audiophile cleaning records, I thought he was vacuuming the living room. (I was young and delusional.) Considering that audiophiles only listen to one minute of each record or CD and the average listening session is two days long, the number of albums required is . . . well, see, what did I tell you? You need the brain power of Hawking here.
Almost ready to go. Quick, look out the window to check that the sun hasn’t risen. Nope? Great. Still time to get in some good listening. My audiophile puts on the first record. Ohh no — got to adjust the VTA. Now the azimuth. Is the turntable bouncing properly?
Finally, in the still of the night, the sound is perfect. But “If perfect sound emanates from your system and no audiobuddies are there to hear it, does it really sound good?” Of course not. My audiophile rings up all his audiobuddies, who converge on our apartment armed with their latest purchases. Since the system now sounds perfect, the obvious thing to do is to change something. And hey, why wait for your audiobuddies to arrive? Just a few more tweaks could make the system even more perfect!
Oops. Snapped the cartridge cantilever. Oh no. Go to the back-up.
The audiobuddies arrive. Here’s where the strength part comes into play. Your amp comes out. An audiobuddy’s amp goes in. Everyone squeezes on the couch. Now for the hard-core whining:
“Does it sound like one of the output tubes is dying?”
“No wonder it sounded so great! Systems always sound the best just before the output tubes die.”
“Oh, no, just when everything was perfect!”
“Ohh, I hate that.”
Everything immediately sounds bad. Well, not “bad.” Worse than bad. Comparisons are made to Avery Fisher Hall and CDs. But does the listening session come to an end?
Never! Change the cables. Change the interconnects. Hmm, forgot to factor this into the calculation on how many records to clean. Although the listening sessions last two days, only one hour is actually spent listening. Didn’t really need to clean all those records.
Food: Audiophiles need food to achieve listening nirvana. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. First you gotta locate the take-out menus, buried somewhere among the piles of, Audio (magazine), Stereophiles, manuals, and manufacturers’ information. My audiophile finds the menu, orders, and the food arrives. Everyone successfully steps over the assorted equipment, cables, bricks, Tiptoes, and Shun Mook disks.
Then, the real challenge: eating. Because coffee tables and TV trays would interfere with the sound, audiophiles must juggle food and drink while still holding on to the transport and line-stage remote controls, tools, and some duct tape. (The need for duct tape is not obvious now, but you never know...)
How many audiobuddies are really needed for the perfect listening session? If you consider Carnegie the perfect listening experience, I would guess a couple thousand. Of course, our apartment is slightly more limited. But the more audiobuddies, the better. The only real rule is not to listen alone. If an audiobuddy is not available, wives love being dragged ftnm their warm beds in the middle of the night to participate in a listening session. Don’t they?
Just in case, maybe there should be rubber blowup audiobuddies...
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