700 words — 4 minutes read

AV fetishism

Did I mention that I have fetishes? Keyboards, some that I’m not going to talk about on this blog ;-) and then AV.

Last weekend, my friend Michael and I went to to visit the AdVanced04 high-end exihibition that displays the best in Audio and Video high-end. Visiting feels a lot like visiting a toy store when I was a kid. Lot’s of cool toys, and most of them priced way outside anything I’d ever be able to afford. While things have changed, and I can afford most of the toys in a regular toy store (but my son can’t - something that causes enormous grief every time we visit), I won’t be able to afford 90% of the devices for audio and video reproduction we’ve seen. At least not in this life.

Still, we like to go there every year, to oogle at the things on display, getting immersed in sound and pictures and dream a bit of having something like the stuff on display at home. And there are many things to behold: I always like to look at the record players. You know the kind that plays those black vinyl discs. If you’re into high-end, be prepared to pay well above $10’000 to get a serious one. One that weighs at least 50 kg. that contains not one, but three electric motors. Where the discs is vacuum sucked to an assembly that could double as wheel on a truck. Listening to these beast makes me wonder why people bother though. The familiar clicking, hissing and scratching that has plagued us in our childhood is still present.

No, give me digital please. A CD player for $6’000. A de-magnetizer for CD’s. And signal processors, pre-amps, amps, speakers that cost more than the budget of a small country.

Seriously: I have had my epiphany regarding sound in a company I worked in a couple of years ago. My boss was into high-end and dreamt of manufacturing high-end speakers. And he did. There was a lot of secrecy involved back in the days when they were built. We would see strange shaped things being loaded and unloaded. Then one day, I was invited to my bosses office where two of the speakers were hooked up to a Krell amplifier and some good CD player.

I remember how I sat in front of the gear and played a couple of my disks. I don’t remember how long I sat there. But I remember how unbelievable good it sounded. At that point in time I was a convert. I know that there is a quality difference The very speakers I listened to that day now are in my living room. They have survived my kids probing fingers. They still sound great. I have a lot of CD’s that I don’t play anymore because they sound lousy. I can hear the difference between my old Onkyo amp and the newer Yamaha surround amp. I lust after better sound.

But there are limits to what I’m willing to do to get it. I won’t be buying cables that cost more than my complete home electronic setup and have them lie on special audio-cable-carriers. I won’t be freezing, painting or de-magnetizing my CDs. Heck - I have ripped most of them to MP3 anyway - and I made sure, that I (and selected test persons) couldn’t tell the difference when played on my speakers. I won’t be buying a CD player for $10’000. I won’t be putting Audio Resonators made of instrument wood and little resonating bowls of metal (you pick the metal, you pay the price: silver: €300, platinum €1’600) around my living room.

But I have seen that there is stuff for me: I am willing to pay $2000 for a good amp. $1200 for a good CD/DVD player. I know that I won’t be the high-ender, but I know that I will get good value for my money. And that the music I listen to will sound better than now. So the japanese will get my money: there are companies like Onkyo and Denon that make high-qualitiy gear for very sensible prices. No snobism for me - well maybe just a little…

Jens-Christian Fischer

Maker. Musician