Pop. With the smell of napalm following that noise on an otherwise fine morning, it wasn’t the weasel. It was one of my mono amps. Its flashing blue light indicated a fault condition. Off I powered it, then back on. The blinking persisted. Time to pack up and ship out for repair. What other amp/s did I have that might sound similar to tide me over?
A look through the hifi closet spotted a promising candidate. In it went, then on. Now we hit the Verkacktheit of today’s feature. Similar wasn’t the same. Of course, the word itself doesn’t promise otherwise in the first place. But there’s always hope as that strange contrarious force which clings to the most unlikely possibilities. This time reality bit instead. The sound wasn’t what I wanted it to be, not even for the two weeks until the repaired amp’s return.
There’s the rub. After 20 years on the beat, my preferences had become so hyper-specific that a quite narrow deviation felt unacceptable. When we start our audiophile adventure, the world is our oyster. There are highways and byways to explore, electrostatic speakers, ribbons and planarmagnetics, omnis and dipoles, widebanders and multi-ways and horns, tubes and transistors, class A through H, vinyl, digital, resonance control, power delivery…the works.
Our journey is guided by coincidence. It manifests as what we’re exposed to and have access to. As we play the buy’n’sell game, we begin to cover more bases. With those, we begin to recognize what we like. A writer only recognizes his/her voice by writing for long enough. One day it simply shows up, gets acknowledged then integrated.
Audiophilia is like that. As we sample virtual Thai, Sushi, Italian, French, Indian and Moroccan aural cuisines, we get to grips with the main available flavors. As we develop a favourite, we subsequently discover subtle permutations and refinements within our now focused sonic kitchen. As time goes by and our experiments continue, we could—as I was just reminded of—become so specific about what our ideal/perfect sound is that precious little knocks us off the straight and narrow. Crash.
I would suggest that now is the time to call it quits, the journey at an end, the chase over. I found it actually quite irritating to recognize how bothered I was by the small but to me significant difference the interim amp caused; how it interfered with my relaxing into that familiar space of just right.
It’s a function also of a mature fully dialled system. It’s when all its elements connect just so. It’s like a car freshly back from a major tune-up. It performs as new. That serves as a stark reminder of the interim performance deteriorations we accepted as normal to no longer notice or question them. In a finely balanced system, it takes very little to upset the order of things. Add that a long engagement with any hobby sensitizes us to its particular art. Now personal perfection lives on a razor’s edge.
My favorite amps are discontinued even though their maker continues to support them. But thinking about my reliance on them did have me at hello. I wouldn’t really know what to replace them with if something unforeseen happened like my former contributors Marja & Henk passing away within a week from one another.
What’s the takeaway from my little ramble today? To enjoy the audiophile adventure while our ideal sound hasn’t sharply formed yet, while there are still so very many roads to Rome to travel on. If your journey were to mirror mine—I have no idea whether it does– there will come a time when what works for you is so clearly and narrowly defined that playing around with anything else becomes less and less fun. Now we can’t wait to get back to our very personal very specific recipe. Now we have arrived. It’s time to look for a new game to play; or radically change our taste and start all over again.