Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

To Hans Wetzel,

I’m e-mailing you to let you know that I find your articles and equipment reviews really enjoyable, and quite refreshingly honest, as well. Your complete lack of pretense, artifice, and common, unrehearsed honesty that comes across in your writing is unique and just a kick to read.

Your latest article prompted this e-mail; not sure why except that it struck a chord like many others. A lot of other reviewers take pains to always be reminding us that “. . . of course, it’s really all about the MUSIC,” and then continue to go on about some $20k speakers, or preamp, or whatever. And I’m thinking, “and just how many CDs (or downloads, or whatever) and concert tickets could I buy for 20k?”

At the moment, my system has evolved (and simplified) over about 30 years to a Bryston integrated amp, MartinLogan Vantage electrostatic speakers, two HSU subs, an Oppo BDP-105, and a Magnum Dynalab Etude FM tuner -- I’m lucky enough to have two good classical FM stations nearby. I also listen to ‘80s/’90s rock as well as deep-space electronic ambient, and organ music, as well -- my wife is a church organist. So, not a cheap-crap system by any means, but, relatively speaking, fairly modest. I make my own interconnects and speaker cables from decent wire and connectors, mostly because it’s easy and fun. At one point I had about a dozen boxes in my system -- separate everything. I simplified as I upgraded over the last seven years or so.

It is of course a truism that very, very few people appreciate spending even this kind of money on a stereo audio system. So your point is hardly new. It is just as much a truism that very few people appreciate any obsessive, niche hobby. It doesn’t make us particularly elite, or discerning, just a little weird. But I’m okay with that.

A friend of mine at work thinks I’m insane, and teases me about it. However, he’s taken up flying private planes as a hobby, owns his own plane, and has spent more in five years than I’ve spent on audio in my life. He is just crazy about it, so, money well spent. I don’t begrudge buyers of $250k+ audio systems -- they're fun, and I do like reading about really expensive equipment.

One closing observation: we read a lot of hand-wringing about two-channel enthusiast-audio dying, dealers closing, etc. So how to explain the mind-boggling variety of equipment available, at all price points? Compared to 30 years ago, when I started, the number of choices is just incredible. Not just that, but real improvements have been made in power amps and speakers, not to mention high-resolution digital audio. DSD is really appealing, except that the selection is so limited now. Handy that the Oppo has a flash update to support DSD.

So, thanks for all the good writing and interesting ideas, and I expect you’ll keep at it.

Best regards,
Doug Burkett

Thanks for the kind words, Doug. I plan on writing as long as readers are able to stomach my monthly efforts. I only hope to contribute to the discussion on this audio hobby of ours beyond the banal “be sure to audition this product” or, as you suggest, “it’s all about the music.” There’s a lot of worthy conversation to be had about equipment, formats, cost, and even forays into psychology/philosophy, as I’ll touch on in my May 1 editorial. I imagine that it will resonate with many readers, if not all, to one degree or another.

As for your “deep-space electronic ambient” music, color me curious. About one third of my music collection is comprised of electronic music, so it’s nice to hear that others dabble in the abstract and esoteric! . . . Hans Wetzel