Friday, August 23, 2013
Toward Freedom XIX
In the wide range of stereo equipment prices, what I just spent for a set of speakers, an amplifier and cables is toward the low end in absolute terms. Compared to the average paid by most music consumers, however, I went about 5 standard deviations over the top.
The project has been running at least since 1970, when I discovered Boulder's Howard Sound shop. Maybe the idea originated when I put a small transistor radio inside a wooden box and noticed that it now sounded better.
Any time I moved, the first thing to be assembled was the stereo. Until about 1980 my goal was perfection in the sound but I realized that no stereo system would reproduce music as it is live so I just wanted good enough.
Notice there's not too much mention of music so far. I sort of lost sight of the music amidst the equipment. I started correcting this in 1985, after I bought my first CD player. At first I used it with headphones. In 1988 I bypassed the whole speaker search process by buying, sound unheard, "good enough" speakers from Cambridge Soundworks. The money I saved in buying a demo amp and the mail-order speakers went to Tower Records, Wherehouse and various used-CD stores.
The next revolution took root in about 2002, when I discovered that my computer could copy CD tracks and play them back. In 2005 I bought a silent PC and started copying whole CDs. It sounded even better when connected to a separate digital-to-analog converter and a good set of headphones.
There are times when headphones don't work very well. At the back of my mind I kept thinking about speakers. I looked around in a rather desultory fashion, really hoping for another Cambridge Soundworks. The search was complicated by no longer having a good amplifier. I'd have to buy both. Speakers with built-in amps seemed a better choice until I actually went out and listened to some.
I ended up walking into a local high-end stereo dealer. I expected the visit to be brief due to prices but the proprietor showed me some speakers that easily fit my budget.
How much does good sound cost? As much as you care to spend; for me, the key point is to find equipment at the point where the cost and quality balance. If spending $X gets you 90% of what you want, it'll probably take $2X to get 95%. How good are your ears and your training? I'd learned a lot in all those years of listening to music systems.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been
crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now
live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained
through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21, NIV)
And yet, I describe myself as a Christian, a follower of Jesus. How does expensive stereo equipment fit into his plans? I've been inculcated with a set of expectations for Christian behavior. Call them laws. We know what Jesus thought about misapplied laws but that doesn't stop people from handing them down the generations.
I lay in bed one night and the phrase "Not I, but Christ" came to mind. It's often repeated and written about. I'd never heard of anyone asking God what he thought about this, so I did. Then and there. His answer was very gracious.
Not for the first time, but I forget easily. Well, not so much forget as allow the voice of judgment to override God's voice. God's answer in this case was to continue as I have been, following his voice and scent rather than the laws, no matter what. Jesus has always led me in a direction that makes life better, yet I still obstruct him. He asks that I not obstruct. The equipment will be delivered in about three weeks. All is grace.
2013 August 23