Stereophile Sticker Shock

Have you ever got a free airline upgrade to First Class, only to find yourself seated next to world-class billionaires Bill Gates or Larry Ellison? I never have, but I had an eerily similar experience while reading alone at the dinnertable this evening.

You see, I’m now a paid subscriber to Stereophile magazine. I thought it was a good idea at the time.

I used to think I was a stereo enthusiast. I own Klipschorn theater speakers, which I still have down in Phoenix. I owned a Crown (Elkhart, Indiana) amp and preamp, with the lowest THD in the business (in 1980). The Crown had a heat stroke in Phoenix one year, and was designed before 5-channel stereo (e.g. front, rear, center, subwoofer, etc.), so nowadays I just run off a mid-range Denon home entertainment receiver.

I can’t keep up with the new stuff, so thought I’d subscribe to an enthusiast magazine to see what’s new. Reviewed in my first issue:

  • a CD/DVD player that doesn’t support SACD and apparently can’t reproduce a 1 KHz sine wave at 16-bit sampling rate, $6,500
  • a moving-coil phono cartridge, boasting a vintage alnico magnet, $2,850
  • a McIntosh C1000 preamplifier system, a venerable old brand we can trust, $8,000 (tube) or $9,000 (solid state)
  • a “monoblock” power amplifer system. $39,990 the pair
  • full-size dynamic headphones, $450

Gee, do you think the $699 I paid for the Denon was too much? It may be no Crown, but most of the time it sounds really good to me.

The stereo equipment above would sound great in the cabin of the Fairline Squadron 66, an 80,000 pound, 66-foot power yacht that sports twin Caterpillar C30 1,550-hp diesels. It gets 175 gph at full power. Actually, that’s an upgrade from the standard 1,360 diesel inboards, at $3,048,000.

Now, I would also like to fly to Florida for that little stereo listening test. We can pick up a used 1979 Beech King Air for about $1,395,000.00 but I bet we could make an offer.

OK, Larry has a private jet, and he races a 78-foot yacht. Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google have a 767 measured not in feet but meters (48.5), dwarfing Ellison’s Gulfstream V (29.39 meters). When buying the World’s Greatest stereo system, you have to think small somewhere.

Back to reality. If I pass on the Fairline and the twin Beech, I can still buy the stereo if I absolutely sabotage my 401K retirement savings. I’ll make out fine, too, enjoying nothing but the purest of music, at least until the air conditioning craps out, or the car needs new tires, or we run out of shampoo, and and I can’t afford to take care of it.

I’m writing this in My Notes ’cause we don’t have a Stereo department at I’ll tell you what – I don’t think we’re going to have one, either.

I still like my music, but don’t call me a stereophile. Somehow I think that Denon better last me a long time.

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