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She Who Must Be Obeyed

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(With apologies to the creators of Rumpole of the Bailey, the old BBC TV series about the feisty but aging barrister who feared nothing – except his wife, Hilda, often referred to by Horace Rumpole as "she who must be obeyed…")



Jim Smith (whose Get Better Sound is making more sense to me all the time) speaks of the need to take WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) into account.


UPDATE: I just discovered Chris' great post and must-read comment thread at http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Get-Better-Sound-Without-Spending-Fortune.


We abruptly, or it seemed so, became empty-nesters this fall when my son transferred to our state's institute of technology to continue his software engineering coursework, while my daughter started at a small (but shockingly expensive) private college to take up English and languages and creative writing and playing her clarinet and alto sax in the concert band, and maybe the jazz band.


I mostly sat around in a dazed state, but my wife immediately proceeded to go way beyond a mere rearranging of furniture, starting to reconfigure the entirety of Chez Curmudgeon, inside and out. Mostly downsizing, gathering vast quantities of Stuff in anticipation of trips to local charities or the dump. Each day as I returned home from work, I would find something new and unfamiliar presenting itself. One of the changes underway had to do with my listening area and those vintage (admittedly inappropriate to that space) Polk Audio towers that required two strong people to budge them. The upshot was a "compromise" whereby my "toys" were consigned to the raw basement next to my tiny home office and my array of servers and a photography work area. Nice acoustic environment – a furnace that could crank up without warning, laundry facilities at one end, gurgling plumbing overhead, and so on. And the rest of the house became her domain, where she carved out her yoga studio, two utterly charming library/reading spaces with respective window light and skylight, a TV viewing area and a kitchen extension on the main floor, while transforming the second floor kids' ex-bedrooms into guest spaces.


Having learned years ago to pick your battles and not go to war at the drop of a hat, I engaged her help and suggestions in arranging the basement. As luck would have it, her newish Windows 7 laptop had to be returned for some warranty work, and in its absence, I dusted off an old XP desktop and equipped it with Skype and some of her favorite software for her interim use, plopping it on my photo work table. Then I started poking around in my old vinyl LP collection, and she joined me in exploring a few hundred vintage LPs that recently came into my possession (another story for another post).


(Somewhat surreptitiously – wives take notice of big new standalone machines, but little devices that you install inside existing computers can come in under the radar – I had bolted up my circa 1974 turntable via a USB phone preamp and installed an ASUS Sonar Essence PCIx card in my home office Windows 7 "work" machine – and had been listening all along to some of the vinyl through headphones while coding or dealing with financial transactions or prepping some Photoshop images. More about this, too, later.)


So I invited her to listen with me to some of the old courtship-era vinyl, like Brian Eno's Music for Airports or The Specials or Madness or Talking Head's Fear of Music or Mozart and Puccini opera, and she was taken back in time. Sure enough, my dearest soon suggested that we did indeed need to refashion the ex-listening area into something that we could both enjoy, perhaps even resurrecting the vintage vinyl.


That breakthrough has led to this present moment, where we find ourselves, mostly harmoniously, getting a basic scenario together in a fairly small space upstairs where some modest equipment – a new entry-level NAD, a new set of PSBs, a repurposed iMac , that 30-something-years-old turntable and a few odds and ends -- can live. For the time being, I threw an old total bottom-feeder $30 WalMart Philips DVD/CD player into the mix. And at one point my wife literally stopped in her tracks, wondering if something she was hearing was new (it wasn't) because she had never heard it sound so good. And this was before I even got the speakers off the floor.


Mission accomplished; more to follow.

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