Friday, March 27, 2009

Civilization and Its Discontents

[Is this too much to ask?]
As I mentioned, I have gone through something of an epiphany with my new-old (like the Altneushcul in Prague, the Altneuland b'erertz Yisroel) magneplanar speakers. According to legend, I now must go in search of a subwoofer. Presumably flat membrane speakers do not woof as well as cone speakers.

An epiphany being one of those things more important than money, one takes it off-budget, like congress and wars, I have been shopping for a good subwoofer. "Good" is not an empty phrase here. To get lots of loud sloppy bass output, one designs and sells speakers with ports, bass reflex subwoofers. They are just what on needs for rock and rap music. They are apparently cheap to make and sold to mass audiences. In spite of my sneering, they make perfect sense. For head-banger music the loudness and bassiness are legitmately what is wanted. Ported /bass reflex speakers are also far more efficient speakers than sealed/acoustic suspension speakers. Which is code for "they are louder for a given amount of receiver power'. Again, if one wants loud they are exactly what one wants. Also they can be used with a less-expensive stereo.

On the other hand if one wants to be able to hear each mallet blow on the tympani head rather than just a smeared rumble of low-frequency noise, one wants an acoustic suspension speaker. The trade-off for accurately reproduced low-frequency sounds is that they won't play as loud for a given amount of power. One solution is to make them with G_dawful amounts of power to compensate and have it both ways. It is not uncommon for these things to come with 1000 watt or 1500 watt amplifiers built in. (typical home stereo has 75 to 100 watts).

It goes without saying doesn't it, that sealed box /acoustic suspension subwoofers are far more expensive than ported / bass reflex ones.

Back on Craigslist, I find the perfect thing. Modestly powered, sealed enclosure, respected audiophile brand, reasonable price. I arrange to see the thing. The address was in Oakland.

As I drove through Oakland the neighborhood was getting grimmer. I am supposed to pretend here that I didn't notice that every single person I saw was black. There were groups of people hanging in front of liquor stores on a Thursday. None of them looked presidential. 25th Street itself was a row of old houses, every single one with an armored door.

There were two problems. If I got out of the car I was all but certain to get robbed of the cash in my pocket and be glad nothing worse had happened. Or I might get robbed and something worse also happen.

The other problem was that it isn't bloody likely that anyone on 25th Street acquires audiophile gear in a manner that involves a receipt. So I decided the speakers I currently have woof just fine and went home.

So to hear tympani, I have to nerd-ify my way through the commercial hype of the sellers and their pimp reviewers, sort out the technology, and contrive to find the money in an economy that has stopped rewarding elderly people who produce nothing but still want to consume. And now it also seems that I have to solve, or at least recognize, social problems and avoid them. For me, a social problem is either avoiding making a fool of myself in company, or somebody else's problem.

Along the same lines, I have had to repeatedly resist good prices for new goods. If they are new, what are they doing in somebody's apartment? As they saying is, if it looks too good to be true, it is. I assume these 'bargains' are either stolen or refurbished.

I just want to get subwoofed. Why does this have to be so hard?

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