Hear that music? Me neither. The fact is, since we moved into this rental house in April we have been largely without a decent stereo setup. Yes, we have a little JVC bookshelf unit my wife bought back when Bill Clinton was in the White House, and it’s held up surprisingly well (like Bill). And like most people these days, I get most of my music online and it goes straight to my iPod and into my ears that way. In the car, I have Sirius XM and a few decent college stations on the FM for newer sounds.
But when I first saw this house I was entranced by the built-in speakers in the ceilings of nearly every room; why there were even speakers outside, giving me visions of dancing barefoot while listening to Patti Smith singing “Dancing Barefoot” (and how cool a song is that?). But sadly this was not to be.
While I envisioned simply hooking up my old Harman/Kardon amplifier to whatever wires connected it to the system and kicking out the jams, a visit from a local audio professional proved sobering. I told him upfront we were renting, didn’t know how long we were going to be here, didn’t want to spend too much. Fine, he said; there are a lot of transients in Silicon Valley. The first bit of bad news was that the amp would need to be replaced with a new HDMI tuner. And I would need a new woofer, too, since the old one left with the previous owner in what the Greek chorus of neighbors has described as an acrimonious divorce. (I envision him tearing it out of the wall, and gnashing his teeth as sirens wail.) That put us in the $1,700 range — though the estimate with Sonos amps, antenna and remotes magically climbed north of $6,000.
I get it; six grand is probably about the average price of a watch around here, or a computer, or a watch/computer. And since locals light their clove cigarettes with $100 bills, I must have come off as cheap. But my wife doesn’t seem to mind the absence of a decent stereo at all.
Granted, it was always kind of a guy thing. I can remember dudes in high school arguing woofers and tweeters as pedantically as previous generations of males fought about Ford vs. Chevy while their dates yawned in the corner. And though I’ve known a few women who cared as much about music as I did (where are they now?), most kind of get over it. “Just get some of those little speakers for your stereo,” my wife actually said to me at one point. Which still seem to me like the 21st century equivalent of the Japanese transistor radio (before “Japanese” meant quality).
I was spoiled, having speaker-in-every-room systems before. Maybe we’re a dying breed: Shopping at my local Rasputin Records, I spy my brethren: other gray-haired gents in rock and roll T-shirts, weighing the merits of that Mott the Hoople box set (“You look like a star but you’re still on the dole!”). But are you really gonna go home and listen to that on six-inch speakers, punk?