Expensive Hifi (2006)

Why is it that with hundreds of pounds worth of hifi that Ive amassed over the years, I spend most of my time at home, listening to music on the cheap (but not too nasty) micro system we inherited from Lees mum? Because its in the kitchen of course. I was told many moons ago at a party the best vibes are in the kitchen and at our house, its undoubtedly true.

You dont want anything too expensive when its going to get covered in grease eventually and what with the inevitable spills of orange juice or stray marmitey fingers on it at some point, youd be mad to splash out on a fancy system for the kitchen. Jammy Smears is my favourite Ivor Cutler LP but I dont want them on my Denon amp or my beechwood Mission speakers!

Which brings me to an article I read in the Guardian recently about special power supply cables for your hifi to make it sound better. The article suggests its a nonsensical idea and I must agree that I could never get to grips with this one, even in the days when I was single and relatively loaded, when I would look seriously into all aspects of hifi before buying.

Quality speaker cable has always been a must – my present ones are from a hifi buff colleague who claims theyre platinum and from a fighter aircraft (cheers Andy). Speaker and hifi stands that have spikes on the bottom to isolate vibrations that improves sound I could understand and invested in (although the parquet flooring now means we are a spikeless home).

But power cables..I remember seeing David Baddiel talking about how hed bought into the idea (I think it was on Room 101) and has subsequently felt foolish.

When I was 13 I got a mono portable Radio/Tape recorder. It meant I could tape Peel shows in the evening after Id gone to bed (only 45 minutes worth as the technology for recording both sides of a C90 was way out of reach). It was my pride and joy and I still posses some of those tapes I made on it. I remember taking it along to a birthday party in the local church so the kids could play pass the parcel. I turned it up full blast thinking it would fill the place & all you could hear was a distorted wail. Lesson if you have a big room, you need a big sound system, unless youre Jonathan Richman who Ive seen perform to big venues with the tiniest of amps and even then sing most of his songs off mike.

Unfortunately Ive never lived anywhere big enough thats warranted a huge stereo but that hasnt stopped me from spending cash on hifi that would fill it if needed! My first proper system was thanks to my cousin Johnny. He was about to get married to Trish and realising that this may be his last opportunity, he sold me his excellent Rotel amp + Wharfedale speakers and bought an even better ones.

That was around 1986-87 and I had recently moved to London village to start my first ever job, working for Bloomsbury Health Authority. Tottenham Court Road was in my patch and with the spare cash I had (ie that not spent on gigs and booze) I trawled the hifi shops to put together a top quality system. A Revolver turntable (£250.00 a beautiful thing) A Yamaha double tape deck (£150.00 – you could record both sides of both tapes one after another.amazing) and a Sony receiver (£80.00 – cos it was cheap in the sales).

When CDs came in a few years later, I was determined not to buy into them, until I borrowed my cousin Diggers one time when he was in Jamaica on holiday and then I just HAD to have one myself bought an ex demo Onkyo that was in the sales for only £250.00.

This system was my pride and joy until I moved to Leeds in 1995. I was burgled (well I was living in Harehills) and the whole lot went, along with most of my (rather large collection of) CDs. The insurance people did me proud & I took my money to Richer sounds and got another great system, this time with a Digital Audio Converter (DAC) that makes your CD player sound better honest!…but it never really felt like mine anymore, and they no longer made Revolver turntables.

When that got burgled too (I no longer live in Harehills) the insurance company replaced everything with of like quality and I had no say in the matter*. Its the system I have today and whilst at first I thought the sound was too clinical, it does the job.

Elderly neighbours and small siblings means I rarely let the system rip these days (do your kids tell you to turn the music down too?) so having clean electricity into the system to make the sound that much better doesnt really enter the equation.

Bob the Chiropodist

*They replaced the DAC with a DAT (Digital Audio Tape recorder) which I still have, unused. If anyone wants to buy one..

PS hours after writing this I opened an email from Dr Peacock whos just got a sonos system.

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