Well it’s 2010, (I prefer “twenty-ten”, what about you?), I wish you all a happy new years and I’m sure we all hope this year will be a slight better than the 2009. On January 1st at our house, we all got up early to watch the Auburn Tigers win their bowl game. It started at 8:00am PST, way too early for football if you ask me. Anyway, when my 26-year-old son came down I gave him a big, enthusiastic, HAPPY NEW YEARS! I was kind of surprised at his comeback, he said, “well you may think it’s good, but I’m disappointed.” “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s 2010 and I still don’t have a hover board or a transporter.”
That got me to thinking, he was kind of right, it’s nine years after 2001 and we still have nothing like the stuff we saw in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was 14 in 1968 and living in Texas. That year I went to see Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic and I went to the “HemisFair”, the world fair that was held in San Antonio. In both I saw what the future was going to look like and to be honest, it was a lot like the cartoon show, The Jetsons. At the HemisFair, they showed us fake transporters and said we would all be using real ones by the year 2000. So maybe my son is right; what the heck happened to our hover boards, and transporters.
I begin to think about all the things we’ve been promised in audio since I was 14. The first thing that came to mind was “Quadraphonic Sound”. Do you remember SQ LPs? Stereo Quadraphonic was a matrix four-channel system for vinyl. It was introduced by CBS in 1972. Along the same line we now have surround sound which seems to work well for movies, though I must confess I use a good two-channel system for movies and TV. I can’t say that surround sound for music is a bust, but I hear less and less about serious audiophiles listening to it.
Another thing I remember being promised several times over the last 30 years was a LP playing system that uses a laser instead of a diamond stylus. Several of these have come and gone, but none even came close to sounding like a high-end phono cartridge.
Then there is the matter of size. I remember in 1973 when I purchased my first pair of used Quad 57s. I also purchase the little Quad 33 control unit and the 303 power amplifier, as well as the little FM tuner. All three of these together were not as big or heavy as a couple of phono preamps I have had in for review lately. A long time audiophile came over to hear this system back in ’73. He was blown away and just couldn’t believe how small the electronics were. Well, we certainly have some nice sounding small amps and preamps, but none of them, at least in my estimation, can give you the sound of a good class A valve amp, but they are a lot smaller.
Then there was the biggest promise of all, “Perfect Sound Forever.” I tried digital, I really did, I tried tube DACs, oversampling DACs, non-oversampling DACs, and SACD. Some of it’s very good, but after years of trying I’m back to listening to vinyl about 95% of the time. I could go on and on listing things that were promised, but didn’t pan out, so instead I want to conclude with a list of five things I wish someone could come through with.
1. A universal remote-controlled tonearm lift
2. A world class tube phono stage that:
– Didn’t need a separate line stage
– Didn’t need two or three chassis that weighed 40 or 50 pounds each
– That had at least three different gain settings
– That could variably load cartridges without having to take the top off
3. A wireless system to replace speaker cables and interconnects that sounds as good as the best cable. Come on, this couldn’t cost as much as some high-end cables.
4. Digital radio that sounded as good as FM, how much is that really asking for. I live where it is almost impossible to pick up FM, but I just can’t listen to anything but sports on the current digital radio systems.
5. A great listening chair:
– Easily adjustable height
– Great support without coming up behind your ears
– Options on style and fabrics, or leathers
– An optional ottoman
Well, it would make this ole’ beatnik happy if, by next Christmas, just one of these is available for someone, even me, to put it under the tree for me.
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