Random Noise 14

                 

’Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house….

It must be that time of year again. The Tourneau catalog, with its fifty-odd pages of crazy-expensive watches, arrived. I’m pretty sure I made the mailing list because of the watch I sent to Tourneau’s repair department a few years ago. They did a lousy job and charged too much. But the catalog’s a treat. Great layouts, glossy stock, nicely bound. Expensive to produce, no doubt. And why not? One doesn’t advertise elegance inelegantly, does one?

I’m returning to an analogy I’ve used before. Indulge me. The goods pictured in the catalog illustrate the horologist’s art at its showiest best. Exquisite movements! Carriage-trade bling! On page seven we see a Classique Grande Complication Breguet featuring a “platinum case on leather strap, tourbillon, handwound movement, perpetual calendar, compensating balance spring with Breguet overcoil, $214,500.” (Tourbillon: “a revolving carriage in which the escapement is fitted to counteract position errors.”) It’s one of those butt-nekked timepieces that flaunts its gears, springs, levers, screw heads, rods, and a smattering of gold under its four dials (time, second hand, day, month). The price is probably firm.

Perhaps you’ve seen ads for watches that communicate with an atomic clock. Perhaps you’re wearing one. If so, you probably didn’t pay a lot. A few models cost less than a hundred bucks. Whatever, they’re said to be accurate to within a second-and-a-half per millennium or something in that neighborhood. On its own, a good quartz movement loses or gains a few seconds a month. Meanwhile, back at the catalog, celebrating a quaint, infinitely more complex – and expensive – technology, page 46 features a $171,000 Golden Tourbillon Panoramique Corum (right). Hour-and-minute only, alas, but one does see a generous sprinkling of the movement’s rubies. The full-monty watches are my favorites. A Glashütte on page 49, at $24,900, reveals its own generous sprinkling of movement jewels along with exquisite escapement workings. Elsewhere a two-page spread in ARTnews pictures the movement of an A. Lange & Söhne watch as “[a] harmonious composition of 556 parts.” That’s a whole lof of parts in a wafer-snug space. And isn’t that what it’s about? – complexity as art? Or, if not exactly art, then craft as its most meticulous? This is the sort of thing that celebrates itself whatever else is out there, at whatever price.

So, to summarize: offerings of A-list wristwear the accuracy and reliability of which cannot compete with inexpensive, battery-powered movements. An irony, to be sure, and one which bears a resemblance to aspects of our little hobby. I’m thinking of turntable-tonearm rigs that vie in complexity, elegance of execution and price with horology’s uppermost offerings. A veritable symphony of electro-mechanical splendor! Had I not sold my vinyl a ton of years ago, I’m sure I’d be hankering after an analog front end costing more than even my remarkably tolerant wife would countenance. And what it looks like in the listening room would figure large in my decision.

In our TV room dwells an inexpensive Sony DVD player that does what it’s supposed to do. The TV too, a big, bulky, reliable Sony. We’re thinking of getting a hi-rez flat screen one of these days, and maybe even a surround-sound rig, but to be honest, we’re not in a rush. It’s a question of good enough, which is anything but the case with my audio system, and I employ “my” advisedly. Lee takes little interest. On the other hand, she’s the very picture of permissiveness when I swap out components or make additions. In certain key respects we give each other latitude, even tho milady, now an accomplished painter, had a long, rewarding career as an interior designer. Trust me, when it comes to what goes into a space, you don’t screw around with interior designers.

The issue is one of aspirations and expectations, and aesthetics too. One doesn’t adorn one’s wrist with an Audemars Piguet for its spot-on accuracy or durability. And you don’t buy an analog front end costing what you’d pay for a new Mercedes with the same expectations Lee and I bring to the TV room. You assume that your elegant Rube Goldberg is going to be fussy. The behavior goes with the turf. You’d probably be disappointed if it didn’t need to be coddled. When our DVD player exhibits temperamental tendencies, we’ll replace it. God knows it was cheap enough, and it is getting on.

As an audiophile, I’ve a split personality, as do, I suspect, a few of you. I’m happy in the TV room notwithstanding a sound system consisting of built-in speakers flanking the screen, as I am listening to music via my Buick’s unexceptional FM. But when I step in to the listening room (our living room), I’m a different person – with respect to expectations, a veritable monster.

I’m working through these thoughts in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. Homeland Security need not take note. (We’re in the living-listening room now.) My enthusiasm for the RR-77 Ultra Low Frequency Pulse Generator and other Acoustic Revive goodies has cleared the way for enough review items to keep me in grist for months. I’ll be writing about the RWL-3 acoustic panel, REM-8 EMF Canceller, RTP-2 Ultimate AC Power Conditioner, Power Reference power cord, XLR 1.5 PA Single-Core Line Cable (interconnect), and SPC-PA 2.0 Single-Core Speaker Cable.

Along with the RR-77, I’ve been using Acoustic Revive’s RD-3 Disc Demagnetizer, RGC-24 Grounding Conditioner, and RIO-8 Tourmaline Negative Ion Generator. Tourmaline looms large in AR’s designs. More on that another time.

The audio system: Wilson WATT / Puppy 8 speakers, NuForce Reference 9 SE V2 mono amps, Aurum Acoustics’ Integris CDP (CD player / preamp), Nordost cables thoughout –– balanced Valhalla interconnects, Tyr speaker cables (a discontinued line), Brahma and Vishnu power cords, plus Nordost’s Quantum points under the amps. The Integris is supported by a trio of Aurum Acoustics’ steel points atop a Golden Sound pad. The power cords feed through BlackNoise Extreme and 2500 line conditioners. (NuForce, a company I work for, distributes BlackNoise in the US.)

The RWL-3 panels will be an interesting addition. The living room has never had acoustic treatments as such. Two couches, an armchair, carpets, draperies, blinds, framed art, a few pieces of wooden furniture, and a many-sectioned shelving system for CDs contribute to what has always impressed me as a good acoustic environment. And the panels won’t require a burn-in period, which cannot be said for AR’s cables or anyone else’s. The two panels will probably be the first items I cover. Am eager to get started.