Audio Real Estate

Home buying is an interesting experience, so many issues in our modern, post industrialized society makes what most of the world sees as a simple search for shelter, into a complicated morass of form and function. With a change of schools for this coming year, my wife and I have entered the real estate market once again. Although it’s not imperative that we move, convenience/short commute is a big factor.

Our first step was to investigate what was available in our price range. In order to do that, we went out touring homes in areas near my new employer. One of the first things that I locked into upon entering a house was where the stereo equipment could be placed. Subconsciously, my priorities were already becoming evident. I should explain that in the Portland, Oregon area basements are a rarity to say the least due to the high water table. Therefore, a dedicated sound room is limited to those with much higher incomes than this educator.

Right off the top, several houses were eliminated for various other reasons, but a couple held promise. One even had high quality speaker jacks along one wall. Obviously, I wasn’t the only person who desired music in more than one room. To me, the key became speaker placement, not just for my own boxes, but the ability to test other brands as well. My current home allows for such manipulation in order to find each model’s own sweet spot as defined by the various acoustic factors.

One home we particularly found inviting lacked the ability to maneuver speakers. I spent the better part of a day trying to find a room arrangement in my mind that would give me the necessary flexibility. After quite a bit of mental gymnastics I came up with a floor plan that would work. Being smug I went to the computer only to see that the home in question had gone off the market. So much counting your eggs before they are hatched.

I went back over most of the homes we had visited and realized that virtually all of them could work, all I needed to do was relax. Furniture placement (we aren’t overloaded), could easily be configured as to obtain proper acoustic maneuverability and placement. A lesson relearned when it comes to home buying, don’t sweat the small stuff until you are ready to make an offer. Then, go back and consider the finer details. I wasted the better part of a day on an issue that didn’t need to be concerned over, as we were in no position yet to make a purchase.

Testing the Integrated Amp Waters

A few months back I wrote about my desire to eventually own an integrated amplifier. I watched the local used shops, Audiogon, and Craigslist without much luck for an inexpensive model, I turned to eBay to solve my quest. Luckily, I was able to pick up a Harman Kardon PM665 vxi at a very reasonable price. While it’s no Krell or Musical Fidelity, it has answered my initial need of being a test amp for my future desires.

Integrated amplifiers when properly designed, offer a definite advantage over separates in both design and aesthetics. By eliminating connections, extra power sources a cleaner sound should result. In the best models this theory can be argued with some conviction. The second point is divided into two subcategories: design ergonomics, and the WAF (wife approval factor) for those of us with a life partner and limited/shared space. I fall into the latter category, and my wife, though quite tolerant with my “toys”, still struggles with the wires on my main rig. Because of our living room design, both the power and speaker cords are quite visible. Luckily, our dark blue carpet lessens the visual presence, but every time she steps over the wires to look out our bay window, I can hear the teeth grinding just a tad.