One of the things I learned
early on in the days when I was trolling Rec.Audio.High-End was that many, if
not most audiophiles prefer to listen to music in the dark... or at least dim
light. It heightens your aural acuity and makes you feel a little bit invincible...
like Batman. It also gives birth to one of my biggest pet peeves about this
exalted industry. For all the concern about quality and perfection on the part
of manufacturers, many, if not most of them pay little heed to the visibility of
the knobs on their gear under such low light conditions, not to mention the
paucity of back-lit remote controls. Once in a great while someone will put an
LED on a knob so you can determine the position of the volume control from the
listening chair, but I can't remember the last one I saw. Some don't put any
indicating reference marks, dimples, lines or even tactile grooves in their
Lots of knobs, like the Analog Disk from Harmonic
Resolution Systems by Mike Latvis have a brushed surface on the face of the
knob. With the Analog Disk turning at multiple revolutions per minute, this
brushed surface reflects what little light may be in the room and informs you
that the LP is spinning, which is very useful information when changing an LP.
But on a relatively stationary volume control, the brushed surface doesn't
convey much information. The world class Stillpoints LPI record weight by
Paul Wakeen achieves a similar effect by virtue of their logo being etched into
the face of the LP Isolator. Kevin Hayes of VAC uses two beveled edges which
create an "arrowhead" channeling the eye to a small dimple on the face of the
knobs of his volume control — just in case you can't see the point from a
distance. But many manufacturers just go with the ubiquitous dimple. Even Israel
Blume, on the Statement Line Stage which resides in my reference rig uses only a
barely visible dimple. From the distance of my listening chair, gentlemen, this
doesn't cut it.
I suppose I could have gone to the local Hot
Topic store at the mall for some black nail polish to drip into the dimples, but
I'm not sure my aim is good enough to do the job neatly. Besides, my cataract
surgery converted my extreme nearsightedness that was perfect for such tasks
into 20/20 vision that is better suited for spotting babes at the beach than
cuing up an inner track on an LP. But putting a dot on the face of a dial is not
the optimal solution for me. My preamp is located waist-high, so what I really
need is a marking on the side of
the knob so I can see it from above when I stand in front of it — quite
necessary since I have the original Statement Preamp and Phono stage designed
for real men who get up out of the
listening chair to adjust the volume.
It was a perplexing problem in need of a serious 'Ah-ha!!!'
moment. As many such moments are, this one came out of the blue, quite
literally, but I didn't recognize it at first. Let me digress. For those who don't
know, Wegmans is a Top 100
employer that runs the finest grocery store chain in the Northeast. Anyone who
lives in Rochester, NY, or has visited a Wegmans absolutely raves
about the quality and selection of the food and the superior service they
provide. As I was walking into Wegmans, I was greeted by one of those friendly
A-Frame signs proclaiming "Lobster @ $5.99/lb." What can I say... sometimes luck
happens. I must have stood at the lobster aquarium for five minutes studying the
herd. "Let's see, do I want Frankie and Johnny? Or Bonnie and Clyde?" I was
determined to make the right decision and finally returned home with Orville and
Wilbur. Flying into the kitchen, I put on my best John Lee Hooker, proclaiming "We
got da pot on 'n 'da gas up high!" Twenty minutes later after the deep
water came to a boil, Linda brought Orville to the table in the clutch of her
tongs and suddenly it hit me.
"Ah-Hah!!!" I proclaimed.
"Ah-ha what?" she asked.
"What's 'it'? This is a lobster," she
said, dropping Big Red (formerly Orville) on my plate.
"This is what I need,"
is what you need," she said, handing me a pick and a nut cracker that had
been in my family for at least two generations and had cracked the shells of
many more generations of lobster. But my eyes were fixated on the thick rubber
bands binding Big Red's claws. I might not be at the top of the food chain in
Yellowstone or the Tetons, but I sure had Big Red under control... even after I
carefully slipped the wide rubber bands off his formerly powerful pinchers.
After cleaning up the remains of the two
crustaceans I washed off the rubber bands and retired to the listening room. It
was a bit of a stretch, but soon they were ensconced on the perimeter of the
twin volume controls of the Coincident preamp. Beautiful! A little swish with a
fine point Sharpie and I had a reference point I could see from a standing
position. Life was good.
But being an audiophile, "good" was not good enough. As I sat in my listening chair I became increasingly restless and began to think about improving upon the lobster bands. I visited other grocery stores, and even stopped for a meal at Red Lobster and Eat at Joe's. I especially liked Eat at Joe's because in their upstairs aquarium they have a Great White shark to whom they feed all their Asian customers who ask for shark fin soup.
Soon I had a small collection of lobster
bands…enough to allow me to slip into "designer" mode.
Should I use a pair of red ones or a pair of green ones? Or
maybe a red one on the right channel and a green one on the left? I can always
remember to turn right on red. Or maybe I should let it all hang out and use the
yellow ones that identified the "wild lobster/product USA". Wait a second...
wait a second! I've got a B-52's album around here somewhere. Rock
Lobster! Everybody get up and dance!