Once upon a time in Fullerton, California, there lived two doctors. Both were very fine people; both were friends of mine; both were very wealthy, and both were music lovers. Because their story is interesting and true, I'm going to tell it, but because I haven't asked either of them for permission to do so, I'm not going to tell you their real names. For purposes of this story, the names I'm going to give them are "Fred" and "Bob", both of which are, I assure you, as phony as Milli Vanilli.
One day, many years ago, probably in the late 1970s, Fred, who was a serious audiophile, went to a very famous hi-fi salon in Beverly Hills, California and bought himself a high-end audio system consisting of a full set of Mark Levinson electronics (a preamp/phono stage, and two ML-2 "monoblock" amplifiers), a Linn-Sondek LP12 turntable with a Grace 707 tonearm, whatever was the then-hot-setup phono cartridge, and a pair of very fine and (for the time) very expensive B&W speakers. When the new system was delivered and set up in his very large and very high-ceilinged living room (and his previous system moved to the master bedroom) his friend, Bob, another physician of a different specialty, and though definitely a music-lover, not at all an audiophile but a committed Performance Car Crazy, came over for a listen. He liked what he heard so much that that initial session lasted for several hours and was repeated often, to the great enjoyment of both men.
Eventually Bob went off to the same Beverly Hills shop and bought for himself a system identical to Fred's in every way. That was, by then, no surprise to anyone, but what he did next was completely unexpected: Instead of having the system installed in his own capacious living room, he had it neatly stacked, still in all of its original unopened boxes and crates in his multi-car garage, and continued visiting Fred whenever he felt the need to listen to music. This went on for however long, with Fred buying huge quantities of records and making detail changes (mostly just cables and phono cartridges) to his system until one day, when he, perhaps having read the latest magazine reviews or simply no longer sufficiently excited by what he already had, went back to Beverly Hills and came home with an entirely new system:
This time, a complete set of Audio Research tube electronics replaced Fred's solid-state Mark Levinson gear; a Goldmund Studio turntable with T3 arm and the latest Koetsu cartridge supplanted the Linn, and the B&W speakers were replaced by the latest – and even more expensive – original Apogee three-way ribbons, which, at the time, were the speakers (other than perhaps the Infinity IRS system or the Wilson WAMMs) most likely to set the reviewers hunting for superlatives and bubbling-over in praise.
As before, when Bob heard the new system, he fell in love with it and, eventually (after only a few weeks, really), made the pilgrimage to Beverly Hills to buy one of his own – which, also as before, he had, when it was delivered, stacked neatly in the garage, in its still unopened packaging, right next to his other still-unopened system. Once that was done, he continued in his now-well-established custom of going to Fred's house whenever he wanted to listen to music.
This went on until Fred, for whatever reason, only a very few years later, again replaced his entire system. This time, it was solid-state again, with a full complement of Cello electronics, including the Audio Suite preamplifier, with all toys and goodies, an Audio Palette equalizer (which, because he believed tone controls of any kind to be "cheating", he used only as a wired remote volume control, so he wouldn't have to get up off of the couch to turn the volume up or down) and three (count 'em, three!) sets of Cello Performance amplifiers, which he used for tri-amp'ing a set of the latest limited-edition violently expensive Goldmund speakers, all driven off either the new Stax Quattro CD player or – replacing the earlier Studio setup – a Goldmund Reference turntable and arm equipped with Kiseki's current top-of-the-line cartridge.
This time it was no surprise to anyone when, not too long afterwards, Bob again trundled off to Beverly Hills and again – except for the speakers, which may have been too expensive even for him – bought a duplicate of Fred's latest system, which he, again, had stacked, in its still-sealed original boxes and crates, right next to his other two still-virgin systems to take up even more space in his quickly becoming overcrowded garage. What was a surprise was that when Fred heard about it, he finally, after all that time, asked Bob why he kept buying all of that expensive hi-fi stuff, but never set up a system of his own to listen to.
The answer that Bob gave was that each time Fred got a new system, he edged ever closer to perfection, but that he hadn't quite gotten there yet. When Fred finally got it right, Bob said, he would set up his own system at home, but until then, he was perfectly content listening to Fred's system and enjoying Fred's companionship and hospitality. As to why he kept buying all of the interim systems and just keeping them to age gracefully but unused in his garage, he said that he liked owning fine things; that that's certainly what they were; and that, like many of his cars which he never drove, that was sufficient for him.
It has been nearly twenty years since I moved away from Fullerton, and, although I've maintained occasional contact with Fred, it's been nearly that whole time since I've talked with Bob. Even so, I'm going to guess that, whatever the current iteration of his latest hi-fi system may consist of, it's still in the garage, along with all of the others, still unopened and un-played. We've certainly made great progress in high-end hi-fi in the last many years, but we're still nowhere near perfection. Even so, I can't help wondering why, with all that treasure trove of great equipment just sitting there, he doesn't finally just put some of it together, set it up, put on a record, lean back and...
Enjoy the music!