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Fear Of Frying
Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my home audio system.
Article By Joyce


W.A.F.: Fear Of Frying -- Sound Pratices Volume 2


  Despite the fact that I've been married for years to an audio geek extraordinaire; despite the fact that back in college I owned the mini-component audio system that was the envy of the entire fourth floor of my dorm; despite the fact that I have artfully wielded a soldering iron (okay, so his arm turn in a cast, and mine was twisted behind my back, no matter), I still find that nobody takes me seriously as an accomplished, dues paid-in-full, audio aficionado.

I really resent this. All I have to do is walk into a room full of "audiophiles" and the conversation goes something like this, "Yeah, this 655 output to primary voltage resistance is very musical. Oh, hi Joyce, bake anything interesting lately? Great. Like I was saying, try an unfilamented 90LX cap to ground next time and blah, blah...." Okay, so maybe electronics manuals aren't my favorite bedtime reading and maybe I was diagnosed with math anxiety at the tender age of eight. None of this means I don't like music, beautiful, tuneful MUSIC.

Furthermore, and this I believe is the clincher, I KNOW HOW TO TURN ON MY HOME AUDIO SYSTEM! Hey, no laughing! Seriously, we're talking delicate precision work, demanding utmost concentration and skill. Why, if it weren't for the prohibitive cost of the lawsuit that would surely follow, I'd even suggest, "go ahead and try it for yourself." Ha!

I will admit that it took some time to get the exact procedure down. Presently I have an advantage in that we've had the same system hooked up now for three weeks straight! Amazing! Used to be I'd wake up in the morning, go into the living room and not recognize one single component. It was as if the Munchkins had switched everything overnight, plus they kept on digging deeper and deeper into the junker pile. But now, like I've said, I can pretty much tell what's what, and this is how it works:

The first step, after identifying your components, is to get the preamp going. This can be a little confusing, especially since our current system's preamp comes in two pieces and is much bigger than any amp I've ever seen. So I've devised this little jingle to remind me, "Two boxes, pre-amp; Four  tubes, amp" which I can kind of repeat to  myself as I go along. If I hit the right switch on the preamp (naturally none of the switches are labeled) a little yellow light starts flashing. Once the little yellow light stops flashing I know its time to get the amp (second part of the jingle) going.


W.A.F.: Fear Of Frying -- Sound Pratices Volume 2


This next part is very, very tricky.

The  homebrew amp we're using has no controls whatsoever, let alone an ON / OFF switch. What's more, I was recently given the following warning: "You see this thing here; it's our new amp. Don't ever, never, never, touch this bottom plate because it is not grounded. And Honey, I know how clumsy you can be, so please don't move this amp when you're vacuuming, even if it is turned off, because I'm trying out different capacitors and this one here is just hangin' on by one little screw and these bad boys really store power, okay Hon!"

You bet!

So, after always double-checking to make sure I'm wearing rubber soled shoes, my next step is to just plug the sucker in. A soft hum and the gentle tinkle of glass tubes warming up means I've managed to turn on the amp (step two). A foghorn-lie crescendo drives me to momentarily evacuate the room and try step two again as soon as I can force myself to reenter.

If all has gone well so far and those tubes start glowing merrily, I now proceed to select the next component. So what will it be: CD, record, or tape? Well, since no CD player or disc, dead or alive, has ever made it into this house, and my own beloved tape recorder was long ago traded in for who only knows what, how about some good ol' vinyl? Analog forever! (I guess.)

Next comes the most challenging step. You see, the turntable hooked up today comes complete with its own life support system. Designed to float on a luxurious cushion of air, this marvel of modem audio engineering has its own personal oxygen pump (so noisy it had to be sequestered in the coat-closet) together with an immense coil of hospital grade oxygen tubing. The tricky part is to ensure the turntable a constant, uninterrupted supply of pumped air, or else it will go into immediate audiocardiac arrest. After tenderly uncoiling 100 feet of oxygen tubing and checking for free passage of air, I am ready to flip the big switch.

Only one thing left to be done. Yes! The alligator clip holding the monstrous speaker cable to the absolutely gargantuan, singular speaker (its mate was too large to fit in the same room) is still in place! This aspect of turning on the system was a hard learned lesson; time and again I completed all steps toward the achievement of musical bliss only to be thwarted by such a small thing as a shorted alligator clip, resulting in a truly ear-splitting whine. This time all goes well. I now give myself the all clear sign and, millimeter by millimeter, I gently lower the cartridge onto the spinning vinyl.

Now I ask you, how could you possibly doubt my love of audio?















































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