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Sunday, 19 May 2019


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Benjamin Franklin naturally had a comment on this subject, as he did on most. (My personal favorite: a pithy brief essay importuning 'chemists' [i.e., pharmacists] to come up with a solution to the foul odor of urine the day after eating asparagus, written in his customary witty prose.)

Franklin wrote to the effect that if your material desires exceed your means, the answer was simple! "Either augment your means, or diminish your wants".
Problem solved!

Thought today’s Nancy was rather apropos: https://www.gocomics.com/nancy/2019/05/19?ct=v&cti=2310040

Volvo car was once affordable until Volvo made a deliberate decision to go upscale. So my next car was a Subaru. On the other hand because of technology the price of a very capable windows computer shifted from $2k, which held for many years, to the current &1k. Are many camera companies emulating Volvo out of desperation, perhaps?

A few years ago, I was scanning the used speaker ads on Kijiji and found a pair of large Advent speakers for $100. State of the art in 1971,showing how old I am. I couldn't resist and brought them home to hook up to a Technics receiver and turntable from the same era.

Unfortunately, my ears are not even close to what they were 50 years ago and I'm no longer able to discern subtle differences between sound systems. But, I do enjoy having a stereo system that my 20 year old self would have approved of.

Mike.....no person can afford much less appreciate the altitude of everything especially in as much as we humans create things and their levels that can never be anywhere as amazing and glorious as nature has put before our eyes, our ears, and our damaged brains. I have advanced every piece of photo gear and listened with diminished ears to every bit of audio gear and loved every minute of it......the bell curve
undulates before my appreation can catch up with it and I am all the better for it and it will not end as long as I am involved.

Priced out? Damn straight! What I want is to replace my Epson 3880 with a newer and maybe (just maybe) one size bigger one, and to go with it, an Imacon film scanner. You were surprised about the printer, but look up the price on the scanner. It is, as Mike would say, more than a really good new car.

Oh well, I'm in my 70s. How much use would I get out of them?

I bought a GameBoy recently that I coveted so much in the 1989 but couldn't afford what with being on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain and all that it meant then. For an equivalent of $30. Some dreams do come through I guess.

Ethics of the Fathers
"Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot, as it is said: “You shall enjoy the fruit of your labours, you shall be happy and you shall prosper.”

From which we learn two things.

One, that they are wise who rejoice in their lot.

Two, that we need to be told this, because if we did it we would not need to be told.

"Walden" is "cabin porn," says Kathryn Schulz: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/pond-scum

[It's a good article--I read it when it came out--and she does skewer him well, but I love Walden anyway.

The line of hers I really like is "make the Dalai Lama look like a Kardashian." Lol! --Mike]

Yes, but stuff is also getting better. That Datsun was likely a vastly better car than that VW.

And low-priced speakers today are excellent, unlike the old days. Look what you can get now for $300/pair:


These are truly enjoyable speakers. Further, many people are really enjoying these for only $130/pair:

(Also recommended in that Wirecutter article.)

The grapes have never been sweeter, or lower hanging.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the fact that I didn't have the excess money to buy that Hasselblad V. The magic of inflation, always kept me one step behind the price increase. So inflation kept me from doing something really stupid 8-)

Buying audiophile was not a sound decision. Lower cost HiFi would have been good enough for rock'n'roll.

Gear lust took a big hit with me many years ago. I went to the races at Sebring in 1967. I had just started taking photography seriously but only on a studentbudget , At the time I was shooting with a Yashica A and a Yashica YF both bought used and cheap. Anyway the evening before the race the hanger Carol Shelby was using as his garage had a door left ajar with a rope to signal that you should go no further. So I took a photo of the scene with the Yashica A and was lucky to get a usable negative. A few days later I was printing 8-10s including that image when I went to get my prints from the drum print dryer the school nicely provided to the photo club there were two identical prints. I seems that another member shoot the same scene with his brand new Hasselblad, after much deliberation we decided that we could not tell the difference. So much for spending all the money on gear, your eye and technique are much more important.

One exception to your rule - home computers! The price points have remained pretty constant over the years. Think what $1000 would have bought you over the years (relative to what was on the market and ignoring Moore’s law).

Mike, my mother once said, if you can’t get what you want, when you want it, move on. It won’t feel the same if you get it later when you have the money, time, or both. There’ll always be something else to take it’s place.

I also read the Schulz article when it came out, and I have to say, I'm more with Thoreau than with Schulz, who I suspect didn't understand what Thoreau was talking about.

In March of 1972, an L1011 jumbo jet crashed in the Everglades, killing 101 people (75 people actually survived the crash, because the plane almost landed on the absolutely flat swamp, breaking up only in the last moments.) Anyhoo, the Miami Herald, where I worked as a reporter, sent me out to the crash site in a helicopter, where I got to see the recovery people pulling the bodies (and arms, legs, torsos, heads, etc.) out of the glades. I know exactly how Thoreau felt, and Schulz doesn't

I was serving up Canyon Road in Santa Fe today and saw a guy with not one, but two, Leica medium format cameras around his neck, apparently doing street photography. The cameras looked like car batteries, and God help his insurance company if he tripped and fell face-down.

When I was a teen in the 80s I wanted a good SLR, but even an entry-level one was more than my blue-collar family could afford.

Today I own probably 20 SLRs from the 70s and 80s because I can buy them so inexpensively. And they are as much fun as I imagined they'd be then.

I gather I‘m a little late offering my two cents (do your commenters typically sit at their computers/phones/tablets, trigger fingers at the ready, waiting for each post?), but it occurs to me that if I could afford to buy anything I wanted, I probably wouldn’t want it.

A timely post.

I just picked up four Radio Shack Minimus 7 speakers at the Goodwill for $13. Coupled with a Yamaha subwoofer ($20 at a garage sale) I've got the best sounding (albeit not the loudest) sound system I've ever had.

The brightness of the Minimus 7s helps my 68-year-old ears too.

I bought that $2800 Datsun B210 in the mid seventies, two door four on the floor silvery blue.
I lived in San Francisco at the time, loved to race that little car around the city and up and down the coast highway.

It’s likely we are locked out of the area we would like to retire to, Prince Edward County, Ontario. If we had jumped several years ago at one or two places that we could have afforded (with a stretch,) we would be in good shape. Oh well.

But about speakers - I’m having fun with a pair of vintage Large Advents I snagged for $100 and in very good shape, and will be adding (for the cost of replacing the woofer surrounds) another pair to have a Double Advent setup, made famous ages ago by The Absolute Sound. If it doesn’t work out, I can sell them for enough to finance a decent chunk of pair of Triangles that I really like. See, I made this about speakers.

I don't know anything about speakers but I know a few things about cars. The $7,000 or so 289 AC Cobra Dave Levingston (and I and many others) lusted after would be just short of $57,000 today according to on-line inflation calculators.

Today's cars with more power and performance and amenities than that cobra can be bought for prices starting at just over $35,000 (Honda Civic type R 306 HP, Subaru WRX STI 310 HP) up to $41,000 (Golf R 288 HP) or a little over half of the AC Cobra. And the Cobra didn't have a GPS.

Have speakers gotten better over time or are they just Veblen goods?

I've had more cameras than you can drop a rock on and you know what? Although I could probably afford another camera, I've lost the desire. At 72, I find I don't lust after things like I used to, which is just as well as I really shoudn't splash the cash any more.

I once had a pair of Spendor BC1s in rosewood cabinets (I've just used Google to check that my memory is right and they exist). I remember their superb piano sound. But I replaced them with KEF Q7s based on good reviews and being a generous guy, I gave the Spendors away to a friend. He sold them on! Great friend.

I think the only thing I lust after is a pair of Quad electrostatics, the latest models, but nah, I'm not that mad. As soon as I got those, the rest of my system would have to be upgraded.

By the way, have you noticed that good hi-fi used to be at affordable prices, but these days everything costs multiples of $thousands. It's gone crazy. The price bears no relation to the cost of production. No thanks.

PS: my computer speakers for many years have been a pair of KEF Q100s (maybe?) which I still have and love, but recently I bought a pair of Edifier R1700BT computer speakers with built in power amps for A$139. I needed the amplification and they seemed to be a bargain. I think they're marvellous. Lovely mid range, good bass, good balance. For the money, I'm very happy. I think my ears are more easily satisfied these days.

I understand used medium format lenses are starting to be rehoused as cinema lenses. Expect prices to skyrocket. Buy them while you can.

I'm a long time reader of TOP and a few other art and photography sites. The thing that distinguishes TOP from the others is its near obsession with expensive things, things which are frivolous and out of reach for many of us.

[I assume that's sarcasm! --Mike]

For a long time I have wanted a Fuji 6x9 camera. I would look for a good deal, then I found a russian 6x6 SLR. I guess it gets the sane use as the fuji would, that is, none. But, I have a medium format camera and roll film in the fridge. Maybe I really don’t need that 50MP Canon?

Things don't always end in a lock out. When I was younger I lusted after a Besler Dual Dichro 23cXl and some nice EL Nikkors to go with it. Got one for nothing which is just within my budget.
I am looking to set up a modest home theater system in my basement. Right now a pair of Pioneer floor standing speakers and a center channel speaker designed by Andrew Jones looks like a good choice. The setup can he had for less than $300 which is very appealing.
Not as cool as building a room around a couple of corner horns but unless I get better at buying lottery tickets that ain't gonna happen.

I used to race sailboats.
Many years ago an old timer told me that the cost of a well equipped boat on the starting line was around the same price per pound as fillet mignon.

In the mid 1990's I was in position where the $20 I had in my pocket on Friday afternoon had to last until Monday. At that time I lived in Brooklyn, near Pratt Institute. Each Sunday I would walk my dog onto the grounds of the Institute and would pass their chapel which alway had a homily posted. The one I remember to this day and am still trying to incorporate into my life was "If you are not happy with what you have, what makes you think you will be happier with more"? The digital camera I have gotten the least use from was the most expensive one I own. My most used lenses are pushing 20 years old and I have yet to have a client ask why I did't have more micro contrast or less flare in my images. The big problem I have (although I do understand the economics of the issue) is the planned obsolescence of our technology. I can't get factory repairs on two of my three most used lenses. When they stop working, they are doorstops. The third, a Nikon 17-35 2.8 is amazingly still being made 2 decades later.

All of my hobbies have locked me out. I find cheap ways to dabble here and there but the truth is that cash-money is a legit requirement ... if you want the hobby to progress.

Zig-zagging back and forth between them when a deal comes along helps keep the flame going without "GAS" (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) killing the fun. I'd been wanting a decent light meter for work with some ancient gear. Could never justify the cost however. Then yesterday I found a used Sekonic L-508 for $20.

Mike asks: "Have you ever been locked out of something by rising prices? "

My problem is that as better and better stuff gets to be within reach (a combination of better financial situation after years of working and saving coupled with advances in design and manufacturing), my eyes and ears no longer demand it !

I will say that my sense of taste has gotten marginally more refined over the years, but my daughter complains that my nose whistles and I don't hear it, so my threshold for audio quality is pretty modest.

Still own and play my Yamaha 610 II amp, Yamaha YP-D71 turntable, and the smoothest sounding speakers of their time- JBL L-26 speakers, purchased as a college student in 1976 from Audio Associates in MD. About 7 years ago I replaced the foam on the woofers and refinished the veneer on the L-26's and they look and sound wonderful!!

I too have a story similar to John Camp's regarding Leica's; I was shooting DC's U St Funk Festival for a client when I came upon six millennial men standing around chatting when I noticed that they all had a digital Leica M around their neck. I ignored them at first, then I realized that all they were doing was talking about their expensive camera's, so I nonchalantly said "oh a Leica convention"...they scattered like roaches, and pretended to shoot. I snickered and went back to work with my beat up D200 and D810.

I see you have two subwoofers... the other one being the dog under the desk (hence subwoofer)

I own a Heed Can-Amp and a great pair of Sennheiser studio cans. I get near unadulterated quality from any transport (turntable, CD, etc).

The problem is it shows up every flaw in the mastering of most of my albums.

A friend used to say "Thoreau had it easy, Emerson was doing his laundry."

Terry Letton and I probably crossed paths at Sebring in '67. I was there with friends running a Alfa. I had saved my coins and had a Leica M3 with Summilux 35 and Elmarit 90. This is the photo I got of Shelby:

He autographed it shortly before he passed. That's the great Jerry Titus in the Terlingua Mustang in the background. The photo was part of my collection I donated to the Watkins Glen racing library.

The photo, BTW, was printed on a Leitz Valoy enlarger with a Leitz Focotar enlarging lens.

Funny, but I found if I wanted something bad enough, I'd figure out how to get it, often used, sometimes barter. Of all the cameras and lenses I've owned, probably 3/4 were acquired used and often sold for close to what I paid for them. Same is true for the 60+ cars I've owned in the last 57 years, but I suspect they cost me a bit more to own, although I've sold a few for multiples of what I paid for them after some fix-ups.

That's the difference with cars and cameras. More of us can fix cars and get paid back for our efforts. In 1972 I bought a year-old Alfa GTV coupe with problems, fixed it and sold it in less than a month for enough profit to take my wife to Europe for a month. In the late 80s, I bought another Alfa, a 63 Spider with a blown engine for $1100, rebuilt it for less than $500, drove it for a decade and sold it for more than 10 times what I had in it.

But all the cameras I've had with problems became junk....

I read, years ago, that most of us lose the hearing from 15,000-20,000hz by quite an early age. Buying speakers with great high ends seems sort of foolish.

That said, I have had DCM Time Windows for over thirty years and they still sound clean and pure.

Here's another example of being locked out: the just-ended print sale.

Just as I managed to make enough room in my May budget for the print, I realized that the sale ended today, not tomorrow. Argh.

On the other hand, does it count as "locked out" if it's my own fault for putting down the wrong date on my calendar? Maybe not.

Here's some well-intended advice for Mani Sitaraman, and anybody else who's considering the purchase of used loudspeakers: DON'T. You will regret such purchase, and if you don't, it will only be due to your disregard for diligence. (E.g.: You failed to open the enclosure and visually inspect everything, or you were unable to conduct exhaustive electrical testing to assure proper "in spec" operation of all components, including those archaic crossover network parts.)

Loudspeakers are commonly subject to all sorts of "hidden" user abuse, and passive crossover networks are generally inaccurate when new; hopeless after aging. Buy new, or don't buy.

Bryan Geyer

[As a buyer of various new and used speakers over many years, I second that. --Mike]

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