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Monday, 15 January 2024


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I can't read the full article since it's paywalled (and WaPo doesn't seem to believe in letting people read a few free articles every month), but I get the idea. Naturally, the audiophila forums are full of people who think this sort of thing is just wonderful. For example, search for "ken fritz site:stevehoffman.tv" at Google.

However, I think the better term for Mr. Fritz's condition, rather than "monomaniacal", would be "stereomaniacal". Any true audiophile would surely agree.

For non-WaPo subscribers, the article can be read here: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/he-spent-his-life-building-a-1-million-stereo-the-real-cost-was-unfathomable/ar-AA1mUqsx

From the story:

"At some point, Betsy flicked the power on the 35,000-watt amplifiers and put on a selection of Christmas songs."

I red that article a couple of days ago, and who I mostly felt sad for was his family. Really a tragic tale. I’m probably a bit of an audiophile but would never spend that much time and money on my hobby. Same with my photography hobby.

There is something strange about the world of audiophilia. I think it is related to the nature of sound perception. It is quite difficult to pin down sound quality by ear alone, aural memory fades in seconds and the power of suggestion plays a strong part. This means for audiophiles there is often a distrust of objective methods. They think they hear something the measurements don't show and they have faith in their perceptions so they end up distrusting objective measurements and fall prey to unscrupulous media, manufacturers and innocent, but confused fellow audiophiles more than willing to play on that distrust. The great irony is that for the most part, major equipment manufacturers rely on the very measurements that audiophiles so distrust to design the equipment they love. It all leads to a vicious circle that typically involves many years of great expense and rarely results in commensurate satisfaction. I was cured of my audiophile obsession by the simple act of volunteering with a high end audio manufacturer and learning first hand how it really works from the designer himself.

I studied Jane Austen's "Emma" aged 16-18 at 6th form as part of my A-Level English Literature course. When I say "studied" I mean I never read it. What average 17 year old boy would enjoy "Emma"! Now having retired, I set out to put right a number of unfinished tasks from my youth and read it right through. I still think it is unreadable crap with a vastly inflated reputation and my 17 year old younger self had it right. I think, perhaps, in retrospect, English Literature was not a wise choice of A-Level for me - although I did ok in the final exam, it was despite being unable to answer any questions on the set classic novel for some reason...


So much waste, but you can't reason with obsession. It's not even the "perfect" stereo. If he wanted better sound, he'd get a digital player with a $100 DAC that would significantly outperform his $50,000 custom record player.

I've always been leery of high-end audio. I still use a mid-level CD-player (three disc changer baby!) stereo with two 40w speakers and a 65w self-powered subwoofer that I bought (gasp) almost 30 years ago. It has been boxed up and moved around the country at least a dozen times and still works like new. To me, it sounds as good if not better than the fancy systems I've listened to over the years. I even had it hooked up to the TV for years where it did an admirable job of punching up our movie experience.

Actually (shamefully? embarrassingly?), the best audio experience of my life came in my 2007 Toyota Yaris hatchback. Four tiny paper-cone speakers being zapped with, at best, a few watts per channel and mounted in an extremely noisy and rattly car (aside: on the highway above 55 mph we didn't even try to listen to the radio because this car was so loud). A home-made mp3 CD was shuffling through Iron & Wine songs and one of them sounded so good that I had to pull over to listen to it again. I had no way to identify the track at the time and for whatever reason I've never been able to figure out which track it was, despite owning every Iron & Wine album and listening to them semi-regularly. Audio-amnesia? The curse of perfection?

Hand in hand with the Washington Post article is a video documentary on the man and his system:

One Man's Dream - Ken Fritz Documentary about the world's best stereo system

Ken does some serious audio-name dropping in that documentary.

What a f*****g idiot.

Sounds like sound advice from Mike.

All it makes me think is that, as an atheist, I don't believe we have any ongoing consciousness or awareness after death, and for people like this, that's probably a blessing. Both because they won't know what happens to their "legacy" and because they won't have eternity to dwell on the personal cost of it.

The irony here is that your hearing progressively declines as you get older, so no matter what you do to improve your audiophile system you won't be able to hear the difference.

I remember reading about him a few years ago at an audio site for enthusiasts. I have friends who are always tweaking and moving in new gear. By the way, a great way to buy audio gear is used. I'm a buy what I want and hold person, usually less than a year old gear from people moving on to the next thing. I go to Axpona some years just to see what's going on. The systems have gotten so expensive. After visiting multiple rooms, when I go home I find I am very happy with what I have.

I think some people just aren't self aware enough to ask the question, 'Just what the heck am I doing and why?' You sure can't take it all with you when you pass on, just leaving your obsessions for other people to deal with.

A quick search of ultra high end speaker cables on the web shows pricing in the $80,000.00 bracket so it is not hard to imagine how one could blow a million without too much trouble.

You can't find the information you want anymore because the search engines have been co-opted by people who want to sell you something or push some agenda on you.

The kids as slaves I very much related to. My dad did the same thing. He had a sort of pyramid scheme outlook on life (and when I think of that huge stereo, I think pyramid). Friends did not want to come over because he would always put them to work. We had a multi-colored "chore chart" with index cards organized into daily, weekly and monthly work for my brother and me. Way beyond take out the garbage and do the dishes... We also, more often than not, hated our dad. He worked from home during our teen years, and when we came in the house after school, he would usually have a pile of "things we had done wrong" on the kitchen table to discuss.

We were fortunate that my mom divorced him and we had a couple normal if not ideal years as teenagers before setting out on our own.

From a technical point of view, what confused me was that he did all this with vinyl as his source. Surely whatever he did was beyond the resolution of the media?

This isn't my area of expertise, but my understanding is that most of the vinyl vs. X arguments are with X being CDs. Nowadays I believe that audiophiles use very high resolution bitstreams via the internet (perhaps stored on hard drives), way beyond what CDs can provide.

Is somehow reminding me of a house listing I saw while visiting San Diego. For sale for $32M on Coronado Island by a toy company executive. Apparently the guy did $20M of renovations to it which, at first must have been tasteful, but opulent, restoration of the original architecture. But then much much more seemed to be done, a lot underground, for bizarre entertainment rooms, surf-themed, toy-themed, Star Wars themed, …


$1 million, and it didn't even go to eleven.

LIfe’s all about the getting, not the having.

"All I can say is, don't spend your life tilting at windmills."

Or reading all the way through articles like this. I clicked on it, saw the picture, read a few words — and left the rest unread.* It's so predictable, many of us could have finished it . . .

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Depends on the definition!

If The Perfect is realizing it's a time suck and quitting while ahead, it's better than the good of finishing.

Or, the reverse.

* It's been over 60 years, and I still remember clearly the day I realized I didn't have to finish a book, just because I'd gone to so much trouble to get it, it was a rare classic, yadda, yadda. I didn't have to finish it. It was awful, and yet a gift, as I've elected not to finish reading so many things since, like adding years to my life.

I'll second what commenter Graeme Scott above said. What an effing idiot.

This guy had one lucky break: to his death, he remained utterly oblivious to everything (and everyone) but his obsession. Because if he'd ever had a moment of introspective clarity at the end where he could assess his life, he would have hated himself.

We need the idea Ted Nelson originally came up with for his Project Xanadu (not exactly the web; but in the mid 1960s).

It was obvious to him then that there needed to be an economic model to make it practical. That model was micro-payments per word for quoting things. My server could publish whatever it wanted and I would be paid for people reading it, and it could quote anything else published out there and when people read my quote of that, the original author would be paid.

Long time ago I worked in a Hi Fi store, just the manager and I. We had a very good customer who in the quest for a respectful bass response managed to wrestle a concrete sewer pipe into his listening room then drop a large woofer into it. A concrete footing together with steel columns was required under the house to support everything. Good talking point.

Your reference to the Man of the Mancha reminds me of "L'homme de la Mancha", a version in French by Jacques Brel. The song "L'inaccessible étoile" is unbelievable. The song title in English would The Unreachable Star.

For a million, I'd just hire a band.

It's possible the fellow suffered from mental illness, and this was a form of self-medicating.

Actually this occurs in huge numbers in homes.

Ask an estate agent, there are a huge number of house (etc) buyers who will (irrespective of the age of the fittings) rip out kitchens and bathrooms (and other elements) when they buy a house.

Indeed many when finished will then soon sell and move on to another property. This even happens if they actually designed and built the house from scratch. They aim to have show houses and then get bored or dissatisfied with their own efforts.

Posts like this would be so much more engaging if you were to go to the Substack model, or Substack itself. You have an interesting post that generates an interesting set of comments. A discussion among the intelligent, perceptive followers you have cultivated can never get off the ground because you moderate and edit and review all the comments before they are posted. If you were to have done this on Substack, an interesting discussion would have taken place between your commentators.

It's not uncommon for a number of Substacks that an article or post generates hundreds of comments -- here after 20 or 30 it's a dead end and we move on.

[There's some reason Substack doesn't work for me, but I forget what it was. I did check into it at one point. --Mike]

Having been diagnosed late in life with mental issues I find stories like Mr. Fritz' terribly sad. Not only for himself, but the way it affected his family and friends.

I mentioned Mr. Fritz to my father (who has only grudgingly accepted that my "quirks" are not normal, probably because he has many of them himself) in making a point that many people who seem to have had destructive issues but would only have been tolerated as "strange" in the past, but in modern times could have led much happier existences.

For me, it is not treatment or therapy that have benefitted me most, but understanding and forgiving myself and figuring out how to live without causing other people distress as a result of my issues.

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