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Jim Coash

Placating the "lunatic fringe". My woofer's bigger than yours

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Greetings:  By now most of you are familiar with most of my "philosophy" about audio, performance and sound quality. During all those years working in the A/V business, mostly in sales but also with plenty of service and management experience, I was a hobbyist and music lover above all else.  I met a lot of people who really would have been just as happy selling something other than audio components and quite a few of them left when the grass appeared to be greener somewhere else.  Several of the salespeople from TSR moved next door into "The Computer Room" after Ken opened it in the late 70s.  At first Ken started by bringing in the early Commodore personal computers.  We had a Commodore 64 set up on the sales floor by late 1979 and I first played video games on it.  I thought it was about as boring as anything I could think of but others bought them and decided that they would make a good move by changing to computer sales.  Anyone employee who wanted to, had that option and I was approached more than once to make the move myself, but music and audio were not just a job to me they were my hobby as well and there was no way I would give that up.  When Rochelle "forced me out" in 1980 I considered working for other "audio" stores in Kalamazoo but none of them had the panache of TSR.  There was "Crazy Larry", "Ollie Fretter", "ABC Warehouse", "Lafayette Radio", "Douglas Sound" and "Highland Appliance" plus the two major TV stores, "Laing's TV" and "Bob Moore Zenith".  None of them seemed to meet my standards for either honesty or selection so for almost a year I sold auto parts for an east coast firm, "State Products".  Years later, after the demise of Showcase I sold cars for one year, lighting and home furnishings for "Hodgson's" and appliances for another place.  When Dick from Stereo Showcase in GR called me in the fall of 1980 I was so happy to be able to quit the auto parts job and take his offer to begin at his store on December 1st, 1980.  The deal was that I would be the only salesman for a while, working with his number two guy in GR, Tom, who would drive down nearly everyday to manage the store and move stock back and forth. Tom and I got along pretty well.  He did not have my service background but he did play guitar and he had almost 5 years working for Showcase.  He did love music, had a nice audio system and a working knowledge that was respectable.  I actually had more experience and I was a few years older.  Tom was "the boss" but after 3 years he tired of the driving and told Dick I was fully capable of running the store and that I was trustworthy.  Dick had me hire someone to help me, Pat, and he and I ran the Kalamazoo store.  By then my son Chris was 12 years old and already a very knowledgeable audio person.
20140409042653355.jpg My goal was to incorporate much of the best of TSR philosophy with Showcase.  This worked well.  Dick came from a store in GR called "Steketee's" and, like TSR they carried quality components, stood behind them and serviced everything that could be fixed.  Dick and I began a relationship that ultimately became a partnership when I invested in the company and became VP.  There were some glitches, of course.  Dick was primarily a business man who cared about the bottom line above all else.  He did not own a stereo system to speak of.  He did adopt a lot of my ideas including starting "Showcase Sound and Light", his DJ business in GR.  He learned a lot from me about using our "perks" with the companies to good advantage.  I spoke with Dick nearly everyday, often more than once and he drove the company delivery van to Kalamazoo about once a week.  He and I discussed what we would carry, feature and advertise and I did have some input but it was always Dick who made the final choice.  He wrote the orders and virtually 100% of all deliveries were made to the GR store on 28th Street.  We also went to every CES show and eventually, when they moved to Las Vegas from Chicago, we took our wives and made it our "vacation".  His son Brian and my son Chris both took interest in the store(s) and worked for us.
20140409044805525.jpg This was a typical ad run by TSR in the late 70s.  I was always happy to appear in them and they worked well.  They had plenty of open space, featured one system or product in most ads and only used the "laundry list" approach for occasional clearance sales.  Philosophy was important at TSR and often part of the ads they ran.  They advertised seminars and special programs put on in TSRs auditorium with the public invited.  I encouraged Dick to try some of these ideas but he found they "wasteful" of precious ad money.  His ads did often show a line drawing of the front of the Kalamazoo store because it was recognizable for traffic on South Westnedge Avenue which was considered the "28th Street" of GR.  He did sometimes include the Carver, KEF, NAD or other company brand as part of the ad.  In general, they all looked pretty much the same.  Prices were shown but usually in a vague manner.
20140409050002166.jpg Dick also used ad money that was available from any of our companies.  The "AD Department" in GR consisted of Dick and  a young guy who helped him with layout.  He worked for the newspaper in GR.  I wish I had been allowed to "proof" the ads but I rarely saw them until the showed up in the paper.  I have a Kalamazoo Gazette rep, Vince, who was my contact and often tried to get some input using some different ideas but Dick felt he had everything under control.  Someone should have caught the above ad and at least changed "Base" to "Bose" before it ran.  You can see in these ads how we priced Carver.  The M-400 cube was $399 and we got away with running it at $375 because Dick bought several just before the "T-Mod" showed up.  $1.00 a watt was a good line though and we sold quite a few of them.
20140409050806574.jpg Dick bumped up our regular price on some models just for the ad, which I did not like.  My method of arriving at a selling price was to work from the retail book price on most items and take off 10% when more than one item was purchased. Regular customers could still get the 10% anytime because they were buying enough to be considered "always" working on a system price basis.  When I had a true "special price" due to something off from the factory, a large purchase discount to us or a demo, discontinued or slightly irregular item, I first contacted those customers who asked to be made aware of a deal like that.  Usually I knew just who to call.  I did rotate stock on display frequently, making room for a newer model or getting  a unit that really had been out for a while into a new home by offering that 10% or even 15% in some cases to a potential good future customer.  I also told every person I worked with to open the box carefully by pulling out the staples, save every piece of packing, not damaging the manual and making it possible for me to "upgrade" them in a reasonable length of time and still give them full credit.  That returned unit became our demo and would then go to a new home with a full, brand new warranty. I also suggested that they not fill out and return the warranty card for at least a few weeks. My store was where they brought any warranty problems anyway and I didn't need to have their unit registered at the company for that.
20140409052204696.jpg Sometimes I was surprised to see which models Dick chose to feature.  Especially when we didn't have what was in the ad.  Dick always said that ads served only one purpose, "Get people in the door" and he told me to just tell the customer they were all gone and show something else.  That was no problem with me, to a point.  Sometimes I learned that an ad took advantage of a special ad "payoff" from the company and I wondered if the company knew we not only didn't have any, we never ordered any!  I tried often to get Dick to buy a nice system heavily and then put a nice ad in just for that but there were problems with that because the GR salesmen did not sell the same things we did in Kalamazoo.  They sold much more of the low end equipment and we sold more of the Carver, KEF and NAD components.  I even had calls from some of the GR people who wondered how I was able to sell items that were so inferior in terms of specs to what they did.  It was clearly a situation where they did not even know how to use the features that made the better gear so much better in terms of value.  The Carver and NAD amps may not have been rated as highly as the Kenwood, Onkyo and Yamaha receivers they sold but in reality they had much more headroom and features like a pre-out/main in that permitted the use of subs with active crossovers and other unique advantages.  The clientele in Kalamazoo was a lot different than it was in GR.  They also played games that were not permitted in Kalamazoo by my personal philosophy.  If I heard one of my people making things up, telling outright lies or down selling someone I would step in and straighten things out.
20140409053553803.jpg It sometimes lead to problems when a customer would visit both stores and come to me with a load of baloney about something and I found myself having to call GR and ask what in the world they were doing.  My most powerful point was that they would only hurt themselves if they came down to the level of the big box stores.  My guys were doing very well selling the differences between "average" stereo and superior quality and technology.  If you took the time to explain Magnetic Field, ACCD, Sonic Holography, T-Mod, high headroom amps, cast basket speakers, time alignment, inert cabinet technology, coupled cavity bass, Uni-Q drivers, Moving Coil Cartridge and low mass tone arm turntables you could separate yourself, your store and your products from the others.  People like to buy from knowledgeable people and if you help them learn about what sound quality really is and how it is produced with better components you will win the war, not just the battle.
20140409054404256.jpg No one in Kalamazoo could show them and demonstrate for them products like we had.  If properly displayed, played and explained by someone who was enthusiastic and able to answer questions, you could get people to spend enough to own a better quality sound system.  If you took "the easy way" of just trying to clerk out any old run of the mill package you would lose more often than not.  There was, of course, the other side of that coin.  We attracted people who heard about us from contacts made to the companies we represented, word of mouth and shoppers who followed the "esoteric" audio publications.  There were requests for things we did not have and some were things I could not honestly support.  I always told people that good quality cords, cables, accessories and peripherals were important, but I also told them NOT to pay for something they could not hear.  We always had representatives come to us from what I called, "The Lunatic Fringe" audio companies and they did have their followers.  I do not begrudge anyone who thinks they can hear differences between "certain" kinds of interconnects and "scientifically superior" speaker wires.  But I always have done my best to keep things in perspective.  If you own a pair of $200 speakers, spending $400 on wire for them is not generally a good investment.  If you honestly think a pair of RCA cables makes a noticeable difference in sound quality in your system than by all means, get them. May I suggest that before yo do invest that kind of money that you make sure that there is a difference by doing rigorous testing with them on your own system.  I loaded out cables like that and some people did buy them but doing a hard sell on things like that just rubs me the wrong way.  Earlier in one of my forums I said that "Blind people pick the best speakers". You should never allow yourself to be influenced by anything that you read, are told by anyone or based on what it looks like.
20140409060038102.jpg Having more woofers, bigger speakers, more power (even if rated conservatively), thicker speaker wires, shinier interconnects or even ones that were supposedly "Blessed by the Holy Father in Rome" has nothing at all to do with sound quality.  I do enjoy looking at the beautiful pictures you people send in to the Carver site of your incredible systems but I know that ALL of them sound good, some of them sound better than others and that none of that has any relevance to me. The only thing thing that matters and is worth discussing is how it sounds in your room, whether or not it meets your needs and whether or not YOU like it.  So many times I have been visiting someones home for the first time and at some point I am called upon to "judge" their A/V system.  Most of them are quite nice.  Some are a good as mine, a few better, but more often than not, they are inferior.  What should I say?  If I criticize I will be misunderstood.  If I am really truthful someone will be offended. I cannot be anything but honest, so I usually turn it back to them by saying something like, "That looks pretty impressive.  Do you like it"?  Of course they do.  They bought it.  When something is really glaring I might say, "You could really get more out of that system if you did this or that". (maybe the speakers are the weak link, as is often the case)
20140409061251325.jpg I have plaques and awards like this from several companies.  They aren't meaningless but they are just words granted to me by some of the better companies in the business.  I'm sure there are plenty more out there.  When I look back at all the years and all the components I have owned the list seems awfully long.  There are times when I wish I had some of them back.  The system(s) I listen to now are pretty good, far better than most people own, and they have the benefit of being installed and adjusted by one of the most experienced audio hobbyists in the world; me.  I change them all the time, moving things around, changing cartridges in my turntables, moving speakers here and there, swapping electronics, building new cables and I still by new music all the time.  Nearly every day I spend a few hours working on my bench, fixing things, refurbishing old components and frequently I pause, take one of my guitars of the "String Swing" and plug into one of my amps to play a while.
For more than fifty years I have been doing that.  I see no reason to quit.  This spring my friends and relatives know I expect them to be looking around at garage sales for my projects I can work on.  Over the summer, when my hip heals up sufficiently I want to get some things done in the yard and garden.  I also want to go through everything in the party barn that needs some work and by fall I hope to have a line up of things to keep me busy all winter.  When my old customers call I will help them any way I can by fixing what they have, recommending something different or just giving them something I don't need. 
20140409062520629.jpg I still want to find a tonearm for this table but I have the B & O 4002 or the Yamaha PX-3 to play.  While I spend my time working on these old gadgets I keep changing the records, tapes and CDs that run continuously no matter where I am in the house of even in the barn.  It is a pretty good like for Martha and me.  Our sons and their families are always nearby.  When we get tired we just enjoy a comfortable chair and watch the grand kids play down at the lake.  Life goes on.  Life is good. Jim
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Another good read, Jim!
 
But not much on the "lunatic fringe" or woofer sizes. Would you please give us some specific examples?
 
I noticed the typos in that ad the last time you posted it. They also called the 901's "601". The typesetter must have been unfamiliar with stereo equipment!
 
Interesting that Dick chose to advertise the M-0.5t. We don't see many of those today, and I don't think they were very popular back then. Did you find it was easier to sell the smaller Carver amps as entry-level, or did most folks jump in with a M-1.5(t)?
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Interesting note....referencing the ads, I own a pair of Time Frame 350s, and they trade hands in good shape today for $200 a pair.

25+ years later, 50% of their original value. And that's one of the smallest DCM TF series. Vifa drivers, never needing a refoam.

They are 'upstairs' on my old KRV-77r Kenwood reciever.

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Greetings:  Yes, there were plenty of other typos in our ads.  I even received some POP signs made by our "advertising department" where words were misspelled.  I would have thought that even if the sign company got the ad copy sent to them wrong that they would have corrected it!  I have a sign in the party barn that was supposed to read "environments that exhilarate" which was a slogan made up by Dick and Rich for our custom installation department.  The spelled it exilerate on the sign! There were a number of components in our ads that were not even the right model number for the picture. That was particularly bad for me in Kalamazoo where I had a number of customers who were professors at one of the colleges, WMU, K-College or Nazareth and, eventually, Kalamazoo Valley.  There were at least half a dozen of my customers who bought from me and then stopped simply because I did not carry equipment that was expensive enough to be good.  Those were people I liked to call "The Lunatic Fringe".  I would go to their houses when they invited me and wonder at the Martin-Logan speakers, Conrad-Johnson amps and Linn CD players, knowing how much they cost.  Of course they sounded good but honestly if there was any real difference I could not figure out how it was worth paying 3 or 4 times as much for.  I never heard an amp that sounded any better than one of the best Carvers or Sunfires no matter how much it cost.  I heard speakers that cost 30, 40 even 50 thousand dollars a pair.  They were gorgeous, huge and very good sounding but not even close to being worth the money.  I just got a catalog from the Audio Advisor in the mail.  Do they really find people who will by a $500 extension cord?  Or little caps that cover unused inputs, tiny little pyramid doodads to place under your components or large ceramic insulators to keep your speaker wire from touching the carpet?  Pure Lunatic fringe.  Sadly, quite a few people "agree" that those things actually make a difference that they can hear.  I doubt it, but for what they pay they had better believe it.  You are also right about that ad for a Carver teeny tiny amp.  We never even had those in stock.  When people did buy Carver it was because they wanted POWER!  The smallest Carver I have ever owned are the small Carver pro models which have at least 100/rms/channel.  I don't wish to hurt anyone or offend their sensibilities but please pardon me if I run solid tests myself at the store and at home.  If I do not hear a difference that is quantifiable, a bona fide improvement and worth the money I won't buy it or sell it.  As I said in response to one of the blogs the other day regarding building a custom sub for home use, I can think of no benefit, whatsoever, for using anything bigger than 10 or 12 inches for a woofer.  A larger one has more drawbacks than benefits and Bob Carver's own research and products confirm this.  Read his white paper, look at his designs and listen to the results.  My Sunfire Signature is compact and yet produces clean deep bass over the entire audible spectrum as close to flat as I have ever heard.  The problem is solved! Stop looking for a solution.  Jim
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Hey Jim, I used to own a set of those Base 501's! I caught it in the add too. They were my first set of "store bought" speakers. Before that, I'd make my own boxes and load them with car speakers, even took a couple of nail kegs acquired from a lumber supply and mounted several 5"ers in series in it trying to copy I think some speakers Pioneer had out at the time. Thanks for the chuckle and the memory.

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Com[ kom] 
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...or large ceramic insulators to keep your speaker wire from touching the carpet?  
 
I got a chuckle out of this..., I grew up in Macomb, IL, halfway between the quad cities and St. Louis. There were 3 industries there - Bower Roller bearing (now NTN), Heagar Pottery, and McGraw Edison, also a ceramics factory. McGraw Edison was the employer of a number of my school mates.  Oh, yes, also Western Illinois University was a big employer.
 
Anyway, my buddies and I used to shoot pellet guns and .22's at old McGraw Edison insulators (picture below), which were rapidly becoming obsolete. They were piled up outside the railroad yard, and trucks would dump them in old quarries and abandoned coal pits. We had no shortage for target practice. The factory closed down, I don't recall when, but much earlier than 1985,when Texas-based Cooper Industries acquired the entire company.
 
The chuckle comes when I recently saw these insulators  for sale for $25 a piece, for use as rests for speaker wire and interconnects raising them off the floor between components.  Now I wish I hadn't broken so many down in the quarry where we used to target practice as kids! It would be a gold mine - I'd sell them in the parking lot outside AXPONA in a couple weeks! tongue
 
Still, I would have them, if I could find them - just for nostalgia.
 
20140410181522638.png 

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...or large ceramic insulators to keep your speaker wire from touching the carpet?  
 
The chuckle comes when I recently saw these insulators  for sale for $25 a piece, for use as rests for speaker wire and interconnects raising them off the floor between components.  Now I wish I hadn't broken so many down in the quarry where we used to target practice as kids! It would be a gold mine - I'd sell them in the parking lot outside AXPONA in a couple weeks! tongue
 
Maybe you could sell them sections of old broomsticks as telephone poles, or recycle Erector sets into pylons? out.gif 
 
Sorry to hear about the demise of all those insulators! You don't know what you've got til it's gone... 

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Before I wrote what I did about "The Lunatic Fringe" I decided to do my best to be sure I avoided offending people.  My wife cautioned my and pointed out that I did lose several customers, some of them friends, when we went our own different ways regarding audio sound quality, cost and real performance.  My very good friend, Mark, whom you have read about, made the entire journey, first replacing his Kenwood system from Crazy Larry's with equipment he bought from me.  When he had all the best Carver components, KEF 107 speakers, a TEAC X-2000R and a Harmon/Kardon ST-7 turntable with a Signet TK-111E moving coil cartridge I spent a lot of time with him enjoying the music, sipping very good scotch and talking about sound quality.  There came a time when he begged me to become a dealer for "better" equipment so that he could continue buying it from me.  After he bought his Sunfire gear to replace the Carver I began telling him that the next step would be a very expensive one and that I was not willing to tell him that I felt it was worth the cost for so little improvement, if any. Mark had other friends who were audio junkies and they told him things that I just could not agree with.  Many laughed at him for thinking that ANY Carver product was even worth considering if he truly wanted the best.  When he sold off his Sunfire equipment and started shopping at stores in Chicago and Detroit where he could find brands that The Absolute Sound recommended I knew he had no more use for anything I carried.  At about that time his business repairing cars was doing well and he and his wife found a nice new home in a "better" neighborhood on the other side of town and they spent a lot of money turning it into a very beautiful place.  On the back of the house, overlooking the Kalamazoo valley he decided to build a totally custom room for his system.  He asked me for input along with his other friends, one of whom was a finish carpenter.  Randy was also an "audiophile" and like Mark he evolved beyond the equipment he could buy from me.  The estimates he got varied wildly.  The lowest ones were for a conventional room on a concrete slab with a sloped shed roof and lots of glass for the view.  I told him the room could be made much better by placing it over a basement.  His compromise was to pour a concrete floor that was extra thick, re-enforced with plenty of wire and re-bar with an 18" frost footing on three sides and a 24" along the front wall to compensate for the grade falling away.  In the middle of that side, 2' into the room, he had a "chimney footing" made that was 3' deep and 6' long.  The concrete was almost 2' deep under it and cement block laid up to just below floor height where he changed to nice brick that came to a height of 30" inside the room for his equipment plinth.  We ran A/C (a dedicated 30 amp line), antenna, speaker wire and interconnect conduit that went to the proper places in the room and to a distribution panel in the basement.  The interior of the plinth we filled with sand and then we poured a cap of concrete on top. Mark then ordered a piece of marble in onyx black that had holes to allow the wiring access. Then we built a wood floor over the cement floor including a 3' crawl space, floor joists on 12" centers, full insulation with a vapor barrier and a system of PVC pipes running around the perimeter so that wires could be pulled at any time.  I warned him that when I built my house in 1976 the wires I ran were good but a few years later I abandoned them for better technology and I could not remove them, they were stapled in place under the drywall.  The floor was two layers of High Density particle board laid at right angles to overlap all joints.  No nails anywhere.  Every joist had a thick bead of construction adhesive and then deck screws used generously to fasten down the wood.  The second layer was also glued and screwed.  After it was treated, he bought hardwood for the floor which Randy put down diagonally with adhesive and no nails or screws.  The finishing touch was a gorgeous Oriental rug that was almost the same size as the room.  The walls were 2" X 6" on 12" centers all the way around.
 
After the walls were insulated we built another identical wall, using shims to space it 1/4" away from the outer wall with the studs staggered. The shims did not stay, they were removed after everything was solid so that there was no contact at all between the two parallel walls.  The end walls had no windows but they had custom shelves for media built in made to fit LPs, CDs, 10" reels and his video collection.  The back wall had an extra wide door with a glass window in it that was the entry way into the house but everything was isolated from the house.  His wife could look in to see us without having to actually open the door.  The front wall had Anderson windows and an entry door placed to avoid symmetry.  The door was beautiful but also high security.  He had a very comprehensive alarm system wired in from the start.  He also had a closet that was nearly a safe with security locks, a gun safe and a floor safe under the corner of the rug.  Instead of a shed roof he went with a gabled roof and open ceiling, also very well insulated and it was covered inside with a commercial patterned acoustically absorbent material glued to the extra thick gypsum board.  Two really nice high quality ceiling fans were on either side of the center line over the seating area.  You could choose from several different sources of indirect lighting with the option of very bright for working, very dim for listening and an intermediate choice for most of the time.  The view over the city was very nice.  My son Chris and I spent many hours in that room with Mark.  He had health issues that eventually caused his death so he would often call one or both of us to come and help with his new toys.  At least once a month he had boxes delivered with some kind of component "upgrade" and Chris and I would unpack, set up and then evaluate his latest.  He went through a number of "phases" including Linn, Conrad-Johnson and at least a dozen others.  By then he was WAY beyond anything I could sell him.  Chris and I played DJ for him, often for hours at a time, changing the music, playing single tracks, switching seamlessly between sources, taking his requests or surprising him with ours.  He loved it and often we would be recording the whole evening on the TEAC X-2000R so he could relive the occasion over and over again.  One of the last things I could sell him were blank rolls of Maxell 10" tape.  Eventually he accumulated about 4 dozen of them and he bought a second machine that he set-up at his shop so he could play them while he worked.  His mechanics loved the music. When Mark died it hit pretty close to home.  We were much alike, both big, strong, overweight, opinionated and truly in love with music.  I spoke at his service and brought tears to the eyes of everyone there.  I worried about being able to do it and retain my composure but it wasn't as hard as I expected.  It was as joyful as it could have been.  As I had occasionally done, I set up my system and played his favorite music.  His was not the first funeral I played and not the last either.  I know someday Chris will do the same for me.  Mark and I both had many of the same physical maladies.  Both of us had Rouwen/Wye gastric bypass surgery but his never really properly healed.  He was still bleeding internally a year afterwards. One night his wife helped him to bed and the next morning he was gone, passing peacefully in his sleep.  It hit a lot of people very hard, especially her, and we did all we could to help.  She actually offered me some of Mark's things but I helped her sell all of it except for a nice simple system she could operate and she still plays those tapes and CDs whenever she wishes.  She has done a fantastic job with his business which runs like clockwork and is still where we go for service.  Martha and I still enjoy talking with her and reminiscing about those long gone days.  We do have several reminders of Mark around the house. Martha is worried a little that something like what happened to him will happen with me, but I have quit drinking, lost a lot of weight and I have had many surgeries to fix problems that Mark probably should have had.  One difference is that Mark did not have the insurance I do.  Martha's job had excellent benefits and we still pay very little for our health care.  Mark never had good coverage and he paid a lot of cash for his procedures.  It was not fair. I sincerely believe he might be alive today under different circumstances.
Chris and I often talk about Mark and our many experiences with him.  We switched cables back and forth, placed his $1000 speaker wires on expensive "wire supports", removed and packed up beautiful, expensive components and then un-boxed even more expensive new ones.  We tried hard to hear the differences but rarely could.  Mark appreciated our honesty but often swore to us that he could hear something.  Maybe he could, how can anyone really know?  The most we can say is that every change might have made some small increment of difference but whether better or worse was impossible to say, at least for us.  Mark tried repeatedly to get me to take his castoffs, sometimes for nothing, but I never really could justify it.  Chris was given a pair of Linn Isobarik speakers that must have cost more than $5000 but he sold them after having his friends fry a couple tweeters that I replaced at great cost with a pair of KEFs that he swears are better at less than half the price.
 
In the store we also had our share of "salesman" who dropped in to sell us their "custom made" speaker wire, interconnects, record cleaning supplies, speaker stands, equipment racks and isolation cones but I always insisted that they demonstrate the difference they claimed for their "breakthrough" invention.  Few could.  We would set up elaborate  double blind comparisons and in the end, if there was any difference to hear, no one could say that it was an improvement.  I use plenty of things in my systems that I have made on my bench but I would never be so arrogant as to try to tell someone, anyone that my solution was better than someone else.  I make my own record cleaning solution, cables, adapters, interconnects, isolation gadgets, room acoustics solutions and I do all of my own maintenance and repair, unless I am really over my head.  I just love to experiment.  When I was 15 years old I used to assemble and tear down not only my audio set-ups but the band set-up as well, trying to find a way to make an improvement.  That is the kind of thing that I believe makes for a real hobbyist.  I never look at that kind of thing as "work" or a "chore", it's just an opportunity.  I often think of Mark, especially when I work on audio gear.  He was a great friend.  Jim
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I'm lost in reverie over the advertisements, Jim. I, too, had Base 501s and remember feeling sheepish when the elderly lady in the apartment above came down to ask me to please turn down Dark Side Of The Moon well after midnight. What was I thinking? I must have been working the midnight shift and had a night off. I always had my eye on the 901s, quite an expenditure, and saved until I could trade in the 501s for the 901s plus a Bose 550 Spatial Control receiver. The old ads make for a good scrapbook. Thank you for the memories.

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We were never Bose dealers at TSR.  They were one of the brands we suggested could easily be out performed by our line of Acoustic Research speakers which were really our house brand.  They were good values and a couple models actually did get reviewed and they came out OK.  All Ken did was set up an arrangement between a furniture company in GR and Charbeneau, a company that made a line of of more or less generic drivers.  Charbeneau also came up with the basic designs with some help from the marketing department at the store.  The parameters had nothing to do with "sound quality" and everything to do with "bang for the buck". We wanted five or six models starting at under $100 (pr)and ending at a bout $500 (pr).  So there was a 50 watt two way, an 80 watt three way, a 100 watt three way with a 12" speaker instead of a 10", a bookshelf that was made to be used on its side and the "flagship" 15" three way with two cone midrange drivers and a phenolic ring tweeter.  The crossovers were about as simple as they could be; just a couple caps and resistors hot glued to the back of a terminal cup with push on connectors.  They were all made to be as efficient as possible, they all had "real walnut" veneer cabinets and if we sold a pair for list price more than half of the money was profit.  Many people listened to them after hearing the JBLs, Altecs, E/Vs and Advents and decided they liked them better.  Salesmen could knock of a lot and still make money.  My brother Dick bought a pair with his Pioneer SX-525 and BSR 510.  They got loud, imaged reasonably well and were almost bullet proof.  I sold a few but not without making some comparisons and letting the shopper make the ultimate decision.
 
When I went to Showcase I finally had the chance to see and hear all the Bose products first hand.  I was never much of a fan.  I did buy two pair of Bose 901 Series IV with the EQ and used them for gigs.  I transported them in their original boxes (re-enforced with a lot of tape) for almost ten years.  That would be at least 100 gigs.  They were placed one on top of the other on some kind of stand, a pair on each side of my table and I drove them with H/K, E/V, NAD, Hafler and finally Carver amps.  They always faced backwards with the 8 drivers pointing toward the crowd.  That was how the Bose "commercial" 801 speakers were made, with no ninth driver and they had black Tolex covering instead of the walnut. We were not commercial dealers so the home model was a real bargain for me.  Both pair cost me a little less than most people paid for one pair.  They got plenty loud, sounded very good and never gave me any trouble. They were useless with Holography.  I sold several pairs as the result of people hearing me use them.  I never heard those speakers in my living room. Not even once.  Bose were not "sold" by audio salesmen, they were purchased by customers who read the ads, heard them somewhere and listened to the sales pitch delivered by the company reps.  At every CES we visited the Bose display where we were greeted by perfectly clean young men and women, all dressed in identical outfits and all trained to deliver a predetermined, totally canned company line.  If you interrupted them, they would start again from the beginning because once they lost their place, they were lost.  None of them could answer any questions except the ones they had memorized. Once they had completed the memorized speech you were taken to the "headmaster" and your order would be taken.  Every store owner was challenged to make firm commitments to regular shipments and admonished if they refused.  Often we were told that our dealership was in jeopardy because we were not meeting our "goals".  Every pair of Bose speakers that left our store did so without any recommendation from me.  In fact, I can remember people who simply came in and said "Do you have Bose 901s in stock"?  "Why yes I do", was my reply; "Would you like a pair"?  "They most often said "Yes I would" so I brought out a pair, ALWAYS with the EQ, asked if they needed the matching stands and then wrote them up.  Most of the time, they paid and left.  That was it.  Occasionally I would be in the middle of that process and the customer would say something like "These are the best speakers you have, right"? My immediate answer was always the same, "Absolutely not"! They would be stunned. "Well why are you selling them to me then"?  "I didn't sell you anything.  You just told me you wanted them.  Here they are".  
 
That was the point when either they completed the sale, left disgusted or asked me what was better than Bose.  If I got the chance to actually demonstrate a better pair, always for less money, I had a very good chance of sending them home with something else.  The worst thing was what their "Bose fanatic" friends said when they did.  Then I had to deal with them the next day.  Fortunately, it was not hard to prove that much better speakers were available and for a lot less.  One really good thing was that I was happy to sell Bose 901s to the guys who wanted very high volume.  A pair of them with a Carver 1.5 would pin their ears to the wall!  Two pair, like I had, made the Carver even bigger and they were easy to drive. Jim

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<snip>
Before I wrote what I did about "The Lunatic Fringe" I decided to do my best to be sure I avoided offending people.<snip>
 
Over the years I've come to conclude that I should probably take some of my own advice.  I truly believe that since no one can hear what one hears; therefore, I probably shouldn't say what others claim to hear.  Whether I believe its placebo effect or not?
 
With that said I still chuckle to myself sometime over some of the claims and promises.  Especially precious are the "upgrades" one can obtain for astronomical prices.  I guess others could claim the same "odd" desire of me wanting to purchase 20-25 year old electronics for hundreds of dollars (and then not just one but many ... OCCD).
 
What a great hobby.  Enjoy the music
  • Thank You 2

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