Part The Second
Or: What not to do when demoing new loudspeakers.
It was a beautiful day.
Okay, not really. It was overcast and threatening to rain. But to me, it was beautiful — I was bringing in a brand new-ish pair of Volti Audio Vittora loudspeakers. To say I was excited would be a tragic understatement. I was a man dying of thirst and I’d just wrapped my mitts around a tall, cool glass of water.
Okay, not really. But I was totally pumped.
The speakers had been delivered by Panther the week before, but this had been the soonest I’d been able to schedule some stout lads to come over and help me manhandle them from the garage into the house, so I’d been sitting with my hands stuffed in my pockets for far too long.
It wasn’t until they were actually in the house, a process that nearly cracked me like a walnut on at least two distinct occasions, that I realized that I might have a problem. Quite frankly, the speakers were … big. Hmm.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking Wilson XLF or anything like it. The Vittoras aren’t tall — in fact, I think they’re few inches shy of four feet. But they are wide — almost 3′ wide, each. And deep. A full 2′ deep. The bulk is visually arresting, even as the finish was everything I’d hoped for and more. I just … worried. Maybe Julia would think they took up a bit much of our living room.
Now, when I’d arranged to get these loudspeakers in, it wasn’t going to be a surprise. I very wisely ran the idea by my wife — I’ve been married for over a decade, I know that such surprises would sail like a lead balloon. You do not drop new furniture on my wife with a grin and a prayer. Unwise. My wife is a lovely person, very kind and open minded, but she has a thing about aesthetics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but she’s picky, and she has thing about loudspeakers.
I’ve showed her the highlight reel from some of past audio shows I’ve been to, if only to ask her about her take on particular design, or look, or whatever. The usual response? A sneer. “Why do they all have to look like giant penises?” was one, fairly typical, response. My favorite: “That totally looks like a space ship!” This was then followed by hours of gun-like finger gestures while she made little “Pew! Pew!” sounds, pretending she’s zapping things with her ray gun. I love this woman, but … well, let’s just say that she’s got some very specific feelings about the whole form-follows-function debate.
Anyway, when I showed her some snaps of the Vittoras, I got a “hey, that looks pretty nice” response — I promptly dropped my iPad. She really liked the Volti look. “It’s a bit retro, but looks nice.” I dug a bit more, expecting some kind of not-so-hidden mockery or a setup for a zinger, but none was there. “Not really the look I usually go for, but nice” and “it looks like a speaker.” High praise. The highest!
At this point, a wise man might have simply moved on. But, being brain damaged, that’s not … exactly … what I did. No … I doubled-down and push all-in.
So, some time later, after I chatted with Volti’s owner Greg Roberts about the possibility of a review and he very graciously indicated that it was “certainly a possibility”, I checked in again to see if Julia would be down with me moving a pair of these guys into the living room for several months. Again, to my shock, she just shrugged, so I pushed — she was okay to have them in the living room? Her room? “They’re not staying forever, right?” I nodded, mentally shrugging — we could deal with that bridge if we got to it. I mean, she could fall in love with them, right? “Then, okay,” said she.
Well, alrighty then. I called Greg and we made the arrangements.
A couple of months later and The Speakers had arrived. RMAF had ended and Panther had finally gotten around to delivery. In the real world, Thanksgiving was around the corner. Christmas would follow shortly thereafter.
In my mind, we were now set to jam out, true audiophile style, at all the parties I had visions of us hosting, and all the guests that would come through could stand and be amazed by the sheer glory of the audio goodness that was now resident at Chez Moi. Oh, yeah.
In reality, I had just claimed a third of the living room and declared it off limits from little people and random crap. In my mind, this was right and just. Greg had threatened my life, you see, and he’s bigger than me, so yes, I protected his babies by keeping mine out of “harms way”. Made sense, right? Right. Exactly so.
So … in retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to have come up with a more elegant way to handle all the gear …. But I’m a moron.
I hadn’t even thought about all the components I needed to drive the speakers. Somehow, Julia had gotten the idea that speakers just worked … okay, maybe not, so maybe it was me. Whatever. How could she not know that there’d be a preamp? And an amp. And a source! And cables. And power conditioning. And remotes ….
I suppose you could say that I failed to paint a full picture for my dear, lovely and put-upon wife, and the Reality in the Living Room was quite a bit more daunting than the cheery picture I’d hastily sketched out. I know this because my wife told me so, with considerable frost, later that first night. Mea culpa, said I (I’m a moron, but I’m not stupid), not that that really helped at this point, but hey, whatchoogonnado? It was too late — the boys were gone, the speakers were here. Time to nut up and move on — and past. I mean, that’s what intelligent, loving, adults do. Everything was gonna be fine.
Backing up: Day One of what has since become known (to me, anyway) as The Cold War, began with me beaming, sweating, and mostly crippled, having wrestled with a pair of whales into the house. I exaggerate, but they were big and heavy and yes, I’m a wuss. Gary Dews had brought along a couple of his lovely BorderPatrol amplifiers, so we’d gone from positioning to listening pretty quickly, thank the Gods of Audio, because at that point, Yours Truly was ready for a fistful of Advil and a six-pack of beer.
Anyway, 8 watts into a horn is really something, and let’s just say that volume wasn’t an issue. That is, unless you think that 90dB is loud. Which is what sane people think, but what the hey. We’re audiophiles! In the middle of the glorious mayhem, Julia comes in from chores — she wanted to avoid the huffing and puffing — and finds Gary, audio volunteer Kemper Holt “enjoying the system” and doing a bit of tuning. This translated visually into three large men draped over various bits of (temporarily!!!) re-arranged furniture, listening and tweaking “stuff”. From a audible perspective, this involved playing and re-playing certain songs over and over.
You might say that this was missed opportunity #2, with #1 being adequately over-informing my dear wife. In hindsight, this would have been an excellent opportunity to bring my wife in and involve her somehow and get her invested in the project. It’s really much harder to be negative if your instrumental to the whole process. Right?
I am sooooo smart … after the fact.
I still have the scars.
Honestly, I should have taken them into the basement. The man cave. Where all the other delectable audio bits end up and get happily consumed. But that had never actually been in the cards — the bass cabinets simply wouldn’t have fit past the basement door frame without damage. We knew this going in — and it was why I’d gone through the whole “are you okay with this” thing in the first place. So, I explained, with no Plan B, we were stuck with Plan A and she knew it. And quite frankly, I simply didn’t have it in me to repack them. Not yet. Not until the bones had knitted and the tendons had been reattached. The speakers were here, and here for the duration.
My wife’s last comment on the subject was succinct, the clipped words hissing from clenched teeth like darts of ice to shatter on the floor.
“Fine then — but that duration had better be short.”
Let’s just wrap this aside by saying that I was in the dog house for the next six weeks, until Gary came with a panel van and we loaded them up and he carried them off for him “to hold” until AXPONA in Chicago the following March. Gary, much later, told me he had them setup that next day. Since they replaced some ugly DIY loudspeakers, his wife was absolutely thrilled to have the Vittoras in her living room.
My wife? She still won’t talk about “the incident with the speakers.” Yeah. Burned a bridge there, and maybe a few of the surrounding buildings. With napalm.
Que sera, sera.
As for me, I’m thinking “bookshelf speakers” sounds like a great thing to get obsessed with.