The idea of the expedition was to go to Audio Perfection on Lyndale Avenue, and audition the speakers with John. He is trying to decide between the KEF Q7’s and some NHT ST-4’s. I love the store even though I have only been there once before; during that visit, the sales people treated me not as a poor (as in broke) kid, but as an interested enthusiast who could someday return to make an investment in gear. Our idea did work out, but we learned more than we thought we would.
We slowly walked up the steps of the old concrete building, looking inconspicuous helps Audio Perfection avoid theft. The layout of the place is simply many connected rooms with acoustic treatments on everything. For someone interested in home theater, the place is like Aladdin’s cave. Plasma TV’s on the walls, amplifiers from companies you have never heard of, and speakers - the speakers are incredibile. Electrostats bigger than a chaise lounge, floorstandings that look like canoes or alien landers, subwoofers you mistake for coffee tables. It is audio, though; it is not the looks that matter.
The promise that some of this equipment would soon bring a smile to our face by playing the albums I brought had us both eager to find the NHT’s John was looking for. At that moment, just as we were wondering where to begin looking, a man walked into the room swinging a cane in front of him. He aimed his gaze so accurately in our direction that it took me about a minute to realize he could see nothing at all. John asked about the NHT’s.
“They are in the room off this way,” he said to us, and he began to search for the door. I guessed that someone had moved some speakers, because he searched for the doorway about three feet to the left of where it was, on the wrong side of an electrostat. John and I stood there, not wishing to hurt his pride and guessing he had been there long enough to navigate on his own. He found his way and brushed past a bookshelf McIntosh, noting the brand as his fingers slipped over the mahogany finish. We followed hesitantly, watching him step confidently past tens of thousands of dollars of equipment up to the different NHD models. John mentioned the floorstanding ones he wanted to hear. To our amazement, the man stooped down and started to rewire the speaker cables so we could hear. “Which one is red?” he asked John, holding up 24k gold interconnects. By the next speaker, he simply held up the wire, asking with a tone closer to a statement than a question, “this is black, isn’t it?”
Equipment buttons everywhere, he punched one and listened for the relay inside, quickly realizing it had just been turned off, turning it on again. Becoming more sure of the model, he lightly tapped a button, and I dropped a CD into the tray that slid out. He shut the door on his way out, and we listened, almost as amazed with the sound as with his knowledge.
We asked him more questions later, and watched as his hands drifted over piano gloss finishes, removed grills, and assessed speakers; “These are pretty typical drivers, but listen to the cabinet, it’s rock solid.” Later, I thought to myself, here is someone who picked the perfect field. Losing a sense makes the other senses pick up the slack: here is someone who really truly hears and feels sound. I do not not know if I could keep on without something like sight.
I’m not sure what I learned from the experience, but I know it was something deeper than I can articulate right now. Seeing someone like him was really a cool experience, it had the best parts of meeting someone new.
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