I'm kinda pissed off again. For the past year or so, I have been trying to win Powerball. At my kid's school they asked us to work on numbers with him (he's just wrapping up Kindergarten as I type), so I couldn't think of a tastier number than 292,000,000:1.
OK, OK, that's a ratio, not a proper number. But it's also the odds of winning Powerball, and I want in. And it's fine if I win on one of those off drawings with a mere $40,000,000. I can make that work, and I mean really work, pretty much forever.
Let's face it, though: those are pretty staggering odds. Getting a hole-in-one on a standard par-3, by contrast, is somewhere around 8,200:1 odds. Getting struck by lightning is reportedly around 700,000:1 according to a quick Google search, which is as far as I'd like to take my research on that subject. The real value of Powerball isn't in thinking you'll actually beat such odds. It's the few luscious minutes that you spend dreaming of what you would do with all of that money.
To be fully forthright with you, I've become somewhat fascinated by the topic, having read three different books about lottery winners. Here's the net-net of what I learned. Nearly everyone blows the money. Their friends feel entitled to some of the winnings somehow or in some way. Gifts from the heart are often translated into insults (how irrational is that?), thus ruining friendships, family relationships, etc. Problems with drugs and/or alcohol seem to be the next logical step.
Don't believe me? Here's a recent story of a 55-year-old, big-time lottery winner who blew all of his cash before realizing that it was going to run out, so while hooked on heroin he decided to take his PT Cruiser to my neighborhood (and a few others) and rob banks. He reportedly got away with $40,000 total. Then he got 80 years in prison. Perhaps he should have hired a money manager at Goldman Sachs when he first won his money?
Now, you and I would never blow all of our money like that because the rules of human nature don't apply to us, do they? But we would blow some of it on audio gear, wouldn't we? Granted, the temptation of buying a bigger house would likely get the best of me. I would like to find a location near where I live that a) has good security b) has a killer ocean view and c) has room for me to build a separate audio room (slash) office (slash) entertainment complex that I could play with all of my cool new toys and a place to do whatever project that I wanted to work on.
It's not very stereotypically audiophile to talk about room first, but your room is the most important part of your system. I would hire one of the best room/studio designers like Bob Hodas, Keith Yates, or Anthony Grimani to help me get each and every little detail right. Floated floors? Check. Ultra-quiet lights? Check. Studio doors to keep out outside sound? Check. Perhaps non-parallel walls? Bass trap products like RPG's nifty and hidden Modex panels built into the walls? Check, check, and check, please!
Room treatments that were built-into the design of the room so that it didn't look like a commercial recording studio? Gimme. Varying types of materials in the room, including cement floors, hardwood, carpets and more absorptive things? Shut up and take my money. I want a separate room for the installation of the electronics. HVAC will need to be baffled in such a way that there will be close to no sound from the fans but the air should always blow nice and cold.
Windows or glass walls will be triple-paned to possibly grant views but to keep exterior sound out (or my sound in, depending on how you look at things). The walls will be built of thick blocks and designed to keep sound out and temperatures moderate. I can't even image what the build-cost of this construction would be. Audio engineers, lighting designers, structural engineers, absurdly expensive items like studio doors and fancy room treatments... Oh, I could see this place costing $2,000 per foot just to build. That's not including any cement, steel, or structural work needed to make it earthquake-ready for here in Los Angeles. Note: I haven't even bought a theoretical audio component yet.
You want theoretical audio components? Click on over to the next page...
Design-wise, making the room look elegant is key. You see that a lot in the staged photos for the best audiophile gear. Stone, cement, windows and all of the modern accoutrement adorn these rooms. Guess what--those rooms would sound like poo-poo. They just look cool. It would be one hell of a challenge to have a room that had that "Nobu on the beach" look but also sounded like a top mastering studio. Furniture should be designed not just for my personal sweet spot, but so that I can have you, yes you, over to visit. And then you can get entitled to my Powerball money and turn on me, hate me, and force me to become a bank-robbing heroin addict. Wait, I digress.
Seriously, it's important to have the room be a place where music and media can be shared with your friends, family and guests. All too often dedicated audio rooms are all about one person listening. I want to share the music, movies, TV, games, what have you.
On the controversial topic of cables: I would get very, very good ones but I would stray from the ones that EQ your sound, as my room will be very tuned in and I likely would want some form of room correction on the low registers. And yes, I want subwoofers. Big, gnarly ones that would necessitate an easily accessible bathroom in my little media heaven.
Back to the topic of cables: I believe in using the best. Great connections and well-insulated cables are key in a great audio system. I like a lot of what Wireworld is doing these days in that space, as they try to make cables that get out of the way of the sound. Beyond that, I don't want to actually see any cables. There must be conduit in the floors with good hardware that allows me to run cables where I want to and have them pop up in key locations.
AC power should be run the same way. God knows how many dedicated lines I need here. I know if I were asking Dan D'agostino, he'd want me to put in 240-volt lines. So, add that to the build cost for at least the amps, which I would be unlikely to put on the floor near the speakers. They go in the mechanical room and look like a watch collection or a well-done wine cellar, not an audio closet. I want to retain that modern-sleek-yet-comfortable look of the room.
Video, you ask? Of course, but it's not the focus of this article, per se. I could see a Planar 100-inch LED. A Christie Digital D-cinema 4K laser projector would be better, and with the right drop-down screen would be cooler on a lot of levels, but man they are noisy. I remember back in the very old days how Cello used to modify 9-inch Ampro CRT projectors to make them quieter. In this case, if I was going to go the projector route, I would need a very small, climate controlled, vented projector room in the back of the room like you find in the best Hollywood "Bel Air Circuit" theaters. Add that to the growing list of change orders for the construction of this room. Good thing that I am planning on winning Powerball.
In terms of sources, you guys know where I stand on vinyl, so I'd likely skip that. I could see a bulk buy of every track offered in HD. David and Norman Chesky at HDTracks.com will love me. I tend to like Roon for front-end control. I would want both some form of touchpad remote (a, iPad is OK) as well as a hard button remote like the Crestron MLX-3, which I used all over my house now. They're just better for basic controls and simple tasks like channel surfing.
I'm going to need DirecTV, of course, for my out-of-market Philadelphia Eagles and Flyers games. I might break down and get a cable box so that I can watch those few USC football games on the Pac12 Network, but I am still angry about them not offering that channel on DIRECTV.
Roku would likely cover all of the streaming options. At her new job, my wife is now voting on the Emmys and there's actually an app to watch pretty much every show being made today just for the voters! I need me some Amazon, Netflix, and other apps too. I have a feeling my kid and his buddies would like this room; too, thus the Roku is a no-brainer.
Not sure what type of music streamer one might use. There are a ton of super-high-end DACs. Meridian's MQA DAC would be a consideration. Berkely Audio, Bricasti, Momentum, dCS and others could get a chance. I think I would still have an Oppo UHD-Blu-ray player in there for legacy DVD-Audio, SACD, and other discs. Perhaps a video game platform might be cool too but I pretty much suck at today's games. I guess my kids and their buddies can whoop my ass at whatever the best, non-crazy-violent game is. That could be fun.
When it comes time to buy electronics, I don't think I'll narrow myself into one choice. When I was a single guy living in 800 square feet of West Hollywood condo, I had choices. Krell monos or Audio Research Mark Levinson N° 40 or Meridian 861 Proceed CD player or Meridian 800? It was fun. I'll likely go that route again when I win Powerball. Not if. When.
D'agostino Relentless Mono amps? I'd get a pair. Nelson Pass' top Class A monoblocks? Heck yes. Audio Research's flagship preamp? Absolutely. According to Ben Shyman, Mark Levinson's latest $20,000 preamp doesn't suck either. I'll get one of those too. It is fun to change things up. I think an interesting challenge would be to design the mechanical room so that a) I can have a neatly organized and controlled AV system but b) also display the trophy-like audio gear in a way that was artful and respectful when it wasn't being played.
Speakers are so subjective and there are so many to choose from. Since we are spending Powerball money and doing construction from the ground up, we can go with something large. There's nothing I don't like about my current Focal Sopra no. 2s other than they aren't big enough for my Powerball system. Focal Grand Utopia EMs might be more in order. I've been lucky enough to own five pairs of Wilson Audio speakers, and a pair of XLFs or the new WAAMs might be worthy of consideration. Sonus faber's top speakers sounded insanely good at Axpona.
There are nearly endless choices, so let's agree to quickly buy a 25- to 50-hour jet card as we are going to need to go hear some speakers before we cut some checks. The problem with these huge speakers is that they need to be tuned and placed in the room very precisely. The audio engineers might not have that easy of a time with changing out reference level speakers all of the time. Who knows? It might just mean more billable hours for them and more trips to Los Angeles? Where would you store your XLFs when the Focals were in use? Talk about First World problems...
OK, I am done dreaming about the audiophile portion of my Powerball spending. Now it's time for you to chime in below on how you would spend part of a cool $100,000,000 on an audio system. How would you use the system? What gear would you buy? How would you build the room? Where would you build the room? (I could see one in Maui or Kona with no windows that competed with the sound of crashing waves, because why not). Post your dream audio system below and don't forget to buy yourself a $2 ticket. Because yes, 292,000,000:1 is pretty staggering odds. But as Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber would say, "So you're telling there's a chance?"