Random Noise 34

Mike Silverton

[November 2012.]

Once upon a recent time a husband and wife’s old front-loading washing machine began making alarming sounds. A bearing was preparing to perish. So off trotted the husband and wife to the furniture-appliance store where they’d bought the washer and its matching dryer, along with their other large appliances. The husband and wife think the world of this place (which includes a Radio Shack franchise). The good people at the furniture-appliance store deliver, install and remove old appliances for the price of the new purchase. They service what they sell, usually promptly. After a warrantee’s expiration, there’s a charge for whatever goes wrong, similar to the fees plumbers and electricians charge in that picturesque part of the world.

The new washer-dryer bears the Crosley name — made by Frigidaire and identical to slightly more expensive Frigidaire models. Two-year general warranty, ten years on a motor. Build-quality and ease-of-operation excellent. Sturdy, good-looking stuff. Nothing at all for the husband and wife to criticize, least of all the price: delivery, installation, removal of old washer-dryer, $1500 plus a few bucks. The husband would have to fetch the receipt. But that’s the neighborhood.

As someone who’d been calling himself an audiophile for a lot of years, the husband couldn’t get over the price — as if tabulated in a different dimension, which, in its way, it was. The husband had an email exchange with the distributor of an imported audio item in which the husband observed that the audio item’s MSLP is weirdly out of line with, let’s say, the husband and wife’s fine new washer-dryer. The price of the audio item — a small, not terribly complex thing — fell uncomfortably close to that of the appliances.

The distributor agreed but what could he do — or indeed the husband, who gave the small, not terribly complex audio item a favorable notice, which it deserves. The reader of the husband’s review will likely have decided on his or her own how far into foolishness a hobby has descended.

The husband and wife’s fine new appliances are mass-produced, as are good, reliable automobiles that cost less than a top-tier sound system’s cabling, never mind turntables, tonearms and phono pickups. The costliest of these buys you a house. This puts the husband and wife’s fine new appliances and the arena in which they compete in a category well apart from the limited-production, narrow-niche goods aimed at audiophiles. The husband understands that, with a significant number of his fellow enthusiasts, the more one pays, the deeper the satisfactions. Certain wristwatches offer similar rewards.

As you can see, the husband’s a cynical sort, particularly with respect to colleagues for whom off-the-wall prices suggest pleasures better than sex. He’s asked me to convey his opinions.

Happy to oblige.