Livin’ the Dream!

You probably believe, like I used to, that there is literally nothing more boring than listening to someone describe his dream. An understandable belief, but completely false. The truth is, there’s literally nothing more boring than my actual dreams. If through some unfortunate series of events you were in the area while I described one of them, you would die. No matter how artfully told, a description of my typical dream would grip you in iron pincers of tedium and slowly crush the last spark of life from your helpless body. If you somehow managed to live, you would wish for death rather than having to endure the haunting memory of its supernatural torpidity. Let me give you an example. (Oh, don’t worry: I’ll only give you a flavor, which will merely cause shortness of breath and mild paralysis.) You see, whereas others may have dreams of flying over mountaintops or exploring their childhood home, mine involve real-time trips to government offices or muffler repair shops. No long-forgotten friends appearing dressed as lion tamers for me; I get Hal, the guy who normally cuts my hair and tells me stories of his pet birds.

That’s why I was surprised and pleased when just a few weeks ago, a dream in which I had called the automated service line to update some information on my SARSEP was followed by one in which I was standing before my dream home theater system. The HDTV was as large as a grade-school soccer field, the speakers like Egyptian obelisks, the subwoofer the size of a World War II pillbox, and in my dream, I was able to tinker with the delightfully complex and massive receiver controlling it all. 

Alas, it was just a dream, and I awoke, of course, to my very decent but decidedly inferior system. But it got me musing on what kind of system I would put together with unlimited money and free rein in terms of home décor. (I’ve never undertaken the task of narrowing down my unattainable dream system before because I’ve always held to Tiny Tim’s philosophy regarding toys: “Well, you said I can’t have none of them, so I might as well like them all.”)

I’m a big fan of plasma technology (well, “big fan” may be overstating it—I’ve never attended a rally or sent a letter requesting a signed photo or anything). I’ve long wished to have the largest possible Pioneer KURO hanging on my wall. But after having recently gotten my hands on the relatively new OLED technology—albeit in a very tiny 4-inch screen—I want a very large version of it hanging on my wall. (And since in this exercise I have unlimited money, I want it now and am willing to pay top dollar to put freshly cut horse heads in the bed of anyone who stands in my way.) Colors are fantastic, yes, but we already have great color. Same with crisp resolution. No, the selling point of OLED is the seemingly infinite blacks. This is Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove album cover black: “It’s like, how much more black could this be—and the answer is none. None more black.” In a very unscientific experiment in a dark room, I compared the black level of my phone’s OLED screen to that of my pretty good plasma. The result made me briefly consider ditching my current home theater system and instead suspending the phone from the brim of a baseball cap. Yes, that would cut off the rest of my family and limit the home theater experience to, well, me, but I’m willing to live with that sacrifice. And sure, OLED is a young and untested technology, but I’m willing to deposit as many horse heads in as many beds of as many engineers as are needed to bring it to fruition.

Where the sound system is concerned, there’s almost no limit to the money you can invest in exotic designs. Would you like to drop $100,000 on a crossover-less horn speaker made from many layers of laminated zebra hide? They’ve got you covered. For my money, I like my sound engineers to be in the lab or the anechoic chamber testing designs for their flat frequency response on and off axis, the early reflections, the sound power, etc., not out on safari. So I would probably lay my money down on more traditional designs. That said, some of my favorite speaker designers are now working with tweeters made from beryllium, a rare earth metal that is very light, very strong, expensive to manufacture, and quite toxic. If I’m laying out big coin, I want to be able to say, “This speaker, it could kill me, right?” “If you pry off the grille, pop out the tweeter, grind it up, and snort it.” “Yep, so I’m pretty much living on the edge of death. Throw a pair in the back of the Murciélago, will you, champ?”

There’s no doubt which subwoofer would anchor my dream system: the $25,000 (installed) Thigpen Rotary Woofer Model 17 from Eminent Technology. Essentially a highly advanced fan, the TRW-17 is capable of putting out enormous amounts of bass down to 1 hertz. That’s enough to achieve my dual purpose of adding unbelievable punch to action movies and keeping my servants in line by always making them think it just might be the end times.

I’m not going to be picky about the receiver to power all of this, just something that has a very intuitive remote for those members of my family whose every encounter with one looks as though it is the first time—that it’s some powerful and dangerous bit of sorcery put there to hurt them. Perhaps a touchscreen that reads, “Press here for music—and don’t worry, nothing bad will happen.”

Easy enough. Now I’ll get cracking on that whole unlimited money thing.

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