In Search Of The Audio Abode---The Hi-fi House Page 6

Just remember that water always behaves like the human mind: It seeks the lowest possible level. If there is any surrounding land lower than the house's lot, a basement-level walkout (with no steps) is the best insurance against equipment damage due to flooding. If all the land around the house is higher than its ground floor, be forewarned: sooner or later, it will flood. In fact, any plain with a stream running through it is susceptible to flooding, even if it hasn't for 100 years, because flooding is how it got to be a plain in the first place. There's no point in worrying about such a remote prospect, but as the citizens of Oakland, CA, learned last October, there's a lot to be gained by planning for it.

If there is the slightest possibility that your listening room may be subject to occasional baptisms, certain precautions can minimize the damage. Insurance is one. The most obvious second one is to install a sump pump if there is not one already in place. The less obvious third precaution is to place all your electronic devices at least as high off the floor as the basement's AC outlets---if the room starts to fill up, you will have time to move the stuff to higher ground before rising water reaches the AC circuitry. When that happens, it should cause the fuses or breakers to blow, but it may not.

And if it doesn't, the electrified water will make it impossible for you to wade in and rescue anything. If the main fusebox is in the basement too, you would be unable to get to it to shut anything off. If things reach this point, phone the Electric Company for an immediate household turnoff, wait 30 seconds for them to arrive, then do it yourself if you know what you're doing. If you don't, call your insurance agent, get out the last 12 Stereophiles, and start planning your new system. (If your speakers are electrostatics, with power supplies in their bases, just forget all about precaution #3.)

Exit music:
Summing up, then, here's a recap description of the ideal listening room. It should be: 1) adequately isolated from neighbors and outdoor noises; 2) of rectangular floor plan; 3) optimally dimensioned as outlined above; 4) of masonry construction in as many boundary surfaces as possible; and 5) cooled and heated with a silent airconditioning system. Although this isn't a very long shopping list, your chances of finding them all in any existing room are not very good. After all, only about 20% of all existing houses will come on the market throughout the year, and you probably won't have a year to select one.

You can improve your odds of success by working with a real-estate dealer who has computer access to the local Board of Realtors' listing database. Usually updated every two weeks or so, this allows its subscribers to plug in the client's requirements and receive a list of homes that meet them. (You can't access the list yourself unless you're a certified realtor, even if you own a modem.) But make sure your agent knows how to do this kind of search; many who have computers in their offices still haven't learned all they should about using them.

Even if you can only meet, say, half of the requirements, you'll still end up with a much better-sounding room than you would if you hadn't tried. And chances are you'll move again sometime, and will have better luck then. You might even be making enough income by then to do your listening room in the best possible way: building it from scratch. How to go about doing that will be the subject of future articles.