Steve Guttenberg's 116th Dream

I'm at Dan D'Agostino's house listening to his triamped Apogee full-range ribbon speakers. It's 1985. His listening room is immense, easily 30' by 45', and we're rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Bonzo Dog Band records. The sound is light-years better than anything I've heard—dynamic as hell, beyond vivid, and the soundstage has infinite depth—and Dan's obviously loving that I'm blown away by his system. We get to talking. He has three pairs of Krell KMA-160 monoblocks and Reference KRS preamps for me. Thanks, I say, but how can I get them home? No problem—Dan has a van.

We gingerly put the Krells on dollies and roll them, sliding, bumping, and grinding, down his long gravel driveway to a shiny black Dodge van. The second we open the van's rear doors, my nose hairs burn from the stench of rotten cantaloupes. Then I get a whiff of charred insulation. But after a while I don't notice the awful odors anymore, because Dan is going on and on about blue LEDs. He's really got a thing about blue LEDs. Or maybe it's white ones. I'm not sure.

When we get to my house, Dan doesn't have time to haul in the amps. As we plop them on the sidewalk, I get a few nasty cuts on my forearms from the amps' sharp heatsinks. I duck into my kitchen to deal with my wounds, and my old girlfriend Sami and my wife, Robin, are so busy jabbering they don't notice the spatters of my blood trailing across the living-room floor as I run long extension cords and interconnects out to the amps on the curb. I want to hear them right away, but they have weird connectors, and I can't figure out how to hook them up. Sami and Robin are baking apple pies, and they smell great—the pies, that is—but I'm still desperately trying to find the right cables. Then it occurs to me: I've left a tall stack of crazy-expensive Krell amps on the street. What if somebody steals them?

Distracted again from the Krell shenanigans, I start recording all of my Neil Young LPs to cassette, beginning with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. I like Neil Young, but for whatever reason I keep falling asleep as the side ends, so I have to start over. I can't remember which albums I've taped and which I haven't finished . . . and then I'm roused by a loud thunderclap and drenching rain. Holy shit—the Krells are still out on the sidewalk! I drop everything and rush outside, but the amps are unaffected by the downpour—their chassis are so hot that steam is rising from their innards. Class-A indeed! But fuck me—somebody's already stolen two knobs from the KRS preamp. Dan's gonna be pissed!

Then I remember—I have to go to the World Trade Center to pick up a shipment of microphones. When I get there, I have to punch in a 100-digit code on a keypad to enter the building. The security lady points to a huge box with toothpicks sticking out in all directions. I'm confused. "Take a toothpick," she says, as if I'm an idiot, then starts reading off the code numbers. Using my toothpick, I dutifully punch in the numbers on the keypad. When I tell her I'm probably going to make mistakes in the 100-number sequence, she shrugs. "Everybody does."

I keep screwing up, but when I finally get it right, the elevator doors open—and immediately close in my face. I frantically do the 100-digit sequence again and again, listening to this woman, who's now in a purple polka-dot dress eating a huge bowl of spaghetti while reading the numbers. The dress has streaks of dried pasta, and puddles of sauce that seep into the cloth between her breasts. She's sweating profusely as she shovels forkfuls of spaghetti into her mouth, stopping only to bark, "32, 27, 813, 809, 3, 9, 27, [glub glub glub] 59, 2005, 707, 61, [glub glub] 93, 70, 103, 86, 41 [glub glub] . . ."

At last, I get the sequence right and the doors open. I rush into the elevator and punch the button to take me to the 111th floor of the World Trade Center. The doors open on blindingly bright light. As my eyes adjust, I see a long, brown table with piles of disassembled microphones, and a stern-looking Asian woman with her hair in a tight bun. She points to a seat, then to the mikes. "Don't forget the batteries!" she screams, and gestures to neat stacks of SD cards.

I'm sorting through the mikes when Bob Dylan sits down across from me at the table. He's being interviewed by phone, and I can't quite hear the questions, but every now and then he looks straight at me, smiles broadly, nods, then goes back to answering questions, but I have no idea what he's saying. Finally he giggles, puts down the phone, and picks up a battered black-and-white Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. He sings "Tangled Up in Blue." He's amazing. Bob's in his mid-30s, very happy, and singing and playing better than he did on Blood on the Tracks. I'm thinking, He's a much better musician than I thought he was.

Then I wake up. And I wonder: Surely, I'm not the only one having these dreams . . . ?—Steve Guttenberg

tonykaz's picture

thats quite a dream.

I hadn't realized they could be multi-amped.

In the Mid-west folks would use a Zig-Zag machine to roll up stuff to get the same sort of effect, sometimes even the colors would change and walls would bend. hmm.

A big Apogee System is Cesna 180 Retractable territory or even a 40' Yacht but still cheaper than a full blown Wilson/VTL/Clear Audio/MSB type System.

I wonder if anyone besides a Banker or Movie Exec. would ( or could ) own one of these 'Ultimate' systems?

By the way, there is an Audiophile Phone on the horizon ( V20 ) and matching Harmon tuned headphones. I'm following you to read your thoughts on this Global Solution to the needs of 'Consumer' audio lovers, perhaps it's a realizable dream for the masses.

I'm presuming that Consumer Audio will continue to advance in a manner that includes everyone ( even girls might begin to consider themselves Audiophiles, for god's sake ) !

Anyway, I've got you on my Bookmark bar, right next to Tyll and Headfi.

Tony in Michigan

NeilS's picture

Perhaps Bob Dylan also had anachronistic dreams of being in his mid-30s in 1985...

Allen Fant's picture

Nice writing- SG.
you have a girlfriend and wife? I wanna hang with you stud ;)
Happy Listening!

Allen Fant's picture

Oh yeah, the Krell system too.

Severius's picture

Don't you read your own magazine? According to the Holiest Audio Prophet, Art Dudley [sacred], all of that stuff's corrupt, high-end swindle, anti-musical, garbage. Garbage.

Only old resonating wooden boxes with horns and fairly highly non-linear drivers are truly high-end and musical. Such as his ancient 1960's era Altecs. And, his growing collection of other mid-fi olden gear.

Your prissy ribbons [and those Krells] strive for linearity. Which means that they - by deifinition - lack humaness. HUMANETH!. If the response curve doesn't very by at least 20 to 30db within its usable bandwidth, then there's no humaneth.

And - soundstage???? SOUNDSTAGE??!!!! Soundstage with depth???? Infinite depth??!!!!

That's the most hated, the most depraved, the worse possible attribute that any audio component may have. The Prophet [holy is his sweat and ear wax] has long and relentlessly inveighed that against that most corrupt and Harry Pearsonesque of all ideas.

The Prophet [holy is his breath] has stated that no one should ever listen to music that way - ever. Never. Hearing sound in 3 dimensions is a travesty. Since he can't discern 3 dimensional sound or a 3 dimensional depth of field during his singularly rare visits to acoustic, non-amplified concert venues - no one should be able to.

To quote The Prophet; "Who would listen to music that way?".

And, to further quote from the Prophets's latest column [sacred words], you should listen "not on the sound of the hall or the artifacts of the recording technology, but on what the musicians were doing".

Cause, you know, those are mutually exclusive categories. Humaneth. That's the only important factor.

Oh - by the way - humaneth = ultra low fidelity. Distortion - here we come.

Now toss that piss high-end crap away and gitcher self some PA blaster horns.

skris88's picture

Yes, had a pair. They were 2nd hand. And it wasn't a dream. But the "dream" ended when I had to sell them as there was no way I could afford the shipping cost (they weighed a ton each) from Singapore to Sydney at the end of my contract term job.

The buyer said he was shipping them to Vietnam to make some clones. I wonder how he got on?

Great sound tho, while I had them!

Nice dream Steve...