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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
November 2003

The Audiophile Way

I went appliance shopping a few weeks ago -- I hadn't done this in years. The selection of mainstream brands is huge, and when you factor in the upscale and professional lines, you realize just how many companies there are fighting for dollars that consumers dole out only every ten years or so, the life-span of a major appliance. And then there are the feature considerations -- water and ice in the door, water filtration, sound damping, front or top loading, venting, self-cleaning. The array of choices is dizzying.

I began by researching the best models and their features. I then decided on a few products that I would go see in person. I walked into the first store and asked to see the fridge on the top of my audition list. It wasn't there. Neither were the second or third choices. The fourth choice was on the sales floor, but in plain-Jane white finish. I quickly learned that appliance dealers don't stock anything near everything they sell, and often don't have best-selling models on the floor.

Undaunted, I moved on to stoves. My first choice wasn't on display, but a "somewhat similar model" was.

"Can I turn it on?"

"It's not connected."

"Why not?"

"It's for display only."

"Have you ever made pancakes on one of these? I love pancakes."

"No. I don't own this brand."

"What do you own?"

"Nothing that we sell."

This final answer piqued my interest, but the salesman was tight-lipped. Probably not into appliances.

At the next store, I was very interested in a washer/dryer combo -- the Poseidons. I was ready to buy.

"Sorry, they're not in stock."

"They've sold that well?"

"We don't keep them on the sales floor. But I can order them."

"But I want to see and touch them."

"They are fine products. We have a pair over here that has the same features."

"But they're not Poseidon, or even the same brand."

"No, they're not."

"If I order Poseidons, how long until I get them?"

"Four weeks."

"Wow, quick delivery."

Next up was the built-in dishwasher, one that was "whisper quiet." And it was on display!

"There it is."

"That? Not much to it."

"It's a dishwasher."

"Right. How quiet is 'whisper quiet'? Will it disrupt me if I'm listening to music in the next room?" I knew the answer -- "whisper quiet," after all -- but I thought I'd ask the question anyway.



After visiting a couple of stores, I had had enough. Appliance shopping was a letdown. I settled on what would be blasphemy in audio circles -- similar models from the same maker, the equivalent of a rack system. I did spring for stainless-steel finish, a pricey upgrade that adds nothing to the performance of the appliances but does dress them up. I thought about moving up a model or two instead, but there didn't seem to be a reason. Apathy had set in.

I've owned speakers almost as large as refrigerators and amplifiers that ran as hot as ovens, but both have moved on. I know the same thing won't be happening to the appliances I just bought. I don't want to go through all of this again.

Next on the replacement list is a bed, complete with frame, boxspring and mattress. I'll be shopping by catalog and online only.

...Marc Mickelson

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