My epiphany came when I finally got to listen to a pair of Legacy loudspeakers I'd lusted over for several years. I'd gone over them in the mailings I routinely received more times than I could count. Everything seemed perfect: lots of woofer cone area, midrange totally accounted for, and a state of the art tweeter section. The quality of the cabinetry and finish was stellar. And, with a practical and seemingly brilliant engineer, surely the crossover had to be as good as things got as well. With all those drivers, the speaker looked the part, measured (if such a characteristic exists) perfectly, and had loads of testimonials showing how customers found the right speaker after the typical audiophile journey. Who could ever need more in a loudspeaker? It just had to sound perfect. Had to!
While the speaker sported a price I'd not blanch at today, at that point in my life, it was kind of a stretch. But one I planned to make. The mail order might happen any time. Wait, a used pair just came in on trade at one of the big local brick and mortar audio stores (remember them? wonderful places to spend time in). Not quite the veneer I would go with, but a price I could easily swing. OK, my lucky day. Done deal! Since I knew the staff, they asked me to come over, and give them a listen before going through with things. Ah, come on, the decision was already made. All right, all right, all right. Just a formality so I thought, these babies were mine. So, there I was, favorite music in hand, ready to roll. Get ready to throw them in the back of my Bronco, I already folded the back seat down two days ago. They had them set up with a great muscle amplifier. I was ready to ride Space Mountain. Here we go, and uh, um, nothin'. OK, let's try a different CD. No, maybe switch in another amplifier. No? Preamp. Still no good? How about the cabling... I had another speaker do this to me before, but these? My dream, my destination product. NO!!! I mean they left me as disappointed as I'd ever felt in audio.
The (single most important in all the hobby) thing it taught me was that drinking by the label in audio puts one in a very dangerous position. Specs don't tell the story, neither do reviews, or the opinions of others. You NEED to listen to a component, and judge it with the one instrument man has not yet come close to bettering.