Should you go moist over a power cord weighing 25kg? Doesn't that sound like a late-night telly query where a mother is interviewed about having sex with her boyfriend's youngest son whilst lover boy makes a video of it? In short, a little or a lot pervy. Just so, it's emblematic of the extreme hifi sector where shocking pricing and sundry mechanical or other excesses aren't merely tolerated but mandatory. Of course where one draws the line between normal, costly but justified and plain stupid depends. One man's €10'000 power cord is another bloke's compete system whilst for many, that's still one zero too many.

Take this post from the Audio Exotics forum in Hong Kong, a distributor/retailer who had just hosted their 3rd annual Super HighEnd show with two big cost-no-object systems for existing and potential clients. "I know that you were not content with the performance of the Trinity/Goebel room. But please don’t put too much pressure on yourself because we all know what you are capable of if the baton is waved at the AE showroom. Here is my analysis of the issue. First, the room wasn't ideal. It was square. Second, the sweet spot was too small. I believe this zone was located between the 2nd to 6th row in the middle. Third, the positioning of the speakers was meant for nearfield listening. Fourth, the integration of the main speakers and subwoofer could have been better with a filter. But I understand it is very difficult to do with the analog crossover Oliver Goebel was using. You can tell him to use a digital crossover and that will resolve this issue. If you don’t use a filter at the crossover, the bass drivers of the main speakers sing together with subwoofers. Fifth, the quality of music software was substandard, especially the digital files. Most of the re-issue vinyl played during the LP session was unsatisfactory as well. In a top-flight system, selection of music should be based on recording quality as priority..."

With two tons of Cessaro hornspeakers involved in the other rig to illustrate real exhibitor commitment, could non-attendees be blamed to read into this response a lot of excuses, about a super-expensive system not performing as it should? Which begs a few questions. What if you have a square room? Shouldn't a premium system be able to deal with it? And what's this about only specially vetted music being allowable? At least to my mind, there's deep fallacy at work about just what true excellence ought to mean. If it only works under idealized conditions, it's mostly fictional. As such, it's of no real use. Of course ultra hifi is far from alone in this. There are super-fast motorcycles purely optimized for the drag strip and to go straight. They wouldn't handle worth crap on real roads. Is extreme specialization then any sign of true greatness which only works when six or more moons align perfectly?

Shouldn't 'ultra' and similar signifiers include engineering smarts which render the product in question excellent under normal conditions to actually justify monetary and material excesses with demonstrable superiority, no excuses necessary? Rather than 25kg power cords, perhaps some strategic EQ might overcome room issues? Or instead a special speaker dispersion pattern to minimize the same like the previously mentioned Kii Audio Three pursues with its cardioid radiation? These and similar questions turned in my mind like those famous windmills whilst I enjoyed Eversound's ultra compact true high-performance computer speakers on my desktop. Perfectly adapted to this habitat by crafty design, those Swiss metal minis just work. They don't require specialized conditions or sanctified power cords. To my way of thinking, they personify 'ultra' in a more rational practical sense than much of so-called ultrafi with its capricious demands; with its inherent snobbery against smart signal processing; with its worship of size, weight, cosmetic bling and removal of useful features. Contrast that with a Vinnie Rossi Lio for example. That couldn't give a toss over the quality of your AC power because it runs entirely decoupled from the grid. For it, the concept of a 25kg power cord becomes a thing of the Dark Ages. It knows nothing of ground loops either because it contains all the necessary components inside itself, no cables involved. And so forth.

Of course, just what to go moist over is every man's and woman's unalienable very personal choice and liberty. Anything goes. This isn't a call to go all judgmental. Having said that, one is still allowed to wonder whether certain attractions and concomitant pursuits are also based on misguided beliefs about what's necessary to achieve the desired success. It's one thing to pursue complex overkill hifi because one enjoys its ownership and presence in one's own home. It's another if one really does it because of a deep-seated belief that it's necessary to enjoy music at such a high level. Regardless of one's fiscal comfort zone, it's a natural human assumption to think that beyond it (wherever and whatever 'it' happens to be) hides the realm of the better as though the journey were up a mountain which only reveals the full panorama on the very peak. Once committed to that endless upward path which has the mountain seemingly grow with each step, very few ever consider looking back in the other direction again; at something far simpler and cheaper.

And so it comes about that very few audiophiles enjoy or intentionally create the opportunity to test their belief that costlier and more specialized kit (as in hifi separates and then mono separates of stereo separates; 32/384 over 16/44 etc.; bigger woofers; super tweeters; silver cables; whatever) - that this is the guaranteed way forward to better sound and, more vital yet, deeper more profound enjoyment. A direct enabler of that process is the reality that for most, it entails selling or trading that which one had before. One can't go back. And auditory memory is fabulously poor. We acclimate to change so very quickly. It's precisely why the pleasurable hit of a new component evaporates so rapidly as it settles down into the new normal. That's the very basic engine at work behind the upgrade cycle which we all recognize. And the only direction it tends to look in unless divorce, loss of work or some other external event enforces downsizing, is up. We believe that's where better lives. If one enters at the very bottom, that tends to be true for a certain while; until it stops. If one enters above that stopping point, it might all turn to smoke and gilded mirrors. Wouldn't it be lovely if we knew what, exactly, would fulfil the conditions of our particular situation and desire? Which reminds me. I think the actual figure of that power cord I read about was only 16kg. That makes it okay, don't it? Sorry, I got lost there for a moment. Perhaps it's because I just realized that exactly 13 years ago this month, 6moons launched in Taos/New Mexico. That's personal cause to get moist over just a bit...