When I rebooted this website, things were supposed to pick up a notch … but they haven’t. As real life would have it, things got in the way and the little spare time I had was spent cruising real-life pathways instead of virtual ones.
In fact though, in regard to music and other matters, these past months since my last post have perhaps been the most exciting ones in years.
Violet Fane (1843-1905), who wrote the following lines ages ago, had it all wrong:
‘Ah, all things come to those who wait,’
(I say these words to make me glad),
But something answers soft and sad,
‘They come, but often come too late.’
If you happen to be a geek (somewhat) like me, you know that it is also the hunt that makes things especially exciting. And if you approach things properly, items will arrive on your doorstep at just the right moment.
Materialistic people who buy things just to have them (because they can afford them without breaking a sweat) have consistently annoyed me, but I have always felt a certain kind of kinship with those who, cat-like, wait patiently and silently in the wings to suddenly pounce on (one of) their heart’s desires … after a sometimes painfully-long waiting period. Because I read a lot, both on- and offline, I have often joined the smaller or larger audiences watching these kinds of people fawn over some object of desire until they were suddenly able to snatch it up at a (to their eyes) bargain price. The whole – almost ritualistic – process and experience often reminds me of one of my favorite novel titles, “All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By” (by John Farris), and my head certainly turned many a time watching, from a digital distance, people I didn’t even really know morph into shopping predators.
I am one of those predators myself … and here’s my strategy.
01) The Reading
Impulse shopping is rarely my thing. Actually, I have often contemplated writing a post entitled “All the Things I Didn’t Know I Wanted to Have“, outlining modern shopping mall and supermarket practices of throwing incentives in the path of innocent shoppers, but I decided to refrain, knowing that it is just human nature to fall for that kind of psychological entrapment.
The shopping predator is a different kind of animal. Because I live and breathe its strategy, let me outline what it encompasses.
It all starts with reading and being interested. The more you read, the more you can filter out the worthwhile and weed out the chaff. People are often annoyed with me when I talk about certain things for years, epitomizing their strengths and damning their weaknesses … until I (finally) find the one thing that keeps the balance, that is cost-effective and that hasn’t managed to rack up a hundred 1-, 2- or 3-star reviews in the process. In areas I am interested in, those items are long and far between, but they exist, and …
They land on my list.
02) The List
That list is not even that long. It contains single items that I have filtered out in days, weeks, months and even years of researching. It might be that singular office chair (out of a million) that gives you maximum bang for the buck, or it might be that one single elusive remaster that everyone agrees is the one to get.
Hell, it might even be a cheap speaker stand that, for once, doesn’t suck and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (and is better than products that cost 10 times as much).
03) Interlude: The Homely Type
Before we continue: I am the homely type. Whereas other people like to live it up outside of their four walls, and I am no stranger to that either, I like to feel comfortable and cuddly at home, surrounding myself with things I really like. That does sound materialistic, especially considering the wave of (fascinating) “Go minimal!” posts I have read these past two or three years, written by people who ditched all but the most essential things to finally feel liberated and free (enough) to invest into real life, but I work at home.
In fact, I get home from work and my real work often only starts then, regularly lasting well into the wee hours most people have been asleep for already. In a setting like that, you need nooks and crannies to “escape” to, to alleviate the stress and to turn to when things simply become too much.
04) The Hunt
When you finally have your list together then, you go hunting.
For years, you have honed your skills (= “Advanced Google Master“), assembled a formidable array of weaponry (= websites nobody has considered looking at or the ones people were too lazy to switch to) and have taught yourself Zen-like patience. You know that the first find is always just the starting point on your road to maximum savings and satisfaction and, most importantly, you know that you should not give in to impulses that tell you not to give a flying leap and “…just get it now and be done with it!“.
People get fidgety when things they want are discounted, but we Internet aficionados just know that (sometimes extreme) patience will get you the better bargain. You might lose out here and there (damn, you waited too long) but, recently, I have noticed that being ultra-patient tends to pay off more often than not.
05) The Savings
If you shop like I do, many months or even years will pass until an item becomes available at just the right price. It is essential then to save up money for when that elusive offer pops up. I have a separate account which I do not touch until things from my list become available, an account which usually holds more than enough money to pay for suddenly available items instantly. In fact, I have been keeping this account for nearly 20 years and it always holds more than enough money because several intended purchases on my list just didn’t happen when the items were suddenly discontinued, because they simply didn’t show up anywhere or because they were decided against and perhaps replaced by others further down the timeline.
06) The Results (for 2014 so far)
So, as is customary here, we get to the point after several hundred words of introduction. Since my last post in May of this year, I manged to – in quick succession – welcome the following items to my humble abode:
i) Marantz CD Receiver M-CR603/Boston Acoustics A 26
I have a Marantz/Dynaudio main system in the living room but because I spend a ton of time in my office, I have always wanted to add a secondary system to give me the chance to work/correct/sort stuff next to a system that has excellent sound.
In the process outlined above, I filtered things down to the above-mentioned combo (I am, after all, a fan of the Marantz sound) and when the stars happened to be aligned just perfectly, two people decided to ditch their a) Marantz M-CR603 (new) and b) their Boston Acoustics A26 (new) shelf speakers … at waaaay below half the price.
In both cases, the products were still originally packed and because their previous owners had followed their impulse shopping instincts and had bought stuff they didn’t really want to have (or decided to switch to something else shortly after purchase), they were advertised on something called “eBay Kleinanzeigen” (akin to Craigslist). My notification mails arrived within seconds and the deal(s) was (were) completed within minutes.
More than 50% saved on brand-new products.
I will write about the combo further down the timeline but, suffice it to say, … I’m digging it in a major way.
ii) Beyerdynamic A20 headphone Amplifier
This headphone amp had been on my list since it appeared on the saturated headphone amp market. My last post on this site was about the purchase – after a grueling elimination process – of the Beyerdynamic T-90 headphones and before they even arrived here, I knew I wanted to supplement them with said headphone amp.
Then, a few weeks later, again on that German Craigslist twin, one popped up, sold by someone who had apparently bought several amps to select the one he wanted and was then unable to return the A20. From the list price of around Euro 500.-, he marked it down to substantially less than half that amount, especially as he had bought it at some significantly reduced outlet price.
I know headphone amps are audiophile voodoo to an extent, but believe you me: When the A20 arrived and was connected to my main stereo, the T-90 headphones began, as I had expected, to sparkle and shine tremendously. In fact, an entire weekend was spent (with little sleep) rediscovering many excellent CDs from my collection. In short: Wow! And money more than well-spent.
iii) Classical Music Via Amazon.it
I have no idea how they do it (in fact, I actually do, because the profit margin on these boxed sets is so huge that one can easily chop off 50%-90% without losing out on at least some profit), but these past 6 months and more, Amazon (Italy) has been discounting classical music boxed sets to such extremes that forums I have been a member of for decades lit up like “The Day After” … on speed. I was getting mails into my inbox at a rate that wasn’t even funny anymore and I was able to check off a long list of boxed sets I had had on my list forever.
Tremendous value for money and, especially, incredible amounts of money saved (unless, of course, you follow my grandfather’s credo of the biggest savings being achieved by simply not buying anything whatsoever). We are talking 1/2 price, 1/3 price and, in some cases, even less. Tremendous bargains.
As most shopping predators knew and expected, the prices jumped up into the financial stratosphere again shortly after the sale ended, but if you set up your system to be notified, sales like these tend to reappear – albeit with different boxed sets – time and again (as I am writing this, many of these boxed sets are down in price again).
I managed to snatch up, for example, …
- The All Baroque Box (Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion, 2012, 50 CDs),
- Beethoven Masterworks Collection (Deutsche Grammophon, 2013, 51 CDs),
- Bach Masterworks – The Original Jackets Collection (Deutsche Grammophon, 2013, 50 CDs),
- Julian Bream Complete Album Collection (RCA Red Seal, 2013, 40 Cd + 3 Dvd),
- Mozart 111 (Decca, 2012, 55 CDs),
- Glenn Gould: The Complete Bach Collection (Sony Classical, 2012, 44 CDs),
- Christopher Hogwood & The Academy of Ancient Music: The Vivaldi Recordings (Decca, 2013, 20 CDs),
- Christopher Hogwood & The Academy of Ancient Music: Haydn Symphonies (Decca, 2013, 20 CDs),
- L’Oiseau-Lyre Edition: The Baroque Era (Decca, 2014, 50 CDs),
- Maria João Pires: Complete Solo Recordings (Decca, 2014, 20 CDs).
iv) Audiofly Revel (USB)
The only thing I bought at (almost*) full price was an “Audiofly Revel System” starter kit, a high-end wireless audio system which consists of a USB transmitter stick and a receiver unit. The USB stick is plugged into your PC, Notebook, NAS or whatever else that has a USB plug/sound chip and it transmits the music/sound to the receiving unit which itself can be connected to just about any stereo system, active speaker set or AV receiver.
The best thing is that it broadcasts instantaneously, meaning there is absolutely no noticeable delay.
Because I am not the W-LAN type (for various reasons), this system replaces such a setup flawlessly and works like a charm. As I am writing this, my HiRes LP rips are playing on my main system in the living room … transmitted from the PC I am writing this post on in my small office about 20 meters away. If required, many more receivers can be connected to other sound-reproducing units in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and elsewhere. In about 4 to 5 minutes, you will have a stable system setup, apartment-wide. Easy as pie.
The wonders of modern technology.
* Because my order wasn’t dispatched immediately, I complained via eMail because I had actually wanted to give the system away as a present (it arrived too late for that). So, now I have that system in my household … including a considerable receiver upgrade that I did not have to pay for because of the delay. Freebie. Cool.
If you don’t follow my grandfather’s above-mentioned credo, I altogether saved (I have a database file to calculate it down to the last measly cent) nearly 80% on the above-listed purchases.
That leaves me with a possible and very intensive (daily) 12-month (at least) drink-until-you-drop cocktail run that won’t make my physician happy.