January 4, 2013 7:36 pm

Deux-CV and audio nerds

What are my views on home sound systems? The human ear is not particularly sensitive in picking out the high frequencies

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

-------------------------------------------

More

David Tang

A lot of my friends seem to be very fussy about the sound system in their homes. Normal speakers in stereo seem to have been overtaken by at least a set of four speakers offering what is generally known as “surround-sound”. Some will go further with speakers installed in several rooms of the house with individual remote controls. What are your views?

I have always fantasised about using one of those “touch-screen” remote control panels to amplify my voice so that I could utter some primeval scream of frustration and have it piped through the speakers. Indeed, isn’t it pathetic that those designers of remote controls could contrive a kaleidoscopic collection of functions and yet never install a simple speaker function – which would be exceedingly useful at home for summoning one’s child to bring along one’s slippers? Instead, the panel is replete with options, one more convoluted than the next, and I am forever negotiating my way through them. Worst of all is when their champions, who are irritating nerds, begin showing off to their guests about how “amazing” and “incredible” their audio system is. At these tiresome demonstrations, I will cut them short and ask if they know of the range of frequencies that a human ear can detect. “Twenty hertz to 20 kilo-hertz? And how about the infrasound and the ultrasound?” I ask nonchalantly. Of course they will be foxed by a remark like that and it is enjoyable to see them wrong-footed. The scientific truth is that the human ear, especially for an ageing male, is not particularly sensitive in picking out the high frequencies, unlike, say, bats or dolphins. So when very expensive amplifiers and speakers are being offered to you by pressing salesmen who drone on about sensitive pitches, they are trying to flog you frequencies indiscernible by the human ear and therefore pointless. Sometimes it’s not even enjoyable to hear a voice in all its sharpness, just as television screens offer high-definition images that, paradoxically, appear plastic and surreal.

I am afraid we live in an age of what I might call technological affectations. So-called experts will invariably throw around designs in order to show off software that in reality is redundant. They have no common sense of design nor purpose. They are the perpetuators of confusions, doing us a great disservice by wrongly jamming into our lives superfluous inventions that are dysfunctional. What we have to do is to resist all of their patters and banters, and choose for ourselves something easy and simple, except that these easy and simple things are now virtually impossible to find!

. . .

What are the cars that might be regarded as U, and which are the ones that might be regarded as non-U? Does it matter what colour? And should they be clean? Indeed, should anyone worry about the type of car they drive and the state in which they are found? Or should one simply buy a car because one likes it?

I think everyone should just drive whatever car they want and be unconcerned about the labelling of U and non-U. When I was 19 and first went to Monte Carlo in a completely clapped-out Deux-CV, I drove it straight up to the entrance of the glamorous Hôtel de Paris, outside of which were gleaming Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. I could see the rather despondent face of the car jockey. But when I got out, I managed to diffuse his disdain by giving him the keys and saying, “Keep it!” He was so amused that he left it in pole position.

On colours, I have always heard that green is unlucky. The British racing green is also often confused with the modern metallic green that seems to be favoured by accountants. A good friend of mine, who controls a multinational conglomerate, forbids any of his companies to carry out transactions with a country whose flag has got green in it. So no Zimbabwe, and half of the countries in Africa – nor Ireland nor Italy. It is, surprisingly, a rather smart rule. On cleanliness, I hate the images of the father washing the car, with his young son drying with one of those yellow suede cloths, in the drive of their semi-bijou residence. This is such a haunting image that I have never worried about the state of cleanliness of any car. When I got married, I left the church with my bride in a filthy Hummer full of mud that had been accumulated from three days of shooting.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

LIFE AND ARTS ON TWITTER

More FT Twitter accounts