I have a buddy for whom I've been dreaming of building an audio system. One of my favorite hobbies is consulting with friends to understand their audio needs, getting a budget, and then finding the best system for them. Usually these are quite modest budgets and systems, from a mere $80 to around $600. Enter Shane, my friend who's paid his dues in the financial world and is now making seven figures (yes, it shocks me to read that, too), whom I call my dream "account." Add to that his listening career previously peaked with a palm-sized JBL Ipod dock (sigh), and I've been dying to show him the way.

I don't think I've ever experienced such excitement and disappointment at the same time when I saw his new apartment the other day. Excitement because the system before me was formidable and completely unexpected; disappointment because I didn't get to design it! An integrated Mark Levinson No. 383 receiver, Mark Levinson SACD player (not sure the number), Revel M20 speakers, and $700 speaker cable thicker than a firehose. Apparently, through his family's involvement with Toyota and Lexus, Mark Levinson equipment is often available to them for free. I see.

"What do you think, is this stuff any good? The guy I bought the cables from said it was pretty sweet. Feel how heavy it is!" I'm laughing and crying inside, believe me. The speakers are sitting directly on the floor, on perpendicular walls firing almost into each other. We obviously have some work to do. But it's safe to say it's a good start.

Excuse me, I have to check in on an Ebay auction for some gear I hope to score for about $150. :D