Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 31/1/2002Exciting times in the old labs. Following the relocation of our magazine interests elsewhere some time ago, we've had room to breathe -- and the place where ZD Labs used to be is a prime bit of real estate.

Thursday 31/1/2002

Exciting times in the old labs. Following the relocation of our magazine interests elsewhere some time ago, we've had room to breathe -- and the place where ZD Labs used to be is a prime bit of real estate. So, we've imported some sofas, tables, and the odd bit of plushery and are busy turning it into a domestic environment for testing fine gadgets, video projectors and other delights. The idea that it may turn into some sort of 21st century party space has never crossed our minds, OK?

And this week, we obtain an Altec Lansing 200 watt surround sound speaker system, with a subwoofer the size of a bus standing on its hind legs. That's 200 watts RMS, not the 'Peak Music Power' beloved of lesser manufacturers.

So we set it up, plug it into a passing laptop, slot in a CD (Avalanches, Since I Left You: a fine record but one that proved ominously prescient) and sit back like Peter Murphy in the Maxell advert. Lordy, it sounded awful. A bit of fiddling showed that Windows Media Player had defaulted to a 'sound as bad as a transistor radio down a sewer' mode, and things improved markedly when we switched to analogue, not digital, playback. And yes, it went up to 11.

We were happy. Until the next day, when we returned to the labs to find one of the ceiling tiles above the speaker system was no longer above at all. It had descended overnight to the sofa, describing -- we concluded -- a graceful arc over the laptop before hitting the subwoofer with what was evidently a crack and a half. These aren't expanded polystyrene tiles, but feel like the sort of ceramic you imagine the Space Shuttle wears on its underside: the subwoofer is dented but unbowed, but a human skull might not be so lucky.

Was it the music? Was it the aircon, recently recommissioned after a two-year layoff? We're worried: it's one thing getting stoned at a party, but to be tiled unconscious seems a little extreme.