Anyone who spends time on the SECRETS site is familiar with the bane of many home theater dreams: the dreaded S.A.F. For the uninitiated, that’s Spousal Approval Factor (or for those who insist on being politically correct, Significant Other Approval Factor). You have been afflicted by the S.A.F. if you have heard any of the following: “You’re going to put WHAT in my living room?”; “That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen!” “No, you cannot paint all the walls and ceiling black!”; “Do they make that in a smaller version?”, and the one often heard in my home, “Why do you need another subwoofer?”
Because for every one of us who has the ability to create their own room in the image of a spaceship, there are twenty of us who share their primary theater space with a life partner who does not share our passion for home theater (Note: 20-to-1 statistic pulled out of thin air). And therein lies the rub, because those life partners view the room as something other than a shrine dedicated to reproduction of the perfect audio-video experience.
The phenomenon reaches far beyond the homes of A/V enthusiasts. Those who would underestimate the power of the S.A.F. need only look at the proliferation of on-wall, in-wall, in-floor and in-ceiling speakers; drop-down projection screens, and flat panel displays that hide behind artwork. Indeed, major portions of the industry have re-aligned themselves towards creating products with a high S.A.F. quotient.
So how does one deal with an outbreak of S.A.F.? There is no single “right” answer. Capitulation may seem like the easiest way out, but the reminder of what-might-have-been tugs at you every time you fire up the HTIB. It is the wound that never heals. Bribery is generally a better course of action, but can result in an ugly conversation about value systems within a relationship. If spending $5,000 on a set of speakers makes perfect sense, but a $5,000 piece of jewelry seems like a terrible waste of money, then bribery (or “horse trading” if you prefer) is probably not going to work. Good old-fashioned imperialism is always an option (“it’s MY house and MY money!”) but only if you’re prepared to deal with the consequences. That leaves compromise, settling for the proverbial half-a-loaf. Actually, my wife is very generous about allowing big tower speakers, multiple subwoofers and acoustic panels in “our” family room, so I’m very grateful for her patience. (She made me say that).
Perhaps somewhere out there is a magical, mystical cure for S.A.F. If you discover it, let me know!