An Audiophile’s $1M Dream Stereo System Gets Sold for Just $156K After His Death

The story of Ken Fritz and the world's greatest stereo system
The story of Ken Fritz and the “world’s greatest stereo system”

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He treated his speakers better than his children. Now they’ve broken it apart for sale.

What’s the true cost of one man’s passion for sound? For Ken Fritz, it was 27 years, $1 million, and strained relationships as he pursued his dream audiophile system.

But after his passing, the system that meant more to him than being a present father fetched a mere $156,800 at auction.

Now, his children are selling the remaining pieces individually for much less than their original cost.

A Lifelong Audiophile’s Obsession

Ken transform his living room into an audiophile’s dream. (From: Ken Fritz)
Ken transform his living room into an audiophile’s dream. (From: Ken Fritz)

Fritz’s passion for audio began as a teenager in the 1950s.

He started a high school Hi-Fi Club, worked at an appliance store to earn money for equipment, and even met legendary engineer Saul Marantz.

Then, with the support of a friend’s father, who owned an appliance and auto parts warehouse, Fritz ordered his first preamplifier from Marantz and worked Saturdays to cover the cost.

Years later, Fritz finally had the means to pursue his ultimate dream system after finding success with his own polymer tooling company.

“I firmly believe that by the time a person, man or woman, is 19, 20, 21, they know what they’re going to do with their life.” Fritz said before his death.

“And if you’re on that path and things are being done to your satisfaction, it’s easy to keep going to look for the next goal.”

Building the “World’s Greatest Stereo”

In the 1980s, Fritz converted the living room of his home in Richmond, Virginia into a 1,650 square foot audio room. This room featured 12-inch thick walls, separate electrical and HVAC systems, and surfaces treated for sound quality.

A look into Ken Fritz's stereo system. (From: Ken Fritz)
A look into Ken Fritz’s stereo system. (From: Ken Fritz)

But the main feature was a massive speaker system with three 10-foot tall, 1,400-pound speaker towers.

Each tower contained 24 cone drivers and 40 tweeters. The specially made system included a total of 96 drivers: 16 15-inch subwoofers, 24 7-inch kevlar mid-bass drivers per channel, and various high-frequency drivers.

The system also had five Krell KBX units that separated the frequencies.

Fritz's custom-made turntable dubbed as the Frankentable (From: Ken Fritz)
Fritz’s custom-made turntable dubbed as the “Frankentable” (From: Ken Fritz)

He also has a custom record player, known as the “Frankentable.”

This turntable came in a 1,500-pound base designed to eliminate vibrations. It also featured three different tone arms, each adjusted to enhance different types of music.

A set of amplifiers, capable of 35,000 watts, including several from the high-quality brand Krell, powered the system.

But building the stereo system involved more than just putting parts together. It also required a total makeover of his living space.

Fritz built a special room in his house that looked like a concert hall. It has concrete floors and walls that block noise and are designed to improve sound clarity.

Fritz built a special room in his house that looked like a concert hall. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Fritz built a special room in his house that looked like a concert hall. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

To perfect the room acoustics, Fritz worked with Acoustics First to create custom sound panels after taking detailed measurements.

He was extremely thorough. When he mistakenly ordered speaker cones in the wrong color, he manually colored each one with a marker following the advice of an engineer from Scan Speak.

Fritz’s professional life also connected with his hobby, as his business made the fiberglass molds for Thiel’s CS5 loudspeakers.

Impact on Family

Ken Fritz' estate in Richmond, Virginia. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Ken Fritz’ estate in Richmond, Virginia. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Building the ultimate stereo came at a great cost to Fritz’s family relationships.

Fritz frequently required his five children to assist with the construction and assembly. So, turning their family home into a sound lab meant his children spent many hours helping out for free.

“My dad had a workshop. We were forever building, rebuilding.” said Rosemary, his youngest daughter.

The project also made family relationships difficult, especially with his son Kurt, who moved away to get away from the stressful setting.

“Growing up, I had to get up at 6 in the morning to work. I basically was his slave,” Kurt said.

Because the family was so involved in Ken’s project, they missed out on regular activities like vacations and trips.

Patty, one of Ken’s daughters, pointed out how it affected their social life.

“Nobody wanted to come to our house, because he wanted to put them to work.” she said.

“I think we went camping twice, never took vacation. It was just work, work, work.”

This strain in the relationship isn’t a secret to Fritz. In an interview, he also admitted that his obsession with his system has prevented him from being an active father.

“I was a father pretty much in name,” Fritz said. “I was not a typical father or a typical husband.”

Preserving the Legacy After Death

As Fritz’s health worsened quickly after his ALS diagnosis in 2016, he worried over the fate of his life’s work. By April 2022, he required a hospital bed on his home’s ground floor due to his declining mobility.

“I’d hate like heck to see this room parted out,” he said in 2018. “That’s just like breaking up a dream.”

After his death, his family had to figure out how to handle his estate, including what to do with his valuable stereo system.

Betsy Logan, Ken's daughter doing the paper work for the stereo system. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Betsy Logan, Ken’s daughter doing the paper work for the stereo system. (From: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

His daughter, Betsy, first arranged an estate sale, hoping to find a single buyer for the house and stereo system. With no takers, they reluctantly turned to a local auction house.

The sale was managed by eBid Local, an online auction site that organized and sold Fritz’s lifelong project.

“We euphemistically refer to it as the ‘million-dollar, monumental, magical, musical masterpiece.” said David Staples, the owner of eBid Local. “It may be the best, most elaborate, and exquisite private residential audiophile system in the country, perhaps even in the world.”

The auction featured Fritz’s custom-built audio equipment’s subjective value.

But while audiophiles acknowledged the system’s technical brilliance, practical factors restricted the number of potential buyers.

Adam Wexler from StereoBuyers shared his thoughts on the difficulty of selling such a unique system.

“Hi-fi is extremely subjective. So this guy built something that sounded good to him.” he said.

“How many people out there are going to say, ‘These are the speakers for me’ — and go through the hassle of acquiring these gigantic speakers that probably wouldn’t fit in most people’s homes, even if you could get them to their homes?”

Ken Fritz with his vinyl collection. (From: Ken Fritz)
Ken Fritz with his vinyl collection. (From: Ken Fritz)

In the end, the 10-foot tall speakers were sold for just $10,100. The turntable, on the other hand, sold for a mere $19,750.

In total, the “million-dollar masterpiece” garnered only $156,800.

A vast collection of albums, furniture, and even kitchen appliances were also sold at the estate sale as Fritz’s children disassembled his life’s work.

But while it’s a far cry from the unified vision Fritz poured his heart into, he always knew the true value was in the journey, not the destination.

“It was a fun journey; the journey is better than the destination,” Fritz reflected near the end.

“The music is going to tell me every time I put it on, you didn’t waste your time and money and you spent your time and money wisely, so enjoy it.”

💬 Conversation: 4 comments

  1. This is the third time I’ve seen this poor guy publicly vilified by his children and the media. He was a hard working man that provided for his family. Yes, he had an obsession. He was also a perfectionist. Who of us is a perfect father, mother, brother, sister, etc.? The man paid his dues at the end. Stop trampling over his grave. Let him rest in peace.

  2. The family mishandled the sale. The speakers definitely would hardly fit anywhere else but the electronics should have fetched more. The auction house they used probably had limited experience selling this type of equipment.

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