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The world's greatest stereo system is inside a Virginia home

Posted at 10:46 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 23:31:37-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Ken Fritz lives in relative obscurity in Chesterfield County. But in the new documentary “One Man’s Dream,” the world will watch or rather hear, what makes him tick.

“I believe I’ve built the best stereo system in the world," Fritz said.

With an engineer’s mind and dogged determination, Ken Fritz’s dream started taking shape in his backyard 30 years ago.

"While I was designing it and building it I knew it was going to take time," he said. "Every part of this system is part of me and that is a good feeling."

Fritz’s creation makes audiophiles melt with envy.

“Just walking through the door and seeing everything, forget hearing, but seeing it,” Fritz's daughter Betsy Logan said. “The jaw goes down to the floor.”

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The Milwaukee native has obsessed with designing the ultimate listening room since he was a teen.

Paul Gibson lent Fritz his carpentry skills from the beginning.

“It was pretty much a gutted house when we went up there. We had scaffolding up there for three years,” Gibson said.

He marvels at his best friend’s dedication.

“The smartest guy I’ve ever known. His work ethic,” Gibson said. “He is always doing something multiple things at the same time.”

Logan can’t remember a time when her father was not striving toward his goal.

“One of a kind. There is nobody like him in the world,” she said. “He wanted to build the best sounding system on his own. He built everything himself. Everything he has done himself. Everything.”

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To achieve pristine acoustics, Fritz designed a 17-foot-ceiling that mirrors a concert hall in Osaka, Japan.

“It is nice to use your God given talents in a way that you’re capable to do,” he said.

Thirty-five thousand watts, nine-foot-tall speakers, and a 1,500-pound turntable later, Fritz can finally hear his vision.

“It took years and years to build all of this. Thousands and thousands of hours,” he said.

From classic rock to classical music, the sound is so pure and so perfect, listeners are moved to tears.

The 79-year-old imagined years of soaking in songs alone or with friends.

“The time now is to enjoy what I’ve been working for,” he said. “Without music life is meaningless.”

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But his long-term plans are skipping a big beat.

“My right hand felt weak so I went to the doctor,” Fritz said. “He said you have ALS. You need to get your affairs in order.”

ALS robs a patient of muscle function. Life expectancy three to five years and there is no known cure.

“It is progressive,” Fritz said. “Don’t know what causes it. Don’t know how to stop it.”

Since his diagnosis in 2018 his movements have slowed by the month.

“It is harder to eat,” he said. “I do the best I can.”

But Ken’s ears and mind remain sharp.

“I never go to bed feeling like hell,” Fritz said. “I wish today was over. That never happens.”

“It’s hard to explain,” friend Paul Gibson added. “To get to this point in your life and be able to sit down and enjoy it it is heartbreaking. Quite emotional.”

Ken Fritz hopes that someone will cherish his custom stereo system long after he is gone.

“The best goals are the goals you work for over a long period of time,” Fritz said.

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“I think that is the legacy. I think what it took to create this is the legacy,” Longan said.

For someone who works with their hands, ALS may be the cruelest of fates. But to Ken Fritz, his condition is a blessing.

“I’m taking advantage of my time now to be with the people I love and do the things I want to do,” he said. “Life has meant a whole lot more to me since I got the disease.”

With his dream a reality, this conductor can finally take a bow as the man behind Mr. Fritz’ opus.

“My mother always said, ‘Everything happens for the best. The past three years and next few years will be the best of my life," he said.

Like powerful stories? Watch CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. Fridays for Greg McQuade’s “I Have A Story” reports. If you know of someone Greg should feature, email him at gmcquade@wtvr.com



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