Pesky spelin chekur
distinctive copper heat syncs
And lo the command came from El Reg to assemble a hi-fi so extreme, so “bonkers” that only oligarchs, rock stars and the sporting elite would actually be able to afford one. So, avoiding the obvious temptation to simply cherry pick telephone number hardware, I’ve assembled a sound system of such extravagant exquisiteness I …
Yeah before anyone starts, FLAC, which amptly named if you ask me - yeah its "in devlopmeant" for this thing - so they released a HiFi product that is only capable of playing shitty mp3 and you have to wait for an add on hahahahahahahahahahahahaha so funny. Knowing these high end audio companies the'll go bust before the add on/update is released again hahahahahahahaha.
The MS13D rips CDs at either MP3 or full lossless WAV, tagged with WAV RIFF INFO tags. It defaults to MP3 only because most home gear cannot deal with WAV RiFF INFO tags - rendering them metadata-less when imported to portable players, or worse crashing the playback app (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WAV). Though FLAC is a very useful format it still doesn't enjoy universal support; MP3 is so far the only audio format to have achieved ubiquity.
"Whats the bloody point then?"
Lucky you, if you can tell a 320k mp3 from the original. I can't, and that's through my freshly refurbed electrostatics. And even listening to material streamed off my Sammy GS2, I can still here every bum edit, mic sibilance, third violin with a hangover, gnats farting in the background etc.
I used to have this craving for uncompressed audio, but when you think about the sampling for CD, it is all a form of compression.
The argument becomes a little tiring - "I can't tell the difference between a 320k MP3 and the original, therefore no-one can".
For the majority of material (but especially music with a lot of transients) I can quite clearly tell the difference, even on modest equipment.
I believe there are plenty of people who can't (probably the majority of people) and I don't think those people enjoy music any less than I do, but they are not likely to be the kind of people in the market for the equipment in this article.
Since the device in question supports uncompressed RIFF audio with capacities up to 18 TB, the absence of FLAC might not be a dealbreaker. That said, FLAC support would definitely be a bonus for people like myself, who already have a large collection of music in FLAC format, to save a lot of re-ripping.
"The argument becomes a little tiring - "I can't tell the difference between a 320k MP3 and the original, therefore no-one can"."
Not what I said at all. I'd be willing to accept that a very tiny proportion of people can tell a difference, but at higher bit rates we're talking very, very tiny. Randomised testing doesn't find much evidence of golden ears, but I'm not dismissing it.
Taking your point about "not likely to be in the market for (this) equipment", rubbish. If I'm listening on a pair of Quads, do you not think that I appreciate high fidelity? I'm old enough to remember the hifi purists railing against digital, and companies like Linn maintaining that they'd never produce a CD player, and the whole bit rate discssion has overtones of that debate.
I'd agree with you that if you've got the space why bother to further compress what is (even off CD) a compressed version of reality, and that'sa future project I aim to get round to.
"I believe there are plenty of people who can't [hear the difference between mp3 and wav] and I don't think those people enjoy music any less than I do"
I think I probably enjoy it more mate, because I almost never spend any time thinking "I wish this was better encoded", and just enjoy the music instead. My £60 set of logitech speakers plugged into the onboard sound out of my motherboard does me proud :)
Yes, but... Apart from the somewhat silly CD player (use a PC: it will sound the same) this is a roundup of somewhat respectavle kit from somewhat respected suppliers.
People go shopping for such stuff in the price range that suits them, or just above. Those of us who can afford to spend only 10% or less are certainly not getting only 10% of the quality, especially if we avoid the bullshit accessories, cables, etc. Those that believe than another hundred thousand quid will get them that 0.001% extra ... well, it's their hundred thou, so let them spend it as they want.
For a money-no-object deck, though, shouldn't we be throwing the stylus (and its £3,000 cartridge) away and playing our old, scratched LPs by laser? Oh.... I wish I could do that!
If done correctly, yes it will. Data is data. There's no logical reason for a fancy CD transport mechanism. Good enough is perfectly good enough. Obviously I'm referring to the digital path. Analog circuitry can be more critical what with hum and noise. Don't start with "jitter"; nonsense.
What's particularly amusing is when the $100,000 component has stupid design flaws. Like audible humm from the bespoke but badly designed power supply. LOL.
Double blind tests have repeated revealed that the ultra golden ears crowd are full of it. Now they refuse to participate because they'll be sitting next to Uri Geller in the waiting room of the loonie toon test lab.
Your opinion may vary. But you'd be wrong.
Jitter isn't nonsense, especially when synchronisation is criticial in studio or field recording applications. Even with playback of CD audio, jitter can result in audible problems. CD drives in PCs are optimised for speed, which makes them more prone to seek jitter, causing an irritating skipping or stuttering sound.
Assuming you can get a perfect data stream from your computer CD drive, you still need to convert it to analogue, which is a risky process. A lazy or over-aggressive reconstruction filter can easily send the peak level of the audio over the theoretical maximum (0 dBFS). If the equipment's not ready for it, this can cause audible distortion, and it's becoming more of a problem now that most CDs are mastered right up at the red line in terms of loudness.
If you're that serious an audiophile, you'll already have digital everything from the CD ROM to the amplifier. Any DAC will be inside whatever expensive amplifier you have, with nowt but raw digital data being sent via SPDIF, digital coax, fibre, or whatever digital output is on the back of your PC. This is without going into skip and jitter prevention technology like, say, a buffer.
The days of analogue audio cables running from the back of the CD ROM to your sound card through the copious RF noise inside your PC ended some 10 years ago.
"If you're that serious an audiophile, you'll already have digital everything "
Au contraire, if you're a serious audiophile then you'll be sitting in a cave whining to your like-minded mates about how digital is cack, and only pure analogue sound played off vinyl through valve amplification is the one true faith. And then you'll be diving into your wallet for the latest audiophile snake oil. My favourite was the HFNRR flux dumper:
British science at its finest.
No it isn't. It is perfectly sound, in theory, and even one of the easier audio problems to explain and understand.
However, is it relevant in real life? Get away from the audiophoolery, and look at pro or semi-pro sources like Sound on Sound. Alonf with the explanation, you'll find that the problem was mostly sorted years ago. And those articles were written years ago.
In an ordinarily-priced CD player: No, because the transport and the DAC are so closely linked
In a PC+sound-card system: No, because actually none of use the specially-designed-to-be-bad sound cards that the digital phools assume that we use. In fact, really bad sound cards have not been available since the days when Soundblasters lived up to their name.
Thus, in digital audio, and especially in PC digital audio, almost all of the mays mights and buts can be very safely ignored.
That is not to say that these systems always work perfectlty. I've had more than my share of bad PC sound --- but when it happens, it is obvious, not subtle. Audible crackles and dropouts are not a digital sound problem, they are a problem with the particular machine/configuration that is producing them.
I suspect that "Jitter" gets talked about a lot because it looks like an onomatopeic word. It reminds people of wow and flutter! It's much easier to pretend to understand "jitter" than quantization errors or harmonic distortions --- and this is true even of people who know what it actually is.
others have already replied what I would, so just note the key words in my post: 'digital transport'. a 'transport' - as referred to in the article - is a digital source with no DAC, basically. it's designed simply to feed the digital signal into another DAC (part of a receiver/amp, or a standalone DAC, or whatever).
Wasn't gonna comment on this more, but...
Went to a HiFi store by invite (Maida Vale?) years ago for a demo. of some new kit. Visit arranged by my audiophile chum. About 12 'Golden Eared' folks there.
Listened to some seriously good music, and I mean good quality - ish...I say 'ish'. It was only about 5 mins. into the demo. that I remarked that the speakers were misconnected - out of phase. Indeed they were ( +/- opposite on one - there's a 'hole' in the centre of the sound - try it at home). None of the 'Golden Ears' realised it, until I pointed it out....
I had the same experience listening to a mates brand, spanking new setup, which culminated in a pair of AE100 speakers.
After a couple of minutes I said that there was something amiss with the right-hand speaker, a suggestion which produced an outraged response. I convinced him to shut everything off and went round the back for a look.
He had them biwired and had left the links on the right-hand one. I removed them, we fired it up and I pronounced the problem resolved. Shame he couldn't hear the difference.
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What,you put used vinyl on 300k of kit !!!!
its 300k's of crud,i like the trouser press speakers though, as they match hotel rooms fittings.
yer better of spending less on poncey over priced design label kit and spend instead on a proper underground sound bunker, other wise best kit in world is buggered from the start...
Only a few people I know still have full sized hifi systems. Others know nothing better than laptop or ipod based audio.
Much of my system has been rescued from dumpsters, including big B&W DM2 speakers and a 55 watt NAD receiver. Technics SL1200 and Thorens 125 turntables, various CD players with classic Philips swing-arm lasers were flea market finds.
Older stuff has a more enjoyable sound than the latest multi-£k models where screechiness seems to be equated with optimum information retrieval. As for networked audio -- hardly hifi and seems like a lot of unnecessary complication.
Yeah OK, the SL1200 is not meant to be an "audiophile" turntable. Rather, it's a workhorse, built to resist dire abuse which would instantly wreck any other deck.
Just to make the point: I owned a Thorens TD166 once. It was damaged beyond repair by customs inspectors when I moved abroad. No doubt a SL1200 would have survived.
Thorens 166, and especially 125, would make an impractical disco turntable. Heavy components loosely sprung, need to be partially disassembled and replaced in original packaging before transit. The pity about the SL1200 is that the feedback isolation is not that good and the arm -- despite high price of SL -- is like those on budget Japanese turntables (bearings need to be checked and tightened or the sound is affected). Speed stability is good, though apparently can be improved with mods.
You're paying for hand-cut pieces of plastic and looks, not for technology or facilities. This is the one piece of kit on the list that shrieks audiophoolery, and gets a no-thanks from me even if they giving it away.
The turntable? Yes, but even considering its titanium-for-effect stuff, it still has technology.
For sheer class you want a pair of 1kW valve amps like these:
This one is being run quite 'sedately' as the poster explains.
Then there's this:
Those O/P valves run at around 2kV and judging by their colour I'd say they are running at about half power, although the shot of the meters suggests a lot lower. The ones in these vids are in remarkably good condition.
Crappy audio from the camera of course and naff choice of music :(
I still don't know why the big deal over valves. Sure, you can get nice-sounding valve amps these days, but you can also get lovely-sounding transistor amps that don't have the requisite 30 second warm-up associated with valves.
In a guitar amp? Sure, the overdrive characteristics of valves provide a much richer distortion than the awful, scratchy clipping you get from an overdriven transistor, but we're talking hi fi here, shirley? You know, as in trying not to overdrive things?
Valve amps are merely a rather inefficient way to add some harmonic distortion to your audio.
I condone, even endorse, their use in musical instrument amplification. But Hifi is supposed to be about accurate reproduction, remember?
Now, I won't be telling anyone to junk their perfectly functional old McIntosh driving their Klipsch horns. Period gear has its place. But if you really need 1kW/ch, a valve amp is merely a case of extremely resource-inefficient dickswingery. Go solid state fer chrissake.
...I appreciate this is very much a tongue in cheek article, but can any audiophile persuade me that any human ears are capable of detecting any difference between this, and a competently specified system, costing a tenth of the price (or less)?
Truly snake-oil - and yet these manufacturers must have a market for these bits of kit - it baffles me.
Unconvinced. The job of any hi-fi kit is to reproduce the source material as accurately as possible. Hence Ivor Tiefenbraun's notorious ploy of using a concert violinist playing live to confound critics reviewing the Linn LP-12.
My contention is that any increase in accuracy of this system over a £30,000 system would be undetectable to any human ears.
Actually, I know a couple of people who will take £10k..£15k and source second hand kit that will seriously out-sound this lot. But they are true audiophiles - they care almost zero about how it looks, only how true the sound is to the original, but are intelligent enough to know that that desire comes at a price - I like the idea of recycling kit and still come out tops re sound quality.
The sort of people who waste telephone-number sums on "audiophile" equipment are just poseurs with more money than sense. The funniest bit is when they start droning on about one-grand-per-inch "Van Den Dickhead" oxygen-free copper cables for digital equipment, and they seriously believe it makes a difference.
I find it hard to believe this nonsense prevails in this post-Napster era of austerity. There must be an awful lot of bankers pissing away our bailout money on these objet d′art comfort-toys.
Yes, there's ultra-cheap junk that sounds awful, but once you go beyond that you find Hi-Fi rapidly becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns. Spend another ten grand for another 0.1% noticeable improvement? Pfft.
My rule of thumb is start with the cheapest thing available (that applies to everything, not just Hi-Fi). If that fails to satisfy then work your way up, one step at a time, until you find something you like, then stick with it. IME 99% of the time the "cheapest" turns out to be more than good enough, in fact I often find the cheaper stuff has more features and lasts longer. Nothing's built to last much beyond the statutory warranty period these days anyway, so why bother spending more than you absolutely have to?
This "more expensive = better" dogma is just marketing propaganda for mugs, and this "esoteric audiophile equipment" gibberish is perhaps the most archetypal example. Snake oil indeed.
"but can any audiophile persuade me that any human ears are capable of detecting any difference between this, and a competently specified system, costing a tenth of the price (or less)?"
No, but they can persuade *themselves*, and that's the thing. I heartily advise you don't peer too far into the rabbit hole or you might fall over the edge. Get some decent midrange kit that'll last you a while, hook it up, and leave the audiophiles to themselves. They're happy. Their families may not be, but hey, there's not much you can do short of founding Audioholics Anonymous...
"magnetically levitated platter driven by an impossibly smooth, ‘zero cogging’ motor"
Like the sturdy Technics mainstay of dancelfoors since the 70's, at a fraction of the price?
Wow & flutter: 0.01%WRMS +/- 0.035% peak
Rumble: -78dB DIN B
From stereophile.com: "Caliburn: suspensionless turntable with O-ring drive; cogless, battery-powered DC motor; vacuum holddown. Speeds (adjustable): 33.33, 45, 78 rpm. Wow & flutter, Rumble: not specified."
It's a lot of money for a manufacturer not willing to come clean on their specs, I'll stick with my 1210, I probably wouldn't notice the difference the extra £90-120k would bring to my room.
You, dear Sir, have not spoken The Word, but I shall, of the best record player ever to see the light of day.
The venerable Technics SL1200 MK II is in my opinion the best record player made - ever. A direct drive configured so there is no drive flutter from magnetic fields handing over, but powerful enough to come up to speed in 1/3 of a turn (and thus eminently suitable for on-beat mixes and fader starting) and so absolutely bomb proof that my local disco (which wrecked a record player roughly every other week) was unable to kill the things for 2 years solid.
It took an ill-judged placement of a box of records to kill one (I kid you not, ON the %&ç record player which had just had their covers taken off - nuked the arm bearings and the strobe so it was quicker just to fling the spare in place and get a new one). In case you're wondering - good DJs keep the crowd that brings the money, but good DJs does not always have a clue about the tech they abuse (I built enough radio stations to see that confirmed many times over). But I digress.
Add to that your standard Concorde element with a short needle to handle backwards cue-ing and all you need to do is replace needles in time - the rest just lasts and lasts. Admittedly, for upper class HiFi you may need something else, but the combination of Technics and Concorde has become one of legend.
I friend of mine had that record player from Revox (the one with the parallel arm) - I found that one flat annoying. Selecting an LP track was crap, waiting for the needle to be torqued in place..
The 1200, like all DJ turntables (it has plenty of competition) is only a good turntable for DJing. You get a lot of rumble through the direct drive motor which you don't get with a decent belt drive turntable.
I've been tempted to buy a belt drive turntable for ripping records to mp3 but never got round to it. Then again, I rarely play my records one at a time.
Reputation and Quality are they "Only" thing that matters and you turned your nose up on a pair of quality mono blocks, Not one of those items you highlight is a serious quality item, those Sonus....pah cheap plastic crap, no LINN or Bower and Wilkins or QUAD or Thorens in sight, FAIL!.....there an awful lot of rebadged tat with fake quality and you just fell for it. ;) Seems we have a sucker with a cheque book. ;)
It's really good to see someone taking audio systems with some degree of seriousness for a change.
I equate the decline in standards of recent years (my friend insists on playing me 'music' to evaluate using her Samsung Galaxy SIII speaker! No bass, no top, rubbish mid) with the fall of western civilisation. It's a symptom of the lowest common denominator, mass marketed, popularist, low class culture that we're forced to endure that sound and noise have replaced audio reproduction!
I would hazard that your friend is probably perfectly happy with her choice of music and audio reproduction setup. That it's not to YOUR taste and you want to impose those beliefs on everyone else is YOUR problem, not hers.
Sure, when she has a party with 50 friends, she'd probably prefer to stick her music through a £100 hi-fi with speakers for volume if nothing else, but apart from that, she's happy with it.
This is the problem I have with audiophiles. If you want to throw away thousands of pounds because YOU (think that you) can notice a difference. Do it. But don't tell me that I need to do it too.
Truthfully, anything more than an MP3 through some laptop speakers and I honestly can't tell the difference except in volume or in ways that playing with the treble/bass settings would compensate for. 100%. I sat for HOURS in the later DOS days when it took that long to encode MP3's and computers could just about play them back in realtime if you had MMX, etc. listening with young ears and I could not tell the difference. I don't sit playing all my computer games thinking "Oh, horribly squeaky and degraded MP3" whenever there's a sound effect or background music because I honestly COULD NOT TELL - most of the time I'm so engrossed in the game I wouldn't notice anyway (and if the game audio was that convincing that I lose myself in the game, who cares?). And most of that stuff was digitally prepared from the very start.
Don't tell your friend that she needs to buy X amount of equipment. If it bothers you, YOU do that bit. She's probably quite happy with what she has, like 99% of people who play music (I don't know anyone who has an hi-fi any more - maybe an iPod docking station of some kind or some 20-year-old amplified speaker setup with copper wire that's been nailed through, painted over and caught in the cable clips all that time, with speaker switches they found in the loft and wired themselves - and nobody seems to notice).
Yes, to me, things like HD TV are also a waste of time. So I don't touch them if I can avoid it (I have an HDTV now, but I have no HD content except for BBC One HD etc. and I never bother to use them in preference to standard SD). But if someone WANTS to throw their money away on tat that they think they can notice, that's their problem, not mine. I *can't* see/hear a difference. Most people can't. Accept that fact. And 99.99% of the time that people listen to music, they are not in an acoustically perfect chamber - they are in a street or a noisy car or at home doing the washing up or whatever. So bothering to make things "perfect" is a waste of time. It's like saying that your friend was trying to show you what the Mona Lisa looked like but what she showed you was a photo on Wikipedia rather than the real thing. If you honestly can ONLY look at a perfect original replica to judge if you like something or not, you're never going to be happy (and, thus, why not tell her that?!).
I honestly DISABLE or AVOID: HD (except if putting a PC screen onto it, which have been HD and NEEDED it for pixel-for-pixel accuracy on GUI's since the 90's, but I don't care what I watch a movie on), anything more than stereo (Dolby? Off. Less speakers, less cables, no difference to me), advanced audio crap (my laptop outputs stereo from a headphone cable, with nothing else, despite being 7.1 Dolby Home Theater and all-sorts, with SPDIF output), any sort of "performance-enhancing" hardware (cables, connectors, specialist A-D convertors, etc. - my sound card is whatever-was-built-in for the last 10 years and I don't even know what make it is any more).
Just accept it - 99% of people do not care. You do. So either tell them to stop subjecting you to it (which, I will tell you, makes you seem like an elitest ponce), or deal with it not being a perfect reproduction because nobody else notices the difference at all. And then we can all go on enjoying our lives.
The thing is that a lot of people *do* care about sound quality but they never get the chance to find out. When confronted with a sound system that's been given some consideration, and I don't mean costs thousands, most people will notice an improvement. Even modern day pop crap has detail that many people have never heard thanks to today's obsession with Lo-Fi rubbish.
Of course the system in the article is probably not discernibly better than one costing 1000 time less, but that doesn't mean that decent audio gear can't be appreciated by most people.
I agree generally with your sentiment, although maybe you take it a bit far (I can tell the difference to some extent, but I'm generally not that bothered). The point is that music is meant to be enjoyed, not analysed for correctness. Tinny lilttle speakers are annoying, but once you get a decent amount of mid/low (not Bass Boost please), with some clear top, it's mostly there and good enough to listen/enjoy. If you really want to A/B this or that bit of kit then go ahead, you may prefer a particular sound but that doesn't mean it's correct and the sort of detail you gain generally isn't a major contribution to the overall sonic experience. Spend the money on live gigs if you really want to experience music as it's meant to be.
The example that jumped out at me was some Michael Jackson played through some cheap Mission speakers. I'd never heard some of the music in there before and I realised why Quincy Jones was respected -- I am sure anyone would hear the same. Music can just be "BOOM_BOOM_TISH" but it is so much more enjoyable if you hear the nuances, and I think most people feel the same when they hear them.
As for live music, if it's acoustic instruments then yes, if it's amplified instruments you will almost always get a better mix on the CD -- with the possible exception of bands who take their mixing engineer on the road with them and have them test the venue and live mix, but even then you're let down by the venue's acoustics.
You might indeed hazard that my friend is probably perfectly happy with her choice of music and audio reproduction setup but in actual fact she's not and my 14 year old friend will be accepting the £53 Creative Bluetooth speakers that we agreed would be ideal and which I'll be giving her for her 15th birthday in 2 weeks time. Having said that she really adores my multi-channel Hi-Fi system when her mother (my partner) brings her to my house. Likewise she adores my 1920x1080 52" TV and my extensive Blu-Ray collection and YES she and her mother can tell the difference. Her mother bought an HD TV and Blu-Ray player almost immediately after seeing the quality of mine for the first time and that was purely based on her subjective experience.
I'm very intrigued about why you spent so much time attacking me (almost personally) after I offered my opinion of the situation (although that's entirely your right of course). I appear to have hit a very raw nerve in your case. Likewise it's my right to express my opinion that you're a misinformed and deluded person who really should reevaluate their existence and who clearly has zero class or style ... but hey, enjoy your life whatever you've made of it.
Oh ... and you might want to take a look at the number of downvotes you got ...
I think there is a basic problem with the current generation of music listeners.
I'm perfectly aware that music is subjective, and that many people may think that they are happy with current heavily mixed, sound processed 'music' played through systems that are not ideal. This is made worse by the number of people who are unused to hear music on anything other than earbuds, headphones or computer speakers. They just don't know any better!
But what have the current generation (or in fact anybody learning how to listen to music on anything after a Sony Walkman in the early '80s) have to compare what they listen to now with? As a previous poster has commented, modern music is rarely listened to 'raw', even in a concert. It's all processed, mixed and amplified, so that what is heard is what the producer/sound engineer wants to be heard.
There is not enough live acoustic music available for people nowadays to actually have a reference to compare with. My modest audio system has cost me no more than about £600 over the 30 years I've collected and maintained it. I'm aware that the transistors and capacitors are aging, leading to more background hiss, and that the paper cones of the speakers probably are not as stiff as they used to be, but it is still quite good enough for my children's friends to listen in awe to good music played in a condusive environment on a good budget system (almost all of the components in my system at one time or another got 'best buy' awards in annual roundups of reviews in the HiFi press).
I play acoustic guitar, and they can hear how close to a real guitar John Martyn's Solid Air (on vinyl) can sound. The same with orchestrial and choral works where they can hear the individual sections seperate out across the soundstage. They may not care for the music, but they can hear a difference from what they are used to. And this also extends to their music (mainly CDs - none of them have vinyl!) played on my system.
So I am quite prepared to go along with beauty is in the ears of the beholder, but it's a shame so many of those ears are uneducated.
I'd like to see the insurance claim for this stuff when it is left
On the doorstep
in/behind a wheelie bin on collection day
Stuffed in a hedge (out side your house if you are lucky)
Fortunately it appears that Amazon don't cater for the audiophile whose brain may be made of denser stuff than some of this kit.
For that money I want it all to be superconducting. I want the turntable levitating over a superconductor, suspended indefinitely in a vacuum so that it spins for a billion years without even losing the 1/3 off the 33 1/3 rpm spin speed.
I think the Lurkers will still be knocking out albums then, so best be prepared.
Nice kit, but...
Ages ago I had a Linn Sondek LP12, Ittok arm, Troika cartridge - can't remember the rest of the setup except some was made by QUAD. I was convinced to buy it by an audiophile that that combo was the best.
It sure was good, very good. Better by far than my "Dansette Portable"...
Then I started reading some of the (possibly apocryhphal) stuff Ivor Tiefenbrun was coming out with. Like, I can let my kids walk over my LP's they still play great if they've even got a bit of jam on them, and the killer I heard: Improve electrical quality by putting a glass of water on top of the fusebox coming into the house.
Then, after I spent a fortune on the kit, I went out and bought one of the first Marantz CD players. Blew me away, the LP's went to the attic, and peace ruled. Not anymore did I take my LP's to a specialist shop to have them 'cleaned' by a strange device, looked just like a gramophone with a sprayer and a suction pump...
Now, I'm older - possibly wiser, and deafer. My Nokia N8 in my pocket does almost everything, unless I pipe a CD through the telly speakers.
Audiophiles---worse than radio hams! <joke>
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Nice anecdote Angus. My experience differs.
I used to listen to a lot of live music, from Gregorian chants in small churches to the Who in large halls.
In 1975 my wife bought me an LP12, complete with an SME arm and a Shure V15, which we played through a cheapish amp and speakers. I then spent the next 20 years saving up to buy stuff to match the LP12 - Fortunately my wife reigned in any golden ear traits that I might have had. The final system had Naim amplification, and a Linn Ittok/Asak and speakers. After a "Hi-Fi" demonstration that sounded impressive, I bought a medium price CD player. When I got it home and listened to it, we were appalled at how bad everything sounded, Yes the odd crackle and pop from vinyl had gone, but so had most of what made the music enjoyable. I took the CD player back. Eventually I bought a Naim CD player which we thought sounded Pretty good.
Now comes the vaguely interesting bit, I had a serious car accident which resulted in minor brain damage. Afterwards the LP12 still sounded reasonable, but the CD was uncomfortable to listen to. Unfortunately, although the LP12 was still good to listen to, I no longer had the mechanical skill to drive it without damaging records. I sold the entire system to a nice junior doctor for a fair price and bought a simple B&O all-in-one that sounded OK, not much musical enjoyment but OK for social and background listening.
So it would seem that the brain is at least as responsible for what we hear and enjoy as the equipment that we use...
Shouty Shouty, because that is what most Hi-Fi now sounds like to me.
Until 3 years ago I would have agreed with you, but there is no better proof than your own ears, and I have a mate who used to write reviews for sound magazines and thus had all the kit to prove the difference.
He is like me in that he has a solid tech background - he won't buy "super oxigen cables" for £500 because that is complete BS and doesn't express itself in sound quality, but there is good kit out there that costs a bit more than your £500 but then also really delivers. However, amongst the expensive kit there is also an awful lot of complete BS - that is certainly true.
I'm not home often enough to warrant a decent system (I have other priorities right now), but when I settle down he'll get the job of putting a decent set together. I know the money will be well spent.
No, it isn't: it is the whole purpose of stereo.
When you sit in your ideal room, with your ideal speakers, you will not be aware of those speakers at all: you will be aware of voices and instruments coming from points between the speakers. You may even hear sounds coming from outisde the speakers, although this is more likely to be caused by the imperfections of your listening room. In my room, the sound comes from all over: it'd be utterly wrong to an audiophile, but it's quite fun to watch the illusion. The sound stage of my computer monitors starts at the left speaker and ends at the wall three feet to the right of the right speaker!
However, stereo is 2D. Technology exists to make sound actually move up and down and around those two speakers, but recording engineers only have L-R pan controls, not up/down or forward/back, although I suspect the clever ones, especially in classical music, achieve the latter through clever use of levels, nudging our own imaginations to fill in what the technology can't actually supply.
Soundstage is real. Some of the things audio"philes" say about it, on the other hand, is not. Also, as demonstrated by my own [bad] examples, rooms and listening positions often have more to do with it than how much the speakers cost.
It's not the concept, it's the usage. Every time some gullible fool with too much money throws some of it away on hifi lunacy (I know someone who spent £20,000 on a pair of interconnects, 20 years ago) he invariably claims that the soundstage opened out (whatever the hell that means) before chuntering on about better dynamics or some other guff which - and this is the important bit - is utterly undetectable to anyone in a double blind test.
It's a bit like "whole new paradigm" - there are whole new paradigms out there, but anyone who uses the expression may still safely be assumed to be a twat.
Oh Reg... Here's an IT angle:
A few years ago Linn (founded by Ivor Tiefenbrun mentioned above) introduced their own digital stream players. Ivor's son now runs the company after a significant stint at Symbian. They no longer make CD players, so were the first high-end hi-fi company, by a stretch, to cotton on to purist networked streaming, with a range of renderers with no moving parts. They are equally into analogue reproduction, but all digital sources are driveless.
Linn's DS players (DS stands for Digital Stream) are standards based, their software (including UPnP control points, PC sound drivers that send sound to DS players (great for e.g. spotify) and extensions to the UPnP standard) is available under (I think) the GPL and, excuse me for any terminology foibles as I'm stretching here, they have developed their own UPnP / TCP / IP stack running on the RTEMS real time operating system. You can sync any number of DS players on a network, to the extent that you could plug in a left headphone on one player and a right headphone on another, and have to all intents the same experience as if played through a single player (they minutely and occasionally push and pull the clocks to maintain sync, so technically there's a small increase in jitter vs normal playback). If you want to sync more than 6 players, they recommend using multicast.
This to me is good stuff. You get the same IT in the £800 player as you do in the £15k one. I'm clearly a bit of a fan - yes I've visited the factory - but I wish the bank I work for had the same quality of software engineering. On the other hand, at least I get to be a customer ;-)
Oh and by the way, that monstrous mp3 ripper has to be on of the bigger piles of shite ever conceived. dbpoweramp on a PC, and buy or put together a home NAS, and you have the gold standard.
I don't begrudge you or anybody else their Linn. For a start, they look great!
But if what you want is wireless streaming, you'll find that Logitech make a very affordable range of Squeezeboxes. They are even quite popular with some of those mythical audiophiles of whom we speak.
Apart (maybe, I don't know) from that multiple-unit sync test (which only matters if you really want to listen to more than one at a time) they will do all the same stuff, which is, essentially, getting sound from a PC, a media server or the internet, and feeding it to an amplifier.
Whilst I'm prepared to believe (and I certainly hope) that Linn might use higher-quality DACs, all this networking stuff is, really, neither here nor there. As IT people, we should recognise that all that matters is that the data gets there, and that it gets there in time. Yes, data, not music, for it isn't music at that stage.
Unfortunately, we now have a whole crowd of people who never knew anything about PC internals or networking, now telling us that "ethernet sounds better than wifi" or "gold-plated network connectors really make a difference." There is probably endless space for inventing this sort of thing, so we can expect to see it grow and grow as more and more computers become part of the hifi.
I always ask them if their spreadsheets or their documents are any more accurate over a specific cable...
I was ignorant about electrostatic speakers until one of my friends (who is a total nut when it comes to fidelity) demonstrated audio resolution to me. The exercise seemed simple: identify in a classical piece the instrument NEXT to the lead. He first played the piece through rubbish speakers, then through some very high end ones - which made it clearer, but still hard.
Then he played the same piece through his electrostatic speakers, and that was a jaw dropper in comparison - so fine and defined I have not heard music other than live.
The only challenge with that setup is that you need to add a woofer to cover the frequencies below 400Hz (and you need an amp which can drive these things as their impedance isn't that stable (you can toast an expensive amp if you're not careful), but I know what I'll buy when I found a suitable bank to rob :).
Oh, and I suspect that you won't play back your MP3s through this - I suspect this setup way very well expose the flaws in any low resolution recording..
Incidentally, having good speakers hanging off your PC can have weird side effects. I have a Buy Other Sound Equipment (BOSE) Companion 5 hanging off my laptop and when I was listening to the late Randy Pausch's last lecture I became aware of a strange base sound. Took me a while to realise that the mike he was wearing was also picking up his heartbeat..
They may've been Quad Electrostatics.
When I could hear properly, simply NOTHING came close. I remember the difference was breathtaking.
I drove 'em through an amp. I made from an article in Elektor magazine. One of the first to be a constructors' design using FET's for the output. Construction quality had to be damned good, (none of this 'oxygen-free malarkey', but I was glad I understood the concept of 'star-grounding', and I chose a toroid mains transformer. Not a trace of mains hum.
Star-earthing? Many years later, I worked at Nokia. We made a basestation, which was - at that time - revolutionary. It worked well. I checked them out for BER (Bit Error Rate) tests, and scanned the fairly close-in spectrum, a few Mhz. They worked fine. Then, we had to test them for FCC compliance. We sent a couple to UK for testing before shipping to MET-Labs in (?) New York.
I remember the RF team leader waking me by phone, screaming at me - "What the fuc*k? We've a massive spike 55 megs above the carrier! It'll fail FCC testing!"
So, back to work, sure enough it was there. I'd scanned that area of the spectrum a month ago - clean, and (I assumed) nothing had changed so on subsequent tests I didn't go there to save time.
I stripped the machine, and just said, in a loud voice that got my manager running "WHAT FUC*KING MORON DID THIS???"
The backplane, which serviced both the analog and digital parts previously had the two parts separate until one point. Now, they were one piece of copper. No-one had passed by me, I'd have rejected the change on the spot.
I was told a Phd* engineer had approved it. But, I knew that was the problem. Took me an Easter holiday to make a reconstruction, and prove it.
55 megs was the DSP clock frequency.
*I was one of the senior engineers, yet I'd never darkend a University's doorway. I guess being a Radio Ham did it...
Moral: Don't screw with basic electronics/physics and 'good engineering' principles
So what you're saying, basically, is that when you listened to precisely the same piece of music three times in a row, through speakers which you were told in advance were of increasing quality, you thought you heard more detail each time? OK, I'm convinced. Where's me chequebook?
Yes, it's all part of the buying experience!
It's what we do when we listen, when we audition, when we go to the shop. Everything from the finish to the colour, and perhaps especially that all-important logo, influences us --- and becomes part of our ownership experience.
On the basis of people, as individuals, buying, I don't have a problem with this at all. I try to be aware of my own biases, but surely, they are very much there.
Of course, there is no doubt that one set of audio gear sounds different to another. My computer speakers sound different to my headphones sounds different to my hifi probably sounds different to his, her, your hifi. The problem is when we start to use the word better. Because when proper blind testing is done the results are often not the same at all.
And this is where we come up against the essential dishonesty of the business, which refuses to accept blind testing. It's not the whole industry. Once one starts googling all this stuff, one finds plenty of engineeers, even designers of expensive kit, that are just as appauled by the whole super-subjective scene as many of us buyers are.
"Oh, and I suspect that you won't play back your MP3s through this - I suspect this setup way very well expose the flaws in any low resolution recording.."
I normally pipe MP3s through my ESL57s. Use a high bit rate and there's no problem at all, even in classical and choral music that has the potential to be quite unforgiving. And the last thing you want is a sub - I tried this, and it just didn't work - having got it all set up and expecting great things, it just subtracted something, even though the low bass was there. With the 57s on proper stands the bass is surprisingly deep and controlled, and if you want a suitable solid state amp then there's plenty of older Quads on the market.
£200 for a 34, same again for a 306, £600 for a pair of secondhand 57's, have them refurbished (c£800) and put on proper stands (£200), and you're in business....
As the original author of the electrostats comment it's maybe worth pointing out a few things.
1 - I am very familiar with electronics in both the analog as well as the digital world, and I've built enough stuff myself to know how to judge a sales pitch
2 - I have spent a good two decades building studios as well as pirate radios. This means I am VERY sensitive to sound quality issues, less so to sound resolution (until I had it demonstrated to me)
3 - despite that, I'd still buy "regular" speakers and kit - upper end of the market, but not insanely so. I'm not a classical music buff, and I can spend that money on other stuff that I will enjoy more :).
Oh, and as for star grounding - yep, been there. With 400W worth of FM transmission over 4 balanced dipoles from a mast that's maybe 50 meters away, a ground loop becomes pretty immediately clear. The long gone joys of pirate radio..
Solid silver mains cables anyone? Never mind the 2.5mm T&E that goes in the back of the socket.
Because it's bound to make your stuff sound better, honest.
My favourite are gold-plated TOSLINK optical.*
Because obviously the gold plating improves the quality of the light...
* I actually have these, because at the time they were cheaper than the normal ones and had physically stronger ends. Presumably not enough people were fooled and they had to dump them.
$8,000 seems a bit excessive, but of all the cables in a hi-fi system it's the phono interconnects that you really shouldn't scrimp on. They carry a tiny little signal from the cartridge to the phono preamplifier, and any noise introduced at this stage is going to be amplified massively before it gets to the speakers. On top of that, the cartridge and phono preamp need to be impedance-matched, and if your cable has unusually high or low impedance it's going to make things more difficult.
No, I'm not likely to spend $8,000 on one, but I'll always use my best cable at this point in the signal chain.
I've seen article in hi-fi magazines where they were comparing how hard drives and digital interconnects could affect the sound quality. Apparently replacing these has a noticeable effect on the sound quality.
When I lived in Bristol, my landlord had a pair of Quad ESL 57s, and I was impressed when I heard them. I really should get a pair. But if you're really dedicated then you can stack them...
"Buy the fastest hard drives and the most powerful processor!"
Wong... wrong... Wrong!
I don't know if you need fast drives for video, I don't do video --- but audio works off a CD drive, for goodness sake! How slow is that compared to the slowest hdd? Added to that, fast hdds are hotter.
Fast hdds are hotter, so are powerful processors. You end up with more fan noise.....
If you're lucky, you can spot the same person telling these two things:
"You need the lowest possible latency..."
"It's best to read the entire file into memory before playing it..."
They have no more idea what a contradiction that is than they have about what latency actually means.
Oh yes, I have an interest in hif, and also in PC audio; and a couple of decades IT experience. This stuff drives me mad!
Perhaps when I retire, I'll build myself a lossless CD storage box, if no-one has by then marketed a reasonably inexpensive lossless one done right. During playback I'd not want the disk drive spinning at all. How much does one Gb of RAM cost? So the right way would be to buffer the entire selected CD into RAM (600Mb at 100Mb/sec = 6 seconds), spin down the hard disk, and only then start playing the music.
Obviously there would be no fans in the box either. I'd probably end up using a (very retro) non-switch-mode PSU, because most switch-mode PSUs make an audible squeak under some load condition or other.
You can already do this for a very low price. Mini ITX based computer with Windows 7, store the music on a NAS (you'd be amazed at just how much uncompressed music fits into 1TB, so much it's almost not worth worrying about compression anymore to save storage), Now install a 128GB Intel SSD and run the machine with 4GB RAM. Load it up with a piece of software called XXHighEnd, which copies the tracks to RAM for playback, and you have a silent computer which plays the music back lossless from RAM. Now supplement with USB DAC to your liking, sit back, and enjoy the music. The whole system can be built for around £400 + DAC, and for me this lossless playabck system betters a £6K CD player when used with a modest (sub £400) USB DAC.
I have a collection of over 700CD's, and I don't recall actually playing one of them in the last 3 years because I rely on a streaming system now, and yes, that entire collection fits in under 1TB of storage.
Much of the kit is a good start, but for my money, since I've already spent it, I prefer (and use) one of Dan's earlier designs, the KAS (Krell Audio Standard). 3.04KW of pure class A power. My set are driven by a decidedly downmarket, but very enjoyable Musical Fidelity AMS Primo preamp. Sources include an Avid Acutus SP (quite a bit lower-end than Mikey Fremer's Caliburn/Cobra combo) with a Zyx Airy III MC cart, a custom DIY phono stage, and my trusty and still competitive Denon DCD-3520 (with Furutech mods). I've never heard a speaker I was entirely satisfied with, so I had my own built. They're a 5-way, 6-driver design that makes use of an Infinity-Watkins woofer, and delightful ribbon tweeters with nearly invisible first-order crossovers all the way around.
I would probably go for Meridian stuff it all works together well and then spend the rest of the money on the rooms and integrating the speakers into the walls.
(Media Core 600 is £6000 2TB raid1 which should be fine for CD's and it supports flac)
You don't get a good hifi just by getting the best of each component and putting into a room that is not designed properly for it.
Everything in the Meridian Reference 800 Series is about as good as you can get. (And it all works well together).
I'm sorry, but Meridian is really taking the p**s with the Media Core 600. Can you imagine going to an IT supplier for stroage and them asking you for £6K for 2TB of storage? If a salesman came here quoting me those kinds of figures he'd be sent down the road in 30 seconds flat.
Let's be clear here, Meridian are asking £6K for a 2 bay NAS with a pair of 2TB Samsung HDD's. I can buy that kind of thing from PC world for under £400.
This kind of stupidity is really destroying the Hi Fi business today, I know they're struggling, as the CD player of yore are now irrelevant in a world of media streamers and NAS devices, but the industry does itself no favours by trying to sell storage at vastly inflated prices, and the damn dealers are still demanding 30%+ margins with minimum wage Saturday boys in the shops with questionable knowledge and skills.
The future for the whole business looks very bleak indeed.
Lets ignore the MP3 thing for now, its a given that nobody using anything near this would think of using an MP3.
But you've missed a trick with the D/A converter. I work in a mastering house, and we clock our converters to a £10k atomic clock. Surely you'd want one of them..... ;)
Im a hardcore audiophile, but then, I also have a wind up 78 player with a horn....
We listen to music for
- to change our mood
- to distract us
- to take us somewhere else
As a person from a pretty musical background, I find Hi-fi's that cant deliver the full range of notes, without the energy of "real life" a disappointment. However there is very little need to spend bonkers money on it either
They don't use particularly high end gear to listen to the music when they say do a final master at Abbey Road or similar
Most of this is the law of diminishing returns
BTW, what about horns and valves
Valves are a way of delivering a musically acceptable from of distortion in the loud passages. Done deliberately and in large amounts, this is the delicious sound of an electric guitar, but I'd rather not have extra added to everything I listen to. A good solid-state amp doesn't deliver any noticeable distortion at all.
Horn speakers can be very good indeed, if you've got the space for them! IMO the absolute ultimate reproduced sound quality is through electrostatic headphones, but headphones are a solitary pleasure.
Music is a gateway into another world, that opens only for some people. If you think that's pretentious, you just aren't one of them. Harmonic distortion is like looking at fine art through tinted glass - pretty harmless if the tint is mild. Non-harmonic distortion (which is what digital compression creates) is like looking at fine art through a pebbled-glass lavatory window. Horrible and pointless.
Yada yada blah blah. Buy the cheapest audio cable you can, because it's digital, so either ones and zeros transmit or they don't? Please stop spouting this nonsense. Sure, the higher-end gold-plated oxygen-free wotsits are a rip-off and probably don't add much to the quality, but you also have to worry about shielding and interference in the lower-end ones, as well as overall build quality. As with most things, the extremes should be avoided - and extremes go in both directions. There is a happy middle ground, which in this case is probably the cables priced just slightly above the cheapest, low-end ones.
Is that the cables that don't work were not built properly or do not conform to the appropriate specification.
So there isn't so much a happy medium as ...stuff that works and stuff that doesn't. So yes, it might be better to buy the £2.50 USB cable rather than the £0.50 one, but the £500 one is just stupidity.
You've surely got to be a troll. In a digital system the bitstream either arrives intact or it doesn't. A cheap PC works (until it doesn't). Indeed, sometimes it fails because a cheapeast-possible cable assembly has come apart, but the fault there is in the mechanicals of the assembly. A digital feed to a DAC is no different to a digital feed to (say) a disk drive in this regard (except that the disk drive cable has to work at Gbit/sec not just kbit/sec)!
Spend the money on the things that matter. the DAC, the amp, the speakers, and if you've got the money for top end, the analog wiring (the amp to the speakers in particular).
Nigel11. Well, it is quite true that as long as the cables deliver a clean digital signal, you need nothing better.
But even digital signals are afected by analogue issues.
A digital signal is something approximating a square wave (obviously not a pure square wave). But when you transmit it down a wire, the effect of capacitance and inductance take their toll on these nice clean leading and trailing edges due to an effect called hysteresis. This tends to round-off the nice square edges.
When you recieve a digital signal, especially an asynchronous one, you rely on the signal passing the high/low thresholds within a suitable time. Thus, a really bad cable which may cause overall loss of signal and excessive hysteresis could cause multiple single bit errors because of the signal not reaching the threshold in time.
No matter, you say. All digital signals are transmitted with error correction. True, but invoking the error correction algorithm may take time (even if in hardware), and may not actually reconstruct the packet correctly if there are too many errors. What to do then? Well, most systems when faced with potential missing data in real-time will repeat the last packet's data, which is clearly unacceptable.
I'm not saying that this happens frequently, but be aware that it can happen, and cannot be totally ignored.
You're spot on here.
I used to review Hi Fi equipment for a couple of magazines, and I would never review digital cables, because I could not credibly recommend anyone to buy them. I tested £1K super high end digital cables on S/PDIF (phono & BNC) against some cable I built from true 75 Ohm connectors and Belden video cable. I had a friend switch between inputs blind, and I could not tell the difference. My cable cost me around £10, and that was only because the connectors were from the USA as most RCA Phono connectors are not true 75 Ohm devices.
The truth is that most CD transports and DAC's do not have true 75 Ohm connectors on them, and if the loading is wrong, this can introduce measureable signal problems. So the claims that digital cables sound different are not wrong, it simply mean that they work better with an interface which is out of spec then another cable, and there is no guarantee that the cables are true 75 Ohm items either.
Thankfully USB to DAC has removed this nonsense, though the audio industry is now desperately trying to sell us high end USB cables which sound better. I await to be convinced!
Almost 99.99% of this so called "high end" audiophile biz is a fraudsters haven. I know they wouldn't be in business if there enough stupid fools around that actually believe these snake oil salesmen, but I should would like to see them in jail for fraud! And that includes the Amazon CEO.
The 'How It's Made' TV series had a segment on the manufacture of vinyl records. The machine that cuts the master disc is fed data from... ...a CD. Almost without doubt that the audio is the usual 16-bit, 44 kHz digital audio.
Cold hard and must-be-disappointing facts like these must really ruin the ultra golden ears wingnuts' day.
To be clear, 15-inch woofers and ribbon tweeters (for example) are lovely. The objection isn't even with exceeding high quality and very expensive components. The objection is when the supposed features stray way past the well established bounds of science. Then the respect for the proponents goes straight to zero. Because they're idiots.
Do they still make vinyl records at all?! I didn't know they did. I'd hope that they'd cut from a studio-master, not from a CD, but I guess in the final stages of the death of a media format, I guess this sort of thing happens.
Old vinyl from before the CD was invented was most definitely cut from the studio master tape. Handled very carefully, played on a high-quality deck, vinyl could definitely give a CD a run for its money. But vinyl is so terribly fragile, compared to the almost indestructible CD. The rest is history.
Yes they do still make vinyl. Obviously vinyl has its limits but I think we all know that CDs aren't indestructible - vinyl from the 80s was notoriously bad (with some exceptions) because they skimped on the thickness which made the record warp easily. Although sales of vinyl did increase during the dance music boom it has dropped off again, although quite a few classic rock albums have been re-issued on quality vinyl.
Unless the record company is being extremely lazy they aren't taken from a CD. Once the album is mastered it has post production for the CDs - volume levelling etc but that is more of a symptom of modern music i.e. a lack of dynamics. The vinyl of Pink Floyd's Pulse album definitely did have different mastering to the CD since it was delayed to long after the CD was released.
Much of the problem is down to record companies being greedy and outputting lowest common denominator music.
Do you know it was a CD?
Could it not have been a lossless audio file at some stupidly high bit rate stored on a writable DVD or BluRay disk?
Studio master tapes have been digital for about 30 years (I remember Sky 2 coming out, and being proclaimed as one of the first records to be digitally recorded, mixed and mastered). Once mixed in a digital mixer, it is quite possible that the output may be put on a DVD.
I'm thinking of that blind test of Monster Cable Vs coat hangers... no one could tell the difference. I know a hi-fi nut who builds his own valve amps and mixers- his turntable sits on an old inner-tube, and he uses uses plain copper mains cable (cooker ring) to connect his speakers. Why not go nuts on the copper cable?- it seems to be only increasing in scrap value!
If you want a heavy base for your kit to sit on, go to your local builder's merchant and buy a slab! If fact I have seen advertisments (from the 1950s?) from Wharfedale for a speaker kit- you had to supply your own flanged concrete drain pipes.
Look up "skin effect". A high-power high-frequency signal is restricted to the surface of a conductor, or to put it another way, the resistance of cable increases with frequency. Lots of fine strands have more surface area, so they work better.
It's a smallish effect at audio frequencies. However, at least use mains flex (multi-strand) rather than cable (single-strand)! The cheaper grades of speaker cable have still more finer strands and don't actually cost an awful lot more. Linear-crystal Oxygen-Free stuff, that *is* getting silly.
Really, you would choose the Imerge MS1-3D, over a Kaleidescape home theatre? The Imerge system can't play blu-rays without either you manually ripping them to ISOs (Illegally in many countries), or you getting out a disk, while the Kaleidescape Vaults can hold 320 Blu-rays for playback.
All El Reg did was to Google really expensive hi-fi seperates and then list them, it's not like they actually ordered them and listened to them, let alone in comparison to other equipment. I could have done the same in 15 minutes.
Hi-fi articles are very welcome but can we at least have something a bit more serious?
The point was that it generated 200 comments. Lots of enjoyment and/or annoyance for lots of Reg readers.
To misquote an unusually percipient comment by Bill Gates: "Measuring a Reg article by the amount of research it took is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight."
The audiophool premise is that ears are more sensitive than science, and that they can hear differences that cannot be measured.
Such people cannot accept that recording itself is akin to measurement and the entire process of technology that brings the sound to their ears is one of measurable electro-mechanical events
People who geniunely care about music and audiophiles are two distinct groups.
I have yet to meet a musician (and I know a lot of musicians) who was really all that bothered about hifi. The only two audiophiles I have known well were far less interested in what they played than what they played it on. I remember one chap playing me a silent LP at full volume and boasting that we couldn't hear anything. That was true but hardly very useful.
If you truly love music, the odd bit of imperfection in the sound reproduction is of absolutely no concern at all.
High end audio is just homeopathy for techies with more money than sense.
Paying 120 grand for a hi-fi system and then playing a record that was probably recorded for £100 - back in the days when all that bought you was a few hours in a recording studio with the acoustics (and probably atmosphere) of a public toilet... that's my kind of guy !!
My copy was bought second hand so the audio quality never even even reached the heady heights it would have had when newly pressed, still loved it to bits though.
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The amplifiers with separate power supplies remind me of something. In my teens I built a 60W power amplifier from a circuit in a booklet published by Ferranti. (I know, I know, but they were RMS watts, and 60W was a lot in those days.)
I was tempted by the 100W amplifier on the next page, but for some reason it incorporated a 3-phase power supply, and I was persuaded that might pose a problem, especially as I was planning to use it in a mobile disco.
I wonder if anybody ever built the 100W amplifier. If they did, it would overshadow the separate power supplies mentioned in the article, even if the reproduction was crap.
Tell you what mate, I've got an 1984 Amstrad Tower HiFi system.
It's your's for £120 grand. Bloody bargain mate. I know. I know. I'm cutting my own throat. I don't know why I do it, really. It's just the type of bloke I am, I suppose.
Now, this aint just yer ordinary Amstrad TS88. Oh no. This one has a Direct Drive BSR record, with RUMBLE *and* SCRATCH filter circuits. Oh yes. This really is the dogs plumbs. Now, yer tape deck is DUAL tape deck, with *HIGH SPEED DUBBING*, and also Dolby B noise reduction. I know, I know.
No. You can offer me more if you want to, but I won't take a penny more than £120 grand, mate.
Now. Look at those tape decks. Aren't they lovely! I tell you what. Press that button there. No. That one there. Yes that on. Yeeeeeeeeeees. Look at that! You know what that? That's yer hydraulic *SOFT EJECT* that is. Protects the cassettes you see. Oh yes. We're not mucking about here!
Speakers? You aint seen nuffin 'till you seen these speakers mate! These have built in *TWEETERS*, plus a woofer, *AND* a PASSIVE BASS BIN! What's that? Yeah mate, I know it looks like 'an empty 'ole in the cabinet, but that's yer bass outlet see.
Your's for £10 grand.
Alright then, £95 quid.
That a fool (in the form of an "audiophool") and his money are soon parted.
The scary thing is that the SELLERS of this stuff actually believe the propaganda they produce to sell the kit. Most of the buyers think: "It MUST sound good, I spent lots of money on it."
The effect is similar to wine. Some inexpensive wine is pretty good, but after about $30 or so, the price does not accurately predict quality.
Another item where high price does not necessarily mean better is watches. After about $30 or so, the money spent has NO correlation to accuracy (I assume that is why you buy one in the first place). Above that limit, it is almost ALL jewelery! A cheap Timex keeps as good time as the multi thousand Rolex. While this is now true, 40 years ago it wasn't the case, and mechanical movements that worked well WERE expensive. Now days they are all battery powered crystal controlled movements, which are VERY accurate.
Some do, I don't know about all. A couple of years ago brought a pair of CM9 speakers for home. The seller showed me lots of speakers and then said if I had more money to throw at a system... Don't. The difference between the 1800 CM9's and the 7000 800 series is negligable at best.
Then again I have been using the same shop now for many years as they have always been briliant in both pre and after sales. My first half decent stereo came from there and they also recomended a set cheaper than my budget as the difference between the two was the amount of lights on the amp :)
Heh. Was in London a couple of weeks ago to pick up a Lange. The dealer pretty much said up front that a $19.99 quartz will beat the pants off a $99,999.99 Patek Philippe anytime as far as accuracy is concerned.
That said, we buy high end watches for investment (especially limited production pieces) and/or for the engineering art that goes into the "complication". To each his own I say. Some folk spend millions for blocks of wood covered with pigmented oil that need to be kept in dark air conditioned containers - I suppose they are insane too :D
I think we shouldn’t under estimate the psychoacoustics effects of having you ego stroked by a salesman wanting to rinse your cash… what makes me laugh the most is only middle age and old people can afford this kit and have most likely have age related hearing loss…
What also make me laugh is if you’re going to spend so much on your system, spend some on your room acoustics.. I use Genelec studio monitors which are in most studios and mastering suites of the world and most music in the production have been though… no HIFI hype/bullshit
Yes, I'll upvote Genelec any day.
Not that I can afford to own them (although they are priced quite modestly compared to a lot of so-called hifi speakers) but I have heard them.
I've talked to one of their sales engineers too, and you are right: all solid technical knowhow, no bullshit.
Actually the days of the dedicated Hi Fi salesman are long since over, now the best salesmen in these stores are almost invariably the stores owner. I remember a store local to me which I frequented as a teenager, and when the late 80's recession hit, the bank sent in management consultants, who decided that the owner could get down his operating costs and pay their vast interest rates and consultancy fees by firing the experienced sales people who had a relationship with the cusotmers, and replacing them all with students working part time at a fraction of the price (this was before minimum wage). This was basically inflicted on the poor store owner to reduce his costs in order to keep the 'support' of the bank. The store owner complied, and within 24 months was in receivership.
the other problem is the greed of both distributors and stores, with some distributors demanding 30 - 50% profit margins, and dealers wanting 25 - 35% on source components and amps, 30 - 50% on speakers depending on brand and marketing power, and 40 - 60% on 'accessories' like stands and cables. It's no wonder the actual cost price of this equipment has little bearing on the final retail price, a typical relationship in Hi Fi is of 7 - 8:1 relationship of cost to final selling price.
it's this kind of thing which makes Hi Fi equipment seem so expensive.
Now the staff in many of these stores are little better than Currys staff, thoughb I will say the staff in Richer Sounds are the exception to this rule, courteous, intelligent and genuinely helpful, if you are buying any lower to midrange component you can do a lot worse than speak to someone in Richer Sounds.
The title says "Bonkers", so no misleading going on here! And a breath of fresh air from the usual Crapple Shamsong Whatnot bandwidth fodder.
If you are insanely rich and don't know what how else to show off your bank balance (selfish, stupid, compensating for the tiny third leg, take your pick) this is one good guide. As for the rest of us who are less fortunate in dough (or more fortunate in body image/performance things), it is one heckuva laugh. Informative too, in a useless kind of way.
Yea The Register! More, more, more!
As an owner of a 6-digit set, I must say that putting the best stuff together means nothing. Building a stereo is nothing like building a computer.
Too many factors come into play, and the best sound is something you like, not what the magazine says is great. Therein lies the problem with this article. While this set may cost more quid than some folk make in 10 years, the components may not work well together, delivering to a sound a set a fraction of the price might beat.
Any fellow insane enough to spend money, whether $500, $50,000 or even more on something they have not had the opportunity to hear in person, and in their own audio room (for the big ticket stuff) demeans the meaning of the word "audiophile".
I built my set over half a year, with the dealers sending me home audition kit to try up to a week at times. The set is still changing, last thing acquired being the lovely ProAc Carbon Pro 8s. Those good fellows know how to build loudspeakers. They give speakers twice the price a run for the money.
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