Maximising your listening pleasure
High End Audio is a passion for all sorts of people and it can start from anywhere; reading a magazine, blog, visiting a trade show or simply spending time with friends listening to their system. Whichever way people get a taste for high end audio, their journey starts from there. The world of hi fi equipment is a complex one with so many options in the market. For someone with a newly ignited passion this can be daunting and overwhelming. So where do you start?
Loudspeakers So what is the most important item in your hi fi system? I would argue that it is the loudspeakers. The loudspeakers reproduce the sound and it is your loudspeakers which are likely to make the greatest difference to the overall experience. Ensure that the loudspeakers are correctly sized for your room. Too small and they will never fill the room and they will sound impotent. Too large and it tends to become overkill. This would be analogous to having a mini minor car and at one extreme, fitting a 50cc motorbike engine in it, and at the other a 400 cubic inch V8....clearly loudspeakers and rooms need to be correctly sized in much the same way. The correct loudspeaker selection and sizing play a crucial role in heightening your pleasure levels.
Amplifier Don't underestimate the difference a high power and current delivery design amplifier can add to the experience. If you want to experience really high quality sound complete will all the subtle nuances and incredible stop start dynamics, then investing in a real amplifier will make a world of difference to the experience. Consider the amplifier to be a self contained power station. Forget the fact that it is plugged into the wall. It is solely the energy stored inside the amplifier which can be counted on to counter and reverse the kinetic energy of the piston like drivers contained inside the loudspeaker cabinet. Clearly the greater the dynamics of the loudspeaker drivers, the more exact is the task faced by the amplifier to execute the performance with accuracy. Never underestimate the value of a high quality amplifier.
Sources, DACs, phono preamplifiers etc This is a huge and complex subject. As such it is vital that you look carefully into the quality and delivery of your music. I will not recommend one source of music over another here as it is outside the scope of the article. As a general rule, Vinyl records hold a special place in the minds of audiophiles. High quality digital streaming sources are also gaining in popularity along with DACs.
Cables tend to add the finesse to any system. As such they rank lower on my list than speakers and amplifiers. That said they are an important aspect in the overall mix. I liken them to buying a brand new Porsche car. Well you are just not going to put a cheap set of tyres on it are you? The same applies to your hi fi system. Don’t scrimp on cables. Buy the best you can afford insuring that each link in the chain is strong and secure.
Rooms, seats, speaker placement and acoustics It is one of the very highest priority aspects that is so often underappreciated and often completely overlooked. That said, it is usually a challenging area to do much about also. In the real world, most hi fi aficionados will place their speakers to the left and right of their TV and the amp underneath. Sure there are many who have a separate system in a separate room, but we are talking about the majority of users. TVs and Hi fi systems can also make interesting bedfellows, in as much as you can expect to enjoy far greater utilisation of your hi fi if used alongside your TV. Want to watch TV or a music video, then enjoy the sound reinforcement your hi fi brings to the mix. Want to listen to a record, switch off your TV and enjoy. That said, seating within a room is most often arranged against walls, all the time enabling access through to other parts of the home. Your seating may therefore not be optimally positioned, and your room dimensions will usually struggle to conform to any optimal acoustical math model. Amongst all of these challenges, probably one of the greatest is to make an honest attempt at optimal speaker placement and triangulation. I have written about this subject recently and I encourage you to read more on it here. Room acoustics are not to be sneered at either. Too hard a room surface and the sound will be harsh. Too many soft furnishings and bass punch and dynamics can sound muted. So clearly.....lots to think about here also.
The Music All of this said, the most important thing is to always pay homage to the music. The music is what it is all about and the emotional enjoyment and pleasure attained when you listen to the song. Focus on seeking the best hair raising, spine tingling, goose bump lump in the back of your throat experience attainable.
Always seek out the advise of many. Never take one persons word as gospel. Listen to many systems and then and only when you are very good and ready, start on your exciting journey and like bricks in a great wall, build your passion so you can enjoy new heights of pleasure levels when listening to your system.