How Hi Fi Has Become a Standard Unto Itself

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
15
57
13
Someone today may want to put together a better than average hi fi system for reasons that did not exist 50 or 60 years ago in the golden-age of audio. Back then, everyone wanted a decent hi fi system to listen to music. Unlike today, music was typically heard live, unamplified, and played in a natural acoustic setting such as a concert or recital hall or a club. Hi fi enthusiasts read Gramophone or JazzTimes, not Stereophile or The Absolute Sound. The systems of that day were lush and musical with perhaps a radio or turntable source. Tubes provided a modest amount of amplification, and speakers were created from medium-sized wooden-boxes with some internal bracing. These systems sounded good, and many are still operating or are even emulated today for the large measure of musical enjoyment they offer, but technology and time has the capacity to take us well beyond those golden days. Today, once one ventures beyond a basic music system, component choices are more complex: more powerful, more revealing amplifiers; larger speakers made out of high-tech materials and proprietary drivers and precisely tuned crossovers, and a greater variety of different types of sources and source components. In the golden age, simple patch cords and lamp cord linked components, whereas today there are many options for high performance cabling and power conditioning to tie the whole system together. Today, consumers also have access to attractive, reasonably priced, and effective acoustic room treatments that go beyond the capability and clunky appearance of Sonex(r). I believe we are on the verge of experiencing an even greater golden age of audio, but there are barriers standing in the way. This thread is the first of a series where I will try to help some of you get beyond these barriers.



Today, the reasons people put together better hi fi systems can go beyond the quest to get closer to music. Our culture not only embraces technological advances, but fewer people have the time, interest, or money to seek out live unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment. With the ubiquity of electronically produced music and the technological ferocity of today’s best hi fi components, it is just as valid a reason today to pursue a better hi fi as an end unto itself rather than thinking one should try to recreate in your home a facsimile of the way unamplified music sounds in a performance space. To those of you who are pursuing hi fi as an end unto itself, please continue to have fun and experiment with sound in a way that satisfies you. You don’t really need advice. You do the research, and you know what you want. Please read on, however, if you like the idea of expanding your connection to hi fi to include more music.



To that end, it is also just as valid to pursue a better hi fi system for all of the reasons above and also to try to recreate music experiences at home. Today’s best hi fi systems are not only capable of delivering a compelling music experience regardless of genre, they also give the technophile a chance to explore new technologies like streaming, advanced construction techniques and materials, and design advances. These are exciting times, but unless you are an audio technology and music expert, putting together a great sound system can be a long, costly, and winding journey.





Where should you go for audio advice if you are not an expert? Do you rely on audio journal reviews, Internet chatter, what your friends think, what a manufacturer recommends, audio dealer recommendations, or hearing demonstrations at consumer audio shows?



In this thread, we will explore how helpful audio journals can be in helping someone put together a great audio system.



An important purpose of audio journal reviews is to become more familiar with all the options for equipment that are out there, but reviews have real limitations in terms of providing enough information to make a good decision about actually purchasing a specific component or putting together a great sounding system. What a reviewer recommends may not be a well-balanced companion for the rest of your system components or listening environment. Reviewers don’t explain how a specific component will sound to you in your system with your source material. They can only provide their point of view, and there is only a small percentage of reviewers out there (names withheld to protect the guilty) who genuinely have had much experience playing acoustic musical instruments or listening to live, unamplified music. Dedicated, professional, acoustically treated listening environments are largely absent among the review press. Should you trust the opinion of a reviewer who listens in a room which is randomly different from your own listening environment? Some reviewers do not have an extensive and eclectic music collection to broaden their musical perspectives. They have their favorite cuts that they listen to again and again to evaluate a component. Can you ever hear their favorite cuts the way they hear them? Very few reviewers have a reference system with which all else can be compared. The audio press is more oriented to comparing one thing with another using short-term A-B listening without any point of reference. They talk in terms of differences as if these differences are a justification for thinking that something is actually better than something else. How can they possibly tell what’s actually better for you with so many variables involved in their evaluation methods?



This never ending cycle of short term listening to specific components without a point of reference for the purpose of writing the next review should not have logically achieved any momentum in the audio world. The audio press, however, has managed to create their own aura of expertise by inventing a language to describe hi fi phenomena: sound stage, depth, focus, detail, and slam. These are hi fi terms, not music terms. Consequently, many of the systems and the components which seem to be preferred by the review press embody these hi fi qualities while giving little or no attention to the essential quality that is fundamental to a satisfying music listening experience — natural musical tonal balance.



I have heard many systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual components that have all received rave reviews that sound excruciatingly bad musically. Simple, basic, reasonably priced systems actually can sound musically superior to these out-of-balance mega-systems. Fifty or 60 years ago, the simple systems of the day might not have been able to reproduce the last measure of the low-level information, dynamic range, or symphonic scale of music heard live, but they universally delivered musical enjoyment. Regardless of the price tag, good hi fi systems today should deliver it all: powerful and very revealing and compelling music listening experiences that are capable of suspending your belief that you are listening to a hi fi. What the audio press typically provides for advice, however, makes it almost impossible to know how to put together a system and create a listening environment that is truly capable of delivering musical magic.



If you are shopping for a single component, making a purchase decision based upon an audio review also doesn’t necessarily help you feel good about your investment if you find out, for example, several months down the road that the reviewer has found a “new and better” (read as ”different”) component to write about. It also doesn’t help you feel good about your investment if the component doesn’t really give you the experience you are looking for in your system.



Unfortunately, audio journal hi fi language and the hi fi sound that it represents have permeated all aspects of our industry: audio shows, manufacturing, retail outlets, and consumer preferences. Consequently, no single source of information is reliable if your goal is to create musical magic in your home.

Some audio manufacturers actually design components specifically to reflect audio reviewer hi fi standards to increase the likelihood of getting a favorable review.



Beware also of so-called audio experts who pride themselves in being able to create a perfect mix of components that offset each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Many of them have been unduly influenced by the press and the hi fi standards they embrace. The fault with this approach is that once something is lost in a signal path, it is never truly regained, and once something is added to the signal path, it alters the performance of every other component so that it no longer performs as the manufacturer intended. These compensating systems tend to sound tonally stripped of musical foundation. The search for perfection becomes all about hearing more details and hearing an artificially deep and expansive sound field (created by choosing system components and room set ups that depress mid and lower frequencies). The hi fi sound presentation of these systems may be initially appealing, but the human ear can’t be fooled about the natural sound of music over the long term. We are born with all the faculties required to differentiate between what is real and what is a loose facsimile. If your underlying mission is to bring your home listening experiences closer to hearing music played live, there are plenty of great options to explore regardless of your budget or musical tastes.



In a future thread, we will discuss further why live, unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment should be the gold standard for evaluating sound regardless of your music preferences and why long-term listening is really the only way to evaluate a system change.
 

Addicted to hifi

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Someone today may want to put together a better than average hi fi system for reasons that did not exist 50 or 60 years ago in the golden-age of audio. Back then, everyone wanted a decent hi fi system to listen to music. Unlike today, music was typically heard live, unamplified, and played in a natural acoustic setting such as a concert or recital hall or a club. Hi fi enthusiasts read Gramophone or JazzTimes, not Stereophile or The Absolute Sound. The systems of that day were lush and musical with perhaps a radio or turntable source. Tubes provided a modest amount of amplification, and speakers were created from medium-sized wooden-boxes with some internal bracing. These systems sounded good, and many are still operating or are even emulated today for the large measure of musical enjoyment they offer, but technology and time has the capacity to take us well beyond those golden days. Today, once one ventures beyond a basic music system, component choices are more complex: more powerful, more revealing amplifiers; larger speakers made out of high-tech materials and proprietary drivers and precisely tuned crossovers, and a greater variety of different types of sources and source components. In the golden age, simple patch cords and lamp cord linked components, whereas today there are many options for high performance cabling and power conditioning to tie the whole system together. Today, consumers also have access to attractive, reasonably priced, and effective acoustic room treatments that go beyond the capability and clunky appearance of Sonex(r). I believe we are on the verge of experiencing an even greater golden age of audio, but there are barriers standing in the way. This thread is the first of a series where I will try to help some of you get beyond these barriers.



Today, the reasons people put together better hi fi systems can go beyond the quest to get closer to music. Our culture not only embraces technological advances, but fewer people have the time, interest, or money to seek out live unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment. With the ubiquity of electronically produced music and the technological ferocity of today’s best hi fi components, it is just as valid a reason today to pursue a better hi fi as an end unto itself rather than thinking one should try to recreate in your home a facsimile of the way unamplified music sounds in a performance space. To those of you who are pursuing hi fi as an end unto itself, please continue to have fun and experiment with sound in a way that satisfies you. You don’t really need advice. You do the research, and you know what you want. Please read on, however, if you like the idea of expanding your connection to hi fi to include more music.



To that end, it is also just as valid to pursue a better hi fi system for all of the reasons above and also to try to recreate music experiences at home. Today’s best hi fi systems are not only capable of delivering a compelling music experience regardless of genre, they also give the technophile a chance to explore new technologies like streaming, advanced construction techniques and materials, and design advances. These are exciting times, but unless you are an audio technology and music expert, putting together a great sound system can be a long, costly, and winding journey.





Where should you go for audio advice if you are not an expert? Do you rely on audio journal reviews, Internet chatter, what your friends think, what a manufacturer recommends, audio dealer recommendations, or hearing demonstrations at consumer audio shows?



In this thread, we will explore how helpful audio journals can be in helping someone put together a great audio system.



An important purpose of audio journal reviews is to become more familiar with all the options for equipment that are out there, but reviews have real limitations in terms of providing enough information to make a good decision about actually purchasing a specific component or putting together a great sounding system. What a reviewer recommends may not be a well-balanced companion for the rest of your system components or listening environment. Reviewers don’t explain how a specific component will sound to you in your system with your source material. They can only provide their point of view, and there is only a small percentage of reviewers out there (names withheld to protect the guilty) who genuinely have had much experience playing acoustic musical instruments or listening to live, unamplified music. Dedicated, professional, acoustically treated listening environments are largely absent among the review press. Should you trust the opinion of a reviewer who listens in a room which is randomly different from your own listening environment? Some reviewers do not have an extensive and eclectic music collection to broaden their musical perspectives. They have their favorite cuts that they listen to again and again to evaluate a component. Can you ever hear their favorite cuts the way they hear them? Very few reviewers have a reference system with which all else can be compared. The audio press is more oriented to comparing one thing with another using short-term A-B listening without any point of reference. They talk in terms of differences as if these differences are a justification for thinking that something is actually better than something else. How can they possibly tell what’s actually better for you with so many variables involved in their evaluation methods?



This never ending cycle of short term listening to specific components without a point of reference for the purpose of writing the next review should not have logically achieved any momentum in the audio world. The audio press, however, has managed to create their own aura of expertise by inventing a language to describe hi fi phenomena: sound stage, depth, focus, detail, and slam. These are hi fi terms, not music terms. Consequently, many of the systems and the components which seem to be preferred by the review press embody these hi fi qualities while giving little or no attention to the essential quality that is fundamental to a satisfying music listening experience — natural musical tonal balance.



I have heard many systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual components that have all received rave reviews that sound excruciatingly bad musically. Simple, basic, reasonably priced systems actually can sound musically superior to these out-of-balance mega-systems. Fifty or 60 years ago, the simple systems of the day might not have been able to reproduce the last measure of the low-level information, dynamic range, or symphonic scale of music heard live, but they universally delivered musical enjoyment. Regardless of the price tag, good hi fi systems today should deliver it all: powerful and very revealing and compelling music listening experiences that are capable of suspending your belief that you are listening to a hi fi. What the audio press typically provides for advice, however, makes it almost impossible to know how to put together a system and create a listening environment that is truly capable of delivering musical magic.



If you are shopping for a single component, making a purchase decision based upon an audio review also doesn’t necessarily help you feel good about your investment if you find out, for example, several months down the road that the reviewer has found a “new and better” (read as ”different”) component to write about. It also doesn’t help you feel good about your investment if the component doesn’t really give you the experience you are looking for in your system.



Unfortunately, audio journal hi fi language and the hi fi sound that it represents have permeated all aspects of our industry: audio shows, manufacturing, retail outlets, and consumer preferences. Consequently, no single source of information is reliable if your goal is to create musical magic in your home.

Some audio manufacturers actually design components specifically to reflect audio reviewer hi fi standards to increase the likelihood of getting a favorable review.



Beware also of so-called audio experts who pride themselves in being able to create a perfect mix of components that offset each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Many of them have been unduly influenced by the press and the hi fi standards they embrace. The fault with this approach is that once something is lost in a signal path, it is never truly regained, and once something is added to the signal path, it alters the performance of every other component so that it no longer performs as the manufacturer intended. These compensating systems tend to sound tonally stripped of musical foundation. The search for perfection becomes all about hearing more details and hearing an artificially deep and expansive sound field (created by choosing system components and room set ups that depress mid and lower frequencies). The hi fi sound presentation of these systems may be initially appealing, but the human ear can’t be fooled about the natural sound of music over the long term. We are born with all the faculties required to differentiate between what is real and what is a loose facsimile. If your underlying mission is to bring your home listening experiences closer to hearing music played live, there are plenty of great options to explore regardless of your budget or musical tastes.



In a future thread, we will discuss further why live, unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment should be the gold standard for evaluating sound regardless of your music preferences and why long-term listening is really the only way to evaluate a system change.
Excellent article.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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In a future thread, we will discuss further why live, unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment should be the gold standard for evaluating sound regardless of your music preferences and why long-term listening is really the only way to evaluate a system change.

Thanks for a cogent post.

We share agreement on some of your key points. Several of us here believe live acoustic music is our basis of preference and use it as a reference to gauge our systems. As a reviewer I thoroughly agree that long(er) term listening is the best way to assess equipment.

Some of what you write does apply to reviewers and there are reasons why reviewers are such an easy target. You paint with too broad a brush however and it's a shame you wouldn't name names or publications. Many straw dogs in your characterizations - but that's okay.

If you are the audio Karen Sumner, I believe you are the CEO of Transparent Audio, the cable manufacturer. Is that right? Looking forward to your future thread.
 

Barry2013

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Oct 12, 2013
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Someone today may want to put together a better than average hi fi system for reasons that did not exist 50 or 60 years ago in the golden-age of audio. Back then, everyone wanted a decent hi fi system to listen to music. Unlike today, music was typically heard live, unamplified, and played in a natural acoustic setting such as a concert or recital hall or a club. Hi fi enthusiasts read Gramophone or JazzTimes, not Stereophile or The Absolute Sound. The systems of that day were lush and musical with perhaps a radio or turntable source. Tubes provided a modest amount of amplification, and speakers were created from medium-sized wooden-boxes with some internal bracing. These systems sounded good, and many are still operating or are even emulated today for the large measure of musical enjoyment they offer, but technology and time has the capacity to take us well beyond those golden days. Today, once one ventures beyond a basic music system, component choices are more complex: more powerful, more revealing amplifiers; larger speakers made out of high-tech materials and proprietary drivers and precisely tuned crossovers, and a greater variety of different types of sources and source components. In the golden age, simple patch cords and lamp cord linked components, whereas today there are many options for high performance cabling and power conditioning to tie the whole system together. Today, consumers also have access to attractive, reasonably priced, and effective acoustic room treatments that go beyond the capability and clunky appearance of Sonex(r). I believe we are on the verge of experiencing an even greater golden age of audio, but there are barriers standing in the way. This thread is the first of a series where I will try to help some of you get beyond these barriers.



Today, the reasons people put together better hi fi systems can go beyond the quest to get closer to music. Our culture not only embraces technological advances, but fewer people have the time, interest, or money to seek out live unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment. With the ubiquity of electronically produced music and the technological ferocity of today’s best hi fi components, it is just as valid a reason today to pursue a better hi fi as an end unto itself rather than thinking one should try to recreate in your home a facsimile of the way unamplified music sounds in a performance space. To those of you who are pursuing hi fi as an end unto itself, please continue to have fun and experiment with sound in a way that satisfies you. You don’t really need advice. You do the research, and you know what you want. Please read on, however, if you like the idea of expanding your connection to hi fi to include more music.



To that end, it is also just as valid to pursue a better hi fi system for all of the reasons above and e real limitations in terms of providing enough information to make a good decision about actually purchasing a specific component or putting together a great sounding system. What a reviewer recommends may not be a well-balanced companion for the rest of your system components or listening environment. Reviewers don’t explain how a specific component will sound to you in your system with your source material. They can only provide their point of view, and there is only a small percentage of reviewers out there (names withheld to protect the guilty) who genuinely have had much experience playing acoustic musical instruments or listening to live, unamplified music. Dedicated, professional, acoustically treated listening environments are largely absent among the review press. Should you trust the opinion of a reviewer who listens in a room which is randomly different from your own listening environment? Some reviewers do not have an extensive and eclectic music collection to broaden their musical perspectives. They have their favorite cuts that they listen to again and again to evaluate a component. Can you ever hear their favorite cuts the way they hear them? Very few reviewers have a reference system with which all else can be compared. The audio press is more oriented to comparing one thing with another using short-term A-B listening without any point of reference. They talk in terms of differences as if these differences are a justification for thinking that something is actually better than something else. How can they possibly tell what’s actually better for you with so many variables involved in their evaluation methods?



This never ending cycle of short term listening to specific components without a point of reference for the purpose of writing the next review should not have logically achieved any momentum in the audio world. The audio press, however, has managed to create their own aura of expertise by inventing a language to describe hi fi phenomena: sound stage, depth, focus, detail, and slam. These are hi fi terms, not music terms. Consequently, many of the systems and the components which seem to be preferred by the review press embody these hi fi qualities while giving little or no attention to the essential quality that is fundamental to a satisfying music listening experience — natural musical tonal balance.



I have heard many systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual components that have all received rave reviews that sound excruciatingly bad musically. Simple, basic, reasonably priced systems actually can sound musically superior to these out-of-balance mega-systems. Fifty or 60 years ago, the simple systems of the day might not have been able to reproduce the last measure of the low-level information, dynamic range, or symphonic scale of music heard live, but they universally delivered musical enjoyment. Regardless of the price tag, good hi fi systems today should deliver it all: powerful and very revealing and compelling music listening experiences that are capable of suspending your belief that you are listening to a hi fi. What the audio press typically provides for advice, however, makes it almost impossible to know how to put together a system and create a listening environment that is truly capable of delivering musical magic.



If you are shopping for a single component, making a purchase decision based upon an audio review also doesn’t necessarily help you feel good about your investment if you find out, for example, several months down the road that the reviewer has found a “new and better” (read as ”different”) component to write about. It also doesn’t help you feel good about your investment if the component doesn’t really give you the experience you are looking for in your system.



Unfortunately, audio journal hi fi language and the hi fi sound that it represents have permeated all aspects of our industry: audio shows, manufacturing, retail outlets, and consumer preferences. Consequently, no single source of information is reliable if your goal is to create musical magic in your home.

Some audio manufacturers actually design components specifically to reflect audio reviewer hi fi standards to increase the likelihood of getting a favorable review.



Beware also of so-called audio experts who pride themselves in being able to create a perfect mix of components that offset each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Many of them have been unduly influenced by the press and the hi fi standards they embrace. The fault with this approach is that once something is lost in a signal path, it is never truly regained, and once something is added to the signal path, it alters the performance of every other component so that it no longer performs as the manufacturer intended. These compensating systems tend to sound tonally stripped of musical foundation. The search for perfection becomes all about hearing more details and hearing an artificially deep and expansive sound field (created by choosing system components and room set ups that depress mid and lower frequencies). The hi fi sound presentation of these systems may be initially appealing, but the human ear can’t be fooled about the natural sound of music over the long term. We are born with all the faculties required to differentiate between what is real and what is a loose facsimile. If your underlying mission is to bring your home listening experiences closer to hearing music played live, there are plenty of great options to explore regardless of your budget or musical tastes.



In a future thread, we will discuss further why live, unamplified music played in a natural acoustic environment should be the gold standard for evaluating sound regardless of your music preferences and why long-term listening is really the only way to evaluate a system change.
Very good if I may say so and your references to system synergy are well made.
I look forward to reading your further posts. As someone who is fortunate enough to have a room, my lounge, with very good acoustics which I had not initially appreciated, I became aware of how important the room is to system choices.
My system has been built up over quite a few years and happily with only a few wrong choices. I have always tried to buy components from manufacturers which hold their value well and are able to provide good servicing back up should that be needed. That has kept the costs down and IME is a good principle to follow.
 

j.phelan

Well-Known Member
Mar 25, 2014
58
1
238
This was an excellent summation by Karen. Only someone with experience can write like that....
:
Hi Fi has always been a personal journey -where you find your own way and do your own work. Throw-in changing technology (and the need of a high-cost listening room), it became almost impossible to justify an equipment review.

That's why it took so long. Even 20 years after the birth of Hi Fi, there weren't that many reviews. Magazines focused on music, tech-DIY and other things.

Today, if you like the writer, a review is a good way to start. Even for a product description (to see what they're doing these days). Or how a reviewer keeps changing things/gets frustrated with their room, mirroring what we go through at home. In some ways, reviews are sobering.

But it's still no substitute for an audition, at a dedicated-dealer or at home...
 
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PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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Thank you Karen for sharing your well articulated thoughts about the hobby. I very much appreciate your recognition of live acoustic music in a natural setting as a reference - the reference - for assessing the quality of one’s system.

For years I enjoyed a system comprised of components which received good reviews, and after a lot of effort I think the sound was pretty good, but it had the sonic attributes best described or defined in the audiophile glossary of terms, not so much in the concert hall.

I have since moved away from that type of sound and towards one that reminds me more of the natural sound of music. It is a vintage SET/ corner horn system. It gets out of the way and I am left with the music and have never enjoyed my records so much.

In my own little way, I’m trying to get back to what I think music enthusiasts were after during that golden : the natural sound of music and simply enjoying their collections.

Like others, I look forward to reading your next entry.
 
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treitz3

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<SNIP> Where should you go for audio advice if you are not an expert? Do you rely on audio journal reviews, Internet chatter, what your friends think, what a manufacturer recommends, audio dealer recommendations, or hearing demonstrations at consumer audio shows? <SNIP>
Hello, Karen and good evening to you ma'am. That was an excellent post and thank you for that! I am looking forward to the follow up posts and the discussions it creates moving forward. Well done!

With that said, to answer your question - I have always trusted my ears and less than a handful of other trusted ears I have met along my audio journey. The rest of the options simply mean nothing to me. Never have, never will.

While I am not a believer in having to hear instant A/B switching in order to properly evaluate a system's change(s), I do agree with you that long term listening is the key to getting the "true" evaluation of one's system change(s).

Tom
 

Al M.

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Excellent post, Karen.

Reviews in audio magazines have been useful for me when it came to lower priced components where there was little risk involved in the purchase. Consensus on characteristics of components throughout several reviews was useful. When it came to high-priced components, I only bought them unheard when I already had experience with, and built trust from, lower priced components by the same manufacturer (that is how I bought my current Reference 3A Reflector speakers which I am still satisfied with, now more than ever). Otherwise auditioning at home prior to purchase was mandatory. I have never trusted a recommendation on an audio forum, because you never know how other people listen and what their sonic priorities are (even when they use unamplified live music as reference, as I do). Also, the apparent performance of a component is often system dependent. I did take recommendations by others on forums as an opportunity to explore in that direction for myself.

As for using unamplified live music as reference, I agree. What I have found is that improvements in the reproduction of unamplified instruments on my system also have led to improvements in the reproduction of amplified or synthesized music (pop, rock, electronica). The latter followed naturally from the former, but I would not try experimenting the other way around and hope for the best.

Paying attention to the acoustics of my music room has been essential for achieving better sound. Relative to system expenses, improvements in acoustics have been a modest monetary investment, but overall much more time consuming than system upgrades. Yet worth the effort in every way.

I agree that it is best to strive for a neutral chain of components rather than trying to compensate for one component with another. I have also found that there seem to be two types of audiophiles, those who try to mask problems, and those who try to solve them. The former approach is the easy way out, but eventually leaves you stuck on a lower level of reproduction. The approach of trying to solve problems, rather than masking them, can be time-consuming and painful, but the final outcome has the potential to be on a much higher level of performance.
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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Interesting thread. I'm curious where it will go. I wonder myself how you determine what might be a good component to add to a system. I have been stuck on what to do with my phono stage. Its ok. A mentor told me the MM was decent in my unit so try a SUT. Well I found a used Bobs device for $375 made for one of the cartridge I have. I am super pleased with what I hear. In my case I got an inexpensive home audition that validated my phone stage is not playing to a level I want it at. What it does not tell me is anything about any other phono stage. It does tell me I could get another Bobs SUT for my Hana and I'm set for a while since I only have 2 cartridge.
 

Mike Lavigne

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i certainly agree with a few of your comments wholeheartedly (hopefully i've reasonably understood them).

1--that long term listening is the only proper way to be able to make strategic system building decisions. that process should be enjoyable and not stressed, and take all the time it needs to take. music is a whole body and mind experience, and changes need to equate to a better experience. not just hifi check lists. objectivity and critical listening is a step in that process, but never should be the end game......at least in my particular process it's not. you have to let the music and the truth come to you as it does. there is no race to finish.

2--system pieces should be chosen for neutrality, and not be balancing extremes. once lost, resolution cannot be retrieved. gear with coloration in essence is throwing away musical nuance covered by coloration distortion. the signal path needs to get out of the way of the flow of the music and complete resolution for a system and music reproduction to be greater than the sum of it's parts and bring us the optimal experience.

3---room acoustics is huge with me. i moved homes to build a dedicated room, and still it took me 10 years to get the acoustics right. and after much investment over that 10 year time, the last year was almost all effort and sweat equity and close to zero dollars. in the end it's your sense of a reference that gets you over the hump.

you covered many more valuable things, but those for whatever reason struck a chord with me.
 
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Tango

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Do you guys realize we keep reading writing the same messages in just different wording over and over. This thread is going to be just that. Nothing is new except a new thread.

Reading Micro exchanges words with the regulars, seeing him fight ten against one is actually much more interesting for me coming to WBF these days.
 

tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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The audio press, however, has managed to create their own aura of expertise by inventing a language to describe hi fi phenomena: sound stage, depth, focus, detail, and slam. These are hi fi terms, not music terms. Consequently, many of the systems and the components which seem to be preferred by the review press embody these hi fi qualities while giving little or no attention to the essential quality that is fundamental to a satisfying music listening experience — natural musical tonal balance.

We've had several lengthy threads that differentiate what is heard (and valued by some) through a stereo system versus what is heard in the concert hall. Sonic characteristics such as black backgrounds and dimensional, tightly defined image outlines are audiophile virtues not available from the live acoustic experience. And indeed such are promoted by many reviewers with the result that consumer audiophiles seek components that deliver them and use these characteristics to judge their own systems.

At root, imo, is the inability to describe listening to live acoustic music coupled with an unfamiliarity with the rudiments of music's inherent sonic characteristics. Or lack of experience with music performance while focusing on reproduction. There are no psychoacoustic markings in a score. Describing sound is difficult and a lot is spent using visual analogies.

The bottom line, imo, is this: the closer we get to describing live music the less effective is the audiophile vocabulary.
 

tima

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Do you guys realize we keep reading writing the same messages in just different wording over and over. This thread is going to be just that. Nothing is new except a new thread.

Reading Micro exchanges words with the regulars, seeing him fight ten against one is actually much more interesting for me coming to WBF these days.

Of course much here reflects prior discussions. Ms Sumner's comments don't appear to issue from regular WBF reading though if you accept them they may indicate confirmation from an outside perspective - which is interesting. Perhaps the repetition suggests there is something to it.

Every thread stands on the brink of, or falls over the edge of, being a horn thread - that's repetitive too. Just look at the 'show me your turntable' thread.

And the squabbling is repetitive. Have you thanked Francisco for holding your interest? ;)
 
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bonzo75

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Every thread stands on the brink of, or falls over the edge of, being a horn thread - that's repetitive too. Just look at the 'show me your turntable' thread.

Quite a big difference. There was a great unique turntable - Melco - and videos were posted in that context. The Melco happened to be playing through horns. For some reason Wilson owners are not posting their videos (I understand why), but the TTs on that thread can be playing through any speaker. As some really liked those videos, questions on the system followed to learn from the owner. This is quite different to the same squabble over digital analog, toe in and out, etc where the same people repeat from a previous thread and do not have any investigations in between to appreciate the other's point
 
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PeterA

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Of course much here reflects prior discussions. Ms Sumner's comments don't appear to issue from regular WBF reading though if you accept them they may indicate confirmation from an outside perspective - which is interesting. Perhaps the repetition suggests there is something to it.

Every thread stands on the brink of, or falls over the edge of, being a horn thread - that's repetitive too. Just look at the 'show me your turntable' thread.

And the squabbling is repetitive. Have you thanked Francisco for holding your interest? ;)

Tim, I understand what you mean about recent interest in horn speakers from a few vocal and enthusiastic members. Brad and Bonzo love their horns. But Keith’s speaker thread which is one of the longest and most active on the forum is primarily about cone speakers.
 
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andromedaaudio

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Yeah. You think the others would learn after we corrected them once.
LOL , always good for a laugh on WBF .
Please do me a favour instead of posting horn vids , please post some FR response measurements done at the listening spot of those systems
DAC manufacturers design dacs with a flat FR ( somewhere in the 0,1 db range )
So do Amp manufacturers , they design flat measuring amps also in the + - 0,... something range .
So is the aim for cart manufacturers / tape machine manufacturers although the tolerance is a bit higher lets say in the +- 1 db range
And suddenly when this precise signal comes out of a horn + - 5 db is acceptable , tonally accurate ??

Ps i m certainly not saying FR accuracy is all there is.
Certainly not there is a lot more to the story , horns will have their own qualities


Reading Micro exchanges words with the regulars, seeing him fight ten against one is actually much more interesting for me coming to WBF these days.
Indeed micro needs a horn in this enduring battle to make his voice sound louder, its not fair at the moment :)
 
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bonzo75

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Tim, I understand what you mean about recent interest in horn speakers from a few vocal and enthusiastic members. Brad and Bonzo love their horns. But Keith’s speaker thread which is one of the longest and most active on the forum is primarily about cone speakers.

Actually, if you look at old posts, till c. 2017 or so, horns were not respected on this forum. the big spenders and frequent posters then, like Christian, Rudolph, Lloyd, Mike, were not into them, Ron did not have much exposure to them then either. Brad and I were into them but since we did not have big budget systems, were dismissed. DDK was a big spender and Steve's visit attracted attention, but as usual there were some who followed him and some who dismissed him as a vintage eccentric. I remember in 2014 when I posted excitedly on the big WE system, only DDK replied. I was shocked to know that no one else cared. They probably thought this was cuckoo.

What then happened was Tang. Here was a guy who had a bigger budget and could buy Wilson Alexandria, but instead had much more expensive speakers - horns. People followed his discussions on carts and TT, and ended up reading about horns. He was also an Audio Exotics guy, and some people here respected that because of their all out spend. Then the General joined, another big budget guy with more records and classical knowledge than anyone was into horns with a cool looking table. Bill heard that and shifted to horns with Vyger, a lot of discussions turned more to classical and records, and 3 people had the Vyger (G, Bill, Gian). Therefore, not only the speaker discussions, but also the analog threads had a huge horn representation, with discussion focused on music and records (you can see going back who stayed out of those discussions).

Then Tang started posting videos. Soon after, I started adding videos, most of which were horns. Now those who did not know horns began to appreciate many of these videos and horns.

Audioquattr then became another big spender to move to horns from Magico. Nothing attracts as much attention on WBF as when a big spender spends. That is the unfortunate moral of the story. I would prefer people change because they get exposure rather than look at where the money is.

Ron added to what Bill and I had written about the Mayer Pnoe, and about audioquattr's system. Then the SET amp owners thread attracted a lot of people from outside the regulars, maybe from other forums. So now not only were there a few big spenders, but there was volume. There is also the Aries Cerat representation which is SETs based with a high budget.

Of course now three Magico people have moved to SET based systems, Bobvin has moved from Wilsons to Diesis and Alsyvox, and Caelin moved long ago from Wilsons to Devore and Volti.

Then it went a level deeper with DIY which was missing on this forum. The level of vintage horns and driver knowledge here is quite common on, say Lansing heritage, DIY audio forums and with some in the UK. And many of these had nothing but disrespect for the high street brands like Wilson and Magico. Hey sure, many of these DIY and other SET based systems might not be good, but that's what it is. There is more knowledge and enthusiasm on that aspect here today

What is still unfortunate is that those not into horns, cannot even discern the next level of conversation. For them SETs horns is a big blob looked at from the high level, they don't know much difference within, e.g. imagine saying Wilson, Magico, Zellaton and Avalon are mostly one and the same and all these owners are more or less similar.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Do you guys realize we keep reading writing the same messages in just different wording over and over. This thread is going to be just that. Nothing is new except a new thread.

Reading Micro exchanges words with the regulars, seeing him fight ten against one is actually much more interesting for me coming to WBF these days.
Well, there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet.
 

Al M.

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Actually, if you look at old posts, till c. 2017 or so, horns were not respected on this forum. the big spenders and frequent posters then, like Christian, Rudolph, Lloyd, Mike, were not into them, Ron did not have much exposure to them then either. Brad and I were into them but since we did not have big budget systems, were dismissed. DDK was a big spender and Steve's visit attracted attention, but as usual there were some who followed him and some who dismissed him as a vintage eccentric. I remember in 2014 when I posted excitedly on the big WE system, only DDK replied. I was shocked to know that no one else cared. They probably thought this was cuckoo.

What then happened was Tang. Here was a guy who had a bigger budget and could buy Wilson Alexandria, but instead had much more expensive speakers - horns. People followed his discussions on carts and TT, and ended up reading about horns. He was also an Audio Exotics guy, and some people here respected that because of their all out spend. Then the General joined, another big budget guy with more records and classical knowledge than anyone was into horns with a cool looking table. Bill heard that and shifted to horns with Vyger, a lot of discussions turned more to classical and records, and 3 people had the Vyger (G, Bill, Gian). Therefore, not only the speaker discussions, but also the analog threads had a huge horn representation, with discussion focused on music and records (you can see going back who stayed out of those discussions).

Then Tang started posting videos. Soon after, I started adding videos, most of which were horns. Now those who did not know horns began to appreciate many of these videos and horns.

Audioquattr then became another big spender to move to horns from Magico. Nothing attracts as much attention on WBF as when a big spender spends. That is the unfortunate moral of the story. I would prefer people change because they get exposure rather than look at where the money is.

Ron added to what Bill and I had written about the Mayer Pnoe, and about audioquattr's system. Then the SET amp owners thread attracted a lot of people from outside the regulars, maybe from other forums. So now not only were there a few big spenders, but there was volume. There is also the Aries Cerat representation which is SETs based with a high budget.

Of course now three Magico people have moved to SET based systems, Bobvin has moved from Wilsons to Diesis and Alsyvox, and Caelin moved long ago from Wilsons to Devore and Volti.

Then it went a level deeper with DIY which was missing on this forum. The level of vintage horns and driver knowledge here is quite common on, say Lansing heritage, DIY audio forums and with some in the UK. And many of these had nothing but disrespect for the high street brands like Wilson and Magico. Hey sure, many of these DIY and other SET based systems might not be good, but that's what it is. There is more knowledge and enthusiasm on that aspect here today

What is still unfortunate is that those not into horns, cannot even discern the next level of conversation. For them SETs horns is a big blob looked at from the high level, they don't know much difference within, e.g. imagine saying Wilson, Magico, Zellaton and Avalon are mostly one and the same and all these owners are more or less similar.

Interesting historical summary about what happened on WBF, thanks, Ked!
 

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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Actually, if you look at old posts, till c. 2017 or so, horns were not respected on this forum. the big spenders and frequent posters then, like Christian, Rudolph, Lloyd, Mike, were not into them, Ron did not have much exposure to them then either. Brad and I were into them but since we did not have big budget systems, were dismissed. DDK was a big spender and Steve's visit attracted attention, but as usual there were some who followed him and some who dismissed him as a vintage eccentric. I remember in 2014 when I posted excitedly on the big WE system, only DDK replied. I was shocked to know that no one else cared. They probably thought this was cuckoo.

What then happened was Tang. Here was a guy who had a bigger budget and could buy Wilson Alexandria, but instead had much more expensive speakers - horns. People followed his discussions on carts and TT, and ended up reading about horns. He was also an Audio Exotics guy, and some people here respected that because of their all out spend. Then the General joined, another big budget guy with more records and classical knowledge than anyone was into horns with a cool looking table. Bill heard that and shifted to horns with Vyger, a lot of discussions turned more to classical and records, and 3 people had the Vyger (G, Bill, Gian). Therefore, not only the speaker discussions, but also the analog threads had a huge horn representation, with discussion focused on music and records (you can see going back who stayed out of those discussions).

Then Tang started posting videos. Soon after, I started adding videos, most of which were horns. Now those who did not know horns began to appreciate many of these videos and horns.

Audioquattr then became another big spender to move to horns from Magico. Nothing attracts as much attention on WBF as when a big spender spends. That is the unfortunate moral of the story. I would prefer people change because they get exposure rather than look at where the money is.

Ron added to what Bill and I had written about the Mayer Pnoe, and about audioquattr's system. Then the SET amp owners thread attracted a lot of people from outside the regulars, maybe from other forums. So now not only were there a few big spenders, but there was volume. There is also the Aries Cerat representation which is SETs based with a high budget.

Of course now three Magico people have moved to SET based systems, Bobvin has moved from Wilsons to Diesis and Alsyvox, and Caelin moved long ago from Wilsons to Devore and Volti.

Then it went a level deeper with DIY which was missing on this forum. The level of vintage horns and driver knowledge here is quite common on, say Lansing heritage, DIY audio forums and with some in the UK. And many of these had nothing but disrespect for the high street brands like Wilson and Magico. Hey sure, many of these DIY and other SET based systems might not be good, but that's what it is. There is more knowledge and enthusiasm on that aspect here today

What is still unfortunate is that those not into horns, cannot even discern the next level of conversation. For them SETs horns is a big blob looked at from the high level, they don't know much difference within, e.g. imagine saying Wilson, Magico, Zellaton and Avalon are mostly one and the same and all these owners are more or less similar.

Great summary Bonzo. I would add that ddk started a few threads about his two vintage systems followed by Steve's visit thread. There were then a couple of threads about Utah as well as my most recent one. I have also noticed that there are a number of contentious threads questioning the value of high end power cords/cables, accessories, treatments, the "audiophile glossary of terms", and even the concept of a "natural" sound versus a "hi=fi" sound, and where the hobby is going in general. Is this a slight push-back against the status quo, at least in the US?

System videos are also a very interesting recent shift. It seems that WBF is starting to represent more and more different points of view. The departure of Amir, and now Ack, seems to also correspond with slightly less focus on measurements and more on listening and observing. A few of us keep repeating the same old song about live unamplified music being the reference. Dust ups can break up the repetition and entertain, but there does seem to be a slight shift away from or expansion of what was once the standard. I think it is healthy and refreshing.

Karen Sumner offers a welcome and interesting perspective, especially as a non regular contributor and someone from within the industry.
 

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