Jump to content

The hifi myth?


Recommended Posts

So I'm fairly new to the hifi scene.

 

Tried a few amps (a/b and d) from $600-$3000

Few speakers from $200-$2500

DACs from the inbuilt ones in integrateds to stand alone ones up to $1000.

Different cables from generic to several hundred dollars.

 

...I'm not sure I could really hear the difference. 

 

Maybe I'm only in the lo-fi to mid-fi category but I just dropped 3.6k on new speaker (still waiting for them) and was thinking of dropping 4-5k on a new integrated and 1-2k on a new turntable but I'm second guessing everything now.

 

I know I need to audition more (kinda been hard the last 2 years) but I really wonder from a scientific point of view how there can be so much difference between components which are engineered to do the same thing... in particular amp (pre, power and integrated) which are just meant to amplify a signal.

How can there be such a thing as instrument separation, especially, when the music is already down mixed?

 

If transparency is what we aim for how can things sound so different.

 

I'm questioning everything and wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation and where did you end up?

 

Thanks guys!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bcdesign, there's a lot of BS in the Hi-Fi world.  Some claim to have 'golden ears' and can hear the difference between cables.  I can't.  But that doesn't mean to say they're wrong.  Maybe they have better hearing than me.  Or more likely, they have trained hearing.  I have found that the more I listen to something, the more detail I can pick up.  The corollary to that is the tonal quality and musical detail has to be there in the first place.  So one could argue that better designed and engineered equipment (not necessarily more expensive) should sound better if our hearing is suitably trained.

 

The more you listen to audio gear, the more you can pick the good from the bad.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Equipment sounds different, because although transparency is the goal electronics is not a perfect medium.  Cheap components can produce a good approximation of music these days (compared to cheap components decades ago).  Better quality sound requires better quality components and (in many cases) more sophisticated designs, which cost more.  However, electronics design is about compromise.  An approach to a circuit might be advantageous in one aspect, but have limitations in another aspect, because there are always tradeoffs in the design (no matter what the budget is).  This is why various components can have different sounds.  And some components will sound better with some components and worse with others (eg. speakers and amps need to be matched). 

 

If you are new to hifi you might not be used to hearing quality sound, which is why you might have difficulty in discerning differences in the equipment of different price ranges.  It's about your brain's perceptual system.   At present it may not be able to discriminate fine audio differences.  If you have a quality hifi and enjoy listening to it (rather than having it as background) I would expect that over time your audio perception would develop (as the brain starts to make new connections and becomes accustomed to the new quality), and you will be able to make better comparisons.  If you pursue your hifi interest you might also develop a conscious awareness of how the sound differs and a language to describe it, which also helps having aspects to "look for" when comparing different components (eg. frequency range, dynamic range, soundstage, attack, etc.).

 

It's not that different to chefs and sommeliers who develop a discriminating palate with experience and time, but started with common taste buds.  Photographers become sensitive to the varying colours of light.  Musicians develop the ability to recognise and name notes/chords/progressions/etc.  My audio perception was developed as a kid when I played acoustic musical instruments, so I have had a reference of what live music sounds like to be able to compare music reproduction to.  If you don't have these experiences, you will develop the perception over time.  In my opinion it's worth putting the time to do this, because it enhances the enjoyment of  the music. 

 

Also the discussion needs to consider individual differences.  Some people don't have the biological hardware to appreciate fine differences.  I used to hang around a friend's hifi store in the 80's.  His sales technique was to start with a basic system, and gradually swap components for better quality ones, and note the customer's reaction.  There would be a point where the quality differences would become less pronounced for the customer, until swapping components for better quality ones would have no discernible difference for them.  This would be how my friend would determine the best system for a customer, he would say that it would be a waste for them to get components that did not provide any benefit for them.  I was always fascinated by the differences.  Some people's threshold was at a mid-range system, other's would be higher, and (less commonly) some would be at the upper end of the range.  My threshold was towards the top end, but my friend/the owner's threshold was higher (as I would hope, being the store owner).  I'm not meaning to brag, only to illustrate.  

 

Even though this was a good and ethical sales approach, I would think for some customers (but not all), their audio perceptual system would develop with the experience of the hifi they purchased.  So I would suggest that you invest in a good quality system.  Evaluate the components with extended auditions.  It's impossible to evaluate with 5mins listening to one component and 5mins with another.  Sometimes a system may sound impressive on first listen, but over time what was initially impressive becomes fatiguing.  (Decades ago many cheap systems were built with boomy bass, which sounds exciting and dynamic at first, and sells many stereos, but over extended listening isn't great.).  Don't rush your purchase, go to the stores when they have quite times so they won't mind you spending time listening, and let them know why you want to take your time.  Repay their service by buying a system from them--don't work out what you want to buy and then buy online.  They will invest in you so you can get a system you will truly be happy with and enjoy.  And don't buy the expensive items for the sake of it.  Be confident that your purchase will be able to provide enjoyment for years.  Then, if your perceptual system develops, you might want to consider upgrades!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 16
  • Love 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

If you have compared a $600 amplifier to a $3000 amplifier and found no difference or improvement, may I respectfully suggest that this may not be the hobby for you? 

It would be interesting to know what speakers you purchased and how/why they were unable to allow you to hear improvements between a $600 amplifier and some at ten times that price.

 

Obviously, there is much about which I am unaware, in your situation and I acknowledge that there are numerous myths and delusions in this caper, but almost always it is relatively easy to identify something that is clearly a scam.

 

In any case I have absolutely no intent to offend but something doesn't ring true here.

 

Best of luck with your search.😀

 

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 07/10/2021 at 6:17 PM, Bcdesign said:

How can there be such a thing as instrument separation, especially, when the music is already down mixed?

 

It's called stereophonics.

 

On 07/10/2021 at 6:17 PM, Bcdesign said:

If transparency is what we aim for how can things sound so different.

 

Because it is hard to produce transparent speakers, especially ones that sound transparent after the sound waves have interacted with your listening room.

 

On 07/10/2021 at 6:17 PM, Bcdesign said:

I'm questioning everything and wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation and where did you end up?

 

I went through a similar phase in the past and I ended up deciding that electronics and cables are generally very unimportant in the scheme of things. The speakers and the room and the way our brains interpret the soundwaves are what determines the overall performance of the system.  And modern day DSP based room correction can do excellent things.

Edited by Satanica
  • Like 3
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reasonable system components generally sound great .. you don't have to spend a motza to have a decent stereo system. As i found though by contrast the more you spend the more you need to worry about matching components, when you get it right simply amazing but a hell of journey for some.  So maybe just stay mid-fi.

 

Apart from digital streamers which are constantly improving, I focus on buying 2nd hand and mostly from the classifieds here, the range is amazing and you get a lot more bang for buck than buying new.  Something like a 2nd hand Music Fidelity Integrated are great value, i picked up a A300 which is a nice unit, Parasound or for a bit more maybe a Bryston Integrated ?  More modern something like a NAD unit with digital already onboard ?  Plenty to chose from ..

 

Also intrigued on what speakers you are getting, as that may dictate what amp is best suited.

 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Bcdesign said:

So I'm fairly new to the hifi scene.

 

Tried a few amps (a/b and d) from $600-$3000

Few speakers from $200-$2500

DACs from the inbuilt ones in integrateds to stand alone ones up to $1000.

Different cables from generic to several hundred dollars.

 

...I'm not sure I could really hear the difference. 

 

As you're in the central coast of NSW, I'm assuming that's not far from Gosford?  If so - then why not drop in on Bill McLean; he can play several different combos for you and I would think you should be able to hear the differences.

 

15 hours ago, Bcdesign said:

Maybe I'm only in the lo-fi to mid-fi category but I just dropped 3.6k on new speaker (still waiting for them) and was thinking of dropping 4-5k on a new integrated and 1-2k on a new turntable but I'm second guessing everything now.

 

$3.6K is not exactly a small amount.  As you have $4-5K to spend on an amp can I suggest:

  • you have a lot of options
  • but some will undoubtedly make your spkrs sing, better than others.

Can I suggest you 'open up your kimono' - tell us what these spkrs are, so we can make suggestions!  :)  As Rosco just posted ... the spkrs' specs will determine what you need to look for, in terms of an amp.

 

15 hours ago, Bcdesign said:

 

I know I need to audition more (kinda been hard the last 2 years) but I really wonder from a scientific point of view how there can be so much difference between components which are engineered to do the same thing... in particular amp (pre, power and integrated) which are just meant to amplify a signal.

 

 

The problem is ... the amp needs to drive a pair of spkrs - as well as amplifying the signal!  :(  And that's where the differences (between amps) emerge.

 

Driving a pure resistive load - which is where all the measurement graphs come from - is an easy task.  Put, say, an 8 ohm resistor across the amp's output terminals and look at the output waveform on a CRO screen, when you feed the amp a signal.  You should see a sine wave.

 

Turn up the volume of the input signal ... and at some stage, you will see the sine wave starts to flatten at the top or bottom (or both).  This is clipping.  Do the maths and you can derive the watts-into-the-8-ohm-load that the amp clips at.

 

Then try the same test with a 4 ohm load resistor.  Theory says clipping into 4 ohms should happen at twice the output watts - however, in real life the amp may start to clip at much less than twice the output power.  This is because the power supply which the amp has been supplied with ... is unable to deliver the current which the amp is being asked to deliver, into 4 ohms.  Upgrade the power supply ... and the amp should be able to supply twice the watts into a 4 ohm load.  :thumb:

 

But spkrs are not just a resistive load ... they can have wicked impedance and phase curves - which many amplifiers can't handle well.  If they do have severe impedance and phase curves then amps with 'wimpy' power supplies won't drive them as well as an amp with the same output power ... but which has a 'robust' power supply.

 

Hence we need to know what spkrs you've bought, to be able to make useful suggestions on amps.

 

Andy

 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me my hifi hobby started with my HT system. i found myself listening to more and more music and learning how to set up a system. A lot BS out there but a lot good material too. at the end of the day if you are into this hobby of ours you'll learn to hear the nuances and develop what you like and dont like in regards to music.

 

Example cables many say its BS but for me ive experimented to RCAs and Power cables and on my system they make a difference. there are people who a solely subjective and objective. im on the camp of both. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Coupla points. 

As mentioned critical listening is a skill that improves with experience.  Certainly some are probably are more naturally talented in this area but almost certainly most are initially poor at it and equally as certainly you can improve thius skill with practice.  But doing the listening in different showrooms makes it much more difficult to pick real differences due to the different room and layout.

If equipment was all equally excellent in its engineering and sounded similar there would be no point of difference for the manufacturer to shout about ie some things are built to sound different and stand out from the crowd.  For example B&W speakers with their tilted up treble.  A smart person once said to me "cables do sound different but should they?"

Things to ponder....

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only Satanica hinted at the speakers in the room. There can be a huge difference in how a system sounds just by how well it integrates with the room and if it doesn't integrate well, you're not going to hear much improvement from better equipment.

 

As an example, I have a Devialet Original d' Atelier (Retail 55 grand) and Dynaudio Confidence C1 (Retail 10 grand). I recently set that system up in a new room with nothing on the walls and a timber floor. I spent about half a day on setting my speakers up in the best spot I could find. I can confidently say I have moderate experience with this and have at times been blown away with how good I could get my system to sound (this same system).

 

This time around though, I just couldn't get the best out if it. The reflections in the room just are too much and the result is a brightness and lack of focus that i just couldn't get rid of. Case made; 65 grand worth of equipment and it still sounds less than average.

 

My experience tells me that your new speakers, well set up in a good room will sound better than mine in the situation described above. 

 

So don't be discouraged about equipment quality. It's there if you buy the right gear. But it takes work to get the best out if it. Nothing will ever just sound good out of the box, planted wherever it fits in the room. 

 

The best money I ever spent was $35 on the 'Get Better Sound' book by Jim Smith. It outlines step by step how to set your system up to get the best out of it. 

 

Have a go.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I worked in hifi retail for over 10 years. When I started, I could hear macro differences between different products, but I didn’t care. As I grew to care, I could hear quantitative differences (sounds different) but not qualitative differences (sounds better).

 

Over ten years of listening almost all day, almost every day, I went from recognising macro quantitative differences to evaluating and appreciating micro qualitative differences but there were still people in that shop with a much more refined ear that me because they had been doing it longer, or they cared more. I burned out of hifi not long after that and picked it up about 5 years later and had to relearn and retrain my ear to evaluate what I heard, not from scratch but from a long way behind where I’d left off. 

 

Now, about five more listening years down the track, I have no problem hearing micro differences between, say, cables or power supplies or even different isolation feet in my system (I can do this in direct A/B comparison. Who knows if I could do it in a double-blind, A/B/X test. I don’t really care). Even so, I still sometimes struggle to decide which is “better” out of two options or sometimes which I even like more. 

 

I suspect you don’t need to spend $10k on a system to enjoy music and I certainly wouldn’t if you don’t hear the differences between components. Each to their own but you may benefit from spending more time with what you have and identifying what shortcomings you want the new gear to address, if any. There’s plenty of good advice above, regarding this.

 

Alternatively, if you simply have too much money, there are many worthy charities that would happily spend it for you 😉

  • Like 4
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do actually think that experts (I am not one) can perceive small changes in frequency response, harmonics and phase. It stands to reason that they might have to spend more on their gear. 

 

On the other hand, I think the hifi hobby is made hopelessly impenetrable by emotional descriptions of sound, describing characteristics that are just frequency response, harmonics and phase but, even worse, will only ever apply to that person's individual ears/brain + listening room + individual system synergies.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting topic this one and some really good responses. I think this topic is more about the equipment than the room as that is a bigger factor but not quite what this is about.

 

If i look at the origin of this;

 

How can there be such a thing as instrument separation, especially, when the music is already down mixed?

 

  • It comes down to how well all the components dig out and reveal the separation - this i really going to depend on circuit design and quality of components. Where i am at right now is the performance of 50 year old english amplifiers and their very nicely made output transformers.  A lost art i have to say as the engineers are no longer with us to pass on the craft. I too have a Devaliet (not the Original) and the Devaliet is amazing. The english amps i'm using right now - a different league. It would be wrong to say one is better than the other as that is not how they compare but they are different that one engages different to the other. I actually have them both working together in an active horn set up.

 

If transparency is what we aim for how can things sound so different.

 

  • Because like people, components are different. No surprise given that people make them.

 

I'm questioning everything and wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation and where did you end up?

 

  • Every day - I've had two OMG moments in the last 10 years with my system. plugging in a pre amp using 1927 radio valves and recently these English amps for the same reason.  They just jumped out as incredible - no blind testing, not hard listening and they weren't even plugged in for that reason. Everything else has been evolution of being exposed to many systems and learning.

 

When your system is revealing enough and you are exposed enough in identifying differences you will then hear how cables and components sound/behave differently.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, Pim said:

Dynaudio Confidence C1 (Retail 10 grand). I recently set that system up in a new room with nothing on the walls and a timber floor. I spent about half a day on setting my speakers up in the best spot I could find. I can confidently say I have moderate experience with this and have at times been blown away with how good I could get my system to sound (this same system). This time around though, I just couldn't get the best out if it. The reflections in the room just are too much and the result is a brightness and lack of focus that i just couldn't get rid of. Case made; 65 grand worth of equipment and it still sounds less than average.

 

Ah yes .. Dynaudios, I only have the C2 Plats but they caused me so many problems (and $$$) in both matching amps and room sound problems, dead spots galore.   I spent months shifting them around and ended up with bass traps and treating the room with side and back acoustic walls panels.  End result is a decent listening room which suits every other speaker i have thrown in there and I now live happy with the Harbeth 40.2's which replaced them.  A constant upgrade in Amps solved the amp issues as they need lots of grunt (big power supplies).  Mongrels to get right but when you do are great .. they were banished to my combined kitchen and dining area which is a big rectangular open plan area with the 1st amp I had success with them, a Bryston 4bsst and they sound wonderful, fills the house with high quality sounding music so there you go ..  my experience is that they just like lots of open space 😄

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your comments and anecdotes .
I really appreciate it!

Points made about developing listening skills and @audiofeline comparing listening to any other skill one needs to practice and strengthen makes a lot of sense.

 

@RankStranger I definitely don't have too much money 🤣
I've been saving for a while and perhaps this is why I'm questioning everything, as it's quite a bit of coin (to me at least) to drop on something that could make no difference.

@andyr I am close to Bill and have bought an amp off him before, so thank you for the suggestion, that may be the first thing I need to do.
 

2 hours ago, andyr said:

Can I suggest you 'open up your kimono' - tell us what these spkrs are, so we can make suggestions!  :)  As Rosco just posted ... the spkrs' specs will determine what you need to look for, in terms of an amp.

 

Hence we need to know what spkrs you've bought, to be able to make useful suggestions on amps.

 

I bought some KLH Model 5's and guess I'm just overwhelmed by how to match components and which type of amps I should be looking at.
There seems to be no real rules to follow, just this intangible "synergy" people talk about.   
Should I get an integrated with streamer or will a pre and power give me more for the money... but wait, what about monos? Then, what brands??

The whole all watts aren't created equal, and people saying this 40w amp actually sounds like a 100w amp etc  just exacerbates it further.

 

Having viewed a ton of reviews about amps and seeing all the different opinions on the exact same model just seems like there is so much unexplainable "magic" in the hifi world.
Naturally after this I fell down a rabbit hole of reading A/B and A/B/X studies where most participants couldn't identify or tell apart the cheap from the expensive. 

 

I do love listening to music and the hifi hobby in general but after all this the logical, pragmatic side of me just grabbed me by the shoulders and told me to stop, which is why I needed to let all this out and consult all of you... it may not be the most unbiased forum to do so but maybe I'm looking to be convinced. 😅

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Bcdesign said:

Thank you all for your comments and anecdotes .
I really appreciate it!

Points made about developing listening skills and @audiofeline comparing listening to any other skill one needs to practice and strengthen makes a lot of sense.

 

@RankStranger I definitely don't have too much money 🤣
I've been saving for a while and perhaps this is why I'm questioning everything, as it's quite a bit of coin (to me at least) to drop on something that could make no difference.

@andyr I am close to Bill and have bought an amp off him before, so thank you for the suggestion, that may be the first thing I need to do.
 

 

I bought some KLH Model 5's and guess I'm just overwhelmed by how to match components and which type of amps I should be looking at.
There seems to be no real rules to follow, just this intangible "synergy" people talk about.   
Should I get an integrated with streamer or will a pre and power give me more for the money... but wait, what about monos? Then, what brands??

The whole all watts aren't created equal, and people saying this 40w amp actually sounds like a 100w amp etc  just exacerbates it further.

 

Having viewed a ton of reviews about amps and seeing all the different opinions on the exact same model just seems like there is so much unexplainable "magic" in the hifi world.
Naturally after this I fell down a rabbit hole of reading A/B and A/B/X studies where most participants couldn't identify or tell apart the cheap from the expensive. 

 

I do love listening to music and the hifi hobby in general but after all this the logical, pragmatic side of me just grabbed me by the shoulders and told me to stop, which is why I needed to let all this out and consult all of you... it may not be the most unbiased forum to do so but maybe I'm looking to be convinced. 😅

 

Sounds to me like you are in a good place, your skepticism will go a long way to helping you retain sanity during the hifi journey😀😀

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

KLH Mod 5's, listening to reviews, they say needs some volume to come alive, amp min 50w but better around 100w and up to 200w amps, probably SS and not valve.  Bass better for smaller than large rooms.  

What sources have you already or need ?  I have moved on from vinyl (though still have it all) and gone pretty well Digital with streaming which simplifies my listening and enables me to listen to my playlist on many systems including the car.  So maybe an integrated amp with internal streaming and DAC ?

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, Bcdesign said:

Having viewed a ton of reviews about amps and seeing all the different opinions on the exact same model just seems like there is so much unexplainable "magic" in the hifi world.
Naturally after this I fell down a rabbit hole of reading A/B and A/B/X studies where most participants couldn't identify or tell apart the cheap from the expensive. 

Certainly food for thought.

 

19 hours ago, Bcdesign said:

Tried a few amps (a/b and d) from $600-$3000

Few speakers from $200-$2500

DACs from the inbuilt ones in integrateds to stand alone ones up to $1000.

Different cables from generic to several hundred dollars.

 

...I'm not sure I could really hear the difference. 

Are you sure you could not hear much difference between speakers at $200 and at $2500? 

 

If that is really so, then it could be that you should not be going for anything beyond a fairly cheap integrated amplifier.

 

Or it could be that you need to choose music to audition that is more revealing of sonic differences. There really should be quite a difference in sound between $200 and $2500 speakers.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Bcdesign, a way to improve your listening skills is to read reviews of equipment and see what music they are using and how its described, buy or borrow same and have a listen, see if you hear what they describe, if not write down what you hear and look at the difference. Some reviews focus on particular aspects of not only sound but the emotion it conveys, this is hard to quantify, it's about you and your perception. There is a topic on the forum for test tracks, have a look at that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, Bcdesign said:

 

I bought some KLH Model 5's and guess I'm just overwhelmed by how to match components and which type of amps I should be looking at.

 

 

OK, from the Stereophile review of the KLH Model 5s, I got this:

 

image.png.125e1f10c1d061cbae99035ef4ac55d7.png

 

... which shows it has a pretty wicked impedance and phase curve.  :(  So it is not an 'easy' spkr to drive well.

 

The review went on so say: "The Model Five must be used with amplifiers that don't have problems driving 4 ohms".

 

Recommended amplifier power is "20-200w" - this would be the wattage into the normal 8 ohm load.  So you need to find an integrated which is able to drive 4 ohm loads - ie. has a power spec something like:

  • 100w into 8 ohms, and
  • at least 170w into 4 ohms.

And I suggest if you can find several integrateds that deliver the above ... you should choose the one which has "pre out" sockets - so you can add a sub (or two) at a later date.

 

Good luck!

Andy

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Rosco8 Thank you for the suggestions!

@MLXXX There may have been a bit of exaggeration regarding the speakers, I actually think speakers are probably one of the components in the chain that do make a perceivable difference. 

@andyr Thank you! Is the important part that the amp is able to "double down" from 8ohms to 4ohms?

Link to comment
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Bcdesign said:


@andyr Thank you! Is the important part that the amp is able to "double down" from 8ohms to 4ohms?

 

 

If an amp can do this then that's a good test which shows the amp is capable of driving 4 ohm spkrs, well.

 

Andy

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Bcdesign said:

@MLXXX There may have been a bit of exaggeration regarding the speakers, I actually think speakers are probably one of the components in the chain that do make a perceivable difference. 

Yes indeed, and I see you've outlaid  a fair amount on your new speakers.   I share your concerns as to whether you'll necessarily get a lot of audible difference with other components, though others on this forum would strongly disagree with me on that.

Edited by MLXXX
Link to comment
Share on other sites
Just now, MLXXX said:

Yes indeed, and I see you've outlaid  a fair amount on your new speakers.   I share your concerns as to whether you'll necessarily get a lot of audible difference with other components, though others on this forum would strongly disagree with me on that.


Did you realise these concerns through your own experience with amps?
Have you settled on an amp now or do you still intend to upgrade?

Link to comment
Share on other sites
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...
To Top