I used to be one of those people who would spend hundred of dollars for a few feet of speaker cable, hundreds for a moving coil phono cartridge
which couldn’t output a strong enough signal to directly feed into a pre-amp, hundreds for a pair of vintage valves which was nothing more than a high-resistance light bulb, several hundreds for a pre-pre amp
which served no useful purposes other than stepping up the output of a MC cartridge, a couple of thousands for a pre-amp, a couple of thousands for a pair of speakers and several thousands for a power amp. After roughly USD6,000 and yet still could not get a single sound byte out of it because to complete the setup, it needed at least another thousand for a belt-drive turntable
(excluding the arm, by the way).
Feeling excited (deservedly so after emptying over USD7,000 from my pocket) for the set-up, I’d invite my ‘friends’ home to showcase my toy but only to find out that my set of equipment could hardly be classified as ‘audiophile’ - USD7,000 was barely enough to buy an ‘audiophile’ power amp. Not for a single piece of equipment? No, not for a McIntosh
Embarrassed, dejected, I went on in pursuit of the true and sweetest sound for the next 15 years until one day I had to flee the country (stupid me again) and dumped everything I owned behind.
I have been playing through a pair of USD50 desktop speakers for the last few years now although I still have a set of so-called ‘hi-fi’ which I bought in a 2nd hand shop. At first, I was still trying to find a way to play music from my computer and stream it to my hi-fi because I thought the sound would be better and more realistic and for the simple fact that it’s not easy for an old woman like me to get up every 40 minutes to switch a CD. The simplest way to stream music from a computer to a hi-fi is to buy a Slimcenter which I couldn’t afford. I did, however, manage to find a software alternative
to do the streaming after some hard googling. Having played with the streaming for a few days, I discovered that I actually didn’t enjoy the sound of my hi-fi. I went straight back using my USD50 desktop speakers.
It’s not that my hearing is nearly gone. I can still hear if the notes are being played by the left hand or the right hand in Für Elise
or A Certain Romance
when a CD is played from my hi-fi. The problem, I believe, is the medium.
The delivery of Music has changed so much from my ‘audiophile’ days when people were still arguing if a belt-drive turntable was reproducing more realistic sound than a CD player. Those days when I would be willing to play a 30% premium for a Chesky CD
were long gone. What we have nowadays are m4p, m4a, mp3 and wma (a few flac maybe but I’m not sure). Very few of us would mind when playing ‘Candle in the Wind
’ in an iPod, Elton John would actually appear standing on top of the piano instead of sitting in front of it. The extra USD20,000 an ‘audiophile’ spent is to get: Sound Stage (simply translated - Elton John should be sitting in front of the piano, not on top or 5 feet away from it.) and accurate Sound Imaging (simply translated – John Bonham
should be playing in the middle of the stage behind Jimmy Page and stayed there for an entire song instead of shifting his position sometimes 5 feet to his left and sometimes 3 feet to his right in the space of 5 minutes or the 1st and 2nd violin doesn’t switch place in the middle of a concerto).
It is physically impossible to talk of these qualities in a flattened audio image. What was not immediate apparent to me, however, was the fact that the deficiencies of these popular audio formats tend to be hidden from a set of low-fi equipment. It’s crappy but sounds pleasant enough. A set of ‘hi-fi’, on the other hand, will lay bare the inadequacy of a lossy audio format and at times, to the point of becoming irritating. In this low-fi age, we should be happy as long as John Bonham doesn’t appear to be drumming with a pair of chopsticks.
Here is my current setup and I’m fairly pleased with it.
And these are useless stuff, email me if you are interested in buying.