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  1. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    It certainly is a balancing act what funds you spend on equipment and how much of your funds you reserve for acquiring recordings. Assessing the point of diminishing returns with equipment is something I became very conscious of with loudspeakers. When the sound from a CD I had taken into the hi-fi dealer's showroom was routed in turn to different main speaker systems each system had its own character. It turned out that the most expensive main speakers sounded the best to my ears (that of course would not necessarily be the case). I ended up choosing a less expensive pair of main speakers. For my ears they didn't provide quite as much detail as, and sounded slighted more distorted than, the most expensive speakers, but I did not feel the several thousand dollars extra for those premium speakers could be justified. We make these sorts of decisions in life all the time, e.g. in relation to quality of floor coverings we choose for our residence, or the standard of hotel accommodation we choose for a vacation.
  2. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    Even ordinary quality sound can nourish happiness and mental health, I'd say, and good quality sound even more! Music soothes my soul, and is a very important part of my life. I am a geek when it comes to technology -- I find it fascinating -- but for me the gear remains a means to an end: the appreciation of music.
  3. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    I'd lump these people in with an expanded second group. The purchases are intended to assist actual practical use, be that listening to music, or watching slides or videos. (The items are not purchased simply as trophies to be admired, or gadgets to be played with!)
  4. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    Ah the 5.1 experience - yes that was quite something over 2 channel. I'd agree. But my first DVD-A experience was of a symphony orchestra and was only in stereo. The two channel DVD-A sounded just like a CD to me, and I was very disappointed.
  5. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    I've noticed a few people mentioning that even those very heavily into gear will likely still listen to a fair amount of music with that gear. That had been my initial assumption. However some of @Happy's comments had made me consider people who really do buy equipment for the sake of it. And who basically don't actually listen to music with it. The example I gave of someone spending $50,000 to acquire hi-fi gear purely as a fetish interest, with no interest in listening to music, is pretty extreme, but presumably at least some people would be at that extreme end of the audiophile spectrum. And if they can afford it, is it any different to buying a yacht, admiring the look of the yacht, taking pleasure in possessing the yacht, though not actually using it? Or spending $50,000 on handbags and not using them as handbags but admiring them as a collection? Who are we to judge what others do with their disposable income? Well perhaps in all of what I've written in this thread, that was my most important point. Whilst there is arguably no harm in a person spending their own money on luxuries or pure fetishes, if they can afford it, there can be a distinct mischief if they induce others to spend money by recommending something as providing noticeably better sound quality when they either know that isn't the case, or are reckless and simply assume it is the case. Whether it be manufacturers spruiking their audiophile products, review magazine staff reporting positively on such products, staff of a hi-fi shop making positive recommendations to a customer, or private individuals on this forum sharing their positive opinions about audiophile products, all have an ethical (and some a legal) responsibility not to be deceptive. If there is a consensus of positive opinion on a forum, supported by a positive magazine review I suspect that the audition process would lose weight. If the person couldn't hear an improvement they could easily put that down to lack of sleep or concentration and go ahead with the purchase anyway. And of course expectation bias may well play a role. There are any number of audiophile articles stating that 96kHz/24-bit stereo is audibly superior to the 44.1kHz/16-bit audio format, and any number of posts on forums such as this one agreeing with that view. But to the best of my knowledge no rigourous scientific studies supporting the view exist (for normal recording and playback levels). In many if not most cases it would be an honestly held view. But there is no rigour to the view. It is merely assumed to be true. It seemed a good idea some years ago to promote high-definition audio as a consumer distribution format. [I personally remember my great excitement when buying my first DVD-Audio disc, and my bitter disappointment when listening to it.] At the time it was widely assumed that 44.1kHz must be insufficient as a sample rate, and that 16- bits must be insufficient for bit depth. Similarly it was assumed by many that stereo SACDs must surely give noticeable superior audio quality for human ears over the stereo CD format. The net is full of positive articles about the superior sound quality from SACDs with explanations (technically flawed as it now turns out) as to why that must be so. And forums such as this one are full of posts attesting to the superiority of SACD stereo to CD PCM stereo. Audiophiles relying on such recommendations have spent many hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands of dollars) in pursuit of SACD stereo nirvana. The audiophile industry provides us with many examples of products that have failed to deliver promises of noticeable audible improvement . Forums such as this one provide the opportunity to reveal that the emperor is without clothes (the more usual situation). Or to identify and endorse any true advancement in audiophile technology (rather rare). Anyway, coming back more specifically to the thread topic, if your reason for acquiring expensive gear is to get noticeably better sound quality you should probably take much of what you read in forums like this one with a grain of salt. The track record of the audiophile industry as a whole, and of audiophile forums in particular, in providing reliable guidance, could be much better than it has been. And of course you should allow yourself the opportunity to audition critical components such as loudspeakers at times when you are well rested and alert. I think that's a type of recommendation often made in this forum. Hopefully you'll be able to do the comparisons with the audio sound pressure levels in A B tests closely matched.
  6. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    Well if a man outright told his wife and his friends that he doesn't actually buy audio gear to listen to music, but because he has a fetish for acquiring hi-fi gear and that is why he has spent $50,000 in one year gear, he might be queried or even ridiculed. Just as a woman who spent $50,000 in one year on handbags she didn't intend to use but simply to add to her collection of handbags, might be criticized. But if the man honestly told family and friends that he was in pursuit of the very highest audio quality and he honestly believed it had been necessary to spend $50,000 to achieve that and that in fact music meant a great deal to him, and that he honestly felt he could hear a difference with more expensive gear; his friends and family might still query the extravagant outlay, but they would probably be far more understanding and far less critical. What can happen though is that a person who knows they are a fetishist, can pretend to be a true believer. If they pretend to be a true music lover in conversations with family and friends, they may avoid or lessen criticism, and it is perhaps understandable they wish to hide their fetish interest. Another example of such behaviour would be the gambler who enjoys playing poker machines and in a one year period makes a loss of $50,000. He or she may prefer to say that they had made a donation to charity, to explain a drop in a bank account balance. It is human nature to hide from criticism. And of course @Happy it is perfectly reasonable to argue that the person was indeed entitled to enjoy themselves playing poker machines, and as long as the net outgoing of $50,000 harmed no-one, it is just as worthy as, say, buying a small yacht. But if a person starts waxing lyrical on a forum like this about esoteric expensive gear without any true belief it actually sounds noticeably better, or being reckless with the truth as to whether it does or doesn't sound better, then that could be expected to deceive forum members who read their posts at face value, on the assumption they were written honestly and in good faith. And I would suggest it pretty obviously is not "worthy" behaviour to make posts that are knowingly false, or recklessly false, and which may encourage others to spend large sums of money but not actually obtain the marvelous hi-fi experience of noticeably improved sound quality they expected they would obtain.
  7. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    Regarding your second dot point, the original master tapes being from the pre-digital era, or the early digital era, would very possibly no longer exist and so a vinyl pressing, or a metal stamping disc used to mass produce vinyl discs, may be the only surviving way to access the recording mastered to magnetic tape. A similar situation exists with mid-20th century feature films where the best remaining quality version of the film may exist as a multi-generation release print distributed to theatres, or a show print created directly from composited negatives, but not the actual negatives. As for the claim by Professional Sound Recording Engineers in Japan have they, or the manufacturer of the laser disc player, actually released an example for consumers to hear for themselves, i.e. a digital version from playing back a track on the magnetic tape master and a digital version of the same track from playing back the vinyl disc? I'd assume they'd sound rather different and would not be at all difficult to distinguish in a double blind test, even though some people might be of the opinion that the two versions were of "comparable quality". Only the other day I was looking for this type of thing for the modern era (given the resurgence in vinyl pressings) i.e. a digital copy of a track direct from a 21st century digital master compared with a digital capture of the same tracks as played back using a modern high quality turntable and cartridge from a high quality demonstration vinyl disc. I'd be interested in hearing the extent of difference in the sound. Would the two versions be of "comparable quality"? This post may seem a bit off-topic, but the angle I'm exploring is the logic behind spending vast sums of money to extract the last drop of audio quality from an old vinyl disc when the audio quality even of the magnetic tape master would not have been up to modern standards. It may be that the money is being spent out of nostalgic reverence for old recordings, or alternatively merely as an exercise in the collection of gear as an end in itself. @Happy has reminded us that some people do simply indulge themselves by acquiring gear.
  8. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    Having joined this forum only recently I don't have a gut feeling whether more people here would be in the group who believe building up a hi-fi system is an end in itself, with pleasure to be derived from experimenting with and collecting gear, or whether more would be in the group who regard their hi-fi system as first and foremost a way to listen to music with better quality (with any fun from experimenting with different options merely incidental). Perhaps a fair percentage of some of the very active contributors are in the first group. I suspect a large number are in the second group. Has there been a poll thread on this? I myself fall into the second group. I acquire audio gear not for the purpose of building up a collection of audio gear, or to get a thrill out of comparing different systems, but for the clear dominant purpose of enabling me (and anyone else who might listen to my setup) the opportunity to hear recordings of musical performances reproduced clearly, with details audible, and without excessive distortion or colouration. My interests are primarily in classical instrumental music and opera. I also enjoy home theatre, listening to the lush orchestral sounds that are still very much to the fore in films (regardless of genre) released on Blu-ray. A difficult question to answer. Is collecting stamps "worthy"? Is playing poker machines "worthy"? Is playing golf "worthy"? I find listening to music stimulating to the intellect and the emotions. It can be a way of getting in touch with the humanity of the composer or the artists performing the work particularly if you follow that composer or those artists for a period of time. I think a lot of people develop a taste for particular genres and musicians. The ability to appreciate music grows the more one is exposed to it. Some people with the talent and opportunity end up composing and/or performing music, after listening to recordings, attending concerts, or even undertaking formal study, thus advancing human musical culture. I find listening to music provides me with enjoyment. Perhaps casually listening to music is not "worthy" but merely "enjoyable".
  9. A low value capacitor across the input of the phono preamplifier would reduce any RF leaking in at that point. (When RF gets into a preamplifier, slight non-linearity in amplifying the radio frequency can cause the modulation to become audible. I have heard that effect with AM stations, or the video of analogue TV stations, though not actually with an FM station.)
  10. Er ... yes. It was a listening test.
  11. I know it's not really good form just to link to comments in another forum, but the below is an example of very little difference being found between several DACs. It may provide food for thought for anyone who assumes that different DACs must sound different. The tests were done in mid-2014: http://www.pinkfishmedia.net/forum/showpost.php?p=2343603&postcount=263
  12. Thanks, @Happy. I note that when a DAC is used to convert 44.1kHz sample rate material (such as from a CD), slight differences in the tone at the upper end may be hard to avoid because of slight differences in approaches to the anti-aliasing filtering. (An aggressive approach vs a milder slope roll-off approach.) A lot of material downloadable from the net is at sample rate of 48kHz (and some material may be at 96kHz or even higher). I note that at a 48kHz sample rate or above the anti-aliasing issue is much less difficult to deal with. [The frequencies to be filtered out are well above the upper limit of audibility for human ears.] In an ideal world where the aim is for a DAC to operate transparently and provide an analogue signal as close as possible to the original analogue signal (that was converted in the recording studio to digital using an ADC), there should be no noticeable differences in tonal quality. In other words, the very best DACs should sound the same. However when I have suggested that in the past I have been told by one or two people that there is no such thing as a transparent DAC. That was their strongly held view! If that view were true then presumably there would also, correspondingly, be no such thing as transparent ADCs. And we should be quizzing the big recording studios on which ADCs they have used to convert the analogue signal to digital for a particular item of music, and use their reply to help us choose which items of music to purchase (i.e. only those with the tonal balance or other ADC qualities we prefer). However I see little evidence of audiophiles taking an interest in the ADCs used for studio or stage recordings. It just seems to be assumed that the ADCs will be of "professional quality". I don't see evidence of people saying that the model of ADC used by a recording studio has such and such an adverse (or beneficial) effect and that recordings from that are accordingly to be avoided (or sought after). Am I wrong? Do a significant percentage of audiophiles concern themselves with what model ADCs a recording studio uses?
  13. The fact your HP mini notebook runs Windows 7 suggests an older model. As an experiment, have you tried the analogue out of your smart phone? If a late model phone its internal DAC might possibly do a better job than the mini notebook's internal DAC. In any case it would give you experience in doing a comparative listening test between DACs. If you do such an experiment and find you can't hear any difference, then it could be that both DACs don't do a bad job. Or it could be that your hearing is not particularly sensitive to very slight differences in converting digital to analogue. When comparing different analogue versions of the same source material it is of course very important to arrange that they are at the same listening level. All other things being equal, a louder source sounds "better", probably because we can hear low level extreme bass and low level extreme treble more easily at a higher volume setting. Another thought: do you have a reasonably good set of headphones? If so you could try them out on your mini notebook, and your smart phone, and if you have a standalone CD player with a headphone jack, also with the standalone CD player. In my experience headphones will sometimes reveal slight differences that loudspeakers won't. (Although it can work the other way!) There have been great strides in the design and manufacture of DACs. Even mass produced ones incorporated into smart phones can do a remarkably good job. You really do need to test your sensitivity to different DACs I would say before shelling out $400 on an outboard DAC. It could be that you'd get more bang for your buck by upgrading your 1980s era amplifier. Or by simply purchasing more recordings!
  14. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    It is problematic mechanically tracking a groove on a rotating vinyl disc and manufacturers have had to go to extraordinary lengths to attempt to do this. It is inherently an extremely difficult task. That's one important reason for the high cost of high quality cartridges. I guess the question the audiophile today needs to ask themselves is that if they have some very old vinyl discs that have not been reissued in a digital form just how much money should they spend to wring out the last drop of audio quality. Theoretically a disc restoration service could use a scanning electron microscope or some other extremely advanced technology to read undulations in a mechanical groove in a vinyl pressing to perfection (if the original recording master used to cut the disc used to create the vinyl pressing were unavailable) but they'd still be stuck with the quality loss that the cutting process had introduced, losses in the pressing process, and wear from any earlier conventional playing of the disc. These losses would be on top of other quality limitations of the early era recording (such as the microphones, pre-amplifiers, mixing console, magnetic tape recording and playback processes, cutting head amplifier, etc). It becomes a matter of perspective, and judgment, for a person who owns mid-20th century vinyl pressings, how much money they should spend on a turntable and cartridge, and perhaps special preamplifier, to reproduce sound stored in a vinyl groove of such old discs when the quality of the reproduced sound will necessarily fall below today's recording standards. (I exclude from consideration the tendency today with pop recordings to compress the dynamic range. That is a mastering choice, not an unavoidable technological limitation.)
  15. Perils of focusing too much on gear

    And Imelda Marcos collected shoes. As long as I suppose that the person realizes that they have allowed their hi-fi system to become an end in itself rather than being a means for them to appreciate music.