Thread: The Audiophile Thread

  1. #1

    The Audiophile Thread

    This thread is for those who take their music seriously, and take how they listen to it seriously as well. Please, no digital vs. analog arguments. If you can't accept those who love hi-rex digital or those who love high quality analog vinyl, then move on.

    I have a pretty modest budget, so I tend to lean toward less expensive ways to enjoy high quality recordings.
    One of the most recent is Hi-Rez digital files via HD Tracks.
    While I often listen to these directly from my PC using a M Audio sound card and Sennheiser 595 headphones, I have also tried to listen on my "mid-fi" home theater system. Long RCA cables and even HDMI cables have proved to be impractical for various reasons.
    My big Christmas gift this year was a FiiO X-1 portable Hi-Rez file player.
    Right now, I use it for listening to all of my FLAC and WAV files. It uses micro SD cards for storage. It drives my Sennheiser headphones quite admirably. I am currently awaiting a 6 ft. mini-to-RCA cable so I can hook it up to my system.
    It is a very nice player for just over 100. bucks, but here are a few caveats:
    1. It doesn't come with a micro SD card. You'll have to buy one for it.
    2. While it says it handles up to 128 GB, you can't set it up with that size card. You will need a 32 GB card to start. This ticked me off, because I ordered a 64 GB card to start with.

    The good:
    1. The sound is outstanding fo a portable unit.
    2. The size makes it reasonable for portable use, and they do make an armband for it.
    3. THe interface is similar to iPods, but maybe a bit less easy to navigate.
    4. It comes with a nice black silicone rubber sleeve to avoid scratching the aluminum finish.
    5. This unit is well made. It has some heft for the size. The buttons and the scroll wheel function very consistently.

    My "mid-fi" system is a home theater with a Pioneer receiver, and all Polk speakers- two powered subs, two towers, a center channel speaker, and two rear satellites on stands. My players are a Oppo 981HD and a Panasonic BluRay. I also have a AT turntable that is being modified. I have a few more things to do before that is acceptable for listening. I also have a bunch of 5.1 discs (DVD-Audio, SACD and DTS) that I crank up when the rest of the family is out.

    So, let's hear what you have, and especially any ideas you may have to make it sound better.

  2. #2
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Unfortunately "high fidelity" is rife with shysters anxious to take advantage of well-heeled but technologically-naive consumers (viz. my "Test your gullibility" thread).

    My recommendations:
    1. Great headphones are a bargain. For the cost of a mediocre speaker you can get state of the art sound in headphones.
    2. Modern electronics are all so much better than anything thirty years ago, that nearly any piece of equipment will outperform comparable pieces from the 1980s. If in doubt, upgrade.
    3. Source material is still the limiting factor. Whatever your preference, get the best copy you can get.

  3. #3
    im looking for the best sub woofer for around $500, to complete my 5.1 system. Any recommendations?
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  4. #4
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    I like my powered JBL. All home theatre subwoofers I auditioned however were anything but hi-fi. Very boomy.

    I came to realize that's exactly what you want for home theatre -- which is a different animal entirely than music reproduction. YMMV

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Unfortunately "high fidelity" is rife with shysters anxious to take advantage of well-heeled but technologically-naive consumers (viz. my "Test your gullibility" thread).

    My recommendations:
    1. Great headphones are a bargain. For the cost of a mediocre speaker you can get state of the art sound in headphones.
    2. Modern electronics are all so much better than anything thirty years ago, that nearly any piece of equipment will outperform comparable pieces from the 1980s. If in doubt, upgrade.
    3. Source material is still the limiting factor. Whatever your preference, get the best copy you can get.
    I like your recommendations. And on the subject of gullibility, I'd advise to stay away from "high end" interconnects. They make zero difference and, as such, are obvious wastes of money that could be spent effectively elsewhere.

  6. #6
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    In my experience interconnects and cables *can* make a big difference, but they are usually expensive and is definetely not the place to start if you want to upgrade a Mid-Fi system.
    If you dont need speakers for social reasons or the physical experience, headphones is the cheapest way to get good speakers. (Sennheiser, Grado, are good !)
    With everything else start with the source and work yourself up.

    This magazine is good : http://www.stereophile.com/

  7. #7
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    Anyone know of any decent floor speakers for approximately $300?
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  8. #8
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mogrooves View Post
    Anyone know of any decent floor speakers for approximately $300?
    I have been happy with my Polk Audio Monitor70 Series II.
    They are currently really near your price point, 169 ea ( free shipping too ). Not audiophile, but adequate for my needs.
    You do need a decent amp/receiver to drive them.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by markwoll View Post
    I have been happy with my Polk Audio Monitor70 Series II.
    They are currently really near your price point, 169 ea ( free shipping too ). Not audiophile, but adequate for my needs.
    You do need a decent amp/receiver to drive them.
    I have the original Monitor 70s as my front towers. I love them, but I still think you need one or two subwoofers to really get a full warm sound. I have a pair of Polk PSW-350s, which are 12" 300 watt powered subwoofers. I started with one, but it just didn't cut it. So towers are good, but not enough for good Prog.

  10. #10
    Another project I am trying soon is getting a PS3 that reads SACDs so I can rip the Hi-Rez files from my SACDs. The HD Tracks albums are not cheap, and I have a bunch of SACDs.

  11. #11
    Member R_burke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jubal View Post
    theater system. Long RCA cables and even HDMI cables have proved to be impractical for various reasons.
    My big Christmas gift this year was a FiiO X-1 portable Hi-Rez file player.
    Right now, I use it for listening to all of my FLAC and WAV files. It uses micro SD cards for storage. It drives my Sennheiser headphones quite admirably. I am currently awaiting a 6 ft. mini-to-RCA cable so I can hook it up to my system.
    I'd like to hear how you like it in your home system. I'm interested in getting something to play hi-rez digital files on my home system and don't want to spend the $500 - $2,000+ that home media servers go for these days.

  12. #12
    Member Birdy's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Jubal;353740]This thread is for those who take their music seriously, and take how they listen to it seriously as well.

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  13. #13
    I don't think I'd worry too much about the subwoofer if you're in your budget, because, it really is only playing a few frequencies; its placement in your room can have as much to do with how it affects the overall sound, than the sub itself. I've found that matching output level is always the trickiest with subs and other speakers.
    "Always ready with the ray of sunshine"

  14. #14
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    I use a Polk subwoofer in my office system and pair it with an old pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers (I replaced the original drivers), driven by a Yamaha receiver. It's not as good as the big rig in the living room but for playing music off my computer it does just fine. Polk speakers may not be world's greatest speakers but they get the job done better than any of the dross sold in your big box stores.
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  15. #15
    Member BobM's Avatar
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    I wasn't surprised at how quickly I saw posts about cables not making a difference, or how how pricy products are all sold by "shysters". But I am very glad that the thread didn't deteriorate into the typical argument of "yes it does" - "no it doesn't". So, trying to keep this on-track, here's my thoughts ...

    (1) I think if you are looking to build a high quality system for audiophile playback the best bang for the dollar is in the used equipment market. Those high priced well regarded pieces of equipment from 2005 - 2010 are selling for half price or less.
    (2) 50% + of an audio systems sound quality is dependent on the room. It pays handsomely to properly set up the speakers and try, as much as possible, to treat the room acoustics to optomize what you are hearing. There are countless articles on the web that will help you work through this.
    (3) Another large part of "quality sound" is the mastering of the recording itself. Most mass market pop and rock music is over compressed, distorted, flat sounding, and not-dynamic (though it is "loud"). However, part of the emotional content of the music is in the micro and macro dynamics of the recording.
    (4) You have to assess how you listen to music and build your system accordingly. If you use music for casual backgrounds you will get away with less. If you dedicate time to sit in the "sweet spot" and actively listen, you might become an obsessive audiophile. If your system does double duty for home theater and music then there is a balancing act. Build accordingly.
    (5) Join a local audio club and attend meetings at members homes. Listen to what their system sounds like and make notes for yourself on what you like and what you don't like. You will learn a lot from the other members, and you will hear a wide variety of systems, from solid state, to tubes, to planer speakers, to horns, to vinyl, to computer auidio, etc. There's a lot to learn, but there are also a lot of people who are more than willing to talk about their experience and share their thoughts and let you listen to what they consider good sound.
    (6) Most of all, enjoy the hobby. It's a journey not just a destination.
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  16. #16
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    I used to watch this video at least once a month for inspiration. The soundtrack is sublime.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvk...of-athen_music
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  17. #17
    Member BobM's Avatar
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    The Audiophile Club of Athens video is sick. Huge high priced equipment with gleaming polished chrome, and lots of tubes, and big big speakers, and guys listening with their eyes closed. You really don't have to spend that kind of money to get good sound. A lot of what they do is for "show" and "keeping up with the Konstantine's"

    They also have a website: http://www.aca.gr/
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  18. #18
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    Yeah, the ACA is definitely into trying to see whose dick is bigger. It's still entertaining to see their passion for this stuff. My wife would kill me if I tried to put speakers that size in our living room!
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    2. Modern electronics are all so much better than anything thirty years ago, that nearly any piece of equipment will outperform comparable pieces from the 1980s. If in doubt, upgrade.
    I would say If in doubt, DON't upgrade. In most cases.
    There are several reasons, but these in particular I would take into consideration:

    1) Modern = computer inside every player, amplifier etc. Computer = pulse power supply = digital noise etc. You got it.
    2) Modern = not made to be durable. Well, in most cases. If I buy an audio equipment I mean to keep it for years. I still own a 20-y.o. Pioneer CD player desk and it still works flawlessly (I listen to music almost each other day).
    3) Modern = computer inside (see n.1) = bugged firmware that's abandoned almost as soon as it hits the store shelves. Will there be any updates fixing the bugs? NO. Or YES - only if the new version introduces new bugs. Been there done that. ahem... Philips... ahem...
    4) Modern = fancy = $$$ - you know you'd better waste these getting more music!!!

    Well, if it's really falling apart at the seams... of course. 1980s? Yeah, no doubt. 1990s? Not so sure.
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    I wasn't surprised at how quickly I saw posts about cables not making a difference, or how how pricy products are all sold by "shysters". But I am very glad that the thread didn't deteriorate into the typical argument of "yes it does" - "no it doesn't". So, trying to keep this on-track, here's my thoughts ...

    (1) I think if you are looking to build a high quality system for audiophile playback the best bang for the dollar is in the used equipment market. Those high priced well regarded pieces of equipment from 2005 - 2010 are selling for half price or less.
    (2) 50% + of an audio systems sound quality is dependent on the room. It pays handsomely to properly set up the speakers and try, as much as possible, to treat the room acoustics to optomize what you are hearing. There are countless articles on the web that will help you work through this.
    (3) Another large part of "quality sound" is the mastering of the recording itself. Most mass market pop and rock music is over compressed, distorted, flat sounding, and not-dynamic (though it is "loud"). However, part of the emotional content of the music is in the micro and macro dynamics of the recording.
    (4) You have to assess how you listen to music and build your system accordingly. If you use music for casual backgrounds you will get away with less. If you dedicate time to sit in the "sweet spot" and actively listen, you might become an obsessive audiophile. If your system does double duty for home theater and music then there is a balancing act. Build accordingly.
    (5) Join a local audio club and attend meetings at members homes. Listen to what their system sounds like and make notes for yourself on what you like and what you don't like. You will learn a lot from the other members, and you will hear a wide variety of systems, from solid state, to tubes, to planer speakers, to horns, to vinyl, to computer auidio, etc. There's a lot to learn, but there are also a lot of people who are more than willing to talk about their experience and share their thoughts and let you listen to what they consider good sound.
    (6) Most of all, enjoy the hobby. It's a journey not just a destination.
    Great post. Considering the room as part of the system is definitely the way to go when getting the components. However, I don't think that quickly debunking items that have been proven both scientifically as well as with A/B testing to not make any sound quality differences, is a bad thing. It's a very good thing, as it will help the user build the best system that he has budgeted for. There's a LOT of snake oil in the audio industry. Thankfully, there are also a lot of articles on the internet that help debunk the junk.

    And yeah - the source discs themselves obviously matter a lot. For example, Aqualung isn't going to be an audiophile experience on even the best system.

  21. #21
    Howdy Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Can't tell you how many times I looked through this store's catalogs in the late 70s/early 80s when I was in high school and college.

  22. #22
    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    (5) Join a local audio club and attend meetings at members homes. Listen to what their system sounds like and make notes for yourself on what you like and what you don't like. You will learn a lot from the other members, and you will hear a wide variety of systems, from solid state, to tubes, to planer speakers, to horns, to vinyl, to computer auidio, etc. There's a lot to learn, but there are also a lot of people who are more than willing to talk about their experience and share their thoughts and let you listen to what they consider good sound.
    The only recommendation on your list that I have an issue with is this one. I think you run a rather high chance, in any audio club, of running into men whose goal is not high fidelity at all, but rather the fairy dust of extreme expenditure. People who simply love music are not the type to join clubs of equipment collectors who are more interested in "comparing their rigs" than listening to music.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    Yeah, the ACA is definitely into trying to see whose dick is bigger.
    Isn't there a private thread somewhere here for that.
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  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    The only recommendation on your list that I have an issue with is this one. I think you run a rather high chance, in any audio club, of running into men whose goal is not high fidelity at all, but rather the fairy dust of extreme expenditure. People who simply love music are not the type to join clubs of equipment collectors who are more interested in "comparing their rigs" than listening to music.
    It's always amazed me what music some big-rig dudes actually play. I mean $100K to listen to Norah Jones? Where's the adventure in that?
    "Always ready with the ray of sunshine"

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by strawberrybrick View Post
    It's always amazed me what music some big-rig dudes actually play. I mean $100K to listen to Norah Jones? Where's the adventure in that?
    Amen Indeed

    That being said, I did get once or twice a catalogue that advertised expensive, but oh so sweet sounding (if ya believed the hype) "carefully mastered/recorded" CDs and Vinyl. Does anybody have any experience with the "Audiophile" recording market, and any suggestions as to labels that really do make a superior product and which are more hype than reality??

    just curious
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