Imagine the angst of a first-time buyer of high-end audio equipment. Few places offer systems and everywhere there’s a bewildering array of component choices.
Where does one start on a hi-fi journey? It used to be that we went to our local dealer and picked from amongst a tier of systems from the affordable to the absurd. Today there’s far fewer qualified dealers and so first-time buyers are either left to their own devices or take what they can get from megastores like Best Buy.
Even magazines like Stereophile and The Absolute Sound focus more on components than systems. If I didn’t know better I’d simply do my research and purchase the best I could afford in any one category, tie it all together with what I could afford in cabling, press play and then pray.
Nowhere am I helped with maximizing synergy between components. If I bought the best DAC I could afford and played it through speakers that were too forward or bright what would I do to remedy the situation or even know where to start?
I suppose this all sounds like doom and gloom and that’s not my intent. I just felt it was important to let some of the issues facing first-time buyers bubble to the surface in the hopes of sparking conversation and debate. If we can talk problems through perhaps solution are right around the corner.
For our part, we’re working on the end goal of building stereo systems first-time or experienced buyers can slip into without worry or bewilderment: choose your price point and be assured the system will work perfectly together.
I am certain there are other paths as well.
I don’t agree with this one, especially as relates to bass, but what do I know?
Speaker size should match the room
This fact or fiction question is an interesting one because the notion of matching speaker size to room dimensions is so ingrained into our culture as to be taken for fact. But, some facts aren’t true no matter how much we want them to be.
Here’s the deal. Any size loudspeaker will work in just about any sized room. The exceptions are easily found with common sense: no, a pair of bookshelf speakers won’t work in the Astrodome just as an IRSV won’t fit into a closet.
As long as we’re on the same page with respect to common sense, let’s take a look at where these ideas came from.
Our natural human tendency is to match object size to the space they occupy, which is why a small dining room table in a big home looks out of place, or a king sized bed hardly works in a tiny room. But it’s our visual sensibilities that are at fault here, not the size mismatch. In fact, for a family of two with the occasional visiting couple, a 4-seat dining room table is all we need irrespective of the dining room’s size. And I can tell you from personal experience a king bed sleeps as well in a cramped room as it does in a palatial suite.
I remember one of my trips to NYC, while on a visit with Lyric HiFi owner Mike Kay. He took me to an old Brownstone somewhere on the city’s West Side to visit an IRSV owner. To my surprise, the giant 4-piece Infinity speaker system dominated their tiny living room to such a degree that the owners had to walk between the midrange and woofer towers to access their upstairs bedroom. The beasts consumed 80% of their living room and looked absurdly out of place to me, but oh man did they sing! These were some of the finest sounds I had ever heard from a pair of the massive speakers—almost as nice as another tiny room filled with them at the home of the Absolute Sound Magazine’s publisher, Harry Pearson.
With common sense boundaries in mind, I am calling this one fiction.