Skip to main content
Topic: What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware? (Read 3428 times) previous topic - next topic
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Hi!

This is an honest question. In what ways is expensive equipment really better than mediocre stuff? What could I (sonically) expect of equipment that is 10 times more expensive than your regular stereo from the local "hi-fi" dealer?
Things I came up with myself:
- better dynamics (less noisy)
- less distortion (ie frequency shift, inter frequency modulation stuff)
- flat frequency response
- larger frequency range (aka as boom boom and chirp chirp)

Could someone please try to quantify the improvement? What else is better? Which one of these things are the ones that you feel most? What about things like soundstage? Isn't that more related to where you put your speakers and the geometry of your listening environment rather than what cd player you use? An amplifier that is considered to have a superb soundstage... well, that to me seems more like the "wow" type dsp plugins of Winamp rather than accurate reproduction. If what I say is wrong then please correct me. I don't know very much about high grade equipment.

One of the reasons I'm asking this, is because so many people say: "I can't distinguish <insert encoder/setting here> from the original. But I will still use <like before only better> in case I will get better equipment someday. Which of the improvements could actually help you hear more artifacts or make your files sound bad all of a sudden? I have the feeling that if you can't tell one from the other on a low/medium grade system, that won't change if you upgrade your hardware. Also I think that the currently used encoders/settings, that are generally considered transparent, will sound very good even on high quality system.

So many questions, please shed some light into the dark shraud which surrounds me! 

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #1
Visit audiophile friends, or a good Hifi-dealer with good equipment and listening room.

Listening yourselfs is better than any recommendation.

One prefers full dynamics, precise sound; others (eg. a friend of mine) prefers more bass, and allover a mild, soft sound.
Difficult to describe.


BTW:

Select player with digital out, and amp with digital in of course.

Then the player (today: combined DVD/CD/MP3-player) can be very cheap.

The next step is the amp/receiver.
digital in, if you buy a new one. probably multichannel, dts decoder is a must today.
dts CDDA with 5.1 music rocks, not comparable to 5.1 ac3.

btw, older stereo amps are still very well often for stereo, or for front speaker.


The most important piece in a sound chain are the speakers:

Here helps only listening yourselfs. and you can waste money for crap (eg. Bose as famous example...) or investing a lot money for really amazing sound quality for years and whole life.

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #2
Thx for the answer. Visiting a local hifi store sounds like a good idea. I have no friend (nor enemy ) that is anywhere near audiophile. Most consider me crazy for not using mp3 @ 128k or lower and would rather take the blue pill than be "enlightened" about the pitfalls of psychoaccoustic audio compression. Sorry if I gave the impression that I wanted to buy any equipment or am looking for hardware recommendations. I am not. I can think about spending money once I finnish the university and have a job. Until then I am notoriously broke.

My question is more theoretical. It has been stated many times that no special hardware is required to hear artifacts. I wonder if it is safe to say, that if whatever you use sounds good on your current setup, it will sound good on most other setups within financial range. I think there is no need to invest more bits now to be safe for the future. So many people say: "Mpc std is absolutely transparent to me, but I'd rather use braindead, because in the very distant future I might get myself a 30k € System and I would hate my old mpcs to death. If only I had used braindead back then." I would like to make a counterstatement because I think these people need a reality check but do not have enough background and don't know if what I say is valid. Perhaps some people with high quality equipment could share their experience with "low grade" mp3 aps or mpc std.

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #3
There are several "jewels" in the world of hi-fi audio.  A friend of mine that used to work for Cary Audio Design(some of the best vacuum tube amps you can get) builds and designs his own amplifiers, he is a GENIUS when it comes to audio and electronics.  He's proven time and time again that the SIMPLER the amplifier, the cleaner and better your sound will be.  His custom amplifiers rival several thousand dollar pieces of equipment, he is making me one for $150 for parts and labor.  I am using a 7 watt amplifier that he built right now, and it will PUMP out the sound because it is mated to such efficient speakers(rebuilt BIC Formula 1). 

I used to use a Technics Class-H reciever for a long time, and thought it sounded fine, then I switched to a Cary Audio vacuum tube pre-amp, and this 7watt amplifier.  It was such a dramatic improvement, I didn't know I was missing so much.  The improvement was just.. the amazing balance of the lows, mids, and highs.  The Technics was very honky sounding. 

So then I took out the pre-amp because the tubes were dying.  WOW!  There was much more punch and everything was VERY crisp, overly crisp, I had lost some mellowness.

His new amp that he is building for me is a balance between this, it's mellow but still contains the punch, accuracy, and detail to the sound.

My setup became better and better the simpler I went!

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #4
user: Is there actually CDDA with 5.1 surround commonly available?  None of my audio CDs have the Dolby Surround logo on them, and my stereo (which supports both formats of 5.1 surround) doesn't detect them as having surround info either.  Is this something that only a few audiophile-targetted classical CDs have, or is it going to become commonplace anytime soon?  Or only on SACD/DVD-A?

Gecko: I'd guess most of the artifacting problems aren't related to the quality of your equipment (as long as it's at least decent).  For example, probably the biggest problem with transform codecs (MP3/Ogg) is pre-echo, and any mid-range stereo system is going to have a good enough time resolution for you to hear the pre-echo; a high-end stereo probably won't change things much in this regard.  I can see some problems that may only become apparent on high-end stereo systems; for example, if there's some distortion in the high frequencies and your cheap stereo doesn't reproduce the high frequencies well, you might not notice it.  But I don't think these are the common cases.  I can't say for sure, but I'd guess that the vast majority of lossy-codec artifacts, if they're audible at all, will begin to become audible on mid-range systems (I'd call a mid-range system a mid-range stereo -- either a component system or a good shelf system -- with a pair of $70 headphones, like the Sennheiser 497s or the Grado SR-60s).  And I'd guess that most of them, especially the more audible artifacts, will probably be audible on even lower end systems.

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #5
CDDA specs don't allow for multi-channel audio beyond pro-logic.  You can find DTS CD's with 5.1 encoding, but they won't play in a regular CD player as far as I know.  There's not really enough room for large amounts of multichannel audio on a regular CD anyway unless you're using compression.  With the current availability of DVD-A and SACD, it's unlikely that another competing standard will come out.  Pretty much anything new will require new players anyway and if DVD-A and SACD aren't blowing away CD's in terms of sales I don't see much of an incentive for anybody else to get in the game.

G

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #6
Quote
Hi!

This is an honest question. In what ways is expensive equipment really better than mediocre stuff? What could I (sonically) expect of equipment that is 10 times more expensive than your regular stereo from the local "hi-fi" dealer?
Things I came up with myself:
- better dynamics (less noisy)
- less distortion (ie frequency shift, inter frequency modulation stuff)
- flat frequency response
- larger frequency range (aka as boom boom and chirp chirp)

Could someone please try to quantify the improvement? What else is better? Which one of these things are the ones that you feel most? What about things like soundstage? Isn't that more related to where you put your speakers and the geometry of your listening environment rather than what cd player you use? An amplifier that is considered to have a superb soundstage... well, that to me seems more like the "wow" type dsp plugins of Winamp rather than accurate reproduction. If what I say is wrong then please correct me. I don't know very much about high grade equipment.

One of the reasons I'm asking this, is because so many people say: "I can't distinguish <insert encoder/setting here> from the original. But I will still use <like before only better> in case I will get better equipment someday. Which of the improvements could actually help you hear more artifacts or make your files sound bad all of a sudden? I have the feeling that if you can't tell one from the other on a low/medium grade system, that won't change if you upgrade your hardware. Also I think that the currently used encoders/settings, that are generally considered transparent, will sound very good even on high quality system.

So many questions, please shed some light into the dark shraud which surrounds me! 

Definitely the top three, though some prefer coloration to their sound.  Personally I favor accuracy over any particular coloration, but I'm also a recording guy so I require accuracy and faithful representation from my monitors as well.

One thing not on your list is build quality.  I expect an amp or receiver I pay $1K for to last for more than two years and to hold up under prolonged periods of high output playback.  More thought generally goes into the arrangement of internal components and the division of power.  Denon's amps, as an example, segregate the power transformers used to drive each speaker channel, provide separate transformers for video and audio circuitry, and even allow for you to shut down everything but the required components during audio playback.  Alot of this plays to reducing distortion and noise.  A clean and powerful amp, excepting the extremely low wattage tube amps with super-efficient speakers, will also better handle dynamics and be able to supply the speakers with the power necessary to reproduce highly dynamic music.

G

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #7
"@user: Is there actually CDDA with 5.1 surround commonly available? None of my audio CDs have the Dolby Surround logo on them, and my stereo (which supports both formats of 5.1 surround) doesn't detect them as having surround info either. Is this something that only a few audiophile-targetted classical CDs have, or is it going to become commonplace anytime soon? Or only on SACD/DVD-A?"


@ Delirium:

Dolby Surround (old, or new and improved (compared to old DPL) DPL 2 (Dolby ProLogic 2)) is NOT 5.1 !
ac3 = DD = Dolby Digital is 5.1, but quality is not the best.
dts 5.1 is better than ac3.



Commonly available as CDDA is:

5.1 dts !

you can pack 5.1 dts (even 5.1 ac3 by program HeadAC3he) in a wave-container.
These wav files you can copy and burn normally as CDDA.

Every old CDplayer (or newer DVD/CD/MP3/SVCD-player with digital out) with digital out plays them. For decoding you need an amp with dts decoder and of course digital in.

Amazing dts CDs are:
Santana - Abraxas 5.1 dts
Sheryl crow - The Globe Sessions 6.1/5.1 dts ES
Chick Corea - Remembering Bud Powell
Billy Cobham - live in Rome 5.1 dts,


gdougherty: "CDDA specs don't allow for multi-channel audio beyond pro-logic. You can find DTS CD's with 5.1 encoding, but they won't play in a regular CD player as far as I know....."

This is totally wrong, gd, please read above.
CDDA specs allow wav 16 bit, 44,1 kHz. wav is a container format. You can pack digitally compressed music in it, multichannel, eg. 5.1 dts or ac3.
Of course an old/normal D/A-converter of a CDplayer produces only noise at analogue out...
But at digitally out even every old player is well.

In fact DVD-A or SACD is not needed, if you would have listened to well mastered dts 5.1 CDDA's, like in examples above !
DVD-A/SACD is just for copy protection... (and selling new hardware players)

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #8
Thx for the replies!
I guess I know where the fear of using standard grade compression comes from. Like ben said, he gets more punch and crispness out of his upgraded system. Others report such things as "much more detail" etc. and they think that this detail is lost when encoding to mp3 or mpc. Is it really? Where do the crispness and detail come from? Is this because of accurate sound reproduction or perhaps some coloration of the sound which gives you the sensation of better crispness? If the latter is true, then wouldn't this also make your mp3s sound crisper, fuller, better? Is the crispness allready in the original recording, but you need a good enough system to hear it? Because if it isn't there, I suppose it can't be lost on the encoding process.

@gdoughtery: yes, of course long lasting equpiment is good, but my main focus was on sound reproduction only and it effects on the audibility of artifacts.

@Delerium (and others ): I keep wondering: when you use lossy compression, you sacrifice some time and frequency resolution. Would such a loss be masked (enough) by cheap equipment, that has slow attack response time (mask preecho?) and the amp/speaker don't reproduce multiple simultanious frequencies well (mask imprecise frequency representation) + any other factors you can think of?

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #9
Quote
- better dynamics (less noisy)


Not always : an audiophile 7w tube ampli have less dynamics than a cheap 50W classB.

Quote
- less distortion (ie frequency shift, inter frequency modulation stuff)


Not always, same example

Quote
- flat frequency response
- larger frequency range (aka as boom boom and chirp chirp)


The main difference are the speakers. They will likely match the above.

Quote
What else is better? Which one of these things are the ones that you feel most?


I'd say that the room and speaker position is 40% of the sound (you can get 20 db peaks in the 50 - 200 Hz range in a normal room, according to where the speakers are !)
Speakers would be 40%, and CD player+ampli 20%.


Quote
What about things like soundstage?


I'm deaf to soundstage

Quote
One of the reasons I'm asking this, is because so many people say: "I can't distinguish <insert encoder/setting here> from the original.


I've got a 1200 € ampli + 1500 € speakers and I can't either.

Quote
But I will still use <like before only better> in case I will get better equipment someday.


Not because of a future better equipment, but because I know there will be sooner or later a CD that will kill the encoding process. 

 

What To Expect Of Good Hifi Hardware?

Reply #10
I prefer transparency and accuracy.
Good soundcard -> Active studio monitors is my only preference.
never heard a classic hifi setup match the soundreproduction...

for smaller budgets the Behringer TRUTHs are my recommendation.

 
SimplePortal 1.0.0 RC1 © 2008-2019