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Is it all bull**** now?

I haven't visited a "hi-fi" shop in a long time, so I'd like to know if my experience was the new norm.  I wanted to see and hear a rather unusual and uncommon loudspeaker.  There is a dealer about an hour away that was having an open house and demo that included these, so we made a day of it and went to see them.

First, the dealer didn't have the second-from-the-top model that I really wanted to see, so we listened to the third-down model.  It was  interesting, but it turned out the "demo" wasn't really the speakers.  The dealer wanted to demo the power conditioning system, including the mechanical grounding discs to prop everything else.  I wanted to ask some technical information about the speakers, especially how they managed distortion in their rather radical omnidirectional driver system.  He informed me that there was no distortion--because of the $32,000 insulation-biased cable system.  That and the power conditioner, of course.   

So is this how it's going to be?  I'm not that likely to buy the speakers anyway--they're quite expensive--but I could.  But there's no chance at all if I can't have a rational discussion with the supposed experts.  I don't expect them to be unbiased and I can deal with normal salesmanship and opinions, but this seems like if you want anything to do with high-end, you have to join the cult and drink the kool-aid. 

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #1
On my last foray into the "hi-fi" world, I had a good idea of what I wanted and auditioned several pairs of candidates in a dealer's. Nothing in a controlled fashion and I had to try and ignore the BS. When the selected pair was delivered, I also had to ignore the advice about them needing a fair while to "burn in". Nothing was actually said at the time but I caught some puzzled looks at my speaker cables (ordinary, solid copper "mains" cable). I also replaced an amp and CD player not so long ago but I just selected what met my needs, based on specs & features and bought them unseen - I'm not disappointed and didn't sell any organs to fund them.

In short, yes, it's probably "normal". I remember walking out of a hi-fi store some years ago when the spotty-youth of a salesman was trying to sell me some "directional" speaker cable. I gave up and walked out when he wouldn't concede that cables carrying AC cannot possibly work if they're directional. How can you make a sensible purchase in a store that supports such drivel?

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #2
  I wanted to ask some technical information about the speakers, especially how they managed distortion in their rather radical omnidirectional driver system.  He informed me that there was no distortion--because of the $32,000 insulation-biased cable system.  That and the power conditioner, of course.   

For only $9999 I could give your speaker cables a treatment that eliminates all distortion as well. You can even keep the bolt cutter afterwards, should the distortion return.
“It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.”
- Donald Trump, May 2017

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #3
Last time I was in my local "high end" store I was told I couldn't listen to a CD I'd brought because the owner was tired of it. I was auditioning a $15k pair of speakers. Haven't been back.

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #4
Yes, it's all BS now. Or at least, typical audiophile nonsense is all BS now. It was always mostly BS, but sound reproduction technology has gotten so good now that basic "prosumer"-grade speakers will sound as clear as the most expensive snake oil you can possibly find. Your average clock radio still sounds like crap, of course, but any believably-priced speakers from a respectable brand intended for use in a home audio system are going to sound as good as any 1980's ceiling-height hi-fi speaker stack. That doesn't leave much room for audiophile brands to make genuinely better products anymore, so nowadays they try to sell you cachet, prestige, and bragging rights instead.

After college I lived with my father for a few years while I saved money working at my first job. He's a music hobbyist, with a silent PC dedicated to running Pro Tools to record his music, and a set of JBL self-correcting studio monitors to play it back on. I was blown away by how good they sounded. When I moved out, I dropped $2000 on my own set -- two tweeter/woofers and one subwoofer -- and I still have them with no regrets. They have a special microphone that plugs into the left-front speaker; you connect the microphone, position it where you plan to sit, then press a calibration button on the front of the speaker and run out of the room. The speakers make a series of very loud BWOOOOP! sounds, as they "ring-out" the room to detect resonant and muted frequencies caused by the size and shape of the room as well as the positioning of the furniture, and then they generate an EQ map from those measurements. The effect is subtle, but the bass is noticeably less boomy and the midrange doesn't have any weird peaks at specific frequencies when playing loud music.

The studio monitors are each self-amplified and have a variety of inputs -- TLS, XLR, and S/PDIF. They also have a set of proprietary interconnects that use shielded Ethernet cables, so they can coordinate between each other. I play FLAC files on my computer, with the audio signal transmitted to my TV via a HDMI cable, then I send the TV's TOSlink digital audio output to a converter box made by Audio Authority. That box converts the TOSlink signal to S/PDIF and sends it on to the speakers, where it is finally converted to analog inside the speaker housing by the built-in amplifier. You can't get a cleaner signal than that, not even with $32,000 insulation-biased audio cables, whatever the hell those are. :D (if anyone's wondering, I went into the hidden setup menu on my TV to disable all pre-processing of the digital audio signal.)

With this setup I can use the same speakers to listen to music, watch movies, listen to my vintage(?) Onkyo Hi-MD player, and I have a patch cable hanging out in case anyone wants to plug in their iPod. (I don't actually have any friends, but at least the option is there, in case anyone ever decides to willingly inflict my presence on themselves.)

Some people say studio monitors sound flat, but the last time I checked, THAT'S THE POINT. They reproduce sound as accurately as possible, with no "color" or "depth" or "emotion" added to it, so I hear what the recording engineer heard, and what the musician wanted me to hear. If I feel the need, I can always adjust the EQ on my music player, but thus far the only adjustments I've made to the EQ are to compensate for the human ear's normal sensitivity to different frequencies. (I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when I looked up a sensitivity map of human hearing, and I realized it looked exactly like my EQ map, flipped upside-down.)

So that's my suggestion -- skip all the audiophile BS and buy the same equipment that actual music professionals use. They listen to the same tracks over and over more times in a year than most of us will in our entire lives.

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #5
SONY bull**** with it's SACD format.

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #6
Some people say studio monitors sound flat, but the last time I checked, THAT'S THE POINT. They reproduce sound as accurately as possible, with no "color" or "depth" or "emotion" added to it, so I hear what the recording engineer heard, and what the musician wanted me to hear.

I wonder why a recording engineer wouldn't rather use a tool that magnifies errors so they can be detected (and diagnosed) immediately.
“It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.”
- Donald Trump, May 2017

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #7
MiniDSP is doing some worthwhile stuff IMO: Their headphone measurement jig and matching DSP-equipped headphone amp allowed me to achieve frequency response approximating that proposed by Harman Int'l, and I like what I hear! Let's just say that the combination of a bit of crossfeed combined with equalization has spoiled me.

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #8
I wonder why a recording engineer wouldn't rather use a tool that magnifies errors so they can be detected (and diagnosed) immediately.

Because errors that are close to be non-intrusive (for most assumed listeners) take time to be removed. And in the field time is money so they leave it to the mastering engineer who will probably have suitable tools to remove noise, distortions, etc.

I as a mastering engineer will master on neutral gear and test on non-neutral gear after I'm done. Noise usually is one of the more lesser concerns for me (unless it's very loud). I usually look for a balanced frequency response (respective to music genre), dynamics a smaller speaker can handle and good mono compatibility.
marlene-d.blogspot.com

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #9
I love watching youtube vids of these total 'audiophile' snobs all fapping over these obscure systems that cost more than a house and take up a whole godammn room.

Then the only demo track they seem to play is some shitty old horn or string music from the Stone Age.

Its total bullshit. A good set of studio monitors, good tower or bookshelf speakers will accurately reproduce any god damn sound you want.

Im pretty sure that some of these insane systems are designed only to perfectly reproduce that shitty old horn demo track and if fed something good, will be total useless.
Hi-Fi: Audio Technica AT-LP5 Turntable | Cambridge Audio CXC CD Transport | 851N DAC/Streamer | 851W Pre-amp | 840W Power-amp | Cerwin Vega XLS215 Speakers

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #10
Quote
I as a mastering engineer will master on neutral gear and test on non-neutral gear after I'm done. Noise usually is one of the more lesser concerns for me (unless it's very loud). I usually look for a balanced frequency response (respective to music genre), dynamics a smaller speaker can handle and good mono compatibility.

Do you master for vinyl?  If so, are there additional considerations?

Re: Is it all bull**** now?

Reply #11
I usually look for a balanced frequency response (respective to music genre), dynamics a smaller speaker can handle and good mono compatibility.
I was going to ask what you mastered...then saw your sig link. Checking out...
Loudspeaker manufacturer


 

 
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