What Is "High End" Audio?

DarqueKnight
DarqueKnight Posts: 6,666
edited February 2010 in 2 Channel Audio
Introduction

I became an audio hobbyist in 1985. Prior to that year, I had always had "nice" stereo systems, even in high school and college. However, in 1985 I became interested in more performance oriented audio equipment. The first place I worked after college had a thriving high end audio club. I was, and still am, very grateful for the patience, courtesy and generosity shown to me by those audiophiles. Although I was impressed by the music reproduction capabilities of those systems, I had no desire to have high end quality in my home, although I could well afford it. I just didn't have the degree of interest to justify the required investment in time and money.

Another major discouraging factor was the unreliability of high end gear in the early 80's. High end audio was a "cottage" industry back then. A lot of the designs were tweaky, temperamental constructs that operated on the brink of failure. Some high end gear had a reputation for spending more time in repair than at the purchaser's home making music. I spent many amusing hours reading about some hideously expensive high end component that did not function long enough to make it through the reviewer's evaluation trials. My attitude back then was: High end? Ummmm...no thanks. I'll stick to my less sonically satisfying, but infinitely more reliable, mid-fi gear! Yet, I did like to "window shop" high end gear while shopping for mid-fi gear. Most audio retailers back then carried mid-fi and upper mid-fi gear along with their high end lines. Most dealers were happy to demonstrate the differences between the higher performance gear even when they knew I wasn't buying in that price range. They figured I might be interested in moving upstream someday and I might remember them fondly when I decided to take the plunge.

I did not decide to take the plunge until 18 years later, in 2003. The motivating factors were the significant increases in reliability of high end gear, the new high resolution digital formats and advancements in turntable and cartridge design.

What Is High End Audio? Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?

What is "high end" audio? What is "high end" anything? It is commonly thought that "high end" is characterized only by high quality, high performance and corresponding high price, but that is not all there is to it. High quality and high performance (and typically, a corresponding high price) are all parts of the high end equation. However, the most important variable in the high end equation is thoughtful design that results in "lifelike" performance. Therefore, I define "high end" as:

"A combination of thoughtful functional and aesthetic design practices that combines high quality materials and high quality construction techniques to produce an item, component or system with high performance, high reliability and lifelike characteristics."
Some "high end" examples:

High End Homes

Some people have purchased expensive homes constructed of the finest materials and then found the home to be unpleasant to live in due to thoughtless design flaws such as:

1. A kitchen with an awkward layout that makes cooking a chore.
2. A/C system outlets laid out in a manner that resulted in hot and cold spots throughout the home.
3. Little consideration given to window placement and size in order to maximize the amount and quality of natural light flowing into the home.
4. An awkward overall floor plan that hinders the natural flow of personal movement throughout the home.

On the other hand, owners of high end homes that are thoughtfully designed and constructed of high quality materials with high quality construction techniques say that their homes are more like another living member of the family rather than a dead amalgam of wood, stone and metal.

High End Sports Cars

There are sports cars and there are high end sports cars. High end sports cars are more similar to living creatures...most typically growling, grumbling, rumbling, snarling...and agile, killer cats, rather than mere machines. Furthermore, the driver of a high end sports car has more of a sense of being one with the vehicle, rather than merely driving it. In other words, the high end sports car becomes an extension of the driver's body and senses. Some owners of such vehicles say they almost hate to get in them because then they hate to get out of them.

High End Hand And Power Tools

Any craftsman will testify that cheap and mid-line tools can get the job done. The craftsman will also testify that high end tools get the job done easier with more accuracy and cause less mental and physical fatigue. The high end tool is more like a living extension of the craftsman's hands rather than a dead metallic instrument.

High End Audio: A Faithful Imitation Of Life

It is difficult to get a good demo between a mid-fi and high end audio system in a retail establishment these days. I appreciate the Internet as an information tool, but I am glad that I got introduced to audio (through personal instruction and personal evaluation) before the Internet appeared.

A high end audio system conveys more of the sonic and tactile sensations that are typical of a real live musical performance. Simply put, the high end audio system provides a more convincing sonic and tactile illusion...it provides more realism. The sonic and tactile cues are more lifelike. In addition to this, the sound is not fatiguing over time.

What causes listening fatigue? Noise, distortion and missing information causes listening fatigue. When your brain receives sensory information that is an approximation of a real sensory event, it filters and interpolates in an attempt to provide a more pleasant experience. Filtering is the process of removing or diminishing data that the brain knows shouldn't be there. Interpolation is the process of filling in data that the brain knows should be there. The more lifelike (accurate) a sensory approximation, the less "work" (filtering and interpolating) the brain has to do. The less work the brain has to do to enjoy music reproduction, the less likely the occurrence of listening fatigue.

Most people can filter and interpolate the following sentence and read it correctly:
Th..e cr/zy l&zy borwn f^x [email protected]_ded ^he ch{}kn ouse lst n&i#gh--t.

Imagine the fatigue that would set in if you tried to read a 200 page book written in this fashion. This is the reason why some owners of mid-fi audio systems can only tolerate, at most, a few hours of critical listening and some owners of high end audio systems can critically listen indefinitely.

What Is "Reference Quality" As It Pertains To Audio?

A reference, or reference item, is merely a starting point for evaluation or measurement. A reference can be at the low, middle or high end of a classification field. The terms "premier" and "deluxe" signify outright that the goods that they are applied to are the best or among the best in their class. Marketers know that the terms "reference level" and "reference quality" connote superior performance in the minds of consumers. Actually, those terms are virtually meaningless unless a context for comparison is given. If a manufacturer claims to offer a "reference level" item without stating what the reference is compared to, this is an open ended statement without meaning and it absolves the manufacturer of substantiating its claim. If a manufacturer claims to offer a "reference level" item that is "comparable to the best available at any price"" or that is "the best in its class", then such claims carry some fire and the consumer then has a basis for accurate evaluation. Furthermore, the manufacturer making such claims must provide substantiation if they want to be taken seriously.

Professional boxing has several weight classes and there are world champions in each weight classes. The middle weight boxing champion of the world is a "world class" and "reference level" boxer, but I don't think there is any reasonable expectation that the middle class world boxing champion could hold up very well against the heavy weight world boxing champion. Both boxers are world class and "reference level", yet each has very different levels of performance and very different physical attributes. The heavyweight boxing champion is "reference level" within his own weight class, but he is more importantly the "premier" boxer among all boxers.

Something can be high quality, high cost, impressive in performance and "reference level", yet still not be "high end". Something that is high end is reference level by default.

Conclusion

High price does not necessarily mean high end. A high price can easily be assigned to anything.

High quality materials does not necessarily mean high end. High quality materials in an unreliable, poorly constructed item is a failure waiting to happen.

High performance does not necessarily mean high end. Something can have textbook perfect performance and be unlifelike and unpleasant to the senses.

High quality construction does not necessarily mean high end. Something that is well constructed of the finest materials can cause great misery if the basic design is flawed...like an attractive and expensive pair of shoes made of the finest quality leather using the best construction techniques, yet the basic design did not consider the anatomical characteristics of the human foot.

Thoughtful design resulting in reliable and lifelike high performance is the essence of high end audio.
"So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
"Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
"Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
"Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
Post edited by DarqueKnight on
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Comments

  • nooshinjohn
    nooshinjohn Posts: 23,599
    edited January 2010
    Very well written DK... I belive your conclusions are spot on.
    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, Arcam AVR21, Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk Audio Legend L800 with height modules, L400 Center Channel Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds. Marantz MM7025 stereo amp. Yamaha CD-S2100 SACD Player.

    In retirement...TriangleArt Reference SE with Walker Precision Motor Drive,

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right” — George Orwell

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • danz1906
    danz1906 Posts: 5,144
    edited January 2010
    Thoughtful design resulting in reliable and lifelike high performance is the essence of high end audio.

    Well said!
    Linn AV5140 fronts
    Linn AV5120 Center
    Linn AV5140 Rears
    M&K MX-70 Sub for Music
    Odyssey Mono-Blocs
    SVS Ultra-13 Gloss Black:D
  • Knucklehead
    Knucklehead Posts: 3,606
    edited January 2010
    Awesome analogies for the lay-person like myself. Enjoyed that very much.
    Polk Audio Surround Bar 360
    Mirage PS-12
    LG BDP-550
    Motorola HD FIOS DVR
    Panasonic 42" Plasma
    XBOX 360[/SIZE]

    Office stuff

    Allied 395 receiver
    Pioneer CDP PD-M430
    RT8t's & Wharfedale Diamond II's[/SIZE]

    Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music. ~Ronald Reagan
  • Sherardp
    Sherardp Posts: 8,038
    edited January 2010
    Excellent read DK. How have you been anyway? Any new toys as of late?
    Shoot the jumper.....................BALLIN.............!!!!!

    Home Theater Pics in the Showcase :cool:

    http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/showcase/view.php?userid=73580
  • wayne3burk
    wayne3burk Posts: 939
    edited January 2010
    danz1906 wrote: »
    Thoughtful design resulting in reliable and lifelike high performance is the essence of high end audio.

    Well said!

    I think if i could afford high end audio equipment, my main concern would be if it could reproduce lifelike performance of unamplified wind, brass, stringed and percussion instruments. That is small venue jazz performances, chamber music, pipe organ music and the like. I probably wouldn't lose any sleep if it couldn't reproduce the sound of Black Sabbath Live in Concert.
    Yamaha RX-V2700, EMI 711As (front), RCA K-16 (rear), Magnavox Console (Center & TV Stand), Sony SMP-N200 media streamer, Dual 1249 TT =--- Sharp Aquas 60" LCD tellie
  • maandjojo
    maandjojo Posts: 293
    edited January 2010
    Can't add to perfection. Great post.

    Joe
    Joe
  • jaxwired
    jaxwired Posts: 201
    edited January 2010
    The one thing I object to (not the OP) is when people think high-end audio and super high priced audio are synonymous. They absolutely are not. High end audio means high performance and that's it. It may or may not be high cost.

    I also really don't like the term "mid-fi" which I would say is pretentious and condescending along with being meaningless. This term is almost always used to classify gear based on cost, not performance.

    The great thing about high end audio is that it is possible to assemble a system that is every bit as jaw dropping as a super expensive system for a fraction of the price. And I'm talking every bit, not almost, or pretty close. Once you get past entry level gear, 2 channel equipment shows only a marginal relationship between cost and performance. I'm talking electronics here, not speakers. Speakers generally have a closer relationship between cost and peformance because the raw materials and manufacturing costs play a much bigger role.

    But a cost conscious well informed savy shopper that is patient and willing to go through multiple iterations of gear swapping can assemble the classic giant killer system for not so giant expense and that is definately NOT "mid-fi".
    2 Channel
    NAD C545 -> Benchmark DAC1 -> Bryston BP6 -> Bryston 4B SST2 -> Dynaudio Contour S1.4
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    ^^ I totally disagree. Respect your POV, but that is not at all what I have experienced after 25 years in this hobby. I do agree the most expensive piece of anything you can buy may not be the best performing at the end of the day. But you can not build the same jaw dropping system for a fraction of the price of a truly high end system that has been carefully assembled.

    Also giant killer is like bigfoot.................a myth with no foundation.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • Knucklehead
    Knucklehead Posts: 3,606
    edited January 2010
    heiney9 wrote: »
    ^^ I totally disagree. Respect your POV, but that is not at all what I have experienced after 25 years in this hobby. I do agree the most expensive piece of anything you can buy may not be the best performing at the end of the day. But you can not build the same jaw dropping system for a fraction of the price of a truly high end system that has been carefully assembled.

    Also giant killer is like bigfoot.................a myth with no foundation.

    H9

    even used gear?
    Polk Audio Surround Bar 360
    Mirage PS-12
    LG BDP-550
    Motorola HD FIOS DVR
    Panasonic 42" Plasma
    XBOX 360[/SIZE]

    Office stuff

    Allied 395 receiver
    Pioneer CDP PD-M430
    RT8t's & Wharfedale Diamond II's[/SIZE]

    Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music. ~Ronald Reagan
  • halo71
    halo71 Posts: 4,441
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    High end audio means high performance and that's it.

    Is that an oxymoron? :p


    The great thing about high end audio is that it is possible to assemble a system that is every bit as jaw dropping as a super expensive system for a fraction of the price. And I'm talking every bit, not almost, or pretty close.

    Totally do not agree. I have never seen this to be true. Maybe a somewhat comparable setup can be acheived. But surely not "every bit as jaw dropping" "for a fraction of the price". Maybe in the used gear market though. Or through patience and finding the right used stuff.
    --Gary--
    Onkyo Integra M504, Bottlehead Foreplay III, Denon SACD, Thiel CS2.3, NHT VT-2, VT-3 and Evolution T6, Infinity RSIIIa, SDA1C and a few dozen other speakers around the house I change in and out.
  • Knucklehead
    Knucklehead Posts: 3,606
    edited January 2010
    Im thinking it could be done if it was "blind" listening experience with the 2 systems.

    Im not talking about starter gear either.
    Polk Audio Surround Bar 360
    Mirage PS-12
    LG BDP-550
    Motorola HD FIOS DVR
    Panasonic 42" Plasma
    XBOX 360[/SIZE]

    Office stuff

    Allied 395 receiver
    Pioneer CDP PD-M430
    RT8t's & Wharfedale Diamond II's[/SIZE]

    Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music. ~Ronald Reagan
  • jaxwired
    jaxwired Posts: 201
    edited January 2010
    Well heiney, looks like we will disagree on quite a bit. Let me ask you a few questions:

    1. Do you think it's possible for a great 2k amp to sound as good as a great 10k amp?
    2. Do you think it's possible for a great 2k CD player to sound as good as a great 10k CDP?
    3. Do you think it's possible for a great $200 interconnect to sound as good as a great 2k interconnect?

    If you answer yes, yes, and yes, then you do agree with me.

    If you answer no to these questions, then you believe that cost and peformance are extremely consistently connected. With something as subject as sound quality, it's hard to understand that point of view.
    2 Channel
    NAD C545 -> Benchmark DAC1 -> Bryston BP6 -> Bryston 4B SST2 -> Dynaudio Contour S1.4
  • nooshinjohn
    nooshinjohn Posts: 23,599
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    The great thing about high end audio is that it is possible to assemble a system that is every bit as jaw dropping as a super expensive system for a fraction of the price. And I'm talking every bit, not almost, or pretty close. Once you get past entry level gear, 2 channel equipment shows only a marginal relationship between cost and performance. I'm talking electronics here, not speakers. Speakers generally have a closer relationship between cost and peformance because the raw materials and manufacturing costs play a much bigger role.

    But a cost conscious well informed savy shopper that is patient and willing to go through multiple iterations of gear swapping can assemble the classic giant killer system for not so giant expense and that is definately NOT "mid-fi".

    I am planning on testing your hypothesis very soon when I place my Sunfire Stereo Signature 600x2 up against some 25k worth of Mcintosh tube monoblocks in a blind side by side. The speakers will be top of the line B&W's...

    Once I am able to get things set up, I will let everyone know and if there are Indianapolis Polkies that would like to be in on this, you will be more than welcome.
    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, Arcam AVR21, Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk Audio Legend L800 with height modules, L400 Center Channel Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds. Marantz MM7025 stereo amp. Yamaha CD-S2100 SACD Player.

    In retirement...TriangleArt Reference SE with Walker Precision Motor Drive,

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right” — George Orwell

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • jaxwired
    jaxwired Posts: 201
    edited January 2010
    heiney9 wrote: »
    I do agree the most expensive piece of anything you can buy may not be the best performing at the end of the day.H9

    You actually contradict yourself with this statement. If the most expensive equipment isn't the best performing, then, it obviously IS possible for a patient well informed person to find that "not the most expensive" CD player, amp, speakers, and cables, that not only performs as good as the most expensive equipment, but out performs it.

    You can't have it both ways. As soon as you admit that cost and performance are not perfectly correlated (which you do), you admit the existence of what you call the mythical giant killer.

    I'm just glad we settled that.
    2 Channel
    NAD C545 -> Benchmark DAC1 -> Bryston BP6 -> Bryston 4B SST2 -> Dynaudio Contour S1.4
  • hearingimpared
    hearingimpared Banned Posts: 21,137
    edited January 2010
    Awesome insight Raife!!!
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,666
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    I also really don't like the term "mid-fi" which I would say is pretentious and condescending along with being meaningless. This term is almost always used to classify gear based on cost, not performance.

    I wasn't aware that some people consider the term "mid-fi" to be pretentious and condescending, especially since so much modern mid-fi gear, like my Adcom power amps, have high performance characteristics. Audio, like most categories of merchandise, is classified into low, medium, and high lines.

    I can remember a time during the 80's when the term "high end" was condescending because the people who pursued that part of the audio hobby were thought to be "crazy" for investing large sums of money in equipment that spent significant amounts of time in repair.

    Most of the electronics I own would accurately be classified as "mid-fi" and I don't consider the term pejorative or condescending at all. Most of my gear is mid-fi based on the fact that its performance is in the middle between basic consumer grade (low-performance) gear and and high end gear.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    I can't answer the question simply because I don't compare components based on cost. What exactly are we talking about as far as gear? Cost means nothing as a basis for decision which to buy. In 25 years all the gear I feel performs the best tends to be at the higher end of the price tag. There are some exceptions always and I do agree that when you reach a certain level (not easily categorized or specifically identified) you can (not always) run into some form of diminishing returns.

    I tend to pick out gear now to audition, based on it's design and how it's put together. I can tell a lot about a piece based on how/who designed it and by understanding their philosophy and approach and can see if it parallels my thinking and experiences.

    I am not at all interested in anything that has to do with HT, or has all kinds of features, functions, controls, settings, gain stages, etc. I don't care who designed it or what the price tag states. I now enough about a lot of SS designs and their inherent shortcomings and I have certain principles and approaches I look for based on what I know I like.

    I can already tell you based on what I've read from the manufacturer's site about Emotiva I will never own one. I probably won't even own a NAD piece either or any Carver SS gear. Been there, done that with that type of gear. Even of they had very large price tags.

    For my main rig I'm into simplification, 1 or 2 gains stages, the best possible linearity, little to no negative feedback, simple single ended tubes in the pre-amp stage, an ultra neutral, single ended class A (2) gain stage SS pre-amp, that uses premium parts like expensive switching relays rather than switching I/C's and a unique gain circuit for a passive balance control and a particular motor driven ALPS volume pot that solves inherent distortion issues compared to regular type pots, etc, etc, this is true higher end performance that isn't easily achieved or available from "mid-fi" products or products positioned at the lower end of the scale. I have a budget just like everyone else and prefer to buy used to keep depreciation to a minimum.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    You actually contradict yourself with this statement. If the most expensive equipment isn't the best performing, then, it obviously IS possible for a patient well informed person to find that "not the most expensive" CD player, amp, speakers, and cables, that not only performs as good as the most expensive equipment, but out performs it.

    You can't have it both ways. As soon as you admit that cost and performance are not perfectly correlated (which you do), you admit the existence of what you call the mythical giant killer.

    I'm just glad we settled that.

    You're trying to pin me down with absolutes, there are none. But like I stated above I look at the design because anyone can make something and put any price tag they want on it................doesn't make it the best or the best sounding. But you'll find as I have after 25 years.......predominately the higher you spend up the chain the better the results, performance and personal satisfaction.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • treitz3
    treitz3 Posts: 15,434
    edited January 2010
    High Fidelity is when the reproduction as to what hits your ears is as close as possible to the real thing.

    Finding that is like winning the lottery. Since nothing reproduced will sound absolutely like the real thing, I guess we are all still trying to find that winning ticket.
    ~ In search of accurate reproduction of music. Real sound is my reference and while perfection may not be attainable? If I chase it, I might just catch excellence. ~

    ~ I have found excellence ~

    ~ The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to good analogue reproduction ~

  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    treitz3 wrote: »
    High Fidelity is when the reproduction as to what hits your ears is as close as possible to the real thing..

    That will never happen.................it's not possible. We are a very long way from that as a reality. Stereo doesn't exist in the real auditory world. Stereo and electronic music reproduction is a contrived exercise. It's the equivalent of looking at photographs of someone or something vs. seeing the real thing in the flesh.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • treitz3
    treitz3 Posts: 15,434
    edited January 2010
    Amen.
    ~ In search of accurate reproduction of music. Real sound is my reference and while perfection may not be attainable? If I chase it, I might just catch excellence. ~

    ~ I have found excellence ~

    ~ The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to good analogue reproduction ~

  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    treitz3 wrote: »
    Amen.

    :):):)
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • jaxwired
    jaxwired Posts: 201
    edited January 2010
    heiney,

    Nice thoughtful post. Thanks. Your approach regarding simplicity makes good sense and I'm sure it pays off.

    I think we just disagree regarding how correlated price and performance are. I don't know if you put any stock in stereophile, but I think it's relevant that their class A recommended components often have wildly varied prices. For instance they have a 100k integrated amp immediately preceeding a $1400 amp on their list this year.

    I also agree with you regarding HT equipment. I dislike HT equipment and I also like simplicity. I use my TV speakers for movies.
    2 Channel
    NAD C545 -> Benchmark DAC1 -> Bryston BP6 -> Bryston 4B SST2 -> Dynaudio Contour S1.4
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,736
    edited January 2010
    Awesome insight Raife!!!

    Awesome is right!!! It's quite apparent that some folks might want to reread it a couple of times for it to actually sink in! They need to park their hi-horse in the stable & climb down.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "
    Two Channel:
    KEF R3 monitors
    Schiit Audio Freya S pre
    Parasound HALO A21+ 2 channel amp
    Bluesound NODE 2i streamer
    Border Patrol SEi DAC
    Oppo BDP-93
    KEF KC62 sub


    Home Theater:
    Full blown 11.2 set up.


  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    heiney,

    Nice thoughtful post. Thanks. Your approach regarding simplicity makes good sense and I'm sure it pays off.

    I think we just disagree regarding how correlated price and performance are. I don't know if you put any stock in stereophile, but I think it's relevant that their class A recommended components often have wildly varied prices. For instance they have a 100k integrated amp immediately preceeding a $1400 amp on their list this year.

    I also agree with you regarding HT equipment. I dislike HT equipment and I also like simplicity. I use my TV speakers for movies.

    I will also add to my last post........the gear I own now, like DK, is solidly mid-fi. I didn;t want to come off thinking the I own now is true high end, because I have a way to go.

    I agree they make some great recommendations and one of the class A reco's is my Adcom GFP-750 and it is a superb pre-amp regardless of price but it can easily be bettered if someone wanted to spend say $6-7K on say a Pass Labs "X" series pre-amp. But I would put the 750 against anything in it's perceived class and even what people would consider much pricier, etc.

    At first I thought perhaps you were speaking strictly trying to come up with absolutes about price vs. performance......there are no absolutes, but generally, as I stated, I believe as you start up the ladder and start spending more $$$ you are rewarded, but it takes careful research and sometimes just owning several pieces to find what your personal preferences are and where you are satisfied enough to stop the "hunt".

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,341
    edited January 2010
    Awesome is right!!! It's quite apparent that some folks might want to reread it a couple of times for it to actually sink in! They need to park their hi-horse in the stable & climb down.

    mmmmmm......so Phil you think I need to climb down? :confused: I assume this is directed at me since I'm the only one really debating here.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S3 | MIT Z P/C's | updated SDA 1C| SQ Box Touch/Welbourne Labs P/S- Tubes add soul!
  • SCompRacer
    SCompRacer Posts: 7,631
    edited January 2010
    Very well written.

    The only thing I would add from personal experience is if the room has acoustic problems, fix them with acoustic treatment. That is the only way you will get the most from whatever level of gear you own. That is the only way you will truly hear if one piece of gear sounds better to you than another.
    Make yourself necessary to someone. Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Salk SoundScape 8's * Audio Research Reference 3 * Bottlehead Eros Phono * Park's Audio Budgie SUT * Krell KSA-250 * Harmonic Technology Pro 9+ & Pro 11+ * Signature Series Sonore Music Server w/Deux PS* Twisted Pear Buffalo IIISE Pro ES9038 DAC * Heavy Plinth Lenco L75 Idler Drive * AA MG-1 Linear Air Bearing Arm * AT33PTG/II & Denon 103R * Richard Gray 600S * NHT B-12d subs * GIK Acoustic Treatments * Sennheiser HD650 *

  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,666
    edited January 2010
    jaxwired wrote: »
    1. Do you think it's possible for a great 2k amp to sound as good as a great 10k amp?
    2. Do you think it's possible for a great 2k CD player to sound as good as a great 10k CDP?
    3. Do you think it's possible for a great $200 interconnect to sound as good as a great 2k interconnect?

    In absolute terms, and assuming the more expensive items represent a commensurate increase in design thought, materials, and construction, and assuming the items are being evaluated in a system with appropriate resolution, the answers are:

    1. No.
    2. No.
    3. No.

    In personal and subjective terms, the answers are:

    1. Maybe.
    2. Maybe.
    3. Maybe.

    This is a quote from the "first impressions" review (July 2006) of my Parasound Halo JC 1 power amps ($8,000) comparing their sound to the $2,000 Adcom GFA-5802 I had used for several years:
    The Adcom GFA-5802 is in no way "shamed" by the JC1 monoblocks. The GFA-5802 is a great design and gives me everything I like in an amplifer. However, the JC1's give me MORE of everything: More bass slam, more holographic 3-dimensional sound, more clarity, more details. There was no difference between the soundstage dimensions thrown by the GFA-5802 and the JC1's, nor was there a difference in the placement of instruments and sounds within the soundstage. There was a big difference in the "solidity" and clarity of instruments and sounds within the soundstage. The bass notes of the JC1's hit harder, although they measured no louder on a sound meter. There was more of a sense of real people playing in the room. I could also hear more reverberant artifacts of the recording space with the JC1's.

    As you can see, I noted some similarities between the sounds of the Adcom amp and the 4X more expensive Parasound amps. Now, what if the differences between them had been things I was either not sensitive to or didn't value?

    Such improvements as:

    1. Image weight.
    2. Bass weight.
    3. Sonic holography.
    4. Sonic realism.

    would have "flown right over" me and I could have concluded that the Parasound amps were not worth the money...and I would have been right...at least I would have been "right" for my listening preferences.
    jaxwired wrote: »
    If you answer no to these questions, then you believe that cost and peformance are extremely consistently connected. With something as subject as sound quality, it's hard to understand that point of view.

    Cost and performance have a linear relationship only up to a certain point, after which the gains become diminishing. If you keep spending, you eventually reach a point where things aren't actually better, they are just different flavors of excellence.

    Prior to purchasing the Pass Laboratories X0.2 preamp ($10,000). I owned a Pass Labs X1 preamp. Nelson Pass straight out told me through email that "the X0.2 costs twice as much but it is not twice as good". After comparing the X0.2 to the X1 in my two channel system, I agreed that the X0.2 was not twice as good as the X1, but it was good enough that I couldn't go back to the X1.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • jaxwired
    jaxwired Posts: 201
    edited January 2010
    I wasn't aware that some people consider the term "mid-fi" to be pretentious and condescending, especially since so much modern mid-fi gear, like my Adcom power amps, have high performance characteristics. Audio, like most categories of merchandise, is classified into low, medium, and high lines.

    Of course it's condescending. Unless people just mean "mid-price" when they say "mid-fi". But they don't, they typically mean mid-performance. How they hell do they know? They don't. They are generallly just using the term based on the price of the equipment.

    Would you call a $1400 amp mid-fi? Many people would. Stereophile calls it Class A and the peer of a 100k amp. There's just no need for the term. I can understand the term "budget gear" because that is clearly based on price and most people agree that price does not necessarily correlate with performance. So nothing to take offense to there. But "mid-fi" clearly says your gear is second rate. And that's an big judgement to make with so many variables involved in a purely subjective topic like sound quality. What's the point?
    2 Channel
    NAD C545 -> Benchmark DAC1 -> Bryston BP6 -> Bryston 4B SST2 -> Dynaudio Contour S1.4
  • treitz3
    treitz3 Posts: 15,434
    edited January 2010
    DK, believe what you are talking about is the last 5% once you have arrived.
    ~ In search of accurate reproduction of music. Real sound is my reference and while perfection may not be attainable? If I chase it, I might just catch excellence. ~

    ~ I have found excellence ~

    ~ The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to good analogue reproduction ~