Monday, October 14, 2013

ARTICLE: How to select your stereo components

[Another Wirebender-only article.]

Don't buy by the "Buck Factor"

This can go either way. You can buy your equipment solely based on cost, low or high. If your budget is limited, you may get everything you want for the least possible cost, sacrificing quality, function, and your personal satisfaction. If your budget is unrestrained, you may buy your equipment based on snob appeal and be just as bored with your selections as the low budget buyer.

You don't necessarily get what you pay for, in quality. Obviously, you get the products you paid for, unless the dealer has some old Miniscribe employees in the shipping department and you get a box of bricks, but simply spend unlimited amounts of cash doesn't assure you of anything. Some low-to-mid cost products deliver as much sonic quality as the most expense pieces on the market.

"It ain't what you don't know that hurts you, it's what you do know that ain't right."

I really believe that some pieces of equipment can be picked by spec sheets: tuners, maybe power amplifiers, and probably turntables, for example. Again, it depends on what you listen to.

But some parts of your system have to be listened to. Especially speakers. Toss out what you have been told and listen. Use your ears, not your memory, in choosing equipment. Don't select these pieces on reviews, friends' advise,

To ABX or not to ABX

If you can't hear it, it isn't there. I firmly believe that. If you can't demonstrate a difference between the equipment you are evaluating, you are only fooling yourself. I know audiophiles don't care for this logic. Since so few people can pick out anything beyond the most gross differences using ABX tests, the gigantic price differences between top and bottom-end equipment is hard to justify. Unless you resort to mysticism and doubletalk, ie. The Holy Order of Audiophiles. A religion I am always entertained by, but have not been converted to.

Your listening material is as important as the equipment you listen to. This isn't a slam on the music, but if you listen to rap, metal, Musac, polkas, most music recorded with early fifties tape gear back to Edison's cylinder cutter, or the majority of popular genres you won't be able to tell a significant difference between a $500 Sony portable sound system and the most expensive system buyable. Hell, I know good musicians who are happy with their TV's sound system. If you aren't going to use it, don't buy it. Unless the snob appeal has some payback other than audible. Like maybe your banker is an audiophile and you want to impress him with your taste in equipment so that he will loan you money to build the Neil Bush Memorial Savings and Loan.

Which means most electronic equipment is created equal for most people.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.