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jwilliam
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Order of Gear Purchase

Can anyone provide any advice as to the proper ORDER in which to begin purchasing a stereo system? I assume you either start at the front end with the CD Player/DAC-Transport, or at the back end, with the speakers. Then you would progress toward the other end of the system, depending on where you started. I own Robert Hartley's book on High End equipment, and he does not touch on this subject, at least that I could find. Any information provided would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. JW

Elk
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I think I would start with the speakers. They have the greatest overall impact on the sound (that and the room) and what speakers you have determines to some degree what amplification you need.

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

> Can anyone provide any advice as to the proper ORDER in
> which to begin purchasing a stereo system?

I am not sure I understand the question. If you do not buy it all at the same time then it will not work to play music.

bifcake
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I think he's asking which components drive the purchasing decisions up or down the chain.

I agree with Elk. The speakers drive your amplification decision and the pre-amp and front end can be purchased independently more or less.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

The answer will depend upon which component you feel to be the most important contributor to the final sound quality. There are very few agreements to be found on that issue, with one exception.

Generally, the front end is where you should begin since we understand the "garbage in = garbage out" concept of system building. Speakers have the largest impact on the overall tone you will hear - if you could remove the room as a factor. However, if you choose all but the speakers first, your choice of an amplifier will tell you quite a bit about your choice in speakers. If you choose low wattage tube amps, it would be important to know which speakers will not work well with your amplifier. The room remains the one constant that you should always consider first and any salesperson should consider when qualifying your needs. Therefore, you should consider your room and your budget above all else.

Other than that, you are asking a question similar to, "You walk in a crowded room looking for a prospective mate. What quality do you consider most important?"

jwilliam
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Sorry for my vague question. I am confused as how to best begin putting a system together. Buy the speakers first, then audition/purchase the front end with the chosen speakers, and then audition amps in the middle ??? Or choose the front end first, audition and add the amp, then audition speakers to fit the mix. Obviously, you would use a stand-in from the store for any components in the chain that haven't been purchased to that point, but still using a similar quality/priced component as the one you will choose later. It may be six of one, half a dozen of the other, but it seemed that there may be a better system to making system purchase decisions than trying to buy the whole system at once. Hope that helps. Thanks.

bifcake
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Hi,

I think you have to choose the speakers first. The speakers will drive your amplifier decision. For example, you wouldn't pair a set of inefficient, hard to drive speakers with a 15 watt SET amp. So, the choice of speakers will narrow down your amp selection. Once you have your speakers and amp decision made, you can decide upon a front end and the preamp. Your front end will drive your preamp decision. For example, if you're not planning on getting a turntable, then there is no reason to buy a preamp known for its phono stage.

So, this is the order:

Speakers -> amp
Source - > pre-amp.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Have you been shopping yet? The shop you choose will often determine the starting point. It is a salesperson's job to "qualify" you as a client. With the information they gather, they will direct you in the order they feel is best for your needs. One shop might work differently than another but you are buying a system. Take your music to the shops and let them play something for you. You will quickly find the route that best suits your needs.

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

> Sorry for my vague question.

No problems, it is natural if you are starting out and feeling your way.

The first question to ask yourself is what you want for your money. For example, is it to be a long term interest/hobby with some of your personal status tied up in your equipment? Or perhaps you are only interested in music and simply want to get above the line where audio defects intrude on enjoying the music? Or maybe you are primarily interested in maximising accurate sound reproduction for a given amount of money?

The most important items in terms of sound quality are the speakers and the room. Amplifiers and CD players have almost no influence on degrading the signal. The best performance in terms of accurate sound reproduction for a given cost are usually to be found in music shops and not hifi shops.

I strongly recommend you buy a full set of components all at once. There is no point buying hardware to sit on shelf to be admired while it loses value and cheaper and superior products get released. If you do not have enough money for all the components then put it in the bank to gain interest while you work out what system you want to buy.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
Amplifiers and CD players have almost no influence on degrading the signal.

We are (still) in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction.

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

>> Amplifiers and CD players have almost no influence on
>> degrading the signal.
>
> We are (still) in Iraq because of weapons of mass
> destruction.

Please feel free to supply evidence to contradict my statement. Evidence rather than marketing speak and/or wishful thinking.

Monty
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I realize this doesn't exactly address your question, but I think it's very important. Start by evaluating your listening area and give serious thought to what sort of features you are going to need in your system. There is no use buying large floor speakers for a small apartment. The same can be said for high powered amplifiers and subwoofers.

After you come to grips with what you really need (there is certainly nothing wrong with planning ahead for a larger room) then start with speakers and amplifiers (receiver, integrated, multi-channel) and consider them as equally important.

In short, know where you are going before you start spending money so you only have to spend it once...(heh!)

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
Please feel free to supply evidence to contradict my statement. Evidence rather than marketing speak and/or wishful thinking.

You are essentially asking me to prove a negative. The largest problem I face in this situation is that I cannot explain what you cannot hear nor why you cannot hear it. I would say you are the victim of your own wishful thinking.

I don't believe there is any "marketing speak" nor wishful thinking when I say the difference between a $39 CD player and a well designed and built $1,000 player should be obvious to most anyone with the ability to hear - even through the most modest high fidelity system. Certainly every manufacturer who builds in both price ranges suggests as much. That is not marketing speak, that is the fact of better parts. If you cannot hear any differences between parts or the whole component they make, I cannot argue with your incapacity. The "sound" of capacitors has been widely recognized for several decades. You may choose to disbelieve in that "sound" just as others may choose to defend a foreign policy blunder; but while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we are not entitled to our own facts. Parts sound different. The circuits using those parts sound different. Therefore, components using those circuits sound different.

If you feel a component with an over built, high capacity, fast slewing power supply will sound equal to a component with a poorly built power supply, you are either a salesperson's dream or nightmare. If you think a CD player with high jitter sounds similar to a CD player with far lower amounts of jitter, please, don't invite me over for a listen. If it is not true that a component which reproduces a 10kHz square wave with more accuracy and less ringing than another component doesn't sound better in some way, I will never read another JA measurement table.

If you feel the price spread $39-1,000 is too broad, remember, you set the values when you simply said "CD players". They are both CD players. The actual differences between any two players will be too complex for such a broad statement as yours to be valid, therefore, I cannot make a specific case. That does not obviate the fact that differences - and sound quality improvements - do exist. I believe that to be true and most of the forum members would likely agree. If you choose not to believe in audible differences, the sanctity of nature, ghosts, Murphy's Law, checks and balance or the value of puppy dog tails, you have the right to be wrong.

If you seriously believe a low powered, single ended, transformer coupled vacuum tube power amplifier will drive all speakers in the same fashion as a direct coupled, push-pull, bipolar output, high powered solid state unit, I cannot argue with your obvious infirmity. Should you feel a "straight wire with gain" pre amp with a 10k Ohm output impedance will drive any power amplifier with the same ability as a buffered pre amp providing a low 500 Ohm output impedance, I cannot argue with your lack of knowledge. If you feel abusive amounts of negative feedback do not affect the sound quality of an amplifier - and the speaker connected to that amplifier, you have missed the last sixty years of audio design or have just come to the party of late. In either case, you have a lot of catching up to do. Should you feel class B amplifiers are as sweet and distortion free as class A designs, I give up.

However, should you subscribe to the "everything that measures the same, sounds the same" concept of system building, and you buy your components based on their remote controls and warranties, I can only say this is not the thread where those issues should be debated. While I would like to ask you to defend your statement with reason and logic, rather than derail this thread, if you wish to argue your point, start a new thread. Let the o.p learn about system building here. The original question was not, "Does everything sound the same?"

jwilliam
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Thanks to you all for your input on my gear purchase question. I will take all the comments into consideration prior to buying. My system will probably be cobbled together with a pick from each of the following groupings:

PLAYER
Ayre C-5Xe
Muse Polyhymnia
Esoteric SA-60

AMP
Ayre AX-7e
Creek Destiny
Krell KAV-400xi
Magnum Dynalab MD-208
McIntosh MA-6900
NAD Masters M3
PS Audio GCC-100

SPEAKERS
B&W 802D
Opera Callas Divina
Quad ESL-2805
Vandersteen Quattro
Wilson Audio Sophia 2
Sonus Faber Cremona

Thanks again. JW

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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
Thanks to you all for your input on my gear purchase question. I will take all the comments into consideration prior to buying. My system will probably be cobbled together with a pick from each of the following groupings:

PLAYER
Ayre C-5Xe - never heard
Muse Polyhymnia - never heard
Esoteric SA-60 - I am not a big fan of Esoteric players. They seem on the dry and lifeless side of the audio spectrum. They're not as bad as the Meridian players, but still too analytical for my taste.

AMP
Ayre AX-7e - never heard
Creek Destiny - never heard, but if it's anything like the 5350SE, it's a good integrated. Neutral and good handling capacity.

Krell KAV-400xi - A level of performance very few components can matched. Paired with a right speaker, it sets new standard of performance for the topology.

Magnum Dynalab MD-208 - never heard

McIntosh MA-6900 - never heard

NAD Masters M3 - never heard
PS Audio GCC-100 - never heard

SPEAKERS
B&W 802D - Horrible speakers. I never understood what people see in B&W speakers. Apparently many people like them because they seem to be carried by every shop, but to me, they're completely dead. You have to perform a mouth-to-mouth and shock these things repeatedly to get any life out of them. Dry, dead, bleh.

Opera Callas Divina - haven't heard

Quad ESL-2805 - Haven't heard

Vandersteen Quattro - haven't heard

Wilson Audio Sophia 2 - haven't heard

Sonus Faber Cremona - Sonus Faber probably makes the most open and airy speakers. There is breath and air and involvement. Think of acoustics in a jazz club and you have a good idea of what cremonas sound like. The downside: They don't do bass very well. The bass is inarticulate and lacks depth and detail. You have to go pretty far up the Sonus Faber line to get good bass.

mikemorrow
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Buy your amp and speakers at the same time. Back in 1976 I bought the Son of Ampzilla and the Genisis III speakers. 10 years ago I upgreaded my speakers. I have been searching for a good match eversince.

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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Wow, you have some great choices there. I have heard Ayre components in a showroom driving Piega bookshelf speakers and was blown away. Granted, I was listening to more expensive components from Ayre than the ones you name, but still, I was impressed. I also own an Ayre CD player, so I am a fan. With Ayre components you can build a great system, assuming you have the right speakers to go with them. The Ayre AX 7e offers about 60 watts per channel so you may want to choose a pair of very efficient speakers to go with it. Of the speakers you list, I have only heard the B & W 802 and I must say, I am not a big fan of B & W speakers. I find them boring and lifeless, but quite a few people would disagree.

For the price range you appear open to, there are many, many options. If I were you, I would go to a hi-fi shop that sells Ayre components and audition a number of different speakers with them and see which pair you like best.

In any event, I would buy the integrated amp and speakers together. Its essential that you buy an amp that is capable of driving your speakers with authority. Once you find a good match there, then you can swap cd players in and out and see what fits best. However, no matter how good your cd player, if your amp is underpowered and cannot drive your speakers effectively, you will never get the most out of your system.

I would say the speakers are the most important part of the chain. No matter good your electronics are, your speakers will have the final say in how good the reproduced sound can be. But just to be clear, everything in the chain matters, the cd player, the amp, and the speaker cables for that matter.

Its seems like you are willing to make a big investment, so take your time and do not make a purchase unless you are blown away by the sound.

Monty
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I think JA uses an Ayre, Ayre, Wilson combination. He probably knows a thing or two about good sound.

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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I would start with the speakers. I'm about to upgrade my Energy's myself. I would first:
1) figure on a budget
2) do hundreds of hours on research
3) see if anyone locally has a few of your picks, and listen to em on equipment, that you would consider buying.

I remember listening to these Polks on a Conrad Johnson mono block system- probably 50-60 thousand dollars worth of stuff- the polks sounded amazing- but not when I got them home.

jwilliam
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Thanks a bunch to everyone who has responded to my questions. This would probably be an easier purchase process for me if I was upgrading a current system, but I am going to build it from scratch. If anyone has any known pros or cons to the prospective gear list above, I would appreciate any and all input, good or bad. Better to know now than later. The main information I could use is, what manufacturer has provided you, or your friends, etc., great customer service, has stood behind their product for great lengths of time, and produces a quality, reliable product. This kind of information is hard to find, outside of Consumer Reports or like ilk that would not cover high-end stereo gear. And vice versa, if you are aware of companies NOT excelling in the above criteria (product reliability, reputation, product quality, customer service), please delve in as well. Finally, has anyone else experienced the overheating problem with the Krell KAV-400xi that was reported in the Vol. 28, No. 2 Stereophile review ??? In light of Krell's great reputation, it seemed odd that the company would put out a 200-WPC integrated amp that did not have sufficient heatsinking to allow the amp to be pushed hard (maybe check this ahead of time in benchtests or shakeout?). Good listenin' to you all. JW

rodney1st
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

I choose the amp 1st, enviroments change and speakers to fit spaces and placements come and go. The amp is the magic in the scheme. You rarely hear "If I had this amp" many people play on this. If you want magic start with it...

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

>>>> Amplifiers and CD players have almost no influence on
>>>> degrading the signal.
>>>
>>> We are (still) in Iraq because of weapons of mass
>>> destruction.
>>
>> Please feel free to supply evidence to contradict my statement. Evidence
>> rather than marketing speak and/or wishful thinking.
>
> You are essentially asking me to prove a negative.

Not at all. The task of showing the degradation of a signal is simple and straightforward.

> The largest problem I face in this situation is that I cannot explain
> what you cannot hear nor why you cannot hear it.

What has my ability at anything got to do with amplifier and CD player signals?

> I would say you are the victim of your own wishful thinking.

In what way am I a victim?

> but while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we are not entitled
> to our own facts.

Indeed. You will note that I asked you for facts and not opinion/marketing. You have not responded with facts but only assertions in line with the marketing. It was precisely your confused reasoning that was originally being referred to in your quote although, obviously, not in the area of flat earth audiophile beliefs.

> Parts sound different.

Parts normally sit there silently doing very little unless bashed in some way.

> The circuits using those parts sound different.

I think you will find that not all circuits sound different. Some do and some do not and this can depend not only on the properties of the ciruits/parts but also the conditions involved in determining what sounds the same and what sounds different. Are you really making the claim that everything sounds different?

> Therefore, components using those circuits sound different.

It is good to see you try to put together a reasoned argument.

> If you feel a component with an over built, high capacity, fast slewing
> power supply will sound equal to a component with a poorly built power
> supply, you are either a salesperson's dream or nightmare.

My feelings have nothing to do with the facts I asked for about signal degradation. Ditto for umpteen of your other statements.

> If you think a CD player with high jitter sounds similar to a CD player
> with far lower amounts of jitter, please, don't invite me over for a
> listen.

In the 1970s audio enthusiasts used to buy equipment because of a difference between 0.005% THD at 1kHz into a resistive load and 0.01%. Today audiophiles look down on such foolish people. Jitter?

> If it is not true that a component which reproduces a 10kHz square wave
> with more accuracy and less ringing than another component doesn't sound
> better in some way, I will never read another JA measurement table.

Then you are indeed in for a surprise should you ever perform such an experiment. Given reasonably linear equipment, the change in level of the harmonics at 30kHz, 50KHz,... is not going to be audible.

> If you feel the price spread $39-1,000 is too broad, remember, you set the
> values when you simply said "CD players". They are both CD players.

You introduced the price range. My response was in the context of a reply to the OP about hi-fi amplifiers and CDs.

> That does not obviate the fact that differences - and sound quality
> improvements - do exist. I believe that to be true and most of the forum
> members would likely agree.

That is indeed your opinion and I agree that it is also likely to be the opinion of most of the forum members. This does not make it fact. In order for it to be a fact it needs to be true in the physical world and not just the imagination of audiophiles.

> If you choose not to believe in audible differences, the sanctity of
> nature, ghosts, Murphy's Law, checks and balance or the value of puppy dog
> tails, you have the right to be wrong.

I may have the right and can probably get away with all but the first. Unfortunately my day job involves the technical aspects of sound and if I was to be as confused as you about facts and opinions about sound I would fairly soon be unemployed. Perhaps I might get a job as an audiophile reviewer if I worked on improving my journalistic skills?

> While I would like to ask you to defend your statement with reason and logic,
> rather than derail this thread, if you wish to argue your point, start a new
> thread. Let the o.p learn about system building here. The original question was
> not, "Does everything sound the same?"

Reason and logic? You disagreed with one of my responses to the OPs question, fair enough, but you did not state why. I quite reasonably asked you to provide evidence but instead you provided everything but in an attempt to support your position. I think the OP may benefit from your being teased.

Elk
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
In the 1970s audio enthusiasts used to buy equipment because of a difference between 0.005% THD at 1kHz into a resistive load and 0.01%. Today audiophiles look down on such foolish people.

Boy do I remember this period. While the measurements got better, the sound didn't improve and often got worse.

Then we learned of TIM. A great example of how ears can win over measurements. At least until we learn what to measure.

Andy, just curious, what do you do in the real world?

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

No one ever called you "Speedy"; did they?

Sorry, this thread has been out of my loop for too long and your post is too disjointed to make sense. Please, try again and try to reply within the same month. As to your employment status, good luck finding another job.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
Unfortunately my day job involves the technical aspects of sound and if I was to be as confused as you about facts and opinions about sound I would fairly soon be unemployed.

Why is it everyone who finds their way to this forum who works in audio believes they cannot be wrong? Is it the certificate they gave declaring you an "audio specialist" that says so?

RGibran
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

Hmmm, didn't you used to work in audio, Jan?

RG

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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

> Boy do I remember this period. While the measurements got better, the
> sound didn't improve and often got worse.

It was the marketed specifications that got better.

> Then we learned of TIM. A great example of how ears can win over
> measurements. At least until we learn what to measure.

TIM/TID/SID/whatever was adopted a bit too late in the 70s as a technical performance based marketing tool as the effectiveness of a non/anti-technical "audiophile" marketing approach became apparent. Do not confuse the marketing with what engineers understood. Basic control theory and practice had been understood by most for several decades by this time.

Home audio is built to be sold. If the customers buy based on illusions then the market will work with those illusions if they want to be successful. People were putting their money down to buy amplifiers with a very low THD specification. Companies that provided this were being successful and those that did not were either having to move in this direction or develop an alternative marketing strategy.

> Andy, just curious, what do you do in the real world?

I am an engineer/scientist currently working in the area of sound/acoustics. My main interest here is in audiophiles and why they pick up and hold the beliefs they do.

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

>> Unfortunately my day job involves the technical aspects of sound and if
>> I was to be as confused as you about facts and opinions about sound I
>> would fairly soon be unemployed.
>
> Why is it everyone who finds their way to this forum who works in audio
> believes they cannot be wrong? Is it the certificate they gave declaring
> you an "audio specialist" that says so?

If you are employed to perform a technical job but what you know about the technical aspects is wrong you will be systematically poor at your job and will eventually lose it. If one has invested many decades of study and work becoming knowledgeable in a particular field it is very easy to recognise who has that knowledge and who does not. It is, of course, not so easy for other fields but for ones own field it is.

In your case because you believe a lot of nonsense about audio and push it at others you will regularly get called by the small number of people with technical knowledge of sound/audio that take an interest in the isolated audiophile world.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
Hmmm, didn't you used to work in audio, Jan?

Yes, I did for almost 25 years. However, I've never claimed I can't be wrong. I state what I believe to be true and will defend it with vigor. Often what I find as truth is not what others find in a text book. Just as often I find a reasonably large gap between on paper facts and what I hear. If that makes me a fool, then I'll take good sound (along with my tube amps and single driver speakers) and being a fool over ignoring what is in front of me. If you cannot look up from your book to listen to what you hear, you are destined for bad sound or, at least, a system sound I probably wouldn't enjoy. IMO that is, at least in part, what Holt was stating when he began Stereophile. There is a gaping hole between what is measured and what is heard. I don't believe I deny theory, but I do not constantly hold it as dogma and how something measures in a static situation is not, within reason, going to tell me how it sounds.

A triode sounds different than a pentode. A push-pull amplifier sounds different than a single ended amplifier. A tube sounds different than a transistor and both sound different than a MOSFET. System synergy tops buying a bunch of highly rated stuff and expecting good sound. You should know what music sounds like before you make a decision which product to buy.

I think you either believe this or you don't. If you don't, that's fine with me and I'm not here to give anyone else a hard time about what they believe - except maybe dup when he really gets going.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
In your case because you believe a lot of nonsense about audio and push it at others ...

I find that quite offensive! You and I might not agree on anything; but to suggest I "push" my beliefs on anyone is absurd. I state my beliefs because they are my beliefs and anyone is free to accept or reject what I have to say. I think that's the point of a forum.

It is those who can hear no exceptions to what their textbooks tell them should happen whom I find dogmatic and ideological. You, andy, would appear to be one of those types - an engineer. You hold book knowledge above all else and can accept no exceptions. Equally, you hold your "technical knowledge" above what anyone else understands or hears. Quite honestly, you are like every engineer I have ever met in an audio shop.

I find your rebuttals to be all but unreadable. And stating something is not true does not make it false. That also is similar to my experience with other engineers.

If you came came here to "tease" those you consider less knowledgeable than you, you are welcome to use me as your punching bag. Believe me I have heard it all before from others who sound just like you. If you came here to observe "audiophiles", then you might want to do more observing or possibly making more of a positive contribution to the discussion. I don't come here to fight or to waste time with ideologues. I assume others are here with the same expectations.

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Re: Order of Gear Purchase


Quote:
> Boy do I remember this period. While the measurements got better, the
> sound didn't improve and often got worse.

It was the marketed specifications that got better.

> Then we learned of TIM. A great example of how ears can win over
> measurements. At least until we learn what to measure.

TIM/TID/SID/whatever was adopted a bit too late in the 70s as a technical performance based marketing tool as the effectiveness of a non/anti-technical "audiophile" marketing approach became apparent. Do not confuse the marketing with what engineers understood.

Good point. It certainly may have been that audiophilia learned of TIM as that which made amplifiers of the time with vanishingly low THD and IM to sound so harsh. Also, the way the measurements were made may have been misleading - but I remember Julian Hirsch who was also measuring lower and lower THD and IM.

As one that that thought that measured specs determined how good an amp will sound - and experienced how the specs that were measured didn't determine good sound - I fall in the camp that takes a solid look at specs and then listens.

I am willing to accept the possibility that we as consumers are not given the specs that really matter.

So what measurements should we be interested in when shopping for a preamp or amp that sounds good?

cyclebrain
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

So how does this answer the question of what to buy first?
Poor newbies must think that we are all insane.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

lol!!!

Ekman
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

For speakers you should definately go with wilson sophia2 they are amazing and of the other things you listed i would probably go for the ayre combo with the mcintosh and krell amps as outsiders. Look into Nordost cables too if you believe in such things its both wilsons and krells current choice.

andy19191
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Re: Order of Gear Purchase

> Good point. It certainly may have been that audiophilia learned of TIM as that
> which made amplifiers of the time with vanishingly low THD and IM to sound so
> harsh. Also, the way the measurements were made may have been misleading - but I
> remember Julian Hirsch who was also measuring lower and lower THD and IM.

If you can hear it (in a controlled listening test) then the deviation from a linear transfer function is going to be big and easy to measure. However, the person doing the measuring has got to want to measure what is relevant and not what is convenient for marketing audiophile products.

30 years ago the consumer hi-fi press was somewhat schizophrenic (at least in the UK) with both a move to better educate the consumers technically (e.g. TIM) and a move to introduce a new anti-technical audiophile approach (i.e. what we have today). The latter soon won in the home audio field and so in order to get educated you now have little option but to look to the technical press rather than the consumer press.

> As one that that thought that measured specs determined how good an amp will
> sound - and experienced how the specs that were measured didn't determine good
> sound - I fall in the camp that takes a solid look at specs and then listens.

It depends what you hang on the word good. Accurate/neutral sound of the type sort by professionals in labs and studios does not tend to be classified as good by many audiophiles. In amplifiers this is cheap and easy to achieve and is why professionals take little interest in amplifiers. If you want inaccurate but nice sound then you have the choice of using cheap and repeatable processors or to believe in audiophile magic. The latter allows amplifier sound to become a hobby interest but only at the price of suspending intelligent and rational thought.

> I am willing to accept the possibility that we as consumers are not given the
> specs that really matter.

Manufacturers tend to provide one or two important parameters and then whatever best serves the marketing. For example, the power required to damage a speaker is often prominently displayed when selling boomboxes, cheap speakers and the like. This is not a particularly relevant number for either quality or loudness but it is useful for marketing because ill educated customers will project meaning onto it that it does not possess. After all a 600W boombox is clearly better than a 500W boombox.

> So what measurements should we be interested in when shopping for a preamp
> or amp that sounds good?

Measurements are only useful if you have a reasonable grasp of what they mean in terms of how a device functions. If you lack the education then you are open to being mislead by the marketing.

The 0.005% versus 0.01% THD at 1kHz into an 8ohm load at 1W is a valid piece of information. The ill educated will probably concentrate on the 0.005% and 0.01% and ignore the rest. They may well assume this is, or is representative of, the amount of distortion produced by the two amplifiers when being used by them to listen to music. They may go further and assume that the one with lower figure sounds better than the one with higher figure. The educated will recognise that this is too little information to determine anything much about how the amplifier will perform when used as intended.

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