Book Review: "High Fidelity Audio/Video Systems: A Critical Guide for Owners" Page 3

The funniest/saddest chapter of the book (footnote 1) is the one on accessories; Ferstler lists what he feels are the Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous. Here, my fellow nuance-seeking buffs, are his lists:

The Good:

• Sonic Hologram/Polk SDA-type circuits.

• "Subharmonic synthesizers" that synthesize "new" low bass that wasn't in the original recording.

• dbx dynamic range expanders.

The Bad:

• High-quality cable.

• Film-type capacitors.

• Outboard D/A converters—"If you buy an outboard mounted unit, chances are that any changes you hear will be the result of deteriorated performance" (p.213).

The Ridiculous:

• Acoustic room treatment.

• Cones for use under speakers and electronics—"Any audio or video buff who thinks that such gimmicks are accomplishing anything is otherwise rational columnist for a major audio magazine [Audio's Bert Whyte, I assume—Ed.] once praised those accessories for their effectiveness. To this day, I do not know what possessed the man to say what he did" (p.214, emphases added).

• 18- and 20-bit DACs.

• LP clamps and stabilizers.

• High-end analog playback systems—"None of these products is better enough than a good, medium-grade turntable/arm/cartridge combination to clearly demonstrate its superiority with a typical LP recording. Many of these exotic designs are inferior to some mass-produced Asian models" (p.215).

If I sound like I'm making any of this up, trust me, I'm not. High Fidelity Audio/Video Systems: A Critical Guide for Owners is in my opinion far and away the least-informed book ever written on the subject of audio. If even one potential audio enthusiast or music lover is turned away from this hobby by the misinformation and double-blinded-by-science attitude exhibited by Mr. Ferstler, then it was truly a sad day for audio when his manuscript was accepted for publication.

The best introductory guide on hi-fi ever written is still Laura Dearborn's Good Sound. At just over half the price of High Fidelity Audio/Video Systems, Good Sound (available at most book stores and through The Audio Advisor) makes the latter look like an expensive bad joke. Howie, get a copy of Good Sound and read it; leave writing about audio to the professionals.

Footnote 1: Except for Chapter Six, entitled "The Old-Fashioned Record Player," an error-fraught section on LPs which Ferstler opens by chirping that he "once had a huge collection of the things, but sold them (to a number of friends who, in some cases, are trying to sell them again, now that they too own CD players) and reinvested my money in compact discs."

And he recommends a Radio Shack turntable, praising the arm in particular, which "should work well with even the best phonograph cartridge" (p.128).

And, he finds it "hard to justify spendinging [sic] more than $200 for any turntable" (p.131).

And, he damns the AR turntable with faint praise (p.131): it "does have a more modern tonearm...but the overall design is not that much ahead of what was available over 20 years ago."

And, in discussing turntable reviewing on p.194, he states that "Turntables are simple devices. If they run at the correct speed...and do not rumble too much, and are reasonably immune to acoustic feedback, they should be OK."

I'm sorry, there's just so many of these I can't resist.

OK, one more, from p.133: "For first class dust prevention, I recommend the Watts Dust Bug."