Well ladies and gentlemen, thanks to all who took the time to complete the information in the open "SURVEY: What audio playback system and/or streaming music service are you using in 2023?" post. The survey collected responses from February 11 to May 5, 2023 on this blog, and as usual, the responses came from audio lovers around the world, receiving in total 1330 entries with general information on demographics, broadly what kinds of systems are being used, multichannel playback, interest in masterings, and for those using streaming subscriptions, which ones.
As with any survey, we have to start with some context for the data. Obviously, the individuals who submitted results to me would have been primarily the viewers on this blog although I know the survey was advertised at various audiophile-related forums. I did not do any special advertising personally, other than mentioning it on a few forums I visited like Audiophile Style or Steve Hoffman Forum. I don't maintain much of a social media presence so basically just let the survey diffuse across the Internet.
Given the nature of this blog and its contents, I'd like to think that this survey will tell us about some of the characteristics of the subgroup of intelligent, reasonable, balanced, technically savvy, prudently skeptical, practical audiophiles around the world in the first half of 2023. ;-)
These days, with many of us using VPNs for security purposes, the accuracy of a map of where all responses (collected anonymously of course) originated is questionable but I think the data still gives us a sense of where audiophiles are active:
As you can see, with an English language audiophile blog like this, the majority of respondents came from North America, Europe, with a good number (given relative population) from Australia and New Zealand.
Here are the country codes and numerical percentages for a little more detail:
Most responses came from those with country code shown in the pie graph: USA 33% (442 individual responses), Great Britain 10% (there were in addition 6 from Ireland, 2 from Isle of Man), Canada 8%, Germany 7%, France 5%, Netherlands 3%, Australia 3%, and Italy 2.5%. Just below these we have Sweden 2.4%, Poland 1.8%, Spain 1.7%, Belgium 1.4%, New Zealand 1.3%, Switzerland 1.3%, Finland 1.2%, Denmark 1.1%, Austria 1.1%, Portugal 1%, and South Africa 0.4% to round out the countries with submissions labelled.
There was some representation from Asia like Hong Kong (6), Singapore (5), Thailand (4), Philippines (4), Malaysia (3), and Taiwan (3). I was surprised there were only 3 from India. Since Blogger content cannot get through the "Great Firewall of China", I did get 1 submission from there - cheers to the intrepid respondent! ;-)
From the Middle East, I received 8 from Israel. From Latin and S. America, there were 7 from Brazil, 6 from Argentina, 5 from Mexico.
Despite the current tragic war, there were 2 submissions from Ukraine.
Let's jump into the data and see what it tells us about "we", the tech-oriented audiophiles/music lovers/hobbyists:
Looking around at pictures of audiophile show attendees, we get a sense of the age demographic - mostly middle-age individuals. Here's the "curve" I found in this survey:
Clearly the curve is skewed right, biased towards an older demographic. Median age of audiophiles is within the 50-60's cohort these days. This means that we're past the Baby Boomer peak and well into the Gen X demographic that the audiophile companies and magazines need to be appealing to as this generation matures. There might be generational changes when it comes to perceptions of value and esthetics.
If we look at age trends, audiophile participation becomes significant as we hit our 30's which makes sense from a "life cycle" perspective. These are typically the years we settle down; become more secure in the career, start saving and growing the disposable income, maybe get a house so there's more space for stuff like speakers, get married, stay home more with kid(s). (Erikson's "Generativity vs. Stagnation" stage of adulthood.)
Notice at least from the data on this blog that there's a big drop after the 60's in the number of responses. There could be various reasons for this. Perhaps audiophiles in their 70's participate less in online surveys, maybe interests and hobbies change. Maybe hearing ability affects these numbers - hearing difficulty has been calculated to average at 17% in the 45-64 years group, doubling to 31% in the >65 years old category for men.
|Peak age for women 10 year younger than men in this survey.|
3. Preferred music source.
[I know a few of you were frustrated that I "forced" a single choice on you. Good to see that it made some of you think about the answers and the mental calculations you went through even though there was always the ability to select "Other" and specify.]
4. Type of hardware set-up.
5. Type of headphones used.
6. Regarding multichannel audio.
7. Appreciation for different masterings.
I can be picky about the particular release of my favorite music. So when there's a choice, I usually explore different versions, even just to fulfill my curiosity. However not in a sense, that I would be seeking for different format (eg. DSD, DXD or so). I'm more interested in production choices accompanying different releases. So different producer of re-release, different mastering or remix engineer and their take on that. Sometimes there can be also substantial difference due to different tapes, replay machines and subsequent audio treatment (like Plangent Process or similar DSP steps to remove original wow and flutter, different noise reduction techniques). Those tools could be very effective, but can also completely suck the life out of original art with heavy handed use. So it's not given everyone will be satisfied with particular re-release. Another dilemma could be with overall dynamic manipulation of old recordings. So sometimes I prefer an old release, sometimes a new remaster/remix. Maybe I will qualify as a complete nut :), but sometimes also I do my own re-masters for my pleasure or to make my friends happy / either "fixing" perceived flaws in normal releases or making live albums from live DVDs, TV shows etc.
Mastering is critical to my enjoyment of music. As you know, the Loudness War hit high gear sometime around 1993 and a lot of otherwise great music will never be heard in best fidelity because the life has been crushed out of it with far too much compression. As far as remasters of older albums, I consider most of them downright evil, a cashgrab for music that has been run through another compressor and presented as a big deal because it is now louder. I do appreciate straight reissues and Steven Wilson remixes seem well done. I am however still waiting for any version of Bat Out Of Hell that might actually sound good.
I think it’s laughable that people are upset at MoFi. It’s almost like people want crackle and pop of old tapes that have been run through a million times. I do think it’s the new breed of vinyl collectors who were mostly shocked. Knowing a few they were all hell bent on pure analog master sources. I pretty much knew the behind the scenes work and never felt like telling them how the true process worked and WHY it worked for the better. I do hate hearing some NOOB ask me if I own an Hoffman mastered CD’s. They open a can of worms they’re not ready to be told. 😊
I know you are an MQA skeptic, and so am I to a certain extent, however, I find that many of the remastered / MQA titles on Tidal are noticeably better sounding. This may be the remastering and have nothing to do with MQA, but when I am listening to a playlist that includes both Master and non-Master tracks, I often do a double take and go over to look and see if my DAC (SMSL SU-9) shows it as MQA or not and in most cases it is a Master track, even the 44.1 tracks "seems" to sound better.
MoFi can go to hell for selling digits under the radar.
So many of the mass-remastered MQA versions of albums on Tidal just don't sound "right". And when played without MQA decoding they sound outright bad. In those cases it's not just the "sound", but also the "musicality" that suffers. They are just not as engaging to listen to. I switched to Qobuz.
8. What's in a name? Are you an "audiophile"?
Looks like "Music Lover" and "Audio Enthusiast" were preferred over "Audiophile" in this survey. Some liked "High-End Audio Enthusiast" and a number of you are "Music Collectors".
In the comments, I see someone proclaiming to be a "vinyl addicted and digital enthusiast audiophile", a "doujin music collector", a few "audio/hi-fi nerds", a "studio geek", a "reluctant hardware collector, soon to be a hardware seller", and "objectivistic audiophile music lover".
I will not admit to anything to do with "audiophile" in public, because of its negative connotations. (I already have to deal with "OK, boomer," so who wants more opprobrium? If pressed, I will say that I like to restore and use vintage electronics
Audiophile is too loaded. But sound quality matters to me, especially wrt recording quality and DR, so I go with enthusiast to make clear I'm self-educated on the topic and know what I like.
Audiophile has no clear meaning anymore. Some people think upgrading their earbuds make them one. Or the clever souls who convert their MP3s to flac and think they've accomplished something... At the other extreme, there is a lot of silliness out there.
Yeah, the word "audiophile" can be linked with negative connotations, or may be just plain meaningless as per the 3rd comment. The only way to 'rehabilitate' that word I think is if the hobby and hobbyists can somehow become more respectable. Personally, the only phrase I don't particularly like is "High-End" as it rubs me as elitist and might as well be replaced with the word "Luxury" since many high-end products do not sound that great nor measure well, but look the part.
9. Final comments... 😊
Given the length of this post already, I want to make sure I thank all the survey participants. I don't like simple single-question polls because they often do not provide enough depth. As such, I appreciate your time and detailed comments!
The final survey question was broad and there were many interesting and wise comments. Alas, I can't post every comment (there were so many!), but let's do a cross-selection that covers general sentiments as well as diversity in viewpoints.
As you'll see, these are the reflections of real audiophiles. The comments below are not from audiophile magazine/website guys with a company to run, advertisers to please, nor those who make money off articles. These are not people who have "extended loans" of hardware. These are not, as far as I am aware, folks being offered "accommodated industry prices" to buy what they enjoy. They're not YouTube/social media influencers working for "clicks" or appealing to "patreons". I can imagine looking back one day at this article decades down the road as something of a time capsule of us audiophiles in the first quarter of the 21st Century.
In case you're wondering, no, I did not specially "cherry pick" comments to reflect positive sentiments and ignore critical or nasty comments. Here at the Musings, over the last decade, I have found audiophiles to be generous, thoughtful, and will express dismay over nonsensical beliefs. That is as it should be. I suspect if an audiophile site is receiving a lot of negative comments, there's probably something very wrong with the content or the way the message is being delivered.
----- Respondents' general comments -----
Let’s take back audio and hifi from the marketing snake oil salesman and encourage growth and sanity. It’s for enjoyment!
Something that does not really fit in the survey format: although I still mainly listen to my own files, for casual listening and music discovery I use streaming a lot (in my case, Youtube Music). On top of this I of course have to add a variety of physical formats I still use: mostly vinyl and cassettes. Thanks for creating this survey!
Good point. It's very common I think to maintain both streaming and one's own music archive. I figured the survey could get pretty unruly with too many options! Hence, I figured asking about the most likely means of music consumption would be adequate...
I'm basically a music lover. Although I have a big vinyl collection since my 30s, I prefer the digital sound nowadays. I'm in my early 50s and I feel that the dynamics in the sound of CDs, flacs etc are much more better than vinyls. Not to mention the price difference! Therefore I really enjoy your accurate and honest reviews that are focusing on how to enjoy our favourite music without spending a fortune. Keep up the good work.
Love your site and your articles also we have sometimes different opinions or let say different views on some aspects. Loving to listen to music and being fascinated by quality gear, I prefer studio near gear on the more analytical side. Speakers shall be as balanced as possible. I have set up my listening rooms hifi friendly, but I refrain from explicit treatments. To reduce acoustic deficits, I use DSP a lot. And the most important: I am a digital only hifi nerd. I can't stand vinyl or tube amplifiers.
Ah, and as a computer scientist I trust in measurements and not in golden ear listening. That is why I appreciated your work so much. True to the source as much as possible. If the recording is bad, I want to hear that. That's why I love good masterings and remasterings. HiRes recordings often delivers that improvement by new masterings with better quality.
I am so happy people like you are fighting against all the crud and snake oil in this hobby. I started off as a newbie influenced by this same crap, of multi-thousand dollar cables, of systems never being enough etc. Nowadays we couldn’t have it easier… Separates are objectively transparent. Active speakers have streamers and DSP built-in. Things can be so EASY if we let them and “cancel” these “journalists”.
I’m listening on Apple hardware mainly, from Apple Music. AirPods Max/Pro 2/3rd Gen. A Genelec stereo pair with a woofer for the computer. A pair of Dynaudio Focus 10 in the living room (which are AMAZING).
I think the future of music is digital correction, ideally personalised. Apple’s Personalised Spatial Audio, Dirac Live, Genelec’s GLM. I also think Atmos gives creatives a new tool, and I’m excited for it. Custom HRTFs should become more common, too.
Yup, absolutely. Personalization should be a key evolutionary concept going forward. The old-skool audio thinking that fears signal change - to the point of freaking out about having a balance knob, and EQs on a preamp/amp - as if "purity" is of the essence, needs to be revised to address individual preferences.
I care a lot about the “I am there” feeling when listening to recordings, and I believe it’s achieved by paying attention to psychoacoustics and acoustics of the setup and the recording, not spending money on gear or exotic technologies.
Love music. Love Hi-Fi. Hate streaming. Hate MQA. Hate MoFi and all other music industry crooks including Bob Dylan. Long live pre-1980 vinyl records. Long live CDs. Death to all forms of confidence trickery.
Sounds like the start to some kind of manifesto. ;-)
I used to be an idiot, but you and others rationalised me - thanks for the confidence to trust myself. I use a RPi streaming BBC R3/Tidal/own files/occasional CDs to active Kii3s, simple, wonderful.
I was an idiot as well back in the 90's and early 2000's. At some point, I think many of us recognize that enough is enough. And the sooner this happens to disengage from snake-oil fantasies, the better!
Thank you very much for your writings, Archimago. I'm really amazed how well you can formulate your thoughts and even when you disagree or comment others you always reason with a class. Your tests and measurements all made sense to me (from technical standpoint, at least to my knowledge / I definitely don't pretend I know everything ;)). Moreover I feel, you're genuinely curious about topics, healthy skepticism and you very rightly describe all your endeavors, so anyone interested could try to replicate it - that's crucial for credibility in any technical review or article (compared to marketing blurb), at least to me. Hats off.
My system: Tidal/NAS FLAC files > Roon > Raspberry Pi Streamer > Denafrips Iris DDC > Denafrips Pontus II > Hegel H360 Integrated > Aerial Acoustics 7T speakers. Equally important is my dedicated theater/listening room with treated side walls, etc. The best thing I ever did to get excited about audio was buying Roon and using Tidal. This opened up a new chapter in my audio journey where listening became a daily adventure. I've already got a large local collection but I don't buy any new music anymore. I hope that Roon or Tidal don't ever go out of business. That would be hard to deal with.
Mainstream audio press is losing more credibility by the day. Thanks for driving that point home…repeatedly. T.S. Gnu (◔‿◔)
I don't think I have the knowledge, patience or wherewithal to be a real audiophile but for me speakers are the main arbiters of what determines good sound for me, I am a mid-fi guy I think not having the courage of my convictions of going full commitment on buying high end gear, "diminishing returns" is a touchstone phrase for me!
Great that you're "keeping it simple"! After all the searching and academic contortions, it's typical to end up where we began but with a more mature, confident outlook I think. "Speakers are the main arbiters of what determine good sound" is a good starting point, and likely a good ending point as well. (Don't forget the room though!)
Audiophilia seems like any other enthusiast endeavor in that the enthusiasts frequently lose their minds over gear. I appreciate your efforts to layer in some rationality. I'm enjoying music more than ever knowing that my gear is performing beyond any limits of human hearing. Outside of that ongoing body of work, I'd like to explore more tools for digital equalization, room tuning, and headphone EQ. I'm listening to headphones almost as much as my separate speakers so headphones are very important to me. I'm getting great results tuning to Harmon curve settings that Oratory publishes. What other preference curves exist? How is Harmon evolving over time? What are the choices for implementing PEQ and how can one go about doing this themselves?
Having had a lifetime in audio engineering, (Broadcasting), I despair at the stupidity and cupidity of consumer audio today.
"Cupidity" - love that word & concept! Thanks!
I enjoy using modern components with unusual or antiquated designs (ladder DACs, tube hybrid electronics, orthodynamic headphones, flat-head earbuds etc.) largely out of appreciation for the engineering that goes into pushing these disfavored designs toward new levels of performance. Opamp and delta-sigma IC cookbook designs usually aren't examples of interesting engineering to me regardless of the results they achieve. The bar for transparent reproduction is WAY below the level that the THD+N-chasing manufacturers seem obsessed with, but there's rarely an interesting expression of engineering in the designs themselves. I think you once compared this to the post-quartz crisis Swiss watch industry, and I would make the same comparison. (I would also compare the Cayin RU6 specifically to the Swatch Sistem 51... something fun because it's not a serious product, but rather a whimsical toy elevated to nearly the point of practical usability...)
I am enthusiastic about music, and I have upgraded my audio system over the past 3 years and wanted to get the best reproduction available for my budget. I have done this using information on yr blog and ASR. I have noticed that Audiophilia can become an obsession that can take over and inhibit music enjoyment if you let it!
I am a recovering audiophile. There is a balance which I’m now working towards; gear and music. As I disappeared down the gear rabbit hole, frustratingly enjoyable, educational and as expensive as it was, I stopped listening to what I wanted to in favour of searching out music I could listen to my systems through. Thank you for your blogging, excellently reasoned amongst the non-rational. I think it’s a great hobby that’s hobbled by its schisms.
Well expressed about the dangers of the "rabbit hole" that ultimately, perversely, can get us further from the enjoyment of music. Indeed, balance is key, it's key to almost everything in life.
The question 4 and 5 are way too narrow for an audiophile survey. My real answer is: Most of the listening is through BT IEMs because is done outside and at work, a very relevant part of my day. At home is almost 50/50 between good Headphones and good Speakers. I think you’re risking to receive pretty inconclusive data with those 2 questions.
As an audio objectivist I would like to see more high quality multichannel (DAC) systems on the market which are easily connected to both tv's and Roon servers.
Hi Archimago, I am Dimitri from Greece, and I am proud to say that i had excelled at your THD Blind Test, a couple of years ago, with my Mytek-Parasound-ProAc (under 10.000) combo!
Today I enjoy even greater levels of playback, with the lowest noises and distortions, with a system greatly inspired by you!
Netgear NAS - PC (dedicated player with JRiver) - RME 2 DAC fs( ESS chip) - NAD C298 ( Purifi Eigentakt class-D amplifier modules) - ProAc DT8. All cables Kimber Cables.
Thanks for the inspiration and for showing the right direction!
Congrats Dimitri! That's an impressive system.
That it has gone down a blind alley. I have found myself having to do my own research and now find myself listening to something that could be described as quite old school. It's a Meridian late 1990's trifield with newer non Meridian subwoofer and centre speakers fed by Roon but importantly sounds really good. Nothing remotely exists that replicates it on the market that I could afford new.
First off I'd have to say I really appreciate yr work here, debunking all that bollocks and audiophile nonsense. As I have the 'inside view' into the pop-machinery, since I worked in it, it is fascinating to see that most of the 'audiophiles' got no clue at all. Imperfection is all around creating music. It's about the Song and the attitude. A great song gets you, no matter on what system you listening to it. If it's graeat it moves you even on a tiny transistor radio. or a shabby mono - tape ;-) If it's shite, the best production can not save it. It remains bland or boring. People should start listening to the 'music' again, not listening to their systems. In the studio I'm using Active ATC and Genelec speakers. For me this combination works fine. But even here, it doesn't really matter, important is how you work with what you got. For instance some stellar sounding jamaican reggae productions from the 70s, recorded and mixed on equipment you'd normally throw into the trash. but these cats knew how to work with it and got the best out of it and make it sing.... and that's one thing I really love about 'music': everything is possible. there's no absolute truth. there are so many ways to create great results. At home I'm listening to JBL synthesis L100 classic with Cambridge EVO 150 or, if I want a bit more fun, a Naim Supernait 2 (sounds a bit dirtier and punchy than the cleaner EVO) in the living room, and Spendor classic 3/1 and JBL L52 Classic - both driven by Supernait II - in my little work-room. I love Spendor, for private listening my 'go to ' brand, but I fell in love with the engaging qualities of JBL's retro series. Great fun, great listening to live shows, watching concert videos, especially great for listening stuff from the 70s and 80s. If I switch back to my Spendors I immediately can here all that is 'wrong' with them JBL's (coloured midrange, bit boomy) well, but sometimes wrong feels damn right ;-)
Awesome comment. Thanks for the perspective from the production end of audio!
I would like to see (hear?) far more blind testing. To be honest, I find it utterly baffling why there is so much negativity towards blind testing.
Expectation bias seems to be ignored, and mention of expectation bias is considered as a direct insult by many. (I would happily admit that I suffer from expectation bias, which I suspect may result from the fact that I am a human being, and there is not much I can do about that)
However, ignore expectation bias and all manner of things can produce an apparent improvement in sound quality. Post about this apparent improvement in sound quality on-line, and you will find many that agree with you. Indeed, anyone who disagrees re the latest in vouge widget is likely to be attacked by the fan boys etc. etc.
Yet nobody seems to be interested in blind testing anything. A more popular approach seems to be to come up with a whole range of reasons to dismiss the validity of blind testing.
To me, it seems to be a grand conspiracy to to allow expectation bias to run free. No doubt that the industry benefits from this, but why the customers of the industry facilitate this so vigorously is something that I find rather baffling.
Sadly, this anti-controlled-testing sentiment is true in the world of "high end" audiophilia. I guess it's fun to just imagine infinite possibilities. Maybe allowing oneself to be deluded in the service of the ego feels natural. It takes work to overcome biases... Many people don't want to do the work and companies are fearful of it IMO.
Lots of great measuring equipment (Topping, SMSL, etc) at reasonable price is good for audiophiles as long as long term support is guaranteed (how reliable are all these recent devices, we don't know yet). Sometimes the reviews are a bit boring (too many DACs with excellent specs), however one category of devices I miss as being underpopulated is Plug-and-Play Streamers with integrated DAC at a similar reasonable price. Hacking with Raspberry Pi is not for all a common practice. I want to also pay a tribute here to Logitech Media Server (LMS) as an open source platform supporting a huge amount of services.
My system: QNAP NAS with my music collection, Logitech Media Server, Sonore OpticalRendu running Squeezelite connected to Ayre QB9 Twenty DAC, LFD NCSE amplifier, Esoteric MG20 speakers. Also still in active use (in the same setup): Nakamichi DR2 tape-deck, SPL Auditor headphone amp with Mrspeakers Aeon flow closed headphones.
I want to express my appreciation for your thorough objective reviews, your pragmatism and your stance against MQA, which hopefully will go away one day...
I chose Spotify because I don't have poor internet bandwidth and because after deep listening sessions I don't find a huge difference of its music compression with HD audio track. The sound recording / sound engineer work is more important to my ears.
I do NOT want to be called an Audiophile. IMO the term carries a negative connotation because too many (mostly old) folks would rather trust their ears as opposed to science. May I suggest the term “Neo Audiophile” to identify those who might still consider themselves to be “audiophiles” but do not care for the science-denier baggage associated with the term.
For dedicated listening I have a 2-channel system that includes MBL 101E speakers, Classe M600 Monoblocks, Bryston SP3 Preamp, T+A DAC, Windows PC running Roon and HQPlayer, Rpi-based streamer, and a VPI Classic Turntable. I mostly stream these days. For casual listening I use a Sonos system at home (5 zones including a media surround).
Keep up the good work!
Thanks Nico. Yeah, "Neo Audiophile" sounds cool! Very "Matrix-y", the kind of feeling one gets after swallowing the red pill.
"Welcome to the Real World", audiophile (in the voice of Morpheus). ;-)
I'm a working musician in Vancouver and have been exposed to professional recording studio audio for fifty years. The room and monitoring setup in good studios is a very good reference and almost anything will sound good in a good control room only if it's mp3.
Nice! Great hearing from those who do the real work of actually making music we all enjoy! Hope the Vancouver music scene treating you well post-pandemic.
Hello Archimago, since that's an easy way to get in touch with you, i'll take the opportunity.
Thanks a lot for your blog! I found it about a year ago, when i started to consider hifi/audio again more from a hobbyists perspective (instead of just from a consumers standpoint), and ever since, your updates have become a weekly highlight for me.
You've motivated me to start measuring my audio devices: i recently got the e1da adc and while i'm still learning how it all works, and probably make silly mistakes using wrong settings, i already got a feel for the relative differences of my DACs, and the (non-)audibility of those differences. (How to measure amps i still need to figure out...) Since i better understand now (hey, based on my own experience!) what potentially makes an audible difference and what not, i noticed that i'm enjoying the music more, and that i'm more relaxed in my buying decisions - meaning, i'm happy with what i have, and i'm not anymore questioning if i should have gotten device Y instead of X, because of Y's 3dB better THD+N.
As to my systems: When working from home (i'm a software engineer), i use mostly the Hifiman HE400se with a Topping EX5, connected to a recent MacBook Pro. When away, i use my old Bose QuietComfort 25 or Apple AirPods 1, directly connected to a laptop or to the phone.
I'm living in an apartment in Berlin, Germany, so, especially in the late evening hours, headphones are "mandatory"... For evening headphone listening sessions there is the Matrix Audio Mini-i pro 3 (streaming music with Roon from Qobuz) with the closed Dan Clark Aeon RT.
In the living room there is the Marantz Cinema 50 powering B&W CM8s2 (front), CM Center 2, and 685 S2 (back). Sources are an AppleTV 4k (1st gen), a MeLE Quieter2Q (you know it, thanks for the recommendation!) running RoonBridge, and a Sony UBP-X800M2 (rarely used, but i love it because it can play a large variety of disc formats, and i still have ±750 discs. It also can stream multichannel from the NAS, unfortunately not gapless...).
The Roon Server runs on a Synology DS420+, connected to the MeLE over ethernet. The music on the Synology is mostly multichannel content, ±30 albums, not really worth mentioning yet, a still young collection.
Just for completeness: In other rooms there is a Sonos One (kitchen) and three Apple Homepod Minis one in the bathroom, one in the bedroom and one in the hallway. Mostly used when playing background music ("party mode").
Finally, there's some currently unused equipment that i keep to have some devices to measure and compare. The Marantz recently replaced a 16 year old Yamaha RX-V463. Then there's: Topping D10s, Argon Audio Solo, ODAC (Objective DAC), Objective2 Headphone Amp, Pro-Ject Head Box SE II (great for direct headphone comparison), Pro-Ject DAC Box S USB.
So much for now. I'm looking forward to the survey results, your analysis, and wish you many contributions.
We are living in a golden age of affordable high-end electronics, measurement devices, and DSP. Although excellent speakers still cost over $10k, we may be on the cusp of affordable speakers and ubiquitous surround. New recordings generally sound great in spite of continued carnage from the loudness wars. The next decade will be exciting.
Love what you do and have for a long time. I am a mechanical engineer and audio enthusiast (B). Sometimes I get lost in your forum and know others are right there with you. So please summarize all quotient points at the end of your brilliant threads for the less electronically oriented readers. Keep it up.
Thanks for the feedback. Every once awhile I'll also see about summarizing big picture points like this.
I stopped spending lots of money on hifi. I have good speakers, "Living Voice". I got them a decade ago and have no desire to upgrade.
I have a Topping E30 DAC. It sounds great, I am not convinced spending any more money would be worth it. Source material is Qobuz or ripped CDs. I hardly ever buy CDs these days. My amp is a 40 year old Marantz PM4.. I have a silent mini pc running Linux for my roon core. RPi endpoints.
I have no trust in the Hifi press since MQA.
Roon is now the center of my system. I couldn't be without it.
Bring back tone controls on amplifiers..
Nobody needs more than Van Damme speaker cables..
Dacs are now transparent. The issue is longevity. Reports of chinese dacs dying after a year etc..
Since the AKM fire, finding an affordable dac that will handle optical reliably is difficult. Optical from a TV must be a very common use case. More testing of compatibility would be good. There's no point in having 120 db SINAD if it can't connect properly..
Yup, these days transparency is relatively commonly achieved. And yes, practical matters like compatibility between devices is way more important than SINADs beyond a very generous 100dB IMO - easily achieved with decent DACs.
Thankfully, AKM is back and we're seeing the availability of devices like the Topping MX3s which I hope will show very good S/PDIF TosLink compatibility.
It's a shame the Hifi business is such a swamp of myths, hype and BS. MQA is a case in point. In the early days I heard several MQA tracks at a dealer demo and the recording quality was excellent albeit they were from the 70's and 80's. So I think the remastering process they used was very good. However the hype and BS that it required a new file format requiring a proprietary eco-system was capitalism at its worst. They could have used FLAC format and set up a retail website just like other companies e.g. HDTT. If they were competitive with CD prices instead of money grabbing they could have been successful.
My advice : put money in live music experience rather in extreme audio stuff ... this is what I would call support to living artists.
My fellow objectivists are putting way too much emphasis on measurements that humans can not perceive. Let's have the courage to say that any device that exceeds humans ability to perceive differences in all categories is perfect and stop the nonsense rankings.
Correct. Excessive attention on measurements well beyond the limits of human biology is not prudent. And "One Number Objectivism" (eg. just a SINAD) has limited value as time goes on.
Why am I so annoyed by all the misinformation spread on Youtube by the “all the sudden” experts? I feel like I’ve paid my dues by being in this hobby for over 30 years and of having the knowledge I’ve learned. I’d like to help them move along to a more evolved position in this hobby but it really is pointless. That said, now I know why my dad would never talk down to me about this hobby. He certainly loved bashing the Stereophile group way back in the day. But he never belittled my opinion when I bought a new power chord and truly believed I heard a difference. I sort of wish he had challenged me on that! 😊
Interesting observation about what looks like a new breed of audiophile 'experts' on YouTube. Some of them appear clueless about the technical aspects beyond reading off a manufacturer specs sheet, echoing Industry claims. Not too different from the usual reviewers in magazines, I guess. Video can be more entertaining, although I think for convenience, for searching, longevity and enduring influence, the written word and graphs are superior.
Going back on a product review in magazines, the subjective comments and claims IMO are of limited value after a few years; the landscape changes and what subjectively sounded "great" back in the day may not be compared to modern gear, who knows. This is why I appreciate that Stereophile published objective data over the years and that's the enduring stuff.
I've found that the availability of almost all recorded music on streaming services has made me less enthusiastic about music. I used to have fun seeking more obscure or esoteric content, and becoming excited when old favs were reissued. And of course the fun of browsing in record stores is gone as well. There's always a payoff.
A good observation. There is a "thrill to the hunt" isn't there? Sometimes it's just about the sense of satisfaction in performing a meaningful ritual (like the ritual of preparing an LP for playback) rewarded by good sound.
Humans - our minds and behaviors - make us complex, fascinating creatures!
I would probably be considered an audiophile by some, but find that the audiophile world is full of overconfident types who hold way too strongly to their subjective experiences and confused opinions that they may have formed long ago, and not strongly enough to objective data. I prefer dynamic masterings if they are available, but am totally cool with something being compressed if that’s how it was initially released / envisioned. Redbook audio is good enough for me, CDs or files are a-ok. I supplement my collection with Apple Music (paid) + YouTube (free) streaming to discover stuff or to hear music I don’t care to own. Vinyl seems like a waste of time to me unless the album is only available as a record (of which I own a dozen or less examples). I have a simple Cambridge Audio CD player and amp from either the 90s or early 00s, Spica speakers and Grado headphones. I am just trying to get sound that’s not crazily colored by the equipment.
You seem interested in knowing a bit about your readers? I’m probably not very typical, but here it goes…
MUSIC: Classical only (orchestral, chamber, choir, instrumental, incl. organ). I attended lots of live classical concerts, back in the days.
SYSTEM: PecanPi streamer with Volumio, 8-channel Hypex nCore amp, Linkwitz LX521. Only the speakers are in the listening room, electronics are in an adjacent room, speaker cables come through the wall. Remote control using phone.
AUDIOPHILE? : I answered “music lover” to your question. Years ago, I used to think I was an audiophile, got excited about high end equipment, attended audio shows, checked magazines, watched YouTube videos, etc. Not anymore, call me a “disabused” or “defrocked” audiophile. I now have a very minimal interest in audio, only because I need “something decent” to play music and I like to keep an eye on decently priced high-performance gear.
I think audio is a technical endeavour that should be based on sane engineering, measurements, blind testing (I read Toole’s book… twice), etc. I wish for actual progress in the art, I’m unable to relate to subjective audiophile myths, fantasies and controversies. But I love reading your take when you comment on those! I don’t understand the purported sonic advantages and won’t put money into vinyl, tubes, power conditioners, fancy cables, etc.
SOURCES: I have a couple of hundreds of my CDs converted to Flac on a USB stick plugged to my streamer. But I mostly use Tidal now because it allows me to discover so much more repertoire (stimulated by David Hurwitz’s YouTube channel). I use Tidal Hifi service, sound quality suits me fine. Not motivated to subscribe to Masters (and I wouldn’t want it to be interpreted as an indirect endorsement of MQA).
I would have liked to try Qobuz: I can’t understand why it’s still unavailable in Canada. I get basic Amazon Music through Prime, but they apparently do not let third parties like Volumio use their API? So it’s unavailable to my system and I never bothered checking their catalog.
NOTE ON THE LX521, since you mentioned them in your 17 December 2022 post. No problem with their appearance, I actually like it. I don’t consider them furniture or decor accessories. I usually don’t even look at them while I’m listening. I’m interested in sonic results, period. I’ll always be grateful to Siegfried Linkwitz for having published his design and allowing DIY construction (pretty good price vs. performance ratio, I think, for a music lover on a budget).
Great stuff man! Indeed, it's nice knowing about readers like yourself out there. The greatest thing we can do for each other as hobbyists I think is to share our knowledge and experiences among the "tribe". So long as we're not sharing flights of fancy, delusional conspiracies, and other such disreputable, even pathological ideology of course. ;-)
I am starting with this new hobby (maybe almost a couple of years now) but I think I might stop consuming equipment and try to enjoy music again. I started it because at night I used to actively listening to and enjoy my music. I wanted to listen to every single detail, and I wanted to feel it in a deeper way “so to speak”. It’s been quite an experience but I have to say that it has implied some “distraction” regarding to the main goal and that is a bit dangerous for the joy and for the wallet of course. I am finishing my journey (because I really want a make a pause… some sort of stop and stare or stop and listen haha) with the Chord Mojo 2 and the Sennheiser HD660s. I ended up thinking that this is a matter of balance and your work has helped me to understand that objective measurements must be taken into consideration. I know now what I like, what I don’t like and that nobody should tell us how to listen to our music (because that’s what we listen right? Or we just listen to our equipment? ;) It would be cool to read about decision making when the hype around a product is all around and how to prevent bad decisions. thanks!
You are wise beyond your years as an audiophile! I've always told my kids to let others make mistakes, and them gaining from the errors of others... Much great music to enjoy without spending extreme $$$. Many other ways to use $$$ to achieve happiness as well.
Wishing you a wonderful journey!
Tired of the grumpy old dude audiophiles and reviewers raving over Audio Quest cables with batterys. LOL
Glad to see so many snake oil items exposed on this website.
My system is 7.4.4 Home Theater consisting of a Marantz AV 10, NAD Masters 27 and Legacy IV amps, B&W 800 series Speakers, SVS sb 4000 subs, 120 inch zero edge screen, Epson LS12000 projector. Blue Jean Cables , Apple TV, Oppo UDP205, rega p6 turntable.
I was pretty obsessed with HiFi when younger, but these days audiophilia leaves me completely cold. I was looking at the website of a high end hifi store here in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia recently (where I have spent a lot of money in the past). They have lots of streamers and DACS that cost megabucks, leaving me wondering what exactly you are getting for the money - my Topping D30 Pro sounds terrific.
The consumer is hopefully getting exactly what he sees (and feels) from those megabuck boxes. A nice thick milled aeronautical aluminum fascia and 30 pounds in heft! Any $10,000 DAC/streamer that doesn't at least weigh 20lbs is a rip off. :-)
Music is more important than system/hardware. Awesomeness is ephemeral. Ordinary is inevitable. Improvement is relative. Money is hard to earn, spend it wisely. Don't sweat over the smallest details, put things in perspective and at the end just enjoy the music. (Raspberry pi with Archphile, Denafrips terminator, Topping Pre90, ATC scm40a)
Awesome philosophy! Another great quote for the signature line.
Why so called audiophiles don't use good professional monitors since they offer so much more accuracy and being there sensation? When I'm not using my KH310s, I have fun with my 70s and 80s collection of audio gear. But music is what really matters, really...
"Why so called audiophiles don't use good professional monitors" - another one of the great mysteries of the universe it seems; like why there aren't more women audiophiles as discussed above.
Love your musings and value your insight. It has helped me to enjoy what I have without worrying about being able to afford the latest, fancy and expensive equipment. Not to say I won't buy anything in the future, just it likely will not be very expensive.
I currently have 2 systems. I work from home, so I bought a pair of SVS Prime Wireless speakers (first generation) for my desktop. I only stream music from Amazon and internet radio stations with them.
My 2nd (main) system is my bought new by me in 1987 Yamaha RX-700U receiver, a Denon DVD-910 I bought off of ebay for $35 to play my CDs, a recently purchased WiiM Mini for streaming, and a pair of Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1's in piano black. Speaker cables are homemade copies of your colorful cables that you made several years ago. I am considering purchasing a Topping E30 to run the WiiM Mini and DVD player through. Will I notice an audible difference? Maybe? But for $130 I'm not too worried about it, and I get another cool looking digital display.
I am sorry to see audio veering off into bizarre items and products for the ultra-rich, rather than concentrating more on what really makes a difference to musical enjoyment (and hi fi). I am beginning to shy away from audio friends who anxiously debate power cords, cables, cable elevators, weird resonators, or who take seriously generalizations about what class of amp or what DAC chip "sounds best."
I think debating power cords must be one of the most extreme of the many "First World Problems"! I cannot help but be saddened by just how superficial some hobbyists may have become to end up neurotic about the performance of lengths of wires with arbitrary MSRPs approaching that of cars. :-(
No other comparable invention of the industrialized 19th century has had a less impressive showing, in terms of evolution, return on investment and speed of advancement than recorded sound. The fact that sound clarity only achieved a universal quality baseline of "fidelity" for the common music listener a century after Edison (who shelved his discovery for a decade) is pathetic. Compare to the telegraph, telephone, photography, cinema, x-ray, steam locomotion and the automobile's progress points each in their first fifty years--scarcely a notch above dismal (by 1927 electrical recording was newfangled, shellac was meager and radio was worse).
Having only reached exceptional playback accuracy in the last 40 years, and achieving levels of verisimilitude exceeding human auditory perception at the start of this century, instead of by the middle of the 20th, is a sad condition indeed.
At the same time, the fringe snake oil contingent and Veblen set have co-opted the term "audiophile" into something laughable, insipid and corrupt. I like accuracy first and foremost, while recognizing that well over 90% of recordings globally since 1903 fall well short of it, and makes no difference in my enjoyment.
Your blog has always been excellent Arch. Keep going!
Great big-picture historical perspective. Thanks!
I've grown weary of the nasty online behavior in our community at large. What happened to camaraderie? Aren't we all music lovers first and foremost? I just don't get it. (Apologies for the rant Arch.)
Yeah, things can get pretty hairy on some forums. Important to just stay cool, speak truth, and disengage if needed. Good to know the perspective of others but there are some very irascible folks out there who lack basic emotional control that we would not want to associate with online, much less in real life!
This of course goes for objectivists and subjectivists...
I started mainly as a collector but what I have really found that I enjoy is the physics/science behind this whole "hobby" ie learning room acoustics, amplifier design and repair, horn and speaker theories/construction, schematic reading, etc - there is so much to learn besides just turning on an amplifier and hooking it up to speakers. Never thought I would be reading textbooks and basic science articles about everything from electrical theory, to acoustics and radiation impedance or printing horns with a 3d printer based on OS coordinates, etc. I wish I was smart enough to understand a tenth of the information out there that people put out on message boards, etc - its amazing. Your site with actual data and honest comparisons and reports is what we need more of. I first came to your site when starting my trip down the raspberry pi streaming rabbit hole and I have enjoyed it ever since. It was another step in my journey of figuring out that playback, etc doesn't require a multithousand dollar transport (for example) to get the same result.
Fantastic job! Great to hear that you're able to go deeper into this hobby and dig out those textbooks! There's a lifetime worth of learning below the superficial sales jobs, appearances, and advertising.
As an engineer who works in automotive noise and vibration simulation and sound quality (both objective and subjective) I greatly appreciate your balanced inputs (pun not intended!) in matters relating to audio. In my field, accurate playback matters above all else, and it amazes me how professional folks in my field are all pretty aligned on what matters for accurate playback, yet in consumer audio there is so much misinformation on what actually matters.
My general professional setup is a Windows PC, RME interface, multi-channel amplifier (for listening studies involving groups), and either HD600 or HD650 headphones, in a fairly quiet environment (ambient <40dB(A)). At home I either use a Windows PC with local music files, FiiO headphone DAC/amp, and HD600 headphones, or I listen from my phone with bluetooth headphones/IEMs. Bluetooth has gotten to a crossover point where the wireless convenience more than makes up for any small loss in fidelity.
We also have a Sonos system throughout the house, which we use to play back either Apple Music or local music on our NAS. Additionally, we have an Audio Technica turntable for listening to vinyl. We do enjoy the tactile/analog experience of listening to vinyl, knowing full well that it isn't necessarily optimal sound quality.
Thanks for the perspective from the R&D/manufacturing world. Obviously in the scientific community, other than maybe at most some pilot projects to explore vague hypotheses, rational science rules! (Or at least should rule for the most part...)
I stopped reading the audio press here in the UK when Jimmy Hughes, Alvin Gold and Ken Kessler came on the scene. I couldn’t understand, then or now, how none of their ‘clear as day’ sound revelations ever showed up in the data. Ever. Then Jimmy Hughes started the green felt tip idiocy with CDs and I stopped reading all of them. Since then, and it’s a long time ago, I buy only gear based on published spec’s. And I’m much happier as well!
There's lots of noise in the audio world, generated largely by marketing, writer/reviewers, and male egos.
I can enjoy both good analog and digital sources equally. I prefer very efficient/smooth impedance speakers driven by low power SET amps.
I don't mind a touch of euphonic distortion or warm tonality compared to extremely detailed or etched sound which can fatigue the listener.
ABX testing of everything. It’s ridiculous that it’s so rarely done.
If possible this would be great. Of course most audio writers/reviewers/content producers would not want this "dangerous" demand to become too prominent. That might just burst their security in possessing self-declared "Golden Ears".
Have curated with friends a very large digital library in FLAC and prefer digital playback over streaming subscriptions. I own my music and won't have to pay for it again in the future! Continue to purchase digital music on line to grow the library. 16-bit is just fine, and sort of annoyed by the marketing push for hi-res files for playback which means sometimes I can only purchase an MP3 or a 24 bit-FLAC. Grumble. I am excited to see where multi channel goes. Huge potential for symphonic recordings. Single best investment in past decade was an Anthem STR amplifier and implementing ARC sound correction, and adding a sub-woofer to my 2-channel (not to be a bass head, but to just get that little bit of subtle bass extension and lessen the load on my 3 way speakers). PS- love the blog.
A very notable development over the past couple of years is the extraordinary improvement in affordability of IEM’s offering low distortion and good compliance with, for example, the Harman preference curve for <USD100. There are now multiple options at this price level. For me, the current standout is the Truthear x Crinacle Zero. Others include the Moondrop Chu and 7Hz Timeless Salnotes Dioko.
With a little EQ eg via Equalizer APO, an inexpensive high resolution DAC and a simple streaming setup it’s now certainly possible for hobbyists to achieve objectively excellent fidelity for just a few hundred USD. We are truly living in a golden age of affordable audio - a cause for celebration!
Yes! The <US$100 market is exploding with some very interesting earphone products. I'll maybe drag up a few of those IEMs to review as well.
I have no illusions here. "Audiophilia" is a hobby about spending money on products, chasing performance gains that are measurable but usually not perceptible (or, for subjectivists, perceptible but not measurable). I know that "high res" audio usually means nothing except larger file sizes and ultrasonic noise. I know that, to anyone living in the 1980s, the kind of sound quality that can come from a laptop is astoundingly clean.
I also know that I got into this "hobby" because my laptop headphone jack had clearly audible hiss, even when nothing was playing. An external sound card fixed the problem and improved timbre of stringed instruments. If digital audio is solved (which it is) and it's possible to get outstanding DAC/amp performance for a few dollars (also true), why does an average consumer like me a few years back have to learn terms like SINAD or scrutinize distortion graphs just to listen to music without static in the background? It would've saved me a lot of time and money if those parts had "just worked" and I could focus on transducers.
As you say, much of what's written and shown in audiophilia is an attempt to excite so we spend money. IMO, there is an endpoint to being an objectivist audiophile which is when we understand enough and know ourselves well enough. By that point all we need to do is a quick glance at the SINAD / THD+N number, focus attention to more important things like frequency response, power curves, relative distortion amounts, etc... Then go have fun listening!
I don't talk to audiophiles anymore, as I consider digital technology a blessing for music, and they religiously don't. All my listening sourced from a laptop PC these days: either streaming Qobuz in cd-quality (or higher) or from external SSD via jRiver, or the occasional online radio station. No USB treatment necessary here. System is Linkwitz LX521.4 speakers and Linkwitz Earfood (= Hypex) amps, and a lightly treated room. I enjoy the sound, I enjoy the music and I enjoy your site very much.
You're all set! Enjoy the music. Extremely subjective types who talk with religious fervor are concerning; but debates with them can still be fun as long as nobody dies. ;-)
I'm an audio enthusiast that has been enjoying stereo music playback for over 50 years. I have a LP collection and a nice vinyl playback setup, a CD collection and a quality transport and DAC, plus a growing NAS server library of CD rips and hi-res album downloads and a decent bridge/transport and DAC setup. I don't see the need to subscribe to a digital streaming service because I have so much music to select from and I still enjoy perusing my LP and CD collections. As I get older though, I can envision the time when I'll sell the stereo system and the collections and go with a simple stereo and streaming subscription.
I agree, I think for many of us (including myself), I actually have more than enough music collected over a lifetime that even if there were no streaming services, my audio enjoyment would not change much. Streaming is convenient for walking around or listening in the living room system. And I will occasionally find a hidden treasure or become interested in a new band.
I got out of the audiophile hobby 35 years ago, but have the money and time for better music reproduction for the next few years.
It'd be nice to know what people have been happiest with having acquired in this century - e.g. a cheap Schiit for a DAC, REW, a streaming service, Genelec, Wilson Audio? (I'm pretty sure I'm kidding about the Wilson Audio....)
Pretty sure there won't be consensus here! Every brand will have cheerleaders and detractors. I recommend examining the products so as to make sure you're not likely looking at snake oil (typically easy to get a sense of this if there are many well-written criticisms out there). Then go listen, best done with at-home trials.
I'd love to see some content testing more classic DACs from the 90s using modern measurements (ex. Adcom GDA-600, EAD DSP-7000) . I've always had this feeling that DAC audio quality has been a "solved" problem for a while and that it is just a numbers game now.
Probably a fair statement. Back in the day, even without hi-res ability, early DACs sounded great. I'll see what I can find for my testing. When we look at the playback of early CD players they were not the best, but still not bad!
I've been an audiophile for more than fifty years. I'm finally mature enough to ignore the nonsense.
Audio/Audiophilia is a very lonely hobby, difficult to find similar people around :-) But it's worth it.
My setup is as follows:
- Desktop: Topping D90SE, Topping A90, Beyer Dynamic DT1770 Pro, Foobar2000
- Home Theater: Denon AVX-8500HA, AudioControl Savoy 7 channel amp, Focal 300 Series In Wall speakers, Rythmik Audio H25HP Dual Subwoofers. Setup is 9.2.6 channels
Yeah, it's definitely a geeky male thing for the most part as the demographics show. I think we have to look at ourselves and underlying personalities. While daily I have to deal with people, at heart I'm more of an "introvert", so in the evenings, as I listen to music, or engage in the pursuit of running measurements or writing up articles, this is also my time to "recharge". All part of the "balance" in life IMO.
After the boom of high-resolution formats and the search for bit and frequency differences, I am more and more convinced that the CD standard is perfect.
Sony and Philips knew what they were doing!
Great to finally see a science-based audiophile blog. I've fallen for Audio Whoo numerous times, thanks to good marketing. NEVER AGAIN!
Thank you for sharing your passion on your blog. Really appreciated from South France. My audio setup is compose of an Google chrome audio as a streamer device connected with spdif to a """DIY""" pre amp / DSP / dac (a najda, discontinued), with a custom 6 channels amplifier (hypex 180oem amplifiers and hypex 1200 power). My speakers are DIY. I use a 2.1 setup. Mains are actives 6" + 1" in a waveguide (SB acoustics mw16tx and sb26adc). Sub is a closed one. 12" Dayton powered by an hypex ds4.0. the DSP is used to make the xo for speakers but also as a room correction system and a subwoofer management system. I'm audio enthusiastic, reading a lot and practicing some measurements by myself (your blog is such a source of information). I'm active in a french forum where you will find amongst a lot of things the description of my system, measurements of my room and some photos. https://www.homecinema-fr.com/forum/installations-haute-fidelite/hoberm-systeme-2-1-lodrac-sub-t30121594.html. can't wait to read your survey analysis ! Have a good day.
Beautiful post and system man!
I would like to say if you can tell more about hardware like E1DA products, those products that are not common to everyone and deliver beautiful results for a normal price would be awesome. Thank you for your interesting and great publications!
I'll keep my eyes open. Remember if you guys come across something that looks promising, let me know!
My personal aim is to get to the good enough level ie. no fatiguing system with space and resolution, then I'd done with it, until we change house. I have no fetishism for high SPL system, I want every audio system to have personality within its room, I'd rather let the speakers be the "interpret" in the end. I have yet to try room treatment, I respect DSP correction as speaker enhancement. I was raised with TDK type 1 cassette with great dynamic within the hiss, so I think the best achievement of today's gears is the elimination of noise/hiss from our music. Even my 40 years old turntable with its original cartridge plays better today an 38 years old record on my 36 years old pair of speakers ... courtesy of 2022's electronics.
I would like to read about affordable commercial "ready to use" dummy loads to operate with ADC. A complicated issue for us small audio tinkerers... :)
Just for reference, my system consists of the following: Analog is Technics SL-1200GR/LP Gear Vessel A3SV/Parks Audio Puffin // Digital is ModWright Transporter/FLAC files over Wi-Fi/Qobuz/Internet radio // amplification is James Burgess custom 2A3 // speakers are Omega Speaker Systems Super 8 XRS /// I have music playing in the house all day. Sometimes it’s a record, sometimes it’s a FLAC file ripped from my CD’s, served up from a 2013 Mac Pro, sometimes it’s Internet radio. I also play the piano and guitar (though mainly for our cats and dog…surely to their delight?….bah, who knows). Music is everything to me. A world without it seems inconceivable. How it is consumed / received / absorbed is, in the end of it all, meaningless. Just enjoy it.
Humans have restricted frequency hearing as we age, and poor sound memory anyway. It intrigues me that the most vocally combative are those least well equipped to hear *anything* they claim to. I stopped reading the HiFi press when the ‘golden ears’ took over. Kessler, Hughes, Gold, Colloms and their like, claiming to hear that which could not be measured without first showing us the results of their own hearing acuity tests. All they really had to offer was ‘I know what I like’.
Dangerous idea and scary words for many of those elderly subjective audiophile reviewers (Serinus, Fremer, Reichert, Guttenberg, Harley, Martin, Weaver come to mind also).
Even though I can still run measurements and discuss out of experience, I don't think I would be confident in my listening ability by 60 years old to give any strong subjective opinion - that's in about 10 years for me. Barring any improvement in the medical sciences around slowing aging, I think we have to be honest about a "best before" date for human ears.
Being Philosophy teacher and having some scientific knowledge, I'm very interested in the phenomena of sound, perhaps due to being a music lover. There's still place to understand better music perception; a cultivated approach like yours (your blog) is very much appreciated.
Nice to hear from a philosophy educator!
high-end? poor performance high price? High performance regardless of price? Eye candy with poor performance?
Yes, some or all of the above. ;-)
Been through all the tweaking, AB testing, hardware swapping etc… spent a lot of time not listening to music! I now use a relatively old Marantz SR6006 for ease of use - movies/music to 5.2 kef q900’s/q600. For music I feed the Marantz with a cheap Topping d10s from a pi3+ running ropieeexl so have Spotify and Roon lifetime fulfilling all my local and internet streaming needs. The game changer for me was getting some convolution files created for room correction that slot into Roon DSP. I bought them from Thierry at HAF. Removed the need to perpetually mess around with things and just listen again. Gave Qobuz another go in Jan but just don’t need/use it. Local flac downloads at cd quality although I do have some hi res all kept on Quap NAS and the main Roon software on an Mac Pro. I use Spotify for casual listening and to find music I want to own. I also have a second endpoint again a Topping/pi3+/ropieeexl setup into a jds labs atom to an old pair of Sennheiser hd600’s which I love and don’t ever see myself replacing - only with another hd600 (I do use convolution filters here too). Had a pair of the silver hd800’s but physically found them difficult. I also have nearly 2000 vinyl records which I play occasionally on a Technics SL-1210M3D with a Dynavector 10x5 and Leema Elements Phono into the Marantz SR6006. I feel I should play them more or just get rid but can’t bring myself to do it! Hope this is helpful and look forward to the results… Always enjoy reading your blog.
I live with someone who has a VERY high end, very expensive system. most days it sounds like crap. I think all this stuff is in his head. Or maybe he should let me adjust his tone controls.
The big question then... Are you honest with him that the expensive system mostly sounds like crap? ;-) Nothing wrong with keeping one's mouth shut to maintain the peace when needed at home.
I have developed a technical interest in audio reproduction over the past few years and have been drawn into audiophile circles to learn. I do hear a lot of nonsense though and try to keep focused on enjoying it the music. I find so much of the preoccupations are academic and bear no significance to enjoying clear accurate and engaging music at an audible level. I probably slightly veer to the objective side in that I’m analytical and (I think) fairly honest with myself about my biases and self deception at times when I have thought I heard certain improvements etc. Personally though I’m not fussed about measured perfection which is unlikely to be audible and rate usability, form and reliability much more than most. Of course I’m probably just cloth-eared! Really enjoy your site.
Appreciate the honesty! And in fact I agree. Objective assessment is just a means of assessing the quality of the engineering. We then apply our desires on top of that ("Is it transparent?", "Is it slightly warmer to counteract a treble-extended DAC?", etc.). Nobody can call our personal tastes "wrong", even if corporately we might complain that a device does not have the best frequency response, lowest jitter, adequately low comparative distortion, or good output impedance, etc...
Regardless, have fun with the listening!
I'm done with the system I own since 2016 and no desire to change. Linkwitz LX521.4 simultaneously played with LXmini FR drivers resulting in three different located sweetspots in the listening room, each with its own attributes and specific for classical or studio music -each has different requirements-. Electronics by two Powerbox 6 Pro Ncore amps, ie 12 channels of independent Ncore power amps directly hooked to each driver and with two Hypex DLCP active crossovers and dacs. Extremely flexible active crossover customization posibilities at the click of a mouse. No room correction necessary despite having Dirac, Apo Equalizer and Rew. All room modes up to 135 Hz acoustically cancelled thanks to dipolar opposed woofers -ruler flat response +/- 1,5 db 20-135 Hz-. I usually listen 2 to 4 hours on a daily basis and even up to continuous 7-8 hours on free weekends without any fatigue. I also usually assist to live classical music events on diferent nearby concert halls. The system's acoustic rendering in my dedicated living room is very very close to the real live event given an adequate recording and this is its main attribute. Sometimes I feel there is not enough time to listen everything I would like to listen. Always searching for more... music. Feel free to contact me if you wish. Long time Archimago reader and ex-professional reviewer when younger in spanish classical music printed magazine.
Beautiful system and I don't blame you for having achieved your target!
There’s just too many people with just as many soapboxes pushing their pet theories. The technology is complex and the vast majority of us are incapable of understanding it let alone critique it. Even professional reviewers and the press fall into the same traps and almost all are commercially driven. Dare I mention MQA?
Magazines tend not to review products that do not have full page adverts in their pages and they almost never give bad reviews to those products that make it to their reviewers, but we know there are so many good products that never get any airtime whereas there are products that don’t deserve the reputation they currently enjoy. How do we sort the wheat from the chaff?
Subjectivists vs objectivists? I think I have a foot in both camps. However, I believe proper room and system setup, extended listening and A-B comparison is the key though setting up such an environment is beyond the resources of most of us. The hifi industry also does not cater to the scenario where potential customers can compare systems in their own listening rooms.
The more I read, the more excited I become about digital room correction. I am no computer genius by any standard, so I haven't made the plunge yet. My goal for these year is to continue researching and possibly begin experimenting with it and some room treatments. It seems logical that DRC would be the first step, so that I can measure the effect(s) that room treatments have before and after implementation.
Enjoy the plunge down the DSP hole, friend. ;-)
Loudness wars a real problem for me.
Although most of my listening is from my own server of ripped flac files I do like vinyl and when I do play some I'm always surprised by how good it sounds (surface noise aside).
Overall I would say that I have a greater appreciation of analogue and older recordings than you. For example I love listening to the early Beatles recordings (whatever format) because they sound so 'alive'. Most modern pop recordings sound 'dead' to me. Too loud, no dr, over processed, auto tuned - there is no life there.
No worries, I agree that there are many older recordings done well in vinyl but took a step back in quality when converted to digital. All kinds of reasons possible including older ADCs, poor studio tape playback unit, poor mastering chosen for the digital transfer, age of the master tapes by the time they got to a CD release, etc...
I enjoy a collection of reproduction equipment. Solid state and tubes both for speakers and headphones. I can stream from my pc or listen to cds on dedicated players. In my youth I was obsessed with only the best i.e you get what you pay for. With age and more sense I have discovered the joy in achieving audio bliss far more economically . Now i listen to the music and not to the equipment. I have my sonic demands but they are surprisingly easy to achieve without spending silly money. I would also like to express how informative and delightful it is to read your blog. With so much nonsense sprouted everywhere concerning Hi-Fi and related products, it is refreshing to read your musings. All the best!
As a longtime surround-sound fan(atic!), I'm hopeful that "Spatial audio" helps to create greater appreciation for and adoption of multichannel music.
I would love to see a test comparing which element in the chain makes the most difference by price point and should be upgraded first. I.e. does going from a usd200 to usd700 dac, or amp, or speakers make the biggest difference?
Current system: computer usb into fiio k9 pro ess, into tube preamp into adam a5x active speakers
Yeah, explorations into this question would be interesting. The tough part though is that there is a huge variation in quality even within price points. The "dollar metric" probably doesn't correlate well with sound quality even though some magazine writers seem to want to connect $$$ with sonic fidelity. For me, this "good enough" article looking at my take on relative money allocation expresses my impressions.
Anti snake oil activist :)
That would make a fantastic signature line!
I have finally reduced the number as well as the complexity of the hardware/systems used for music. No more FOMO, I simply try to enjoy the music.
You have helped me so much over the years, your blog is a fantastic resource… and not just for audio technology. I consider myself to be intelligent and knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, but you are on another level. You give me hope in a very bleak world.
Wow, thanks man. I'd like to think that we audiophiles as a group can self-organize to be more rational and knowledgeable. Rational audiophiles as rays of light poking through bleak ignorance and directionlessness of pure subjectivist audiophilia influenced by companies out to make a buck in an unregulated environment where anything goes. And mainstream audiophile media incapable of independent journalism.
If we can find truth and understanding despite how contentious things can get in this hobby, I'd like to think the same techniques and principles may be applied to other, greater, life challenges.
|"Exploration of complexity" - a Stable Diffusion hallucination.|
Kudos to those of you who made it to the end. As you can see, lots of smart fellow audiophiles out there with ideas well beyond superficial pablum.
Happy listening! Until next time...
Thoughtfully well done and presented good sir. Thank you for sharing with us. Cheers!ReplyDelete
Fun little exercise Ricochet ;-).Delete
Thanks for all who contributed!
Archimago, I'm very grateful to you for organizing so many like-minded yet diverse people around your blog. It was a very interesting read! Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by seeing how many people use speakers designed by Linkwitz. I always appreciated his work and his willingness to share his ideas. It's great that the audio community has so many good and honest people, including yourself. This gives us a hope.ReplyDelete
Yeah, interesting comment about Linkwitz. Over the years, I think with every one of my blind tests there has always been at least 2 people either comment on owning the Linkwitz or tried blind testing at a friend's place with these speakers so I have a sense it's not the same guys giving me feedback but that for the "ultra high-fidelity" folks, they have a special affinity for the design.
I was certainly very impressed by the sound last year when I visited the Linkwitz room at PAF.
Plenty of interesting conclusions and comments in this post, which isn't surprising - there's so much useful stuff on your blog! It's fair to say that reading it (together with ASR) has had a significant effect on my electronic equipment, and indirectly my life. So a big thank you for that! My only regret is that I bought some $$$ stuff with poor measurements earlier...ReplyDelete
Greetings and thanks for the comment. Hey, we all live and learn, eh? I've certainly put some $$$ into unnecessarily expensive audio gear back in the day like (cough... cough...) luxury cables.
I'm not averse to buying stuff that might measure poorly (like speakers or amps) if one loves the sound on it maybe looks great.
Enjoy the music!
Your link concerning hearing loss for 50+ age groups is quite relevant. High frequency hearing is greatly diminished long before someone recognizes that they have minor difficulties understanding speech clearly. Tens of dB of loss can't be fixed with lots of EQ or tone controls. A trip to the audiologist may have you spending more on high technology hearing aids rather than the latest new piece of gear. It can make a HUGE difference.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the note TOK,Delete
A very very very important comment. So often we look outside of ourselves at the gear we buy, and the objects we accumulate in this hobby as if these are the main arbiters of sound quality. When in fact our own sensory/cognitive facilities may be the limiting issue.
An audio friend recently got hearing aids. For the first time in years, he's able to better appreciate high frequencies again! Arguably what he's hearing amplified can't probably be called "hi-fi" based on usual standards. But it's certainly an upgrade for him and given the hearing limitations, he's wise enough not to claim that he would be able to hear differences between cables, "hi-res" albums vs. 16/44.1, etc... clearly beyond the limits of his auditory acuity.
I know high end audio gets a bad rap as being full of middle aged and older dudes. But I have to admit, now that I've reached 59 years old, I'm actually taking solace in the survey results that show plenty are continuing to enjoy the hobby well through the next decade. So...audio life doesn't end at 60? Good to know :-)ReplyDelete