#1 Edited by Kohe321 (3533 posts) -

Do we have any Hi-Fi enthusiasts here other than myself? :)

I recently decided to upgrade my soundsystem after using a pair of "normal" PC speakers, and a relatively cheap 20 year old amp and speaker-system for my livingroom. I love music and often listen more than a couple of hours a day, so why it didn't dawn on me before now to actually prioritize this passion and upgrade to something better is beyond me.

The speakers are a pair of Danish handmade Dynaudio focus 160's, and the amp is a norwegian Hegel h80 which I have connected to my computer via USB. Hegel has won a lot of Hi-Fi awards over here in Norway, and it was also recommended to pair together with the speakers I chose, so it was a no-brainer. :)

Before I bought the system I had never really experienced a "real" hifi-system in action, so I was curious to hear how big difference there really was between a "normal" rig and the stuff enthusiasts swear by. I was wondering if people that spend several grand on a soundsystem do it just because it's marginally better sounding than a good pair of 100-200$ speakers (like the ones I had before), or if the difference in price really is reflected in what I hear.

So I asked for a demo, naturally. I was placed in a comfortable chair sitting in what I was told was the "stereo sweetspot" and the dude in the store proceeded to connect a laptop with a flac library to the Hegel amplifier. He started with Alison Kraus - Whiskey Lullaby, and I litterally started grinning like an idiot. Completely blown away, and not by the volume, by the soundquality. It suddenly became very clear why some people have this as a hobby that they spend thousands on, the soundquality was just ridiculously good. It sounded so realistic, almost like the person singing was in the room. Almost clearer than that even...

It's weird that there is so much more detail recorded in CDs that you just don't hear in regular systems as they simply can't "paint" all the details. Voices sound almost eerily realistic, and instruments likewise, and the "soundstage" is so well presented that you can almost visually picture where the different sounds are coming from (say, in an orchestra you can tell the violinists are in front of the brass, to the left on the stage, etc). It's almost like having a live concert in your house. It's just awesome!

I'm very happy to have invested in this, it has opened up a whole different way of listening to music for me. I started listening to way more and different music than before, music I used to dislike suddenly became interesting. In the beginning it was because I wanted to hunt for the best produced album with the best soundquality, which was a lot of fun and led me to a lot of different music. The only negative thing is that it has made me very picky on productionquality, poorly produced albums that before sounded "similar to anything else" now sound like shit.

....

Errm, yeah, so that's my story, would be really cool to hear yours as well. It would also be neat if any of you could list some music that you think is well produced/good soundquality (if it's good music it's a bonus!) - just link from spotify if you can! :)

Here's one I'm listening to now:

"Ole Edvard Antonsen" - "Tour de Force". A really good norwegian trumpetist, and this album is a hidden gem in my opinion. Really fun music, and the production is astoundingly good. Spotify URL: Ole Edvard Antonsen – Tour De Force

#2 Posted by erhard (440 posts) -

Congratulations. Hopefully I'll one day be able put in the time and money to get my own soundsystem like that. Until then I have a fantastic pair of AKG headphones.

Good luck on the inevitable .flac hunt.

#3 Edited by tread311 (357 posts) -

If I was a rich man I'd have so much stereo gear. I have invested in some decent headphones, headphone amp, turntable, and stereo though. The stereo is a Nikko from the 70's that I cleaned up a bit and have been very happy with.

#4 Edited by HH (627 posts) -

i have a hi-fi set-up - a marantz amp, monitor audio speakers, a pro-ject turntable, and a marantz cd player, and i use the hell out of it.

i'm fussy enough about music that I won't play things off my computer because of the noise of it in the background, and I went completely back to cd's and records a few years ago, and ditched all that mp3 business, except for the iPod and even then i use flacs - with good headphones it's easy to spot the difference.

i prefer to play games through the system too, because having those sound effects bounce off your body is a whole different experience from hearing them through tv speakers or headphones, but the mixing in games tends to be very gunshot / impact heavy and it can be a bit much for other people in the house to put up with - three hour sessions of me laying waste to things - so i only get to do it every now and again.

but yeah, most days i will turn off all devices and put on an album and just listen, i mainly collect moody metal and moody film scores, real nerd fare, but my friends have got all that sociable music covered, and not much of it is interesting enough to me for focused listening.

I wouldn't say I'm overly fussed about production, I appreciate when it's done well, but at the same time I can listen to garage band recordings, I just like sounds taking their full shape in the room, which mp3's and computer speakers don't allow for.

#5 Posted by ShaggE (6710 posts) -

I'm too broke to like hi-fi. So I have decided to become a mid-fi enthusiast and wallow in the sweet, sweet sounds of mediocrity.

#6 Posted by Hashbrowns (663 posts) -

You'll find some really impressive recordings in the Hi-Res store of HDTracks.com.

https://www.hdtracks.com/music/hires

It's a bummer that so few big names in the music industry seem interested in selling higher-quality flac downloads in the 96khz-24bit quality level. I'm not an audiophile really, but even on a reasonably accurate speaker/headphone setup, some of those recordings are really impactful in ways many people don't expect music to be.

#7 Edited by zoozilla (984 posts) -

@hashbrowns: The real shame is that so many artists will put up super hi-res, huge downloads up on stores like that, and the recordings will still sound like absolute shit. The trendy, "crushed" sound basically gains nothing from an "HD" audio format, as it were.

All I've got is a pair of Grado headphones, but even that completely changed my whole idea of what music could sound like. It's the kind of thing you want everyone to experience.

#8 Edited by IrrelevantJohn (1092 posts) -

I used to care so much about high end audio until my hearing got worse. I played bass for awhile and didn't really protect my ears and I guess it caught up with me eventually...

As for the stuff I own, I have the B&W P5, Grado SR80i, Polk 5.1 Surround System, turntable that I forgot the name of, lots of high end in-ear earbuds and a portable headphone amp. I'm currently getting rid of most of these things now since I don't really hear that much of a difference any more.

#9 Posted by RonGalaxy (3267 posts) -

I have a modern audio technica turn table (no receiver required) hooked up to logitech speakers with a subwoofer and my audio technica headphones.

My dad has vintage equipment that Ive used before, and Im here to tell you that it isnt better. Sound quality is the same (unless you're looking at it under a fucking microscope) and old record players skip if you move anywhere near them. And not needing a receiver is a big plus in my book. Less money and less space taken up

#10 Edited by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

I'm pretty crazy about my hi-fi! I don't have too much money but I spend what I can on upgrading my baby. Over the last 5 years or so I've been adding to my stereo slowly but surely.

Right now I'm using Totem Rainmakers (handmade in Quebec) connected to a NAD C-272 Power-amp, which is in turn connected to a separate NAD C-162 pre-amp. To play music, I have my computer connected VIA usb to a Arcam rPAC DAC, and a Pro-ject Debut III turntable for analog music. The sound is incredible and only got better once I added the DAC. It still impresses me almost every day when I really crank it up. Don't even need FLACs, 320Kbps MP3s are more than sufficient when thrown at hardware like that. The real problem is I have no one around to appreciate it but me. People just wonder why I bought a speaker system the price of a cheap used car.

@hh: Don't give up on computer audio! You have all these flacs just wasting away on an iPod which has a pretty terrible internal DAC. Get a USB DAC which starts around 100-200 bucks and enjoy the fact that your computer won't make a sound other than that of the music. I can crank the volume all the way up and the computer is dead silent. Any noise comes from flaws in the recordings themselves. It also just makes everything sound so much clearer, without the DAC now it sounds like music is being played through a closed window or something.

#11 Edited by spraynardtatum (3713 posts) -

I'm a high five enthusiast.............

#12 Edited by HH (627 posts) -

@mikkaq: actually i rip all my flacs from my cd's or vinyls, so there's no reason to use a computer if i can play those cd's and vinyls directly, right? i just use the iPod for walking around, i never hook it up to the amp.

#13 Posted by diz (936 posts) -

I'm a hi-fi nut too. I worked in a specialist hi-fi shop for a couple of years, have a keen interest in electronics and also in playing and recording music, which helps (or maybe curses me) to be into this stuff. The best hi-fi I've ever heard was a pair of Apogee Scintilla ribbon speakers driven by Krell amplification using and Oracle Delphi turntable, I think.

I built my own transmission-line speakers (similar to IMF TLS80's but using more advanced drivers) some years ago. I spent more years gradually refining the crossovers in them. I also own some Adam P22A speakers (ribbon tweeters) and a ridiculous pair of JBL Urei 813c speakers (dual-concetric mid with loaded horn tweeters) that I'm re-furbishing at the moment. Although the Urei 813's were the default large studio monitor speaker of the 1980s, I still prefer my transmission lines that have such a well extended bass response (flat to 28Hz). They give a huge wallop when the music dictates there should be deep bass. Perhaps when the Ureis (that really need to be "soffit mounted") get some active crossovers and tri-amplification sorted out, they will come on song too.

I built and use amplifiers using John Linsley Hood's "class A" principles. They get very hot but sound like valve amps - only faster, more accurate (less distortion) and with a better high frequency response. I also built my own pre-amp for the main hi-fi, but mothballed it in preference for the Audio Research SP7 I currently use.

I have an odd DAC I bought from Singapore that has no oversampling but uses 16 parallel DA converters! I also have a Michell Gyrodec with a silver wired Rega arm and Sumiko "blue point special" cartridge for playing records, although it does not get much use any more, since I've submitted to the ease of digital. I'm still on the lookout for any cheap Zeta tonearms that might crop up on eBay though.

I've got through so much stereo equipment in my time but have settled on my current set-up for the front room for several years as being the best compromise. I've enjoyed Quad ELS electrostatics (although they don't really go loud enough and are fussy in placement) and BBC LS35/A speakers (the "ultimate" bookshelf speaker, in my view), amps from Amcron, Crimson, Alberry, Quad II valve amps; a Townshend Rock and AR turntables (original 50's and revised 80's models), Decca London cartridges, unipivot tonearms and loads more esoteric hi-fi stuff.

#14 Posted by KDSB (9 posts) -

I have a modern audio technica turn table (no receiver required) hooked up to logitech speakers with a subwoofer and my audio technica headphones.

My dad has vintage equipment that Ive used before, and Im here to tell you that it isnt better. Sound quality is the same (unless you're looking at it under a fucking microscope) and old record players skip if you move anywhere near them. And not needing a receiver is a big plus in my book. Less money and less space taken up

If you have decent vintage or good new equipment it will sound considerably better than a audio technica turntable run straight into some logitech speakers.

Each to their own of course. What ever works best for you is what's best for you.

#15 Posted by Scrawnto (2466 posts) -

I have a pair of Grado 325is, but I prefer my PSB M4U 1 headphones. I use a Fiio DAC and amplifier. They are pretty dang nice.

I don't have a nice set of speakers here in Wisconsin, but my dad, who lives in California, makes speakers as a hobby. He has really nice speakers in pretty much every room in his house and Squeezeboxes to stream his FLAC collection to wherever he needs. It's kind of nuts. There's a set he made for me out there, but I never found a good way to ship them. Those things are heavy and bulky.

Also, the first time I heard a record playing through the tube amp he built and into his speakers was a friggin' revelation. It sounded incredible. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment building and I don't like to bother people, so I can't bump the music too loud. Hence the headphones.

#16 Posted by squiDc00kiE (367 posts) -

Oh yeah! I've got a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable with a Pro-ject Phono Box S into a Schiit Valhalla headphone amp pushing a pair of BeyerDynamic dt880 600ohm. I'm listening to Kittyhawk's EP right now actually.

#17 Edited by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

@hh said:

@mikkaq: actually i rip all my flacs from my cd's or vinyls, so there's no reason to use a computer if i can play those cd's and vinyls directly, right? i just use the iPod for walking around, i never hook it up to the amp.

Well I guess it's more the convenience of having a computer library of music that sounds as good as CDs. Then you can switch albums on the fly.

#18 Posted by RonGalaxy (3267 posts) -

@kdsb said:

@naru_joe93 said:

I have a modern audio technica turn table (no receiver required) hooked up to logitech speakers with a subwoofer and my audio technica headphones.

My dad has vintage equipment that Ive used before, and Im here to tell you that it isnt better. Sound quality is the same (unless you're looking at it under a fucking microscope) and old record players skip if you move anywhere near them. And not needing a receiver is a big plus in my book. Less money and less space taken up

If you have decent vintage or good new equipment it will sound considerably better than a audio technica turntable run straight into some logitech speakers.

Each to their own of course. What ever works best for you is what's best for you.

My dad has a vintage technics turntable from the 70's (which is a really great brand from what I understand) and a receiver... that I forgot what the brand is, but I remember looking it up and seeing that it was good (and that its made in Japan, which is cool to me). He also has some pretty decent speakers too.

Like I said, my set up sounds extremely comparable when going by ear (not to toot my own horn, but I like to think I have a good musical ear) and doesnt skip as often as his does when walking near it...

So I prefer mine. None of the nuances of the format are lost: the sound is still warm, there's still great detail, and it's still a transcendent experience; sitting in front of the turntable on the floor looking at the LP sleeve while the record spins out music with its constant revolution..

Maybe Im missing something with this setup, but its still diminishing returns. I could go spend thousands of dollars on equipment and what kind of difference would there really be? Will the song completely change if I were to do that? Will the experience change? Nope. It will be a cellular difference of some waveforms.

I must say though, the build quality of his turn table is fucking godlike compared to my audio technica turntable.

#19 Posted by benpicko (2006 posts) -

I'm not a hi-fi enthusiast by any stretch, but I just ordered some AKG K550s. Hopefully they're as good as I've heard they are. Anybody have them on here?

#20 Edited by zombiepenguin9 (529 posts) -

It's something I want to get into in the future. Right now I just have a Logitech 5.1 system for my PC, but the goal is a proper hi-fi setup. I have a sizable CD and vinyl collection, and I really look forward to the day when I can come home from work, pour a drink, and sit down to listen to an album or two.

Too bad there's no lossless version of the Bombcast. I'd sit down with a drink and listen to that on a hi-fi setup.

#21 Edited by KDSB (9 posts) -

@naru_joe93:

That's all good. If you are happy with your set up then that's the main thing.

Technics made a lot of OK workhorse turntables (and a few very good TT's like the 1200 series which is perfect for DJ'ing but no great shakes outside of that context.) But there is a considerable difference between a low cost*, low end system and something higher quality and at least for me that difference is as clear as day. No doubt there is a rule of diminishing returns on a $$'s spent basis as you move into higher end stuff (some audio geeks will argue about expensive speaker cables for days if given the chance). But at entry level the difference between a new system and quality vintage (say pre 1990) is vast in my experience.

*By low cost I'm referring to new equipment as as you can get affordable older equipment that is very good

Edited to add I've had/have quite a few older record players and have never had a problem with one skipping when you walk near it.