Are these general Hi-Fi audio/equipment 'facts' accurate?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Ari33, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. Ari33

    Ari33
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    I found the following ShscWiki page on the net while trying to develop a better understanding of what factors make a good sound system.. must warn you, it is a long read and was written in 2007 but are these views all widely held in the audiophile community?... a good guide to follow?


    Part 1..




    "Walkthrough Guide

    Your equipment to play audio data, your chain, always consists of the following components:

    Source -> Amplifier -> Loudspeaker -> Room -> Your Ear

    While beeing sent through this 'chain', the signal becomes distorted and loses quality. The amount of influence on quality ranges from left to right in ascending order. So, the source has the smallest influence, while your ear obviously has the biggest. Try to calculate your budget accordingly:
    50% (or more) Loudspeakers, 30% Amplifier, 20% or less Everything else


    Step 1: Picking the source

    The source is what transforms the signal from the medium used to something the amplifier can use. Most likely, you will already have a source. Examples are:
    Note down your choice(s).

    - Consumer Computer
    Many will use an audio programm like Winamp or Foobar to play music through the soundcard. Most consumer soundcards use 3,5mm Mini Jacks to output a signal. Usually, you will need an adaptor to RCA jack or 6,3mm jack.

    - DAW Computer
    If you want to use a computer for high quality playback, for example for recording/mixing purposes, you will want to use an audio interface that connects via PCI or Firewire and has good DA converters.

    - Mp3 Player
    This is basically the same as the computer as those also connect via 3,5mm Mini Jack.

    - DVD Player
    Todays multiformat DVD players usually offer a good quality even in the cheapest segment. Please note that it is not feasonable to spend more than 200$ ever for a DVD player. Contrary to what the companies tell you, audio quality will not get better. DVDs and CDs are digital. You can either connect the player digitally via optical or coaxial cable (which one doesn't matter) to your receiver, or you can let the DVD player decode the data and convert it to an analog signal first. Then you will use RCA cables. The first option is usually better because the AD converters in your receiver will most likely be better. If your player and receiver support HDMI, this is the best option.

    - CD Player
    Just use your RCA cables to connect to your amplifier. Today, having a decent soundcard, your computer might be a better choice than to buy a new CD only player. Advantages are that you do not need a computer and CD players are often cheap. Downside is that you often pay for audiophile ********.

    - Radio/Cable Box
    This obviously depending on what's available. If you do not use your PC, it's always smart to set up your chain next to your TV, so that you can connect your cable box/satellite to your receiver and watch those movies in a proper fashion.

    - Blue Ray/HD-DVD
    I recommend using HDMI. Really. If you buy a BR or HD-DVD player, I would expect that you have a receiver that can process HDMI. Obviously, this makes things relatively easy. Just plug it in you big lama.


    Step 2: Deciding on stereo or surround

    You might think this is a no-brainer, but this decision is actually very important. The reason is that surround setups in a lower pricerange (up to around 400$) suck at playing music for some basic scientific reasons (which you can read below).
    So if you mainly listen to music, you should think about not going for the surround option.
    Be honest here. The advantage of having occasionally sound from behind isn't as great as a sucky music reproduction is a disadvantage.
    If you use this setup for 60% music or more, you should buy a stereo setup first.
    If you plan on expanding to surround at a later date by buying additional, high quality loudspeakers, you will have to get a surround receiver/amplifier now anyways.


    Step 3: Picking the amplifier

    Signals coming from your source have "line level", which means that they have not enough energy to power a speaker. So you need an amplifier to actually power those speakers.
    What's the difference between a receiver and an amplifier?
    The amplifier is just the technical part that amplifies the signal. A receiver is one type of amplifier that has a tuner built and the option to connect multiple sources in. An amp that does not offer this, is usually just called amplifier.
    Both types actually consist of two parts of amplifier, the Pre-Amplifier, which makes the signal usable, and the Power-Amplifier, which brings the signal up to power.
    Analog, Digital, Transistor, Tube, Class A, B and AB WHAT THE ****
    Yes. Ignore the classes of amplifiers for now. Just note that there are analog and digital amplifiers. Digital amps aren't really digital at all, they rather use switching. They produce less heat and more power. They are also smaller, which makes them become more popular (even though they are around since 1950 or so).
    Analog Amps are usually transistor amps. That's just your usual amplifier.
    The other type of analog amp is the tube amp, which usually costs a lot of money and colors the sound in a certain way which some people find pleasant.
    All in all, don't worry too much about the type of amplifier.
    How much Watt do I need????!?!
    While power output is important, how much muscle an amp really has is very hard to measure. Since there is no guideline how to measure wattage, you need to take it with a giant grain of salt. What you are looking for is the term "RMS". This gives you a ROUGH idea on how much power the amp outputs. If you see the term "PMPQ", it means someone wants to ******** you and you should not buy the product.
    As for how much you actually need, this can not be answered easily. It depends on how much the amp outputs, how effectively the speaker uses this output and on how loud you want it. Usually, 60-100 Watt are enough for most speakers and rooms.
    So it doesn't matter what amp I get?
    Not entirely. Any given amp can output a perfect signal. But a speaker is very complex to drive because it doesn't have a constant impendance and it also channels nasty stuff back to the amp, which may or may not result in a certain "sound".
    Usually, modern amps will not have a problem with this kind of stuff.
    From a scientific standpoint, I suggest you don't worry about it because you will not be able to hear it.
    From a standpoint of "I am doing to drop 2000 bucks on an amp", I highly suggest you audition the amp in your OWN LISTENING ENVIRONMENT (your home) and how the amp works with your speaker.
    What to look for when buying a surround receiver
    - Try to buy from an established company like Denon, Pioneer, Yamaha, Harman Kardon, Kenwood, Samsung or Marantz
    - Dolby Digital and DTS decoders (usually they have the logos somewhere on the front)
    - Bass Management with the ability to set a crossover frequency for a subwoofer
    - Enough inputs for your needs
    - Do you own LPs? Then the Receiver needs a built in phono preamp.
    - Proper speaker cable plugs. Not the little plastic ones that snap back on the cable. You want the ones that you can screw on and off
    - Digital Inputs, either optical or coaxial
    - Is the fan very loud? Check if it bothers you.
    - Enough power for your speakers, obviously
    - Can it power speakers with a 4 or 6 Ohm impendance (if you have those), or it is 8 Ohm only?
    What to look for when buying a stereo amplifier
    - Compare price and power output, are you buying low powered audiophile ********?
    - Does it have enough inputs for all your stuff?
    - Does it have the proper plugs (see above)?
    - Can it power speakers with a 4 or 6 Ohm impendance (if you have those), or it is 8 Ohm only?


    Step 4: Picking the speakers

    Speakers are the most important part of your chain because they have to change energy forms from electricity to motion, which is very hard to do correctly.
    What is an active speaker?
    An active speaker has a built in amplifier. You do not need to buy one, if you get an active speaker. You just plug the source in. Common types are computer speakers and studio monitors.
    What is a subwoofer for?
    It's very hard to reproduce the lowest bass frequencies. A lot of air needs to be moved, making the speakers huge, bulky and ugly.
    Scientists discovered that because of the long wavelengths of bass waves, our brain can not discern where the bass is coming from (frequencies of 80hz and lower). So they started "outsourcing" the bass cabinets into subwoofers.
    Then, smart marketing people invented the ".1" sets (2.1, 5.1) that you see everywhere. Suddenly it was en vogue to have a subwoofer. If you look at the satellite speakers, you can see why this can not work. They have to reach down to 80hz, which they surely do not. So the subwoofer needs to reach up - something that a subwoofer doesn't want to do, because it becomes a regular speaker now and sounds rather ******. Also, you might have a frequency hole between sub and satellite, where the sub doesn't quite reach up and the satellites do not quite reach down. Whoopsy. So what you have now is a regular speaker system with one instead of two bass drivers. Not good.
    A dedicated subwoofer only EXTENDS the range of your speakers. It never "adds" to your bass. If you have speakers with a good low-end responce, it will cost SERIOUS money to get a subwoofer that can reach lower.
    Why the rage on sub-100$ speakers
    Just like cars, speakers can not be produced for 10 cents a piece. The drivers and magnets always cost money and there is a limit to how low you can go before it becomes utter crap. The magical limit seems to be 50-100$. Below that (per pair of speakers), it's a waste of money. On the other side of the extreme, over 4000$ a pair, speakers usually just become different, not objectively better.

    Some types of speakers

    Computer Speaker 2.1/5.1 sets
    For example Logitech, Creative, Klipsch Promedia
    Advantage: cheap, surround, active
    Disadvantage: boomy bass, music reproduction quality bad

    HTIB - Home Cinema in a Box
    Bundled with a receiver, sometimes DVD player
    Advantage: everything included, surround, cheap
    Disadvantage: worse sound than individual components, often small satellites

    Studio Monitors
    Available in all price ranges, best deal for music
    Advantage: Great sound, active, waveguided, neutral (depending on price), often equalizer built in
    Disadvantage: -

    Bookshelf Speaker
    Advantage: good sound for music, compact, nice design
    Disadvantage: bass lacks deepest frequencies

    Floorstanding Speaker
    Advantage: good sound for music, nice design, complete frequency range
    Disadvantage: often huge, decent amp needed



    Step 5: Almost there

    Now that you have an overview about what's available, you can note down what exactly you need and get on to the recommendations. If you spend your hard earned money, I strongly suggest you audition every component before purchase and compare them to what you know. It might not make a huge difference for you now, but when you own good speakers, you automatically start to refine your taste. Take music you know with you!

    Ultimately, I believe now is the time to get a computer as a media center instead of a dedicated amp/dvd-player etc. Usually, the combination computer+studio monitors produces currently the best sound for the least money. So if you have no preference at all, I suggest you look into this option first!




    Recommendation



    Computer Speakers

    There are currently three big names when it comes to computer speakers. Logitech, Creative and Klipsch. From those three, Klipsch and Logitech are the ones I will recommend. And if you have to pick between those, i'd go for Klipsch as this is a renowned speaker manufacturer.
    Creative is said to create inferior products, and if we look at the X-Fi ******** marketing, I think we can pretty much agree that buying speakers from them isn't exactly what you want to do.
    They do have a sister company called Cambridge Soundworks, which creates decent products.
    Once again, except for Surround sound, I do not recommend buying computer speakers. There is no reason to buy a 2.1 set, ever.
    [​IMG]

    Logitech Z5300

    [​IMG]

    Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1"



    Cont below...
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  2. Ari33

    Ari33
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    Cont...




    "Home Cinema In A Box - HTIB

    If you are looking for a complete package for watching surround dvds and playing games, then you can spend 250$+ on a HTIB package. This includes everything you need, like a DVD player and a receiver. The issues are largely the same with the computer speaker sets by Logitech and such: Music quality is inferior to a stereo setup.
    If you are specifically looking for surround sound to plug into your TV, this is what you can shoot for. A small advantage over computer speakers is that you might be able to keep the receiver and dvd player if you upgrade.
    User Blaise's account of Onkyo packages:
    I currently own the Onkyo HT-S580 (the 590 is the current model). It is a 5.1 system and can be had for $250 or so at CircuitCity and sometimes for $200 at hoponkyo.com if you buy refurbished.
    I also had a close friend buy the Onkyo HT-S790 setup for $400 at circuit city a few weeks ago. I personally think that the speaker quality is the similar to my less expensive model, but the amplifier itself sells for $400 when purchased seperately and features everything under the planet except HDMI, meaning that it would be an excellent place to start as you get more money and buy nicer speakers.
    I'm sure people can add to this, I don't want to post anything that I do not know for fact personally. I would like to say that I personally think it is a completely waste of money to buy any surround sound package that costs less than $250 and is not an Onkyo or Yamaha. I've had many friends purchase these (including the god-awful DVD-combo ones) only to be stuck with worthless speakers and an amp a year down the road.

    [​IMG]



    The Onkyo HT-S590

    Other viable alternatives are Yamaha, Samsung and Kenwood sets. Try to stay over 250$ and please consider that the audio quality will not be very good. It's for watching movies and having surround sound.


    Active Monitors

    So you have decided that you will be using your setup for music, possibly over your PC? And, in addition, you have not much money to spend and not an old amp flying around somewhere? Well, it's your lucky day because the active monitor segment of the market has until now been kept largely ******** free and therefore offers some good deals.
    Monitors ? you say, But monitors sound boring and dry!
    No, they don't. No really not. Wherever that myth came from, you can safely forget it now. As great as entry level monitors are, they are not magical machines of neutral happiness. They use relatively cheap drivers which will not be flat like "real monitors".
    But alas, monitors do offer some general advantages.
    Here are some offers to consider.
    [​IMG]



    M-Audio StudioPro3 129.95$ MSRP

    [​IMG]



    M-Audio Studiophile DX4 200$ MSRP

    [​IMG]



    ESI nEar04, 05 around 200$

    For this price range, also check out Behringer and Edirol.

    Now, for the more expensive ones 300$+.


    [​IMG]



    Behringer Truth Series
    Probably the only product Behringer produced that doesn't suck. Those are actually pretty damn good for the price!

    [​IMG]



    TASCAM VL-X5
    This is probably the best studio monitor for sub 300 bucks and it can compete easily with monitors in the price range from 500-800 bucks. The only downside is that the bass is very linear, so it is usually not enough for hifi needs. Make sure you can use an equalizer when you get these.

    [​IMG]



    Yamaha HS50M and HS80M
    Solid choice. Those two are a little bit more hifi than the Yamaha MSP series.

    [​IMG]



    EMES Cobalt
    This one rocks. It just look funny.

    [​IMG]



    Mackie TAPCO series
    See Yamaha.


    All of the above are very good overall speakers and they do not require an amplifier. This saves money! Your money! As always, auditioning these is mandatory.


    Bookshelfs

    Floorstanding

    Amplifier Recommendation

    Stereo Amplifier

    Surround Receiver


    Definitions

    Audio Chain: This is the set of equipment you need to play music. The basic form is:
    Source -> Amplifier -> Speaker -> Room -> Your Ear
    The importance is ascending from source to room. Room Acoustics (read more below), are about 35-40% of your overall sound quality, speaker about 35%, amps 0 to 10% and so on. So structure your budget carefully!

    Source: The source can be a CD-Player, LP-Player, Tapedeck or your computer. The signal out of your source is "line level" or unamplified over RCA cable, for example. It doesn't have enough energy to power a speaker, so an amplifier is necessary.

    Dynamic Range / Dynamics: The dynamic range of a media or piece of equipment is defined as the difference between the loudest sound and the noise floor. The noise floor occurs when the signal has the same volume as the noise the equipment outputs (which is the case with every analogue part at a very low volume). A "very dynamic" loudspeaker simply can reproduce volume differences very good. One way to measure it is the SNR - signal to noise ratio.

    D/A or A/D converter: There is a general difference between the analogue world of audio, where the sound is transferred by electricity voltage/current and the digital world, where it's transferred in ON/OFF commands - bits. To change between them, you need converters. They have some to very little influence on your sound.

    Frequency in hz/khz Sound is actually pressure differences that occur form of a wave. Particles move and influence particles next to them to also move, which creates the wave. The pressure difference, much like a wave, reaches a local high and a local low. The time between the extremes is called the periodic length T. The frequency f is defined as f=1/T and measured in hz. 1000hz are 1khz.
    The human ear can hear from 20hz to 20.000hz (20khz). 20hz is very low bass and because of the extreme particle movement very energy rich (you feel the bass). 20khz is a very high pitch.
    Hearing ability declines with age. At the age of 20, 18khz or 19khz is usually the maximum and with old age some people can only hear as low as 8khz!

    Tone A tone is a wave at just one frequency and doesn't occur naturally. Often found in synths and such. Also used for audio measurement.

    Sound The sound of an instrument, for example, is defined by a basic tone and it's harmonics, which are exponents of the base frequency (f^2, f^3 etc.) The even harmonics sound pleasant, while the odd often sound harsh. The harmonics define how an instrument sound. While both piano and guitar can play an "E", they sound different because they have different harmonic frequencies. We'll leave it at that.

    Clipping When a piece of equipment reaches its max headroom or volume, it clips. The effects are different. Tube amps, when clipping, produce harmonic frequencies, which make them sound warmer (so this is desirable). Digital stuff just cuts the signal hard, which results in "crackles".
    If an amp clips, it the loudspeakers pull too much power. This can damage the loudspeaker because the clipping amp will "spit out" **** that might damage the tweeter.

    Noise Noise is a sound with all or random frequencies and harmonics. There are different types of noise, but I will not get into this right now.

    Three-Way / Two-Way / X-Way This tells you how much individual speakers a box has. Usually at least two are used, a bass cone and a tweeter. The sonic quality is defined by the quality of the speaker, not the quantity. There are One-Way speakers that sound better than most Three-Way speakers. This is no indicator for quality.

    Subwoofer A dedicated speaker that outputs energy-rich frequencies below 80hz, which can not be located in the room (yet still suffer from the same acoustic phenomenon)"






    This is only half of it! The rest of it can be read here... http://shsc.info/Speakerguide


    It does make a lot of sense to me but what do I know.. Just wondered if you guys would generally subscribe to these views... would this be a good guide to follow?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  3. Alan Mac

    Alan Mac
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    This is incorrect.

    The harmonics are definitely NOT exponents of the base frequency.

    They are MULTIPLES of the fundamental frequency.

    eg.

    If the fundamental frequency is 262 Hz (middle “C”)

    then the second harmonic is 2 x 262 Hz = 524 Hz

    the third harmonic is 3 x 262 Hz = 786 Hz

    the fourth harmonic is 4 x 262 Hz = 1.048 kHz

    etc.



    Alan
     
  4. Alan Mac

    Alan Mac
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    This is also incorrect.

    The time interval between a local high pressure occurrence and the adjacent local low pressure occurrence is:

    T / 2

    where T is the wave periodic time.


    Alan
     
  5. Ari33

    Ari33
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    Thanks, you are of course 100% correct Alan but with all due respect, do these technicalities really detract from the purpose of the page... which is to give newcomers like myself some basic guidance in choosing a good Hi-Fi set-up?
     
  6. Alan Mac

    Alan Mac
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    If the author can’t get some very basic and fundamental facts correct I don’t have much confidence that he knows his subject.

    We are not talking about minor errors here.


    Alan
     
  7. Ari33

    Ari33
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    Yes, when you look at it that way, fair point..


    Do you know of any other more accurate guides I should read?
     
  8. phil t

    phil t
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    Just enjoy the music!! That's what it's ultimately about.
     
  9. formbypc

    formbypc
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    I haven't read it all, but it reads like drivel so far.......

    Half the budget on speakers, 30% on amplifier, and the source components from some of the remaining 20%..... no, no, no.

    No mention of sources like turntable, streamer, etc.
     
  10. alexs2

    alexs2
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    The best guide to any system is going to be your own ears and hard work.

    If you follow someone else's guide,then basically you stand a good chance of ending up with something they might like,but you may not,in the long term.

    I also think that this is a somewhat verbose,basic,and not totally correct guide at that.
     
  11. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Alan is right to make those corrects. It is too easy to read something and carry that forward into life thinking it is true, only be contradicted just when you are trying to look smart.

    Next, though I am moving into dicey territory here, you found this information on another webpage, was it specifically stated that the information was in the public domain? Otherwise, it might have been better to summarize it and give a link to the page. Sorry, not trying to cause trouble, just pointing out a simple fact.

    In genera though, I think the author is spot on. Though I could quibble with tiny details.

    For me, the first factor is budget, that sets the framework for everything. Then a list of items you want the budget to buy you. If it is simply, as in amp and speakers, you can do pretty well for a modest budget, but if the list is Turntable, CD Player, BluRay Player, Tuner, amp, speakers, speaker stands, and an equipment stand, and the budget is still modest, don't get your hopes up.

    Then of course, Stereo vs Surround Sound. If the budget is too low you are wasting your time on a Surround Sound system. The money is just spread too thin. I would say, in the UK, the least you can spend and get a worthy Surround Sound system would be £750. Though for £500 you might be able to get some thing that you might be satisfied with for a while.

    However, that same amount of money will buy a fantastic Stereo system. I think for amp and speakers, it is possible to get a worthy stereo for about £250 to £300.

    Personally, I think that unless you have £2000 to £3000 to spend on a Surround Sound, that doing so just waters down your equipment. When you figure the cost of each amp channel or speaker, they aren't worth much compared to the quality that a stereo for the same money will bring you.

    One of the reasons I'm suspicious of Surround Sound is that most of the people I know have crappy discount store surround systems costing about £150 complete, and indeed the surround aspect is impressive, even as the sound quality itself is pure DUNG. I would rather be not impressed by an effect and be more impressed with the general sound quality.

    But, your needs, priorities, preferences, and circumstances carry a great deal of weight.

    This is critical. For many people a good boombox would make them perfectly happy. For others, a good low cost micro-system; nice and compact, excellent for casual listening. Myself, even when I was young and poor, though those are usually the same thing, I just couldn't see that type of system. I wanted what in my mind was a real stereo system. Though I confess my first system was a BSR turntable with a basic Radio Shack amp and a pair of cheap Radio Shack 8" bookshelf speaker. But, over the next few years, I gradually upgrade until I found a Pioneer Stereo that lasted me and satisfied me for many decades to come. Only recently did I upgrade beyond that. But would have been perfectly satisifed to continue with the Pioneer, except one channel was getting weak so it had to be retired. I still love that amp, and wished it still worked properly.

    Note that by today's standards, those 8" bookshelf speakers would be considered large, but back in the day they were embarrassingly small.

    As the article explains, if your priority is watching videos, then perhaps a Surround Sound system is the right choice assuming you have sufficient budget. However, do not equate priority with quantity. I use my stereo system more often for TV and Video than music, but none the less, MUSIC in my first priority, which is precisely why I have a stereo. Unless I win the Lottery, I have no interest in Surround Sound. My stereo really and truly rocks the house for video.

    My next rule of buying is never pay retail. Virtually everything I have I got for half price, either new or in new condition with full warranty. I got a fully warrantied Universal BluRay Player worth about £490 for about £175; I'm not complaining.

    In the good old days when I was young and poor, I search though every HiFi magazine I could get my hands on and wrote for catalogs from every stereo discounter in the country. As such, I was able to buy stereo equipment for less than the local dealers were paying, and all it took was a few postage stamps. This was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we didn't have the Internet as a resource.

    So, it pays to shop around. But it also pays to deal with reliable proven companies. Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, there are countless on-line sources and resources available to us.

    Alex2 does have a valid point. Since I have a stereo, I tend to advocate for stereo systems. If you listen to me like I was the voice of a god, then you won't get your system, you will get my system. Though, I do try to be fair and balanced, and make a case for both Stereo and Surround Sound.

    Guidelines, or simply guides, are just that, they should only guide you, not dictate your actions. They should help establish a framework upon which to make your own decisions.

    The same is true of this forum. You are foolish if you take anyone's word as absolute. The best we can do is give our opinions and point you in certain directions. In the end, few to none here will say 'buy this', the best you will get is consider this and consider that. We aren't you. There are countless aspects that we can't and don't know, and therefore we can make a decision. However, we can steer you toward equipment in your price range that fitzs your stated needs, and perhaps offer some alternative suggestions. But, in the end, you must make the final decision yourself.

    For what it's worth.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  12. a8ch

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    Most here I am sure have done it by the numbers just as you mention and it can be of value. Problem these days is that three components can all have near identical specs yet all sound different. At the end of day it all boils down to what sounds the best by your own scientific measuring devices, your ears :).
     
  13. BlueWizard

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    Funny thing about that, the ears of some people do not prefer technical perfection. Many young party people want bumping thumping bass, and aren't satisifed until they get it, and who are we to say they are wrong?

    That's why "ears" are important, every one gets a pair, and each pair is attached to a unique brain, and each unique brain is pleased by different things.

    Rather than adhere to some ideal of technical perfection, you should go with what pleases you. By the same token, don't buy the ultra-expensive system simply because you think it should be better. If the cheap system sound better to you, then likely it is better for you.

    In time, we all change, and when your priorities, preferences, and taste are ready, then perhaps the more expensive system will give you what you then need.

    For me, that is the true measure of a stereo, independent of technical aspects, if it pleases me, then it is right.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  14. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig
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    I disagree with a lot of that.

    Try plugging a cheapo source into a decent amp and speakers to hear the fallacy of this. Not always the case but the above is certainly not a rule and is incorrect more often than it holds true.

    The order is not right, it's just too complicated for gross simplifications. While the source might usually be more important that the amp the room will largely dictate the potential for whatever you buy. A bad room will ruin any system, a small room will preclude deep bass at high volume and poor set-up will destroy your sound whatever the room is like.

    On a simple test whilst sitting on a bench maybe but in the real world this is just rubbish. Amplifiers are made to all sorts of differing qualities and it sounds that way.

    And no mention of vinyl as a source, a sure sign that you're dealing with a nerd who has lots of time for making lists but little heart for real music.
     
  15. Ari33

    Ari33
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    Thanks for the replies..

    Bluewizard, thanks for your comprehensive reply. yes it is a public webpage, I did also link the webpage, I copied and pasted half of it in the hope that I'd get a better response to the thread but yes I was being a bit lazy by not sumarizing it.. my apologies.

    I'm left wondering what to use from the existing kit I have, whether to go down the road of upgrading the Onkyo HT-R518, (130w x 5) 5.1 system which also includes the basic 5.1 speaker package (Active subwoofer) or whether to upgrade my ancient seperates system.
    The Kenwood CD player has stopped reading discs but I'm hoping a lens clean will fix that.
    The old Pioneer Amp (Stereo) isn't the most powerfull but it sounds good enough for me.
    The old Pioneer Speakers (8 Ohm) are fairly large by todays standards but are probably better for it.. they sound fantastic, very warm and have much fuller low and mid ranges than most modern speakers I've heard. One thing I dont understand is.. these speakers are only rated at DIN-40 watts but they must be very sensitive as they certainly can go loud enough before clipping. Does anyone know what DIN-40 watts max roughly is in modern terms?

    I also have a pair of budget slimline Eltax Floorstanders rated at 200 watts Music power and 100w 'Sinus' power, 4-8 Ohm. These sound pretty poor tbh.. but maybe ok for the rear channels for the 5.1?

    I think I'm leaning towards upgrading the Onkyo 5.1 system as I dont really have room for both systems at the moment.

    I know I would have to be very careful with the volume control so as not to cause clipping but would it be a really bad idea to replace the small Onkyo front and rear speakers for the Pioneers (Front) and Eltax's (Rear) bearing in mind the different speaker power ratings and also with the Eltax being rated at 4-8 ohm (6 ohm?) while the rest of the speakers are all 8 Ohm. speaker output balance problems?

    Or.. once I'm sure my CD player still works fine, continue saving for a 5.1 set of speakers? I would maybe pay up to £450 ish and would most likely buy 2nd hand.


    Decisions.. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2011
  16. andy1249

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    I have to agree about the basic maths mistakes made above , the author or authors clearly dont have a tech background and have filched this from somewhere else , meaning the confidence for the rest of the article takes a nosedive in my opinion.

    Also , while the above about sources can be true , you must keep in mind that there are some truly brutal CD players and DVD players on the market , so while there is no justification for spending thousands on players , there certainly is justification to make sure you get a good player.

    Cheap CD players can rely on interpolation far too much , and can output streams that vary by as much as 25% from the redbook audio steam on the disc. Some research should be put into CD players before you buy. You need to make sure its a good solid deck , and good solid decks can be had for less than £200. Just be very careful because some players in that price range are dreadful.

    DVD players vary hugely , mostly in terms of picture quality and how and to what quality they handle the huge range of signal formats available on DVD.
    For this reason its a good idea to splurge on a well known quality brand such as Oppo , which have been tested to death and are known to have no issues playing all signal formats on the market.

    In fact , for a universal disc player , handling CD's as well as BD's and everything else ... the Oppo 93/95/ etc. are a very good buy.

    So , about the source mattering the least , no , I definitely do not agree , the digital is digital comment is always a vast oversimplification , in some cases , like with cables , it is perfectly valid , in some cases , like with sources , it is not so , Blu ray is very standardised , and almost any player will do when it comes to [email protected] and bitstreamed audio over HDMI , but you most definitely cannot say the same for CD and DVD players.
     
  17. Ari33

    Ari33
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    Thanks for your input Andy, I'll certainly keep that in mind if I do have to replace my CD player.

    :)
     
  18. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Just a few random points -

    DVD Player -

    Unless I am mistaken the audio standard for DVD is not even the equal of a standard CD, and then we take into account the amount of compression that is used in DVD. I have a good DVD player (£280) and a good BluRay Player (£490). I don't know if the DVD does anything special to enhance the quality of the Audio, but a vast majority of the DVD's I have sound very good. However, they certainly don't have the dynamic range of the BluRay.

    However, I had an older Philips bargain basement DVD that I also used as a CD player. Normally I just ran HDMI to the TV, and the TV to my audio system and played CD's that way, but I needed the TV on to hear the CD. So, I decided to connect the analog cables, and that allowed a side by side comparison between the DVD internal DAC, and the DAC in my somewhat new Sony TV. The DAC in the DVD was terrible, the difference between the two was very noticeable. I suspect because the DAC in the DVD only conformed to DVD sound standards, which as I mentioned are not as good as standard CD.

    So, some DVD players, while they may play CDs, are not good at playing CDs. My somewhat newer Harman Kardon Universal DVD-48 sound virtually the same whether direct analog or through the TV. Which tells me two things, one that DVD can do a good job as a CD player, and second that my TV must have some pretty decent DACs.

    CD Player -

    I search long and hard for a new CD Player on something of a starvation budget, and I really didn't see anything that appealed to me. Or anything that I thought would be of sufficient quality to satisfy me. Then I stumbled across Universal Players, and found an absolute bargain on the HK U-DVD. Later I found a very similar ultra-cheap bargain on the HK U-BLuRay. Now my DVD is strictly a CD player, and my BluRay is dedicated to video.

    If you need a BluRay and you need a CD player, weight cost of both against the cost of a single universal unit. The Universal Players are usually pretty expensive, but the two I have server me very well, especially for the low price I found them at.

    As to the quality of the source relative to the rest of the equipment; there is a school of thought that says dump the bulk of your money into the source, because if the source isn't good, the everything after the source will be compromised.

    I, on the other hand, take a more balanced approach. I would say 1x CD Player, 1x Amp, and 2x Speakers (eg: £500 cd, £500 amp, £1000 speakers). And remember my mind thinks in stereo.

    So, in the end, everything is tempered with a healthy dose of common sense. Your equipment needs to be in reasonable proportion to the rest of the equipment, I makes no more sense to put a £100 CD on a £1000 stereo, than it does to put a £1000 CD on a £100 stereo. In between is a more balanced and reasonable position.

    Computer Audio -

    Again, this is just me, start with the analog output from your sound card first, and see how it goes. Maybe you are satisfied, and maybe it falls short, but don't spend money you don't need to spend. Also make some reasonable assessment of your sound card. If you have an aftermarket sound card, or you bought the computer with a sound card upgrade, you are probably OK. If you have the built-on-the-motherboard sound card, you are standing on the edge.

    For me, because my computer audio listening is casual and not so serious, I'm happy with the motherboard sound card. But if your computer is your primary source for listening, weight the cost of a sound card upgrade against the cost of an external DAC, and remember to derive the benefit of an external DAC, you have to have Digital Audio Outputs on your computer. Ether Coaxial, Optical, or USB. And keep in mind that the price of an external DAC will buy a pretty impressive sound card. On the other hand, an external DAC is more versatile; it can be used in other places for other things.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the place to start is budget. If you have a substantial budget, then you can do some pretty impressive things. However, if your budget is more modest, then you have to weight which option will give you the greatest benefit. Using the DAC example, which meets your needs and fits your budget better, a sound card upgrade, or an external DAC?

    Speakers -

    Assuming otherwise similar speakers, a 40w speaker is no louder or better sounding than a 100w speaker. The same is true of amps, more or less, assuming you are not over driving them, a 100w is no louder or better than a 40w amp. In some case, some of the absolute best amps out there have very modest amounts of power.

    The power rating on a speakers is something of a limit; exceed the limit, damage the speaker. But time and heat are factors. A short peak of 80w on a 40w speaker can be tolerated, but sustain that power and you will damage the speaker.

    Also, keep in mind, that the average power is much much lower than you would assume. I did some tests on my previous system (Onkyo 50w/ch, 12" 3-way 60w speakers) and at 50% volume or 12 o'clock on the dial, I was only averaging about 5 watts, despite that being over 90db. Now surges were certainly much higher, and at time clipping the voltage rails on the amp, but the long term average was very low.

    So, as long as you keep you head, you can effectively use an amp that is more powerful than your speakers.

    DIN is, vaguely Music or Dynamic Power, meaning that these speaker can function at this level play real music rather than continuous test tone. Usually we want to know the continuous or RMS power rating, which is the amount of power that the speaker can sustain over time. Continuous power is always lower then Dynamic/Music/DIN power because as I previously mentioned during real music, the average power is very low.

    40w-DIN is not a lot of power, so I would definitely excessive caution. Also, power is not linear, a 1/4 turn on the low end of the dial hardly effects the power at all. However 1/4 on the high end of the dial will quadruple the power, which is a huge jump in power, and a sudden surge like that could easily blow your speaker.

    Actually what I said isn't quite right. 1/4 turn on the low end will also quadruples the power, but it quadruples it from 1/4w to 1w. On the high end of the dial, 1/4 turn quadruples the power from 20w to 80w, which is something of a problem if you only have a 50w or 60w amp.

    As to what you should do, everything starts with the available budget. In some cases, assuming a good amp, it works well to build up your speakers over time. Start with upgrading the front, then later add a center, then a new sub, the if you fell you need them, upgrade the rear. All this being done as the money becomes available. But, it hinges on starting with a good amp.

    CD Cleaning Disks -

    One problem I found with these is that in order to effectively be able to use the disk, the player has to be able to read the disk. Which it can't do if the CD player is so far gone that it can't read disks. Give it a try, it might work, but to get to the brushes, the CD has to be able to move to the track where the brushes are.

    Again, budget pretty much drives everything, though there are way to maximize it. For example, if you buy last year's model AV amp, you can usually get massive discounts on the original price.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2011
  19. penguinpaul

    penguinpaul
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    Just to add some more interesting info to Steve's (excellent) post..

    The audio encoded on a dvd can only be up to 448 kbps - 384 is standard for a 5.1 track on a film...

    Whereas an audio cd (44.1khz sample rate and 16 bit) works out to 1411kbps.

    I'm reading a book called "The complete guide to high end audio" by Robert Harley atm (it was a Christmas present!!!!) and he talks about the possibility for high end audio on blu ray discs.. I can't find the page now, but it's phenomenal! A huge amount of data space available to store the sound in.
     

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