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If you don't have 'the ear' is more expensive equipment worth it?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Pezerinno, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    Hi, I'm after a hi-fi setup in the summer (planning ahead :) ) I listen to a lot of music and love it however I am not an audiophile by any means. I have many things that I want to try and demo but haven't had the chance yet. Anyway what I'm asking is would a budget system sound pretty much the same over a more expensive one to the untrained ear? I'm happy to drop a couple of Ks on a system (which may be a budget system to some of you but when I say budget I mean a few hundred :D ) however I wonder if I'll be able to tell the difference over a cheaper setup - as I say I've yet to start demoing equipment.

    Also would people recommend trying to buy everything second hand to make my cash go further or are there some components to avoid buying secondhand?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Roohster

    Roohster
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    I think most people would be able to tell the difference between a bad system and a good one - even those with "untrained ears"!

    Your best bet is to wait until you can demo a few setups and just pick the one that sounds best to you.
     
  3. Paul Williams

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    Hi Nick25

    Try before you buy - if there is no difference "to you" between a low & a higher cost system, then it is not worth going to the higher cost one. Having said that, there are other factors like build quality and reliability to factor into the equation.

    Second hand or Ex demo goods are always a way of getting more sounds for your pounds, but this does require perhaps a better knowledge of the market. Most upmarket Hi-Fi dealers will have SH stock and should be happy to demo it.

    Personally, I would only get mint, boxed items SH, with instructions, as this tends to indicate the unit has at least been well looked after. For ex-dem I expect full manufacturers warranty – I recently looked at a so called ex-dem unit which new would have had a manufacturers warranty of three years, I was offered three months and declined this bargain. However, all that said, if the price is right…..

    Paul
     
  4. Daneel

    Daneel
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    2nd hand is good no matter what price range you are looking at.

    I would say there are significant improvements for anyone up to the top of mid-range kit (say ~£4-5k retail for a stereo setup). I'm pulling that figure out the air, others may have different ideas as to what constitutes low, mid and high-end.

    After that I'm not convinced it gets better. I'd say speakers continue to improve a fair bit above that budget level but electronics simply become different and it's all about taste. There are exceptions though, like if you have extreme speakers that present very difficult loads to amps then a Krell or something in that range might be worth the money.
     
  5. Knightshade

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    Hi Nick,
    Best advice, reiterating i'm afraid, go second hand or ex dem. But, before you do, listen to as much as you can. As you've already pointed out your ears are different from everyone else. So just because someone says it's great doesn't mean it is. Also try and listen to equipment in your own living room. It'll sound a lot different to a demo room in a shop. Most dealers will let you do this.
    2k second hand would get you a very nice system. Then again so would 1k.
     
  6. Jules Tohpipi

    Jules Tohpipi
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    I worked for 8 years as a salesman at a specialist hi-fi dealer and, in all that time, I didn't encounter a single person who didn't 'have the ears' for it. Everyone could tell the difference between a cheap system, a middle price system, and a high-end system. Not one single person ever said 'Nope, can't tell the blind bit of difference there'. You don't need to be an expert - it's not like wine tasting, where you need to learn what constitutes good.

    The only problem you will encounter is finding the place to stop. As you will be able to tell the difference at each notable price point, you will have to ask yourself when enough is enough. You will know that the next price point is better - but can you justify going there ? This is why some people have cheap systems, and some expensive. It's a balancing act of a) Your wealth, and b) The importance of music in your life. Hence why some less wealthy people have expensive systems, and some wealthy people have cheap systems.

    What is not in any doubt, to those who have done like for like comparisons, is that the best expensive stuff is better than the best cheap stuff. And that applies to absolutely everyone. There's no such thing as a 'bad' pair of ears - apart from those who try and theorise too much about it all before listening, and imprint their theories upon what they hear, of which there are a couple of on this forum.
     
  7. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    Thanks for the replies. Where are some good places near central Bristol? I don't drive yet (I will learn sometime!) so it needs to be fairly close to the centre if possible. Is the Radfords place any good?
     
  8. Knightshade

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    Not bad as they go.
     
  9. Londondecca

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    You dont need golden ears but you do need a good dealer. Dont overlook older equipment such as Quad ELS's or Spica's
     
  10. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    There seems to be an overwhelming amount of different speakers, amps (second hand pre/power combos) dacs, cables that I have to demo - this will take me years!
     
  11. pwood

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    The QUEST is part of the fun. Just make sure you take along CD's that you play a lot and not just ones that sound good.
    CD player wise the Arcam cd73 is a good place to start as for speakers well remember they will sound a lot different at home so its best you dem a few then ask your dealer for a home trial.
    So little point in me suggesting anything.


    Have fun on your quest.
     
  12. Harry T2

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    Hi Nick.

    Demo’s are half the fun. But I understand where you are coming from. The initial purchase can be very daunting. There is so many possibilities that sometime you just don’t know where to start.

    Another option for you is to start with a very good basic system. Something where the system will withstand individual component upgrades as your tastes and requirements change in the future. Initial start up investment of around £1000 to 1200.

    So if it was me, I would choice 2 or 3 Hifi dealers that stock different brands. Go and discuss your requirements, use there experience to create a system for you. Change a few components within the system (if necessary) until you are happy with it, and in the end you will be comparing just 2 or 3 systems, rather that several different combo, and hundreds of different components.

    Once the core of the system is in place. 2nd hand products become an option to further improve and reconfigure the system.

    I know from a previous thread, you where keen on a DVD Player - DAC, but I think a dedicated CD player maybe a better initial investment in the “education of your ears”.
    Then possibly after passing “EARS 101”, your 1st upgrade would be a 2nd hand DAC. And compare the dedicated CD to the DVD-DAC combo in your flat with a system you are familiar with.

    Within a short period of time, your initial system want be recognisable. (And you will have your PhD in EAR’s).

    All IMHO, of course.
     
  13. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    The only thing about getting a cdp instead of a dac is I want to use these speakers for my telly. Just stereo sound. If I bought a dac I could have optical from my freeview pvr and dvd player.
     
  14. Harry T2

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    Sorry, I don't understand. I am not in England, and while I understand the basic principles of "freeview pvr", don't they have an analogue stereo output that could be feed in to analogue stereo signal into a stereo amp. Or is it just the the DAC in the pvr is substandard?
     
  15. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    HarryT2 - sorry didn't really explain myself. Yes both the DVD player and freeview PVR have analogue outputs, I wasn't sure how many analogue inputs you generally got on stereo amps.

    Also a few people have said that it is often the built-in DACs in dvd players that cause the problems and the actual transport is pretty much the same as ones you get in lower priced cd players. Also adding a DAC to the dvd player would put it in the £800-1000 CDP price bracket.

    I can't help but feel if the dvd transport is similar to a CDP then why pay for another transport? Did that make sense?
     
  16. Knightshade

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    Hi Nick,
    That's exactly it. My Sony DVD player cost about £90. Put a good external DAC on it and you've got yourself a £1200+ CDP, which is certainly good enough for CD playback. As long as the DAC has at least 1 optical and 1 coax imput it'll do what you want.
     
  17. Harry T2

    Harry T2
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    In paragraph order
    1. Beside from the Eclipse ?????, stereo amp allow for 4+ connections.
    2. Agree in principle, but will argue over the specifics of price. Others will vehemently disagree. Others will say that a entry level CDP + GBP600 interconnects is the way to go. It is upto your EARS to decide.
    3. <old man mode on> You, my boy, do not have EARS yet. One minute we are talking about the number of option available. Yes, a DAC is a viable option, but I would bet that everyone here, started of their system with a entry level CDP and from there gained valuable experience in improving their appreciation of what he hears. <old man mode off>
     
  18. WhyAyeMan

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    Hi,

    I admit, I have experimented a lot with hifi systems, but it has to be said, in the end your either interested or not, in what expensive hifi can do for you.

    For example, I listen to dance music, and to be honest, even though I have had some pretty nice kit in my time, I am still here with kit that most may consider entry level. I've heard much more expensive kit, but ultimately it doesnt interest me, I am happy with my current kit. Yes I could tell the difference, but the difference just aint worth it for my ears. Try for yourself, it'll depend on how much your into music, gadgets, sound quality and also your taste in music. For me, with my trancey music, much of the time, the best quality gear isnt neccesary. As long as I have an amp / speakers / headphone set that can give good bass and decent lively treble, I am happy enough.

    The point is, everyone is different, decide for yourself. I went through an audiophile stage, but found that I am more happy ultimately with lower end kit which can often be more lively, not neutral, but I dont give a ****. Some people though must have their high end system, because nothing else will do. Nowt wrong with it, but one must decide for theirself.
     
  19. pwood

    pwood
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    Buy a CHORD transport and DAC :rotfl:
    I think you really need to go an listen to a few different systems to get a feel for what you like the sound of.
     
  20. TT9

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    I never thought I had the 'ears' myself until I was lucky enough to here something that really qualifies as high end. I agree with the previous poster who said all could tell the difference between budget, midrange, and highend systems.

    I had a dual purpose movie/music system which I loved and thought it was as good as it gets. It consisted of a Tag top loading transport/Bryston amplification and ProAc speakers. Even the cabling was decent Chord stuff. Quite an expense at the time.

    Then I went to buy an upsampler 2nd hand and heard a dCS verona/verdi/purcell/elgar+, Chord pre/power, B&W signatures. Unbelievable it was. I could here subtle chords in the music that were not audible on my little system. Blisteringly good it was.

    But was it worth the enormous 40k+ this thing would cost RRP to put together ? I dunno. Poetry it was, but you've got to draw the line somewhere.

    Steve.
     
  21. Pikman

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    Nick,

    my advice would be to look in the hi-fi mags and online for well-received systems within your budget, make a shortlist of those that appeal to you, and make sure you audition each one thoroughly before parting with any money.

    A well-received CD player from one company can sound remarkably different to a well-received CD player (costing the same) from another company and this is where personal taste enters into it. Find out if you prefer a warm, organic sound or a clean technical sound. A good system more than anything will allow you to hear the silence between instruments, it will also pick up the the sound of saliva as the singer parts his/her lips and the intake of air as they breathe in. Keep an ear open for these things.
     
  22. Pezerinno

    Pezerinno
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    Thanks for the advice - am making a shortlist at the moment Pikman, although its more of a long list!

    Also are there any hi-fi shops in Bristol that have DACs to demo?
     
  23. angelislington

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    Other than Radfords, try Audio Excellence.
     
  24. Garfield

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    Just my two penneth.

    I have bought throughout my life many many diferrent speakers, KEF, JAMO, Wharfedale, Mission, JBL, Bose and one thing I have learned the hard way is that the specifications and dealer demo rooms will tell you precisely nothing.

    Get 'em in your house and they sound like something else, it's as much about environment as cost / quality.

    I have a real old Bose AM series one and it is crystal clear, with the sub I can shake my neighbours house never mind mine. Put this system into a room twice the sizer as mine or smaller with less furnishing and it would sound completely different I am sure.

    There is a lot of snobbery I think centered around speakers and the best speakers in the world would sound rubbish without the appropriate amp to drive them, my ideal speaker would be one I couldn't see .....

    My advice is to find a dealer who will let you try a set in your house for say 7 days, after which you get a refund or try some different ones, if he won't then go find one who will.
     
  25. Pezerinno

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    Garfield - I'm sure that is the way to go about deiciding however because I can't drive I'll have to get my stuff delivered which could cost quite a bit if I keep having different systems to demo at home.
     
  26. Stick1

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    I bought all my kit from them (Naim stuff) in the late nineties. Didn't find anywhere better in Bristol but I am a few years out of date. Might be off there soon myself to audition an Arcam Solo... Audio Excellence in Park Street might be worth a go, and there's a place up Whiteladies Road (sorry can't remember the name) that looks reasonable.
     

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