Is the HiFi world changing and are What Hifi and others hanging on to the old world?

Dale tem

Standard Member
If you read What HiFi and other magazines, you would think that only a few stereo brands exist. They have big reviews and new items, Best CD Players under £400 etc. Yet the companies that often win these are the same companies who advertise in the magazine. I know from my industry that unless you advertise, you won't appear in the magazine (unless you know someone).

I will leave speakers out of this conversation and I am just dealing with the electronic items.

There are so many brands out there and as I've been doing lots of reading over the last few weeks as I sit and wait for CDs to rip I have come to the conclusion there are 2 camps:

1. The old skool/the gentleman's club - The traditional hifi brands that we have known and loved for years. These are where all the big money is spent, these are the brands magazines follow and according to this group, no other brands exist.

2. The hobbyist/new companies/companies who don't play by the gentleman's club's rules. I would FiiO in this group and so many more. Most of these brands have grown in popularity through the internet and have cult following. They rarely get mentioned in the magazines and when you read about systems, they recommend the other companies in this group. These are mostly cheaper brands, doing things in a different way, using new tech, pushing change.

Which is better? Answering this is also hard as the answer will generally fall into 3 camps:

1. I have a full Arcam/Cyrus/......... setup or I have hand selected all the items and I've listened to XXXXX and XXXXX and they don't compare to the £10,000 stereo I have. How can a £100 DAC compare? Are the people defending why they spent that much money or is there a difference?

2. I have spent £800 building up my equipment and it blows away my friends setup which cost him £10,000. I can't believe he wasted so much on his stereo. Is this person hearing things that isn't there to justify their choice to unheard of brands.

3. Does it matter as long as you are happy?

It is impossible to get the answer out of a magazine, a company who makes equipment and even the majority of online review websites as you don't know their Hows and Whys etc. the best place is to ask is here.

The change to streaming and music, apps etc. has meant that the hifi world is changing and that the interface now matters so much more. I remember my friend putting his puck on his CDs in his Naim (I think) CD player and I thought it was bonkers. Are people going to live with bad apps to access music?

I was wondering how many people have tried both worlds. Is there a big difference? If I go and buy a Teufel Streamer or use a laptop with ASIO/WASAPI driver and use this instead of an Audiolab 6000N, Cambridge Audio CXN v2 or a Naim streamer and feed it into the same DAC, amp and speakers, will I be missing something, have I just saved some money or is the one box solution just easier and that's it?

The reason I ask is I have come back to hifi after years away and I am seeing 2 approaches when it comes to streaming media - the buy a box and stream from the web or RIP your discs and feed a DAC from your PC, with little overlap.

All opinions welcome :D
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
I am just old enough to to have started my hifi journey with this new fangled thing called a CD, I then bought a turntable and a cassette deck to complement it, luckily I skipped minidisc and digital audio cassettes and I am now very wedded to streaming but also still flirt with vinyl and have an old CD player if the mood takes.

I started with a sevenoaks magic matrix system as advertised in what hifi and have been through many major brands but recently bought some of the new small player (in audio hifi terms) brands and have also mix and matched traditional hifi with studio kit.

As a listener to music (preferably live but otherwise recorded is a good second best) and an engineer/scientist I find I am pretty cynical of most of what is written and like to take a cross section view.

Therefore, for me the three biggest changes in my audio listening and buying habits are now driven by the internet (and yes I was one of the original Janet users!). Firstly the availability of significantly more opinion (which I dialled up my scepticism to compensate) by either professional journalists, semi pro reviewers, enthusiasts or the downright barking mad has made available a wide variety of opinion that I can use to inform my choices. Secondly, the internet has opened up a truly global market to supply my audio needs/wishes, whereas in the past I was limited to a twice yearly trip to a Tottenham Court Road, I can now buy a usb card for my DAC from China that arrives within a week. And thirdly, streaming services have rekindled my interest in music and audio and has opened up a wide variety of new music and refreshed old classic, some of which I have been fortunate to seek out and listen to live.

So, sorry, a bit of a monologue, but in short there have been a lot of changes over the past decade and I think the traditional printed press and to some extent high street shops have struggled to adapt to quick enough or found their income streams/business models are now not viable and therefore the landscape has changed for the audio buying public. I guess it is up to you as to whether this is for the better or not.
 

Pugs1

Well-known Member
Tell you what though, if I won millions of £ on the lottery, I'd be buying the expensive stuff but of course enjoying auditions of 100k amps/speakers and then having a dedicated hifi room and another home cinema room. I just couldn't see myself settling with the 800 quid setup🤣
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Well it’s horses for courses. I actually enjoy my Sony DAP and XM3s the most as they provide me a soundtrack to my life. I love my office HiFi which is an old Anthem MRX500, feeding JBL Monitor Ones with a Yamaha Sub, as it is the Soundtrack to my working day. I like my AVR X2400 driving a pair of in ceiling MA C165s and a BKGemini 2 in my kitchen whilst I cook and bake. I like my 5.2.1 MA Silver / AVRX3400 in my cinema room watching movies or listening to albums. The common theme to it all is the music is all digital, because it makes life easy. It’s either ripped from CD, played from CD, streamed from the internet or purchased in HiRez.
What I do want is a way to tie it all together and Roon is starting to look attractive.
I think as someone who likes music and HiFi (please don’t call me an audiophile it’s insulting) I am more focussed on who I listen to and how music interacts with my life, not so much the willy waving of the purists and upgradaholics obsessed with spending that next 10k for a nuance that I really don’t care about. I love nice HiFi, but not at the expense of how music helps fulfil my life.
 

Jules Tohpipi

Well-known Member
The only old school thinking going on here is the naive belief that the internet is a cradle of truth. Anyone who deals regularly with online 'influencers' will testify that money up front (or free product) is the main path to product reviews in the overwhelming majority of cases. It's not even under the table, such guaranteed terms - including editorial control - are frequently laid out in the contract. Wake up, it's not the 1990s anymore.

Out in the wild, people will be driven by their own experience, usage cases and constraints e.g. room type, budget, brand loyalties. That's why if you find 30 hi-fi dealers in a bar after a show kicking it out among themselves (i.e. talking not selling) you'll find 30 hi-fi dealers who'll disagree with each other on what the path to audio enlightenment is. Who will, therefore, in turn disagree with the magazines and the internet and anyone else they talk with. This will happen to you also.

These influencers and dealers and journalists at least get chance to try many different things all under the same roof. As for the rest of the individual randoms out there, well who are they, are they for real, are they who they say they are - it's your guess!

Pick your own poison for who you think is for real or not. Anyway, you're gonna have to accept there's no actual 'one answer' that suits us all. Opinions, everyone has got one. And likewise you cannot infer that you disagreeing with someone is a sign of their foul play.
 
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Marve77

Active Member
I think I'm firmly footed in the 3 answer camp.
Music is such a subjective thing from the artists we listen to, to the equipment we use and think sounds good. To me at least, if the gear you have connects you to your music in a way that gives it more satisfaction it doesn't matter what what it costs or who makes it.
I personally have a Fiio DAP that I pair with some CCA IEM's, and for me on the move this works fantastically, but like you say finding reviews on these products I had to use the likes of youtube and customer reviews on Amazon etc., but at the end of the day unless you can actually audition equipment personally you're taking a punt! I ended up buying 4 sets of IEM's before I settled on the ones I use, I bought a cheap as DAP that really didn't cut the mustard (£23 off amazon) and ended up going for the Fiio because it received a decent amount of good reviews but was cheaper because it didn't have a ton of technology I was never going to use.
It could come down to the heads of the companies world views, maybe the new guys like fiio and iota may not be trying to break into the world of WhatHifi and the likes and can see more value in focusing more on social media for promotion, or maybe those doors are shut.
Sorry it's late and I'm rambling....back to your point...
I spent days ripping all my cd's to my pc to stream so that I could join the modern world, not a fan of streaming as it is dependent on something outwith your control (ie an internet connection and a companies server being functional). And after all those hours of ripping and correcting metadata I still prefer to put the CD in!
But generally the marketplace likes simplicity I would say, a lot of people just want to buy and go. It would also probably depend on if you already have a collection of physical media and if you still buy it.
The whole topic has so many variables...
I guess it's like everything else, personal preference!
 

phil t

Well-known Member
All opinions welcome :D
Find yourself a good independent dealer and just listen. Buy what works for you and then just enjoy.

i used to own a Musical Fidelity A3.2 cd player, I chose it over the magazine and internet rave best buy, as it was far more musical and engaging to my ears.

A few (well several) years later, I owned a £100 dac and the same album in both CD and hi res format.

Overall sound quality and presentation, the CD player won. But only just.

Ten times better sound, no. Worth the extra money? Hell yes.
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
Find yourself a good independent dealer and just listen. Buy what works for you and then just enjoy.
Yes but the problem is that good dealers often stock and sell the familiar brands that people read about.

Anything with small volume or small margin isn't worth retailing for a bricks and mortar store, because they knw perfectly well that buyer will just buy cheaply online.

Nick
 

youngarthur

Active Member
I started my HiFi journey at 12 years old, and am now nearly 80 years old. First bit of equipment was headphones on around 60ft of cable, to a Grundig radio, listening to Voice Of America. Next was a Tape player, that came in a large suitcase, in a lovely red and beige colour. The one thing I have learnt over the years is to find the sound I like, and not buy something that a reviewer thinks I must have. I have had, expensive/cheap equipment, and all have their merits. Read/discuss/listen, then make up your own mind.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Yes but the problem is that good dealers often stock and sell the familiar brands that people read about.

Anything with small volume or small margin isn't worth retailing for a bricks and mortar store, because they knw perfectly well that buyer will just buy cheaply online.

Nick
I must have been lucky. But also, if I see something i want in a shop, I buy it from that shop.
 

Dale tem

Standard Member
Thanks for all the replies.

@Ugg10 - I loved my Minidisc player. The format had frequency issues at the bottom end, but I loved being able to make “mix tapes” that still sounded great. I have recreated my favourite minidisc as a playlist in Spotify.

@Jules Tohpipi - I am not talking about influencers, I would rather punch an influencer than listen to one. There is so much stuff out there, so many brands,there will be a lot of rubbish, but there will be some absolute gems out there too. It would be nice to find an unbiased review of the established vs the new. Is it compatible or isn’t it?

@mushii - it is the music I love, I will never be able to recreate my perfect stereo I had as it was in a car and was built up over years of love and had my sound. I listened to the music I loved in the way I loved it.

My home stereos have been great and loved listening to music, but most of my listening over the last 15 years has been on the move, either the car or through headphones at a computer or travelling. I have an original Fiio E10 on my work PC and an E10 Olympus on my home PC running my headphones. I’ve purchased the stereo upgrades in my last 2 cars and tried various options on the phone and headphones front. It will be odd going back to sitting in a room and listening to music without headphones.

I will never be clinical, stereo will be purchased with heart, not my wallet/head.

this brings me On to @Marve77 and your ripping of CDs. This is what I am currently doing, Ripping my CDs to lossless. I don’t trust the streaming platforms for their quality, I need to find out if I trust lossless or is it just ease I like? I will be doing lots of tests further down the line.

@phil t - I wanted too much money in my younger years buying the stuff that was perfect for me, that I now realise he made more on or couldn’t sell to others. I had my eyes opened to that a long time ago. Most people in shops are sales people. I’ve not been into a hifi dealer for years. I hope my next trip is positive and they don’t bash the products they don’t sell, I will be walking straight out of the shop if they do.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Thanks for all the replies.

@Ugg10 - I loved my Minidisc player. The format had frequency issues at the bottom end, but I loved being able to make “mix tapes” that still sounded great. I have recreated my favourite minidisc as a playlist in Spotify.

Funnily, I have done something similar and posted them in the “What am I listening to “ thread. I pinched the idea from another forum for 15 song albums that are themed playlists, think of them as the great grand son of Woolworths K-Tel albums or my c90 mix tapes.

Here’s a link to a couple.




Sorry to side track a little, we can now get back on topic but it is another example of either technology reviving old ideas or me just showing my age!
 

lindsayt

Active Member
Dale tem, I'm very much in camp 2. I don't play by the Club Rules.
I play by the rules of getting they very best sound quality I can for the minimum of money.

For a digital system, I'd be disappointed if any £10k system bought new from a dealer in the 21st Century sounded better than my £800 system.

For analogue, I'm confident I could put together a system that would sound better than any system sold new in a dealer in the 21st century, regardless of price. Including million pound systems. Why? There'd be a catch and a cheat in my system.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Thanks for all the replies.


@phil t - I wanted too much money in my younger years buying the stuff that was perfect for me, that I now realise he made more on or couldn’t sell to others. I had my eyes opened to that a long time ago. Most people in shops are sales people. I’ve not been into a hifi dealer for years. I hope my next trip is positive and they don’t bash the products they don’t sell, I will be walking straight out of the shop if they do.
I must have been lucky, but particularly Loud and Clear in Glasgow would rather i walk out with nothing than the wrong product for me. More recently, PJ in Guildford gave me similar service.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
Yes the Hi-Fi world is changing. Yes some hang on to the old world.
But that's ok.
The change to streaming has had benefits, but also old does not equal bad.

I grew up at the tail end of vinyl's dominance and have about 20 albums from that period.
I spent my early adulthood listening to CDs (and have a few hundred from that period).
I've been listening to streaming music for the last decade or so.

My system has a network streamer that I use for exploring new music and listening to podcasts.
It has a CD player that I use for listening to my favourite hundred or so albums ( I still buy new CDs, but only the best after streaming to audition)
It has a record player that I use for listening to favourite albums I have on vinyl (I sometimes buy a new vinyl album - usually jazz which for some reason just seems right on vinyl :) )

Sometimes I want to explore using the new... Sometimes I want the ceremony of taking a favourite record out of its sleeve, lining up the stylus and listening to odd pop and crackle as I drink my coffee on a sunday morning.

Its all good.
 

oscroft

Member
This is a very interesting subject. I started out in the 70s, when we only had print magazines to go on, and they were really quite horribly corrupt. They only recommended equipment they were paid to advertise, which continues to this day, but they also went out of their way to rubbish the stuff they didn't promote.

If you could afford a Linn LP12 they told you to buy that, if you couldn't you had to buy a Rega, and if you bought anything else you were a moron. And if you bought an amp that wasn't British and didn't look like your teenage kid had knocked it together in electronics class at school, you deserved nothing but ridicule. Perish the thought of buying anything from a maker who'd taken a bit of care in making it look good too - spending even a penny on a nicer appearance was a penny wasted that could have been spent on a slightly better grade of resistor inside, or whatever.

They seem to be a lot more realistic now (though clearly still biased towards their advertisers - we need to remember that magazines are principally advertising platforms, with the content only there to bring the eyeballs to the ads), having been forced away from their communications monopoly by the growth of the Internet. We can get a far wider range of opinions now, in the days when anyone can set up a YouTube channel that we can watch for free, and when we have forums like this where any of us can share our opinions.

But, the professionals still seem to fix themselves on a small number of brands - though that is inevitable, with the vast variety on offer these days. I think it was John Darko who pointed out not long ago that he simply can't offer opinions on much of the gear that people ask him about, because there's so much out there and he can only listen to a tiny proportion of it.

Add to that the modern marketing approach of churn, where everyone (with a few honourable exceptions) has to have new models out each year, and it's impossible to keep a track of it all.

What it comes down to, as always, is that we really need decent hifi retailers where we can go and listen and make up our own minds. Sadly, those have diminished greatly in number, largely a victim of the very thing that has exposed us to so wide a range of information - the Internet.

It's hard for an independent dealer offering good listening options to compete on price with online sellers. Chains like Richer Sounds can do it because of their size and the volume of their Internet sales, but there's very little market share available for independents with no big online sales presence. Where I live, there's essentially the option of online sales, Richer Sounds, and one independent "authorized" dealer of upmarket gear with two shops, the nearest about 10 miles away (and with no usable website to browse their stock).

So what do I buy? Vintage gear, from eBay, from the days when I knew it, and I service and upgrade it myself.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
For a digital system, I'd be disappointed if any £10k system bought new from a dealer in the 21st Century sounded better than my £800 system.

You assume that everybody likes, desires and chases the same.

What I find fatiguing and brittle, is another's detail.

Its rather misguided to put forward your definition of the best, and assume that it should be the benchmark for all.
 

Ascotbilly

Active Member
If you could afford a Linn LP12 they told you to buy that, if you couldn't you had to buy a Rega....,

Great thread, your Amp comment made me almost spit coffee on the keyboard ! When I got into this in mid/late 90's, a mate and his crew of fellow "audiophiles" spun those exact lines. I was shamed into not buying a smart looking Marantz Amp/CDP I wanted as it wasn't "proper hifi" although I did eventually choose and listen with my own ears and went with one of their acceptable suggestions, an Arcam combo which served me well.

Noted you're in Liverpool have you been into Doug Bradys of late ? If you still play vinyl they have a decent collection for sale so you don't feel as your visit is wasting their time.
 

lindsayt

Active Member
You assume that everybody likes, desires and chases the same.

What I find fatiguing and brittle, is another's detail.

Its rather misguided to put forward your definition of the best, and assume that it should be the benchmark for all.
You are the one making the assumption. Not me.

I'm talking about the difference between something sounding like a set of electrical and mechanical devices trying to reproduce a recording of a musical performance and something sounding like the actual musicians are there in your room.

At the bake-offs I've attended, there has been a generally very good consensus on what systems or components have sounded best and why.
The only times when there haven't been a consensus has been when someone has had too much of a vested emotional interest in the bake-off combined with a lack of integrity.

Often enough in bake-offs (especially amongst speakers and analog sources with different design philosphies), the differences are objective enough and aren't really subjective at all.


Also, to be very clear on this, I'd expect my £800 digital and £1600 analog system to blow brand new 21st century dealer systems away on the basis of sound quality.
When it comes to looks, small size, well known badges my systems would be a complete failure for most people. Which is fair enough. Other people can play by their rules. I'll play by mine, where I have no rules apart from looking to get the very best sounding system for the least amount of money.
 

Marve77

Active Member
@lindsayt out of curiosity what are your systems?

I'm Scottish and a Fifer which in stereotypical terms makes me tight², in reality it means I like to get the most out of my money. What are the brands worth considering that would normally be overlooked?
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
@lindsayt, would you also mind sharing you special sauce recipe for that "catch and cheat" you mentioned.
 

lindsayt

Active Member
Marve77:

For the digital system it'd be:
Philips CD753, bought used off ebay for £30
NVA P50SA bought used off ebay for £160
NVA A20 bought new frome NVA in a sale last year for £133
EV Sentry III speakers bought used off ebay for £415 with about £70 in parts to repair them. I knew they needed to be repaired when I bought them.
Free or £1.49 ebayed interconnects. £1 ish per metre thick multi stranded cables for connecting the speakers.
No stands. All plonked on the floor or available surface.

For the analog system it's the same, except swap the CD player for Studer A807 2 track 15 ips reel to reel tape recorder that I bought used off ebay for £800. And play master tapes or master tape copies.

I have an EMT 950 that I bought used for £2250 off German ebay. The EMT is a world class record player. It's a couple of notches in sound quality below the Studer. Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The big catch, of course is the cost of master tapes or master tape copies.

For brands that are overlooked: DIY is the biggest one. The annual Owston show that highlights DIY projects is a real ear opener for what can be achieved for so little money.

Apart from that, there are too many great pieces of audio equipment for me to mention. I'm partial to classic big American high efficiency speakers. Get a pair of them and amplifier choice isn't too important.
Check out what Lampizator says about CD players, such as certain 1990's Philips ones.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
I have no rules apart from looking to get the very best sounding system for the least amount of money.

Which is great, but it's still only the opinion of you and those who attended the meets.

You like certain attributes, others may not.

You can state a personal preference as to what best is, but others may disagree with you. So then who is right? Is their opinion of what is the best not as equally as valid as yours?
 

lindsayt

Active Member
Which is great, but it's still only the opinion of you and those who attended the meets.

You like certain attributes, others may not.

You can state a personal preference as to what best is, but others may disagree with you. So then who is right? Is their opinion of what is the best not as equally as valid as yours?
You are making up a problem where none exists.

When it comes to sound quality of audio systems. For people at the same event. With high enough levels of integrity.
 

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