The HiFi Myth and Professional System Design

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
HiFi has been my hobby for 25 years and my business for almost 20. Over the years I have learned that using good equipment is only a small part of what is required to reproduce sound correctly.

Because sound interacts with its environment, sound reproduction must address both equipment and the acoustics of the room – changing to better equipment will only ever address half the problem.

In the home audio industry, this inconvenient truth is largely ignored because of a number of factors. Firstly, very few people who sell audio equipment have ever had any training in acoustics.

The brands they do sell naturally support the idea that equipment is all that is required to get good sound. These manufacturers do not have the resources or expertise to address this huge and very complex issue – so they ignore it.

Finally, the correct design of systems is ignored simply because it is easier and more profitable to sell bigger and bigger speakers and then try to “tweak” them with unscientific nonsense such as cables and mains filters.

I'm no audio guru, but I have had the opportunity to be taught by real experts in the industry. I hope that what I have written in my recent posts will help you realise some of the issues that must be addressed if you really want to be able to faithfully reproduce music and film.

My business involves selling a range of different products that I have chosen because they all have one thing in common – they try and minimise the negative effects of a room's acoustics.

If you are looking for the best hifi and home cinema you can afford I challenge you to compare the systems I can demonstrate against far, far more expensive alternatives.

The systems I demonstrate measure accurately and as a result play music and film accurately. The systems you have heard, until now, will not.

Here are my suggestions for buying a better system:

Audition More Systems
Listen to more systems. Magazines and forums are great but there is no substitute for listening to several different systems before buying anything. If you don't learn something with this time investment, I'll be amazed.

Trust your Eyes and Ears
Don't be intimidated by big speakers and racks of electronics. Trust you ears and if possible bring a friend along for a second opinion. Ideally you should also have some well recorded CDs and DVDs that you are really familiar with.

Find a Great Dealer
A good dealer or installer is worth their weight in gold. Speak to a few different people and find someone who is an expert in their field. You may pay a little more than shopping from the net but if the company is truly expert and invested in your system you'll get far better results for the same money.

Be a Good Customer
A good salesman or installer will only put the effort in to designing and optimising the perfect system for you if you invest in them. Reward your dealer by buying from them and if they do a good job, recommend them to your friends.

Have a Reference Point
The easiest ways of spotting the problems with most audio systems is by having something accurate to compare them against. I can guarantee your hifi or home cinema is not accurate, so try a pair of good professional headphones. Sennheiser HD25s are brilliant; at about £170 they're not cheap but are so much better than “hifi headphones”. You'll be amazed at what you hear without your room spoiling the sound and how quickly you educate your ears.

Finally, Learn About Sound, Not HiFi
If you are an audio geek, like me, invest your time in learning about sound rather than equipment. Every few months the next “must have” product is announced, while in reality the performance of speakers and amplifiers etc. change very little from one year to the next.

The biggest problem with most systems is the way they are compromised by the listening/viewing room. Invest time in learning about this critical area and you'll end up with a much better system that costs you far less.

If you found this post helpful you may be interested in some of the other topics I've posted on:
- Why Good Audio Equipment Sounds Bad
- Professional Recommendations for Surround Sound Design
- The Benefits of Room-Friendly Speakers
- Acoustic Room Design
- Why You Need Room Correction
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Established Member
...and get some soft furnishings to soak up the reflections! A minimalist room might look pretty but it's only one step away from trying to listen to music in a bathroom...


Prominent Member
Thanks very much for all that Ron :thumbsup:

Have pasted to Word and will digest it later (hopefully get a better understanding :D)


Staff member
Moved to Hi Fi systems forum....

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
If you are about to buy an audio system, the vast majority of options that you will be shown simply will not reproduce sound accurately in your home.

Regardless of how much money you spend, your room’s acoustics will dramatically increase the level of some sounds, while other are significantly reduced. The result is a sound quality that cannot realistically be called hi fidelity.

Because of this, wherever accurate sound reproduction is required, the acoustics of your room must be addressed just as carefully as the equipment that you use.

The Size of the Problem

As most audio systems do not even try to rectify the sonic errors that rooms create, deviations of 20db from one room to the next are normal. A 20 db variation in your music is huge and will mean that some sounds will be heard more than 4 times louder than others!

A Different Approach

I have recently written 6 blog posts on the AV Forums talking about how to design accurate surround systems. The principals I have raised here for surround reproduction are just as valid for stereo playback.

In these blog posts I have tried to demonstrate that buying a top of the range hifi will not provide you with accurate sound in your home. I have also laid out 3 proven scientific methods for providing accurate sound reproduction. These methods have been taught to me by some of the world’s leading experts in home audio and are based on scientific fact rather than marketing mumbo jumbo.

The hifi industry regards these facts as an inconvenient truth and would rather not mention the fact that even the most expensive hifi systems are so inaccurate in the majority of rooms they are used in.

The Inconvenient Truth

HiFi has been my hobby for 25 years and my business for almost 20. I started out, like most enthusiasts, thinking that if only I could afford those great big speakers and those racks of amplifiers, sitting in front of my dream system would be like sitting in front of live musicians.

Over the years I have travelled around the world visiting many leading manufacturers, hifi shows and retailers. What has been proven to me again and again is that using good equipment simply does not provide accurate sound reproduction.

If you have had the opportunity to hear the top-of-the-range systems from hifi manufacturers you’ll probably feel a little disappointed and certainly not as if you’ve heard sound as it was recorded at the live performance – unless the room in which you heard the system was professionally designed and heavily treated.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

For many people the fact that buying great equipment won’t result in great sound is something of a shock. I hope that what I have written will prompt you to do your own research and start learning about sound and acoustics rather than hifi equipment.

My business involves me providing clients with complete systems that provide the best possible performance in their homes. To do this I use a range of different products that all have one thing in common – they all try and minimise the negative effects of the listening room’s acoustics.

There are only two stereo systems that I’m aware of that can guarantee accurate sound reproduction. Both of these systems will give in-room results that vary less than 2db from reference rather than the normal 20db.

For me, these systems show the future of sound reproduction because if you buy them you will get accurate sound reproduction in any room - something that cannot be said of any other audio systems.

If you want to know if the scientific process and products I use works, why not start by doing your own investigation into acoustics etc. on the net to see if the points I’ve made are valid. Then come and hear the systems we sell for yourself.


Established Member
Whilst I'm certainly not going to disagree about the potential for room acoustics to bugger up the sound completely, shouldn't this plug be in the "buy and sell" forums?


Established Member
As most audio systems do not even try to rectify the sonic errors that rooms create, deviations of 20db from one room to the next are normal. A 20 db variation in your music is huge and will mean that some sounds will be heard more than 4 times louder than others!

I just moved my armchair a few inches put on a CD and My room shook like an earthquake was occurring:eek:

The Inconvenient Truth

HiFi has been my hobby for 25 years and my business for almost 20. I started out, like most enthusiasts, thinking that if only I could afford those great big speakers and those racks of amplifiers, sitting in front of my dream system would be like sitting in front of live musicians.

I didn't know Al Gore was an Audiophile
Whilst I'm certainly not going to disagree about the potential for room acoustics to bugger up the sound completely, shouldn't this plug be in the "buy and sell" forums?

This is one of the reasons that the best installers in the world don't hang around here for long...try and help and all they get is a wall of cynicism...


Established Member
That's cool.
I can settle for being called Al Gore.

No offence meant. Seriously, when I get a bit of spare time will research your initial post because some of the thoughts are quite profound. Cheers:)

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
Yeah, trying to reproduce "live sound" was probably a bit of a wooly goal.

I have heard a few killer systems at the Brixton Academy over the years. This venue hardly needs any power because it's an old music hall so it's been designed so you can hear someone talking at normal volume levels throughout the venue.

The best I heard it was with a TurboSound rig in the eraly days before they sold it to Harman. I remember distinctly how amazing it sounded - running off a £150 Yamaha tape deck!


Standard Member
at the outset, let me state that i agree with rob. rooms do make a difference. so this isn't a 'gory' retort, merely a point of view.

while reading the post, a particular phrase caught my eye: "like sitting in front of live musicians."

now, here's a simple question: "what do live musicians sound like, before they've laid down 24 tracks and flicked every switch on the effects console?"

damned if i know.

i've just logged on after a 2 hour session with steely dan, a group i've been listening to for 30 years now. and, after 3 decades, i still don't know if fagen's squeaky plea to rikki is the real deal.

what i do know, however, is that the compositions, lyrics and musicianship still grab me by the short and curlies. i'm not striving to hear authenticity. i'm too busy drowning in the soul of the music.

one might ask, as my friends often do, why then do i spend thousands of dollars on my hi-fi? if it's the music that moves me, surely an mp3 should suffice?

well, the honest answer is that i love to hear more. my latest upgrade (a cdp) revealed a few asthmatic squawks and wheezes on the outro to 'haitian divorce' that i'd never heard before. what the hell was it? i haven't a clue. but you can bet there was a bloody big grin on my face as i unearthed another piece in the dan duo's eclectic mix.

one might also argue that it's acoustic music that needs to be treated with respect. after all, piano trios usually eschew fuzz boxes and whammy bars. wouldn't it be nice to have a bunch of live jazz musicians playing in your living room?

well, yes. if it was the coltrane quartet with eric dolphy, circa november '61.

unfortunately, the best hi-fi in this universe, and several parallel ones, won't manage that. and that's because the ORIGINAL recording sucks.

so, to summarise:
- most of the time, i haven't the foggiest what 'live' sounds like
- i don't care, as long as i hear more 'music'
- and, if it's donald, john, bob, miles, tom, or countless others, it shouldn't matter anyway

i guess ignorance is bliss, after all :)


Distinguished Member
Sorry, I dont understand what you mean?

This article is trying to point out how innacurate hifi's are when put into a room - something that many people are unaware of. What's for sale?

Your service. Quite clearly your 'article' was an obvious advert for your business. Not only just an advert, but also an attempt to start an ongoing thread, like a kind of on-going interactive ad if you like. I'm not sure how seriously people can take it though, when you are obviously so highly biased and touting for business.

I'm not criticising per-say, it's intelligent enough marketing i guess, and i believe you have paid for the right to do so, but don't treat us like we are daft and pretend its not ;)

Since you have invited comment on an open forum, I'm not entirely sure there is anything ground breaking here. I was under the impression that most people with a passing interest in proper HiFi now that room acoustics play a huge part in how their kit will sound? Am i wrong?

And how far are people willing to go? I can't really change my livingroom just to get a marginal improvement on sound quality. How much of an effect can corrective equipment help, and is it really cost effective?

/dons asbestos pyjamas.
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Prominent Member
Would anyone care to discuss the content?
I'm genuninely interested in your feedback.......

Rob you make much of a rooms interaction with the sounds from our hifidelity stereo and AV equipment, saying how important it is, yet you sell some very high end EQ/PARC gear that will alleviate this problem (a problem I have never encountered BTW), sorry but I have seen enough viral marketing on the net to be wary of such advertising & bluster. The absolutism of your opinions when we all vary in what we strive for and achieve in different manners is also a tad worrying. I have no doubt the kit you sell is great, the ideas you have suit some people, but they are not a universal truth for many of us.

I for one was surprised to see the type of content your post had in it, in relation to the services and equipment you sell. Assured advertiser or not. If you are honestly asking "what is for sale" then I think you are doing yourself no favours at all on this forum. (IMHO)
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:boring: Well thats a huge suprise to me that room acoustics make a difference :rolleyes:

Read every one of most of the regular contributers to this particular forum and you will see that we all mention it as one of the most important part of choosing a system. The same reason that we recommend home demonstrations.

I'm trying to understand the point of your post and I'm afraid the cynic in me is pointing in the direction of pure salesmenship.

I had not realised that this was the way the AVforums were heading. From spending many happy years on this forum giving impartial advice in return for the help I was given in the past I think this new direction has made me think twice about bothering to contribute to this forum at all. :mad:

If you want to peddle your wares in an honest way thats fine by me, if you want to contribute as an average member of the public then sign back up as a normal contributer and drop the advertising.


Established Member
This is a very interesting topic and deserves an airing from time to time. As to whether an assured advertiser should raise and discuss issues he can sell the solutions to should, IMHO, be balanced with the expertise and experience he can offer us.

My first experience of any form of room correction was with a Denon processor/amp and I have to say I wasn't convinced that the results were worth it. I now use a Meridian G68 with much better speakers and power amps and find the resulting correction (which is only up to 200hz) definitely worthwhile. The graphs that the Meridian generates reveal some quite severe effects from standing waves which no amount of moving speakers can ameliorate. These, the Meridian can deal with by filtering and the lower frequencies generally sound cleaner, less boomy and with more apparent detail, presumably because most of the lower frequencies aren't being overshadowed by those being "amplified" by the effect of standing waves.

The graphs also reveal some pronounced suck outs which the Meridian filters cannot deal with, on the basis that the affected frequencies would need a large amount of extra amplification.

The downside of using the Meridian G68 in the line instead of just using a valve BAT preamp and SS BAT power amp is that the overall sound loses a small touch of that difficult to quantify "organic" feel; e.g where cellos sound as though they are made of wood rather than some acoustically anodyne material. As ever with hifi it is a balancing act and different people will prefer different approaches.

coaltrain makes some very good points, and whilst my usual diet of classical music comes largely from acoustic instruments, the recordings were still made in a variety of halls each with different acoustic signatures. Trying to get some sort of close fidelity to the original sound is obviously going to be extremely difficult.

To my mind the the aim in setting up a hifi is to create an illusion of the performers in front of one. When this reaches a certain level than one can really enjoy the performance and music without the distraction of unconvincing sound reproduction. Using the room correction of the Meridian, overall, helps in creating that illusion and is definitely worthwhile.

This comes into the category of not knowing you have a problem until it is solved, and then thinking "how on earth did I put up with that". Anyone who has no problem with room acoustics affecting their sound reproduction quality for the poorer can consider themselves very fortunate indeed.


Established Member
Yes room acoustics do affect sound quality theres no doubt, but this


Will always sound better than this! regardless of room acoustics


And anyhow music should be about enjoyment and if it sounds good to you it is good, regardless of of a peak of 10db @ 65 hz enjoy:clap:

PS im not saying what the op says isnt true...just that in most cases a good Hi Fi with carefully placed speakers can sound pretty dam fine to my ears
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Prominent Member
This is a very interesting topic and deserves an airing from time to time. As to whether an assured advertiser should raise and discuss issues he can sell the solutions to should, IMHO, be balanced with the expertise and experience he can offer us.

Sorry I disagree, the level of "problem" Rob is suggesting is directly proportional to the equipment lines he sells (expertise & experience), thus any newbie coming on here is hardly getting any impartial opinion. I agree with Karkus, it is very easy to spot the long term posters (and 1 long term moderator) here interested in hifi/stereo equipment that have kept this hifi sub forum of AVF ticking over the years, to see posts like the first one here will dissuade me from posting and leaves a bitter taste, it is simply wrong as the advice/opinion is not impartial by any stretch of the imagination.

I have seen many forums fall by the wayside due to dealers marketing and their fanboys pimping their wares, always ends in acrimony, users forums are just that, forums where users can discuss kit or give opinion, some people have joined forums and pretended to be users plugging gear, but once you dilute the poster with nothing to gain from user forums, they lose the factor that makes them special in the first place. I hope AVF keeps an eye on why it is so big, the users not the industry have made it so.

Yours in concern.


Established Member
Sorry I disagree, the level of "problem" Rob is suggesting is directly proportional to the equipment lines he sells

I respect your opinion even if I don't entirely share it. Some of the most useful posts on this forum to me have been posted by traders who deal in Video processors. Their extensive expertise was very useful to me in building up the knowledge about processors before making a decision as to what to buy at the time. It was probably more reliable than the posters with limited experience of the equipment but extensive views to proffer, interesting and useful as some of those views were.

As long as we can see if people are traders and what lines they sell we can make up our own minds as to how reliable their contributions are. Like it or not the most extensive knowledge about hifi comes from those in the industry who have the opportunity to hear rather more systems then someone like myself who has only used seven different pairs of speakers at home in the past ten years and only in three different rooms (along with similar number of different amps and CD players etc :rolleyes:).

I think it is a shame if we can't read the views of traders with experiences to relate. We must of course be aware if they have a vested interest. My own limited experience with room correction confirms that he makes some worthwhile points. Perhaps it would be better if he had joined in on a thread about room correction rather than starting it. Assuming he had voiced the same views would that have been different?

I appreciate and respect your concerns although I am just as concerned that we are discussing this rather than the subject of room correction.

With best regards


Distinguished Member
Well, we certainly all agree that room acoustic DO make a difference, but I wonder how long it took each of us to come to that conclusion, and I wonder if the average consumer even gives it a thought, even though is is certainly messing up his sound quality.

To most of the people who are building a dedicated media room or who are dedicating a room to that purpose, come here and want to talk about amps and speakers. Yet, we invariably tell them the first thing they need to do is consider the room and not the equipment. Absorbers on the back and side walls, to the extent possible bass traps, acoustical ceiling tile, or an irregular ceiling to disperse the reflected sound.

Aborption and dispersion are the key to a good sounding room.

When Rob says good and better and better sounding equipment will not necessarily sound better, I don't think he is saying better equipment will sound worse in the same room. I think he is saying that better and better equipment will not necessarily meet our preconceived expectation.

But that is nothing special or new. Frequently people come to this forum and say I bought these great expensive speaker and am completely disappointed with how they sound. My response is to point out that it is not the speaker at fault but their preconceived expectation. Most expect to hear MORE from a better speaker, and when they don't hear MORE, they are disappointed. But I suspect the more they were used to hearing was more distortion, a more irregular response, more exaggerated bass, etc....

When they break away from the more is better equipment and mindset, they are disappointed that they hear less, or at least the perceive that they hear less until they become used to it.

So, Rob is raising some valid points for discussion. And yes, he does not hide the fact that he is an Assured Advertiser and that audio and video, as well as room acoustics are his business. But that doesn't discredit what he is saying.

I do think he perhaps underestimated us, and his comments were a bit shallow, but for beginner or people being introduced to quality sound, it was probably right on.

Now, if he could expand at some depth about what is necessary to make or improve room acoustics, the information would be valuable to all.

We have had other discussion about room acoustics and what you need to do to improve a room, and we've had these discussion at all levels, for both DIY and hire it out types. But it is still information that bear repeating.

It is the one thing that most people can control, and it is the one thing that they least often consider.

In some cases, something as simple as hanging a tapestry on the back wall might be enough to settle a room down. In other cases, a carpet on the floor. There are a full range of options and costs, and levels of Do-It-Yourself available hear.

For average consumers who can't afford to spend £20,000 on a dedicated 'perfect' room, there are still things you can do. Many of those thing requiring little more that forethought, common sense, and a little research.

Just a few thoughts.


Paul D

Prominent Member
Rob, i see where you are coming from as i've been saying the same for a while now.

See my post here click link

However, i see your post as nothing more than an advert.
Other assured advertisers build up a reputation before "advising" what is good and bad.
That way people trust what they are being told, and hopefully those guys get some sales from it.
I think you would be better hanging around for a while and joining in other discussions, then "hinting" about other improvements that can be made...:)

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