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Thursday, July 28. 2011
Seems to me that people are getting most of their music-listening through all sorts of devices other than their good old music systems.
As many have done, I went through a music system phase and bought some very fine audiophile speakers and amps along the way (not to this extent, and I never bought into the surround sound fad).
However, I seem to use them less and less often, and my sizeable and eclectic CD collection gathers dust. I'd rather spend money on going to live music anyway.
Pic is of Legacy Focus speakers, which I own but do not use hardly enough.
What about you?
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I discarded my high end audio system about ten years ago when I bought my first Apple computer and iPod. I ripped my entire CD collection to iTunes and keep it set on "iTunes DJ" or random play. I now have app. 20,000 songs in my iTunes library and I never have to think about what to play next. I also replaced the radio/CD player in all my vehicles and bought a iPod compatible head unit and an iPod for each. I still buy CDs and immediately rip them to iTunes and also buy just the MP3's from Amazon. I set up playlists for the cars and truck and occasionally reload the iPods to keep from hearing the same music too often.
In April, I ditched my 5.1 home theater and bought a Peachtree Nova integrated amp/DAC and a pair of Vienna Acoustic Mozart speakers. I am listening to more music than I have in 20 years, and movies sound better with those two speakers than my nice 5.1 system. My sources are Macbook, analog (AR turntable), then CD.
With a small inheritence from my mother, who was distantly related to Stephen Foster, I bought a pair of Thiel 3.6s. Picked up through Craigslist a pair of 500 watt monoblock ($100 each!).
I listen almost every evening while reading. Here in the south end of San Francisco Bay (aka Silicon Valley), I'm blessed with two very good FM radio stations so 80% of the time I use my FM tuners, of which I have a nice collection. I find that the vintage tube tuners have the best sound - I've a McIntosh and a Sherwood.
However, the best sound quality is usually SACDs but heavy vinyl can also be great.
Of course I use my high end system (actually I have two, plus a middling system at my garage workbench). I'm no audio nut, but the difference in sound quality is night and day.
However, like most everything else these days, cheap, dirty and convenient wins out over quality pretty much every time.
Surveys also show that a high percentage of middle aged and younger adults have destroyed their hearing with excessive sound levels over a period of years. That includes teens with iPods drilling into their skulls 12 hours per day. I guess if your hearing is shot, there is no real reason to get good equipment.
My theory is that measured hearing parameters do decline with age and loud noise exposure but the perceived quality of music is largely a function of the neural processing.
It's what's in your head between your ears that counts.
MP3 and other low bandwidth sources just do NOT have the emotional impact for me of better quality sources like full FM, vinyl, or CD-or-better digital sources.
I just use my Mac and PC these days and everything is digital. Can't say I miss the old days of vinyl and Hifi to be honest... was it 'better' in terms of sound quality? Perhaps it was but the ease of use is an order of magnitude better these days and to my shooting-damaged ears the quality the quality is good enough :-)
Mine is a mixed story.
I discarded a lot of expensive sources. I have my whole CD collection ripped to lossless FLAC and on a computer server. Whatever decrease in sound quality I might get from a digital source vs. some other source is more than offset by the fact that it is so much easier to access my music. I used to have hundreds of CD's but I would only listen to a few. Now I listen to a much larger swath of my collection.
I do still value a good amp and speakers, but I go with the 80/20 rule. Something like B&W 805s, which are not cheap but aren't 20,000 bucks either.
Of late, I have found I really enjoy building speakers. I built some for my home theater (http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2011/03/speaker-build-report.html) and now am itching to try some other projects.
I do hate tinny computer speakers. I have begun to buy powered studio monitors for my computer speakers. They are a touch more expensive and definitely larger but sound infinitely better.
Rarely use mine anymore except to listen to repetitive righties blabbing on the radio. Think I might change things around to make better use of the good speakers I have. WQXR is very good.
Do any of you audiophiles have a recommendation for a top-rated 2.1 computer speaker set I can use with my Mac? And, yes, Bose and sound sticks are off my list. What I want is a GOOD (not necessarily GREAT=pro) system with a wide frequency range of response, mostly for opera and classical orchestral music that I've transferred from my collection of CDs. Price is no big deal; space on and under my desk is.
Quite a few good choices out there. AudioEngine and B&W MM-1's are a great place to start
Swan blows them both away on value. Likewise Axiom, which are relatively shrill and brittle. www.theaudioinsider.com
Thanks, I very much appreciate the lead.
Both the Swan M50W system and the Axiom audiobyte w/ EPzero subwoofer are very suitable and interesting recommendations, with the edge perhaps going to the Axiom product. It's hard to find any solid, informative on-line reviews regarding the performance of the Swan because it is such a new product. It's no easier finding RECENT reviews on the Axiom; most of the reviews are 2-3 years old by now. The wires of the Swan are annoyingly short by a half-foot for my setup, just 1 m, and would need to be replaced. OK, no big deal. Axiom and distributors of the Swan both offer refundable 30-day in-home trials: Yeah! With that option, I'll decide in the next few days which system to try first and then make the plunge.
Thanks to all who responded with their input. MF readers come through again.
PS to BlogDog: I do not dismiss A-L lightly. It's my "beloved" but now ancient Altec-Lansing ACS495 2.1 speaker system that I am replacing. The A-L will not be discarded. It's just moving from my Mac workstation to a Windows computer in a different room, where they will work a bit better once I install the original controller software (which works on PCs but not on Macs).
I got an Altec Lansing set of two small speakers and a sub-woofer (from amazon) which I use with my Mac and I find it to sound just great. It's really the sub-woofer that fills out the sound. My first listen to Donald Fagen's "It's What I Do" on the "Morph The Cat" CD was a revelation - made me vibrate in sync and I didn't even have the volume up that much.
They were like these: http://tinyurl.com/3usrcp8 but not those exactly.
Ours have become very expensive cat scratchers. Better than the sofa, I suppose.
When we finished the basement and created an entertainment center, I made sure the front speakers were good B&W speakers with a good sub for listening to music and concert videos.
I don't. Discarded my last bits of higher end audio gear probably 20 years or more ago. The speakers, in particular, did not fit my wife's notion of "furniture" and were, therefore, in the sweetspot of what she considers an eyesore. The amp lost a channel, the tuner didn't like the area or the antenna, the turntable was ready for some reinvestment, her cat had done some shredding on the covers of the speakers...
Not to mention that my hearing has been so badly abused that it really doesn't matter any longer. I can't hear high-end vs. arse-end.
Add to that the fact that she doesn't like music volume above background for anything other than live symphony and my $300, very compact Yamaha unit (CD only) serves my needs quite well and is largely invisible. If we go outside its boomtube and iTunes from iPod or Macbook.
Discard classic audio gear? NEVER!!!
Six McIntosh 50's bi-amped (custom circuit) to Bozak Concert Grands. Dynaco PAS-2/2X preamp, McIntosh MR65B tuner (which is very rare and very sought after by audiophiles and collectors), Thorens 160 mk2 (which I must confess, I hardly use anymore as I have sold or given away almost all of my vinyl albums replacing them with CDs) and a Akai GX-646 reel-to-reel - which still works thank you very much.
Now you may ask, how does one play this equipment in a condo. To which I would answer - good question. I can't play it at any kind of increased volume level like I could back in CT as my office there was sound proofed and obviously this one isn't.
Tell the truth, I may end up selling the whole thing to a collector - the Mac 50's alone will fetch a handsome price as will the Bozak's - actually the whole damn system is pretty rare as individual units.
Until then, it's stereo though the computer with a Sansui 9090DB for oomph to a set of Bose compact speakers.
Now I'm depressed about having to sell my stuff. I hate you TB. :>)
Another sweet McIntosh product. Man, they made some good stuff didn't they?
Gave up the multi-component system and Bose 901s a while ago. I bought a new house two years ago that was wired for surround sound. Now have a Sony receiver and 5.1 surround sound with Polk audio, mid-price range, 8" speakers and 10" sub woofer, separate zone for the back porch (stereo). Copied all my CD's on a harddrive with Mac and itunes using Apple lossless format. Input are the MAC (via my wireless network) and ipods for audio, direct TV, BluRay disk, Roku (internet) for video. I can wirelessly remotely control itunes on my Mac from my back porch using the remote app on my iPhone
Destroyed by the ex 10 years ago, ESS Pyramids driven by an HH Scott system purchased around 1971/72. Wagner never sounded so good, nor did Pink Floyd.
I bought a nice set of Klipsch speakers in the early 90's. They don't play music much anymore but they are hooked up to the TV and they do fine there. Plus if we want to jam out, I can hook the ipod up.
Love my 20 year-old Thiel 3.6s. And the bonus is I'm not going deaf.
My source has changed - I ripped all my CDs to FLAC and use squeezebox server to send them to a Logitech Transporter.
When I go up to our weekend place in CT, I carry my 1000-CD music library in the sidepocket of my suitcase, thanks to huge portable storage.
I met an engineer who said he took a 4'x8' sheet of plywood, filled it with 4" speakers, and listened to music on his patio. "Tuned" is by adjusting the sliding glass door. Neighbors called in requests.
Brought my Polk-Audio towers and Klipsch center to my new condo here. Didn't bother to hook up the two Klipsch back speakers, surround is way overrated, considering the wires they'd need all over the floor.
Experimented more than once with subwoofers. Such junk.
The current setup is more than capable at delivering the classical channel over FM, and a Pandora channel I've set up, leaning more toward indie rock.
Back at the house, I cranked the whole system with Van Halen's Eruption. Ear-bleeding loud. Ever hear it, the live version? That's me during the pause, going Whoo Hooo !!!
Any man that ditches decent audio gear ESPECIALLY because his wife asks him needs to grow new testicles. Get out there and buy some. Music is fantastic. Play it loud.
I listen to my high end system two to three times a week. Usually play at or near concert volume. System is Bryston, Vandersteen, California Audio Labs, JA Michelle, etc. I have listened to a friends ipod and found it to be marginally adequate at best. I also have a 20 year old Nak CR7A cassette deck that people (with untrained ears) have thought was a CD. NOTHING beats good high end home audio for listening to music, OTHER THAN THE LIVE VERSION! I like to pick and choose what I'm going to listen to and my listening consists of a glass of wine or a beer, low lighting and loud music, whether classical, indie, blues, jazz or whatever it may be. I plan to upgrade the system in the next couple of years (plan on getting Mark Levinson, OHM, Balanced Audio Technology, etc).
Listening right now to Audiophile speakers. One input of the stereo is connected to a gazillion-miles-long 1/8" stereo headphone plug to RCA cable, which can plug into MP3 player, laptop, phone, or whichever desktop computer. Right now it is playing a live-streaming Boston Symphony concert, via my wife's desktop computer.