Good morning all and thanks again for your wonderful comments. I want to apologize in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors either real or presumed and thank you for your patience in ignoring these issues. Hopefully, my web-site is becoming easier to find as we are experimenting with different options.
As you can imagine, an important part of operating a retail outlet is working with customers who have accumulated through the years, many audio components and they simply have reached a point where they are confused as to what they should connect. Unfortunately or fortunately, I think there is only one answer – how does your music sound while being reproduced via your music system. What does your music seem to lack and what do you like about it.
One particular gentleman who recently visited our shop, has quite a collection of products and wanted some guidance into what he should keep. Much of his product had been purchased at garage sales, from which quality can be an issue, he did however have a couple of gems. He also has some great new gear! He simply has so much and such a mish-mash that he didn’t know what to do with it. Our role is now to help him assemble a system using as much of his existing product as possible. My solution is to work with him, the same way that I choose product for both myself and my store, so here we go!
I like my audio system to be simple. To me the only components needed to listen to the music are; amp, speakers,turntable, cd player and perhaps a DAC or network player. I have 2 systems, neither are huge and both are pleasing to the ear. How I assembled two systems was fairly simple. I had listened to my “kids at home” system and finally my cd player died. Having no “kids at home anymore” a champagne taste, but a beer budget, I set the price that I was prepared to spend and began my hunt. Being a somewhat cautious buyer, in my mind were the listing of stores that I would visit, and the brands under consideration.
With a CD player, my concerns were not just sound quality but build quality. I also recognized that both of my amplifiers (Nakamichi Stasis product and Luxman Tube) would also tell me right away if there was an issue with sound quality (by the way, both are well over 20 years old). So I packed up my own discs and toddled off to the audio stores that I trusted prepared for a day of listening.
Why was build quality an issue? When you last purchased a CD player, did you actually pick it up (not while it was playing of course)? Did it seem like it was helium filled? If so, this would not be a recommended device. Why? Your CD player actually spins your disc, depending on the area of play on the disc, at over 700 rpm. Considering the size of the disc and the rate of spin, your player must have a substantial transport system and suspension in order to properly deal with resonances, vibrations and simply not wear out over time. Another consideration was quality of some laser heads. Some simply wear out, often sooner or later. The laser in my outgoing player had actually lasted 12 years which was prettyok in my books, whereas my inexpensive DVD was light, light, light, sounded mediocre, lasted barely 12 months.
After visiting the shops that I had listed, finally decided on a pre-owned California Audio Labs. Have now used this player for almost 7 years, it finally needs some work but I will fix it, even if I purchase a new player! Yeah it still sounds great! (when it works)
The message that I would like to put forth is that care must be taken while building or buying audio components or a system. Audition the dealer or person from whom the product is to be purchased. Are they prepared to “live with you” on your search for “your perfect sound”. make sure that they understand your listening environment – room size, window placement, areas to place the system and who will be using it. Use your own music, if you don’t really have any, either purchase some discs or check through the demo material the dealer has. I caution you to make sure the discs used are not demo discs (1/2 speed masters, gold discs etc.) because they often will make anything sound good. Use the quality of playback material that you would listen to on an everyday basis, and please use a CD or LP. make sure the dealer offers a return policy if the product does not sound good on your system. And remember…just because it is good product doesn’t mean it will sound good with your existing product!!!
Another huge issue… just because the products that you see at are deemed as ” A Class, Recommended Component, Product of the Year” etc., doesn’t mean they will compliment your existing components. Of my systems, one pair of speakers sounds better when coupled with it than another, even patch cords and speaker wire matter! Try to have a final product demonstration on product similar to what you have at home as well as a better quality system. Ask your consultant “knowing my system, the genres of music that I enjoy, the size of my room, if you were in my place, what would you buy and WHY”! In doing this, you are getting a sense of how the component may integrate with your music system and.
Many times, great deals can be had from friends as they change their system. The advantage here is that you will often be able to borrow the product before you buy, and usually you will already know about service history.
Synopsis.. a music system is never perfect , rarely does recorded music played back on a hi-fi system sound as good as live. It can however sound absolutely wonderful and truly musical. It doesn’t have to be new or cost in the stratosphere. If you take care in your selection, with your system artists can virtually, be in your room, playing only for you! Good stuff, and one real advantage, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the concert hall after the performance!
Adding new components is one of the “fun things” we can do in life. Firstly looking is free, speaking with consultants is a wonderful way to learn – ask them what they own and why, more often than not you will be truly surprised! The only cost is travel and cost of purchase. So.. go for it! Jump on the bus, your skateboard, bike or whatever and have fun!