Buying Hi Fi stereo

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The king’s new clothes

I don’t know what it is about Hi-Fi that causes so much confusion. The simple physics of audio reproduction have been hijacked and transformed into a dark science by a mysterious group of jumper wearing pipe smokers.

Only they know the true road to Hi-Fi bliss and will preach their beliefs with an almost evangelistic passion.

An amplifier for example has a simple job. Put a small voltage in one side and get a big voltage out the other. The small voltage provided by a turntable or CD player is insufficient to drive a speaker so an amplifier makes that signal bigger, easy.

According to some mystics, multi million dollar Japanese companies don’t know how to do this. The Japanese make high quality components and assemble them in factories that look more like a science lab. The mystics on the other hand assemble their amplifiers in sheds full of pipe smoke and build the components out of materials like pixy dust, bats droppings and wire salvaged from a 1960 Morris Minor.

This organic approach to amplifier design produces a much better sound. Who could argue? The secret recipe has been passed down through countless generations and originates from a family of magical hobbits. This amplifier must sound good.

In fear of not wanting to look stupid you buy the amplifier, take it home and place it on an alter. You hope you’re wife will buy into this whole pixy dust thing, she doesn’t. Instead you convince yourself. And that’s the easy part. A whole array of Hi-Fi mags tell you what a clever boy you are. You are now well on the road to the elite inner circle.

You now complete your Hi-Fi collection with a whole bunch of expensive items with very silly names.

One day you listen to a mates Hi-Fi (built in Japan) and realise that you can’t tell the difference. The only difference being that their equipment has worked for years faultlessly. Somehow it manages to go for more than a week without a knob falling off or smelling of burning rubber.
This may sound like the rantings of a deranged cynic. In part that may be true but many years of working with Hi-Fi have opened my eyes to what goes on in the industry.

I myself have owned equipment made of pixy dust. The simple fact is that good amplifiers do not have to be made with magical materials. Not every amplifier sounds good. Price is not always a guide to quality. Some say that he Pioneer A400 is a budget amplifier that out performs other amps up to £1,000 I have heard amps costing £3,000 that don’t sound as good.

To complicate life even more we believe our amplifiers need special cables to make them work. Electricity travels 150 miles along unshielded wire before connecting to my local transformer. It then passes through cheap wire to my house where it passes through several fuses and a bunch of tangled ring main before reaching my 13 amp socket. Never mind, my £300 gold plated mains lead will sort that out.

I could go on for hours about Turntables, CD players and Speakers but I won’t. The whole purpose of Hi-Fi is to give pleasure to the listener. If you like it it’s good, whatever the name and what ever the price.






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