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HiFi and Hollow Forms

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Eric The Viking

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This is entirely Jacob's fault:

A discussion elsewhere about being pretentious about 'hollow forms' reminded me of my HiFi experiences years ago. Here's pretty much what I learned:

There are good and great hi-fi designs, and there are some rules of thumb:

  • you can hardly, ever, hear the difference between two competently-designed amplifiers,
  • you cannot at all hear the difference between two lots of heavy gauge speaker cables,
  • you cannot hear the difference between two brands of half-decent CD player,
  • you couldn't possibly, ever, in a million years of trying, hear the difference between mains leads,
  • you shouldn't be able to hear the difference between different types of interconnecting cable. If you can, mend the broken one.
  • turntables should be heavy and level, go round smoothly, and go 'thunk' if tapped with a metal object.
  • putting a CD player on any sort of vibration-absorbing pads usually leads to marks on the surface underneath and a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • painting CD edges green leads to being laughed-at, and green fingertips, and a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • lifting loudspeaker leads off the floor on little pylons is really good for running your son's train-set, and adds a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • Nothing can track the digital cannon in the Telarc 1812 Overture properly, because the groove walls are almost at right angles to the spiral.
  • proper measurements tell you far more than any hi-fi mag review.

and finally,

  • there are more snake-oil salesmen in hi-fi than in snake oil.

Anybody care to add any others?

Cheers,

E. (who once got thrown out of a Bose factory outlet in the States for asking for a 'proper' spec of one of their loudspeaker designs).
 

gus3049

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How strange, I find that actually agree with at least two of those points.

However, I have five complete hi-fi systems. All consist of first class components designed and made by Quad, Radford, Sugden, Kef, Garrard etc..

If what you say is true, how is it that changing any one item in the various systems, changes the sound?

That is FOR ME - WITH MY EARS AND SENSITIVITIES. The problem with a statement such as yours is that it can only be true for you, you have no idea what my system (bodywise) is going to hear in my various systems (hi-fiwise). Measurements can only be a guide. Hi-fi is, at best, an approximation of reality and even reality is filtered by our individual make up and experience. Some equipment seems to sound more REAL than others even if they measure very similarly. This is my experience. If yours is different then so be it.

I don't drink snake oil and I never listen to hi-fi salesmen. I buy with my ears - what's left of them. I am, by training, a guitar maker. I have a fairly well developed sensitivity to nuances of sound. This is necessary to make a first class instrument. There are basic measurements but the final tuning of the instrument is made by ear.

My best hi-fi - Leak Stereo 20, Quad ESL57, Garrard 301, sounds very close indeed when playing a recording of one of my guitars. By todays standards they probably don't measure too well, all being made in the 1960's but they make glorious music and music is what hi-fi should be for.
 

Jacob

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It's the totality though. Any single item may make little discernible difference but put all the top-end things together and you presumably will notice a difference with the opposite.
We used to take the p;;s out of a touring cycling friend who would go to extremes with weight reduction and had been spotted weighing toothbrushes and cutting the handles off. His argument was if you approached all your kit in this way it could add up to a kg or so.
Not sure what this has to do with urns (a.k.a. hollow forms r.i.p. :lol: :lol: ).
 

Doug B

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Eric The Viking":3h07lr1y said:
This is entirely Jacob's fault:

A discussion elsewhere about being pretentious about 'hollow forms' reminded me of my HiFi experiences years ago. Here's pretty much what I learned:

There are good and great hi-fi designs, and there are some rules of thumb:

  • you can hardly, ever, hear the difference between two competently-designed amplifiers,
  • you cannot at all hear the difference between two lots of heavy gauge speaker cables,
  • you cannot hear the difference between two brands of half-decent CD player,
  • you couldn't possibly, ever, in a million years of trying, hear the difference between mains leads,
  • you shouldn't be able to hear the difference between different types of interconnecting cable. If you can, mend the broken one.
  • turntables should be heavy and level, go round smoothly, and go 'thunk' if tapped with a metal object.
  • putting a CD player on any sort of vibration-absorbing pads usually leads to marks on the surface underneath and a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • painting CD edges green leads to being laughed-at, and green fingertips, and a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • lifting loudspeaker leads off the floor on little pylons is really good for running your son's train-set, and adds a perceptible lightness in the upper wallet region
  • Nothing can track the digital cannon in the Telarc 1812 Overture properly, because the groove walls are almost at right angles to the spiral.
  • proper measurements tell you far more than any hi-fi mag review.

and finally,

  • there are more snake-oil salesmen in hi-fi than in snake oil.

Anybody care to add any others?

Cheers,

E. (who once got thrown out of a Bose factory outlet in the States for asking for a 'proper' spec of one of their loudspeaker designs).
Yebbut what hifi did you end up with :?:

Jacob":3h07lr1y said:
Not sure what this has to do with urns (a.k.a. hollow forms r.i.p. :lol: :lol: ).
I prefer pots & lidded pots, urn is sooooooooooooo last year. :lol: :lol:
 

Eric The Viking

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@Gus: I think that's my point though - you evidently use your ears!

And, I'd agree with your choice too (apart from the 301, but every one I've ever used was probably knackered).

I own some similar items, including Sugden, Surrey Electronics and Quad. My dad was friends with Arthur Radford for many years, and I have one of his design of amps, Dad's I mean, it's very good. The round-and-round stuff is Connoisseur (Sugden) and Technics and Cambridge (for digits). Tape, for location, is usually DAT (hasn't been bettered as a non-solid-state format - would like an HD2 but don't do enough to justify it these days).

I don't have any 'interconnects' that cost more than about £2.50*, and at least one pair of speakers are connected with old Flymo cable, because it's reasonably heavy gauge and convenient. I haven't found an audio use for the lawnmower yet though. :)

@ Jacob: Of course you're right, but there is this weird 'follow the crowd' thing that leads to paying >£20 each in a well-known High St. store for phono cables, and buying 'better' mains cables too. Provided the things are _properly_ made in the first place, there's no detectable difference between cables costing £2.00 and those costing £200.

Don't get me started on gold-plated digital cables of various sorts (HDMI, DVI, etc.). I've even seen gold plated fibre-optic connectors, which plug into moulded plastic receptacles on the back of the units.

@Doug: I've got quite a nice setup, acquired over the years. The most used system is Cambridge Audio CD + LS3/5A speakers (AM8/12). There's gain adjustment but no EQ in that setup. I have too many turntables at present and will be slimming down to one SP10/SME SII imp. and one Sugden (Connoisseur BD2/SAU2/Nagoka or Ortofon). I prefer the SP10 as it doesn't rumble noticeably, at all, but I'm most fond of the one I should really sell :-(.

E.

*there is merit in careful screening/impedance matching for vinyl pickups, but it's the exception - perhaps go to £4.50 there!
 

Pete Maddex

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Eric,

Have you tryed Eichman bullet plugs? http://www.latinternational.co.uk/eichmann_bullet.html They recon to be a better impeadance match tham normal RCAs, I have mostly DIN plugs on my HiFi, only 2 on the back on one of my CD players, I changed the other cd player to a DIN socket which made it sound better.

My speaker is 16mm CSA cable its about 1/2" across! and four seprate wires, luckly I have an understanding wife.

Pete
 

woodbloke

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You forgot about the old Linn saying...'garbage in, garbage out'. Probably the most important one of the lot - Rob
 

Pete Maddex

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Yes they are right load of rubbish that LP12 :wink:

Have you seen the price of a top spec one? over 12K I beleve :shock: A 2K Well Tempered Amadaus is said to be better.

Pete

P.S Eric I wouldn't say all those statments are true, but I don't want to start a 83 page thread off :wink:
 

Eric The Viking

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Pete,

Outstanding find! That cable (with the phonos) is almost £500/m, but I see they do mains cables too - yummy!

The technical blurb is utterly brilliant, especially where it gets going on "impedance matching." I wonder if the average punter realises it's leaving around 2-300 ohms and arriving into anywhere between 2k and 10k? I didn't look -- do they sell snake oil too, to polish everything with?

. . .

Regarding my 'checklist' don't tell me you can track the Telarc 1812?

Ackshully, the best workout my LS3/7s probably ever got was being dragged into the playroom for eldest's birthday party. He watched 'Master and Commander' with his friends. I used the Monitor Audios for the main front pair, eq'd the 3/7s "slightly", and set them up to fire across the room at each other from about 10ft apart.

After a quick test with no kids present, I kept their faders shut, until the French fired on Russell Crowe...

"That's a real 200W/channel for you, Mister Maturin."

I got told off by the Domestic Controller, mind, but the boys thought it was brilliant.
 

Jonzjob

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It's OK for you lot with all yer fancy kit! we had to go to the very large Basilic St Nazaire in the old Cité of Carcassonne with our French neighbours and listen to a 12 piece string orchestra for a couple of hours this evening and apart from the orchestra being superb and the acoustics in the church being fantastic it was rubbish. Lovely music in a wonderland setting and NO electronics of ANY kind, not even a mike, or fred for the leader to speak into!





This is the window they were playing under, photo taken this morning after we had been to the Christmas Marché



It beats any kind of home entertainment centers you could possibly get! Oh, and because one of the neighbours we went with is a 17 year old music student we got to chat to the musicians afterwards too. try talking to yer getto blasters and no matter what you paid for them they ain't goin to answer, are they 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)

Oh yes, and on the way into the Cité we got some of this too



Two things that I had forgotten to say. One, it was free to go in and two, they were all playing hollow forms :mrgreen:
 

cambournepete

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OK, I'll bite...

My wife and I can both hear differences between cables and I'd certainly not use a £2.50 interconnect...

I also noticed a worthwhile difference in our TV/hifi setup changing the freebie HDMI and mains cables with better (more expensive) ones.
 

cutting42

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The forum that Pete M and I inhabit have these discussions on a boringly regular basis. There are folks that say can hear cable differences and some who think it is hooey.

I am of the later group generally, I use mains cables from Farnell for mains and respectable £3-4 per metre speaker and interconnect cable that has plenty of copper conductor and that is it.

However I did hear my std cables on a friends system - Sonus Faber Amators with high end valve amps can't remember which ones - and it sounded a bit flat to be honest. we put back his £1000 solid 5n silver cables and it sprang to life, very nice indeed. I am not about to spend a grand on cables but just saying they can change the sound on occasion.

PS just remembered they were Audio Research pre and power amps.
 

Eric The Viking

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I'll be the first to concede that bad cables can sound nasty. I don't want to knock people who want good sound either. What gets me is the companies who feed off gullibility.

Mains cables are an excellent example. If the power supplies of the amp are properly designed, and the mains supply is adequate, changing the last few feet of cable can't possibly make any difference. This is why you _never_ see the results of statistically valid double-blind tests in magazines, only highly subjective reviews instead. In any case, nobody's going to wind the mains transformer with oxygen-free silver, or whatever, nor insist on 'aligned crystals' in the wiring back to the sub-station! And what about those pesky sub-stations, and pylons for that matter... and the 13A fuse without which you can't turn it on!

HDMI/DVI is wholly digital. If the signal is so poor that you can hear the error correction working (the only possible reason for hearing any difference between correctly working cables), the cable itself is sub-standard. If cables meet the standard, by definition you won't tell the difference between ones that just meet it and ones that exceed it by 'lots'. That doesn't mean there are no duff cables being sold, but it does mean that the very expensive ones bring no benefit other than 'pride of ownership' over the merely adequate ones.

You don't, by and large, read discussions about the linearity of DACs (or ADCs!!) in Hi-Fi magazines, which would make a BIG difference to fidelity, largely because (a) they usually don't have the technical competence to discuss it, and (b) the relationship with manufacturers is incestuous and the issue would open a can of worms. Instead you get stuff about raw error rates and jitter, which, generally speaking, have no effect in normal use because they're expected and corrected-for.

What about the kit used to make the recordings? The best-performing stuff I own uses 1/8" jacks in and out for the analogue sections! I've no control at all over the wiring inside either.

Got an MP3 player? Use DVDs? Both of them use lossy compression with clearly audible artefacts. I use DAT for recordings, which doesn't. It's a rare opportunity nowadays though, that lets me use it to its potential. Nothing off-air or otherwise pre-recorded is likely to be clean enough for any difference in quality to be apparent.

Even then, nobody seems to pay any heed to the analogue outputs (and inputs) of portable digital devices. Given the voltages used by the things, they can't drive moderate impedance headphones, and consequently require (relatively) high currents in the headphone circuits. It's the same problem as hi-fi loudspeaker cables - controlling the damping factor. Unlike a loudspeaker, which is generally considered to be radiating into free space, earbuds effectively acoustically couple to the eardrum. The ear canal becomes a resonant cavity. That means any change in position, or even the difference between individuals, would make a dramatic difference. to the sound. If you use over-ear cans, you're back at damping factor and voltage issues.

I'm sure, like me, you've heard audio systems that blow you away with the sound. I remember the first time I was allowed to 'play' with a full symphony orchestra, for example (Neumann SM69s, Calrec and monitoring on LS3/7s). It didn't sound like sitting in the stalls, and it wasn't the same off-tape, either! But there wasn't an oxygen-free copper anything in sight, although my senior colleague did smoke like a chimney!

Cheers,

E.

PS: I still have two Sony pro-Walkmans somewhere. All analogue and very good for their time but wholly obsolete now, obviously. Sony put a DC-DC converter in them so that the audio circuits run at 24V to improve the s/n and headroom, and it worked magnificently. I can't imagine anyone doing that in an iPad! This was the closest I could find to any look at the audio design. I'd be fascinated if anyone knows of anything more comprehensive...
 

RogerS

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Eric, you forgot a few.

The type of capacitors is critical and even if they are non-polarised then they will sound better connected one way round to the other
If your freezer needs defrosting then the extra load needed to keep it cold will affect the sound of your hi-fi
 

Jacob

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RogerS":1zxpaxn4 said:
Jonzjob":1zxpaxn4 said:
.....
Oh yes, and on the way into the Cité we got some of this too


....:
So that's where Jacob has been hiding ! :lol:
Well I've got to earn a living somehow. :roll:
 

doorframe

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Eric The Viking":1oy24lk0 said:
Nothing can track the digital cannon in the Telarc 1812 Overture properly, because the groove walls are almost at right angles to the spiral.
.
I don't know. Sounds fine on the old Amstrad.
 

gus3049

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Eric The Viking":2wd7bibb said:
Point taken. People tend to forget Alan Sugar's early days.

Does yours have the 'spatial depth'* switch too? :)

E.

*I think that's what it was called. Time blurs the memory, thankfully.
I have a long memory. It was listening to an Amstrad that made me seek out something that actually sounded like music. So I have Suralun to thank for my journey into the nether regions of 'quality gear', including, of course, a few nice esoteric bits of cable, supporting racks, anti-vibration gizmos and crystals.

I could hear a change with almost everything, not necessarily and improvement of course, but a change - yup.

I now have - gasp - £5 interconnects and the usual 49 (or thereabouts) strand speaker wire. It all sounds fine to me. Even if I thought that the odd £1000 lead might make a difference, I couldn't justify the cost of a zillion new bits of music to listen to (to which to listen).

But for some, hi-fi itself is the hobby whereas to me its the music. perhaps this makes a difference.
 
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