It's Not How Much You Spend...

Anyone even half-serious about music needs good audio gear. Although I'm not some more-dollars-than-sense audiophile who has a turntable that cost more than his car (you can spend up to $750,000) and speakers worth more than his house (as much as $1.5 million), I do have an ear for quality, and I've satisfied my need for decent sound as economically as possible. My system comprises:

  • Sony TA A1ES integrated amplifier
  • Sony HAP A1ES music server
  • KEF LS50 speaks
  • KEF Q-400b subwoofer

I have no need for tubes. You can harp all day about how they're the best thing under the sun; I just don't buy it. Tubes are for so-called purists into competitive spending. I look at it this way: achieving "perfect" sound is like reaching the speed of light; it requires an exponentially increasing amount of energy (money) the closer you get to it, but you'll never reach it.

Not to mention that humans are entirely too gullible for their own good. Remember how some snake oil salesmen used to claim that "CD stabilizers" would add "warmth" to the sound by supposedly reducing playback errors? What a bunch of shorseshit. First of all, the error rates for CD playback are virtually nil, even on the cheapest little players; then, the few playback errors that do occur are eliminated by error compensation. In truth, those stabilizers actually increased error rates because they interfered with the player's ability to regulate disc speed.

As for vinyl, if someone expresses a personal preference for it, that's one thing, and I have no problem with that; indeed, I confess I miss the album jackets, with their big images and especially the liner notes, so I grok the nostalgia factor (I even own a little record player and a bunch of singles). But to claim it's technically superior to digital is just plain nonsense. For starters, music must be properly re-mixed for vinyl, so right away the sound is compromised. Not to mention that the dynamic range is limited. Besides, dragging a super-sharp microscopic shard of super-compressed carbon across the surface of a sheet of super-cooled liquid polyvinyl chloride is hardly a state-of-the-art means of sound reproduction—in principle, it's identical to Edison's first phonograph. While it is true that, with proper care, a vinyl record can outlast an optical CD, I don't believe mankind is long for this earth anyway. But that's a topic for another venue.

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