« Current Print Sale Ends Soon! | Main | Change Your Head »

Sunday, 28 February 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I sit at my ancient PC, sporting a pair of cheap Sony MDR-V6 headphones connected directly to the computer's lineout. I'm using a built in audio card to play all my music. Because it's cheap and poorly isolated from PC's other components I am hearing distinct crackle and swishing whenever HDD is taking a spin. A quiet whistle when I move the mouse.
And I ask myself - why am I even reading this? I couldn't be bothered less about high end stereo. Come to think of it, I don't care about medium or low end stereos. 128kbit mp3 on a crappy PC and cheapo earphones is all I need.
So yeah, why?
I think it goes to show that you'll read just about everything, so long as it's written by someone you respect. That's some power right there you got, Mike :-)

I also play most audio through my computer. And in what some would surely characterize as my most perverse move, I hooked my old turntable up to a USB A to D so my computer can play that too ... through AudioEngine A2s of course. 😃

I no longer own a "good" stereo system :-( When digitised music and iTunes came along to play music using a computer it no longer seemed sin qua non. In those same 90's I had a pair of lovely Whatmough Monitors that I bi-wired, driven by a Harmon Kardon amp that was literally music to my ears. That setup didn't need a subwoofer and sometimes I sure do miss it.

Speaking of quality components, whether apotheosis or just damned enjoyable, about 3 years ago just after we had moved into our present home, I went to Record Archive here in Rochester. They sell ... well, records. Plus CDs, posters, ephemera and the odd piece of audio equipment. I was actually looking for a cheap pair of headphones to use at work to listen to call recordings.

In the gear section I spied something that was unmistakable to me - two tall, ellipsoid columns that meant one thing: a pair of DCM Time Window 1a speakers. They were in nearly new condition and were priced at $200.

I had wanted a pair of those since I first heard them in the Bryston demo room at a high end show in Toronto in the early 90s. The illusion of depth and soundstage they produced when paired with Bryston's best electronics and a Roksan turntable was entrancing. Jim Tanner, the VP of Sales for Bryston) was handling the demo, and is still in the same position. After I'd had the Time Windows for awhile, I even wrote him an email to tell him I'd found a pair after all those years.

At that same audio show I heard another piece of gear that blew me away - an early Magnum Dynlab FM tuner. With the CN tower nearby and transmitting high quality, uncompressed signals from CBC Radio 2 and CJRT (now JAZZ.FM) I was again transported into a magical musical space.

In both cases the musical content was worthy of the quality of the equipment that reproduced it. And that's the point for me, even more now. Just like photo GAS, stereo stereo GAS is expensive and ultimately boring.

Tired of 'wading through dog hair'?
Next time you come into some extra cash (ahem), treat yourself to one of these:


"But, like a former view camera photographer who now shoots 1", my desktop system is now the main music system in the house." Although I have a Toyo technical camera, for me, a 1" has no benefits over an iPhone 8-)

I hardly ever look at photos/photo books, but I listen to music all the time. I use headphones with my iMac or iPod 4G.

But at one time I had some awesome subwoofers!!!

More non-photo posts please!

Glad you reported in on Stereo, since it is one of my current passions. I'm stuck in vintage land and loving it. Takes me back to my youth I suppose. In any event it makes me happy and takes any extra money I might have for such expenditures. Back to Craigslist...

I'm a big fan of my Audioengine P4 speakers. I team them with a Nuforce Dia digital amp for near-field listening, and really enjoy the clarity I get from that inexpensive and fairly tiny system. But I do miss the bass, and really want something linear-sounding. Not sure why I haven't gone back to the Audioengine well, but you've got me thinking!

A cure for expensive audiophilia is avoiding all audio magazines and reviews.

Another is used gear, especially speakers.

Despite all the hooey, for many kinds of music, it hard to beat a Spendor SP100 or JBL 100 pair of speakers, suitably refurbished (usually just the woofer support rings). Search and ye shall find at $2,000—or much less, in the case of the JBLs. If you are in Europe, a used pair of the old Kirksaeter 120/150 series speakers will do the trick.

Hooked up to any decent used sub $1000 amp, or a new made in China switching amp, you get all the sonic bliss you want from any half decent source.

It helps to have a home like Mike's though, a bit far away from neighbours.

The other upgrade that the Audioengine HD6 provides over the A5+, which helps explain the price jump, is the built-in DAC. I suspect that it performs pretty well with these speakers, even against the Halide.

[The built-in DAC is only for Bluetooth and Toslink, so it's for the lower-quality ways of connecting. For a high quality wired connection, you still have to (get to?) use a nice standalone DAC. --Mike]

The Audi R10 engine might be both a little faster and more loud.

At home, all of my music listening is now done through my Sonos system, and I really enjoy the flexibility and usefulness of this setup. Can listen to all of the songs on my computers, as well as Pandora, Google Play Music, Spotify, etc, in multiple rooms, either the same source material in every room, or different sources in each room, or any combination. In our living room, I feed the music from a Sonos Conect to a Jolida JD102C tube integrated amp, driving a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 speakers. Have been wanting to get a decent DAC to go between the Sonos Connect and the Jolida, but haven't had the funds, hopefully/maybe someday. Also have two Sonos Play:1 speakers for the dining room and bedroom.

Not a hifi setup by any means (had Carver and Angstrom components in a previous existence, but oh well), but I am happy with the listening experience. Audiophiles makes camera lust seem tame :-)

Hi Mike -
I’m with you on the warm thing. After an aprox. eight year dalliance in the “high end” world, I throttled back and found happiness, with a Marantz integrated and the newest Magnepan’s, the .7’s. But like you, I needed just a little more bottom. I’ve played with subwoofers before, but never found them satisfying. Then I read about the AudioKinesis Swarm, and it made so much sense to me. I ponied up, and…oh my God! Heaven! I’m only an hour and a half away from you - if you feel like a road trip for an afternoon of listening I’d enjoy it.
By the way, I bought the Maggies at The Analog Shop, a very nice stereo shop not far from you, in Victor N.Y.

In my past, as a suffering audiophile, one of the joys I relished most was imbibing the rigorous, intense prose (ruminations?) of the few writers (notably Harry Pearson and Jon Valin) who manage to put simple, magical words to the ineffable quality of reproduced sound. Of these words, I think the most perfect and most consequential (and expensive) is "air." I suppose the best analogy to air in our present context would be... bokeh? Like bokeh, air is not the main subject. But it is the necessary substrate, whose absence, or poor quality, diminishes the main subject.

The best systems have "air" at the top end and "weight" at the bottom end. Both are insanely expensive to obtain. Both are awol in lesser systems and mysteries to the post iPod generation. Sub-woofers have to do with weight. My question re your post is: why would you bother with weight, when your little system no doubt barely has any woof?

[My porch is actually a very good room for sound. Barely 7 feet wide, long and skinny, with a high, radically sloping ceiling, so no reflections. And the little sub (it's actually not a "subwoofer" it's just a "woofer" adds useful weight. Minimonitors often need woofers more than most speakers need subwoofers. --Mike]

I am not sentimental about audio or camera gear. I recently sold a nearly mint late 70s Kenwood integrated amp and matching tuner. I was happy to get $135 for the set.

Several years ago, I built cabinets for a set of Audio Nirvana Super 8 alnico fullrange speakers, and a cainet for a subwoofer + amp. The 2:1 setup worked beautifully with my integrated tube amp and Marantz CD player.

Then, out of necessity, I ended up replacing the integrated tube amp (along with NOS vintage tubes) because it wouldn't sync up with the 4K TV.

I ended up replacing the tube amp with an NAD D 3020 Hybrid Digital Amp. WOW! The little amp and my DYI 2:1 speaker setup sounds great. The amp has optical in/out, and coax, RCA, and USB inputs. It's hooked up to a laptop with a decent DAC (great for lossless streaming), the TV, a Blueray player, an HD radio, and the Marantz CD player. The clarity and imaging is excellent. My only beef is the CD player--it doesn't sound as clean and bright as it did with the tube amp. Fortunately, it's not a big deal. I hardly ever listen to CDs

Hey ho!

After I got my P4 / N22 combo very cheap from a shop going out of Audioengine, I really regretted (& still do) not springing for the subwoofer at the same time. Very much a "doh" moment.

Oh, crikey, just noticed, a Bats song! I'm hanging all around Bats country on holiday at the moment - both sides of the harbour.

Incidentally, your "dad joke" might (kinda) qualify as an "old man gag" in Japan.



Sadly, at about the age I was able to afford truly audiophile equipment, incipient age-related loss of high frequencies in my hearing and a touch of tinnitus made it completely redundant. The camera industry has benefitted as a consequence.

Those new Audio Engine self-powered speakers are C$999.99 plus shipping plus 13 percent sales tax from Amazon here in Canada.
As to the woofer, if I need such, I'll buy a dog.

This is interesting, I enjoy the posts, and I've loved Music and Photography about forever.
I even owned a very credible and nicely equipped 'project studio.
I do both professional and avocationl Photography and sometimes need to work to deadlines
But I.ve never been able to listen to music and edit pictures or do darkroom work. I wish I could.
But I get lost in one or the other, and my productivity goes way down.
I'm sure I must be in some extreme minority, or be missing a gene.
But I've tried several times.
As I said, I really wish I could.
Any hints ?

[I'd say, just go with it and only do one thing at a time. KK is so sensitive to music he had to quit a job once because he couldn't stand the muzak (actually "golden oldies" and "classic rock" over outdoor loudspeakers). It's a gift and also a mild curse. --Mike]

"Stereo! Stereo!"

Written like that it immediately triggered my mind's ear to hear Flavour Flav & Chuck D on Public Enemy's "Prophets of Rage"

I always hated "warm" sound; it's why I jumped into digital playback so enthusiastically, and haven't bought anything else since 1983. (That, plus I especially hate hisses and pops. An SAE 5000 impulse noise reduction unit was the first "exotic" piece of audio kit I ever bought (and seems like maybe the last, too)).

Grew up on a Rek-o-kut turntable feeding a Shure tube amp (integrated amp) and AR2a speakers, is probably where I learned to hate it.

My own first stereo (1975) had Heil AMT-5 speakers, which I loved intensely (had intended to buy the classic Advents, but listening in the store quickly sold me the Heil's).

Now listening mostly on my computer, with a Cambridge Soundworks setup of tiny little cube speakers plus a "subwoofer", which still sound pretty darned good sitting at my monitor; $100 in the mid 90s as I recall.

We do have the Audio Engine A5+s upstairs on the digital TV, and I've thought it would be nice to add a sub-woofer from time to time, so next time there's that much money in the stereo hardware budget I may profit from your advice here.

(I've had some very good experiences with M-Audio hardware, though I haven't tried their speakers myself. Wouldn't surprise me if Alan was onto something there.)

I very much enjoyed listening to the Egyptian Reggae mix. Any idea how to identify the particular versions of the songs so that I can buy them on iTunes (or somewhere else)? There are multiple versions of the song Egyptian Reggae on iTunes, but they all seem to have the same sample clip. I bought one, but it's not the one in the mix, and is not quite as pleasing to me. The one in the mix appears to be a live recording (applause at the start), which is unfortunately not a useful clue for the iTunes options.

Sadly, at about the age I was able to afford truly audiophile equipment, incipient age-related loss of high frequencies in my hearing

Quite randomly, when I was in my early fifties, I downloaded a test tone/signal generator freeware program. I put on my headphones, plugged into the computer amp, and did a sweep tone.

I learned that I cannot hear frequencies above 10 kHz. My dad's audiologist told me that that is in fact the norm, and few over the age of 25 can hear all the way to 16 kHz, let alone the 20 kHz high frequency spec a lot of audio equipment is tested for. Upon testing my 6 year old's hearing, I discovered she could hear 23 kHz tones, which is also not unusual, apparently.

Random self-knowledge, but another bit that cured me of audiophilia.

An analogy is getting an ultra-high resolution tablet, TV, or LCD screen for your desktop when your eyesight cannot resolve enough pixels to notice.

If you have a half decent sound card or any external DAC on your computer, you can do the experiment yourself.


I've been needing new speakers; so based on your recommendation of the A5+, I decided to purchase a pair. That is, until I showed them to my wife for approval. Nope. No grill. Won't look good in the living room with that bare front. So I will shortly be the proud owner of a pair of HD6s, which look so much better.

[I am feeling pangs of jealousy. Enjoy. --Mike]

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007