Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sound of Music

I recently rediscovered the various bits of (entry level) hifi kit that I've accumulated over the years and then were relegated due to the rise of digital music. However, there was more than nostalgia for the loading of the CD and waiting on the TOC read than for the various snake oil I left behind.

Personally, there's no mistaking the pleasure of listening to music on a well balanced system - something that doesn't swamp the bass or screech through the trebles. So one of the first pay-cheque purchases were towards better (but not obscene) music system.

Along the way, there was a lot of education and snake oil

There were terms like bright and warm (screechy/finger chalkboard high notes vs booming bass notes) that described amplifiers, speakers, speaker cables and any variation in between. There is soundstage reproduction describing whether the system can give the feeling of separate notes and the sense of instruments setup on a sound stage. There is biwiring where different speakers are ran from the amplifier to the bass and treble units of the speaker - the type of wire can be different to harness any sonic feature/preference. There is onboard CD transport DAC or separate DAC units and also coaxial or S/PDIF aka TOSLINK for digital connections. There is speaker-listening position (ears level with tweeter and speakers angled inwards). There is speaker support to maximise stability and reduce sonic vibrations of the music and the environment feeding back into the speaker cabinet and impacting the subsequent noise reproduction. There is the CD recording and engineering so a recording of the same song may not be the same song. There is speaker or component or cable burn in myths.

Ah, all the fun when all I really wanted was to be able to make out and enjoy the music.

And after brushing aside all of the snake oil, I had to remember the rules for omhs for speakers and amplifier. Is an amp that says something like "speaker impedance, 4ohms mim" where the speakers say 8ohms (nomimal).

Firstly you have to remember high school physics: the amplifier is the power source and can only give a certain amount of current and the speaker is essentially a resistor drawing a current. The important thing to get right is the speakers provide a resistance to the current and the lower the ohms rating, the higher the resistance. The higher the resistance the more work the amplifier has to do (and be able to do when the speakers draw the current). So simply put: A pair of 8ohms speakers plugged into a 4ohms amplifier should be fine .. although you may wish to find from the manufacturers specs the minimum to ensure that the speakers and the amplifier do play nicely. When they don't play nicely the speakers will make the amplifier work harder and overheating it and potentially damage/overheat the circuitary.

And after all of this a cheap 1990s Rotel and Marantz transport and some cheap speakers reclaimed from an all in one midi system still generate great sound within their limitations. But still a great, albeit a different, experience over listening to my ipod.

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