Choosing HiFi

Deciding on which HiFi to buy is similar to buying a car.

You wouldn’t but a car without test driving it first, so you should hear HiFi yourself and trust your ears. Within 30 seconds of listening you will be able to decide, try something different until you are happy with the sound.

There are many HiFi manufacturers to choose from so a decision is baffling. Visits to HiFi shows gives you the widest choice, The Windsor show in October in the UK, Munich High end in May are  the best in Europe or Tokyo or CES Las Vegas if you want a vacation. There are good HiFi dealers all over the country – Absolute Sounds list their dealers on the website.Magazine reviews always seem positive, but I think  you have to hear things for yourself and make your own mind up.

The choice of speakers is the hardest to decide on, and is principally dependant on the size of your listening room and personal preferences. Once you find a speaker you like the sound and look of, next you have to figure out how to power and source it. The choice of speaker is similar to choosing which make of car to choose in this analogy.

Speakers should cost 50% or less than the rest of your system cost – in our reference system the Sonus Faber IL Cremonese cost £36k -about 1/5th of the total cost of our £188.4k system. A good source and amplification, rack and cables is a must. Years ago I spent 6 months going up and down the country choosing a speaker finally settling on a Mcintosh XR200. I have subsequently discovered better speakers once better amplifiers are used. It’s a process of evolution –  Wilson speakers with a Dan D’Agostino amp are my personal favourite choice. Audio Nirvana!

The amplifier is like the car engine and should be powerful enough to make your chosen speaker sound fantastic. Different amplifiers add a different “flavour” to the sound of your speaker. I remember auditioning some big Quad ESL electrostatic speakers with Bryston and Naim amplifiers which were ok until a Rega amp was tried and that combination brought out the best in the ESL by far.

You need the right engine for the car and the right amplifier for the speaker, a Ferrari body shell with a Ford ST engine will not cut the mustard on the road. Likewise a Marantz amp powering some Wilson WATT speakers will fall short !

 

Ford STLamborghini

The source of music is very important, finding a good turntable, CD player or music server is imperative for the front end of your system. For most people the best HiFi they own may well be in the car. If only they could hear a good two channel stereo, they would be blown away – and TV viewing would be a whole new experience.

Equipment racks and cables are like the tyres , you don’t run a sports car on remoulds so good quality cables on a good rack are imperative.

Lastly the HiFi or car you choose comes down to what you can afford – new or secondhand, make and model. Set your budget, a good dealer will  give you options of how to spend your money. . You need to factor in good tables and cables – Transparent Opus cables can cost the price of a Porsche , however there are other less exotic and great sounding alternatives to choose. We use the Transparent Reference series which cost £5.2k for 3m  speaker cable and the same  price for  the balanced interconnects.

A lot of HiFi enthusiasts have been coaxed into buying Bose and Sonus, the Ford ST of the audio world. Cheap with good performance it ticks most of the boxes until you put it next to a Lamborghini or  Bose to a top end HiFi. 30 day money back guarantee and glossy mag advertising doesn’t compare with a true thoroughbred. Bose and Sonus are made out of plastic and will be ok for a few years but are not a lifetime purchase.

BoseMLife

 

So perhaps an oversimplification! I have owned many cars , my first an MG midget, then Ford XR3, Porsche Cayman and my favourite the Hummer H3 amongst others.

With HiFi my first was a weird plastic  ITT turntable with built in speaker, Cambridge Audio amp with ProAc speakers and Linn LP12. Followed by various  Naim and Linn amps, Martin Logan speakers and then Macintosh everything from MT-10 turntable MC2301’s and XR200 speakers, Audio Research and Wadia  till my present top of the HiFi tree  system.

For Blues Audio Ltd demonstration system the costs are as follows. Source TecDas Airforce 3 turntable £25k. Graham 12″ Tone arm £8k. Koetsu Jade cartridge £7.4K Dan D’Agostino Phonostage £29.5K, Melco NAS drive £1.8K (Total for source = £71.7k) Amplification Dan D’Agostino MLife £60k Speakers Sonus Faber IL Cremonese £36k Cables TecDas Reference 3m speaker cable £5.2k, TecDas Reference balanced XLR’s £5.2k (Total £10.4k) Racks Artenesia Exoteryc 3T £8k Record Cleaning  KL Audio KD-CLN 200P  £5.8k Grand Total = £191.8K in total! So our budget split is approximately 40% source 30% amplification 20% speakers and 10% for tables, cables and ancillaries.

Personally I have a bright orange  Lotus Elise 1.8S which although very hard to get into is  great to drive. I’m much more into HiFi than cars, it’s safer though equally as thrilling and enjoyable to me. With the Dan D’Agostino MLife amplifier my Lamborghini  is in my living room!

Why not come to the Lake District and treat yourself to a no obligation demonstration at Blues Audio and hear one of the finest HiFi’s available.

Stephen Reay

Blues Audio Ltd