Review: Get Better Sound By Jim Smith Tweak

Category: Accessories

This is a review of the book by Jim Smith, “Get Better Sound”. My motivation for writing this review is simple. There are many questions asked repeatedly on this and other forums. Some questions and answers are straightforward, some are controversial. This book attempts to pull together information from many sources, filtered through the eyes and mind of someone in the audio field all of his adult life. When he has a unique opinion he states that clearly. When a topic is controversial he makes that clear. It is an easy read and covers all the basics as well as more esoteric topics. In general, I agree with the author that most audio systems never achieve their potential and the owner searches in vain for the next piece of equipment in the hopes of reaching audio Nirvana, only to be disappointed.

Content: A broad range of topics including equipment placement, speaker placement, room treatments, analyses of how speakers and electronics work, how our hearing works, how analog and digital recordings work, equipment break-in and burn-in, definitions of terms, and the author’s biography and biases.

Strengths: The language is clear and plain. Diagrams are clear and easy to understand. The author prefaces his opinions with explanations of his own biases and experiences. It is a very complete compendium of subjects related to audio. If the reader has not tried or become aware of the points in his book, it is a valuable resource in making your audio set-up sound its best. I particularly liked his discussion of contested topics such as tubes vs solid state, floorstanders vs monitors, analog vs digital, and speaker placement, tweaks, and some historical perspectives.

Weaknesses: Although the range of topics is quite complete I would have added a few more comments on the choice of systems, especially as it pertains to a beginner’s system. I would discuss cost-effective purchases. There is more bias here but in this field there is bias anyway. It is not a book for the die-hard audio hobbyist who has extensively researched and experimented. It is expensive for a book about audio but not expensive compared to the purchase of new hardware.

I recommend this book for the average audio hobbyist. It puts together information from many sources into one easy to read book. It is ideal for the beginning audio nut because it builds a foundation for every system he or she will have in the future. It will definitely assist anyone who values great reproduction of sound in their homes. It will likely not benefit the audio perfectionist who has years of experience and regularly reads forums and magazines. They have probably already sorted through the information and have chosen their path already. Even though I am guilty of reading about audio on a daily basis, and found only a few new pieces of information, I still enjoyed the read and especially his list of favorite CDs. If you know of someone who is starting down this path, this book would make a good gift. As Frank Zappa once said, “Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.”

I invite any else’s comments of this book.

Disclaimer: I purchased the book myself and have no connection to the author or the publisher. I received no incentives to write this review, other than for the enjoyment of the reader.
I was sitting down to write a review of Get Better Sound by Jim Smith when I came across Tgrisham’s review. Thanks Tgrisham for your insights.
I have a nice system and a very bad room. Perhaps everything that could be wrong about a room is our room. Yet, to our ears (and hearts) our system sounds wonderful. We have heard a lot of systems and we are satisfied with the way music through our system sends us flying to new places with a broad palette of emotions, colors, images and experiences. I am sure that it could be considerably better with a different room and set up.
I have read Jim’s book cover to cover and realize how much our system is compromised from an ideal setup, room acoustics, placement etc. So, I should be frustrated, eh? Not at all. This book is both instructive and aspirational. It affirms much of what we all “know” about getting the best sound from our systems and challenges some of what we all think we know about our systems.
Part of the fun of this book is a few sideline trips down memory lane and the beginnings of high end audio that was unfolding in front of us, the equipment and the times. Jim’s reference to Lafayette Radio stores brought back some wonderful memories of when I was drafted right out of college and after coming out of the Marines in 1971 sold audio in a Lafayette Radio store when quad was all the rage. I expanded the non-Lafayette offerings to where we sold some pretty cool stuff for that time. On days off, I went to the two high end shops in Cleveland to drool over the KLH 9’s, ARC, Thorens, SAE, Dahlquist, Dayton Wright, Quad, Mac, Revox. Magnepan and other beyond my reach equipment of that day. I went on to higher education and a health care career after that but never lost the passion. Jim went on to a higher education in the forefront of some of audio’s best and has obviously learned a great deal in those years. The book offers the reader much in the way of Jim’s experiences, expertise, knowledge of audio setup and even more in terms of his zeal and love for music- putting the correct perspective on the fact that our audio equipment is just the vehicle to the music and not and end game in and of itself. Too, that he favors a setup that achieves the emotions of the music instead of hi-fi “sound effects”. Gives one pause when reading equipment reviews and critiques.
The book is written so that the reader gets the clear impression that Jim is giving his many, many “secret” tips from his vast knowledge base much like the inside information we sometimes got from our best teachers that we knew had insights and revelations well beyond the confines of the course material they were bound to impart. Agree or disagree, there are enough “tips” to satisfy even the most hard core enthusiast. I would take a slightly different perspective from the nice review above to say that even the advanced audio perfectionist will find the book hard to put down –it’s an easy read and there is plenty of information for even the die hard reader. It is a great feeling to have our beliefs affirmed and sometimes even better to be renewed with the cognitive dissonance we feel when our beliefs are challenged.
There are a few areas that I wanted even more information as my interest peaked. Perhaps Jim will write Get Better Sound II and take suggestions for expanded topics in the future.
I can not imagine anyone’s system not benefiting from advice given in this book whether one follows one good tip or dozens. The best part is that for the most part it only requires what we do already- move something around, try a different placement, pay attention to details or minimize a detrimental listening room obstacle. For what we pay for equipment, tweaks (got any sitting in storage anywhere?) gizmos, gadgets, solutions, subscriptions, cables, stands AND music, this book is an inexpensive bargain and you get a career’s worth of knowledge.
I have been fortunate to have had advice and counsel from those I consider to be some of the best in the field, such as Jeff Catalano, Walter Swanbon, Casey McKee Steve Bednarski and on and on and Jim is among THE best out there. I hope that when we get around to building that better room, Jim will still be available to come set it up for us- of course- after I apply the tips I have learned through this book.
Highly Recommended.
Thanks for your insights as well. I enjoyed reading your post and hope others will take advantage of Jim's book. I am keeping mine in my library. In case someone asks me about which piece of equipment they should buy, I will give them the book to read instead!