What does Hi-Fi Even Mean anymore?


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It’s been said a thousand times and I agree, we all have different goals in our pursuit of a sound that we like and there really is no room for judgment of someone else’s goals. However, I think we kid ourselves sometimes and fall back on a type of relativism that is, let’s just say, self serving in order for things to align with our pereonal goals.

The question is about the term “hi-fi” and its meaning. High fidelity. I don’t particularly like the term and some may consider the use of it quaint but if the term is to be used the question has to be asked: “fidelity to what?”; and on a “high” level at that. That is why this is my favorite quote from the article:

**** Alex Munro, Brand Director at Q Acoustics

"The original proposition and purpose of hi-fi has all but gone. That is except for a hard core among audio enthusiasts, who are still making tiny incremental changes to a component audio system seeking the ultimate sound, adopting higher and higher resolution replay sources. But only those of them who attend a lot of live unamplified music have kept touch with the original aims of hi-fi. ****

First, there is plenty of live unamplified music out there and anyone who thinks otherwise is not looking very hard at all. Now, one may not like the genres represented by most live unamplified music, but that is a different story. Moreover, in order to be able to use that sound as a reference there is no getting around the fact that substantial exposure to that sound is the only way. For historical perspective remember that when the term “hi-fi” came to be the vast majority of music was, in fact, live and unamplified.

I don’t think that acknowledging the true definition of the term is elitist at all and the term is still relevant for some. Pursuit of sound that is “best” and more to one’s liking without the use of the live/acoustic reference is perfectly valid on a personal basis, but if that is the goal I don’t think “hi-fi” is the term to use.

The human timbre voice is the golden rule in audio like in music...

We are shaped by our daily life, by history, and by evolution to detect, identify, and locate voices....

For me there is no other rule to fine tune acoustically my system...

We all know how a voice must be....Or is not.....Almost all music is distributed around the critical window frequencies range of the human voice.... If a choral work sound good in a stereo system with a location and a clear distribution of children,female and male voices with all the difference between the register, and the indivuduals, this system will give a good rendering of any instrument....

The worst music for fine tuning a system is any amplified instrument.....The worst genre is pop or electronica....

The best is choral voices with children,females and males voices...

For instrument i pick one very demanding but very well known : piano....
My second best is a brass quartet or quintet with tuba, trombone, horn and trumpet...
My third is Vivaldi strings.....
Or some symphonies....

If all that sound natural and 3- D you are done....




As Mordred proclaims in his song Seven Deadly Virtues in the musical Camelot, "Fidelity is only for your mate!"
I'll riff on what mahgister says just above. Go to a restaurant, supermarket, or any place where people gather and do business. Use your audiophile ears and listen to the waiter/waitress as he/she takes an order. Listen to the interaction between the cashier and customer at the checkout stand. Listen to the shelf stocker as he/she puts cans and bottles on the shelves. Listen to the rattles, squeaks and bangs of the shopping carts as they're maneuvered around the store.  Listen to the various ways people make the "S" sound. Listen to the differences in the timbres of  male and female voices. Listen to a toddler babble and scream. Listen to the imaging.  Listen to the background noise, whether it be muzak, street traffic or an air conditioner. Ah! The Absolute Sound!
"...The term "hi-fi" — or "high fidelity" — dates back to the 1950s when it was used to describe audio equipment that was able to faithfully reproduce music..."

"...Hi-fi in 2021 really has to do with a philosophy rather than a set of stringent requirements. It’s instead a listener’s pursuit of the best playback quality, independent of the format (vinyl, digital) that the listener chooses..."

This is my definition.