What Matters and What is Nonsense


I’ve been an audiophile for approximately 50 years. In my college days, I used to hang around the factory of a very well regarded speaker manufacturer where I learned a lot from the owners. When I started with audio it was a technical hobby. You were expected to know something about electronics and acoustics. Listening was important, but understanding why something sounded good or not so good was just as important. No one in 1968 would have known what you were talking about if you said you had tweaked your system and it sounded so much better. But if you talked about constant power output with frequency, or pleasing second-order harmonic distortion versus jarring odd-order harmonics in amplification, you were part of the tribe.

Starting in the 1980s, a lot of pseudo scientific nonsense started appearing. Power cords were important. One meter interconnects made a big difference. Using a green magic marker on the edge of a CD was amazing. Putting isolation dampers under a CD transport lifted the veil on the music. Ugh. This stuff still make my eyes roll, even after all these years.

So I have decided to impart years and years of hard won knowledge to today’s hobbists who might be interested in reality. This is my list of the steps in the audio reproduction chain, and the relative importance of each step. My ranking of relative importance includes a big dose of cost/benefit ratio. At this point in the evolution of audio, I am assuming digital recording and reproduction.

Item / Importance to the sound on a scale of 1-10 / Cost benefit ratio

  • The room the recording was made in / 8 / Nothing you can do about it
  • The microphones and setup used in the recording / 8 / nothing you can do about it.
  • The equalization and mixing of the recording / 10 / Nothing you can do about it
  • The technology used for the recording (analog, digital, sample rate, etc.) / 5 / nothing you can do about it.
  • The format of the consumer recording (vinyl, CD, DSD, etc.) 44.1 - 16 really is good enough / 3 / moderate CB ratio
  • The playback device i.e. cartridge or DAC / 5 / can be a horribe CB ratio - do this almost last
  • The electronics - preamp and amp / 4 / the amount of money wasted on $5,000 preamps and amps is amazing.
  • Low leve interconnects / 2 / save your money, folks
  • Speaker cables / 3 / another place to save your money
  • Speakers / 10 / very very high cost to benefit ratio. Spend your money here.
  • Listening room / 9 / an excellent place to put your money. DSPs have revolutionized audio reproduction
In summary, buy the best speakers you can afford, and invest in something like Dirac Live or learn how to use REW and buy a MiniDSP HD to implement the filters. Almost everything else is a gross waste of money.
128x128phomchick
Went for the upgrade that, supposedly, was recommended/designed by Terry London. Can't compare the two because have not heard your version. Suspect most of the speaker's quality is the result of the 7-tweeter array that shares mid-range and treble duties.
Check with Eric about upgrade possibilities; the folks on the Tekton thread are knowledgeable about custom work and KDude66 is very helpful.
The problem that I have with the OP’s premise, as posted, is this; although I agree with some of the specific points that he makes.  

First, there is the issue of referring to tweaking as “nonsense”.... no it’s not!  Not going to go through the well known list of all the very effective tweaks that are possible when implemented intelligently.  That stuff is obvious, and if anyone can’t hear the benefits that’s not my problem; it’s theirs.  I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that the benefits of placing a preamp on proper footers are on a par with that of buying much better speakers, but “nonsense”?  C’mon now!  I know what I hear and why does it bother those that don’t that I do?  I am afraid the OP’s “reality” which he wants to educate “today’s hobbyists” about is incomplete and limiting.  

The OP message, while reasonable and obviously based upon his personal experience is neither universal nor definitive.  It is his opinion.  Rather than tempering it with a simple "IMO" declaration it reads more like a manifesto. I think it was intended as his own personal mic drop moment.  The show is not over just because you dropped the mic.

I too have been in this hobby for over 50 years.  I continue to learn, modify preconceptions and remain open to new ideas.  No need to draw a line in the sand...but thats just "my opinion".
@rbstehno

Prof, not much I can say if you can’t hear a difference between a Home Depot cable and a synergistic research cable. That’s like saying you can’t hear a difference between a pioneer amp and Classe monoblocks.


What can I say?

I guess being in to high end audio since my teens, having obsessively listened to high end systems of all price brackets for decades - including having many friends in the reviewing side and thus constant acquaintance with extremely expensive well regarded gear, having reviewed speakers myself, having had many great speaker systems through my room (from MBL to flagship Thiels to Von Schweikert, Audio Physic and many others...) having access to high end cables and tweaks, attending all the audio shows many other audiophiles attend, having a career in post production sound and almost daily hearing the difference between live vs recorded/reproduction of those sounds, using my own recordings of my instruments and familiar voices to evaluate speakers and compare to their live sources...having designed a major reno of my room for great sound in consultation with acousticians, and on and on...

...I guess all this has left me with ears of cloth. I just mustn’t be a sensitive enough listener.

Or I have a crap system.

I believe those are usually the two choices assigned to anyone who didn’t hear differences in a set of cables. ;-)

(Btw, I haven’t compared HD cable to synergistic research cables).