It must have been so much simpler then - when? Before the invention of recorded music. People listened to the real thing: they had too! Trouble was, unless you were wealthy it must have been a pretty boring experience, what with there only being religious-inspired performances at the local church or school, and if you were lucky enough to live near a music hall, the odd musical play or maybe a concert by a traveling group or the entertainment of local musicians.
Today we have so much music on tap, after decades of variously sophisticated attempts to record all manner of performers, the choice is endless. The challenge is playing back the recording so that the emotion of the original recording is conveyed in a way that is meaningful to the listener. It is this quest that has been growing exponentially for me during my thirties -so much so that the expression ignorance is bliss (and less expensive) comes hurtling towards me like an express train.
My quest has been on budget, like the vast majority of music enthusiasts. I am definitely not able purchase a £10k front end and complementary amps and 'speakers. I am married with three children (aged 9, 5 and 2) and work as a professional engineering manager.
So my rise up the quality ladder has been guided by hi-fi reviews, initially the purchase of new budget hi-fi, but latterly, the purchase of secondhand kit and then modifying it with some fun DIY. I do not have an advanced knowledge of electronics, as my professional and academic training is science based.
But, I can wield a soldering iron and know enough electronics to attempt "up-grading" my system to produce a sound which I enjoy more for a relatively small capital investment, coupled with hours my precious spare time consumed in my garage with soldering iron in hand. I plan to write about my experiences in the coming months. But here comes the health warning:
Do not attempt any of the DIY work I describe unless you are qualified to assess the associated risks for yourself. These range from a hernia by lifting heavy speakers incorrectly to death by electrocution. I will provide details of the approach I used but it will be up to you to ensure any such attempts on your part comply with your local safety rules and regulations - BE WARNED!
A slightly less formal but none-the-less real disclaimer:
I accept no responsibility for jeopardizing you domestic relationships as a result of becoming a Hi-Fi DIYer.
Fortunately, I am blessed with a very understanding wife who also happens to enjoy music and will sometimes admit to a tweak having produced an audible improvement.
OK so what do I listen to? I have about 300 CDs and a similar number of LPs. The vast majority of my recorded music dates from the 60s, 70s and 80s; but I like the music of the 90s, and I have recently discovered Jazz :-). I also find some classical music rewarding on occasions. Good Blues is also a genre that I find increasingly attractive.
I travel about 15k miles a year on company business and spend most of that "dead" time on the phone or listening to the BBC's Radio 1 in the UK.
My system is dominated by British kit. I have a 1990 vintage of the ubiquitous Linn Sondek, fitted with an Ittok and Audio Technnica MC cartridge as my preferred front end. This is partnered by a clocked Arcam CD transport feeding a Kinshaw Perception DAC. The amplifier is a very heavily modified Naim active set up - more on this in future postings.
The speakers are remarkable value, being home built transmission line kits that are sold by IPL. Again more on this in future submissions. By some standards this lot is not particularly hi-end and since I bought most of it second hand, its probably cost me less that £3k. My DIY activities are driven by four principles:
Oh yes - the bass guitar. I played bass in a punk group whilst at school. It is that sensation of excitement, albeit often resulting from poor quality playing :-), that I seek to achieve from my hi-fi in my living room, listening to my copies of the recordings that attempt to capture the magic of musicians who are much more talented than I.
And do you know what? Sometimes, just occasionally, it snaps into place - the magic is conveyed. Then I stop thinking about hi-fi and enjoy the experience that is unique to listening to music.
© Copyright 1999 Steve Davey - http://www.tnt-audio.com
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