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Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#1
It seems the world of Hi-fi can be summed up in one sentence.

It sounds great, until someone convinces you it could sound 'better'.

After peeling off the lid on this particular yoghurt pot, I can definitely understand - even if I have to acknowledge the weak-point in the system is always going to be me. After fifteen years of making things sound 'good' by gunning the volume on my headphones to max, now everything sounds a little like headphones with the volume at max. Oops.

It stated with the purchase of a new turntable a couple of years ago with one of my first paycheques. Nothing special - but a proper turntable with a balanced tonarm, moving magnet cartridge and a dozen other things that put it into the Hi-Fi regime. Not the stratosphere - but off the gground still better than one of those cheap reproductions with the chinese needles. It did make records sound better. Except for Death Magnetic which sounded substantially worse. It was basic, as basic as you can get while still a member of the club.

So,  we find there's 'something' to it, but at the same time never quite got to the interesting depths. It played itself through a set of PC-grade Logitechs and a subwoofer that 'worked' and sounded fine and was reasonable portable to boot. And that was a good sounding thing with a good sounding record.

And I thought, 'Ooh that sounds good'. And it did and I was satisfied.

This would've been it until the receipt of The Receiver and its speakers. It lived in a house where the company I work for was called to do work. It then lived in the company's stores for about a year (as a gift from the homeowner - no funny business before you ask), before we moved on and it was given to me, provided there was space available for it.  It was only on bringing it home that the space intended for it proved unavailable.

The Receiver now lives in a 10m2 bedroom rather than the stone-walled living room where it'd been planned to home it.  It is completely oversized for the room it is in.

The Receiver is a Marantz SR7400 - a 7.1 home-cinema surround sound amplifier from 2004 or so. It just barely predates HDMI so is almost useless these days for its original purpose where everything is HDMI. But, mechanically, it still works. The volume button takes an input as a suggestion and gives what it wants but other than that, it's fine. It dumps 100 watts per channel into up to 7 main speakers, and one single room-rattling subwoofer.

It arrived with only the two main floorstanding units - the Left and Right, and one of the rear speakers, with a few tails of their original cables. The others were lost to history. The rear speaker became the centre and, for a few days it became a stereo system. The speakers are Mordaunt-Short 904's (Not the i). They sound better than anything I've ever listened to before. They are proper hi-fi speakers. Basic ones -  as basic as you can get while still a member of the club.

The setup played well with an Xbox, OK with a PC and exceptionally with the turntable.

And I thought, 'Ooh that sounds good'. And it did and I was satisfied. 

This lasted about three days.  In the shed, lived the bones of an old 5.1 system from the same era as the Marantz-  this thing a consumer system that lived in the living room until the multi-CD-DVD changer at the centre of it all let the smoke out. It included a subwoofer. It also came with a constellation of Satelite speakers that 'worked' - or had until the late 2000's.

They were wired to the Marantz. One of them burned up the first time the volume knob was touched. The two survivors worked perfectly. With the subwoofer now in place, the walls now rattled along with the beat.  The volume control goes from -70 to +15. It's never been above -30. To do so risks structural damage to the cabinet where it all lives, or to the room itself.

And I thought, 'Ooh that sounds good'. And it did and I was satisfied. 

The turntable went away to a holiday-home, leaving a hole in the centre of it all. The PC began to suffer 'old computer syndrome'. The xbox still worked through it with the optical output - but chances to really stretch the system were few and far between. People complained about the volume. Hi-Fi does not work in shared spaces.

For a year or two, it spend its life barely ticking over.  The receiver produces more heat, than sound.

But that all changed when the Coronavirus struck.

The two chief sources of noise complaints were stuck two hundred kilometres away.  So was the turntable and all its accompanying records. To fill the hole, a standalone CD Player was found on eBay on an afternoon when I should have been working from home. A Sony CDP-790, from the age before the World Wide Web. The internet knew nothing of it, beyound one or two forum posts, and an old USENET post where someone had replaced the Op-Amps with tubes and basically rewired the whole audio side of it. Nobody had anything to say about it otherwise. Good or bad.

Nobody to say it was a bad decision, or validate that it was a good one. No online reassurance or condemnation. For the first time in a long time, there was nothing but my own opinion. 

I like the 1980's display and how clicky and positive the buttons were - like it was really there. I liked how quiet it ran - no whirr from the disk and only a distinct 'click' as it switched tracks.

When  fed the results of years of commuting with only a CD-player as an accompaniment, the outcome was mixed. CD's Iremembered as being loud and powerful on headphones sounded awful and mushy. The feIt remembered as being a bit quiet and at times uncomfortably inaudible over the babble of a crowded bus sounded so much better.

Of course, there were things the internet told me should sound awful which sounded fine - and vice-versa.

This inverted, when the volume turned up. Of course, it made sense. Compression raised the quiet to the point of being audible with the volume turned down - while anything mastered properly needed the power cranked up to the point where things got 'loud'. Especially with the sub-woofer burbling in the middle of it all.

It strange. Of all the things the system does - it makes it far more obvious where things aren't working. Where the compression on a spotify stream is kicking in, or where a mix has been clipped. That must be desperately frustrating - to make a good signal sound better it naturally makes bad signals sound worse.

There is, however a remix of The Door's debut on CD. Reviled by many for being pitched that bit too high compared to the records they grew up (Because, according to the liner notes, the original had been mistakenly pitched low by a defective tape recorder) - it sounded spectacular. In the darkness of night, with only 'The End' for company, it was a sort of apocalypse.

That's why people spend thousands on hardware. Just for that moment where it all clicks and its possible to be like 'Oh'.

I thought, 'Ooh that sounds good'. And it did and I was satisfied. 

For a few days at least.

Here I am on eBay trying to find the original speakers off the thing - because I know it'll sound better if only I could find them and some cable. And not have the 0-feedback bot-bidders run 'em up to 70 pounds in the final hour.  I'm already in severe danger of overpaying for the damned things, and why do so many UK sellers not ship to anywhere but the UK?

The real weakpoint of the system isn't the system. There's some prick ripping through blocks or bodies with a con-saw in the garden over. The neighbour has kids who dislike the Iron maiden. And the timber walls rattle and drum and bother the entire bloody house, not to mention the cabinet it lives in threatening to rattle itself apart.

Really, the worst part of this system is its location.

Some people spent €60,000 on a set of speakers. I'll have to spent significant multiples of that on a house to keep all this before we even think about speakers. Somewhere with thick walls, far away from neighbours and housemates who beg for it to be turned down because it's messing with their stream.


-----
Yes, I did post something like this a few days ago. Then woke up in the morning, re-read it and realised I really did get through the guts of a bottle of whiskey that night. Oops. It went away until I could turn through into something intelligible.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#2
(05-16-2020, 01:54 PM)Dartz Wrote: It seems the world of Hi-fi can be summed up in one sentence.

It sounds great, until someone convinces you it could sound 'better'.

...

I've read stories like this in the past. I even lived through one while I was still young enough to live with my parents. I know where you're coming from.

Me? I've learned that "perfect" is the enemy of "good", and accept what I have.

But I really could stand to get a HDMI tuner... and then all the other parts that go with it... No. "Perfect" is the enemy of "good". I'll live with what I have.
--
Rob Kelk

Since it's an election year in the USA: How to Immigrate to Canada, direct from the Government of Canada's website. "How you can immigrate to Canada, how to protect yourself from fraud and what to expect after you arrive in Canada."
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#3
(05-16-2020, 02:04 PM)robkelk Wrote:
(05-16-2020, 01:54 PM)Dartz Wrote: It seems the world of Hi-fi can be summed up in one sentence.

It sounds great, until someone convinces you it could sound 'better'.

...

I've read stories like this in the past. I even lived through one while I was still young enough to live with my parents. I know where you're coming from.

Me? I've learned that "perfect" is the enemy of "good", and accept what I have.

But I really could stand to get a HDMI tuner... and then all the other parts that go with it... No.  "Perfect" is the enemy of "good". I'll live with what I have.

Sometimes you just got to go for it, mind.

When you're into bi-wiring with 12-core oxygen-free cables, you might have a problem.

There's a lot of low-hanging fruit out there in the dumpsters, or on eBay.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
Reply
RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#4
Heh. At least you're not at the level where you have your own utility pole installed in your yard just so you can get the cleanest power possible for your system. Tongue
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-Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#5
And here I am, eternally satisfied with a couple of cheap Logitech speakers for my computer.

Speakers that produce noticeably warped sound when the pitch gets too high and I turn the volume up, no doubt at least helped along by having dropped them a couple of times from the edge of my desk.


But then, I was never somebody who was interested in the sensation of sound or in blowing my eardrums with volume. I may not pay attention, but I'd expect my hearing is in better than average condition for my age.
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#6
(05-16-2020, 02:04 PM)robkelk Wrote: But I really could stand to get a HDMI tuner... and then all the other parts that go with it... No.  "Perfect" is the enemy of "good". I'll live with what I have.

Permit me to make a confession that will tell you, I trust, how very far below your league I am in the speaker area:  I don't even know what an HDMI tuner is or does.  So do I need one?  I guess not, since I've gotten along just fine without even knowing about them all these years.  Or maybe one's already built into my computer; how the hell would I know?
-----
"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that this was some killer weed."
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#7
HDMI is a connector. If you don't have anything that has a HDMI jack, then you don't need a HDMI tuner.

Unless you're planning on replacing everything, including your TV...
--
Rob Kelk

Since it's an election year in the USA: How to Immigrate to Canada, direct from the Government of Canada's website. "How you can immigrate to Canada, how to protect yourself from fraud and what to expect after you arrive in Canada."
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#8
Depending on how old your gear is, you probably have an HDMI cable between your desktop and your monitor. Its the one that looks like the bastard child of a USB and the 15 pin vga?
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#9
And - on saying that - just managed to get the right original speakers for £56 and shipping from the UK.

Handy. They normally go for 70-100 sterling.

Now to find cabling. As stupid as it sounds - these will have to be shielded - there's a 50-amp mains power cable running to an electric shower running right through the only cable route that suits and that thing induces some humm when it kicks in.

Anyway. It's hard to find things these days that aren't HDMI. To the point that not being HDMI compatible is something of an inconvenience - and why those monitors we got in work were so unusually cheap.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
Reply
RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#10
I outright know my hearing is unusually sensitive, though it's more an annoyance than good for anything. Other people breathing hard or flipping pages in a book is loud enough to disrupt hearing audio at my preferred levels, and traffic on the highway that is a good mile away even at its closest approach. Sadly, I seem to have a poor sense of musical pitch even so, with the only difference I ever noticed between no-brand dollar store headphones and a big, beefy, $100 cups-fit-around-the-ears-not-on-them headset from Koss being how well the latter excluded those outside sounds... and then my own breathing was the problem. D'oh.

Nowadays I either have audio running through some noughties- or possibly even nineties-vintage PC speakers with the Creative Labs logo on them, or a $10 no-brand headset off Amazon, that sounds good enough to me but squeezes a little tight and is on-ear, so after a while it gets a little painful from the physical pressure. Still a critical bit of PPE in this time of viral isolation, when I like turning the speed on talking-heads videos (as in chatter, not the band) up to 1.5x because the data bandwidth on spoken words is so damn low, which gets right on Dad's nerves.

His own musical preferences are no less annoying to me, along with being deaf enough that when he can hear something clearly it's (no metaphor or hyperbole) causing me physical pain, so he actually got the first pair - doesn't seem to mind how tight they fit despite wearing a bigger hat size than I do, either. I can still hear his garbo music if I don't have mine on as well, but at least now it's an option. Those dang geezers and their noise! Big Grin
--
‎noli esse culus
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#11
Creative stuff was good. I alwaysd had Creative MP3 players and liked them a lot. Unfortunately the batteries are long defective on them and they'll never play again.

A paid of mid-range noise cancellers I've found were a godsend. Both on long flights where they killed a good chunk of the engine noise - and when my car had its catalytic converter cut out by some scumbags and I had to drive to work.

I didn't think I could hear it either - and on headphones and my car's audio I can't - but on this monstrosity of a setup I can hear where they're momentarily cutting the guitar to make room for a rapid drumbeat on some metal tracks - which gives it an awkward pulsing feel to the sound.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
Reply
RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#12
The only dedicated MP3 player I have or probably will own is a Creative Labs MuVo TX FM, with a whopping 512mb of storage, and a little plastic fob/base thing that holds a normal AAA battery to power it - because on its own it's a USB stick with a display and a couple of buttons on the side. It seems silly on the face of it but really makes it convenient to manage the music files - just pull it out of the holder and plug it into your computer. Also avoids the problem of unreplaceable rechargeable batteries that stop holding a charge, though that's because it's using disposables... They do each last a decent amount of time at least. I got it for I think $20 as an opened-box item from Staples ten or fifteen years ago, which was apparently a real steal of a deal. All that and it has a radio receiver too, for the theoretical case where there's a station around that isn't absolutely pants.
--
‎noli esse culus
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RE: Dipping a toe into the world of Hi-Fi
#13
I know people who had those and swore by them. I liked my little Creative though - it was substantially cheaper than an iPod, sounded better and was nicer to use. A bit too lazy to buy up AA batteries, though., but I take the point.

On the other hand. Downloaded the service manual for this amp. It's a complex thing..... magnificently so.

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
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