On the subjective hi-fi quality

Every now and then different people ask me about an opinion on buying hi-fi components. Be it headphones for their portable mp3 players, amplifiers or mini-systems, I’m a local authority (a proud one, I must add). Perhaps it’s because I’m a nerd obsessed with sound quality, or perhaps I’m judging people by their hi-fi systems, anyways I thought I’d share a few general advices for everyone.

First of all, let me remind everyone one more time, that buying hi-fi is by no means similar to buying computer hardware. There seldom happens a situation, when one can compare e.g. two amplifiers and say that the former is better than the latter in every aspect. Bad components happen, very bad happen as well, but the majority of hi-fi produced nowadays is at least good. Some of them are very good, and few are exceptionally fantastic, but those devices that occupy the last two categories are amongst most controversial, since not everybody likes the same sound.

The most apparent example is with vinyl vs. laser discs. There is a significant number of people, who claim that a good turntable outperforms (whatever this means) every CD player. These people hold this view even though they know about obvious limitations of a gramophone record, and I respect them the same way I respect insane people. However, I am able to acknowledge that someone may just like a sound of an LP rather than a CD. And that’s the way it works.

I’m an insane person too, in a way, i.e. I claim that electrostatic loudspeakers are superior to any other loudspeaker technology. They’re expensive, they lack bass, they demand a big room (or rather: they can’t stand right next to a wall) and can be dangerous (especially if you have kids or keep animals at home), but the sound they give in return is so amazing that no traditional construction can match them. It’s my opinion, though, and I don’t intend to force it on anyone. The same goes for transistor vs. valve, integrated vs. separated amplifiers or CD players, and so on. Bear that in mind before you ask me once again what is better, or if you once again try to convince me that gramophones are the best source for a hi-fi system.

Now shortly, a number of tips that I’d give to anyone asking me for advice.

Finally, always remember that it’s your call as a listener to choose a system. You’re your best advisor. Bear in mind that no hi-fi is 100% neutral (perhaps except for some insanely expensive hi-end systems), although theoretically that’s the goal. And lastly: remember that once you start searching for The Perfect Hi-Fi System, this search will probably never be over. Good luck!

 · Borowiny, Poland