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How do the 'non-subjectivists' choose their hi-fi systems?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Pete L, Apr 25, 2020.

  1. Pete L

    Pete L pfm Member

    With all the talk of mains cables and their sound, or lack of, on another thread it prompted me to consider how those claiming that subjective observations of sound are without value unless backed-up by scientific measurement choose their hi-fi systems?

    I and many others select equipment based on how it sounds to us. That is purely subjective of course, and since I have not backed-up my listening observations by scientific measurement then according to the 'objectivists' I cannot be sure that I am simply imagining that it sounds good to me.

    So, all you engineering minded folk, how do you choose your equipment? Do you believe all equipment sounds the same and do you choose it using some criteria other than sound? Or do you carry out measurements using oscilloscopes etc. to make your choices? Please discuss.

  2. Shadders

    Shadders pfm Member

    For DAC's, and solid state amplifiers - i choose from the basic specifications - i will examine the reviews and measurements, and as long as the amplifier has a good design, then i purchase on specification. I have designed my own DAC, and compared to the Cambridge Audio DVD player DAC section. There were no differences.

    For speakers - it is very different, sealed to ported, to transmission line etc. So a demo is important.

    Anything cable - i ignore any review. As long as the cables meet what i would expect a competent design to be, then any cable is acceptable.

    I have seen an editor of a magazine comment on the expectation bias of the magazines reviewers in regards to a DAC that sounded thin, but upon seeing, the reviewers changed their sound description to be similar to the aesthetic construction of the DAC.

  3. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    FFS this is like groundhog day.
    Mr Pig, Rockmeister, Vinny and 5 others like this.
  4. Pete L

    Pete L pfm Member

    My own method of selecting equipment could not be more different. I rely purely on how it sounds to me. I have no idea if my amps specifications quote a good or bad distortion level. etc. because I haven't read them! To me it sounds rather good, and if the distortion level were high then that wouldn't spoil the sound for me.

    tenpercenter, Blurboy and sq225917 like this.
  5. Tw99

    Tw99 source last

    I've realised, mostly through reading this forum for years, that I am not an "audiophile". I just like music, and a good system to let me enjoy it. I'm not interested in continual box swapping.

    So I can satisfy my needs with cheap digital sources because they're technically perfect for 16/44 material which is all I care about. I have a few of these and there is no difference between them. Power amp I chose on specs and price, bought without hearing it. Speakers are where I find it important to try at home before buying.
    effinity, Shadders, narabdela and 4 others like this.
  6. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    My pre and power amps were both chosen because they offered the lowest distortion available in a diy option. The power amps were the best measuring ab amps at the time, now bettered by the new Benchmark power amp.

    I have no truck with cables, thick for power and or well shielded will do for signal. I like a decent broadcast quality plug, LemO, neutrik or xlr where possible. I've owned fancy cables, tried loads of them, I just don't hear a difference from them, they don't interest me.

    My digital source is a toy, something for futzing around with, a movable feast if you will. I have no wish to spend big money on a dac so a pi based system with the functionality I require suffices. I can bodge power supplies, clocks, data buffers and suchlike to keep me interested.

    My turntable is assembled from bitsa, bitsa Kuzma,bitsa Linn, bitsa 3rd party stuff. My phonostage like my amps was chosen for its low noise and distortion.

    Speakers were selected to work with the room, based on my preference for monitor style 3 ways. They were chosen on how I feel they sound in room. The rest of my hifi is picked to offer accurate replay the speakers were chosen because they worked. Should I move them on I'd build an active dsp controlled 3 way pair.

    I have no interest in new commercially available hifi, it doesn't offer value for money and the residuals are 5hite.

    I have a selection of other stuff bought just to try, for the fun of owning, classic CD players, quad speakers etc.

    I'm happy to have some music sound bad, rather than use kit selected to flatter poor recordings. That's just a personal choice, no more right or wrong than anyone els4s.
    tuga and Shadders like this.
  7. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I of course design and build all my amplification and PSU's etc and whether of my own design or bought in as in the case of speakers etc I choose it mainly subjectively but with a keen eye on the measured performance. What I don't do is act lake a total CENSORED and attribute any part of what I hear to things which cannot possibly have any effect such as mains cables. That would be more the province of a shill for the likes of Russ Abbott etc. As we have an obvious "expert" here maybe he would like to comment on rather more important aspects of hi fi such as the effect of input impedance on the common mode distortion of a non inverting voltage amplifier or whether the extra active device in a cascode stage is worth it in mitigating Early Effect? Real stuff yeah... that actually changes the sound we hear...
    ff1d1l, tuga, Shadders and 4 others like this.
  8. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    The answer is pretty easy for me, if it’s hideous to look at and can’t be hidden, it fails at the first hurdle, once we’re through that, I listen to stuff and buy what I like (within my financial constraints obviously)... with used kit, I buy it, live with it for a bit and if its doing it for me, it stays, if not, it goes. Measurements are pretty irrelevant if I like the product... I draw the line at fancy power cables though, I’m not going to piss on anyone’s bonfire but from my standpoint, provided it’s well made (as in it’s safe and won’t fall to bits) and is rated for the job, it’s as good as you need... screened power cables do have a place though IME, where you have lots of power cables and lots of signal cables in close proximity (such as in a multi amplifier active system), you can (and I have had) some mains hum picked up by the signal cables, screened cables fixed that, and they weren’t expensive.
    Shadders and Del monaco like this.
  9. Paul Burke

    Paul Burke pfm Member

    Speakers are one of the best measuring pair availabile, on and off axis, power response, distortion, and various others that matter. Yes, it means they sound great and recreate the recording very well

    Streamer/dac was chosen as its well priced, small, attractive enough, nice remote and measures well enough any noise is ridiculously lower than the hearing threshold, and the usual, flat fr, channel matching etc

    Expensive cables were sold long ago after trying various, they didn’t stay very long after comparing £6k of interconnect/speaker cables vs some old shite out of the drawer and free from somewhere when there were no audible differences. Now they are well constructed, some bought, some diy, and long enough to get from A-B is the main requirement

    Previous systems were full naim rig, then vitus, both pushing 40k, the well engineered kit I have now costs 25% or so and absolutely craps all over both of them. Absolutely no regrets
    Pedro83, orangeart, sq225917 and 5 others like this.
  10. Tom Bonjour

    Tom Bonjour pfm Member

    I follow this site and a few others. One site, Audio Science Review, is very much about how components measure. The reviews and resulting discussions there, are very oriented towards backing subjective observations up with scientific measurement. I pay close attention to those reviews, yet how something sounds to me, is the more important factor for me.
    Shadders likes this.
  11. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    My system is betterrer/more expensive/ cheaper than yours..
    I have better/worse ears than you.
    I have more/less money than you.

    And anyway. I'm right..

    And my system sounds better than yours. because I'm listening to mine and I can't even hear yours..
  12. Pete L

    Pete L pfm Member

    As do mains cables....

    Dozey likes this.
  13. Durmbo

    Durmbo not French

    And here we go again. :rolleyes:
    Shadders, narabdela and fegs like this.
  14. Pete L

    Pete L pfm Member

    I have the greatest respect for people that build their own kit. I've never had an interest in doing this myself which considering my scientific background and training is perhaps strange. I remember when I was around 17 attending a pre-admission interview for a physics BSc course at a rather stuffy university and the interviewer enquiring about my hobbies. When I said that hi-fi was one of them he said 'Oh, so you build your own amplifiers and radio tuners and so on?' When I said no, I just enjoyed listening to it he looked rather taken aback!

    The truth is that although I cannot agree with the viewpoint of those people that build their own kit that mains cables cannot affect the sound, and much as I object to the self-righteous know-all snobbery of some of those people towards people like myself, I can almost understand why this occurs. When building your own kit you obviously have many considerations with regard to power supply design, component selection, circuit design etc. etc. In this context I can understand that the concept of mains cables affecting sound is dwarfed and rendered peripheral at best by the vastly more important considerations to be made.

    It's a pity we couldn't have a more tolerant and understanding attitude here. I feel that the two 'camps' could both benefit from each others very different perspectives, even if ultimately we can't agree. Unfortunately, and I have to say this, the superior, derogatory and even aggressive attitudes displayed by some of the engineering types here are completely at odds with the spirit of friendly discussion.

    Mr Magoo, DCA, Dan K and 3 others like this.
  15. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    I try kit and if I like the sound I keep it. I may cast an eye over measurements at times but I’ve listened to too many things that ‘measured well’ but didn’t do it for me. The kit I have now, I’ve no idea how it measures at all but I tell you it sounds great. That’s all that’s really needed.I don’t want to get wrapped up in debate, I just want to enjoy my music. My system gets it just about right at this time. I resist changing stuff now because I fear that something new that may measure well may spoil the balance I’ve achieved. Some of that balance was achieved through luck.
    effinity, Mr Magoo, DCA and 3 others like this.
  16. narabdela

    narabdela who?

    ...and again, and again. He's pushing buttons.

    That sounds more accurate to my ears. No measurement required.
    Timcat, Shadders and Durmbo like this.
  17. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    Some interesting thoughts here.

    When it comes to hi-fi I am a pragmatist. I only buy kit from established brands that can be serviced as required or sold on when it comes to upgrading. I tend to buy only on the basis of a home demo & generally keep things a long time.
    Shadders and Del monaco like this.
  18. Curtis

    Curtis pfm Member

    Measurements are important but not the only reason to purchase equipment.
    Your ears and musical tastes are the key.
    Not all electrical engineers are pig headed and narrow minded.
  19. jtgofish

    jtgofish pfm Member

    They use a reference recording of a digital piano being played by a robot and then one of a really expensive concert piano played by a highly regarded musician and if the component or system sounds like the digital piano played by the robot they buy that one.
  20. Rockmeister

    Rockmeister pfm Member

    We are all different in what we do, think, and say, in tiny nuanced, subtle ways. So we each choose our HiFi in a way that no-one else does.
    Anyone who says that someone elses method is wrong fails to understand what it is to be human.
    Mr Magoo, DCA, FireMoon and 1 other person like this.

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