It’s The Music, Stupid

Some years ago I was delivering a piece of expensive audio equipment to a new customer some distance away. The equipment had been ordered over the phone, and wisdom of choice was never part of any discussion we had had with the customer. When I arrived at his house I was taken into a large room with, as expected, a substantial HiFi system sourced from all over the place. Judging by the components, this man clearly had a lot of time for the high end HiFi press.

When we inserted the new component in his system, the customer declared himself satisfied with the result, and we settled down to listen to some of his very limited music collection. This collection was almost entirely ‘HiFi demonstration’ type discs. To my shame, I mentally put the chap I had just met into the box: ‘likes HiFi, doesn’t like music’. This turned out not to be the case. As we chatted it turned out he had an extensive music collection that he kept upstairs. These discs were played on a mini system upstairs because the recordings were not good enough to be played on his expensive system. In fact on the expensive system they sounded very poor indeed.

The chap had actually put together a system full of well reviewed high end components, that between them weren’t able to reproduce music as well as a mini system at 1/100th of the price! His education by the HiFi press had included the concept of a system ‘too revealing’ to play ordinary discs.

In case there is any doubt out there, our philosophy is that any more expensive HiFi component must play the music better than a cheaper component, that is, the music must be more communicative, the playing better elucidated, rhythms, harmony and melody more explicitly rendered.

So, next time you are sitting in your car thinking “why do I enjoy this disc more here than in my very expensive HiFi system?” remember; all HiFi components are not created with music reproduction in mind, most are engineered to produce the sound or measurement the designer intended. In fact, the designer may not have any time for music at all.

When auditioning a new piece of HiFi equipment, whatever a piece of kit sounds like, remember to ask, what is the most important thing that this upgrade must improve, to bastardise a Bill Clinton quote – “it’s the music, stupid”

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