Setup vs. equipment
Equipment in skilled hands performs differently than it does for a first time user. One of the best examples of this can be found in a video on YouTube. NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon plays the role of an inexperienced bumpkin taking a fast car for a test drive. Watching the video you have to feel sorry for the salesman taken by surprise, but at the same time, impressed with Gordon's driving skills. Without Gordon's level of skill, it's just a fast car. With it, the experience is transformed. The same can be said for our stereo systems. Even the very best equipment can be transformed by skilled setup hands. I am pretty good at setup, though there are plenty better than I. Jim Smith of Get Better Sound, Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio, and John Hunter of REL Acoustics come to mind. The problem with sharing our skills is scarcity and distance. While any one of us might help you get better sound, there are far more of you than us and you likely don't live close by. Which is why one of my long-term goals has been to put together a step-by-step setup package that is based around specific recorded materials and instructions of what to do with them and what to expect when they're right. Not to say I've actually made such a package. Just to suggest it's an idea rattling around in my head and one day I'll do it. Unless someone else comes along first.
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