Amateur Audiophiles

June 14, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

One of the reasons I wrote The Audiophile’s Guide was to help fix the biggest problem in high-end audio systems. The one most of us take for granted, yet never master.

Setup.

Sure, we all know the basics: approximately where to place the speakers, how to connect the kit, how to tame a lousy room.

But basics are not mastery in the same way learning how to boil water doesn’t make you a culinary expert.

With over 10,000 copies of The Audiophile’s Guide in circulation, I am happy to report that more systems sound better than ever before.

But, the Guide doesn’t work for everyone because not everyone gets the same benefits from simply reading a book.

That’s where someone like David Snyder can help. David, who refers to himself as an amateur audiophile (aren’t most of us?), has taken apart every aspect of The Audiophile’s Guide and methodically laid it out in much easier to understand language than I was able to.

He’s published this work in a 5-part series called Unlocking Great Sound and to be honest, he’s done a far better job than I.

If you’re interested, you can go here and begin with part 1.

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15 comments on “Amateur Audiophiles”

  1. Thanks for sharing the link, Paul. Part 5 confirmed my own findings: Measurements and DSP equalization are absolutely mandatory in order to get the full sound quality potential! And I also never got satisfying results with subwoofers placed in the corners or directly at the walls.

  2. Wow, didn’t know I listen in something between an equilateral and a “PMcG” triangle 😉
    And from the music room 1 pictures I thought the IRSV stand in something between a “Jim Smith” and even more far field scenario. Optical illusion probably.
    Thanks for the link Paul!

  3. I thought audiophiles are amateurs who like to think they know better than professionals.

    The linked guide is specifically for a good budget system for a smallish dedicated room with no wife issues (i.e. acoustic panels allowed). My new room has the speakers in front of a bay window. This is covered by Robert Harley’s comprehensive guide, which also explains the acoustic science behind set-up considerations. Personally, my dealer will do it for me, it’s called “doing the Wilson thing”.

    There is no doubt a decent pair of speakers can sound good in a well set up room, a great pair of speakers can sound pretty bad in a poorly set up room, so it is incumbent on a dealer selling good speakers to get them sounding as good as they can, which may well involve including some DSP.

    1. Hopefully your dealer performing the set up has a pair of golden ears! I have even met designers of loudspeakers who didn’t notice inverted phase in one speaker. Better you let the dealer make the speaker-shifting while you are sitting most relaxed in the sweetest spot!

      1. Given my dealer is in his late 30s, his hearing is probably dramatically better than Paul’s and any of his septuagenarian “golden ears” friends, and probably quite a bit better than mine (late 50s). At Paul’s age, he’s probably lost at least half of his hearing above 8khz and even low frequency perception may be down quite a bit. There’s no avoiding it.

  4. Information is like gold, lovely to behold. Knowing what to do with it, now that’s the trick. I have the book, and the CD…. there’s even a half decent sound stage to please me. A day of “spring cleaning” in the lounge then a week of tweaking placement, the end is nigh… Hope I don’t get thrown in to the basement!

    The result? I’ve managed to get the hair on my arms to stand up in appreciation.. I must be close!
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom Paul, great job!

  5. Your right on the money about our “thinking” we know what we’re doing.

    My listening room is 12 X 16 feet, there’s a 50″ TV at on end and a 44″ record cabinet on one of the side walls. There is a 16″ high record rack under the TV with a pair of M700’s on it. I built that record cabinet myself out of 3/4″ oak plywood, it’s a very solid piece and is jam packed with records. On top of that sits a Rogue RP5 preamp, Directstream DAC and Onkyo sacd player in one stack with a turntable (sitting on a 3″ maple cutting board) to the left of the stacked components.

    I have a pair of Adante floor standing speakers flanking the rack below the TV and about 3 ft out from the wall, those speakers are 44″ tall so I have them canted forward to get the tweeters closer to ear level. The system images well and sounds good to me with one problem, there is a glare that presents itself on some tracks. I’ve added sound treatment and danced the speakers around but never was able to eliminate that glare completely.

    I just picked up a used network card for my Directstream DAC so I had to get to the back of it to plug that card in. The equipment sits with the turntable closest to me and the gear stacked up to it’s right. So I took the turntable and it’s 3″ cutting board off the cabinet and moved the stack (a pretty heavy stack for a 74 year old) so it would be closest to me and put the network card into the DAC. I then put the turntable to the right of the equipment.

    After setting up the card so it could talk to my network I sat down to listen to some music. Everything sounded good until I selected a track I knew would cause the problem and there was no glare! The sound was lively but none of that cursed glare. I realized the turntables hard plastic cover must have been bouncing a first refection over to me and the sound treatment on that wall couldn’t do a thing about it.

    I had been trying everything I could think of and all I had to do was move that turntable – Live and learn.

    Bob

  6. I try not to drive myself too crazy with this setup stuff. My speakers are placed according to manufacturers suggestion. I use decent interconnects and minimal damping and am a happy camper.

  7. [Quote]After setting up the card so it could talk to my network I sat down to listen to some music. Everything sounded good until I selected a track I knew would cause the problem and there was no glare! The sound was lively but none of that cursed glare. I realized the turntables hard plastic cover must have been bouncing a first refection over to me and the sound treatment on that wall couldn’t do a thing about it. I had been trying everything I could think of and all I had to do was move that turntable – Live and learn. Bob[/quote]

    That’s great, Bob! Your admission inspired me to tell my “yesterday’s set-up discovery blooper”. These past six years, my components resided stacked on top my subwoofer between my AA Sierra monitors (small 90sf listening room). My full sound spectrum presentation sounded great, fitting into this dedicated music room very nicely. Yesterday, decided to re-locate the sub cabinet into the tight left corner of the room (sub against the left monitor stand). I have a small component rack on order, but just set the component stack (Power-Pre-CD) on top a small 7″ step-stool for testing!

    Got the sub dialed in to tame the corner placement rise but then, was Blown-Away at the Huge Increase in Soundstage Depth and Height, simply amazing! To state there was also a Stunning Midrange Renaissance of holographic beauty would be an understatement! All I can figure is that the component stack I had on top the subwoofer cabinet (total 36″ height) was causing reflections and cancellations that diluted the 2EX mid-woofer Midrange Bandwidth capabilities (monitors are 5ft apart)!?!

    No doubt, an oversight by an “Amateur Audiophile”! 😉

    Ted

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