Getting down to tastes

September 7, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When we hear a HiFi system that is just plain wrong there’s little discussion about its merits. We can all agree it needs some help.

But when systems are good enough to be called great, the differences between them come down to a simple matter of taste. Perhaps system A is to your ears a bit lean in the bottom end. Or the opposite. Or any number of differences we might quibble over.

And that’s the point we’re all hoping to achieve.

Differences that engender a mere quibble: To bring our system’s performance up to where we can confidently say our differences boil down to a simple matter of taste.

What a great place to be.

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39 comments on “Getting down to tastes”

  1. And what a giant playground for most inconsistent discussions. Just take a professional reviewer who has optimized his stereo system and listening room being aware that no room and no system and no component is perfect and every link in the chain adds distortions and colorations. Having now optimized his system for the highest degree of synergy including careful selection of cables this reviewer now inserts a new component he has received for a review. This new component now will probably not sound as good as the component having been replaced, the latter was part of the former optimization process. I now have never read that a reviewer starts a new optimization process in order to get an idea of the potential sound quality of the new component. Thus what is he talking or writing about? Either the new component is compatible with his system or not. In rare cases he might hear things he has never heard before. Buy why? No wonder that Peter Walker, the famous designer of the early HiFi components of Quad based his optimizations of measurements – as somebody here explained in an earlier post.

    1. I agree it is nearly impossible to glean much from reviewers’ systems. The one that drives me to distraction is twittering machines. In the barn for review, indeed. I don’t get it.

  2. My system is lean at the bottom end -3db at 32Hz, just how I like it. The only audiophile I know hates it. I expected he would. I couldn’t care less. He’s a petrolhead and I hate cars. If you have one shared interest with a person and you disagree, there’s not much scope for friendship. My dealer likes my music room, which is reassuring.

    1. If your only anomaly in bass is a -3dB dip, you’re a lucky guy (it’s indeed hard to believe). And it’s hard to believe a listener could hate a setup for a 3dB dip only…I guess he has other taste problems with it for further reasons, too.

      If the dealer who sold you the gear is the most neutral evaluator, can be questioned, but I don’t say your carphile colleague is either 😉

      1. 32Hz is the lowest the speakers go. For some people that is broken, the 25Hz merchants. My friend has B&W, thunderous speakers.

        My dealer came round to set up the speakers and install a new phono stage. He’d lent me a demo unit, which he dropped off without coming in. So he was not selling! We’d rebuilt the house since he was last here, he was blown away by the transformation, the music room and the acoustics, which made his life easy. To be honest, there was a lot of room for improvement. It has the usual mid-bass cancellation at around 70Hz, which those of us without subwoofers happily live with. I can fold away the back wall and make the room 18m long, the sound is not noticeably different.

        It was interesting to see that Paul’s friend Seth Godin has to sell his FR-30 because he lives in an apartment block in New York and within a few hours his neighbours were complaining about the bass. If he likes bass and wants a great system, maybe he should have sold his home and moved elsewhere? Urban dwellers like Seth and I, although luckily I have a house, live in a world of compromises.

        1. Ah sorry, then I misunderstood and it’s no dip but the lower end of the spectrum. I’d personally miss a sub the most for the lacking ambiance and room information. For pure bass reach, 32Hz does the most important sounds.

          Where did you find the Seth story? Funny, as a certain priority on big (and good) bass performance was known to those reading about the FR30 😉

          1. In the forum, a pair turned up on a website and there were concerns it was a fraud, but was recognised as Seth and hence totally legit. I’m told the biggest problem is subs with down firing drivers, a problem I no longer have.

        2. Interestingly, I live in an apartment & my loudspeakers are rated down to
          28Hz; the same as the ‘aspen FR30’.
          Also, Steve Guttenberg aka ‘The Audiophiliac’ lives in an apartment in New
          York & owns a pair of Klipsch – ‘Cornwall IV’ which are rated down to 34Hz.
          Thankfully some neighbours have the grace & the good manners to stfu &
          not complain about the bass 😀

      1. I have the vehicular equivalent of an Aiwa mini-stack, but it works, is quite comfortable and hopefully it will get us to La Scala next week.

  3. Quibbling can be kept light-hearted when you are mature enough to understand
    that home-audio will always be subjective & dependent on a multitude of
    variables, not least of all the listener’s ear/brain interrelation.
    I laugh with derision at those who believe it’s their way or no way.
    ‘YouTube’ comments section; a divisive comedy-fest 😀

    And now, just because…

  4. You have two competing 1000.00, 2000.00, 5000.00, 10,000.00, 20,000.00 stereo amplifiers and in all cases they sound different from each other in their respective price range. Which one is better depends on your taste. Depending on your taste you might actually prefer the 2000.00 amplifier over the 20,000.00 amplifier. You really need to listen and let your ears decide.

  5. Post’s like todays drive me nuts. (◔_◔)
    One person’s great is another person’s meh.
    And it’s way more than a quibble…. When that greatness judgement is made.

    The one thing that is probably true, is the the pathway to any manufacturers’s ‘greatness product’ just gets steeper, and the plateaus narrower between climbs.

    A phrase comes to mind…. Hook – Line – & Sinker.

    1. As a tennis fan, living in the presence of greatness for so long (Federer, Nadal, Williams), and then they all retire and you get left with a lot of “meh” players who will never sweep the board and soon evaporate, you realise there is a huge amount of average/good and greatness is very rare indeed. Just look at an audio magazine from 10 years ago and all the OK stuff that has been and gone. To me the vast majority of audio is like that. As for the great products, I have my very short list, and far too little money.

        1. If for a huge number of measurable items the distribution of a measurable parameter (for instance: body mass, body length, IQ, or technical parameters for manufactured items) follows as experience tells a Gaussion normal distribution then we are faced with the phenomenon of “dominance of the mediocrity“. That also is a potential weakness of modern concepts of democracy- the Ancient Geeks’ biggest horror was the degeneration of democracy to ochlocracy. But obviously this phenomenon of normal distribution is not valid for audio because according to audio reviewers and audio magazines there is no mediocrity in the realm of stereophony. 🙂

          1. I like the way you put that “no mediocrity in the realm of stereophony.”
            Of course in any field of endeavour there is a top 10% and a bottom 10%.
            Obviously the bottom 10% never gets reviewed. 😉

      1. I saw many American’s proclaiming that Serena is the greatest of all time…seemingly oblivious to the fact that she won 23 grand slams, whereas Margaret Court won 24.
        Ironic then that she was beaten by an Australian girl in her final GS match.

  6. Off Topic:
    Fat Rat.
    With scepticism I bought some rebar chairs at the local Home Depot for about 50 cents a piece. I placed the chairs under my garden hose speaker cable which lies under a carpeted basement floor.
    Holy crap!! What a dramatic improvement. Increased transparency,tighter bass and more holographic.
    All this for less than $10.
    Even my wife was astounded.
    A more effective tweak than my expensive isolation feet.

    1. rgallos,
      As a retired Hi-Fi salesman it makes me very happy that you have made an
      improvement to the sound quality of your home-audio rig for very little outlay.

  7. The most important factor in assembling a stereo system is to know yourself. This can at least partly broken down into two kinds of characteristics. One is knowing what you like, what you need in a system, the ones that if not there will always leave you unsatisfied while listening(say tight bass). The second are factors you can not tolerate in your system(say bright upper mids). Until you figure your self out you will be always searching for another product.

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