June 11, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Each of us produces a liter of mucus per day. Snot, actually, and we use it to keep our esophageal system working smoothly. And here's the thing, despite the fact that's a lot of snot, unless there's a problem we never notice it.

And that's the way most systems work, seamlessly and in the background until something goes wrong or we yearn to make something better.

It's the fringes we notice, not the main system.

It is good and proper we focus our time and energy getting our core audio systems functioning properly, but it's almost never what we think about.

I have for many years been a proponent of stepping back from the pieces in my system I interact with like the transport, preamplifier, or streaming interface, and pay homage to my silent partners that make it all happen: the AC power, amplifier, cables, and rack system.

Central systems are easy to ignore until something goes wrong or we wake up to the fact we can make improvements that matter.

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24 comments on “Systems”

  1. Shouldn’t be basic requirements be fixed first before hunting for more or less marginal improvements? The first question I have: Are we talking about stereo systems or “sound” systems? A stereo system requires a two channel recording using one-point recording or dummy-head recording techniques. The matching stereo (!) system requires crosstalk cancellation. If the power supplies of the components are correctly designed there is no need for power regenerators. However, every power supply module generates EMI and RFI resulting in cross-contamination via the power distribution bar. That requires good shielding and filtering technologies. Room treatment is mandatory! And having learned a lot here about the inherent weakness of every passive loudspeaker design shouldn’t active loudspeakers with DSP based equalization a must? And if you like tweaking you then might address cable designs or anti-vibration platforms.

    1. There are two distinctly different types of equipment platforms:
      i) vibration absorption &
      ii) isolation
      You have to experiment with both types to find out which
      one(s) will work better for you in your audio set-up.

  2. I notice bad recordings; & there's not much that you can do about those.
    I can hear the stark differences between fantastic, great, good, average
    & bad recordings with my high-end Mid-Fi (Marantz - 'CD6006' my
    Onkyo - 'A9070' & my KRIX - 'Harmonix Mk2' floorstanders)
    Gee, I must have those "bat ears" that 'sclaningham' used to comment about 🙂

    "...a liter (litre) of mucus per days. Snot, actually..." looks like you're up again 😮

  3. My audio was on the kitchen ring. Next week I am having a 3-phase supply installed allowing a dedicated 100A supply for the stereo with nothing else on it. The consumer unit and socket will be connected with a quality 11AWG silver plated and heavily shielded mains cable with a drain wire to ground. It will also be mostly buried under concrete. The socket is one of those Furutech ones I've had for years. Everything then goes through my mains conditioner that, amongst other things, has extensive cross contamination prevention. For good measure, the ethernet and fibre cabling is in a new conduit buried in a wall far away from any electrical cables. Will it make a difference? I have no idea, but it's worth a try.

  4. I tend to mostly agree with paulsquirrel on this one. The question becomes one of order. Do you ‘fix’ the mains power, the room, and all the other before you think about the audio gear? That doesn’t necessarily make sense. Do you keep stepping ‘up’ in the component world to ‘fix’ your sound while ignoring the isolation, placement, mains, and the rest? That’s probably not a great approach unless you like to drop names to make yourself feel good.

    So the process becomes iterative. Research, thought, advise, some trial and error, and experience over time. Then Add in some luck, the practicality of the individual’s budget, and the area they have to work with.

    Finally it comes down the individuals satisfaction and enjoyment. If you can’t enjoy what you currently have or enjoy the realistic roller coaster ride to get where you want to be, then find another hobby.

    The ‘system’ starts at the incoming power outlet and ends at your brains interpretation of the sound. Lots of area for changes if one wants…. from the physical to the grey matter…

    1. When you're kissing with your Honey
      And your nose gets kind of runny,
      You may think it's sort of funny,
      But it's not.

      -- Ogden Nash (or someone like him)

  5. Beautiful set of work...

    Didn't realize that the human body produces a liter
    of snot er ....sorry mucous...daily...ugh...

    Just don't sneeze or cough in listening room...

    Thanks Paul..

    1. The 'trick' is to remember to turn your head away from your audio set-up
      before you cough or sneeze & all that goop (Hi Gwyneth!) goes flying across
      the room & hangs all over your KT-88s or EL-34s & starts sizzling.

      1. Remind me not to sit next to you.

        I sneezed a sneeze into the air.
        It fell to earth I know not where.
        But cold and froze
        Were the expressions of those
        In whose direction I had snoze.

        -- Ogden Nash (or someone like him, yet again)

  6. My experience over the last year, when I've had time to really explore every aspect of my system, is that attention to the room results in the largest improvements. But I recently switched power cords (different brands do sound different, and there is clearly a best one for each component) and in the process discovered a line "purifier" in the same plug as my sources. It had been there so long that I had completely forgotten about it. Took it out and...WoW! We all know that everything matters but it pays to verify that, as the system improves, what used to make it sound better could now be making it sound worse.

  7. SNOT! Paul, really - you could not find a better analogy for this post than snot.

    I cannot agree with this post. You are saying that the fringes of my system are the turntable, transport and preamp while the power amp, cables and phono preamp are core ( I am not sure what the speakers are ). When I play a vinyl record it is hard to imagine that anything is more core than the turntable, tonearm and cartridge. I just don't get it.

  8. Amp, cables, AC power ars always the foundation.
    Where would source equipment like e.g. turntable/transport be without it ?
    So, get your shit/snot (ac power etc.) together.

    1. So what about speakers which are usually the most expensive part of the system and what impacts your sound more than anything else in your system. Are the bedrock on which the foundation rests? These names and analogies are silly. If you want to think of your amp, cables and AC power as the foundation of your system go ahead do so. I rank the how important the components of my system are in the order of sound impact. That works for me, YMMV.

  9. Hey, here's an original concept: Everything matters.

    But almost everything costs money and my discretionary income is limited. Oh well. Oh look, a new Hilary Hahn album!

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