When I was a teenager, I noticed that music played on my mom's
console stereo didn't sound very good. I had a good friend whose
father was the Sony rep for the northeast. Music always sounded like
music at his house. So, I saved my pennies from part time jobs and
bought a turntable first, so I wouldn't tear up my records, and later
an Eico integrated amp kit.
Then I got some simple 8" coax speakers and put them in some kind of
cabinets. Not great sound, but at least the speakers could be far
enough apart for decent separation.
My quest since then has been one of seeking to listen to the music
rather than the equipment, and of course collecting recordings.
Really great performances would make not care, just as a really great
live performance was great, even in a hall so bad that it disturbed
the integrity of the music.
But really great performances and recordings were few and far
between. It was then that I started volunteering at an
unintentionally non-profit commercial classical radio station. A
brilliant man named Henry Fogel taught me the basics and sent me out
with a pair of mikes, a mixer and a recorder to record the classical
music scene in Syracuse NY.
Henry critiqued my work and I started to get better. A few years
later I realized that my goal had become to make better recordings
than most of what I could buy. I had 12 wonderful years of working
at WHA Radio in Madison Wisconsin, at first under some talented
engineers, and later on my own. I was saddened when that came to an
end, and have never again been as fulfilled in my paid work.
All of this is to say that I know what well performed and recorded
music sounds like. My goal is still to not listen to the equipment.
After fifty years of trying, I'm much closer. Some of my core system
is very old, although frequently refurbished by myself. I only add a
piece of equipment when it improves the sound over what it is
replacing. Stereo image is a particularly important part of my
goal. I've always favored low distortion and a good midrange over
extension of the ends of the spectrum.
I never buy new equipment and sometimes build my own. Frequently,
one generation old high end equipment is a good value as the
depreciation is massive once the newer generation appears. I favor
tube gear over solid state, based entirely on what I hear, although a
good class A MOSFET amp comes close to tubes in lack of coloration.
I'm really not interested in discussions of why that is anymore, my
focus is more empirical that that..
When people say that I couldn't possibly be hearing what in fact I
am, I am reminded of the story of transient intermod distortion.
Some of us held that we could hear high distortion in early
transistor amplifiers, no mater hoe well they measured. It turned
out transient intermod caused by slew rate limiting in the amps.
Things eventually got better but only after people stopped designing
for vanishingly low THD and intermod. There are many other examples
of poor measurement techniques leading to faulty assumptions about
audio, but this is nether that time or place for them.
So, I never tell anyone that they're full of it when they insist that
some new cable does wonderful things for the stereo image. Rather I
listen, and if it sounds better, then I pursue how I can incorporate
some of that goodness in my system. If I can find no rational reason
for why it sounds better, then perhaps there is a form of distortion
that we haven't yet figured out how to measure, or perhaps have
simply forgotten about as we seem to have dome with phase distortion
and group delay.
And then there is budget! I am in the process of putting 500' of
Belden 10 gauge twisted pair speaker wire in the walls of my new
house. If I had unlimited time and budget I would have tested
several different cable topologies before putting in the best I could
find. For this lifetime the Belden will have to do.
So here's to equipment that doesn't call attention to itself at the
expense of the music. I will continue to pursue that ideal, That's
all it's really about.
Sorry to go so long. A better writer would have said it in a paragraph.
>To my mind, a good system will represent the source material in as
>accurate manner as possible.
>What is "possible" depends on the quality of the source. And the
>depth of pocket of the listener..
>When I was growing up in the early 60's I heard my first music on a
>handheld transistor AM radio, tucked under my pillow (tuned to WABC
>until the battery ran out) and the car radio in our '64 Chrysler
>Newport station wagon (tube, no doubt..). My first record player was
>the kind that you saw in school, with the button you could push to
>stop the record when the slides got out of sync.. (my dad was a
>When I was a sophomore, my parents got me a Sony clock-radio that
>had AM and FM. After that, I was a lost cause. I found WGLD and then
>WXRT, and started staying up all night listening to the radio.
>This listening is what made me love music, and the main point I am
>trying to make is that the music is way more important than the
>Over the years, I have refined my tastes and educated my ears, and
>nowadays, I cringe at the thought of listening to the crappy old
>Grateful Dead tapes I made on my Walkman Pro, even though I savored
>them for months after I made them.. I mean, why bother when I could
>just call up a better version on Archive.org..
>I have always considered myself to be about 20 years behind the
>curve, and my current system is made up of pieces of equipment that
>were considered the best in their day, but I could not afford until
>they went out of fashion.
>I have had the opportunity to hear some of the finest music ever
>produced, either live or recorded, on some of the finest systems
>available, and I can say that it is indeed an exhilarating
>experience, but everyday access to that level of quality is
>financially unavailable to me.
>I applaud all the manufacturers that continue to develop new and
>better ways of reproducing music, and the rich music lovers and
>gearheads that support their efforts.
>P.S. Roger, your post was a garbled mess to read. I don't know what
>the problem you have with your e-mail system is, but perhaps you
>could try composing your replies in Word (with relevant passages
>from previous e-mails inserted), and then copy/paste into your reply
>On Tue, 6/17/14, Roger Kulp <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Upgrading Audio Systems
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 8:28 PM
> Tom, I'm glad to see someone
> else agrees with me on the premise that a good system should
> replicate a live performance is just so much
> audiophoolishness.I never understood that anyway when I used
> to waste too much time reading TAS and Stereophool. Over
> half of my favorite classical recordings are mono.Espeially
> early LPs.You need to listen through a well restored classic
> tube/valve amp from the late 50s or early 60s.There is a
> reason these continue to go up in price. Roger>