Article by Venoth Nair
The world of high fidelity has always been inhabited by a small, tight knit community whose members are serious about sound and spend copious amounts of money (and time) in their pursuit of the ultimate audio experience. For a novice, penetrating the world of Hi-Fi can be a pretty daunting one, which also sadly drives away many potential new audiophiles. Factors like cost, space and complexity make for a pretty strong argument to the uninitiated to steer clear of Hi-Fi as a hobby.
These days I find more people, especially the younger generation, thirsting for superior audio, with higher expectations than consumers before who could live with basically anything that would produce a sound.
Acknowledging the growing interest in the world of Hi-Fi, I felt it was a good time for me to write up a little something to help motivate a wannabe audiophile to break into the world of high fidelity. This guideline will be broken into multiple parts which I will go through with each article in hopes to shedding a little light on the mystery that is Hi-Fi.
The first step is to understand the components that make up a Hi-Fi system. In the old times, a system would be separated to three parts which comprise of a source device, amplification and of course a pair of loudspeakers. In the golden era of Hi-Fi (late fifties to sixties) the source components were likely to be a turntable, tuner or a tape deck (reel to reel)
Today however, systems can be a lot simpler consisting of just a source material and an output component.
The next step is to determine the type of system that you want. There are some key factors which have to be considered when deciding on your system. These factors are cost, genre of music, playback medium and space. There are probably other factors to be considered but in my opinion, these factors are the most fundamental.
In most cases budget is the most important criteria, and well let’s face it, money doesn’t exactly fall from the sky and we must spend wisely (my parents still tell me that till today). Budget limitations also tend to discourage many budding audiophiles as the price of a decent system tends to cost a pretty penny. That however doesn’t mean that there are no budget solutions which can blow your mind (ears actually). Brands like Marantz, Dali, Wharfedale and Cambridge Audio manufacture some amazing entry level equipment which is anything but average.
Active desktop speakers, such as offerings from Audioengine, Aktimate and KEF, are inexpensive options of Hi-Fi speakers. Active desktops take a lot of guesswork out of the equation as amplification is done internally. Marrying any of these speakers to any source material, be it a computer or a CD player, makes it a complete system which is a pretty decent start for a new audiophile.
An audiophile with both budget and space constraints could opt for a pair of good quality headphones instead of speakers. Headphones are the easiest and most practical way to experience Hi-Fi on a low budget. Headphones provide the greatest flexibility as they can be switched between multiple sources and are portable, making them pretty convenient.
Like every other hobby, a major advantage in Hi-Fi is the ability to take a step by step approach in upgrading your set-up, and thus improving the sound that your system produces. These upgrades can be small, like say adding a sturdy quality speaker stand or improving the acoustic characteristic of your room by adding sound dampening or securing vibrating furniture. Upgrades could also take place by adding components to your system such as a digital to analogue converter (DAC) or by switching up the source equipment to higher quality ones. There are no steps too small or too big as anything and everything done somehow improves (or degrades) the sound.
It is this flexibility that makes being an audiophile accessible to a newcomer and also why it’s so enjoyable. A system owner who has taken the trouble to build a system and improve on it over time creates a sense of ownership, that you have created something all your own, and somewhat reflective of who you are and what you listen to.
So take the time and study the options made available, explore and above all, make sure you audition the equipment to ensure satisfaction. In the coming articles we will address other topics pertaining to Hi-Fi, to make it easier for you as the consumer, to decide on what will achieve your desired result.
Article by Venoth Nair