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Sunday 30 September 2007

Knowing nowt about audio... [Brit]

To my right, in the office (or 'den' as some Americanized EED colleagues call it) I have a small Sony midi Hi-Fi; still cranking out BBC Radio 2 in less than superb stereo some 6 years after purchase. It ain't big, it ain't clever, and it does MiniDisc which as you can imagine, I use all the time.

There is nothing wrong with it per se, but I would like to explore the area of replacement at some stage before Christmas - perhaps bizarrely we don't actually have a 'proper audio rig' anywhere in the flat, albeit there are screens and computers aplenty. Priorities, Priorities! I guess.

I do know that I want separates. I do know that I'm not convinced by the argument that spending an extra £200 per yard on oxygen free hand spun titantium & chocolate cabling isn't one that is going to swing with me unless Dawkins himself says its OK. I also want Digital DAB radio, and the ability to plug it into the network (if such a combo system exists) would be a bonus.

So there you go. Where to start? What brands are worth the looksee, and which aren't?

Sincerely, Confused of Tunbridge Wells.


  1. So what, this is where you work. It just plays tunes during the day or what?

  2. Well as the clan knows, I love the smell of liquid caesium in the morning so this called to me over the interweb faster than you can say holy power-conditioning units Batman….You don’t state a budget but I can give you a few basic observations from my personal point of view, having done quite a lot of grubbing around this areas in the last couple of years.i) Oh lord there is an awful lot of rubbish talked in audio circles. Finding a decent hi-fi shop is hard. Sevenoaks are quite good and my brother-in-law swears by - PJ Hi Fi. (I tried editing the links but Beej-tech b0rked me out so nuts to it)ii) Let me say again, oh lord there is an awful lot of rubbish talked in audio circles. Of all the magazines that might give you some decent input, What Hi-Fi, Sound & Vision is by far the best imho. They will occasionally do annoying things like carp on about how ‘power-conditioning mains leads’ will induce auragasms but it’s relatively….relatively… muted. Their recommendations and reviews are very, ahem, soundiii) Since, as it hath now been established, there is an awful lot of rubbish talked in audio circles, let us introduce the number one rule of hi-fi consumerism. Listening to music is subjective. What sounds best to your ears is best. Period. But hanging onto your own mad personal beliefs is hardly an issue is it? You bought a Fiat. I rest my case :Oiv) Hi-fi nuts talking an awful lot of rubbish about audio will tend to pontificate for hours about amps and cd players and stuff. Well the number one thing that is going to colour your music one way or another is speakers. There is no point buying a spangly swish hi-fi and downgrading speakers to pay for it. It is amazing how many people do this. As you may remember I have big floor standers because from years of playing in bands, I just do not like bookshelf speakers if I have the choice. My ears, my hi-fi = best. v) You’re not buying first hand are you??? There are some fantastic bargains in hi-fi for little scratches or sometimes just being ex-demo. My floorstanders were 50% off due to a couple of scratches of about 1-2mm and being ex-demo (which means they were run-in). Scour the ex-demo sections of websites and shops for significant Query why you want DAB. Internet streaming radio is really the nuts and gives you a huge global choice as well as all your favourites. Multiple jazz stations from all over the world with your Sunday brioche? Bosh.vii) In fact lets make streaming the key thing you want to take care of what being nu-media and with all those puters round the flat. For this, the suggestions, with satisfied parties on both side in the clan are the Squeezebox or even the upper end Transporter from or the system I got in, Sonos . You will recall Lurks Squeezebox streaming at the first and only Lurkan (in the era BF – Before Fish) very nicely over some Logi speakers. The Sonos is dearer but comes with a lovely controller incorporating iPod type controls and is idiot proof. If you don’t have any problems with wi-fi signal transmission, Sonos will let you simply add boxes at whim which hook up a proprietary wi-fi mesh between them and can network up to 32 rooms in your palatial gaff.viii) Lets go with the fact that you probably want good hi-fi in a single room and small discreet ability to listen in some others – study / kitchen / bedroom etc. Both the above will let you play multiple different content simultaneously in the different locations or join them altogether for a ‘party mode’ kind of effect.ix) Via a Sonos solution you can get both a ZP80 which is like the squeezebox and needs amplification or a ZP100 which comes with an integrated amplifier to drive a couple of speakers. I have ZP80 going into my hi-fi and a ZP100 with a couple of excellent little Monitor Audio speakers for the kitchen. . . My floorstanders are also Monitor Audio and they do a good range at 4 different price points and various sizes. Probably can’t go wrong there. x) Now as to hi-fi separates without a budget in mind this gets quite tricky. Good economic brands are things like Cambridge Audio. In the mid to getting to expensive range, I would plump for my kit – Cyrus which comes in a die-cast half sized box format which stacks nicely or Primare are also getting lots of good reviews although check on the model. . If you are looking to the heavens then companies like Naim and Linn go from reasonable to national-debt type models. xi) Handwired titanium & chocolate leads are not necessary. Simply get something mid-range from a company like Chord .Xii) Lastly put a decent surge protector between the wall and your lovely new kit. Be a shame to see it blown to smithereens by an errant lighting bolt wouldn’t it?


  3. I dont understand why you'd ever want a streaming audio device inyour office. You've got a PC in there, that's going to sound a fuckaload better than anything else eh?


  4. Well he said its got to be networkable which implies multi-room so I approached it like that. With the Sonos kit you just have to have the initial box hardwire cat'd up to your router (the wi-fi mesh starts from that initial box as you add others in) so whereever your router is, which is probably off a telephone socket in the office in a flat anyway, that's where your initial box goes unless you want to run network cable out your dento another room which could beunsightly.

    So I'd agree it's an arguably redundant solution if you've got a computer but it's probably going to work that way anyway and you do get to use the controller / have party mode for the den as well and you can also run optical out into a good amp which you can on some creative cards (barf) but mebbe not on onboard soundcards. Me, I only use headphones in my lair so no I don't have a box there.


  5. Heh, subject for this blog should definitely have been written with Am in mind :-)

    Brit: get a DAB for the kitchen, because clearly this is the way its done!


  6. Loads of mobos have optical outs on them now.


  7. And indeed looking back at Brit's spec, hisBFG nForce 680i SLi (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard does indeed have support for s/pdif out. So there you go. Points about origination of a Sonos network stay the same if that's of interest / the controller / the party mode / non-faffy single control of playlists and stuff but if you buy a decent amplifier in your hi-fi hardware set up you could take an optical out of the PC and go straight in there. Lubbly jubbly.


  8. Beej fix the feckity wordsrunningintoeachotherlooklikewe'reeducationallychallenged sweetie would ya? :)


  9. And indeed, here's the entire solution for you.1 hi-quality network player, 1 brilliant pre-amp and 2 speakers which have their own internal active amps inside them. Looks very neat and compact.

    £38,500 *cough*.