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In regards to Audiophile Digital kit: How important is the price of a device to you?


Paul R
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IRT Digital Kit: How important is the price of a device to you?  

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Please think of this only in regard to digital kit - computers, software, DACs, USB devices and cables, etc.

 

How important is the price of a device to you?

 

Will you automatically choose the higher priced device? Or do you choose the lower price device then regret it? Choose the lower priced device and love it? Do you even feel "ashamed" if you don't purchase expensive gear? Or something else entirely?

 

Please vote in the poll and also leave a comment here on what you think about the subject. I expect almost all of us have very firm ideas on the subject, but I doubt many of us have exactly the *same* ideas!

 

It would be best to avoid any personal attacks on other people and respect their opinions please. :)

 

-Paul

 

P.S. The Poll is multiple choice, you don't have to pick "just one" option! And you are always welcome to post in the forum and tell me what I missed.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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My personal choice is that price, in audiophile digital kit, is not all that indicative of the quality of the piece of equipment.

 

I think that a combination of measurements and listening to it in my own system are the most important factors to judge digital kit by, especially when it comes to DACs. In theory, all DACs should sound pretty much the same, but some are real ear rippers while others are so smooth they put me to sleep. Amazingly enough, that does not seem to correlate with price, at least not very well.

 

In any case, I am sure other people feel differently - please share your thoughts here on the subject.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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In computer audio, I think money and careful thought are best spent:

 

1, on speakers;

2, on amplification that performs well with those speakers;

3, room setup, including treatment; and

4, source.

 

For speakers and electronics I would spend most money on the speakers, and also the most time picking them out. If the speakers are notoriously picky about amplification that would have to be factored in to what to spend on amplification and therefore total budget. Given how often audiophiles turn over DACs I wouldn't buy a new one, should I want a separate DAC.

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How important is the price of a device to you?

 

Money is always important to me.

 

Will you automatically choose the higher priced device? Or do you choose the lower price device then regret it? Choose the lower priced device and love it? Do you even feel "ashamed" if you don't purchase expensive gear? Or something else entirely?

 

I feel ashamed when I waste money on a purchase that was hasty, not based on good consumer research or unnecessary.

.

 

I follow a process I call calibration. First I think about my needs and preferences. At the same time, I'm learning enough about the technology to make intelligent decisions. Then I look at alternatives for getting what I want.

 

After I done these things, I'm ready for the calibration process. I want to know how much I have to spend to get what I want? That isn't trivial. If the cost will be more than I'm comfortable with, I'll pause to consider the purchase and ask myself some questions:

 

a) How important are these needs?

 

b) How can I adjust my list of needs so that the cost to satisfy them is more acceptable to me?

 

c) Can I just wait until I'm willing to pay more (or willing to give up on the purchase)?

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I follow a process I call calibration. First I think about my needs and preferences. At the same time, I'm learning enough about the technology to make intelligent decisions. Then I look at alternatives for getting what I want.

 

After I done these things, I'm ready for the calibration process. I want to know how much I have to spend to get what I want? That isn't trivial. If the cost will be more than I'm comfortable with, I'll pause to consider the purchase and ask myself some questions:

 

a) How important are these needs?

 

b) How can I adjust my list of needs so that the cost to satisfy them is more acceptable to me?

 

c) Can I just wait until I'm willing to pay more (or willing to give up on the purchase)?

 

I think that is excellent thinking. I follow a similar pattern.

 

I usually start with "Where does audiophile lore conflict with my experience and training?" That seems to invariably be the area where money is most involved. Well, I do that in Computer Audio, not so much in the analog domain. :)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I agree that quite often price doesn't have a direct relation with performance but one must make sure to compare topologies that have similar performance potential.

In my book high-end is a synonym of luxurious and overpriced.

 

One thing I like about CD playback is that there really isn't much for the end user to tweak.

Unless the end user knows a thing or two about circuits, in which case he will probably be quite busy... There's room for improvement in every player.

 

Computer Audio is much more annoying because, like a vinyl record player, it is composed of different parts and every one of them requires attention: library storage, connection to computer, operating system, computer power supply, playback software, connection to D/AC, the D/AC itself...

It's easier to become obsessed.

And it also makes it more expensive in the long term, helped by the fact that there's still a bit of uncharted territory to unveil.

 

My first step was to get myself a competent but very affordable D/AC, used for better price/performance ratio.

I had an old laptop that is now exclusively dedicated to playback, in which I installed demo versions of the available playback software and after shortlisting the "best" 3, I bought the least expensive one which is good enough for starters.

Later I learnt that the OS could be optimised, which I did and the last step is to find a D/AC that is able to improve on the shortcomings of the current one within the limits of my budget.

But to do so I will have to listen to a few different models, which I will buy and sell at a loss...there's no way around it.

Is it possible to anticipate how much more I will end up paying above the originally set budget?

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Please think of this only in regard to digital kit - computers, software, DACs, USB devices and cables, etc.

 

How important is the price of a device to you?

 

Will you automatically choose the higher priced device? Or do you choose the lower price device then regret it? Choose the lower priced device and love it? Do you even feel "ashamed" if you don't purchase expensive gear? Or something else entirely?

 

Please vote in the poll and also leave a comment here on what you think about the subject. I expect almost all of us have very firm ideas on the subject, but I doubt many of us have exactly the *same* ideas!

 

It would be best to avoid any personal attacks on other people and respect their opinions please. :)

 

-Paul

 

P.S. The Poll is multiple choice, you don't have to pick "just one" option! And you are always welcome to post in the forum and tell me what I missed.

 

I think that most modern equipment is way over priced to the point where there is often little or no correlation between price and performance. I've looked inside of megabux components only to find little or no electronic justification for the price charged for the finished unit. Also, many high-end electronic audio devices have had far more spent on their fascia and casework than was spent on the contents. Some equipment is designed "the hard way" merely to justify the high price. Case in point (without actually mentioning any names) are companies who make their own operational amplifier and DAC modules from discrete components and then encapsulate these sub-assemblies in non-transparent resin "blocks" to keep prying eyes from seeing what's in them. The truth is that these home-made circuit modules are no better (and very often not as good) as the off-the-shelf IC alternatives that can be had for much less. This ploy works on two levels: First, it plays into the mindset of older audiophiles who remember when IC versions of op-amps weren't really good enough for audio due to poor gain-bandwidth (and the concomitant slow slew rate), inferior S/N and insufficient common-mode rejection (741s, and LM301s and the like), and are still suspicious of IC components. The second level is that the company who goes to the trouble to make their own op-amps and DACs are seen as a company that obviously cares more about sound quality than does the company that uses off-the shelf ICs. The truth is that ICs have a much better chance of being consistent in performance than does a home-made module. Also, many IC manufactures will hand select ICs for tighter tolerances and better performance if the customer asks for it. Of course, the manufacturer charges a premium for this hand selection process, but it's still going to be cheaper than "rolling-one's-own" and the hand-made ones still, generally, won't perform anywhere near as good and have a much higher rejection rate and must be discarded. When you buy these products you are paying for those failed modules as well as the ones in your purchase that passed....

 

Also, keep in mind that audio manufacturers are pretty small producers. After all, it is a niche market. This puts especially the real high-priced manufacturers at a distinct disadvantage when buying parts. Parts manufacturers are interested in selling tens of thousands of a part, not dozens. This fact of doing business means that the volume buyers get the price breaks and the shipping priority, not the company who makes a dozen or so $100,000 amplifiers per year. So, part of the exorbitant prices being charged are due to the company's business model. The decision to make a dozen or so $100K examples of a product per year rather than 100,000 $1K examples is paradoxically a financial one on the part of a manufacturer. Making anything in volume requires a large business outlay. You need to keep manufacturing costs down by doing everything in-house. This mean hiring a lot of people, renting a large enough space to house them and buying supplies in volume to get the best prices. OTOH, if you and some buddies decide to make a really high-dollar product, you can make many fewer of them and still make money. You can use outside suppliers to make things like your casework, knobs and other such components, you can buy parts in small volumes from tertiary level suppliers at high prices, and most importantly, you and your buddies can assembles these widgets at your kitchen table so there are no direct labor costs! Many would be very surprised at how small some of these manufacturers are. I personally know of one who makes extremely expensive equipment and the "company" consists of his family and a couple of friends - period. They do everything from design to ordering parts, to assembly to marketing and advertising and shipping. While their equipment is good, were it built by a company who could do it in volume, it could sell for 1/10th what they charge for it and it would still have exactly the same performance. This is true for a lot of the high-end. I had one high-end manufacturer tell me candidly: "The biggest market for this stuff, is, surprisingly not audiophiles, but rather it's rich guys who don't give a damn what it sounds like, as long as it's very expensive and looks it! All they care about is the bling and the bragging rights amongst their peers."

George

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I think that is excellent thinking. I follow a similar pattern.

 

I usually start with "Where does audiophile lore conflict with my experience and training?" That seems to invariably be the area where money is most involved. Well, I do that in Computer Audio, not so much in the analog domain. :)

 

-Paul

 

I have a personal BS filter. I apply it to my own perceptions and to what others say on the internet.

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I think that is excellent thinking. I follow a similar pattern.

 

I usually start with "Where does audiophile lore conflict with my experience and training?" That seems to invariably be the area where money is most involved. Well, I do that in Computer Audio, not so much in the analog domain. :)

 

-Paul

 

I have a personal BS filter. I apply it to my own perceptions and to what others say on the internet.

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Please think of this only in regard to digital kit - computers, software, DACs, USB devices and cables, etc.

 

How important is the price of a device to you?

 

Will you automatically choose the higher priced device? Or do you choose the lower price device then regret it? Choose the lower priced device and love it? Do you even feel "ashamed" if you don't purchase expensive gear? Or something else entirely?

 

Please vote in the poll and also leave a comment here on what you think about the subject. I expect almost all of us have very firm ideas on the subject, but I doubt many of us have exactly the *same* ideas!

 

It would be best to avoid any personal attacks on other people and respect their opinions please. :)

 

-Paul

 

P.S. The Poll is multiple choice, you don't have to pick "just one" option! And you are always welcome to post in the forum and tell me what I missed.

 

Price has been highly important in my audio purchase these last four decades.

When shopping I look harder at the lower priced options. Value is always a priority.

This on one reason I like pro type interfaces. This is the economics of scale. There are just a couple high end audio shops in Houston (4 million people) and maybe a hundred music equipment stores.

Plus most shoppers at Guitar Center and the others are buyers. Most leave with a purchase. Not many tire kickers. And they are packed on weekends and in the evenings.

I have never felt remorse for audio purchases. Whether a CAT preamp, Goldmund turntable, or a 300.00 pro type interface.

But I have avoided multi kilo buck phono cartridges, three hundred dollar coupling caps, audiophile cables, and fake NOS vacuum tubes. Any of these purchases would give me buyers regret.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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To a certain extent I still believe in the GIGO philosophy introduced by Linn's Ivor Tiefenbrun - that is the most important part of the system is the source and the least important the speakers; however with modern electronics I think its very easy to make a budget DAC than it is to make budget speakers and that as you go up in cost diminishing improvements occur earlier with an amplifier than with a pair of speakers. To take a couple of examples to (hopefully) illustrate...

 

A budget system...

Budget Laptop with J.River (£200)

iFi iDac2 + budget laptop ... (£315)

Marantz PM6005 (£300)

Bowers and Wilkins 685 (£350)

however if I had that system I would likely upgrade the source and the amplifier first.

 

Approaching cost no object system...

Vortexbox (£300-350)

Naim NAC-N 272 source and pre (£3,300)

Naim NAP 300 (£6,995)

Bowers and Wilkins 803D3 (£12,500)

with an upgrade being a XPS (£3,635) PSU to the NAC-N. Once I'd done the XPS upgrade the next upgrade would be to upgrade the speakers in the second system.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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For me:

 

VFM is more of a factor than price

 

My purchase appetite diminishes rapidly once over the £2k mark for any item.

 

So basically I'm an easy sell for anything that offers the best VFM in its class and costs less than £2k

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I checked "I do not think that price is a major indicator of quality." And now realize I should also have checked "You missed what I think! I will post my real choice in the forum."

 

Anyway, here goes:

 

  • How much it costs and how much it is discounted from retail is my first choice. I prefer high performance inexpensive audio equipment, digital or analog. Giant killers is what I look for. Cheap that doesn't sound or look cheap.
  • Second is how it sounds with my favorite music.
  • Third is how attractive a piece of audio equipment is and how it would match my other equipment.

If I can wait I will try to buy clearance, demo or at least at a good sale price discount.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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To a certain extent I still believe in the GIGO philosophy introduced by Linn's Ivor Tiefenbrun.....

The term GIGO was actually introduced in a 1964 book called The Impact of Computers on Accounting. The concept was probably an insider joke based on the two accounting terms LIFO (“Last In, First Out”) and FIFO (“First In, First Out”), which are cost accounting methods for inventory management.

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The term GIGO was actually introduced in a 1964 book called The Impact of Computers on Accounting. The concept was probably an insider joke based on the two accounting terms LIFO (“Last In, First Out”) and FIFO (“First In, First Out”), which are cost accounting methods for inventory management.

You are correct the GIGO term is not related to Ivor Tiefenbrun ... but I believe it was he who turned the HiFi hierarchy on its head and suggested source first. According to Wikipedia the term predates the 1964 book and the "first use of the term has been dated to a 1 April 1963 syndicated newspaper article about the first stages of computerization of the US Internal Revenue Service."

 

I follow that philosophy in that the source is the most important part of the system, however these days the source doesn't have to cost the most as its a simpler thing to design and build than speakers.

 

Oh and its a different subject but yes looks also matter to me!

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I tend to look for "bang for the buck" and of course synergy, in that it is a bit like marriage. It is easily possible for two good and resonable people to have a miserable relationship:-)

 

In order of priority I would personally list...

 

1. source.

2. amplification

3. speakers

4. room setup including treatment

 

If you do not have a good source it does not matter what improvements you make downstream. You will just increasingly uncover poor sound and be unhappy.

 

The better the system the more everything makes a difference.

 

Some relatively inexpensive changes made in a revealing system can make a very big difference.

 

Lately most of my advances were made by improving my front end or making it more quiet.

 

I think that putting together a personally satisfying audio system is more like cooking and designing equipment is more like rocket science mixed with liberal amounts of cake baking.

 

Our hobby is nearly completely subjective in that in the end all that matters is that YOU (and your housemates) enjoy it.

 

Purchase decisions and system implementation will involve to some extent the science part.

 

Since there are few real audio stores left any longer we are stuck with the Internet. In making a purchase decision I poll multiple reviews and find posters who actually describe their subjective musical experience, not folks who focus overly on theory.

 

Just my opinion(s)...

 

Best,

 

Paul


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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imo most audiophile equipment is way overpriced. My system building is based on 3 words:bang for buck. I don't chase the upper 1% of SQ. 99% can be had reasonably if you pick well engineered components.

If I am anything, I am a music lover and a pragmatist.

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Oh and its a different subject but yes looks also matter to me!

I'm not sure where that came from, but you raise a major point, Eloise. Despite the rhetoric that drives upgrade-itis, the sound quality from most similar devices is, uh, similar. What differentiates them to most consumers is the way they look and feel in use. The Apt Holman preamp had a wonderful stepped volume pot and some really neat tiny toggle switches that looked and felt great in use (and, fortunately, happened to work great as well). I loved the way my Marantz 7 preamp looked - the vertical switches at the center were really cool and the knobs were simply beautiful (as knobs go). And my Crown tape deck looked so cool in my rack that I probably would have bought it even if I never recorded a single thing on it. Truth be told, I've even bought tires because I liked the way they looked and rejected some good performers just because their sidewalls and/or tread were ugly to me.

 

Ergonomics and visual appeal are probably far more important to buyers than most will admit. Sadly, that means that some fine equipment with a great personality will be left on the shelf for all the wrong reasons.

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I agree that quite often price doesn't have a direct relation with performance but one must make sure to compare topologies that have similar performance potential.

In my book high-end is a synonym of luxurious and overpriced.

 

One thing I like about CD playback is that there really isn't much for the end user to tweak.

Unless the end user knows a thing or two about circuits, in which case he will probably be quite busy... There's room for improvement in every player.

 

Computer Audio is much more annoying because, like a vinyl record player, it is composed of different parts and every one of them requires attention: library storage, connection to computer, operating system, computer power supply, playback software, connection to D/AC, the D/AC itself...

It's easier to become obsessed.

And it also makes it more expensive in the long term, helped by the fact that there's still a bit of uncharted territory to unveil.

 

My first step was to get myself a competent but very affordable D/AC, used for better price/performance ratio.

I had an old laptop that is now exclusively dedicated to playback, in which I installed demo versions of the available playback software and after shortlisting the "best" 3, I bought the least expensive one which is good enough for starters.

Later I learnt that the OS could be optimised, which I did and the last step is to find a D/AC that is able to improve on the shortcomings of the current one within the limits of my budget.

But to do so I will have to listen to a few different models, which I will buy and sell at a loss...there's no way around it.

Is it possible to anticipate how much more I will end up paying above the originally set budget?

 

R

 

Very interesting thinking. I certainly think you bring out one point that makes audio shopping today so - expensive. It's that to try something out, you usually have to buy it first. Sure, most of the better internet sellers offer no-questions-asked 30-60 day returns, but I always feel just a little guilty taking advantage of that. But dang, when you are talking $1000 or more in cost, being able to return it and try a different model machine is important.

 

If one can't return the item, then a 10%-50% loss, depending upon the item, it the cost of evaluating it. That does add up rapidly. if my target device costs $1000 - I usually allocate a budget of $1500 to purchase it, if I want to try other gear out first.

 

Oh, also, I tend to start now with the most expensive gear I am interested in, and work down in price from there. That isn't because I think the expensive gear is better, it is to minimize costs. :)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I'm not sure where that came from, but you raise a major point, Eloise. Despite the rhetoric that drives upgrade-itis, the sound quality from most similar devices is, uh, similar. What differentiates them to most consumers is the way they look and feel in use. The Apt Holman preamp had a wonderful stepped volume pot and some really neat tiny toggle switches that looked and felt great in use (and, fortunately, happened to work great as well). I loved the way my Marantz 7 preamp looked - the vertical switches at the center were really cool and the knobs were simply beautiful (as knobs go). And my Crown tape deck looked so cool in my rack that I probably would have bought it even if I never recorded a single thing on it. Truth be told, I've even bought tires because I liked the way they looked and rejected some good performers just because their sidewalls and/or tread were ugly to me.

 

Ergonomics and visual appeal are probably far more important to buyers than most will admit. Sadly, that means that some fine equipment with a great personality will be left on the shelf for all the wrong reasons.

 

+1 for me too.

 

My wife likes to share the music, and while she is patient with my hobbies, she does like her living space to appear uncluttered and serene. That means there are no Wilsons or other odd looking gear in my future. I love the MBL Daleks - but I do love my wife more. :)

 

I also tend to buy things that are unobtrusive when possible, in part to please my sense of esthetics, but also to keep peace in the family and not be relegated to listen to my music alone.

 

Yours,

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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To explain my vote "You missed what I think":

 

I periodically (maybe once every 10 years or less) review the effectiveness of each component in the hifi system. If there appears to be a need I set budget for replacing a component, taking into account the likely trade-in value of the existing one. I compile a shortlist based on the potential performance of candidate items within the net budget, using published reviews and/or users' experience, and borrow the items for comparative listening at home. So price is a major factor but value for money within a fixed budget is my primary concern.

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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To explain my vote "You missed what I think":

 

I periodically (maybe once every 10 years or less) review the effectiveness of each component in the hifi system. If there appears to be a need I set budget for replacing a component, taking into account the likely trade-in value of the existing one. I compile a shortlist based on the potential performance of candidate items within the net budget, using published reviews and/or users' experience, and borrow the items for comparative listening at home. So price is a major factor but value for money within a fixed budget is my primary concern.

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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The term GIGO was actually introduced in a 1964 book called The Impact of Computers on Accounting. The concept was probably an insider joke based on the two accounting terms LIFO (“Last In, First Out”) and FIFO (“First In, First Out”), which are cost accounting methods for inventory management.

It may have been published in a book in 1964, but the term GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) was used by people in the computer industry long before that.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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I also tend to buy things that are unobtrusive when possible, in part to please my sense of esthetics, but also to keep peace in the family and not be relegated to listen to my music alone.

This is a timely note, Paul. We just sold our 4000 sq ft house (settlement on Dec 29) and move to our 1850 sq ft apartment in 2 weeks. I had the luxury of a library / listening room for 36 years, with floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinetry on 18' and 10' adjacent walls. I built a full height 19" rack into the short wall, along with counter space for the TT and rear-vented cabinetry for computers and pieces too unattractive to leave out (like my ratty old, original McIntosh MC30s and the well worn, cageless MC275 I got out of the hospital's audiology department when they upgraded about 25 years ago).

 

Now my speakers flank the piano in our living room, and the electronics will be visible against the wall under the piano. Thankfully, my black Focal towers are beautiful and match the piano so my wife's fine with them. I'll be driving my Wadia 151 with my BeagleBone Black, so the electronics won't be obtrusive in the living room - and I suspect that its low wattage will be fine given the practical limits on SPL imposed by living in an apartment building again after 36 years.

 

So price has become even less of a consideration as I regress to our newlywed days and consolidate 14 rooms into 5. If the towers look too big, I'll be shopping for beautiful little guys that sound great at low levels because my original 15 ohm LS3/5as are both too inefficient for the Wadia and too "thin" at low volume levels in a large room (the living/dining room is a rectangular space about 30' by 35'). And if I can't live with the Wadia, I'll be shopping for a more powerful digital amp that looks good.

 

Best regards -

 

David

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