Home audio and the musician...

December 25, 2010 at 04:33 AM ·

I was largely inspired by classical music at a young age, listening to recordings on my 1970's era stereo system. I have always been intrigued by the differences in sound and tonal accuracy of various audio and hi-fi systems, and believe the artist is best served by an audio system capable of distinguishing these details. A pure analog recording, in my opinion, is much better at capturing the tone of Fritz Kreisler's violin than a digital re-issue. Similarly, a good single-ended tube amplifier, when matched with appropriate speakers can bring the listener that much closer to the thrill of a live performance.  I would think that a better 2-channel home audio setup would inspire more would-be musicians to develop their talent. It need not be expensive, as many of the very affordable chip-based amps (Trends 10.1) are astonishingly good, and within the financial reach of many. The difficulty lies in  convincing others about the merits of a simple audio system in today's  multi-speaker home-theater centered world.

It's true that we can all be moved by a performance on a cheap car radio while road noise and distractions abound, and a compressed MP3 file is great to accompany our daily activities, but ultimately we cannot truly grasp the significance of a great work of music unless we pay complete attention to the music and its meaning. This holds especially true for complex works where dynamic contrasts and interesting tone clusters would get lost in a "busy" world of high-tech distraction and background noise.

The technology should serve the art, and present the meaning to the observer in the most direct way possible, without "lossy" compression schemes and detail-robbing equalizers. The great composers and performers deserve at least this much!

Replies (41)

December 25, 2010 at 04:51 AM ·

I'm of two minds -- a good audio system is a nice thing, but in my experience, most people who are into that have no drive to make music themselves and instead move into collecting audio equipment as their hobby.  My family had no money to afford good audio equipment when I was a kid, and yet here I am learning viola on the foundation of endless piano lessons as a child and young adult.

I think if you want to be a musician inside your heart, you will look for any excuse to do so, and will consider any life experience you have as motivation to do so.

December 25, 2010 at 07:07 AM ·

I love hi-fi. I despise multi-speaker, surround sound, processed audio almost as much as I despise  high fat, low fibre, additive-full, processed factory food. My aim is to get a decent 2 speaker system to replace my current elderly set up. And to listen to it.

I remember when "playing a record" used to be an event. We'd gather round and sit and listen. For one reason or another life doesn;t seem to be like that any more. I grab my music on the run, in the car or at the computer. I wish it were different. Something for the New Year's resolution list?

December 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM ·

Some of my favourite performances on record (CD) date back to the late 50s and 60s. When the engineers had only a stereo pair to play with and balance was something the conductor did.

The problem with recordings is that musicians have to "play it safe" - nobody wants to be the one who stops the take, or a movement can become a patchwork quilt of joined together bits from several takes.

Luckily, there seems to be a growing trend to recording live performances for issue, but I think this knowledge can still be inhibiting. In a live performance, you can take the chance of going for it - if it works , it's magical - if it doesn't it's annoying but it's gone.


December 25, 2010 at 10:27 AM ·

I think musicians and musik lovers need high quality listening equipment.

But in contrary to what hifi or high end fanatics and audio esoteric gurus believe and try to make believe, there's no need  (and seldom use) in spending more than a few hundred bucks on the equipment. A fine CD-Player, a decent amplifier and a pair of midrange studio monitor speakers (or studio headphones), for example, can give a fantastic result for little money (ca. 1000-1500€). There's a very simple reason for this: Use the same as the producers use themselves. I know what we use in the recording studio and how to make it work.

Just forget the "high end" bs and save the bucks for better things. (But this does not mean the cheapo MP3/Computer monitor speaker or in-ear ipod phone stuff would qualify! This is often the equivalent to VSOs)

December 25, 2010 at 02:01 PM ·

 There are those who would say, with some justification imo, that the best listening system consists of eyes, brain and a score.

December 27, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

 Almost all of the superior qualities of a great player can be appreciated on compressed files.  A great sound system is the cherry on the icing.  That said, I would not give up my present rig for the world (unless it were an upgrade).  I cherish my speakers as much as my best instruments, and for the same reasons--I spent time finding them and they never fail to satisfy.

As for particulars (you mentioned tube amps), there's always room for debate just as we argue over string types, particular make or model instruments, etc.

I do think that too many people today are settling for substandard sound.  As someone else mentioned, with some research you can find the right mid-fi system for your ears without leaving the low 4-figure price point.  The "serious" audiophiles get into the 5 and 6-figure systems, but I think that's way over the top.

If you can't afford the mid-fi system, spring for a good set of headphones, maybe some Grado SR-80's.  Then you can take the occasional trip into the world of sonic richness that lies far beyond what's become the contemporary standard.  All that for around 100 bucks.



December 28, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

Well I'd still rather listen to the performance than the hi-fi. Give me Oistrakh from 1940 in preference to some of today's players with every detail faithfully reproduced.


December 28, 2010 at 05:30 PM ·

I listen primarily on my laptop, half because I spend time on it and it's easy as I'm usually there already, and half because I only have to spend money on one listening mode instead of two.  It's not ideal perhaps, but it's most practical.  So last year when I was getting ready to replace my six-year-old laptop with the crap speakers and depressing, tinny sound, I knew this could make or break the investment, if that tells you something.  After doing my online research I took a recording of the Enigma Variations into an office store and tested it with almost every model they had on display.  I now have an ASUS UL series with "premium" speakers; I can actually hear the pianissimi, and the sound is warmer and more realistic.  It's still a laptop first and sound system second, but to answer your question, yes it's more inspiring -- it's literally a big improvement to my quality of life.  It's like being verbally abused for a year and then having somebody tell you, sincerely, that you're beautiful.

December 28, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·

Of COURSE hi-fi can inspire.




Hi Fidelity is DEAD.

"The difficulty lies in  convincing others about the merits of a simple audio system in today's  multi-speaker home-theater centered world."


Nobody actually uses these systems. They use their I-pods.


Same thing goes for photography. Digital photos SUCK.

December 28, 2010 at 05:37 PM ·


I suppose the next generation of thinking is how we can improve upon the stuff we are currently settling for, so we don't compromise as much.  Do you know of anybody in particular out there making those kind of innovations?  Or to what extent is it possible?

December 28, 2010 at 06:00 PM ·

Increased memory will help.  Anyone who listens to MP3 prefers FLAC files and uncompressed audio.  However, it's important to realize that audio has always been lousy, really.  I've heard musicians complain about MP3s who sold the majority of their music on cassette tapes back in the day, which were about nine thousand times worse.  Audio reproduction is its own siren song; if you want to hear it like it's right there, then you have to play it yourself.  Even live performances involve people talking next to you, footsteps, rattling car keys, and sometimes worse.

December 28, 2010 at 10:09 PM ·

Nicole-- Wow, thanks for inspiring us about laptop and sound quality! Yes, a minimally compressed or "lossless" audio file  such as FLAC can sound good with an upgraded amp and better speakers. If you google or ebay search TA2024, you'll see a plethora of very fine sounding low-powered amps for about $60.00 shipped. Connect the audio-out from your laptop into this amp, and hook up a good pair of external high-quality efficient speakers, and you'll be truly amazed. Not quite as portable as a self-contained laptop, but you can easily hook it up at home in a few seconds and further improve the sound.


December 29, 2010 at 12:38 AM ·

I'll have to take issue with Bill about digital photography. Same as digital sound, I understand the limitations of a finite bit limit rather than (theoretically) infinite using analogue recordings - audio or pictorial. However, printing my 12MP pictures up to 10x8, I'm getting quality that in years gone by I'd have needed 6x6 medium format to match.

December 29, 2010 at 01:30 AM ·

Don't get me wrong. You *can* use digital mediums to produce outstanding results. It is just that almost nobody does, and the overwhelming majority of our daily exposure to digital media is a really really low grade less than replacement version of the analog we had before. This includes MP3 versus tape. Good tape was much better than MP3. I've compared a CD to an MP3 and it is unbelievable that people pay *extra* to itunes to buy a crappy recording. If you buy the CD you have unlimited personal copying, it costs less per track, and it is better quality. Back in the analog days, we would buy the record for more, and make tape copies for the cost of the tape. Now it is upside down and all the little morons are too stupid and lazy to realize what a bunch of tools they are..

Most of the digital photos we look at are terrible. Most typical viewfinder cameras are nowhere near as good as a 35mm viewfinder using 200 speed film.

If show a photo taken in 1890 on a glass slide to a kid today, they will be blown away. I know, I've done this.

December 29, 2010 at 01:45 AM ·

Thanks Evan!  My father, who has some hearing loss in one ear, was impressed by the computer's sound too.  I have heard how good it can be with the right external setup.  Someday...for now it's a relief to have a good foundation I can build on.

Classical music in particular, with its extreme dynamic contrasts and its subtle tone color contrasts, requires an incredible amount of detail and suffers without it.  That was always a problem with car radio because I would constantly have to adjust the dial, which I don't care to do that much while trying to keep my eyes on Hartford streets!  MP3 might be fine for genres that don't depend so heavily on that, and maybe that's why it is more prevalent.

December 29, 2010 at 03:13 PM ·

I'm not sure what you mean, John?  If you're saying it will be obsolete sooner rather than later, I kind of know I'm a dinosaur, but I figured maybe I'm not the only one.

December 29, 2010 at 06:34 PM ·

I think digital radio is  usually better than the older analog compression by broadcast studios-- but by now I would like to see (or hear) more. With lossless or minimal compression, most of the sound quality is dependent on the source material, the amplifier and speakers combination as well as room acoustics, and to some degree, power filtration. There is still plenty of room for a higher digital sampling rate too.

We are all dinosaurs!-- We play music by long-gone composers on 200 year old violins-- and I've been known to wear Victorian garb for some gigs. What seperates us from the dinos is that we are not yet extinct. Classical musicians and early music performers are like the crocodile, somehow defying all odds to perpuate the musical gene pool. Anyone got a croc violin case I could buy?  :-)

December 29, 2010 at 07:04 PM ·

 Lossless compression is a contradiction if you are talking about dynamic range. In this case what is minimal compression? Any compression is a decision to reduce the dynamic range by a certain amount, is it not?

December 29, 2010 at 07:22 PM ·

Hi Nigel, if a compressed digital file is restored for playback with no loss of data, then in theory, there should be no degradation whatsoever in sound.  FLAC is such a codec-- see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Lossless_Audio_Codec

December 29, 2010 at 07:52 PM ·

 Hi Evan, your reference to "analog compression" made me think you were talking about dynamic range compression. I know about FLAC.

For a while I explored Ogg Vorbis. I think this is a superior compression to mp3, sounds much better for the same file size, and very interesting for anyone that wants to keeps file size minimal. My understanding is that mp3 got established sooner so everyone got stuck with that even though it's not the best compression method.

I know that some say higher bitrate mp3 is indistinguishable from original aiff or wav but I don't really agree. Can be quite subtle though, depth and richness of sound etc.

December 29, 2010 at 09:46 PM ·

Just to be clear here, are we speaking about two different sorts of compression?

1. "analog compression" as in what a tube (aka "valve") amplifier does naturally to some extent and what some rock electric guitarists add even more of

2. "digital compression (ratio)" as in "I start with a raw WAV file and I use some digital information trickery to use less space in kilobytes to move the same information."

These are very different things of course...but both have big effects on what we listen to...

December 29, 2010 at 10:50 PM ·

I wasn't sure what the last part meant, about laptops.

December 31, 2010 at 07:39 AM ·

 It's perfectly possible to use a laptop in a hifi context, it is after all just a hard drive that's storing the information, and recording direct to HD has been around in studios for a while now. but to keep things hifi you'll need an external audio interface connected to the Firewire or USB port. 

A laptop playing a 24bit/96khz wav file feeding a high quality interface/preamp; who's going to argue that that isn't hifi? 

December 31, 2010 at 09:51 AM ·

 Laptops usually have their own digital to analog converter designed to feed the headphone socket or little speakers or whatever, but this is all inevitably of rather inferior quality. The idea is to bypass all that and use the external audio interface for a real quality sound.

Designed for recording work, audio interfaces have preamps built in, so the output from one of these units can feed directly into a separate power amplifier (this is what I do with mine). 

The top of the line preamp/audio interfaces are seriously good audio. Earlier this year my quintet Diversions was recorded by Andrew Levine of blumlein records using a Metric Halo ULN-8 recording onto a Mac laptop. A very mobile system that we set up in a large salon with high ceiling so a very good room acoustically. The Metric Halo is not at all cheap at thousands of euros (8 channels), but you can get into hifi quite quickly and cheaply with a small stereo unit, there's lots of choice. 


December 31, 2010 at 01:22 PM ·

 I have a pricey headphone setup on which if the person two rows over shifts in his seat you can hear it and think it's happening in your  living room in real time (and contrary to what some people will tell you, you DO get what you pay for, but your ears may not be ready to recognize it right away). The unfortunate truth is that while it's possible to make a recording where you can hear that kind of reality, very few commercial recordings, new or old, meet that standard.

Consequently, most of my listening time is on a system that cost 1/10th what the good one did, but is more portable, and I listen to more music, on my terms. If you want to learn about playing, I don't know that you really need much beyond an AM radio (remember what Kreisler and Heifetz had to listen to while they were growing up), but that doesn't sound like what this discussion has turned into.

December 31, 2010 at 03:06 PM ·

Michael - actually, I think Kreisler and Heifetz could listen to themselves, live! And, I think the Auer system (and the St. Petersburg Conservatory system involved the Russian students hearing each other play - so they got lots of varied input). Radios or phonographs in those days over a century ago - not so much.

But I agree with Evan's premise that if you are so inclined, the aural quality of real "hi-fi" reproduction can be really inspiring. Personally I always preferred the compressed volume range we got with the old disk or tape cassette recordings (yes there were very fine tape recordings - such as those by InSync).

In the days before stereo (in 1956) I spent $500 to purchase a JB Lansing speaker in a base- reflex cabinet (a lot of money in those days when a new car cost $3,000) - my wife's new piano cost the same amount that year. I bought it because when I walked into the Hi-Fi shop I thought I heard a live grand piano being played - but it was this speaker, which I bought a few months later, after I'd saved the money. After stereo recordings were the norm, shortly afterward, it was many years before I could afford a matching speaker and cabinet.

The sound I heard on that speaker always inspired me, but after I moved to the Calif. desert, It was impossible to get clean sound from a vinyl disk except for the first playing - then the microscopic dust took over. But to my mind, nothing ever matched the sound I got from my new disks and my Fisher "push-pull" tube amplifier. The cleanliness of digital recordings wins me over, however, and I find that to my aging ears, even mp3 (at least at 192 Kb) sounds the same to me, and my iTunes and Amazon mp3 purchases are completely satisfactory

It takes a damn-fine hall and to equal the aural experience of good home listening. Even using my little Ederol-R9, I have recorded some concerts I've attended (recorder in my shirt pocket) and I gotta tell you, often the recordings actually sound better to me than the original audience experience. But to be in an ordinary room with a really fine player and instrument - WOW! That is really something else!


December 31, 2010 at 06:40 PM ·

Two comments:

For listening to better music on a laptop, the computer sound system is the weak point. I purchased an inexpensive USB sound adaptor from Ebay (cost less than $10.00), and is was a significant upgrade.

I have a good sound system, and it does make a big difference in the quality of the sound. I wonder how as musicians we always try for better intonation and the nuances of better projection of sound, and we discuss the qualities of a soft or warm sound, but we can also not think that a poor quality reproduction with bad audio accuracy does not affect the experience.

That said, I do not think the system needs to cost as much as the violin, but I do think that a reasonable effort to produce the fidelity to the sound is worthwhile.  I have an old Yamaha RX950, with 0.005% total harmonic distortion on the input channels for the turntable and CD input. The CD is matched, but not quite as accurate. I'm happy with the sound I get.

December 31, 2010 at 08:28 PM ·

I believe Heifetz thought Stereo was a waste of time.

Many people at that time thought the same, possibly because they didn't understand what stereo recording really was - a sound source recorded by 2 separate mics, and the resulting sound panorama (a true spatial aural image) of sounds left through right, but only coming out of 2 speakers. Many thought it was just "double mono" sound, hence the "waste of time".

A high-quality, expertly engineered turntable / arm / cartridge / stylus is still one of the most perfect ways of hearing sound, albeit less convenient to use.

In this digital age, it's worth remembering that the beginning and end of any acoustic)  recording chain are (and can only be) strictly analogue devices :)

December 31, 2010 at 08:36 PM ·

I agree with Andrew Victor's post-- and will add that as a life-long record collector, many old 78 rpm records, especially the early acoustical recordings can sound very good indeed with a good playback system and correct needle.  Yes, there is surface noise, but listen through it, and the midrange has startling lifelike qualities.  Few of us nowadays dare to compare a pure acoustical 78, or even later electrical mono 78s and mono LPs to todays CDs and digital files, but there is a certain realism to the sound-- it captures the performers nuances better than later stereo LPs, CDs and digital sources, even with the surface noise. 

One hundred years ago, acoustical 78s were available everywhere, and a great inspiration to many. Those that could not afford to attend a Fritz Kreisler or Mischa Elman performance, or could not wait a few years for him to perform at a theatre nearby had no other option but to listen to records. An entire generation of violinists MUST have been inspired by these early recordings, and MUST have listened past the surface noise to marvel at the exquisite tone these masters of the violin produced.

Todays typical home audio system is an ipod, maybe in a docking station, or through a laptop or PC. The storage medium-- the MP3, WAV, FLAC or audio file isn't too bad, but the amplification and speakers are weak links in the chain and CANNOT reproduce the pure magic that those old victrolas and later mono LPs were capable of. This is not some attempt at glorifying nostaigia. The ability of a performer to communicate his/her interpretation is still primarily through recordings, and if the amplifiction and delivery of the art is inadequate then the artist's message is watered down. We should all be concerned.

At least with 78s and mono records, the basic performace remains in tact. Just listen to original or reissues of the Budapest quartet playing Beethoven (glorious mono sound),  some of the older EMI red-label classical mono LPs from the 50s, a good RCA "shaded dog"  or a well-recorded Mercury Living Presence LP (mono preferred) on a quality audio system and we can't fail to notice something is amiss in modern audio land.

Incidently, a good chip-based class "d" audio amp can be purchased for as little as $60.00, or you can get a recognized brand name for about $120.00.  Good efficient speakers may cost $100.00 or more for a pair. Get the system set up correctly with regard to speaker placement and room acoustics, and  for the musician, it will be a worthwhile investment for certain.

If classical music is to survive, we must acknowledge the importance of subtle musical details, and admit that when these details get lost, the art is lost with it. We have NAXOS to thank for their fine recordings and carefully mastered reissues of the great performers, but now we need to do our part to extract the music from the storage medium and inspire the next generation of musicians, details and all.

January 1, 2011 at 04:11 PM ·

Evan, can you (or anyone) recommend a specific inexpensive chip-based "ready to use" amp? And inexpensive speakers? What about a specific set of powered plug-in computer speakers?

To get reasonable sound quality out of the computer, is it best to exit digitally, then go through an external digital-analog converter, then an amp, etc., or are there some reasonably priced, good sounding systems that have everything in one package, and plug into a USB?

Or can one go USB directly to the chip-based amp, and maybe even have the amp/converter built into the speaker enclosure?

What's available, and whats the best bang for the buck?

January 2, 2011 at 07:00 PM ·

David, you probably know already all the following, but just to expand on what I said above, most hifi amplifiers are integrated units where two stages of amplification are packed into one box (the pre-amplifier and the power amplifier) so it's all just thought of as "the amplifier". However when you get into high end hifi the "pre" and "power" stages often get packaged into their own separate boxes. 

It was in this sense that I was talking about a power amplifier, where I have a MOTU interface (A/D  & D/A converter and preamp) feeding directly into the power amplifier. One can then put all the money into just the power amp stage, being pointless to double up on the pre-amplifier stage. But of course when they're manufactured separately like this it's usually quality gear.

I'd thought that it was fairly widely agreed that it was best to exit digitally, then go through an external digital-analog converter, anyway I definitely think that. Keeping components separate allows for more flexibility in upgrading if one wants to.


January 3, 2011 at 12:16 AM ·

Nigel, you are correct about the advantages of a straight power amp over an integrated, but most of the new generation class-D integrateds are really a passive volume attenuator (no pre-amplification) and a selector switch going straight to the amp. In my opinion, preamps are obsolete. An outboard phono stage or stand alone DAC is really all you'll need before your amp if signal processing is required.  

January 3, 2011 at 12:24 AM ·

Thanks for all the advice so far, including that which has come through email (PM).

A little more about my situation and use:  I hope not to become an "audiophile". Nothing wrong with it, but I know my propensity to become obsessive about anything I start to become educated about, so  time management becomes an issue, and requires discipline. It would be great to sit back and give total attention to recorded music from great players, but I rarely do. Mostly, I record violins at a good distance from the microphone, and play them back to get a sense of what they sound like to someone other than the player. The differences are quite revealing, even with my current junk equipment. Better sound under the ear doesn't necessarily equate to better sound at a distance. Perhaps that's a tip for people who are trying violins, and don't have a chance to take them into a hall, along with one or more educated listeners.

The current setup I use is a computer, fed with an M-Audio USB microphone preamp, and an AKG C 3000 B condenser microphone. It goes out either through a horrible set of computer speakers (the ported bass speaker mostly gives one frequency, but colors the sound to give the illusion of different notes). There is the option of plugging in AKG "studio monitor" headphones. I realize that it's all old stuff. The M-Audio converter has outputs for an amplifier. The recording program I use most is Adobe Audition, mostly because of easy editing, and playback of different violins or adjustments in a repeating loop, to help discerne trivial differences.

I've discovered that there are some audio experts here, so do I have what I need, or can you coach me along towards something meaningfully better? 

How much do I need to do what I need to do? I purchased a "chip amp" earlier today. Decent speakers will add another $300 to $600, and will take up scarce space in the office where my computer is. Then, I started thinking that a well-reviewed plug-in computer speaker system might do the job, even if it will make a true audiophile cringe.

Sorry for taking the thread on a tangent into nerd world, but I thought responses might help others as well.


January 3, 2011 at 02:58 AM ·

The best  external "computer speakers" I've heard to date is the Monsoon flat-panel series, such as MM-702. These are true electrostats, not just conventional cone drivers in a "flat" enclosure. They are a bit fussy for placement, you must sit close to the satellites for good imaging -- good for  sitting  in-front of a PC.  I believe they connect to a powered subwoofer. They are expensive compared to cheap computer spekers, and very hard to find in stock anywhere, and may be no longer in production, but possibly available on the used market or ebay.

Alternatively, use a small 7-watt class D amp driving any good small mini-monitor from NHT, PSB, KLH, etc. Since you are sitting close to the speakers, bass response is very good. Its only at greater distances that bass sounds weaker from a small speaker enclosure. Good "vintage" speakers from B&W, Pinnacle, Boston Acoustics, etc are all fine choices. This does not replace the accuracy of a dedicated home audio setup, but may work fine  for your needs.

January 3, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·

for anyone who can do even rudimentary woodwork and wants a great value on speakers, check out pispeakers.com   The smaller Pi One's and Pi Two's are simple boxes with a few holes, and the wiring is already done.  Can be finished as fancy or plain as you want. Fun and ez to listen to.  Some use chip amps with them; I like 2A3 SET amps, and build my own and voice all the parts to my room & taste.  Very helpful to listen to the greats on good system, and for some reason, all the old recordings sound very fresh, wonderful, and alive on a good SET system.

January 3, 2011 at 07:35 AM ·

Before things get more and more funny, I just put in the remark that the best tools are those used by the pros. The best speakers for controlling audio are studio monitors (hint: genelec), thats why they are used in the recording studio. These offer no distortion no bias no bs sound control and are available in a wide price range.

Genelec, for example, offers active ones, so no amp whatever is needed. The required setup would be as simple as: fine audio interface - cable - monitor speakers.

The final mix of music productions is often done with this combination (sometimes even with cheap speakers like Yamaha NS 10), not with the very very expensive equipment used for the recording.

January 3, 2011 at 12:39 PM ·

Studio speakers should  give you a flat uncolored response.You may not need expensive studio speakers that are  able to handle loud ,quick dynamic,  uncompressed music. A speaker set in the $250 range should work for you.


I use a cheap set of speakers to help me with compression .If they distort then I know to add more compression.This set is too cheap for you, but I need them.


The problem with music today is that we have to over compress music so that it is playable on cheap speakers.If you do have high end speakers ,you are not really going to hear their quality because the music is designed and compressed for cheap speakers.

Has the  "loudness war " hit the classical music market??



January 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM ·

 Here's a response to the loudness war: http://www.dynamicrange.de/


January 4, 2011 at 06:31 AM ·

 Evan, that's interesting about the new class-D amps, i can't claim to have kept up with developments in amplifier design but will do some reading on this. My experience was based on when I bought my Motu unit and plugged the main outs straight into my 25 year old mosfet power amp eliminating the need for the preamp that came with it at the time.

Tobias, I was about to come back and mention the NS 10 (but you beat me to it) that must have been around for 30 years now, used as an accurate reference.



January 4, 2011 at 09:56 PM ·

Oh dear!

You had better not open this can of worms....

Put it this way...most recordings are so badly done, so indescribably awful....well it just makes me fall about laughing when I read the kind of nuances "high end audio" fanatics are supposed to be able to hear.

I always challenge them to double blind testing, but funnily enough they always strangely decline.

I suspect this is because they know secretly their ears are nowhere near as good as mine.

Having said that, my Prof friend from France always said,if it was a good musical interpretation, it helped us a lot in our recording work, doesn't matter what format, digital or analog, it comes through and gets inside you...

Strangely enough some good musicians had recordings which were really bad...but you can still rave about Adolf Busch or Fritz Kreisler no matter what they were recorded on!

I believe the first great listener and advancer of all things quality and audio was Jascha Heifetz.....but that's hardly suprising.

Perfectionists tend to seek perfection.

January 4, 2011 at 11:35 PM ·

Thanks so much for all the help so far. What I've done at this point is order a HLLY 2020 chip amp. I defaulted to power rather than trying to make a choice in tone color, because I don't know what speakers I will be trying to drive yet.

Various powered "plug-in" studio monitors from Yamaha have rave reviews, and also have their critics. But if I put my own limited experience into play, with several spectrum analyzer programs to choose from, it seems like "digital out" is the way I need to go for best accuracy. There's a lot of junk out of  standard computer soundcards and chip sets. Digital out, and accurate speakers may not produce a nice warm and fuzzy  listening environment, but once in a while, reality is the way to go, rather than standing in front of that curved mirror that makes my a$$ look skinnier than it is. LOL


This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine