Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 18 August 2008

Deficient ears can save you money

As I loll on my couch I am grateful I am off the hi-fi treadmill.

Thirty years ago, for a modest expenditure, you could verifiably improve the performance of your LP-playing equipment (pick-up, amplifier, twin speakers). You then stepped on to a ladder whose length was dictated only by the depth of your pocket.

Then CDs replaced LPs. I for one was unable to detect improvements from more expensive CD players and it was only when I needed twin-drives that I bought a new unit. By then, an amplifier upgrade appeared futile and the reviews proved it. Performance graphs for quite inexpensive amps showed virtually flat curves. Distortion was only detectable by bats.

That left loudspeakers. My friend owned Quad electrostatics which were easily the best. But they resembled central heating radiators and cost £1000 a pair. I made do with rather less. Later in life and comfortably off I decided to relegate my speakers to the kitchen (Cooks find Mozart encouraging - see pic) and buy something better for the salon. I spent an embarrassing hour at a specialist hi-fi shop. The owner patiently switched between speaker pairs widely differing in price. To no audible avail.

I had of course reached a defining hi-fi moment: ears inadequate through age. Comparatively cheap speakers would do. Sad, but at least I’m off the treadmill.


Julia said...

Cooking to music is definitely one of the better pleasures in life! And are you sure it is your ears or perhaps have the speakers past a certain range just gotten about as good as the ear can hear? I've noticed this trend too in good quality speakers.

Barrett Bonden said...

I don't do the cooking, I just provided the speakers (plus the much more demanding task of routing the cables). My wife uses them regularly but has very definite opinions about what not to cook to. Most French music is out - Debussy clearly doesn't go with cassoulet. But don't imagine this is traditional anti-frog sentiment. Most British music is out too. A cheese soufflé cooked within earshot of RVW's Antarctica would certainly sag.

The suggestion about speakers and ears was kind but I wasn't buying at the level you imply.