One of the most important factors in selecting the right hi-fi components is room size. If you're lucky enough to have a big living space (over 500 square feet), I'd recommend floor-standing speakers. Big rooms also soak up amplifier power; smaller rooms need a lot less. Here in NYC, most folks live in small apartments, and they'll get terrific sound with midsize bookshelf speakers and small amps.
I never heard of Lepai until about a year ago, when Parts Express sent over a Lepai LP-2020A+ amplifier for review. Well, it didn't take long to see it was a steal, and it has been my go-to amp for anyone on a super-tight budget, it's just $25, and for that kind of money the sound is pretty special. The 20-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier is a tiny thing, it's just 1.5x5.5x4.5 inches.
I never had any doubt that readers of this blog have the coolest systems, but the magnitude of the flood of homemade speakers, desktop systems, headphones, and all sorts of groovy turntables totally knocked me out. There's some sweet gear here, so click to the slideshow and check out the systems. Thanks to all who sent JPEGs -- I heard from well over 100 readers, so I can't show everyone's gear.
If you have a state-of-the-art high-end system, or a tricked out iPod speaker, we'd love to see it. Take an interesting picture of your headphones, Bluetooth speaker, turntable, home theater, or whatever you have. If you built your own speakers or amp, that's right up my alley!
Send JPEGs (not huge files) to theaudiophiliac (at) hotmail (dot) com. Of course, anyone submitting should be comfortable with the photos being publicly posted online "forever after." Please include your name (first name and first initial of your last name). And if you're up for it, tell us … Read more
In December, when I asked readers of The Audiophiliac to "Show us yours--your hi-fi that is," I didn't know what sort of response I'd get. But it turned out to be a broad and deep one. JPEGs of heavyweight hi-fis flooded my in-box--from huge home theaters to desktop audio setups. There's some sweet gear here, so click to the slideshow to check out the systems.
I'd love to see your hi-fi or home theater.
It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be interesting or quirky. Some people decorate their speakers or paint them in wild colors. I once had a girlfriend with great old Acoustic Research speakers (a gift from her father), a funky amp she found on the street, and a beat up Garrard turntable. The system looked like hell, but it sounded wonderful on rock and roll.
If you have a state-of-the-art high-end system, or a tricked out iPod speaker we'd love to see it. Take an interesting … Read more
I know a little about under-dash record players from the late 1960s, but I was totally clueless about 1950s car turntables, until I heard writer Paul Collins talking about them on WNYC's "Soundcheck" radio show a few weeks ago. I chatted with Collins to learn more about these groovy hi-fis.
Columbia Records developed the proprietary Highway Hi-Fi format: a thick 7-inch, 16 2/3rpm record that had up to one hour playing time per side. Chrysler executives jumped on the idea, and offered the turntable as an option in their 1956 models, and were hoping one out … Read more
A lot of people think good sound is good sound, but music and movies have very different requirements. Starting with home theater, remember that today's films have nearly unlimited soft-to-loud dynamic range; dialogue is mixed to the center channel; surround effects may be ambient or point-sourced; and deep bass demands can be extreme. Just about every feature film released over the last 20 years has a multichannel soundtrack.
How different is music? Let me count the ways: an exceedingly small number of new music recordings are available in multichannel sound; stereo rules in the music world; most, probably 99 … Read more
Hi-fi salesmen are some of my favorite people. The job is nonstop audio, and they turn their customers onto the best stuff. I know from where I speak; I sold high-end audio for 16 years in New York City. I played more combinations of speakers, amplifiers, turntables, and CD players than any audio reviewer ever has. I knew the gear inside out.
The best sales people are successful because they're all good listeners, and listening is important because you have to first understand what the customer is looking for before you can provide solutions. The best salesmen have lots of satisfied customers, and those customers turn their friends and relatives on to the salesman. The bulk of my sales worked that way.
I dropped by a Long Island, NY, hi-fi shop, Audio Breakthroughs, for the first time last Wednesday. I was immediately stopped in my tracks by the hi-fi store "smell." Nothing bad, just that old familiar slightly sweet scent of new electronics, mixed with a delicate blend of plastic vapors, furniture polish, and packing materials wafting through the air. It's an intoxicating aroma; I love the smell of new hi-fis in the morning!
I know some folks don't trust salesmen, but when I was on the floor I sometimes found it difficult to gauge the intent of a new customer. I'd greet them, exchange a few pleasantries, and try to be of help. Please understand, my store sold speakers priced from $200 a pair to over $100,000. I'd need some sort of ballpark number to get things going, but that wasn't always easy.
The worst part of the job was dealing with people who felt they had a right to hear any combination of gear, at their whim, at any time. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Now sure, if they just wanted to hear some good stuff that was already set up, and the store wasn't busy I'd play a tune or two. For some that wasn't enough, and they'd become indignant when I tried, graciously, to change the subject. Sometimes they would claim they would have bought something from me, if I had only treated them better. I can't say I was right every time, but over the years I heard from other salesmen in other stores that they never really bought anything. I got out of the business 15 years ago, long before the Internet started chipping away at brick-and-mortar sales.
My favorite customers were the ones who came in with a clear agenda, and could tell me what they wanted, how much they wanted to spend, etc. The demonstration of gear might stretch out over days or weeks, which was fine with me, as long as I felt the customer wasn't wasting my time. Buying a serious hi-fi or home theater system involves a lot of decisions, and having a knowledgeable salesman can be a big help. If you think you're smarter than the sales guy, that's cool, just tell him what you want. … Read more
Buying or selling used hi-fi--before the Internet--was a huge hassle. Expensive classified ads in newspapers and magazines were the only option for individual sellers and buyers; that, or trade your gear in to a hi-fi dealer.
Nowadays you can buy or sell hi-fi and pretty much everything else on eBay, but I've never used it. I've always sold my old gear on AudiogoN, which specializes in high-end audio components, such as preamplifiers, power amps, speakers, CD players, turntables, cables, etc.
If you're looking for great sounding bargains, you'll find plenty on AudiogoN. I saw a vacuum-tube Dynaco FM-3 radio offered for $139; a mint-condition Marantz 2220 stereo receiver for $245; an NAD 7100 receiver for $175; and a Dual 1019 turntable for $250. AudiogoN averages around 11,000 listings at any given time.
High-end gear that originally sold for big bucks is rarely cheap, because good, quality gear, even when it's decades old, retains its value. But even so, AudiogoN is a way to get the good stuff that would otherwise be out of range. I saw a Conrad-Johnson 16 LS vacuum-tube preamplifier that sold new for $8,000 listed for $3,500.
AudiogoN was founded in 1998 and now claims 295,000 registered members. Rates for sellers are just $6 for a classified ad (which runs 30 days); or $6 for an auction, that runs between 3 and 14 days. There's also a one percent surcharge on the sale price. Buyers pay nothing for the service. Best of all, almost everyone reading the listings is an audiophile, which certainly isn't the case for eBay. Here's a link to a mock ad, so you can get an idea of what they look like.