Everything is getting smaller and my stuff is getting bigger!

nsr1200

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I looked across my front room the other day, and stared at my arrangement of black boxes with blue, red and green LEDs and thought to myself about what each box does and why I have it. I have two amplifiers, a CD player, a network audio player, and a DAC, all shelved in a custom built rack and organised to precise OCD standards. The power cables are connected to a surge protecting extension shielding my black boxes from any “dirty” electricity that may harm them.

On both sides of the room and placed with almost laser point accuracy are the floor standing speakers connected with very thick speaker cables.

Take a look around the back of the custom racking and it is a mass of routed RCA cables, power leads, and network cables, all with a purpose and all quite expensive.

Everything in this arrangement has a task and is in place to make my setup sing beautifully.

I enjoy everything about this stuff but it does make me wonder, why do I need all these boxes and cables? Quality is the obvious reason, but surely there is a smaller option?

Friends visit my home and think I’m barmy; “just get a small all in one box and be done with it” or “what a complete waste of money” they say. That’s fine and it’s their choice to say that; free speech and all that.

I have been back in the Hi-Fi world for the past couple of years now and I think I am the one who has got it right; our ears are insulted by so many devices with small tinny sound. The functionality of these new tiny devices are sublime but the sound quality is always left out. This could be due to the fact that the markets that these devices are aimed at will be playing music that sounds good of poor quality speakers.

I’m a true believer that pop music is designed to sound good on the cheapest in ear headphones, docks and boom boxes. In fact if you produce pop music then you should make your music in 24-bit audio, bounce it down to 16-bit audio, make it into a 128kb mp3 and play it on the cheapest, poorest quality player you can find. If it sounds legible on that, then it will sound good on pretty much everything else.

There is a claim that when you start getting into the top end Hi-Fi realms then some people just cannot identify a difference in quality after a certain point. I am nowhere near that threshold, but I can say for sure that my setup is definitely better on many levels comparing it to the garbage you can pick you from Curry’s and the likes, and in reality the price difference is not exponentially different, but enough to put a lot of people off.

Having lots of black boxes means lots of power consumption, or so you would think. On testing my equipment it seems that I use hardly any power, comparatively speaking. I was expecting the consumption of two bi-amped 70 watts amplifiers along with all the other kit mentioned above to be in the region of 200 to 300 watts, but this simply isn’t the case. The power meter testing came out at about 75 watts, I was so shocked that I had to do the test again, to check I misread the information presented to me the first time. There is a part of me that still thinks I got it wrong! The average flat screen TV consumes 100 – 200 watts. My kettle eats a whopping 3000 watts, be it only for a minute.

Cables, the bane of one’s life. These are annoying and messy unless strict management is placed from the very start.

I am fortunate to have recently installed new electrics throughout my house. When this was ongoing I undertook the task of installing network ports, HDMI and speaker binding posts into walls it was required. The cables drop under the floor boards out of sight. The reason I did this was because in the front room I have a log burner and I can’t run cables from each end of the room. This solution, eliminates the need for trailing cables.

It’s worth noting that cable runs for the speakers are all measured to exactly the same length, this is OCD gone mad. I have 5 metres on the left and on the right although the left hand side does not need that length, only about one metre is actually required, but I once read you should always use exactly the same length of speaker cable for each side.

Incidentally I used Cambridge Audio Symphony 400 under the floorboards, not too costly but also not the cheapest especially with a bi-wire setup. All this is done in the name of audio nirvana. I moan about cables but I also put considerable time and effort to reap the rewards of having a cabled setup.

All the above points to a direction of it is sensible to have everything small and wireless. A lot of what I have been saying may seem wasted time and money to some people. So why can’t I convert to the more compact life. I used to travel extensive with my work, and I perfected travelling light. I could travel to the USA for a week with just one hand luggage bag. This made life a lot easier in airports and there was a good reason for me to do this.

To put it simply I wish the rate of everything getting smaller would slow down a little, because when it gets smaller a compromise becomes apparent. It’s great that my smartphone isn’t the size and weight of a brick, but it not great that if that was my music or video player. People are using these items in their homes as make shift stereos and display devices for streaming services!

Today’s market is all about cramming as many features into something. I have an iPad, which is brilliant for mobile browsing on while I am out and about. I could also read books on but I don’t, I use a Kindle for that (it’s easier on my eyes) or an actual book. I also don’t use the iPad to watch stuff in my home.

I could use my smartphone to enter always my appointments into, but I don’t I use a diary, because I don’t want to forget how to write. As good as touch screen is fingers just don’t seem smaller enough to type on my phone without spending a percentage of that time correcting predictive text or just typo’s.

Finally I could just buy a £200 all in one CD/MP3/Bluetooth/Airplay/DAB/Internet Radio/FM/Spotify/8-Track/Tape/Vinyl/Cassette/Wi-Fi/Streaming stereo with built in speakers. But I don’t. The reason for this, quite a few of them I don’t need and if I did have a need for all of them then I want to enjoy those formats for what they are, and the all in one feature packed units will play every one of those formats badly, making me wish I never bought it in the first place.
 

cheeseboy

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nsr1200 said:
I’m a true believer that pop music is designed to sound good on the cheapest in ear headphones, docks and boom boxes. In fact if you produce pop music then you should make your music in 24-bit audio, bounce it down to 16-bit audio, make it into a 128kb mp3 and play it on the cheapest, poorest quality player you can find. If it sounds legible on that, then it will sound good on pretty much everything else.

erm, quite a lot of producers will do this. As well as running studio monitors for mixing they will also have something small and rubbish to see what it sounds like on that. But no, it's not designed like that, or in fact exclusive to pop music, it's just something that's generally done.

nsr1200 said:
To put it simply I wish the rate of everything getting smaller would slow down a little, because when it gets smaller a compromise becomes apparent.

y'see I'd disagree. It's also just technology moving on and things getting smaller as a result of that. Electronics and computers are case in point of that. Whereas once you needed a massive circuit board, a handful of pots and everything else, that can now all go on one small chip. No compromise, just things moving on.
 

nsr1200

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Good point, but there has to be a limit to how small something can get. I have an 11 inch laptop that never gets used, but the 13 inch laptop is used all the time. The ipad is the smallest of the above and get used even more.... its all about application of use or intended use.
 

nsr1200

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cheeseboy said:
nsr1200 said:
I’m a true believer that pop music is designed to sound good on the cheapest in ear headphones, docks and boom boxes. In fact if you produce pop music then you should make your music in 24-bit audio, bounce it down to 16-bit audio, make it into a 128kb mp3 and play it on the cheapest, poorest quality player you can find. If it sounds legible on that, then it will sound good on pretty much everything else.

erm, quite a lot of producers will do this. As well as running studio monitors for mixing they will also have something small and rubbish to see what it sounds like on that. But no, it's not designed like that, or in fact exclusive to pop music, it's just something that's generally done.

I would say this done in certain genres but not all. But you are right quite alot of prducers do this, but not all.
 

Jota180

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With a NAS and it's streaming software, your music and internet radio are just a DAC/AMP and speakers away Or, if you really want to minimise the number of boxes, speakers with a DAC and amp built in. So all you have is your NAS and Active speakers plus the NAS's Ipad/Android app to control it.
 

ID.

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Whatever works for you really. If I had the space I'd like more boxes.

To be honest, I think some of what you are ranting about it ignorant generalization. It's fine if you don't want to incorporate your phone or portable media player into your system, but you seem to willfully ignore the fact that these can be used for high quality playback. You could turn your iPhone into a hi-rez portable player feeding a digital signal into a DAC. Just because you aren't interested in using those options doesn't mean that they aren't valid and capable of producing true hi-fi sound.

There are, as mentioned, also some rather high end all in one type systems (just add speakers).

Why can't you get more compact? I don't think you are really interested in it and have no need for it.

I think even my ideal bigger system would be something like a Linn streamer, using an iPad as a remote, with a chunky Luxman integrated amp with old school battleship engineering running some floorstanding speakers. Or maybe just put some floorstanders on the end of my Esoteric RZ-1. But, really, there are so many options and ways to go. The active speakers in my office system sound wonderful too.

From the look of your system it looks to have built up nicely. As a former Alpha 9 owner I'd love to hear it. Always wondered how mine would sound with some better speakers and a power amp. It also sounds like you have placed most of your kit nicely (racks, cabling, etc.) which makes it seem even less likely that you have any necessity to go compact at the moment. Ignore what people say. You are among friends here. Many of us understand the joys of having a listening room full of kit. You're loving the sound aren't you? That's all that really matters.
 

CnoEvil

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ID. said:
I think even my ideal bigger system would be something like a Linn streamer, using an iPad as a remote, with a chunky Luxman integrated amp with old school battleship engineering running some floorstanding speakers.

*good*
 

nsr1200

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I am ranting somewhat! I am loving the sound at the moment. The Arcams are lovely together. It amazes me as they are around 15 years old, and they sound as fresh as a daisy. Simple yet effective and sizeable.
 

ellisdj

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CnoEvil said:
ellisdj said:

Nothing I haven't heard before.....it's just another opinion. *wink*

*biggrin*

I am with the op, It doesnt bother me how many boxes I end up with, how big they are or how many cables etc.

Its all about how it sounds (and looks in terms of picture quality) not how it looks in terms of pretty. Each to their own in this regard - If you look at the internals of some very expensive kit - its a huge box with next to nothing in it so that could possibly be made a lot smaller.

However smaller all in one units that I have owned and seen do have compromises - there is no space for quality power supplies so they feed the kit from external smps plugged into the wall. This imo is the direct opposite of improving sound quality and therefore is the negative trade off that is suggested by the op.
 

davedotco

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As i get older I find the complexity and 'bling' factor of component hi-fi to more and more offputting. Other than a handful of beautifully made components that are pretty expensive to say the least, I find myself being drawn to a more minimalist approach.

Functionally, I think an AEX and a pair of ADM9RS would give me everything I need. Since I stream all my music, currently from Spotify, a source that I consider sub-optimal, I see little reason in going much beyond this standard.

Sure in a suitable room I could see a pair of Fabers with a Devialet or maybe some valves making something of a statement and, if I was able to make more noise, maybe a pair of bigger studio type actives, but for the moment the system mentioned would probably suit me fine.
 

relocated

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I have a pair of speakers [floor-standers] in my listening room [lounge] fed by an Apple TV. No special furniture, no cable management, no boxes; all you see is the speakers and lose yourself in the exquisite sounds they make.

I wouldn't have seperates if you paid me, would never go back to passives and could only just about do stand-mounts if I had to in the future. Contentment is a wonderful thing.
 

Native_bon

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Every one to thier own. I just purchase a HTC M8 phone due to it having one of the best amp sections in any phone, as a result can drive a good pair of head phones. I also do set the media output to my oppo player & the sound quality is just amazing. So if not for movies I could easily do away with one box.

Am actually looking to go active for music separately & get an all in one state of the act home cinema system. For me it looks like the way forward is smaller & smarter.
 

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