In Part 1, we talked about the importance of the speakers and speaker placement, as well as acoustics and make-up of the space itself. Now let’s dive into what drives the sound.
At the heart of your system is amplification, driving sound to each channel. Unlike a Home Theater’s AV Receiver that houses an all-in-one pre-amp, amplifier and processor for surround sound, hi-end audio systems have dedicated amplifiers and often one per channel. A more sophisticated set-up will have 2-way or 3-way amps that support each speaker. A pre-amp serves as the input device, converting signals from all audio sources such as streaming devices, tuners and turntable to the signal that the amp wants. It’s imperative that the amplifier be matched to the specifications of the speaker to provide optimal output. All Digital can guide you through your choices. One of our favorites is Marantz. They offer a diverse range of components and have recently launched a new line specifically for the serious music lover, the Premium 10 Series. The design and engineering of the 10 Series is extraordinary and an excellent choice for a hi-end listening environment.
We’ve learned that HDMI Cables are required to pass 4K. Audio has similar requirements and, like video, quality cables are recommended for a solid, clean connection. That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, just of good quality and appropriately sized for the application. We can calculate the appropriate gauge cable that delivers the necessary wattage to the speaker as required based on the distance. Gold connectors are preferred over silver or other metallic. Locking connectors are a good choice where equipment is not to be moved frequently.
Having clean and sufficient power is critical. Every system needs a name brand, purposely built, surge protector. Surge protection will remove artifacts from your power, filtering out spikes and dips. Insufficient power can make the amplifiers put out harmonics that will color the sound and create distortion, producing unclean sound.
Once the system has been designed and components selected, the next step is installation and commissioning. The system will be “tuned” to the room so that the room does not “color” the sound. As an audio pro, we will test the room’s characteristics, reverb, etc. We aim for a flat frequency response by adjusting equalization (EQ), gain structure and speaker placement.
“Old-School” tells us that a turntable’s needle against vinyl is the purest form of music. It can be argued that the harmonic distortion created introduces a mild distortion that is perceived as warmth. The pops and crackles evoke a “vintage” sense that some find pleasing and authentic. However, according to Mark Slee of Facebook, “In terms of fidelity and accuracy of sonic reproduction, CDs outperform vinyl in significant ways. With that said, there are sonic artifacts and emotional attachments with vinyl that many people find pleasing. This yields a preference for vinyl - which some would describe as better, but this is a subjective quality as measured by the ear of the beholder.” With turntable sales up 16%, there’s apparently some ears out there with that preference.
The higher the bit rate, the more accurate the audio. Analog is uncompressed and true to the original. Overly processed audio, on the other hand, can mask or cancel parts of the music, eliminating hearing everything as it was mastered.
All things being equal, the more information a format can transmit, the better the sound will be. For the best experience, that transmitted sound should pass through quality cabling and components and be listened to in a space that is purposefully designed to capture every nuance. Are you ready to hear what you’ve been missing? Let our team at All Digital help design or retrofit your personal listening space and experience music as it was meant to be.