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The advanced HIFI school, that explain everything...

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The advanced HIFI school

This school include practically everything you need to know, before you buy some HiFi equipment and especially, to get a more natural sound... But some fine tip (for example how to select right equipment) will you only find here on the first page, of the Best Buy guide!

The loudspeakers, is always the most important... And the absolute first thing, you have to select... Even before you can see, how strong amplifier you need and if you need a subwoofer... And you must first decide if you want a home cinema setup OR only play music... Remember that almost every film and even television, sound great in a good home cinema (which doesn't have to be expensive) and you are also able to play any music as surround, with help of the ProLogic II function... And even music can sound better - especially bigger and more natural - in a fine home cinema setup... But the main speakers IS always vital for playing music and you should normally avoid small front speakers, that desperately need a subwoofer - because they use to be of too low quality and they might also "split up" the sound stage...
It's a lot bigger variation, between the sound from different loudspeakers, than between any other HiFi equipment... So walk first around and listen, with help of a familiar CD or an own MD recording (that have very clear fine sound in good earphones) and don't be satisfied before you have found loudspeakers, that sound almost as good as fine earphones...
You should also adjust the bass and treble, for any speakers which then can sound lovely and you must normally compensate the bad speakers (with xbass and equalizer or tone controls) in a mini stereo, to get the best (most natural and balanced) sound... But remember that many audio video amplifier disconnect the bass and treble, when you play in home cinema mode... And you can not even connect a good equalizer to most home cinema receivers, so that might be a big problem... Okay, the perfect speaker in a perfect location, don't need any compensation - but we don't live in a perfect world and the music, may not be perfect recorded either... Your speakers should in first hand give you an clear, open and not very "boxy" midrange (type not hollow voices, as in a tunnel or bathroom) plus an airy, very detailed but soft treble (the high frequencies) and deep, detailed (not just booomy) bass... You should in short, not hear any trace of the speaker, only the music...
OBS: Your brain does forget 50% of the sound qualities in just a few seconds, so you should shift directly between the different speakers and adjust the tone controls, at the same time... The best method is to first listen for a clear open sound, with some deep detailed bass and then compare the best ones, at the same sound level and with fast tone adjustments... You should also select some reference models (which may be worse, but in most shops) so you can compare speakers in different shops, with help of the known reference... One extra problem, is that a locations of the bass (or midrange) element close to the floor (or just a wide shelf) give a more "boxy" sound and the speakers should always be directed straight at your head, so you must sometimes kneel a bit!
Then sound most loudspeakers, more and less cloudy (as under a cover) at low volumes, mainly because the week signal can't control the cones movement and only a few speakers, have a magnificent magnet system that really lock the movement, to the signal... So compare loudspeakers, both at normal and very low volume... You may otherwise get a speaker with very muddy sound, at a soft volume... Click here for my speaker recommendations, in the best buy guide...
Small speakers, give you a very limited bass (either in depth, or in high volume and normally in both way) or a split up sound, when some "high" bass comes from a sub woofer (somewhere else) and then very often interfere with the other speakers OR make a "hole" in the sound image, if the high bass is missing...
How to place the speakers... To get a good sound image, should it be the same distance between the main front speaker, as the distance to you and the speaker should be directed right at your head... Or sometimes, to a point just in front of you...
If you buy speakers for a home cinema... Should the different speakers sound "good together" with the front speakers and mainly have a similar sound... Especially the centre and front speakers, otherwise will some movement from let to right, sound strange in the middle... But the back speaker and even the centre, may be a lot smaller... Even if I have the same (giant) model as centre, as the two front speakers, to get the same frequencies response... Fine head phones are naturally an excellent alternative and in addition a lot cheaper!
If you like to play both loud and clean... Then must you normally play with less deep bass OR select very big and well made loudspeakers, with at least 12 to 15" bass element, if you in addition want deep good bass... Sub woofers are an alternative, but they have other problems, even if you place them exactly between the front speakers... Then is the speakers sensitivity vital, because you actually need a 1300 watt amplifier (!!) with normal "lazy" speakers, to get exactly the same sound level as 65 watt and very sensitive speakers, type mine... We measure the sound level in DB and 3db is the smallest change you easy notice with normal music, according to the experts and 10db is twice as loud or half the sound level... But if you select directly between two machines, can you hear a difference of only 1db... Then is 3db the same as twice (or half) the power in watt... Plus 1db equal watt x 1.26 and a change of 10db need 10 times more (or less) watt... That may appear strange, but you can see the effect on an recorders meters and if you want to raise the volume with 10db from 20 watt, will that need 200 watt and that's the same as 3+3+3+1db (same 10db) which will need 40, 80, 160 and 200 watt... And because home speakers, give from 88db at one watt, to incredible 102db at one watt, is the speakers sensitively a lot more important than the amplifiers power... My loudspeakers gives for example 114db at modest 20 watt (101db at 1w, 111db 10w and 114 at 20w) and "ordinary lazy" speakers need 400 watt, to give the same sound level (88db at 1w, 91db 2w, 101db 20w, 111db 200w & 114db 400w) but my loudspeakers can even handle 500 watt continuously and give incredible 128db clean soft sound (up to 140db clean sound is not dangerous) with deep bass...
Finally, the double distance give you -6db and the sound from a mowing leaf is 10-20db, distant park birds 30db, very quiet ventilation 40db, a bumblebee 50db, normal conversation 60db, town traffic 80db, the limit at work 85db without ear protection, a train passing close 90db, normal disco 98db, a pneumatic drill and max at disco 110db, record average at an concert 112db, the pain threshold for noise 120db, a jet engine 25m away or pistol close 140db, a canon shot and direct ear damage 180db!
Oops, I forgot to mention that music normally have peaks, that are 10db stronger (classical music 20-40db) than the average level and that may be important when you choose your amplifier... So if you want to play at 98db on parties and select a speaker with 92db/w/m sensitively, will you need an amplifier that give you 1 watt, plus 6db (92db1w, 95db2w & 98db4w) and 10db for the peaks, sum 40 watt... Or 80 watt at only 89db/w/m sensitivity and my speaker needs 5 watt!

Then must You figure out, what's most important for You... After the speakers and head phones, is the most basic sound equipment a good amplifier or receiver (with Dolby Digital, for home cinema) a nice DVD player and maybe a tuner... And you find advice about that equipment, in the best buy guide... Then should you especially consider following aspects and possibilities...
You should FIRST remove the "boxy" sound and open up the music, with a good equalizer... You have probably notice (even if its easy to get used to slightly bad sounds) that recorded music sound slightly more "boxy" or "like in a cave" than in real life and I suspect, that the reason is that the first "straight" reference measurements, actually had a "bump" just above the middle bass area (at 125 to 250hz) and even if that have been adjusted in two step (with a big "sound adjustment" between 1930 and 1970 and finally a smaller until about 1985 in recorded music) does it still sound slightly boxy!
But if you adjust that smart, will you get a more open and natural sound, with exactly the same level of bass and midrange... You simply lower 125hz with 6db, 250hz 4db, 500 hz 2db and compensate the lower high bass, by raising 64hz with 6db... This setting is normally the best for fine modern recordings, that already is adjusted in this direction... As long as your speaker not sound extra boxy too, or you got bad reflexes from the floor... Then need many bad recordings some extra adjustment, just as older recordings, that you know sound even more boxy... But any extra adjustments is best to do with a second equalizer, so you never have to change the main setting... Or on a digital equalizer, with a memory for the main setting!
Then may you also need to fine adjust bass and treble, with the main equalizer - as advanced tone controls, plus compensate for a bad room acoustics or if your speakers not are perfect... You can in addition make miracles with the deep bass... Because you can raise the deep or middle bass, without lifting the boxy high bass!
And finally can you also correct really bad recordings (with very strange bass or treble) before you make a perfect copy... But that is best to do with a second equalizer (simply connected between your amplifier and recorder) so you never have to change the main settings, as I wrote above...
But you should always let the equalizers controls balance around the "zero" level (so the db adjustments above zero, equal and balance the db below zero) otherwise will you get bad distortion or simply change the volume!
The sad part, is that only very few companies sell really fine separate equalizers (now days) that not are too expensive or add noise and stuff... And it is normally impossible to connect an equalizers (for main adjustment) to a home cinema receiver... But a few extra smart companies as Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, Harman/Kardon and Pioneer has now fine digital equalizers in their finest receivers - that work on every channel and add even less noise or distortion, compared with the best separate... Click here for the equalizer part in the best buy guide...

If you like to record some music... Then is a fine MiniDisc recorder OR high quality digital recordings (trough a fine sound card) on a HDD or SDD completely superior - compared to any tape recorder (including DAT, self destroying CD-r or DVD-r) and most MD recorders OR even 190kbps MP3 (with Lame encoding) give you extremely exact copies, that is practically impossible to separate from the original... Even if you switch directly between a running original and the copy, with the same volume... Yes, it's normally a bigger difference between different CD players... And tape loose quality with time, can make a nasty tape salad and will begin to dissolve (!) after 10 years... The minimal MD are in other hand extremely durable, for more than one million new recordings and will probably never wear out... Then can you move the tracks, split them up, give them long fine names, delete bad tracks and record new ones, replace a short track with a longer (!) combine two tracks and cut away a part of a song (just like files in a computer) if you like... With MiniDisc can you in addition make high quality outdoors recordings, of everything from birds to church organs, if you only get a fine microphone... Then can more friends play CDr's and want you to "burn" for them (if you have that possibility) but that means, that they let your MD collection be intact...
You can even buy one of the "old" tiny MD recorders, that are very portable and actually sound perfect... Some say they sound "almost as good" but I can actually not hear any difference (either to my home deck or the original CD music) even with my extremely analytic earphones... And it's even very hard (practically impossible) to hear any difference (in a blind test) between analog and digital inputs... So you can always correct or adjust the tone curve (type bad bass, boxy sound or annoying treble) if you have a fine equalizer and get optimal recordings... Click here for the finest MD recorders and info about the interesting HiMD alternatives, in the best buy guide...
And you can especially make delicious collections (compilations) with a MD recorder and then make them better & better... You may first sort the music in logic categories, after different "moods" and then easy play music, that really fit your feelings or inspire you... My own categories are (with higher and higher dynamic) Romantic classic, Great classic, Spain, Cool, Dream, Sexy, Reggae, Great, Disco, Action, Rock and Test... And I number the collections, with 1-4 for truly delicious or better tracks, plus 5-9 for discs with interesting music... Most of my music get recorded in these "collection" discs, sorted with the finest tracks first and then have I naturally separate discs, for some very special artists with more than 6 fine tracks (sometimes with two to four artists on one disc) in the right category...
I do also a very careful equalization, before I record any track, to get as perfect and natural sound as possible, without any of the usual "boxy" effect and naturally optimized bass and treble... With help of a separate recording equalizer and this save many lovely songs, that is almost awful in their "original" state of misery... And that do also mean that I can make a digital copy of my collection, because I did transfer the music analogue and the system let you copy digitally one time... Play then the copy and keep the original safe, so you can make a new copy if the first one get stolen!
You can even select your own sound environment, with a MD recorder... Just record or copy real backgrounds (as birds or a forest stream) place extra track marks, after the fade in and before fade out AND then play the middle track, with continuous repeat!
And If you ONLY want to buy great music... Grade the tracks, with 5 for interesting (or a delicious track, with something irritating) 10 for just delicious 20 fantastic 30 heavenly (you can still see the heaven) 40 magic (that I only found four times) and then buy any CD that get minimum 30 points... It's also a very accurate way, to sort the music (using some numbers between too) on your compilations, so the best tracks really come first!!
OBS: MP3 is normally only slightly higher quality than radio, if you not use 190kbps or higher bit rate and it take too long time to load new "music" when you want to listen to something else - if you not have a player, that have room for your entire collection... But if you only record at 190kbps (with a fine soundcard and Lame codec) or higher and save on a generous player, will you naturally get all the advantages of MiniDisc - plus the fact that you always can have your entire music collection with you, the big display make it easy to manage the tracks and you never have to change discs... And then can you easy do a back up copy of your collection, too!
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And if you like film, must you naturally buy a good home cinema receiver... With Dolby Digital and some good surround speakers, which you can read more about above... Then will you get problem to place an ordinary TV on right distance (so close that you almost can see the pixels) but a very unusual solution, is to put your TV set between the left (or right) front and back speaker, with the centre speaker below!! You will then get all voices directly from the TV and the music just as you are used to, but slightly "rotated" in comparison with the TV set... And you will get a great (almost perfect) sound, with a max BIG picture!
And buy a fine DVD player... That give you twice the quality than the old VHS videos... Now comes also music on DVD records, which sometimes give you a higher sound quality than CD and you get in addition the possibility to look at films, for free... Click here for the finest DVD players, in the best buy guide...
Then should you naturally connect your DVD player, digital TV box and old HiFi video to your sound equipment... Because even a HiFi video give almost as good sound as an CD and if you record radio programs, can you fade away the talk and copy the best to your MD collections...
Digital DAB radio, should be the next step... But strangely enough was they extremely expensive, until recently and you find more about them in the best buy guide...

Why a real Loudness Control is great, on the amplifier... This is (strangely enough) very controversial... Kenwood write: "Loudness Control is a built-in EQ curve designed to compensate for the human ear's lack of sensitivity, to low and high frequencies, at low volume levels.." So a good Loudness function, give you a musically correct balance between bass - midrange - treble, even if your neighbour's want you to play under concert levels and if you like the music low... Without a real loudness (there are fakes, that just raise the bass in one fix step) you simply must adjust bass and treble, everytime you change the volume, if you want a balanced sound... Kenwood continue: "..giving music a richer, fuller (*should be natural) sound. It automatically defeats when the volume is approximately 3/4 of the maximum level." So they have a real loudness control, just as some models from Harman/Kardon... Yamaha have it on the finest stereo amplifiers and it's even adjustable, but sadly NOT on the audio video receivers... That's because Ray Dolby think that every one should play the films, at the original levels and don't care about any neighbour's!

Some problems, to avoid... You should spend most on the parts, where the difference is big and to get great possibilities (type great speakers, a fine equalizer, a good MD recorder and a basic fine DVD player) and less on equal things, as too expensive signal cables or more advanced CD players... Then does small speakers normally sound rather bad and never lovely... With the incredible JVC uxmd9000r micro stereo, that now is history, as the extreme exception!
MD vs DAT You was needing DAT if you produce music (to feel extra safe) when you store and then change the material, over and over again... But you can now save music on Hi-MD without any compression... Then need DAT machines regular cleaning and you can't be sure about dropouts, anyhow... Then is it very easy to damage tape and it will even loose quality, in time... You can't move tracks, or delete a track in the middle and record a new, that is longer or shorter... Or remix tracks, with divide and combine... MD have in addition extremely fast searching, compared to DAT and you never need to rewind the tape... You can finally record just a few songs on MD and play them continuously, without silly gaps...
Problems with CDr compared to a MD recorder... You may need a CDr, if you produce music (to feel extra safe) when you store and then change the material, over and over again OR to move a lot of computer data... But you can now save music on Hi-MD without any compression... And you can't move tracks on a CDr and improve the recording, in that way... You can't simply delete any track, you get tired of... Or replace a track in the middle, with a new version, that is longer or shorter... Or remix tracks, with divide (to 2 tracks) and combine, two tracks to one... You can't even erase a complete CDr and use it again... That's only possible with the a lot more expensive CD-rw's, but not as many times... The MD is always protected and you must be very careful with CDr's... CDs are BIG compare to the practical MDs and Portable CD players are a lot bigger... Most portable MD players, are just as "big" as three MD disc!! You can't make high quality outdoors recordings, of concerts and stuff, as you can with a portable MD if you only get a fine microphone... The re writable Cd-rw's are more expensive than MD disc, but "one time records" CDr's are little cheaper... You can in addition name every track on a MD with many letters and grades... And more friends can play CDr's and want you to "burn" for them (if you have that possibility) but that means, that they let your MD collection be intact...
Obs: Please mail us, if I did miss any good advice!

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