Tag Archives: Essay

My current system and how I got there

I first got into hi-fi in my senior year of high school. I had already been a bit of a video/home theater geek, so the extension came pretty naturally. My first setup was some hulking Aiwa minisystem and a Denon automatic turntable. I soon decided that the Aiwa’s onboard CD player was woefully inadequate so I hooked up some cheap Hitachi DVD player that had a 24/96 upsampling DAC (pardon my jargon so early in a beginner blog!) and used that to play discs. Overall, the sound probably wasn’t that bad, but in my mind it was still nowhere near hi-fi.

I eventually saved up enough to replace the weakest link in my system – the speakers. I went to the area hi-fi store and after laying out my budget and requirements, he left me alone in a listening room to A/B compare two candidates. I settled on the Energy C-1, a neat little pair of bookshelf speakers that I still use to this day. That summer after graduation, I managed to get my first full time job that I held for a few months before I started college. Instead of saving my money wisely, I went kinda nuts and put most of my earnings into building my system. The ugly, cheap minisystem I had used as an amp was replaced by a NAD C320BEE , the Denon was put away for a Pro-Ject Debut II, and the DVD was put back to DVD playing duties to be replaced by a Sony SACD changer.

Save for a few cable changes and vibration isolation tweaks, my system has remained mostly the same since then. And i’m pleased with the sound…mostly. There’s a lot more that can be done. My next big purchase will be speakers, which I feel are always the weakest link in any system. The Energys have served me well over the years, but it’s time to move up to floorstanders, mostly for the better overall frequency response, but also cause they look cooler! I’m thinking of the Polk Audio TSi400 , as it is nearest to my budget right now. When and if I get them, i’ll be sure to post a review.

It’s interesting to note that nearly every piece of equipment in my system is no longer manufactured. For example, the entry level NAD integrated amp is now the NAD C326BEE which is practically the same as mine performance-wise but has additional features like a line-in jack on the front for MP3 player hookup and a subwoofer connector.

Here’s a couple pics of how my system looks now (yes, my listening room is really bare right now, i’ll fix it, I promise!):

Full list of equipment used:

Amplifier – NAD C320BEE

Turntable – Pro-Ject Debut II

Phono Preamp – NAD PP-2

CD/SACD Player – Sony SCD-CE595

Speakers – Energy C-1

Vibration control – Vibrapods (under turntable), Vibrapod Cones (under SACD)

An introduction

I guess it’s appropriate for my first ever blog post to explain what this thing is all about. I created this site with the idea of promoting hi-fi audio as something anyone can afford and enjoy. Hence the tongue-in-cheek name “hi-fi hipster”, as i’ll cover equipment that one could afford with, say, their trust fund money or Starbucks paychecks (i’m half-kidding here).

Too often hi-fi and the audiophile world is ridiculed as the anal-retentive hobby of aging white males with too much money. People scoff, and with good reason, at turntables that cost more than a Mercedes E-Class, $485 volume knobs, and bags of magic rocks that enhance your system’s sound..somehow. How could these possibly be better, they say? Isn’t an iPod good enough?

Indeed, most of this stuff can be chalked up to placebo effect, conspicuous consumption, confirmation bias, and “the rule of cool” (and these are all topics that i’ll cover in future posts). But in a world where people are mostly content with listening to their music through the medium of 96kbit/s MP3s ripped from overcompressed CDs, good 2-channel stereo sound is a sadly dying art. This is why I decided to make this blog; to prove that enjoyable sound can be had for a reasonable price.

This blog is also a learning journey for myself, as I only got into hi-fi about 5 years ago. My current system is modest and my LP collection remains fairly small. I plan to document any changes to to my equipment I make, as well as reviewing new recordings that I get (as well as old favorites). I think this will present an unique perspective, as I’m not a seasoned audiophile like professional reviewers, who have listened to millions of dollars worth of high end equipment.

And since I haven’t been at this for very long, I make no claims of being an expert. At this point, I could barely tell you what a decibel or signal-to-noise ratio is. But I have learned a few things, and I can give recommendations appropriate for anyone getting into this hobby. If you take exception to anything I post, feel free to leave a comment, so I can learn, and so others may too.