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The Draw of High-End Audio

Christian Sterner

Posted on October 26, 2017 00:51

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You can spend a lot on equipment to make music sound better than average, but why would you?

My fascination with High-End Audio started back in 1992 when I saw a little magazine called Stereophile. It was actually little, like they were hiding something. It was filled with reviews and ads from companies I'd never heard of.  Instead of familiar names like Bose, JBL, Fisher and Yamaha, the names were Mark Levinson, Martin Logan, Apogee and Conrad-Johnson.

How could this underworld exist under my nose, and why did people care? My love for music has always made me want to get closer to it; I strained to hear every breath, click and detail from my cheap all-in-one system, but I never obsessed about it. I carry with me the belief that even though a great system could be neat, what I love is the memory of the melody, and any system can probably convey that. I think that music played on an inexpensive system is not many times worse than on a system that costs many times more.   

The good news for people in my tax bracket is that technology has enabled inexpensive systems to sound really good, as you have probably noticed. That has finally had a trickle-up effect in the High-End audio world where although prices remain stratospheric for esoteric equipment, there are several systems that offer amazing value. 

For instance, there are high-end speakers that don't need anything but your phone and an electrical outlet to play any song ever recorded with clarity and depth. The advent of streaming services, Class-D amplifiers and clever industrial design have made redundant much of the equipment that I saw in that tiny magazine all those years ago. 

Music is good for the soul no matter the technology, so why would you consider spending more? I had an experience with reproduced music once in Eugene, Oregon. I decided to check out Bradfords HiFi one afternoon after reading that Stereophile magazine from cover to cover. I walked into a space with high ceilings and racks of equipment and speakers. What I heard was someone playing the piano.

I was pretty astonished to find there was no piano in sight. It was being reproduced by large planar-magnetic speakers made by Magnepan.  This was shock and awe and it stopped me in my tracks. From that moment, I realized technology could bring me closer to the music I loved.

Christian Sterner

Posted on October 26, 2017 00:51

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