A POINT OF VIEW: Levels of Fi

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Paul McGowan writes:

My friend Seth writes: “Mid-Fi is what we call a system that’s more reliable than the very high-end, closer to the juiciest part of the price/performance curve and sounds fabulous.

Mid-Fi owners understand that swapping out anything to go to the next level means that they will be either giving up reliability or money for largely unhearable results.“

There’s a lot going on in this thought. Let’s take it apart. It’ll be helpful on our journey to building a mid-level system.

First, let’s change the lexicon: Mid-Fi is a judgment, Mid-Level is a category.

I prefer categories to judgments.

There is no doubt that Mid-Level systems are the juiciest part of the price/performance curve relative to their more expensive counterparts. Mid-Level systems give 80% of the performance for a lot less money. It’s the Law of Diminishing Returns. Increased input no longer provides linear output benefits.

Going to a higher level can often marginalize reliability, but not in the way you might think. High-Level products are no more prone to breaking than Mid-Level. No, this is reliability of a different nature. Performance.

Mid-Level performance can be counted on to a greater extent than edge products, though their downside is pasteurization—smaller risks offer fewer gains. Most music sounds good on Mid-Level systems. Rarely does it sound fabulous. More often than not, Mid-Level systems tend to be less resolving: poor to good recordings sound fine, exceptional sounds better, few drop jaws. You can count on these systems to provide reliable, consistent results.

Contrast that to rarified High-Level systems whose double-edged performance accentuates the good as well as the bad.

High-Level systems are noticeably better than Mid-Level, but the juiciest center cut is Mid-Level.

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