Guest writer from Germany, Lothar Kissinger writes:
Well, most of us had to decide this at some time; it remains one of the most discussed topics at many, many fora and blogs. My advice – as so many have said before me is to just trust your ears and don't let anybody tell you what you DON'T like. That said ….
When you enter a shop, you sometimes start with the WRONG priorities: Black or silver? Blue, white or red lights? Special brand name and more distractions.
Silly thing to do?
Yes, of course it is, as you want to listen to your new Hifi and not just sit there and watch it. But nevertheless, haven't we all decided in favour of one of these unimportant things sometimes?
After that, many ask for POWER – just as car owners like powerful cars.
This of course can easily lead you in the wrong direction, especially if you have read the "wrong" reviews first that suggest that power is everything and /or a certain brand name guarantees you the Hifi experience of your life.
Even worse if they told you what amps are not worth considering – although you might find its sound quite pleasing.
So it all boils down to the fact: listen and then ... look later!
You might find an amp that you like a lot, although it is not a powerhouse, maybe not even a brand name or got a real bad review recently. Why care about bad reviews as long as you are real happy with it ?
Of course an important part of your decision has to be how big your listening room is, either huge, more like a state room at Buckingham Palace, or small and cozy. And very important of course is how efficient your speakers are. The technical freaks and reviewers will damn me for such a simple view, but whatever your ears like is fine with you!
My Quad II power amps
It is amazing what a mere 15 Quad II valve watts per channel can do with very efficient speakers!
In my opinion best thing you could do is a blind audition. Most of the time this will not be possible or at least quite difficult in Germany. A dealer offering sale or return is one solution; comprehensive home demonstrations are another.
So I try not to concentrate on the "hardware" but just listen and switch between amps and whole systems if possible – always making sure that each substitution is heard at exactly the same sound pressure level as the preceding one. Do not rely on your ears for determining the spl. Some audiophiles take a sound pressure meter to demonstrations just for this purpose. It’s strange, and a bit dispiriting just how few specialist retailers are able to comply with such an uncomplicated attention to detail.
Of course you might end up with a system that does not look as good as the one you had in mind, but at least you won't regret listening to it, as this is what you want to do, right?
If in the end, you find an amp, turntable, system you just LOVE listening to, you have found the Holy Grail ! If the shop owner has to tell you that they want to close for the day, but YOU just can't stop listening.....THEN tell them you found what you were looking for.
I just don't care about the most explicit technical finesse, especially as this is double-dutch for me. If someone does not like the same Hifi as I do, so what? That's life!
And even my poor ears are well over the ‘Best before“ date, meaning most people would be amazed how much LESS they can hear at the age of fifty or over, compared with the time they were 20 or 30. This fact alone can make people like different Hifi.
So trust your eyes and your ears (and your bank account) and you will be quite happy.
Lothar is the founder and driving force behind http://www.lothar-kissinger.de/lecson-audio/htm/strathearn.htm