5 Hi-Fi Listening Room Habits for Healthy Audiophiles

I’ve made major improvements to my music listening experience over the last year, some at no cost. The following distills the top five guidelines I’ve followed to optimize my enjoyment.

  1. Rip your CD collection: The last CD I played through my Pioneer DV-47ai Universal Player sounded flat, thin and hard; the last album I played through Airtunes sounded dimensional, full-bodied and airy. What’s the difference? Could be the CD optical format is flawed and by ripping the album to a hard drive and then sending the tunes wirelessly to my Airport Express and DAC I’ve removed the CD’s bad influence on the sonics.
    MAX Brings Exact Audio Copying to the Mac
    PSP + Airtunes + Coverbuddy = Hi-Fi Music Server Dance Party – Introduction
  2. Focus on the two front channels: Although I have one AV system and set of loudspeakers for both home theater and music, I’ve sacrificed neither. My Vandersteen 1c front channels benefit from my Anthem MCA-2 stereo amplifier that is fed signals from my AV receiver for movies and video games and from my Rogue Audio 99 pre-amp for music whether from Airtunes, CD or vinyl. I overcome this AV hybrid hurdle with some interconnect splitters, in-line crossovers and the Rogue’s home theater bypass.
  3. Buy Used: If you’ve ever salivated over a Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3 but coughed on its $1000 price tag, then Audiogon‘s used and demo classified and auction marketplace has your cough drop. You can find almost any past or current hi-fi component on Audiogon for a fraction of the suggested retail price. I saved lots of cash on my Anthem MCA-2 amp and bought and sold my old Rogue 66 Pre-amp on Audiogon. Audiophiles are fickle and quick to sell components that just never synergize with their system or were replaced by the latest model.
  4. Acoustic Treatments: The room you enjoy music and movies in is acoustically flawed. You can help your ailing room with DIY acoustic treatments that cost a fraction of their equivalent commercial products.
    DIY Bass Traps
    DIY Acoustic Panels and Listening
  5. Measure Your Sonics: After installing your used stereo separates, ripping all your CDs and acoustically treating your early reflections you’ll want to measure your results. The measurements will point out problems in your room and peculiarities of your equipment. If you are lucky they’ll reveal the benefits of your equipment and acoustic treatments with flatter frequency responses and faster reverberation decays.
    Measuring Your Subwoofer with Room Equalization Wizard
    Final Sub Measurements

What factors enter into your buying and building decisions when you’re trying to better your listening experience for music and movies?

2 thoughts on “5 Hi-Fi Listening Room Habits for Healthy Audiophiles

  • September 22, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    Although ripping cds is nice and convenient, nothing will beat the original sound of the cd. You need a new cd player if you think the sound quality is less. Thats a really ridiculous thing to suggest, ripping all your cds? It’s a good idea to have backups, but come on, thats just plain misleading to say ripped music sounds better than real cds on proper hi-fi equipment which you seem to have a good handle on.

  • September 23, 2006 at 6:19 am

    I was intrigued by this 6moons article on how commercial CDs can have flaws, and was excited when I heard the difference: http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/eac/eac.html

    I’m not always comparing apples to apples, though. The big difference between Airtunes and my 47ai playback is the Taddeo Digital Antidote II (which seems to be overcompensating with the room acoustically treated), if I remove that device then the differences may be more subtle or inaudible. Another factor could be jitter, as far as I can tell from magazine article measurements, the Airport Express has lower jitter than the Pioneer.

    I know CD playback can sound great for a price, I spent 6 months with an Arcam CD33T loaner for a review. I’m simply getting more value out of Airtunes and Apple Lossless playback until I can afford an Arcam or Ayre player.


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