Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Audio Critic

I've changed the way I think about audio gear, and I thank The Audio Critic for this new, enlightened philosophy. Since my leap into McIntosh territory I've been seriously wondering just how different high-end audio gear sounds than, say, well-made middle-of-the-road consumer gear. People talk about different amplifiers being "voiced" differently with some having greater depth, warmth, staging, imaging. I've always been suspect of this, yet have used some of these words to describe my own units (just read any of my previous posts).

The audio critic dives deep into the debate surrounding subjective reviews of gear as well as interconnects and speaker cable. It debunks the tweako audio custists by providing A/B/X blind testing to see if they can really hear the differences that they claim they can. Check out the back issues for all of these tests.

This page further explains The Audio Critic's scientific, objective approach to audio engineering design.

Tell me if this rings true. This is written by Peter Aczel, the publisher of The Audio Critic:

"Does a high-end (i.e., Krell, Mark Levinson, Spectral, etc.) power amplifier or preamplifier sound better than a typical mid-priced (i.e. Pioneer, Sony, Yamaha, etc.) unit? The educated answer is - why should it? The mid-priced equipment also has high input impedance, low output impedance, flat frequency response, low distortion, and low noise - and that is what we can hear. There is no such thing as an effect without a cause, and there is nothing to cause the high-end equipment ot sound better."

So, how do I feel after spending thousands on my McIntosh equipment while reading The Audio Critic? Fine - believe it or not. I never expected my new amplifiers to sound better than my mid-70s Sansui AU-717, but McIntosh affords other benefits, like better build quality, greater reliability, more beautiful appearance (another subjective view), better retention of value, greater pride of ownership (sometimes), more attentive treatment by the company in case help is needed.

What makes the biggest difference in sound in your system? High-end cable companies want you to believe its your interconnects and speaker cable. McIntosh and Krell want you to believe it's their amplifiers, preamps, and CD players. The REAL answer: It's speakers, followed closely by room acoustics. If you want to improve the sound of your system and you already have decent gear that's performing properly, put your money into speakers, not a better amplifier.

I'm done preaching :) Read a few back issues of The Audio Critic and get back to me with your feelings about the publication and what they say about gear. You can leave a comment here or just send me an email. If I get enough emails I'll string them together into a post. Thanks!

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