The 5 Most Common Mistakes We See With Hifi Setups

The 5 Most Common Mistakes We See With Hifi Setups

Don't Make These Hifi Setup Mistakes

We see A LOT of hifi setups. Naturally. And it blows our collective minds how often we come across these basic mistakes. Its not anyone's fault really - sometimes people genuinely don't know, or weren't told by the store that they bought it from or the people they got it from.

Here's the five most common mistakes that we come across, and our tips on how to not make them. 

Looking a product in isolation without considering the system it's going in

In general, hifi setups consist of fully active systems like the KEF LS60 and the Linn 360 Exakt, which are straightforward systems that just work, or a system made up of separate components, like streamers, amps and speakers. The latter is generally improved over time, with customers choosing to gradually improve their system over time. 

We often have customers with the latter sort of system, i.e. made up of separate components, wanting to upgrade a part of their system, e.g. their amplifiers, or their speakers, or their cables. Sometimes, they'll go off and buy it from some place else, maybe another store, or off a second-hand site someplace. All excited, they get it home, and despite all the specifications and the reviews saying that their new purchase should be the long-awaited upgrade they've been longing, they are bitterly disappointed.

This is because hifi is more complicated than that - after all, they are called "hifi systems". Its the system that produces the result, not the individual product. When we receive an enquiry from a customer wishing to buy a product, we NEVER just say, "sure, you can have it" without asking a whole heap of other questions.

What makes up the rest of your system? How big is your room? What sort of music sources to you use? How, and who, interacts with your system? All these facets factor into the final result of the system. You might get lucky a few times just adding something without considering these factors, but more often than not, you end up with a system that's just "different", not "better" - or worst case, you end up with an inferior system.

This leads us to another related topic - where you get your information from. 

There's too many sources of extreme opinion out there, and worse still, its too easy to express an uninformed opinion. People will often hear a system and make a snap judgement on it without truly assessing if their opinion is correct or not, and what other factors they may or may not have considered, beyond just the product. "XYZ brand makes crap things", or "this type of amplification topology sounds a certain way". The fact is, you need to spend a lot of time in front of product, listening, testing all sorts of combinations (like we do).

Not taking the time to make sure your speakers are centimetre-perfect

Even though we do this every single day, it still blows our minds just how much impact moving a speaker a centimetre makes in a room. A centimetre too far forward or back, left or right, changes the performance of the speaker dramatically. 

Its something that some people don't want you to know about, as its far easier to just sell someone a pair of speakers, bring it over to your house, dump it...about there, take the money and go. Ok, we get it, it takes time, and time is money, but particularly if someone is spending even $5000, don't you want to make sure they get the best out of their speakers?

We have a whole other article about how you can get the most out of your speakers, and the best part about it.. its free!

Thinking that subwoofers don't have a place in a stereo setup

Particularly in the past, and even sometimes today, stereo enthusiasts turn their nose up at subwoofers, thinking that somehow adding subwoofers to your stereo setup is a shortcut, or it means that your speakers are not good enough.

This is absolute and utter nonsense.

Its based on a common fallacy, that is, that all subwoofers do is give you more bass. Yes, they give more bass, but that's not ALL they do. They give you bass coverage, and they fix the inadequacies of ALL loudspeakers, no matter what brand, type, size or cost they are. 

Again, we have another article about subwoofers, and why it matters in a stereo setup.

Not considering the shelf you put your equipment on

This is one of our favourite demonstrations to do in the shop. We take a streamer, any streamer. We put the streamer on the floor and play a song. We then take the same streamer and put it on a coffee table. Then, we put the same streamer and put it on a rack from HRS. And it sounds better, and better, and better. 

All electronics have parts that make mechanical vibrations. You can't see it, but you can measure it. And how well the surface you put your electronics on can control and dissipate those vibrations has a huge effect on their abilities to do their job. 

Check out this article to find out more about chassis isolation.

Thinking cables don't matter

If you're still one of those cable deniers, that it can't possibly make a difference, that its all snake oil, then... well... you're doing yourself a disservice. Too often opinions on cables brings the worst out of humans. Look at any social media thread or forum where someone dares to ask about cables, and watch the swathes of entitled keyboard warrior trolls come out who shout and scream so loudly saying that no cables can possibly make a difference, despite (a) never having even bothering to try the cables themselves, and (b) they can't afford it so seek to belittle anyone that can in a pathetic effort to justify their own existence on this Earth. 

Sorry if we got a bit heated there. 

We're certainly not saying that every cable manufacturer out there is producing quality product, but just because there's a few bad actors out there, it doesn't automatically discredit every manufacturer. 

Fundamentally, cables act as a passive filter. All they can do is lose data from the signal path - they can't add anything. So a stance that every reasonable person can get behind is that the sole job of a cable is not to lose data when transmitting from one device to the next. Turns out this is a lot harder than it seems, and cable manufacturers spend collective billions to solve this issue.

In short, the better the cable, the less data it loses.  

The easiest way to decide for yourself, is simply to try a decent cable. Let your ears be the judge. 

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