Choosing a Music System

If you love music but know nothing about hi-fi, how do you choose a good music system?

Everybody you ask will offer a different opinion on which music system is best for you.  As you are the one who is going to live with it, it turns out that you are probably the best person to judge.

The best music systems do such a good job of conveying the recorded performance that you do not notice the equipment.  If you are distracted by some characteristic of the system that does not make musical sense, it will become tiring and eventually spoil your enjoyment of the music.

You may be bombarded with written information including technical specifications and pseudo-technical justifications of various kinds.  Generally speaking, you can ignore all of that because it doesn’t tell you what you really want to know (trust me: I’m an engineer).

You will very quickly recognise when you are listening to a good system.  Your attention will be focussed on the musical performance.  If you are listening to something that you already know, you will be discovering new aspects of it and may get the urge to dig out some other tracks that you haven’t heard for a while.  If you are listening to something new to you, you will be asking about the music and may even find yourself enjoying types of music that you previously found difficult to appreciate.

The appropriate choice of music will have you tapping your foot or wanting to dance around the room.  The real test is that you enjoy listening for extended periods with no signs of  “listening fatigue”.

How do you find such a good system?  In an ideal world, you wander down the road to your local trusty hi-fi dealer and ask him to demonstrate the best system within your budget.  You listen to a variety of tracks of different kinds of music and find yourself believing that there are performances happening right there in the room.  When you change from a solo country singer to a large orchestral piece, there is an appropriate change in the overall scale of the performance.  At all times there is a  stable “image” of the proceedings with no contradictory indications of the apparent position of musicians.  Cymbals sound like cymbals, fast percussion sounds like fast percussion and in general, natural instruments sound like natural instruments.  Voices are clear and intelligible with harmonies and doubled-up parts clearly distinguishable.  That’s the system I would buy.  Of course, I would want to know that everything is built to last by a reputable manufacturer and be sure that it would be a practical proposition in my living space but from the listening point of view, the main question is: “Will it continue to delight for years to come?”.

A good hi-fi dealer will help you set up your system at home to get the best out of it.  Your listening room is in effect, part of the system and will play a big part in the overall sound.