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Sneakeater

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I just replaced my stereo system and if I'm right about the part of the amp market you're looking at then you don't need to worry about getting a separate DAC, most of the amps that accept streaming as a source will have a DAC in them and be compatible with your AV system.

I was looking for something that didn't have streaming or AV compatibility so I can't offer specific advice, but I did get the impression that there are a lot of good products that do what you’re looking for. I had a hard time deciding between a cd player with a built in DAC and the combination of a simpler CD transport and a stand alone DAC, I went with the former and am not sure I did the right thing. if I had bought a separate DAC I was pretty sold on the brand schitt, even though you can't hear them at a retailer.

I can give you currently useless advice about the various high end retailers in nyc if you decide to have one of them help you. 

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It may not be high enough fidelity for you but the Sonos Connect has analog audio in and an A/D that allows you to basically put your analog source out to all of the other appliances that are part of your system (speakers, amplifiers, etc). We have the Connect with an TOSLINK optical output to our receiver and then our turntable is wired to the analog in of the same Connect. So when we throw on an album we are actually listening to it streamed back to the receiver (and probably also have the kitchen speakers on). We are clearly losing some sound quality but aren't really listening in the way that Sneakeater describes.

I think the use case for Sonos is convenience. Even back when home networking was a wilder place they were known for having there stuff just plug in and work without having to do a bunch of changes in settings. I think you pay a bit of a premium for the convenience (10 years ago the premium was even higher) but, for us, it's pretty negligible since we drop $150 on a meal for two out for dinner regular prior to our current state of affairs.

I don't think Sonos wins or loses an argument about future-proofing. We've got 11 year old gear and brand new IKEA branded speakers connected in our system, they seem to be keeping up with consumer electronic development, and their interface (phone or laptop) seems solid and continuing to evolve. And their access to the developing streaming community seems solid.

I think there are probably lots of ways to do what Sonos does but you may spend more time "designing" that system. And, again, that is the Sonos use case.

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On 5/19/2020 at 7:20 AM, joethefoodie said:

It's interesting, but in my mind, some music (certainly some of the music and artists I'm fond of) isn't really meant to be listened to on million dollar stereo systems. I mean, some music which moves me may have been best listened to on a car radio, cruising down the Meadowbrook Parkway on our way to Jones Beach in 1972. Indeed, some music was even produced to be listened to just that way, critical listening be damned.  But boy, did I have (what was then) a nice stereo when I was in high school and into college. I suppose if I had a little more room here I'd have something much more worthy than I do now.

 

Historically, "high end" audio has been driven by classical music.

If you don't listen to classical music, you don't need it.

Not cuz there's any magic to classical music.  Not cuz classical music is "better" than other music.

But just because classical music recording is an attempt to recreate an existing acoustic phenomenon whose sound is known to all its listeners.  I get that Motown records were made to sound good on a car radio.  I get that there's no real-world aural artifact by which to judge the reproduction of Prince's "Kiss".

But when I play a recording of the Berlin Philharmonic or the Chiaroscuro Quartet, I know what it's supposed to sound like.  I've heard them live, unamplified, in real halls.  And if my sound system can't approximate that (of course, it could never match it), it's useless to me.

For that purpose.  Not for listening to Motown singles or Prince (which are just as good as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Chiaroscuro Quartet).  For those, great as they are, I don't need exact accurate reproduction.

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Perfect explanation.

Which, considering you've probably had a cocktail, most of a bottle of wine, etc. etc., and that it is probably 1 AM when you're posting this, is quite remarkable. You ought to think about writing as a career!

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It was until around 1965, when it started to become impossible to hear an unamplified jazz combo live (to be clear, I'm not talking about whether bands play electric instruments; I mean that even acoustic instruments started to be amplified -- even in a small room like the Vanguard).

So we no longer have a live reference against which to judge reproduction of jazz recordings.   Rather, we get our idea of what a jazz combo “should” sound like from old Rudy Van Gelder records. 

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I remember being struck by something I read in an audio review 30-something years ago.  The reviewer was comparing two amplifiers.  One, he said -- the amp that I bought then and still have now, as it happens -- produced more natural, open treble than the other.  Referring to a solo piano recording that he himself had engineered -- so he knew exactly how it was supposed to sound -- he said that the first amplifier gave a more accurate reproduction of the recording than the second, sounding more like how an unamplified piano sounds in a room.  He added, though, that people who don't go to a lot of classical piano recitals might well prefer the brighter, more tinkly sound of the piano through the second amp.

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And then, to close the circle, once you get to the pop style of record production, where they well might intentionally make the piano sound brighter and more tinkly because that's the sound they want, how do you judge the sound reproduction of an audio system playing it?  You really have no idea of what the recording is "supposed" to sound like.

This is not a criticism of the pop style of record production, which I think is its own art form.  I'm just trying to elaborate why it kind of obviates "high end" audio equipment.

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my experience is really the opposite - that even with things like death metal I get a much clearer impression of individual performances with high end stuff, although I guess you're right and I may be unintentionally undoing the desired monolith of sound. there's definitely a subset of lo-fi recordings where what I have is total overkill, but sometimes those turn out to have more detail in them than you'd expect.

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As someone who would tend towards audiophile but now live with SONOS, I would compare it to photos made with an SLR camera versus an iPhone. The SLR makes much better photos, but it’s a pain to carry around which means I don’t have it when the best photo opportunities happen. 
 

i can definitely tell the difference between a good system and this (and god knows my preference is live music) but at this point in my life either it’s easy, or it isn’t going to happen.

 

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1 hour ago, AaronS said:

my experience is really the opposite - that even with things like death metal I get a much clearer impression of individual performances with high end stuff, although I guess you're right and I may be unintentionally undoing the desired monolith of sound. there's definitely a subset of lo-fi recordings where what I have is total overkill, but sometimes those turn out to have more detail in them than you'd expect.

But I think the other thing is that now, mid-fi equipment is so much better than it ever was that you get a lot of that detail even from that.  What the "high end" gets you now is timbrel accuracy, which I would argue just doesn't matter as much with already amplified, and even more so with studio-crafted, music.

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You know, audio equipment that's not bad, but isn't "high end".  It isn't a matter of price:  I'd call my main system high-end, even though many of the components were relatively cheap by high-end standards at time of purchase.  And I'd call top-of-the-line JBL speakers mid fi even though they're pretty costly.

But most mid-fi is relatively inexpensive.  Cuz at root that's kind of the point of mid-fi:  good-enough sound at popular prices.

But mid-fi's "good enough" has gotten a lot better since the 80s/90s.

A prime example are the Audioengine HD6 powered speakers I keep raving about, the ones I bought for my computer.  Here are perfectly good speakers, with a perfectly good (and NOT low-powered) amp built in, as well as a perfectly good (maybe even better than that) DAC -- all for $700.  I would not tell any audiophile to make these his main system.  But I WOULD advise that for any non-audiophile millennial.  All they need to have are these speakers and a turntable -- or an iPhone.

And there was NOTHING as good as them (considering that they're speakers, an amp, and a DAC) for anything CLOSE to $700 when I was in my prime audio-equipment-buying days, back in the late '80s and early '90s.  (And I'm talking 1990 dollars there.)

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I don't think my system or the one it replaced is mid-fi by that definition.

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Oh no I didn't mean to imply it was.  Everything you've said makes it obvious you have and have had high-end gear.

I was just saying that, if you're not looking to reproduce acoustic music blah blah blah blah, you'd be SHOCKED how good mid-level equipment is these days.

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