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Soundstage magazine recently published an article with the title: ‘’Great-sounding stereo starts with beautiful, great-sounding speakers.’’ The writer, Doug Schneider, examined which components would be the best match for his pair of Estelon Aura loudspeakers. I was pleased to read that MOON (one of my favourite brands) had delivered the best performance and extracted the most from the speakers with its new 791 streaming preamplifier and 761 stereo power amplifier combination.
However, the following extract from the feature has made me have a think: “A system’s sound quality is largely determined by the speakers and how they interact with the listening room (given proper amplification), and its visual appeal is largely perceived as that of its most conspicuous element, the speakers.’’
Whilst I recognise the value of a pair of good loudspeakers, I believe that components such as amplifiers, network players and DACs are the beating heart of any system. These are the elements which help to drive the performance of a loudspeaker. Any sportsperson is only good as what they eat and a sportscar won’t deliver maximum performance if it is running on questionable fuel. Right?
Loudspeakers undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping our overall listening experience; however, it is vital to have a competent system in place to manage the quality and integrity of the audio signal that reaches your ears.
An amplifier serves as the sonic powerhouse, taking the delicate signals from source components and breathing life into them. Its primary function is to magnify these signals, ensuring that the nuances, dynamics, and subtleties of the music are faithfully reproduced. In the hierarchy of a hi-fi system, the amplifier stands as the bridge between the source and the speakers, dictating the quality and integrity of the audio signal that reaches your ears.
One of the key attributes that sets high-quality components apart is their ability to maintain signal purity and transparency. A premium amplifier faithfully reproduces the audio signal without introducing unwanted colouration or distortion. This transparency ensures that listeners experience the music as the artist intended, with all the intricate details and textures preserved.
The better hi-fi manufacturers achieve this by employing advanced circuitry, premium components, and meticulous engineering. It is important to note that even the most exceptional loudspeakers may struggle to shine if the other components in the system are unable to deliver a pristine signal.
Loudspeakers are often the visual focus of a hi-fi setup, and my personal preference is to choose components that complement their appearance. And if an amplifier or streamer has a clunky aesthetic, it isn’t getting through the front door of my home.
Lastly, do you remember the hi-fi salesperson’s old rule of 40:40:20? Spend 40 percent of your budget on loudspeakers, 40 percent on your amplifier and turntable, and 20 percent on accessories. My advice is that you may just want to spend a little bit more of your budget on your amplifier. Choose the right product and you won’t regret it.
If you are in the market for advice on which products will be the perfect match for you and your loudspeakers, you know exactly where to head: https://loud-clear.co.uk/edinburgh/
Matt Tasker (Ammonite Media), November 2023