Essence Audio - High Fidelity Help & Hints - Article
Avoid Hidden Costs & Disappointment when Auditioning
Surround Sound Systems and Individual Hi-Fi Components
Back to High Fidelity Help and Hints
Have you ever wondered why that lovely stereo system you bought from your Audio System Retailer sounded great in the showroom, but pretty ordinary when you set it up at home?
To maximize sales most stereo system retailers (including the “high-end” sellers) ensure that the environment they demonstrate the equipment in is optimized for the best sound quality.
This may include a number of fairly standard sales and demonstration techniques including:
- Auditioning Hi-Fi equipment in an acoustically flat listening environment.
Since most real-world listening environments are quite lively (with substantial acoustic reflections occurring), an acoustically flat auditioning environment will almost always give a misleading impression of overall clarity.
- The use of expensive Speaker Cables and Interconnect Cables.
Who thinks about cables when auditioning a Surround Sound System, an Amplifier or set of Speakers? Probably not too many people for sure!
Always ask about the Speaker Leads and Interconnect Cables used during the audition / demo. Unless you have a set of Essence Audio Studio or Premium Series interconnect cables, you may be surprised to learn that, to replicate the music being played you may have to pay hundreds of dollars extra for the cables used in the demo - which may just blow your budget right out of the water!
- The use of higher quality ancillary components than those that you will use.
For example, you might be auditioning an amplifier, but for the audition, the sales team has set up a CD player, Preamp and Speaker combination worth five times or more than what you will be using at home. The expression "creating unrealistic expectations" comes to mind.
- Component and speaker layouts are be optimized for the Demo.
Will your front speakers actually be that far apart, to provide optimal channel separation? Will your lounge room really accommodate rear speakers so perfectly positioned just behind you? Even small and simple changes to a room/speaker layout can have dramatic acoustic effects.
- Sound Levels beyond your normal listening range.
High sound levels at the audition are another simple but possibly deceptive sales device. In an acoustically flat environment one can achieve much higher sound levels and still retain crystal clarity. Try that same level at home, and your music may sound like utter garbage. Audition equipment at similar levels to those you would normally listen to, don’t be tricked into thinking that the gear being auditioned is better just because it still sounds clean when the output is louder than what you are used to.
The selection of audio gear is of course dependant to a large degree on personal preference. If you are a “bass” person, then you would tend to be interested in equipment with a meatier sound. If you like crisp high-ends you will no doubt be listening particularly for those.
However when auditioning equipment, it is important to pay attention to the complete frequency response of all components … otherwise, disappointment awaits you when you get your new high-end audio equipment home. Subtle annoyances that you didn't notice, or perhaps just barely heard at the audition, can become quite aggravating when you have to listen to them on a daily basis.
Essence Audio - Music First!
June 2008 - Updated May 2010