In this latest diatribe, Stuart Smith has a bit of a look at what we mean by the term High-Fidelity.

Some Internet People May Disagree – How Out Of Character

OK, we know here at Hifi Pig that we spell “HiFi” incorrectly, we mean to, but we are fully aware that the correct way to scribe this is Hi-Fi (High-Fidelity), but just what do we mean by the term High-Fidelity, and does this meaning have the same connotations for all people, all the time?

First of all, let’s break this down a bit and look at what the various online dictionaries have to say about the words we use almost every day in audiophile circles.

High – being under the influence of a drug (such as marijuana) taken especially for pleasure.

Fidelity – faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.

Well, that’s cleared that up and not really what I was expecting. So, if the online dictionaries are to be believed, then we are all high on drugs, but we are faithful to the cause. Wait, that doesn’t seem quite right, does it? Perhaps my research on the interwebs is somewhat lacking in this instance.

Let’s try that, again shall we?

High – great, or greater than normal, in quantity, size, or intensity.

Fidelity – the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced.

Aaah, that’s better. So, if we break HiFi down to its composite parts, and skew it towards our own audiophile ends, we have “a great degree of exactness.” Now we are getting somewhere, and that seems to fit in with what I for one see as being the goal of a High-Fidelity Music Centre.

So, the question needs to be asked – Is it actually High-Fidelity that we are all striving for, and if so, do all the various bits of kit out there that we love and enjoy listening to meet this definition and criteria?

DO WE REALLY LIKE HIGH-FIDELITY REPRODUCTION?

High-Fidelity suggests that a piece of audio equipment is reproducing the source material, as near as damn it, as it was recorded. That is, what comes out of the speakers is what is, to a large degree, exactly what is written in the grooves of the record, the CD, or the digital file. But if that was the case then all the amps, DACs, record players, cartridges, tonearms, CD Players, loudspeakers, and whatever else would all, surely, sound the same, and there would only ever be the need for one brand that measured properly and fulfilled the definition of “High-Fidelity” – they don’t and there isn’t!

Don’t get me started on measurements – I’m pretty anti-measurements in the broader sense given that a manufacturer will have already if they are worth their snap and baccy (food and tobacco), done and published the relevant measurements in their specification documents. So clearly, given the vast number of companies and brands producing a wide array of kit, something else is at play with regards to our choices of “High-Fidelity” audio equipment…could that something perhaps come down to “TASTE”?

We’ve all read people on Facebook and on review sites (guilty as charged M’Lud) where the character of a bit of kit is described as “Overly detailed”. What? How in the world of High-Fidelity sound reproduction can something be described as being ‘Overly detailed’, that just sounds wrong to my way of thinking? Surely ‘Overly detailed’ is a panacea to anyone seeking the Holy Grail of High-Fidelity sound reproduction. I’ll give you a personal example. We have used a Lampizator Big7 DAC for several years now and it is a wonderful piece of equipment, of that there is absolutely no doubt. I can sit and listen to it for hours and hours on end and I really connect with the music in an emotional sense. However, when we slotted the Leema Libra DAC into our system it was clear that the latter gave a much more accurate and “High-Fidelity” reproduction of the files it was fed – more detail, more insight into the recording, more spatial cues – in short, more of everything and wholly more precise. In comparison, the Lampizator could, if we are using the definition of High-Fidelity as outlined above, be described as being less accurate, less precise, and less detailed – I still love it though, and find it a joy to listen to. Given that a good deal of our time is given over to reviewing bits and bobs that are sent to us, the Leema DAC is by far the better option for us, and, despite it being highly accurate, I can still sit and listen to it for hours on end. In short, the two are chalk and cheese in their presentation but both equally valid in the High-Fidelity world – well to my mind, anyway.

You pay your money, you takes your choice!

I think what I have outlined above leaves us without any doubt that personal taste and preferences in presentation play a huge part in the kit we choose to give a home to. Some people will prefer what is described as “Pipe and Slippers” presentation – a bit woolly, slow, but laidback and enjoyable. Others will prefer a more seat of your pants presentation – fast, pacey, accurate, and exciting. Others still will prefer something in the middle of the two extremes.

TASTE!

This is why your friendly bricks and mortar Hifi retailer is so vitally important to you, dear reader. You can read all the Hifi Pig reviews you like, and we hope to try and portray the sound of a specific item as accurately as possible to help you to condense the length of your long-list and make it a more manageable short-list, but in the end, it is only you that makes the final judgment as to whether a piece of “High-Fidelity” audio equipment fits your own specific demands.

While I’m banging on about bricks and mortar retailers, do me and them a favour – don’t go take up their time and drink their free coffee auditioning stuff that you are only going to go and buy online anyway. Not only does that make you a bit of a dick, but it also means that these retailers are less likely to be there to help and advise you in the future!

VALUE YOUR DEALER!

Whatever, there’s loads of gear out there to go at and I hope you enjoy exploring the vast array of products made specifically for your listening pleasure. Don’t get too hung up on whether something is “High-Fidelity” or not, just buy what you love to listen to, safe in the knowledge that the God of High-Fidelity Audio is not a smiter! Though that may not be the case for some of the more evangelical clowns out there in Internet Land! As Michael Winner might have said, “Calm down dear, it’s only a music centre!”

Stuart Smith

 

 

 

 

 

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