If you’ve been around Pure Geekery for a little while, you know that record collecting is my new hobby. Which of course has led into trying to build up a decent audio system. Which is way harder you’d think. Audio is so subjective. Everyone has an opinion on what “the best sound” is or if that should be the hi-fi goal, let alone how to get there.
Trying to find good, reliable information can be incredibly hard to do. But for the past year that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’m by no means an expert, or even close to one at this point. But I have at least found some good resources that may be helpful if you’re just starting out like I am.
When I first started looking for information on hi-fi systems, I did what we’ve all been trained to do. I went to Google. I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. There are specs thrown out, and then you’re told that specs don’t matter. There are reviews that aren’t the most reliable, because anyone online can write a review. It’ll make your head spin.
So I did what we did before the internet was pervasive. I went to the library. So that’s my first resource I’m going to recommend. Go to your library. Most of the books at my library were aimed more at home theatre, but there were a few focused on stereos as well. Go check out some of both. Flip through them. See what they’re all about. It’s a great starting point to find a direction to head in.
One book my library had that I found very useful was The Audio Dictionary. It has definitions for all kinds of audio terms, and goes into them in more detail than you would expect for something called a dictionary. It was also fairly easy to understand.
But the most helpful book I found is the Complete Guide to High End Audio which I found during my trial of Kindle Unlimited. It’s not the most exciting book I’ve ever read, shown by the fact I’m only 20% through it and I started in November. It reads more like an engineering text than anything else, which is great. Because of this book I was able to find out why my turntable sounded too quiet (my pre-amp didn’t match my cartridge) and it provided me with the math I needed to fix it.
Now that I had a basic idea of what I’ was reading, I was able to move on to blogs. I was already familiar with CNet’s Audiophiliac Blog since Steve Guttenberg (not the one the Stone Cutters made a star) had appeared on The 404 Show podcast. The blog seems to be more aimed towards a consumer who’s entering the audio realm, more so than your hardened audiophile.
I’m also a fan of The Poor Audiophile. Audio equipment is expensive, and this blog reviews stuff that’s at least in my price range. They’re also really good about posting when equipment is on sale, which is incredibly helpful.
For more of a general knowledge though, my favorite so far has been Northwest Audio & Video Guy. He has several in depth technical articles on how to match components, and what all the different terms you see mean. Sadly, he hasn’t updated since 2012, but there are still several good articles on the fundamentals there.
Like any other nerdy hobby, there are tons of online communities dedicated to audio equipment. You can find forums specifically for different sources (turntable, CD, digital) or different components (headphones, speakers). A good general one that I visit frequently is Audio Karma. People here tend to be generally helpful, and I’ve seen people being jerks called out for being jerks. That’s important to me. I’ve also not seen any “RTFM” or “use the search” replies. That kind of positivity is important to me, just as much as the users being knowledgeable (which they are).
I also visit Head-Fi on occasion, because I am a headphone junkie. It’s more of a community review site than anything, but you can find decent reviews of almost any headphone. They also have buying guides and tips on breaking your headphones in.
Just a reminder…
I harp on use cases all the time with other technology, and the same applies here. Always consider your use case. If you’re going to be sitting in a room doing nothing but listening to music (seriously nothing. Not cleaning. Not reading. Not browsing Facebook.) that’s different than if you just want something in the background.
When it comes down to it, this hobby is a double edged sword. The more you learn the more you hear the imperfections in your own equipment. The trick is to remember the difference between listening to your music and listening to your equipment. While there’s a time for both, most of the time you want to focus on the music. It can be hard to “turn off” listening for where you can improve your equipment, but it’s essential if your end goal is to enjoy your music.
The State Of Sound also has a collection of resources put together, if you want more reading. And if you have anything I’ve left off, leave it in the comments! I’m always looking for more to read.
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