Problems Frequently Found in Hi-Fi Sales
Myriad problems arise in the way that music systems are marketed, displayed and sold. This information may be a bit tedious but it behooves you to know what is going on when you, the unsuspecting music lover, go shopping.
Here are a few scenarios and what is wrong with them:by Connon Price
Big Box Stores
These places sell on volume to keep their prices low.
Essentially these are well dressed warehouses and as such acoustically resemble your own home in no way. Especially in the area of low frequencies, the size and shape of the room have everything to do with the speakers performance. Most speakers are made to have a lot of bass so that in a large, open space, they will have what is recognizable as bass and the music lover will easily be able to distinguish that, yes, this speaker does in fact have plenty of bass. In the home however this kind of speaker will have too much bass in relation to the rest of the music and will seem boomy and will lack articulate, meaningful bass.
Tune sells speakers that are designed to make music in the home, not just to impress on the sales floor.
Another pitfall of the big box store is their staff. Young and enthusiastic does not qualify them to lead you in a meaningful search for a music system. The name brands they carry are the very largest conglomerates whose products are updated at least once a year to keep them new and improved in appearance and features. How can a young employee possibly have meaningful knowledge about the many different manufacturers and models they stock. They can’t.
At Tune we represent a few expertly selected brands. We know everything about each model and the average production life of the products we sell is over five years, so there is plenty of time to get to know a product before it is truly bettered by its replacement.
Chain Hi-Fi Specialists
These stores tend to carry products from well respected conglomerates and the larger of the specialist hi-fi companies. Their listening rooms tend to be scaled closer to the normal home but they still bear no resemblance to your home environment so your comparisons between speakers, amplifiers and CD players will be irrelevant. Here is why. Speakers are lined up along the wall with book-shelf speakers up on a shelf and tall floor standing models down below. Often these specialist stores carry so many fine product lines that they have rows of speakers placed on three walls with the electronics arranged along the fourth.
The problem is that while you are carefully listening to a selected pair of speakers, the other speakers in the room are acting to both absorb many of the frequencies as well as vibrating sympathetically and re-emitting out of phase sounds into the room.
The result is a veritable cacophony. It may sound pleasant, but it will not be musical. People end up choosing a speaker on looks, price and “sound”. It is a complete blind guess as far as musicality is concerned.
That’s enough to completely hobble the process, but there is more. All these products are set up through switching relays to the wall of electronics so that any conceivable combination of products can be heard, but these switches are not transparent sonically and so confuse the experience. In the same vein, the interconnects and speaker wire, which they will have you believe are very important to the performance of your new stereo (and they are), are of cheap quality and great length. There is no way to know how what you are listening to will sound in your home.
Specialist chains do have their expensive systems set up as they will be in the home. They are set up without the switchers and long wires and walls of speakers. But real estate is expensive and so there is usually a system on each of four walls. I cannot overstate how destructive even a single set of extra speakers in the room is to the musicality of a system. By the way, cell phones, beeping keypads, phone handsets, and things that resonate easily (bells, pans, musical instruments, large empty ceramic pots) all confuse the musical message as well. It is easy to demonstrate this effect in the home.
Instead of the multitude of ways in which your buying decision is confounded at a store like this, Tune sets up a music system of known musical ability in your home where the surroundings are exactly as they will be if you do choose to buy a system from us.
If someone were to ask you how important music is to you, you would probably say “Very important”. Then please take care and call us to buy a quality music system in a way that is relevant to the end result.
Boring, isn’t this? All you want is the best music system for your money and all we want to do is sell it to you. Why do you need to know all this? Because what you don’t know will land you with a stereo that doesn’t make music.
What other pitfalls await our unsuspecting music lover?
Small Specialist Hi-Fi Dealers
This is where you are most likely to get good advice and a good demonstration with only one pair of speakers in the room and the electronics set up as they would be in your home. The problems here are less egregious but still substantial. Believe it or not, the quality of electricity coming from your wall has a great deal of influence on a music system’s ability to do its job. The same stereo can be plugged into three different sockets in your home and it will sound different with each. At a store you have no idea of the mains quality and furthermore it makes little difference because it will likely be very different from yours at home. Tune demonstrates the electronics for you using your electricity. While at your home, we can find the best circuit and the best receptacle. If you are a home owner it is extremely beneficial to run a dedicated spur for your music system. Some control can be exerted for apartment dwellers as well.
Another problem at the HiFi specialist is the room. It is not yours. Your room will have different furnishings, different construction, and different dimensions. Perhaps you will be able to accurately choose which system sounds the best in that room, but if you had all that gear at your house, you still may have come to a different conclusion. One system’s strengths may be weaknesses in the context of your home.
And there is more. When you go into a public space, and are in shopping mode, you are not very relaxed. Instead of really listening to how competing systems play music differently, the novice hi-fi shopper will be in an analytical state of mind and try to compare things that seem quantifiable like bass or which system sounds “brighter”.
At home you have your music collection and are safe to listen with your emotional mind where music is most enjoyed. Here you will be able to hear how music unfolds in subtle rhythms, with pitch accuracy, and full of harmonic complexity. Here you can react with joy, excitement, sadness, or however the music moves you.
Buying a satisfying music system doesn’t require you to go to every store and listen to every combination of electronics from every manufacturer. You only need one. The right one demonstrated and sold to you the right way. Tune: hi-fi for humans.