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At Audio T we're always excited to share with you our thoughts and musings on the latest and greatest Hi-Fi and home audio! Our blog features news and reviews from individual stores and occasional blogs from HQ; select your nearest store from the list below to find out what they've been up to.

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Wednesday
Aug052015

The Audiofiles: A Musician's Hi-Fi Odyssey

I had a Sony 'boombox' when I was younger (I can't remember how old I was). I remember listening to a record of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker when I was about 8 years old. It was the first music I really loved. My paternal Grandparents bought me a cassette tape of it around the same time; I still have that. 

My Dad had an all in one music system (not sure which make) with a record player on top. There was also a record of Billy Connolly's "Wreck on Tour" (c1974?) which I listened to so many times, I knew a lot of it word for word. One of my brothers gave me a tape of Queen’s album The Works. I fell in love with Queen and went on to acquire a number of their albums. I was lucky enough to see the Queen Musical twice, and to see Brian May and Kerry Ellis perform at the Albert Hall a few years ago. When I was studying for an MA (Kingston, 2002-03), I wrote about Queens music for Highlander and Flash; and had an email reply from Brian (via the Queen Fan Club) about Highlander.

I remember first seeing a What Hi-Fi? magazine in an art class at secondary school (91-96) - which we were cutting up and using for a collage.

New Adventures in Hi-FI
The first Hi-Fi system I got was a Marantz PM44 amp. There was a Marantz CD63 CD player as well; I can't remember if it was mine or my Dads. I had a Pioneer PD-S703? CD player which was unusual as you had to put the CD in upside down. I had an Aiwa tape player (AD-F450 I believe) that cost around £100 at the time, and a NAD tuner. I had some rubbish no-name speakers, which I upgraded to some Mission 731's (maybe £150?), which were great fun.

I bought some Monitor Audio floorstanding speakers (Pictured) with some money (£400) I inherited when I was 16. I remember wanting to set them up but my parents wouldn't let me because I had to study for my GCSE’s. I used part of a pay cheque to buy a Roksan Kandy amp (£575) around 98 or 99. My parents gave me an REL subwoofer for my 18th birthday (98).

Monitor Audio Floorstanders 
When I received compensation, for injuries I suffered in a road accident it allowed me to do a major upgrade. One of the Focal speakers is worth more than both of the Monitor Audio speakers I’d owned previously! I hope they will last me a similar length of time - 18 years!

Next Hi-Fi Upgrade
I look forward to adding a separate DAC and Power Supply to the Naim components as funds permit.  The biggest upgrade for me now, would simply to have the space to appreciate them.

It's All About The Music
I’ve got lots of (mostly old, some new) LPs. I recently purchased a re-pressing of a Led Zeppelin album. I love the tangible aspect of vinyl, as well as the audio quality.  I’ve seen the Queen branded limited edition Rega turntable in this months What Hi-Fi? and it looks amazing!

When I bought the Naim system, I gave the Roksan and Pioneer to my Dad but he doesn't use them much.
Living at home, means it's often difficult to listen to music at the volume I want to, so I usually only use the Hi-Fi when he's not around (like today).  Otherwise I use my iMac.  I’ve also got some Sennheiser HD-650 headphones (last year, £300) which are a great upgrade from the pair I bought with my student overdraft back in '99 for £140.  I lived in a detached house on my own for around 7 months between October '14 and May '15. It was great to be able to listen to loud music, even relatively loud music at 3am.  I'm looking forward to being able to do so again.

A Slice of Hi-Fi Heaven at Home 
Thank You For The Music
I just shared this on my Cheeky Promo Facebook group; "I purchased some Naim Audio Hi-Fi, CD player, amp, phono stage for my existing Rega Research PH & Rega USA Planar turntable and Focal Aria 926 speakers [total cost £5000 including off-shelf prices + kind discount] from the Reading branch of Audio T last year. I received great customer service and found the staff very friendly and flexible. I appreciated one of them delivering the speakers in their own vehicle to my home address (in SW London) as I was unable to transport them myself. I'm really enjoying all of the new hi-fi."

Someone commented: "You are part of a dying breed of people who listen to music in high quality."

With most people listening on their mobile phones, or on their computers I wonder how much of the music people are actually hearing? 

What got me hooked on music? That's another story..... although the Tchaikovsky is part of it.

If you would like your Hi-Fi system to be feature in our blog and newsletter, please contact phil(dot)paterson(at)audio-t(dot).co.uk. Every customer system featured will receive a £50 credit towards your next Hi-Fi purchase. 

Friday
Feb062015

A hi-fi widow's search for the true 'audiofilly'

The day the new iPhone6 went on sale, a photo depicting the scene outside Apple’s Covent Garden store made the rounds on social media. Its caption: “There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone6 queue”. I remember thinking at the time, that’s nothing compared to the wall-to-wall ‘Y-fronts’ you get at a Bristol Show. I’d say it’s an eye-opener for any female who’s never had a close encounter of the nerd kind before.

But as the next show approaches, I do wonder why it is so male-dominated. You do see women there if you stare hard enough in a Where’s Wally? kind of way, although it’s often a wife or girlfriend wearing a far-away expression which comes from hours spent traipsing around hi-fi shops with their blokes.

It’s not that we girls don’t love music. A quick Google search suggests we buy CDs, attend concerts and listen to music in roughly equal measures. And considering women are supposed to have a better hearing range than men, you’d think we’d be the ones scrabbling, Dawn of the Dead style, through the doors of the Bristol Marriott on Sound and Vision weekend.

Hi-fi has featured strongly throughout my life, from the years I flat-shared with a fellow student who blew almost his entire grant on a top range system, to the two decades I’ve been married to an audiophile. Yet when my husband goes all geek on me about his latest Audio T purchase, my general response (after wondering whether we need to take out a second mortgage to pay for it), is still: “Er. It doesn’t sound all that different from your old one.”


 

‘Holy grail’
While it would be easy to put it down to the differences in the sexes, I don’t count myself as a typical girly-girl. I have a degree in chemistry, I know my way around a bass guitar rig pretty well and shoes and handbags leave me cold.

But I feel sure there are true ‘audiofillies’ out there, women whose knees go weak at the roundness of a sub-woofer and who can reel off its specs as efficiently as any male enthusiast. And in my quest to find one, I meet Serena Lesley. Serena has spent serious money building the sound she wants.

“Open, but forgiving,” she says. “Relaxed and not too much detail, or else it’s too spiky and brittle.” It’s like hearing a fine wine being described.Serena doesn’t have a technical or musical background. Her understanding has been racked up by trial and error, reading and learning from reviews, acquiring a knowledge which has taught her how to make tweaks for the best sound using blobs of blu tack or halved squash balls under the hardware.

“You understand from experience the importance of everything that your music needs to go through before it hits your ears,” she says, “and your 'holy grail' is a completely transparent-sounding interconnect, though you know that they're like unicorns, so you end up with one which colours the sound in a way which compliments your room, your stands and your separates and which allows you to feel more, rather than less, connected to the music.” 
Her explanations sound fascinating, well-informed and rather poetic and I’m beginning to understand why she devotes so much energy to her hi-fi.

“It’s a quality of life thing,” Serena tells me. “It inspires emotion, evokes memory, changes your mood. You can’t get this kind of emotional response from the clock radio in your bedroom.” And there’s another peculiarity. We women are meant, by nature, to be emotional creatures, so why aren’t we spending more time, money and effort building systems of our own?


‘Marketed differently’

"Serena has spent serious money building the sound she wants."Serena admits she’s never met another female audiophile quite like herself, but she believes there are many more women who appreciate good hi-fi than is evident.

“Perhaps if the perception of hi-fi as a hobby becomes less gender-specific, less driven by the technicalities and is marketed slightly differently, then society will stop assuming that it is generally not a 'female' interest,” she says. “And the women who love listening to high-quality music reproduction in their homes will become more visible, driving further female interest in this area.

“After all, the driving force of hi-fi as a passion is to get closer to the art which is music. Badly-reproduced art cannot inspire emotion, cannot draw you in, cannot fill you with wonder, cannot fully communicate what the artist means to convey. Good hi-fi brings you that experience as fully as is possible. And there's absolutely nothing gender-specific about that.”

Experts have been telling us for years that we’re wired up differently. There’s plenty of documentation and debate about the fundamental differences between the genders, some of it informative, some quite laughable (Anyone remember John Gray’s Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus?)

I can’t deny that my husband disappears into his listening cave from time to time just to sit and enjoy his music, while I’m more likely to treat my tranny as audial wallpaper while multi-tasking at several other things.

Perhaps ‘WAGS’ like me are a lost cause, but I think there are many other women out there who merely need to be ‘shown a starting point from which to grow an interest’, as Serena puts it.

And let’s face it, from the retailer’s point of view, we are a huge untapped market, so maybe marketeers need to take a deeper look into our psyche, find out how to hook us, press our buttons without getting too tech-ey about the buttons themselves. Maybe then, we’ll see many more women enthusing about the finer points of a high-end amp or speaker and eventually, a greater gender balance at future Bristol Shows.


Guest Author Journalist & Blogger: Clare Banks
 

Thursday
Apr172014

Harman Kardon HK3770 Stereo Network Receiver - Exclusive to Audio T

We are pleased to announce that Harmon Kardon are joining the Audio T fold in the form of a terrific stereo receiver complete with USB/Optical Digital/Co-axial Digital and analogue inputs; including a MM Turntable stage and priced keenly at £429. Here it is emerging from its box.

If the large number of audio connections were not enough it also has an ethernet connection to access Intenet radio using the Vtuner interface as well as streaming from your Computers or NAS drives on your home network. To complete the remarkable level of connectivity it also has Bluetooth capability allowing almost any sound to be streamed from your mobile devices as well.

Here are front and rear views - It definitely looks better from the front!

Whilst the HK-3770 is supplied with a standard remote control it is also possible to download the Harman Remote app to your Android or Apple device for complete control over your network - see below

The receiver is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity meaning it can stream wirelessly from your similarly equipped mobile device. As you can see below on the left once the two devices are paired ( a simple task) you can stream fom your spotify app for example.

Using a third party DLNA/UPNP control app I was easily able to select my music stored on a Network drive and play it back - As shown in the picture below right.

The receiver has plenty of power sounding effortless at fairly high playback volumes and has a full low frequency extension with a warmth to vocals often missing on components at this price level. Overall it is a great listen and you quickly become engrossed in the music and forget the equipment altogether which in my view is what it is all about!

Harman have a great product in the HK 3770 marrying a simple 2 channel receiver with the latest in connectivity - A rare combination currently.

You can read the AV Forums Review here

Friday
Apr112014

Roxy Music said that Love is the Drug, but we say Music is….

Give life back to music, is the first track from Daft Punk's latest album, Random Access Memories and this title sums up in a nutshell what good Hi-Fi can do to your music collection.

This is even more obvious when you listen to the studio master of the recording on a music streaming service such as Qobuz. or a direct high resolution download (HRD) from Linn Records, Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound or Naim Label.

What does Hi-Fi or High Fidelity really mean these days? Well we believe it has always been to faithfully reproduce the likeness of the original sound, whether it be music, speech or noises using electronic home audio equipment, namely a combination of: amplifiers (digital or valve) sources: CD Players, Streamers, Record Players; Digital to Analogue Converters (DAC's) and loudspeakers: passive or *active (*amplifier built in) stand mount monitors or floorstanding.

While Hi-Fi alone won't usually improve the quality of a substandard recording - garbage in garbage out! - however, when good quality recordings are played using Hi-Fi equipment, it brings the listener closer to the music and more faithfully presents the music as the artist and producer intended it to sound when it was recorded, mixed and mastered.

On The Stage Stock Photo By George Stojkovic
Regardless of the format, CD, vinyl, tape, digital file, we know that hearing more of the music is a thrilling experience. Being able to hear vocals more clearly, individual instruments being played (separation) and the sound they make (timbre) revealing greater insight and depth into a recording can add hugely to the enjoyment and will often induce goosebumps! Listening to music is known to release serotonin, the brain's feel good drug, and as music lovers this is our drug of choice!

You see, at Audio T we are all first and foremost music enthusiasts. Two-channel stereo Hi-Fi is just a means of getting the most enjoyment from our hobby. Audiophiles, music lovers or music junkies, whatever the moniker, we get our highs from music!

Psychedelic Guitar Stock Photo By dan
If you are a music lover old or new, why not bring some of your music along - we're always interested in listening and learning about new artists and hearing their music replayed on some great sounding quality Hi-Fi. This is what we do and love. Locate your nearest store here.

We can guarantee that you will always remember the first time you hear your favourite music played on quality Hi-Fi, simply because it sounds better and it reveals more of the music! 

As Andrew Everard the Audio Editor for Gramophone says: "In the end it's all about the music", and we wholeheartedly agree with that!

Quick Quiz - Can you name the artists from these track and album?

1. Listen to the Music 
2. Pop Music
3. Thank you for the Music
4. Hyper Music
5. Lost in Music 
6. Play that Funky Music White Boy
7. Music for the Masses 

Tuesday
Mar182014

The Naim Unitiserve - A Ripping Good Yarn!

Over time we have all largely accepted that the most important part of the HiFi system is the source. If we fail to retrieve the musical information from the medium being played then it cannot be regained later in the Hi-Fi chain - The old Rubbish In - Rubbish Out saying applies here. This remains true across all sources including  Vinyl, Cd, Radio and of course the current crop of Streamers and dictates that we plough a significant proportion of our budget into the relevant player.

We are in the case of streamers however, overlooking the fact that if you are ripping your CD collection for the purposes of streaming then your lovely new shiny streamer is not really the source! In many cases you will be using a few hundred pounds worth of computer rammed with noisy power supplies etc etc to feed your streamer that may have cost thousands of pounds!

This is where the Naim Unitiserve below comes into play, fitted with a large 2Tb hard drive and engineered to simply get the most from your Compact Discs and more.

 

There are many people who say digital music is just ones and zeros and it will always sound the same! However after a weekend with the Unitiserve it is very apparent even on my £500 Marantz streamer that this is simply untrue. Having compared it to WAV format rips obtained using Exact Audio Copy and dbpoweramp programs for example the Naim was always better without exception, with the musical image better focussed with greater energy and for want of a better description more evenly "lit" with no one instrument or performer being highlighted or left in the shadows. My wife, a natural cynic by the way! prefered the Naim rip EVERY time without being able to see what was being played.

If you are a computer-phobe then it is good news as well! For the majority of the time it is simply a case of pop a CD in and wait for it to pop back out 5 or so minutes later. You can of course use the Desktop Client to rename discs, create regular backups and add other content to stream if you desire. There are some screen shots below showing just some of the myriad of options available. An iPad app is available to directly play from the Unitiserve's digital output or better still control one of the Naim streamers over your computer network.

 

 

 

 

To sum up you have the benefits of storing your CDs in the uncompressed (mathematically or otherwise) WAV format yet retaining Artist, Album and Track information not usually available with this format when streaming, ease of use especially if you dislike computers and quite possibly the best sounding rips I have heard. Nobody wants to have to re-rip their music when they upgrade their Hi-Fi systems so if your streamer is or is likely to be in the £500 or above category I would suggest a Naim Unitiserve is mandatory to get the best from your investment. You are better spending £2220 on the Unitiserve and £750 on a streamer than £3000 on a streamer to play from your computer in my view, plus upgrading the streamer eventually will not require your entire CD collection to be copied again.

I was contemplating upgrading my streamer shortly but now realise I must in fact upgrade my music collection first and purchase a Unitiserve!

Don't take my word for it though, why not contact one of our Branches Here and listen for yourself!

You can see more about the Unitiserve on our site Here and over at Naim Here