High-End Audio at the time of COVIDDecember 21, 2020
For us all, 2020 was a year when the world unexpectedly turned upside down. Just as we thought all was well, COVID-19 hit. At first, I figured we were facing a virus the likes of which we’d already seen and that we’d soon return to our normal, day-to-day lives. I was evidently wrong. The pandemic plunged the planet in pain, grief and uncertainty, taking and upending lives. We all began looking for something to hang onto throughout quarantine—some of us turned to cooking, others to writing, to reading, or to well overdue accomplishments.
For a music lover and long-time audiophile like me, this time of seclusion was an opportunity to rediscover the beauty music brings to my life. I unearthed albums I hadn’t played for years and enjoyed them from a whole new perspective that led me to scrutinize my audio equipment. Had I really reached my idea of optimal sound reproduction? Was I getting the best out of my system? Was there anything to improve? Was my turntable setup optimal? What about my cables? And so on…
This reflection brought to mind a few select and sometime neglected matters worth considering for your own Hi-Fi system:
- Break-in and warmup time—All moving parts, like loudspeaker suspensions and phono cartridge cantilevers, require some break-in time. Likewise, parts such as voice coils, amplifier transistors and vacuum tubes must warm up to their ideal working temperature while cables, capacitors and circuit board dielectrics gradually develop steady static charges. These are but a few of the many audio equipment characteristics that need time to settle down and stabilize. Verity Audio products have been showcased at hundreds of international salons and special events, each featuring its own system and room setups. Every time, sound performance peaked on the last day of the event. While we are aware that our ears eventually acclimatize to sound through psychoacoustic adaptation, there’s more behind this effect. Our years of listening experience shine the spotlight on real, significant and audible sound improvements. A fully broken-in and warmed-up system systematically produces improved sound that’s more coherent, engaging, relaxed, focused and articulated. Some users report leaving their system on at all times to maintain optimal performance. We found digital equipment to be especially sensitive, so we always leave these devices on. Try it out with your own system by experimenting with various rest, break-in and warmup times. You’ll improve your understanding of the phenomenon and will learn what works best for your devices!
- The listening chair—Comfortable though it may be, a nice, plush recliner may not be the best listening chair for you. If the headrest is at ear level, it may cause close field sound absorption and diffusion. In fact, any backrest taller than your shoulders will deteriorate the three-dimensional sound field, adversely affecting your system’s soundstage width, tonal balance and high frequencies. Listen for yourself: put your hands behind your ears and hear how sound changes. For the best results and an immediate improvement in sound performance, I strongly recommend a listening chair whose backrest doesn’t extend past your shoulders. You’ll feel your listening space expand and your music breathe even more.
- AC quality—The purity of the AC power that reaches your house may fluctuate based on your geographical location and the time of day, which, in turn, alters the overall sonic performance of your sound system. At peak hours, the AC lines may be contaminated by unilinear artifacts or harmonic distortion resulting from nearby fully active industries. At night, when the primary sector is less busy, sound quality improves. This remains true even if you use a premium power conditioner. Don’t be surprised if your audio system sounds different throughout the day!
Keep an eye on this space for later posts covering various topics that influence your audio system and how to address them if possible.