Complete Guide to High-End Audio, by Robert Harley – Book Review

This book is dealing with the subject of "high-end audio" – which is a term used for music playback systems of extreme high quality. Although it was first published in 1994 and contains chapter titles like "The LP Playback System", it is still as relevant and useful today as it was in the time it was written.

What is the concept behind "high-end"?

Most people knows the word "high fidelity" or "hi-fi" for short. That word is used in everyday language as a designation for any music playing system that includes CD-player, and amplifier or receiver, and a pair of loudspeakers. It also implies that there is some kind of minimum quality involved, so you would not call a ghettoblaster on the beach or some inferior music system in a restaurant for "hi-fi".

When it comes to high-end many people would immediately think of some very technical, complicated and expensive equipment that can only be setup and even appreciated by a small clique of nerds speaking an insider-language beyond the scope of ordinary people.

Although the book goes much into technical details, the only reason these very details are necessary to describe is not because they are particularly interesting in themselves.

Rather, they are the means to and end of bringing the feeling and emotion of recorded music over to the listener so he or she can truly enjoy the listening process. This is not accomplished by cheap equipment bought in the nearest supermarket for cheap dollars and setup in haste in the first spot available on the shelf in the living room.

It is not necessary about purchasing the most expensive and prestigious and thus buy yourself a ticket to heaven. Certain tweaks, like the correct placement of your loudspeakers, stable furniture for your equipment, choosing a proper cable, can bring you a long way without horrendous costs. You simply have to know what will make a difference and why, and then make your own experiments and draw your own conclusions.

In this book you will simply discover how to

  • get the best sound for your money
  • identify the weak links in your system and upgrade where it will do the most good
  • set-up and "tweak" your system and get maximum performance from equipment you already own
  • read equipment reviews
  • make hi-fi more fun!

I have read the book myself several times and still enjoy the entertaining descriptions and the fun of making small changes in my hi-fi system with surprising results.

About the author

Robert Harley was for years Consulting Technical Editor of the legendary Stereophile magazine.

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