There is no question that the arena of home entertainment equipment is, like so many other specialist hobbies, littered with esoteric concepts, language and trinkets. Such that, to most outsiders it’s hard to traverse much ground without stumbling over the detritus of D’Appolito speaker configurations, air-suspension turntables, spade lugs, upsampling digital-to-analog converters and countless other yummies that only ordained audiophiles can, and do, drool over.
But the amount of techno-babble, not to mention the inherent complexities of new digital-and even analog-technologies confuses even yours truly. Trying to keep up can be a full-time job, and for most it just isn’t worth it.
Because of all this confusion, consumers can have a pretty rough time of it when trying to upgrade or purchase a new system. I know this to be true because many of you have emailed me your questions about what to buy and how to solve the component-matching game made so difficult by the glut of choices now on the market. And though we try to cover a wide variety of topics in this column, we are not always able to get as specific as some readers want, or, we may miss some issues altogether.
So here is a collection of some of the most common and the most intriguing questions I’ve received in the past several months in hopes that the solutions offered may be of help to others in the quest for better sound. We always welcome your questions or suggestions of topics for future columns (sent to [email protected]). We’ll gather the best in these pages once or twice a year as space allows.
Our first question comes from reader Glenn Junkert in Montana:
Mike, I’m taking you up on your offer for “sound advice.” My wife and I began our 32-year association with each other partly because of our common love for music/jazz, often stretching our budget for the sake of our music (I’m a retired public school teacher). We both read your column regularly and recently decided to dramatically upgrade our speakers, selecting a pair of Magnepan 3.6s, after reading your complimentary comments, over B&W, MartinLogan and Meadowlark. In short, we love the Maggies, if it weren’t for vexing listening problems.
We can no longer listen to certain music on the 3.6s (big band, orchestral music, CDs with wide dynamic range) because the fuses (for both mids and tweeters) on the Maggies blow, blow, blow and blow again. We are not listening at excessive volume (moderately loud…much lower than our previous Polks or any other speaker we auditioned). We took them back to our dealer (a 400-mile round trip) who said they tested perfectly, and told us we couldn’t hurt the speakers, and to give them some time to mellow out. So we took them back home because we want them to work for us.
So now we can no longer listen to Chico O’Farrill’s “Carambola” brass shouts, nor the Carmina Burana, nor any music with a wide dynamic range, nor any music at moderately loud levels. We own Adcom (GFA-5500) power and preamps (which we’ve never had problems with) but would upgrade those if necessary. But is that the problem? Or are the Maggies simply incapable of reasonable room-filling volume? I can’t imagine speakers being incapable of merely moderate volume (we can speak over them). And if so, I know most music lovers would not pay $4,200 for them. Magnepan has a warning about playing their speakers (and burning them up) with blown fuses. Now, I jump at any “irregularity” and turn the volume down. What a pain. We’re losing our ability to luxuriate in the music as you so frequently describe. Help!