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Table of Contents
- What is High-End Audio?
- Choosing a High-End Audio System
- Becoming a Better Listener
- Power and Integrated Amplifiers
- Disc Players, Transports, and DACs
- Music Servers and Computer-Based Audio
- Turntables, Tonearms, and Cartridges: The LP Playback System
- FM Tuners, Satellite Radio, Internet Radio, and HD Radio
- Audio for Home Theater
- Multichannel Audio
- System Set-Up Secrets Part One: Loudspeaker Placement and Room Acoustics
- System Set-Up Secrets Part Two: Expert Tuning Techniques and Audiophile Accessories
- Specifications and Measurements
- Appendix A: Sound and Hearing
- Appendix B: Audio and Electronics Basics
- Appendix C: Digital Audio Basics
Preface to the Fourth Edition
This new fourth edition of The Complete Guide to High-End Audio
represents the most extensive overhaul of the book since its introduction in
1994. The reason is simple: today's music listener is faced with an
unprecedented array of new technologies for acquiring, storing, and accessing
music. As recently as 2004 (the book's last update), CD was the dominant medium,
SACD and DVD-Audio were battling to be the CD's high- resolution successor,
downloadable music was severely compromised in sound quality and thus of little
interest to the audiophile, and only a few hardy souls dared to use a PC as a
Just six years later, everything is different. Downloadable music is no longer
synonymous with horribly compressed MP3 sound quality-it's the serious music
lover's path to spectacular-sounding high-resolution digital audio. The format
war between SACD and DVD-A was rendered moot by the death of physical media.
Although SACD is still a great format with many years of life left, the Internet
allows us to transcend physical formats and download high-resolution files,
independent of the dictates of the mass market or the need to standardize on a
disc format. Linn Products, the company that revolutionized high-performance
audio in 1972 with its LP12 turntable, ceased production of CD players in early
2010. Its customers had moved on to accessing music via the Internet. Further
evidence of this trend comes from the president of Polygram records, who stated
that 90% of all CDs sold are played just once-to be ripped to a computer hard
drive. We are in an exciting new age.
But it's not just high-res digital, music servers, downloadable music, and hard-
drive storage that have dramatically changed the audiophile landscape.
Technology advances have greatly improved the performance of the traditional
cone-based dynamic loudspeaker. Switching amplifiers, with their cool operation,
compact size, and high output power, are beginning to be taken seriously. That
venerable old format, the vinyl record, is seeing a remarkable resurgence in
popularity (LP sales doubled in 2009 over 2008). Today's turntables, tonearms,
and cartridges extract even more musical information from the LP's grooves. And
CD playback has improved immeasurably, largely the result of inventive new
digital filters. The establishment of Blu-ray Disc as a mass-market format has
wonderful implications for the music lover. The format can contain not only
high-definition video, but also up to eight channels of high-resolution digital
audio with perfect bit-for-bit accuracy to the source. Concert performances on
Blu-ray are nothing short of spectacular. Finally, although the laws of physics
haven't been repealed, this fourth edition incorporates new techniques and
products for optimizing your listening room and tweaking your system for the
best possible sound.
As has been the case with previous editions, each chapter progresses from the
most basic information to deeper technical discussions. When you've reached your
own comfortable depth, simply skip to the beginning of the next chapter where
the material becomes easier. This book is meant to be used as a reference rather
than read linearly from start to finish. Keep in mind that you don't need to
understand the technical aspects of audio to enjoy music in your home. I've
presented the technical content for those readers interested in knowing how audio
works, and to make this book truly The Complete Guide to High-End Audio.