Affordable audio – how low can you go?

  • Where to start with entry-level audio hardware? Is getting into vinyl financially prudent? Does Spotify really sound that bad? Can we make Bluetooth audio sound any good? Does good sound only arrive via a fat wallet or deep pockets?

    These questions provided the jumping off point for the Affordable Audio seminar held at RMAF ’16 and moderated by yours truly.

    Much of my audio-related thinking centres not only on the entry-level but high value propositions of all stripe. For the second year running, RMAF had given over a selection of rooms to system compilation at US$500 and up.

    How low can we go? Below half a grand? To take aim at laptop speakers or a smartphone is a cheap shot that misses the point.

    At what point does it become not worth the effort to invest in a higher quality streaming service or dispense with Bluetooth connectivity? I’d contend that proper stereo separation from left and right loudspeakers should be the first point of call before addressing the quality of one’s source.

    Joining me on this year’s panel were Steve Silberman of AudioQuest and AudioStream editor Michael Lavorgna. MIA (with apologies) were Roon Labs’s Enno Vandermeer – who’d succumbed to a bout of altitude sickness – and the most personable guy in audio, Peachtree’s David Solomon – who couldn’t escape his demo room.

    Regardless of what you think of these seminars, the subject matter for this one was laid out in advance and was closely adhered to on the day. I’d call that a win.

    Concentrate not on the prefab room or the missing persons but on the ideas floated and points made.

    Yes, I believe Bluetooth can sound pretty darn good. No, Spotify isn’t the work of Satan. No, you don’t need deep pockets to get good sound but you do need a few hundred bucks – perhaps a thousand – from which a lossless streaming subscription makes more financial sense than getting into vinyl.

    Watch the whole thing here.

    No doubt the YouTube comments section will bring the boys (not men) to the yard.

    Further information: RMAF Seminars


    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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