Welcome to Audiophile Nirvana, the snake oil free audiophile website. The information provided here will assist both the beginning and advanced audiophile build excellent audio reproduction systems based on sound (pun intended) engineering principles.This is the site many audio manufacturers hope that you will never read because it puts the snake oil back in the bottle.
Why “Audiophile Nirvana”? Many audiophiles are infected by the snake oil curse, which causes them to chase endlessly after what is supposedly better sound reproduction. In many eastern traditions “Nirvana” is associated with peace of mind, and tranquility. Thus, Audiophile Nirvana is meant to restore peace of mind, and the enjoyment of music.
This site is the result of the contributions of acoustic, recording, and electrical engineers, who believe it’s time to put the power of knowledge and information into the hands of audiophiles. The use of scientific and engineering terminology will be limited, because this site is intended for anyone who loves music. Unfortunately, the dispelling of snake oil sometimes requires a little science and math, but we promise to keep it as simple as possible.
History of Audiophile Snake Oil
Many of the pioneers of consumer high fidelity sound were engineers seeking after solutions to problems in sound reproduction. James B. Lansing, Frank McIntosh, and Saul Marantz, are among the many now recognized by audiophiles around the world. The home systems we enjoy today are built around their discoveries, and the advancements in early sound reproduction achieved at AT&T Bell Labs.
The consumer Hi-Fi movement was extremely popular in the 1970’s, and many of the products produced during that era are experiencing a resurgence in popularity today. It was towards the end of this period that snake oil first appeared under the term “High End”. The High End was comprised of esoteric, and often, poorly designed products from small electronics companies that combined beautiful metal and woodwork to create the impression of extremely high quality goods. It was more audio art than well engineered sound reproduction components. At first they were targeted at the luxury market, but eventually began to gain popularity in the mainstream through periodicals such as Stereophile and Audiophile magazines.Many of these components were plagued with reliability issues due to the nature of their designs.Amplifiers failed and speakers frequently suffered burned voice coils.In some cases long abandoned technologies such as ribbon and capacitive speaker components were brought back to life with claims of superior sound quality. They too suffered from a lack of reliability and sound reproduction accuracy, the very same reasons these technologies had been abandoned by professionals long before.
The “Purist” Movement
As the High End movement progressed, a new and novel marketing campaign began to emerge calling for “purity in circuit design,” where tone controls and equalization were viewed as impeding the pure sound represented by the original signal. While this was laughed at in professional circles, it became embraced by many audiophiles, mostly due to the repeated misinformation provided in various periodicals. The Purist snake oil glosses over the fact that the listening room almost always requires equalization for accurate reproduction and, that by removing equalization capabilities, poor quality recordings are doomed to a virtually un-listenable status. It also cunningly avoids any discussion of how music recordings are produced. During the production of any recording it goes through multiple equalization sessions in an attempt to ensure that it sounds good on a variety of playback devices such as car stereos and portable radios. Equalization has always been and will remain a part of the recording process.
The damage done to the enjoyment of listening to music by the Purist movement cannot be overstated. The musical tastes of audiophiles began to change based on recording quality. Old favorites from the 60’s and 70’s were set aside because of their poor sound quality, and the lack of any means of correcting it. Here at Audio Nirvana we hope to restore your listening pleasure to include all of your favorite recordings.
The Wire Wars
Audio interconnect and speaker cables have become a profitable business built on imaginative marketing and misinformation. This market now extends into power cords, HDMI, and optical cables. Untold sums of money have been wasted on the fanciful claims of cable vendors.
Cables serve a very simple purpose: to connect one component to another. All that’s needed is a properly shielded interconnect for components, and the right gauge of wire for speaker runs. This is discussed in greater detail on the Wire and Cable page.
Audio nirvana is possible for all audiophiles, even those with a modest budget, if they have a proper understanding of the science of acoustics and audio engineering. This isn’t as complex as you might think. Instead of discussions about magical cables and alchemically created amplifiers, we want to explain room acoustics, equalization, power requirements, and transducer/room interactions. Armed with this information you will be able to achieve amazing results with your equipment.
Unfortunately, for us, we have nothing to sell you. Maybe we could have some t-shirts made to help support this site? Bumper stickers? Audiophile Teddy Bears? We’ll think of something. Hopefully. 🙂