Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Re-tuning the ol' Hi-Fi

1/16/2023, 10:29:21 AM

For the longest time now, I've wanted to clean up and upgrade my Hi-Fi system, although what I had was "good enough" in many respects. I'm not audiophile by any stretch of the imagination, so I've felt that my needs were fairly minimal.

The reasons for having a Hi-Fi system at all were straightforward:

  1. I dislike how tinny TV speakers are, and how they point backwards/downwards from the back of the TV
  2. Bass response is often lacking — I once watched The Dark Knight at a friend's place, and couldn't get into it because the tiny TV speakers attempting to produce bass would just heavily distort any other sound coming from them.

For reference, my setup was inherited from my parents, who had used it back before I was born!

  • Bowers & Wilkins Matrix 1 speakers
  • Denon AVR-1612 receiver

The system when inherited actually had its own power amp and amplifier, but they ran on 240V (after all it did come from Hong Kong), and the power amp later died.

Knowing the speakers dated back to 1987, I was curious whether a new set of speakers would be able to achieve and/or surpass the old set.

My research took me to /r/BudgetAudiophile, and I settled on a pair of Micca RB42 speakers. I decided to replace my AVR since I only ever used one input (a HTPC), and divorced my video and audio completely. Instead, I picked out the Fosi Audio TB10A, which should adequately power my speakers given the purported 100W output per channel.

In order to gauge the difference between components, I installed them one at a time.

First, the receiver was replaced with the compact amplifier. Immediate space savings were had, with marginal difference in audio quality. Any perceived differences could be written off as placebo effect.

Secondly, I wall-mounted my speakers. This made a notable difference, as the old speakers were originally sitting at table height, roughly three feet apart. My new speakers, I wall-mounted, and positioned to either side of the television. In addition to being able to produce actual stereophonic sound, the positioning allowed the sound to appear to come from the video source. I didn't think that would make a difference, but it certainly does.

You can never get enough of Edward James Olmos

Adequately happy with my results, I then turned my attention to the remaining piece of this Ship of Theseus — the cables.

You may be thinking that there's no way the cables would make a difference, and I'd be inclined to agree with you, but these cables probably dated to 1987, so I figured, why not? The original cables were (roughly) 16 gauge solid copper wire, heavily insulated, hand terminated. Monster cable brand (Ha! I didn't even know they existed back then).

18 hours and $14 CAD later, and I had a 100' spool of 16 AWG speaker wire in hand.

A spool of 16 AWG speaker wire next to a 30 year-old Monster Cable

The minute I hooked it up, I could hear the difference. Perhaps not in audio quality, but in actual volume. In fact, the volume was so loud, I had to turn my amplifier down from ~80% all the way down to ~40%, meaning the 100W output was plenty of wattage to fill a 500 sq. ft. room.

What can I glean from this? Don't use 30 year old cables, I suppose.