So, you’ve spent a bunch of time listening to speakers, amplifiers, CD players (or DAC’s or Turntables for that matter), and possibly even cables, and you’ve assembled a Hi-fi System. The thing about it is, there are probably at least a couple of things you could do to improve the enjoyment of the music you’re playing back on your Hi-fi, no matter the level you’ve invested at. I’m going to list 5 of my personal favorite products that give the most impact to an already existing system, that are typically no more than about $100.
Transparent Cable High Performance Powerlink
Hopefully we have all heard what investing even about $50-$85 on some interconnects will do to a system, especially compared to the cheap “freebies” that come in the box with most Audio/Video electronics. Well, the fact is that most manufacturer-supplied power cables are as equally performance limiting as the interconnects they throw in the box. If your piece of audio gear has a standard 3-prong IEC connector, try a $105 Transparent High Performance Powerlink on it. Except in the most rare cases it will have enough of an effect that you’ll want one for every piece of gear in your system (or a better one, for that matter!). The big thing I always hear is an effortlessness to the music that just flows, which comes along with improved dynamics and transient speed. It’s because the equipment is actually getting current!
It’s not surprising that a company who makes great performing Hi-Fi furniture would make a product that improves isolation of equipment. Enter the QX-silencer, which come in 3 different sizes for various applications. A set of 4 of the smallest, the QX-25, will set you back $49. If your speakers are the small type and are being used on a shelf, try a couple of sets of these underneath them. The isolation from the shelf will improve bass “tightness” and the music will sound much more coherent and natural. Great for underneath CD players, cables, etc. as well.
Still have the manufacturer-supplied jumpers for your bi-wire speakers, or those metal bars on your integrated amp that connect the pre-out/main in? You really need to replace them. Even a few dollars invested in some good bulk speaker wire from Transparent to connect in between your bi-wire binding posts will make your speakers sound much more fluid and natural. And a $50 set of jumpers from the pre-out/main in on your integrated amp will simply blow your mind. It’s the little things like these that will get you listening to your Hi-fi more, and ultimately, more music!
Ayre Acoustics Myrtle Wood Blocks
Akin to the Quadraspire QX-Silencers mentioned above, these go underneath your components, cables, power cords, etc to provide improved isolation. At $5 each, it’s kind of hard to go wrong with trying a set of these Myrtle Wood blocks, and in some ways they are some of the best value in audio today. The one caveat is that they are a bit more application specific, meaning that they won’t necessarily make certain manufacturers equipment or speakers sound better. We’ve tried them under just about everything we sell, so if you ask us, we can make sure to recommend them in the right application.
Transparent Cable Performance USB
With the increasing popularity of Computer-based digital audio, there has been an influx of USB-based DAC’s in the audio marketplace (we just so happen to have some of the best available). But since this is new territory, not many manufacturers have paid much attention to the USB cable connecting the computer and the DAC. Thankfully, Transparent Cable did some long research and development to provide us with a USB cable that literally transforms a USB DAC. We recently had a Tip’s and Techniques Seminar in which we demonstrated an off-the-shelf USB cable connected from a Mac Mini to the wonderful new Ayre QB-9 USB DAC, and then replaced the cable with the Transparent. Every single person in the room heard an improvement that was in no way subtle. If you own a USB DAC, this is a $90 investment that should definitely be on your short list.
While there are many things to consider when purchasing a Hi-fi system, it is often some of the small overlooked things that can make significant improvements to your enjoyment of not just the equipment you invested in, but also the music that is being reproduced through it.
Jesse, Definitive Seattle Showroom