Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Do you have a Golden Ear? Try high-end audio

Do you love music or even have a passion for it? If yes, then you probably own some audio high-end equipment. What is meant by high-end, anyway?

First, high-end audio equipment is about having a passion for music and making sure it is reproduced the way it was meant to be heard. High-end constitutes a unique subset of music-reproduction components that bear little similarity to the stereo system. The high-end ethos -- that music and the quality of its reproduction -- is manifested in high-end audio equipment. It is designed by dedicated enthusiasts who combine technical skills with musical sensitivity in their craft of components that take us one step closer to the "live" musical event.

High-end equipment is designed by ear, built by hand and exists for one reason: to enhance the experience of music listening. The cost of high-end equipment, especially in Indonesia, seems high.

A two-way electrostatic-hybrid speaker system (model Final 0.3 made by Final BV Netherlands) for example is sold for Rp 27.9 million by Aurora (one of the largest audio high-end suppliers in Jakarta). But according to Aurora's owner, Widjajay Suriana, high-end refers to equipment performance, not the price.

Other high-end audio equipment sellers include Wijaya Audio and Sinar Mas in Jakarta, V Audio in Bandung, and Sanggar Audio in Medan.

Second, high-end audio equipment is about communicating the musical experience, not adding elaborate difficult-to- operate features. In fact, high-end systems are much easier to use than mass-market mid-fi systems. This is because high-end systems eliminate useless features, and, instead, put the money into sound quality. High-end audio is for music lovers, not electronic wizards.

Third, anyone who likes music can appreciate immediately the value of high-quality sound reproduction. It does not take a golden ear to know what sounds good. The differences between good and mediocre music reproduction are instantly obvious.

Finally, the goal of high-end audio systems is to make the equipment "disappear" when that happens; then we know we have reached the highest state of communication between the musician and the listener.

The most common thing we have to remember is high-end audio is not about equipment, it is about music.

The high-end credo holds that the less the musical signal is processed, the better. Any electronic, wire, tone control or switch degrades the signal and thus, the musical experience. This is why you will not find a graphic equalizer or spatial enhancer subharmonic synthesizer. High-end equipment is not only designed by ear, but is also often handmade by skilled craftspeople who take pride in their work. The assemblers are often audiophile themselves, building the equipment with as much care as if it were to be installed in their own homes.

That is high-end audio. (Gatot)