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Computers do not produce high-fidelity music, do they?

Posted 04-25-2013 at 09:27 PM by flshope

Since my early 20s (40 years ago), I have been interested in high-fidelity equipment for music reproduction. To me, "high-fidelity equipment" means powerful amplifiers (100s of watts rms per channel), heavy big-box wooden speakers (several cubic feet each) capable of reproducing 30 hz to around 20 Khz with a flat frequency response and a bunch of other acoustic characteristics, and high quality devices to play music media. I am not into high-end equipment, where each component costs O($10^5) each. My range is more lower mid-fi where things cost O($10^3) each and the whole system might cost O($10^4). [I am using mathematical order notation here where, for example, O(10^2) means 10-100, O(10^3) means 100-1000, etc.]

Amplifier power is important because some music forms, particularly classical, can have a very wide dynamic range. While most of a piece of music may require only a few watts of amp power, transients can require orders of magnitude more power. It is my understanding that typical music transients can drive almost any amplifier, no matter how expensive, into clipping (where the amp hits the limit of its power capability). So you want as much power as you can afford. Hi-fi amps are generally heavy and expensive, and cost more than a typical computer.

Hi-fi speakers are big and heavy -- O(10^2 lbm) -- for good reasons, specifically, sound quality.

I only mention all of this as lead-in to my opinion that home computers, as typically designed and configured, cannot possibly constitute high-fidelity music reproduction machines. Computer speakers are typically small, plastic, light weight, and have no power to speak of. If the amp is on the sound card, you are probably lucky to get more than a watt or two out of it. I know some of the more elaborate computer speakers are self powered, have separate woofers with built-in amp; but they still strike me as decidely low-fi. Accordingly, if you want high-fidelity room-filling sound with deep bass and stunning highs, I can't imagine how you could be satisfied with computer quality sound reproduction.

Am I wrong about all of this?
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