Bob Fairbairn

An Accelerated Audiophile Journey

I have been re-inventing my home stereo system with one simple goal: “Performance Listening” — re-introducing sit down listening our my home!

This is a journey of accelerated discovery and observations of the physics of everything in the playback chain of music in my living room. This is a systems design problem with computers, networks, music formats, turntables, DACs, amplifiers, speakers, cables and more. This is a “passion” or “obsession”; getting it right-where-I-want-it. In the end we have a system that feel very enjoyable to listen to and “is easy to operate”. We have LP’s, CD’s and a digital front end to enhance and expand our listening world.

Just for fun — a little history

This journey actually started in the 1960’s when I really started listening to music. The time of reel to reel tape recording, 8 track tapes, and WLS AM radio. There are many memories; From lugging my 4 track reel to reel tape deck with my Koss Pro-4AA headphones on vacation to installing an 8 track tape player in the family car. I can fast forward to my first classical music concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic. Then on to a simple listening system with a Phillips GA212 turntable, Sony integrated amplifier and B&O speakers. Listening to Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon, wow..

Fast forward to the 1980s and my first serious performance listening music system. A set of Thiel CS3 speakers, a Bryston 3B power amplifier, an Apt Holman pre-amp, and a Tanberg 3015 CD player with MIT Music Hose speaker cables and Interlink Reference A interconnects.

On to the 1990’s working in a semi-open office system of corporate America, headphones and music are a survival skill. Over time my hobby listening migrated to mostly on headphones and that both isolated me at work but from the rest of the family at home.

In 2014 I sold the “old” music listening system and installed SONOS around the house for more casual listening. SONOS is wonderful as a provider of music all around the house. But being a hobbyist at heart I need to play with the system. I learned that you should never beta test software on your home primary music system unless you live alone! I learned that even SONOS is too complex for casual listening because in 2016 the SONOS was system was totally displaced by the Amazon Echo for simple casual music in a couple of rooms. Just ask Alexa and you have music, the weather or a kitchen timer..

As good as SONOS is, it is not is a performance listening system. With casual background music being played on the Amazon Echo the SONOS was not being used…..

And that is where the story begins.

—RJF