Saw the system above for $1200 at a department store. "2000W of pure power" the label said. Curious, I turned up the volume. The sound was devoid of definition, with an overpowering muddled low frequency.
As I am typing this, I am enjoying sweet sounds through my $200 DIY amplifier. In James Taylor's 'Something in the Way She Moves', every instrument sound is clear and distinct, down to the guitar strings vibrating on the fret at the beginning. 'Handyman' sounds great too, with neat and exact bass notes.
iPhone docks, bluetooth speakers, micro Hifi systems... There's nothing really 'high' fidelity about these toys. You are not going to experience good sound even if you spend hundreds. Quality is not simply about power or bass, but about good sound reproduction, definition, range, soundstage...
Not Good Enough
After many years, my trusty Panasonic Micro 'HiFi" no longer satisfied me. I often visited my audiophile friend who had spent more than $30,000 on HiFi. I liked his setup, but spending even $1000 wasn't an option for me.
A Quest for Good Tunes
2011 - my quest for a good affordable set-up took me online. Mainstream shops (in Australia) had little apart from surround amplifiers. Dedicated HiFi shops had little in terms of stereo amplifiers below $1000. In the UK I found brands like Denon and Rotel, but shipping and warranty matters made them unattractive.
Enter Tripath Amps
On eBay I stumbled upon hundreds of these mini stereo amplifiers mostly based on Tripath technology. Tripath chips were considered by IEEE Spectrum Magazine as 1 of 25 groundbreaking chips along with Intel 8088 processor! Costing from $20 to $50, I had to try them out!
Mini Amps Galore
Muse M50, Texas Instruments based TPA3123, and my first stereo mini amp. Tiny, minimalistic, accepts RCA inputs, amplifies the sound. With 50W per channel, it blew away my Panasonic micro system. Great as a portable unit or for small spaces. Get it from Amazon.
The great Lepai 2020A+. Only $20 (circa 2012). Tripath TA2020 based. Clean sound, robust. Watch people testing these with expensive giant speakers on Youtube. I made this into a portable bluetooth boombox here. Get it from Amazon.
Sure TA2024 (15W/channel) looks better than the Lepai, but lower powered. Nice top-end definition, but poor low frequencies.
Ah, the mighty Trends Audio TA-10.2. Truly a giant killer. Rave reviews all over the internet, classic, simple, efficient, sounds magnificent. A high end implementation of the low power Tripath TA2024. $200 (circa 2011). My audiophile friend listened once and bought immediately. Top-end definition surpasses most amps costing thousands.
Life After Mini Amps
Mini amps started my journey. Cheap and good, but not powerful. I found amplifier kits in the form of assembled circuit boards. Huge range of products and power up to hundreds of watts. I knew nothing about electronics....but I had to learn. I took the plunge and bought a kit from HifiMeDIY for a little over $100. This was the beginning of the next journey.
Electrical - when undertaking DIY, ensure that you have sufficient knowledge and that you take precautions such as switching off power prior to commencing work.
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