The Psychology of Hi-Fi

In a world where devices increase their features and decrease in size, why do we still choose separates for our audio?

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last fifteen years, the pace of technical change in electronics has been extraordinary. In 1999 a mobile phone was a less than svelte brick that made calls, 160 character text messages and treated us to an occasional game of Snake. The Swiss army phone of today is unrecognisably more intelligent. Not only is it a phone, but a games device, health monitor, torch, shopping device etc etc.

With this in mind, the idea of buying a piece of hifi equipment that performs a single task seems pretty archaic. Like most other categories of electronics, audio equipment has also seen an increase in capability unit for unit but the basic idea of building an audio system from separate units is the same its always been. Why is this? In a world where one of the thousands of functions a phone performs as a remote for the Stream Magic 6, why does the separates system still exist?

The most compelling reason for this is that first and foremost, you’re choosing the components that will fulfil your musical requirements as specifically as possible. The entire basis of a separates system is that you only buy what you need. Essentially, a separates system is the format of your choice partnered with the amplifier and speakers that complement it to best effect in your room. If you have this sorted, there isn’t much need for anything else. Separates also perform a single task. That might seem like an obvious thing to say, but this way you’re not compromising performance on convenience.

Dedicated separate mean you can ‘pick and mix’ exactly what you need and cut out anything you don’t. A complete Cambridge Audio system might sound like a true audiophiles dream come true, but not always the best fit for what you want. For example the nature of separates means that if you want one of our CD players to front a single ended valve system, you can. If we think back to our phone analogy again, it’d be like having a smartphone with EVERY APP EVER on it. There’s really no need if you’re just making a couple of calls, listening to some music and having a nosey on Facebook once in a while.

Building a separates system also allows you to upgrade your system as and when you need without hurting the bank balance too much. As and when you choose to improve the performance of your system or add a new function to it you can do so without starting from scratch (unless you’re REALLY going for it).

Beyond all of this is a more intangible element to the separates system. In the same way that the most coveted watches are mechanical and no matter how good ‘Bridge’ cameras get, the SLR is still the sign of the professional, separates are pretty cool. You don’t need to be especially interested in music, let alone hifi to recognise – even at a subconscious level – that when you see someone with a proper separates system set up and placed correctly in a room, it says they care about their sound in a way that an all-in-one system sat on a shelf just doesn’t.

Of course, we don’t know what the future holds. By year 2070 we might actually get the hoverboard we’ve always wanted (Not one of those wheely contraptions that claim to be a hoverboard). We recognise that many listeners don’t have the space or money for separates but still want to enjoy the technology and experience we have gained from designing full size audio system, which is where our portable and Bluetooth products come into play. But for now, we’ll make sure we put 110% into all of the above!

Happy listening.

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