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Sound DecisionSM: A Music-Lover's Guide Through The Hi-Fi Jungle

Getting through the jungle
       Hi-fi is a jungle, and hacking a path through it can be frustrating and exhausting, especially if you're more interest in music than in knobs, lights & buttons.
       The unwary music-lover finds a jungle full of specifications that don't correlate with accuracy of sound. A jungle where sales people are often ignorant about fundamentals (though they know the jargon fluently). Where some of them receive kickbacks on particular components and are thus more interested in selling you an expensive system than an appropriate one.
       Where to find a guide who will offer expert, independent advice?

       Sound Decision, a professional consulting service headed by audio expert James Boyk, offers such guidance, whether you are choosing a new system or upgrading your current one. Sound Decision is not a dealer, and does not promote equipment. It is employed by you to recommend a system which meets your needs and your budget.
       When you consult with Sound Decision (in person or over the telephone), you will be led through a proprietary questionnaire developed from 20-years of experience. The questionnaire covers the kinds of music you listen to and how loud you play the music; in what size room, furnished how; your current system and what you like and dislike about it; the importance of various convenience features; how much you want to spend; and so on.
       With the insight given by your answers to these questions, Sound Decision goes to work gauging your priorities and researching a system specifically for you. Recommendations are designed to meet the twin goals of component compatibility and accuracy of reproduction.

       Sound Decision takes great care to recommend systems whose components are truly compatible. Most systems, by contrast, contain two or more components which do not work together as they should. A mismatched speaker and amplifier may simply sound less good than their potential; or the mismatch may actually damage one or the other component. Even if it does not, it damages the sound and wastes your money be preventing the components from giving their best.
       To judge compatibility requires information which for the most part does not appear on manufacturers' "spec" sheets. Sound Decision gathers this information through talking with manufacturers' engineering departments, researching in the international literature of audio reviews and technical journals, or from direct experience with the equipment; and then has the knowledge to integrate this information into valid judgments of component compatibility.

Accurate Reproduction
       Just as live musical sound has many aspects, so does accurate reproduction. Without being aware of it, one listener may focus more on dynamic range (the spread between soft and loud), while another concentrates more, for example, on subtleties on tone color. Component selection for your system depends a lot on what you listen for.
       On the other hand, at any price level, a few components are strikingly more accurate than the average. "They all sound alike," is a remark borne of despair, not knowledge. What is relevant, though, is ear-knowledge: the "specs" tell almost nothing about the sound.
       Sound Decision draws on the ear-knowledge of James Boyk, who is an internationally-known audio expert, concert pianist & recording engineer who has been interviewed on NPR's "All Things Considered" and written up in The Wall Street Journal, Discover, Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Hi-Fi News & Record Review, etc. etc.

Realistic Goals
       Helping clients formulate realistic goals is another way Sound Decision can help. The person who wants to hear Wagner operas in a large, heavily-furnished room, at volumes which make normal conversation impossible, will not be satisfied with any $7,000 system. On the other hand, someone who listens only to acoustic guitar at modest volume in a small room may find a well-chosen $3,000 system very satisfying.
       The record-industry executive needs to know just what is on the albums his company is releasing; he or she needs a system that may cost upwards of $20,000 (and to gauge how those albums sound in ordinary homes, may also need a system that costs $400—but for that he doesn't need consulting help).
       Sound Decision has no financial interest in urging a client to spend more than necessary; fees do not depend on the price of the recommended components. Sound Decision does not sell or install components, but will make referrals to those who do.
       For more information, email James Boyk


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