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The Complete Guide to High-End Audio [Paperback]

Robert Harley , Keith Jarrett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Paperback, April 1 2004 --  

Book Description

April 1 2004
This newly revised directory brings readers up to speed on the latest in cutting-edge audio equipment. Included are updates on multichannel music reproduction, surround sound, DVD-Audio, and Super Audio CD. Extensive tips on how to listen critically and judge audio-equipment quality, how to optimize the performance of an existing system, and how to best allocate an audio budget are included. Practical techniques for improving the acoustics of existing stereos and listening rooms are also featured.

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About the Author

Robert Harley is the editor in chief of The Absolute Sound, the world's most respected magazine on high-performance audio. He is the author of Introductory Guide to High-Performance Audio Systems and Home Theater for Everyone and has written more than 1,000 product reviews and articles on high-quality music reproduction. He lives in Carlsbad, California.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Almost totally without credibility Sept. 24 2002
Format:Paperback
This is one of the very few books I have ever returned to the bookstore (and I have bought thousands of books.)
Why don't I like this book?
1) It contains many, many, factual errors. These errors would be easily spotted by any freshman physics student, and should have been spotted by the publisher. For example, the author Robert Harley apparently doesn't understand the difference between electrical current and voltage.
2) It doesn't actually explain things. To me, an explanation shows how something works in terms of basic principles. Mr. Harley simpley states "facts", e.g., an outboard D/A converter will improve your sound, without explaining how or why.
3) Many photos and diagrams have mistaken or even irrelevant captions, leading me to conclude that Mr. Harley doesn't understand his own diagrams. For example, a diagram of an amplifier that uses feedback is used to "illustrate" a point about amplifiers that don't use feedback.
This last is the most serious point to me, because it makes me suspect that much of the technical-looking stuff in the book is included to impress the reader, not to actually explain things. In other words, it creates the impression of dishonesty.
To the people who defend the book as not intended for technical readers, I say this: even a non-technical book should be written by someone who understand the technical issues, so he or she can explain things clearly and truthfully. If it turns out that the author doesn't know the technical stuff, why should we read the book?
I might add that Robert Harley has a very poor reputation among respected audio engineers and other commentators in the field. Some audio manufacturers (but not all) pander to him apparently because he edits a high-end audio magazine, and his reviews can make or break a product.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost May 29 2004
Format:Paperback
This book is:
Almost what the High-End Audio industry needs
It's important for me that a book be written on the advantages of high-end audio. It's the business I'm in and it is dear to me on a personal level. There are many excellent portions and handy information pieces scattered about the book and that's the good news.
I will refrain from personalizing my complaints and stick to the issues as I see them. To write this book as the author, you should know Ohm's Law. Harley does not. This is made evident in several examples. Amperes, voltage and wattage are all part of a greater equation that appears to mystify the author. The basic laws of physics and simple electrical concepts need be firmly grasped prior to making an endeavor such as this. There are many elements of "Dark Science" in the high-end audio realm and a mystique that is largely relevant. This book does a strong job of handling that delicate balance between science and myth, that is so important to this industry. Along the way however it forgets to "check the science"
That's too bad, but not a total loss...
A serious explanation of negative feedback as used in power amplifiers would have been pretty easy to put down for the record. Most power amp manufactures have fascinating solutions to the problems associated with negative feedback. A breakdown of a few of the key developments in this area would have been excellent. An opportunity missed. Instead he uses an example of a negative feedback amplifier and calls it just the opposite! At that point in the book I admit I was a bit frustrated.
The good parts are many!
It's an enjoyable read when the author sticks to what he actually knows, acoustics and auditioning gear. I learned much and felt the key points were illustrated clearly and in the contexts of meaningful application. I am not saying "don't buy"
I guess I'm saying this book missed a huge opportunity simply by not getting some important parts right. That's all.
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By Maestro
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well-written "manual" for those who love music and want to maximize the performance of their audio systems. No, Mr. Harley is not a physicist; you don't have to be to grasp what makes for great sound quality. So let's keep the book's stated purpose in focus here. It is not an electronics manual for audio engineering. It still does an admirable job explaining which specs to pay attention to when auditioning gear, and what the specs mean. Period. The author also does an excellent job at conveying his enthusiasm for high-fidelity music reproduction, and he gives useful tips on improving already-excellent audio systems. Highly recommended for those who are building their first hi-end system, but it's also suitable for those who want to get the most out of existing systems. I enjoyed it from the latter perspective, and also because I wanted to expand my knowledge of audio gear and how they work.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
describes in total all you need to know about hight end audio, well covered explanations of principles of audio giving good explanations of the required audio devices of high end audio. This is not a shopping catalog but a reference for electronics technicians in the business.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For MUSIC lovers, but NOT for physics PHD's... Oct. 8 2002
By Boris
Format:Paperback
First things first: This book is one of the most comprehensive books I've come across in regards to high-end audio and its in's and out's. It's helped me get the most out of my equipment, and the sound that comes out of my system is just incredible!
Now on to secondaries:
Q: Who should NOT buy this book?
A: Anyone who likes to bicker and get into some pee-ing contest over how they're so inclined on their technical knowledge of "physics" that they blatantly forget what this book is all about, namely high-end audio!
Q: Who SHOULD buy this book?
A: Anyone who appreciates music and the reproduction thereof from a stereo system.
It not only covers all aspects of components but also the intricacies of connecting them to each other. In fact, it contains quickly accessible information on how to improve your system's sound within a short period of time. It has helped me go from a great system with GOOD sound to a great system with GREAT sound just by adding an AC line conditioner, per the author's recommendation.
Overall evaluation: This guy (Harley) may NOT be a physics guru, but he surely knows his HIGH-END audio systems; hence, the book is entitled "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" and NOT "The Complete Guide to Physics of High-End Audio."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great "How To" for Budding Audiophiles
Consumer Audio is a field rife with baloney. The higher end you go, the sillier *some* of the hype gets as well. Read more
Published on May 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars this is the perfect buy for beginners
This is great refresher course for those already familiar with audio - though you may find yourself bored out of your mind. Read more
Published on March 6 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy a high-end system before you've read this book
If you are reading this review is because you are probably about to shell out some serious money on a high-end system, and you want to make a decision that you'll not regret... Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2004 by Ferran Prat
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of its type
If you are the type of person who has a "critical ear" and is interested in learning about what is the full spectrum of options available in buying and setting-up a high quality... Read more
Published on March 11 2002 by Warren E. Bailey
2.0 out of 5 stars Some useful info. Too much silliness
As long as the author sticks to straight-forward info (such as explining why a pre-amp is often needed between a source component and a power amp) the book is useful. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2001 by Desert Rat
4.0 out of 5 stars Four stars and a half .
Anyone who wants to improve the sound performance of his/her audio setup will find in this books the nuts and bolts to achieving the task. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2001 by Marcelo A. Soto Quiroga
1.0 out of 5 stars Erroneous
Harley should have stuck on writing what "high-end" audio should be, and not delve on technical matters. Read more
Published on July 27 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the time to read
I'm just getting back into Audio as I'm thinking of updating my existing setup. This book did a really great job of explaining all the ins and outs (from a technical perspective)... Read more
Published on June 18 2001 by Paul H. Meijer
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