I first spoke to Jim Smith by telephone years ago, when he was the U.S. Avantgarde Acoustics loudspeaker distributor and I was just a neophyte reviewer. I had called him to secure a pair of Avantgarde Unos for review, a request which he politely declined. Even though I was just starting out, he was a gentleman, and treated me as if I was one of the "big boys."
As the years went by, I noticed that his advertisements offered a free publication called 31 Secrets to Better Sound. I never called for my copy. While I thought it was a good promotional idea, I felt that he couldn't possibly tell me anything that I didn't already know, not in 31 free tips. after all I was a Reviewer. And it was free. Everybody knows you can't get something for nothing. By then, my interest in the Unos had waned, so it seemed like I would be taking advantage of his offer, as I had no intent to purchase.
I might not have been so stupid if I had known a bit more about the man. First, he has been around high end audio nearly as long as I have been alive. Set up correctly, even given their limitations, I love Magneplanars. Jim Smith worked at the factory and penned the owner's manuals for three different models. He has worked on the retail side of the business, both as a salesperson (we share common ground) as well as a shop owner. As a distributor, he has won numerous "Best Sound of Show" awards. If you have not attended a show, the rooms vary from mediocre to bad as far as the conditions that manufacturers and distributors must endure. Getting great sound at an audio show is the auditory equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade. Actually it is harder than that, the analogy I would really like to use involves chicken salad. You know what I mean. Jim Smith has experience.
When Jim and I spoke about me reviewing Get Better Sound, he was rather apologetic. "It's not written technically" he told me. Besides the great advice given within its 293 pages, that is what I really like about it. Literally anyone can take the information within the book and use it to improve the system they already have. One does not need to be a stereo geek. The book does not ask the reader to buy things; it asks that the reader do things.
Most people are aware that speaker placement can make or break a system's performance. Get Better Sound shows step by step how to achieve top notch speaker placement. One does not need to have a top notch system to take advantage of the concepts within the book. I have had lots of different pieces of equipment through the years, resulting in systems that ranged in price from less than $500 (in the mid 80's used) to more than $20,000. To this day, that used less than $500 system is still one of my favorites. It wasn't that the gear was stellar, although it wasn't bad (a Marantz receiver, Dual turntable, Grado cartridge, and a pair of Large Advents) it was that it was setup to work with the room, not against it. This synergy between the room and the system is the major premise of Get Better Sound.
I have a far nicer system these days, but I could have enjoyed my music more and saved a ton of cash had I followed another of Jim's concepts- actually gleaned from a local men's clothing store- have a road map! If you want to travel from one state to another, you would look at a road map, wouldn't you? Yet, audiophiles will buy a new (insert shiny, probably expensive) piece of equipment in the attempt to get, well, somewhere. And we do it again, and again, and again. We need a plan. It is an interesting concept that honestly never crossed my mind.
How much did you spend on speaker cables, or that shiny new amp in your rack? Do you want maximum enjoyment from the gear you already have? Maybe you are just starting to think about buying a nice system, and are confused by the myriad of choices and conflicting advice online. While I have recommended numerous pieces of gear as good values, even great ones, I have never believed in a "Best Buy" until now. No matter what your system consists of, or what type of music you enjoy, spend the $44.50 for Get Better Sound. For the price of a few CDs, you can improve the sound of every CD in your collection- and that is what I call a best buy.
Thanks to Nels Ferre for reviewing Get Better Sound. Nels got the concept of GBS. It is not a textbook with indecipherable text and graphs. Nor is it about how to get you to buy more gear. It's about getting the best from what you already have. It's really about empowering folks who, for whatever reason, no matter how bright they are, no matter how successful they may be in their chosen field, have simply never heard their system perform at a level that's close to it's true potential. Sadly, from my experiences gained from visiting many hundreds of ardent audiophile music lovers, virtually none of them were enjoying the full impact from their systems.
Thousands of audiophiles have bought GBS. My goal is for each of them to obtain a far more significant improvement from employing the tips and techniques in GBS than they could ever get from buying any new component, at any price. I would like to mention an additional aspect of Get Better Sound. That's the quarterly newsletters that are free to GBS readers. Called Quarter Notes, they feature topics that weren't covered in GBS, or they may expand on topics that are in GBS. Also, there are guest articles from reviewers and industry personnel, as well as not-particularly-politically-correct observations from the author (me).