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Musical Fidelity Testimonials
An Incremental Approach
Back around 1985 my wife and I attended a concert at the Fox Theater in St. Louis MO featuring the Oak Ridge Boys and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The sound was fantastic and, therefore, I purchased their CD in anticipation of having the same audio experience at home. Needless to say, when I played the CD on my Radio Shack receiver and Sears speakers, it just sounded awful compared to the live sound of the concert.
I believe that this was the start of my HiFi crusade to obtain ‘live’ sounding music at home for our personnel enjoyment (yes, I was a hobby audiophile....and so are you because you are reading this).
Flash to now in 2015 with years of reading between the lines in most audio rags, building a network of people with audio expertise, listening to lots of systems, tinkering with audio equipment, cables, and associated audio stuff (very presidential..uh?)
Yes, I know that everybody has a different audio budget, but the bottom line is that one works the best with what they have. I would say that my HiFi budget is moderate when compared with the $50-$100k+ per box ultra high-end that is possible these days with Ypsilon, Boulder etc.
So here I was with a system built on an average budget that when compared to the best I have heard at audio auditions, I would classify my system’s sound (prior to Upgrade Co's work) as, well for lack of better terms, “average”, despite having already had well known after market mod's at another firm.
My system definitely had some sonic shortcomings. Its sonic character varied widely during different times of the day and season. During a very cold winter day it sounded flat and the soundstage retreated to the front of the speakers. On a warm summer night (scorching at 68F degrees in Northern Michigan) it sounded more alive and dynamic. Also, when the volume was set more than ¼, it reached a point where it simply couldn’t get louder or more dynamic without an audible change in its sonic character. The highs became thin and shrill and unpleasant. As the volume was increased, there seemed to be an invisible loudness ceiling and the soundstage retreated to the front of the speakers.
I knew that, while my system had a very good build quality, and besides, I liked the ‘vintage’ look of the UK manufactured Musical Fidelity CR series components.
Also, my system physically fit my environmental space. I had a good amount invested in the cabling, power cords, power conditioning, and ‘built in’ shelving. A lot of this would have had to be replaced or modified if I changed to taller components. So it made sense for me to upgrade my current gear instead of purchasing a new system.
There are people that provide aftermarket HiFi mods that are reputable and professional. They can easily be found out by asking your network of audio professionals. The audio community is relatively small and people that have established themselves in the upgrade business cannot afford to do a poor job. If they did a poor job, the word would get out fast and they would shortly be flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. Through my audio network, I found a reputable vendor that would perform a hardware upgrade on my components and, in great anticipation, I quickly sent them my equipment.
When my system returned I would say that it sounded bigger and bolder. It was like it was put on steroids. Notes would come out of nowhere and knock me out of my chair…like where did that come from. I believe that what I am describing here is an increase in dynamics. While I was greatly pleased with the initial mods by the other company, I noticed that my system’s sonic characteristics were still the same. Yes, it was bigger and bolder, but it still had the same sonic shortcomings as described above. Sounded awful sometimes, unlistenable. I found myself listening at no more than 3/16 volume to avoid changes in its sonic character and soundstage reductions. My thought was that I have taken my system as far as it could go and that I should be satisfied with its sound or, the alternative, spend a large amount of money on a completely new system. So I decided to go on to other matters in life and be satisfied with a system that I would classify as sounding ‘very good’.
After a couple of months passed, and as audio addicts do, I was performing my daily Audiogon search for the ultimate holy grail of audio equipment. I then stumbled on a piece of equipment that advertised that it was modified by The Upgrade Company. Since I never heard of Upgrade Co. before, I reviewed its website and found out that while they do hardware upgrades, they also specialize in shielding equipment from Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI). This struck me as perhaps being the key as to why the sound of my system varied so much and why I wasn't happy with its performance. Besides, some manufacturers of the very high end equipment, in some ways, try to isolate their internal sub assemblies one from another. There had to be more to it.
I gave the head of the Company, David J. Schulte a telephone call. I told Dave that I just found out about Upgrade Co. and that about two months ago I had 2 of my Musical Fidelity component’s upgraded by a different well-known mod company. To my surprise, I found out that we were geographically close (almost neighbors, 4.5hrs apart) to one another in Michigan. We talked what I had experienced with the hardware upgrade and that, while audiophile grade parts, wiring & connectors had been installed, we both believed that there was still a lot of room for improvement. Dave explained that the brands of parts, wiring & connectors actually has but a small affect on sound quality. RF out if the air getting mixed in with the signals & power supply actually by far has a much greater affect on performance. I asked Dave if he would be interested in installing only the RFI EMI RIDDANCE Technology they've developed. Dave said that the company’s policy is to do both the hardware and RFI EMI Riddance upgrading together on stock unmodified gear due to legalities. Dave said he would make a ‘one time’ exception for me because it would be very interesting to see just what their RFI EMI RIDDANCE Technology can do on its own on top of a well known competitors best mods…and besides we were just about neighbors. So I loaded my equipment into the trunk of my little Toyota (I forgot how heavy that stuff was) and with my car’s nose pointed into the air, drove it ‘below the bridge’ to Upgrade Co.
After a week or so, I trekked back down with my wife to pick up my equipment and since Dave was such a gracious host, we ended up getting home late and could not hook it up till the next morning.
Right out of the box, there was an immediate sense of sweetness, delicacy, and clearness along with more punch at low frequencies. While we may end this story here, there was something else that happened that I did not expect. My old system was gone. It was completely transformed in that its old sonic shortcomings had all magically disappeared.
As I turned the volume up, the music did not lose its natural sweetness nor have any loss of tonal color. The invisible volume ceiling was now completely gone and the soundstage did not collapse to the front of the speakers up loud. My volume control is like a rheostat into infinity and the limiting factor now is bottoming the woofers out in my Esoteric MG-20 speakers.
In my thirty years of listening to systems, I can now easily say that my system now sounds near ‘world class’. I would save ‘world-class’ for Boulder, D’Agostino, Solution, and Ypsilon….these are listed as examples without the attempt of slighting many other good high end manufacturers).
Dave tells me once it burns in and I get my CD player SE Upgraded my system will sound far better yet.
I have to admit that even the thought of my average brand equipment now sounding ‘near world-class’ makes me a bit giddy.
This was a very interesting experiment as to an incremental approach to a system upgrade. The hardware upgrade increased the dynamics of my system. Even though there was more of everything, I could still tell that it was my same system in that it had the same sonic characteristics (for the good and for the bad).
The RFI EMI RIDDANCE Technology was a completely different story. It has transformed my system to a level that I did not think possible and into a completely different system. The music just sounds beautiful and the old sonic shortcomings have disappeared. Am I done improving my system for now?..well no..not until I have the Oak Ridge Boys singing live in my living room. Or maybe instead, I would like to transform my Toyota into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $2 million dollar Bugatti. I just might give Dave a call. Actually I think I'll be having Upgrade Co. do my Musical Fidelity A5 CD player next. The source sets the system's sonic potential. More to come...
Jeff & Joann Goldberg, Michigan
Page information last updated: 20/04/2017
Disclaimer: We believe but do not guarantee that the information on this website is correct at the time of publication.