Sharing your hi-fi – and why women choose the best audio systems

Sharing your hi-fi – and why women choose the best audio systems


I design cables, that’s my job. Am I a geek or a nerd? I don’t think so (feel free to contradict this statement).   What makes this so special for me is that I do really love music and my involvement with hi-fi has always been a means to an end. The end, which I will never reach, is an understanding of how music works. The journey though, has been amazing so far and will continue to be – I certainly can’t see the end in sight yet. I’m actually becoming increasingly convinced that there isn’t going to be one and more importantly perhaps, reaching a real understanding will mean breaking the thing I love so much just to see how it works.


Album art from Jive Time Records

I know a lot of women who love music with as much passion as I do, but there is a difference and this difference is why the majority of women don’t get as obsessed with hi-fi as men do. The women I know who love music have no wish to know how it works, it’s enough that it does. They also have no interest in the hi-fi components as long as they work, and work means that they make music sound better, then that’s fine.

They have no interest in bass, midrange and treble, they have no interest in a system that dissects music and lays the parts out, disconnected and available for examination. Having no interest in hi-fi makes it very easy to work out whether something’s better or not.

In truth I know that the thing I love most about music is the intangible, the emotional response, the feeling that my soul has been nourished, and the peace of mind, the stillness that comes at the end of a piece of music, that sense of witnessing a near magical occurrence for which there are no real words. But I always want more. I have to see how far I can push it. Can I change a cable? Can I design a new cable that gives me more? Can I try this new CD player, or cartridge, or speakers just to see if they get me closer? I might spend days working out why something’s not as good, putting it into words. I might spend far too long thinking about it.


You can expect a carefully considered opinion of your equipment (image from brightwall/darkroom mag)

Meanwhile – a female friend has listened and very quickly said either better or worse –  and she is inevitably right. She isn’t actually concerned with why, just that it is. And if it is? – Good.  And if it isn’t? – What’s the point? And that is the point and it applies to everything to do with hi-fi. She’s not getting tangled up in knots worrying about whether she can hear something or not, she’s not worrying about whether the mid-range is liquid enough or not.

Unless you’re very lucky in having a room of your own in which to indulge your every hi-fi whim (plus the money to do what you like), then a hi-fi system should be a shared experience, something that you and your partner choose together and listen to together. Too many men end up in dem rooms on their own. Speakers – OK, we all know that the stuff you put in front of them is really crucial, but the biggest impact on your living room is always going to be the speakers. Choose them together. I know lots of dealers who have done demonstrations to couples, only to find the (theoretically) uninterested partner has chosen the best speaker. “Why?” “The bigger ones sounded much better.”

Music is very much a shared experience and your partner is a wonderful person to share it with. Just don’t expect them to read the magazines or use the forums and do let them play music they like. I love sharing music with people, that’s what it’s for. So if you get something new, share it. You might just find you get to listen to a lot more music.  Nigel Finn



Technical Advice and general hi-fi tips


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6 comments on this post

  1. It’s true, I always take my wife with me, although the outcome is not always practical. The last outing to Sound and Vision would have ended up with fantastic pair of legacy Tannoys if it was not for our small modern living room. Instead we visited those nice men at Graham Audio and came home with LS5/9s. You have missed one of the factors in her arsenal. It has to make her want to dance! Problem now…. I check out your blog and end up buying more music.

    Reply to Alan
  2. Nigel, I couldn’t agree more with this post. Every major system upgrade decision has been made as a couple with my wife and I visiting our favoured dealer, James Morrow in Edinburgh and auditioning equipment including cables. We are fortunate enough to have quite a high end system, all connected with Chord Signature cabling. We don’t discuss timing or things like that then when auditioning, just “that’s better” or “that’s not”.
    When we first heard Signature Tuned Array, we couldn’t say why it was better but we just heard the music as even more enjoyable.
    I think hifi manufacturers do sometimes miss a trick here though. The system has to fit into our living environment. When we moved from Chord Rumour to Signature speaker cable, given we have 3 runs to front left, right and centre from an equipment rack placed in the corner of the room, that’s quite a lot of cable. my wife did express some concern. This was not concern with the sound which we agreed we liked and wanted at home but with the colour of the cable. As she said at the time, cable runs in front of skirting boards, generally skirting boards are white, why is all speaker cable not available in white. So if you ever provide a service to re-cover signature speaker cable in white, we are interested.
    I have discovered some new music through your posts and we both enjoy Eliza Gilkyson and more recently the Delines. Music is made to be enjoyed and shared.
    So my wife is a great example of someone who is very interested in music, is prepared to take the time to listen to and choose better sounding equipment and therefore part of the target market for hifi but I wonder how often aesthetics do feature in hifi design. They should as I see no reason why equipment can’t look and sound good and when you are spending the same kind of money as buying a quality car, then just as we’d expect the car to both perform well and look good, it seems reasonable to expect the same of hifi.
    Interested to hear your thoughts on the aesthetics of speaker cable design as, after all, it ends up running around a lot of family living rooms and needs to fit in, especially at the high end where installing it behind the wall is less practical given cable size and inflexibility.

    Reply to Derek
  3. Nigel

    I think I know you well enough to say you are both a geek & a nerd, a bit like me. I think neither of us should change. What my wife does though is pass an aesthetic eye on whatever ridiculous combination is sitting in my HiFi cabinet & with one sentence, shatter my illusions.

    I think more importantly, she also will pass a comment on my music. It is either ‘is this some of your beardy weirdy stuff?’ Or ‘this is quite good’. In other words, none of the bollocks you & I spout! I love it, and it works.

    She has also seen through my plan of buying vinyl with me saying ‘in a few years this could be worth something’. I therefore have a spare copy of Alvvays debut album on limited edition cream vinyl…!

    Reply to Tony
  4. I wish i’d written this! Superb point to bring up and so true. I’ll never forget my wife saying “Wow, whats that, is that louder?” just because i changed to an Indigo cable on my CD player, which in turn brought the room alive.
    It’s funny seeing couples in my store sometimes – the guy is buried in magazine reviews and other’s opinions and the wife is relaxed and has a clear view of what’s good or not. Cheers!

    Reply to Wayne
  5. I totally agree with you Nigel. My wife can come home from work and hear a change I’ve made without me saying a word. Her response is usually something like… ‘Okay, it sounds different, how much did this cost?’ It’s uncanny, and never has she said something has changed when it hasn’t. I can compare two interconnects, and pick up a difference relatively quickly, but the more subtle the change, the longer I contemplate. It’s tough to decide if it’s a change for changes sake, or if it’rs an actual improvement. Sometimes it’s just a change and in the end, sounds worse. But here’s my question since you’re a cable guy. I’m running Focal Grande Utopia’s and monoblocks that sit about a meter from the speakers. I’ve got long interconnects from my preamp, and short speaker cable. In the photo attached to this piece, there’s long speaker cables that appear to be different lengths. In your world, what’s the best way to run cables? As I do, or as the picture depicts? Your input may cost me some money, but I can’t take it with me. Thanks in advance for your input. FYI – I’m using Kimber Kable throughout my system and Select KS 3035 speaker cable. I’m not sure if Chord Cable is available in the US, it wasn’t from my dealer.

    Reply to Ron
  6. Reply from Sally Gibb (Chord Company Owner & CEO)

    “I am a woman and own a hi-fi manufacturing company.

    I don’t like hi-fi as such –BUT I like what it does.

    Naturally, since I own a company that makes the best hi-fi I cables in the world, (not biased) you would be correct in assuming that I like to listen to music.

    Actually, I like to dance to music more than anything, preferable loud and alone. I feel the music. When I hear it, I hear it in my head, I hear it in my bones and I feel it in my emotions.
    It speaks to me.

    Music tells me a story that cannot be put into words.
    For me it is a unique language of patterns and rhythms, all connected to the heart and brain and together I find it a powerful food.
    So taking all that into consideration, I would say that if I am typical of many women, I am only interested in the end result of a hi-fi; visually I would like it to disappear.

    My hi-fi of choice would be the one that sounds as good as the one I have at home except doesn’t have to visually dominate the room. Having said that, I want the music to dominate the house, let alone a room. So does it naturally follow that the vision of a hi-fi needs also to dominate the room!
    I have always had a hi-fi system and I have also had many different homes, speakers are always a challenge since I never had a dedicated listening room. Why would I want a listening room? I listen when I am “about the house” doing stuff, in the kitchen, dithering around being busy. My husband prefers to sit and listen – not me! I like to “do” and listen.

    With the advent of streaming we can partially achieve the illusion of no boxes by having all the electronics in the cupboard under the stairs. BUT I like picking the record, the cd and checking through its contents and tracks select my favourites and skipping over the others.
    Mind you, back to streaming – there is some pleasure to be had through being the DJ and trawling through all those old tracks from my years of listening. Its sometimes a shock when I find something from the 70’s that I only ever listened to on the hi-fi I had age 17; that comprised two speakers that folded over the record payer (I was thrilled with that one) it sounds different. More instruments!

    Back to our hi-fi at home; other than the boxes under the stairs, the rest is on a mix of special tables and mounts and other enhancements my husband brings home.
    The speakers stand like ghoulish spectres and frighten visitors who can constantly see these things out of the corner of their eye….
    In fact, I did not choose them, but having been away for a weekend with a friend, I returned home to find them in my beautiful living room. Yes, two years later they still stand despite the threats -because I like what they do.

    Would I compromise on the sound quality? The answer is no because having been availed of some of the best hi-fi products in the UK today, the only compromise is whether we can get it through the door and ultimately I have succumbed to the pressure- not of my husband, but of the fact that what the hi-fi does is in the end more important than the way it looks

    I just wish that more women had the benefit of being involved in the hi-fi industry like I have, because if that were the case, I believe that more women would venture into the hi fi world and buy (and possibly sell) some great hi-fi.

    Sally Gibb”

    Reply to Paul

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