What is Mid-fi?

AR-midfi1.jpegIn the bad old days when someone used the term "mid-fi" audiophiles knew exactly what it meant - a product that reproduced music with limited fidelity, designed to be sold a particular price-point to less discriminating customers. A plastic Yorx boombox with built-in cassette and CD player would be a prime example.

But somewhere near the end of the last decade something changed - even the inexpensive electronics started getting good, with full frequency response curves and robust amplifier sections. I regularly see offers for refurbished and B-stock entry-level receivers made by Onkyo, Sony, and Denon for less than $200. That's Yorx prices.

And nowadays for $300 to $500 a pair you can find many decent-sounding speakers, with enough variety in size and shape to fit into almost any sized room. Technically these products are certainly more than mid-fi. So perhaps we should retire the term?

But wait, maybe instead of axing mid-fi, we should redefine the term. What if in our new lexicon mid-fi referred to the way gear is being used? A mid-fi set-up is one where the system is intended PRIMARILY for casual non-critical background music. Speakers, instead of being arrayed for maximum fidelity with equidistant positioning and sufficient breathing room, are placed where they fit the owner's lifestyle. That's the new Mid-fi.

Now mid-fi becomes more about how gear is set up than the gear itself. Especially in desktop and near-field set-ups some very inexpensive gear, such as the Mirage OMD-5 speakers, can produce some very high-end results.

So where would something like B&W's Zeppelin or Meridian's M-80 be "mid-fi," since by definition they are merely super table radios? That all depends on how their owners use them...

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