Bellinzona - TNT Svizzera
Published: February 2016
HTML: Stefano Miniero
Translator: Roberto D'Agosta
In evaluating Hi-Fi electronics, a too often overlooked quality is their portability. Nobody buys Hi-Fi components having in mind a possible future house relocation. Nowadays, many people find themselves moving more often than in the past. This short editorial aims at exposing some little tricks to help moving our components and simplifying their placing in a new room, probably in a new country and in a different configuration.
Trivial, but any electronic component is sold in a box. For obvious reasons, we tend to throw away the boxes a few days after the component has arrived in our hands. But there are good reasons to keep the original boxes:
It is obvious that a professional costs money: if you wish to move only your electronics, then most likely you will try to do it yourself. However, remember a good removal company will be insured against any accident, so if you need to move valuable gear you should consider the option of hiring somebody.
Now, let us turn to an often overseen aspect of our gear, which turns out to be extremely important when moving. The dimensions of some of the Class-D amps are somewhere between 5 to 10% those of a tube or solid state amp. If you need to take them on an airplane or to some friend's party, it will be easy with the former, impossible with the latter. The steady growth of some components also creates anomalies: solid state monoblock amps can nowadays weigh over 50 Kg! So they are essentially unmovable without a hand truck or the help of a friend. I am not saying that you should prefer small and light to heavy and large gear, but I am suggesting that you think about these problems when choosing, since a change of mind might be simply impossible.
Each component seems essential: sources, amp, and speakers. But upgrades might bring you to prefer an amplifier with two or three components. The same is true for the CDP that easily becomes a transport plus DAC. Now think of your system made of a CDP, integrated amp and speakers. Each component weighs likely between 5 to 10 Kg, for a total of 10-20 Kg plus the speakers. If the system is made of separate and XXL components, we will get easily to 30-40 Kg for the CDP, and 80-120 Kg for the amp (pre and mono-blocs). Then add the power units. Finally, you place them in your room, in the second case in a semi-permanent way. When moving, the costs associated with the two systems are not comparable.
Many components loose their identity when sitting in the system, but when you need to move many things resurface...
Nowadays each component has its own remote, which if not used for long, should be left without batteries (to avoid oxidation of the terminals, with time batteries will discharge in any case), and it is good practice to keep each remote with its own device.
Each component has its own power cable which in the past was simple, effective and universal. Now, the "audiophile" brands have their own funny and fuzzy designs. Some of those cables are so large to be un-bendable or have their proprietary plugs, so make sure you don't mix them up.
More and more devices have their own external dedicated power supply, so it is good to keep the original boxes helping to keep these components together.
Nowadays, the analog source is a turntable with its accessories (arm, carridge, and phono amp): between all the sources this is likely the most difficult to move, since it is heavy, large, with delicate moving parts. The easiest option is not to have it in your system at all, if possible. Also the records are heavy and fragile, moving them is difficult. Coming to the digital sources, the CDP is replaced by servers for streaming or storing music on hard-disks or flash memories. The advantages of the server when moving are self-evident, since it is usually a small and light unit. The only problem: it might depend upon the internet, therefore my personal suggestion is to choose servers able to work off-line, e.g., the Cocktail Audio X30, which is also a free-standing device, and music, once ripped, can be moved between different machines with little to no extra work. A CDP contains mechanical parts that are fragile and must be protected from damage. For this reason the original boxes are important. Remember to close and secure the CD tray or for the top loaders, the cover. If your CDP has them, some people recommend to remove the tubes when moving, an extra bit of attention that might be not necessary.
Obviously the ideal solution is a small and light amp: here the Class-D wins hands down. The most problematic remain the big and heavy tube amplifiers. Then you have those esoteric systems with pre-amp and mono-blocks which bring the total weight to tens if not hundreds of kilos. Almost impossible to move, especially alone. Sturdy, if well boxed they should be no problems, but tube amps require a bit extra care.
With speakers we reach a set of problems that are almost unavoidable. Simply stated, there are no pocket size high-quality speakers, then you will have to pay a little price in terms of weight and size. Clearly, the upper hand is with the small monitors with their supports since they rarely weigh more than 10 Kg each. Tower speakers are usually much heavier reaching 20-30 Kg each, and carrying even one of them can be difficult. To avoid damage during the move pad the cones with bubble wrap, especially if you do not have the original boxes.
The advantages of active speakers are obvious, but take into account their weight, their dimensions and that you need to connect them to a mains power socket. Various plug standards or the lack of close-by sockets can cause serious trouble.
... and all-in-one
It's always possible to consider an extreme minimalist solution such as the Geneva: although this is not 2 channel stereo do not discard this idea out of hand. It's a matter of taste.
Usually they should not be a problem, since cables, spades and connectors are small and light. Issues are mostly due to the connection with the power. Moving usually implies arriving into new rooms whose the power socket configurations might be not known. Moreover, each country does have their own standard power socket or outlet, which are usually incompatible with those of other countries. The simplest solution is to have a power strip connected with your system components. This power strip could have a detachable cable which can be replaced with a new one of the right length and with the new country plug. In this way, your system power is transferable to any new room. Also, each component could have its own detachable power cable, increasing the flexibility of the components.
The less components you have, the less the need for a rack. If you consider a system made with the Cocktail Audio X30 and its speakers, you do not really need much of a rack.
The WAF deserves more than one editorial by itself: if moving means going to live with your partner, bear in mind that non-audiophiles usually dislike big systems, cables, power strips and so on.
Also for those who are continuously moving, remember there is only one life. It makes no sense to use low-quality components simply because you are afraid of damaging them when moving. Buy what you believe is necessary, taking into account that small components are usually easier to move and lay in a new room. Modern houses usually do not have big rooms, and large speakers can be difficult to place in small volumes. Finally, remember that many apartment buildings, especially in the north countries, do not have a lift, so it could be impossible to bring your components upstairs without the help of a professional removal company.
Nobody buys HiFi gear thinking of selling or moving them. But in our society, it is unlikely that we will live forever where we are now or that our system will not undergo any upgrade. To select a component based on how easy is to move is way too much, but so is also overlooking this point altogether. If two amplifiers have the same sound, but one is 10% heavier, why not to consider this aspect? Fashion changes and so does lifestyle, and the hardcore audiophile living alone in a 300 sqm house with dedicated listening room is rare. The mainstream market focuses more and more on people living in small apartments with a family, children and so on. If we take into account how many times these people will move bringing all the furniture with them, we realise that dimensions and weights of the HiFi components do matter. If this were not true, it would be impossible to understand why the industry is moving towards more compact components although not necessarily of higher musical quality.
© Copyright 2016 Mattia Bellinzona - www.tnt-audio.com
 - Usually, valve amplifiers have big power units making them heavier and larger than the standard solid state amplifiers.