A User Experience Engineering Exploration of Hi-Fidelity Audio

I am curious about what the money spent on hi-fi buys. In our digital technology age there has been a revival in the interest in older analogue technologies. Why? Are we getting something wrong that perhaps we got right in the past or is it nostalgia? This is what I intend to explore but taking my user experience engineering perspective. This will be an evolving story with many questions to be answered as I find them.

What User Experience is being Engineered?

This is an essential starting point. What functionally are we seeking to provide through Hi-Fidelity Audio systems. If we can propose an appropriate answer, the definition of Hi-Fidelity can be contextualised in functional terms rather than purely in terms of technical measurements.

What can users experience in terms of audio perception?

What can human’s hear? This will give some of the limits for the engineering of equipment that captures and reproduces music and sounds in order for them to be experienced by people.

What do users experience when experiencing music?

Being human means that we simply don’t just hear, what we hear communicates. There is something of a mystery quite how we engage with what we hear, how subjectively we experience sounds and music. Can this be influenced by the engineering of the sound and the music?

What Media engineering is involved?

Many different technologies have been tried in order to capture music and sound and a variety are in use today. These may be more or less competent to do that and to deliver the information so that people experience the original sounds or the art that has been created in sound.

What Service Interface is enabling the media to be accessed

Any choices that the user has when experiencing music through technology will be made available through a user interface, involving a representation of choices available and the means of selecting the choice. Systems or components that perform well in terms of their role in the chain of reproducing music may be more or less easy to use, or even to understand how they can be used.

What Service Functionality is delivering the audio from the media?

The purpose of the engineering is to provide users with an experience of music. The user may be given a variety of choices about how that is to be achieved, including selection of source material to be experienced, fitting the experience to the hearing capabilities of the users, the environment within which the users are experiencing the music or the occasion within which music is being experienced. The engineering of that functionality may alter the music from the storage source to the end user.

What role do Network & Interconnections have on the experience of users?

Because music reproduction inevitably involves the connection of various functional components, the interconnections themselves have an influence on the faithfulness of the process.

What Operating System is involved in ensuring that systems can set up to deliver the music that users are seeking to experience.

A chain of technology, a system, needs to be set up to ensure that it is in the state to perform the task for which it was designed. For mechanical systems it means ensuring that the mechanical components are maintained and optimised. For electronic, in particular in digital systems, various components may need to be configured to be in a useable state. This process and the engineering associated with it may interfere with the optimal audio and music handling functionality.

What hardware is involved in the delivery of music for users to experience?

There is invariably a chain of hardware (and software) involved in reading the encoded music from a physical storage, correcting any changes in the audio required to store the material and then amplifying and presenting the material so that it can be heard and experienced by users. Each element in the chain has the potential to corrupt the material before it is presented. The engineering of this chain will be explored for different forms of the stored signals.

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