Review: Jim Smith Home Consultation & Set Up Speaker

Category: Speakers

Ok, let’s get a couple caveats out of the way first…

• I couldn’t find the best place to put this review, so I’m putting it with speakers, as that seemed like perhaps the best place to help more people learn about my experience with Jim and why I recommend him so highly.
• Yes, I’m more of a lurker than active poster and contributor. I know I need to ‘pay it forward’ more often. Guilty as charged.
• I have no hidden agenda in posting this review other than to finally start trying to pay it forward, as mentioned above.

A very brief history on myself to help put this ‘review’ into context. I’m most likely similar to many of you. I’ve invested more money than I care to admit over the past 15+ years of audiophile activity. I’ve completely turned over my system several times, in several different rooms. I spent 3 years in Japan as well, and got an in depth look inside the belly of the Japanese addiction to hifi. I’ve had all types of components in and out of my system over the years, ss – class a and ab, tubes in the pre and amp, all types of cd’s/dacs, cables of almost every flavor. I do feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle of what can happen to a system when you change out various components. Obviously, this statement isn’t meant to be an absolute and could be inflammatory if taken too far – not my intention. I simply am trying to set a baseline for what follows, and that is I’ve had many opportunities to evaluate ‘system upgrades’ and the incremental improvements (or decline) that come along with a variety of changes.

My current system for frame of reference:
• Ayre AX-7e
• Ayre QB-9
• Tannoy Canterbury SE
• Audience AU24 speaker cables, Acoustic Revive XLR interconnect, Tel Wire pc on the dac and Virtual Dynamic Master Series 4.0 pc on integrated, RSAD Alethias USB cable.

I’ll start with my conclusion and work my way backward. Hiring Jim Smith to come down was BY FAR, the single best investment I’ve ever made. It’s not even close, seriously. I’ve spent thousands of dollars as mentioned above going from this amp to that amp, this speaker to that speaker, cable swaps, etc. Indeed, all of those changes certainly brought along some change in sound to the system. But as experienced and knowledgeable I think I am (again, I’m sure my experience pales in reference to many of you) I really don’t think that I was much better than 50/50 shot of an upgrade truly resulting in better or more enjoyment from my system. I do believe once you get to a certain level, the incremental improvements are tougher and tougher to achieve.

There are really 2 aspects to why I feel so passionate about writing this review. Certainly one is the major improvement to my system that Jim was able to produce. Improvements that even months after his visit, still amaze me when I sit down to listen. I don’t necessarily feel a need to go into detailed descriptions in exactly what changed, but I will just summarize that everything came together. Nothing is disjointed, bands sound live, with a great solid foundation – physical foundation that is – it makes performances sound live, within the context of their recording venue. Now, I’m not saying the Tannoy’s sounded terrible or anything like that before Jim’s visit. It’s just that emotional connection that is so strong now, I honestly struggle to stop listening and go to bed, where I never had that problem before.

So enough on the first obvious reason to why Jim is a great investment. For me, there is another equally important reason I recommend to everyone to seriously consider Jim’s services. And that is the confidence and peace of mind he can provide. Not only is he a true gentleman, and wealth of knowledge and just a blast to talk to about his history in the industry, but I can’t tell you how great it is to just brainstorm with him all our various ideas/thoughts about our systems and get his candid views and advice. I know the merry go round this hobby is for many of us. But after the session with Jim, I’m not only incredibly satisfied with what my system sounds like, but equally important, I’m not wondering any more about ‘what ifs’ – I did that or this. Jim is not afraid to tell it like it is, whether he thinks your ideas would produce an improvement or just a change, or a good/bad investment. It really is a great feeling to know that you’ve had your system set up done by probably the best in the industry, but also had the time to consult with him about all of the thoughts that were in my head and really settled on what my system should and can (now does) do. And what I should expect from my system in the future and where it could possibly go.

The memory of his time with me is not just the great sound I get daily, but the confidence I have in my system and direction. The dollar investment for his services more than paid for itself with the improvement, but the approach to my system and audio in general are truly priceless. For the price of what many cables cost, and certainly less than what most source or power components cost, his service is a serious steal – truly a bargain.

I do feel that we in this hobby have a strong common bond and unfortunately due to the proliferation of home theater and things like you tube, facebook, etc – our hobby is in danger of dying a slow (or not) death. I truly believe if more people could really experience what a night with a truly dialed in high end 2 channel system, we have a better chance of keeping this beloved hobby thriving and moving forward. Jim’s services are the best way that I’ve found in my history of getting there. My intent with this long-winded review is to encourage anyone serious about getting more enjoyment out of their system to consider contacting Jim. I just wish that I did it sooner.
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Agree with Hoff48 - Buy the book. After years of improving equipment, trying different combinations and setups, one hour of listening to Jim at a show then reading his book allowed me to improve my system more in one afternoon than I could imagine. I believe Jim lives in Georgia presently but I could be wrong.
Happy to provide some additional detail. First, the price is $1,500 for an overnight visit. In my situation, this entailed picking him up from the airport around 5pm and then coming directly to the house for some initial evaluations and measurements. Now, I'm not a techie, but he did lug alot of equipment with him, which I'm assuming was a spectral analyzer and such, determining bass nodes and the like. He probably spent about 5 hours that first night, working much later than I and I think he also, anticipated. The majority of the effort the first night was in analyzing the rooms characteristics with minimal adjustments to my system.

I then picked him up around 8:30 the next morning and brought him to the house. I would characterize his work as getting my speakers to play the room, or I should properly state that is how he characterizes the work he does, I don't want to plagiarize. Now don't get me wrong, he also spent a significant amount of time determining exact center line of the room, and when I say exact, I mean down to the 1/8 of an inch. We worked very hard on finding the best listening position. We also worked very hard on where the rest of the furniture should be in the room, including my audio rack. However, without question, the primary effort was in finding the perfect location for the speakers. This included not only exact distances from side, front and rear walls, but also exact rake angle and toe in. He has a plethora of tools that he used, so while I agree the book (which I also purchased before hiring Jim) is a great idea and good investment. Unless you have much more free time than I, are naturally talented at this kind of thing, and have all of the devices and tools that Jim has, I simply don't think it would have been possible to achieve the results I have now without hiring Jim.

As Jim mentioned to me, he won't leave until he's satisfied, and if that means he needs to stay a second night, he is willing to do that for a very very reasonable incremental increase - price goes up to $1,780. However, if my memory serves me correctly, he rarely, very rarely, has needed that 2nd night.

Not sure if I've answered everyone's question sufficiently. If not, I'll try again. My best final advice is that if you're contemplating this at all, just give him a ring. He's a really sincere guy and was very patient with me and all of my questions prior to his visit.

Good luck to everyone.
Seph, I appreciate your kind comments.

For those that are interested in system voicing, here are some more details:

Best regards,

Jim Smith

I will save a lot of time to simply say ditto to what favresi wrote above.
To add only that music and its feithfull reproduction has been my pasion since age 9 (I am 67).
Needless to say that through the years I have spent considerable time and money in the persuit of better sound.
One statement will do it. "I have never invested more wisely and with better inmediate results than aaking Jim to "voice" my system.
His dedication,experience and delivery of results are outstanding.
One additional comment is that Jim advised my contractor along the process of building my new sound room and did so at a very reasonable price and using reasonably priced approaches to the building process.
Wow I think this is more than reasonable. I would assume that 1500 plus you pay airfare? I can imagine that if you have spent a lot of money on gear and have a dedicated room where you have the run of the room for speaker placement 1500 bucks for an EXPERT to come and get it sounding right is the best possible money spent. I have talked to a guy who visited Jim's personal system at his house and he said it was the best system he ever heard.