Have you ever considered how many choices we have in just our small niche of the market? The number is so great it makes my head spin. I write this because while attending the Montreal HiFi show we had a wonderful sounding room using Neat SX1 loudspeakers from the UK and Kimber Kables from the US: one brand I know nothing of, the other I am quite familiar with.
The little SX1s were smooth, open and easy to make disappear in the room and the Kimbers were like they weren’t even there; a greater compliment one can’t receive.
We all have our favorites and I am no different. But the problem with favorites is it precludes using all that is available and thus we narrow our field of vision to the point of near-blindness to what else is around us. With so many choices available I don’t know what else to do, but it does trouble me.
One of the worst and best things that’s happened to passive components used in stereo equipment is the surface mount part. These tiny bits of silicon, plastic and metal are used to form the transistors, diodes, capacitors and resistors used in modern equipment. Before surface mount there were through hole parts and the differences between the two can be summed up simply: through hole parts have legs, surface mount do not and as a result, can be much smaller.
Here are two pictures:
The differences are obvious.
And when I first heard about surface mount they appealed to me because their lack of legs meant fewer junctions and the potential for a purer part. What I learned was not so simple.
Turns out the best choice between the two technologies depends greatly on the application they are used in. Surface mount makes products like the DirectStream DAC possible. Without the small size and direct connections the DAC would not be as good. Yet, those same small parts in the power amplifier or a preamplifier don’t perform as well. And this has to do with both the amount and type of material used in them and what we are doing.
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