I agree with this! Tin Pan Alley by Stevie Ray Vaughn will sound good on anything. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture? Not so much.
My mentors Arnie Nudell and Harry Pearson believed any system that could accurately reproduce the sound of an orchestra could easily play any other kind of music. The opposite is not true. A Marshall 4×12 Electric Guitar Cabinet can certainly play rock and roll, but I doubt a bassoon would sound like itself.
Part of the issue building systems around a class of music not orchestral—say a jazz or rock-centric setup—is a limited spectral balance. An orchestra covers the full frequency range of music, from the lowest 16Hz pedal notes of the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 to the distant bells in C and G of the Berlioz Symphony Fantastique; and dynamic contrasts not often found in other forms of music.
I find it rather rare in my visits to audio shows that full orchestral pieces are featured in rooms. Instead, we seem to focus on the limited spectral balance of more popular music styles that better fit most systems.
To be fair, not many setups can manage the range of frequencies found in orchestral music, which is why smaller system owners have their stash of favored discs at the ready.
I have heard a few well-balanced systems in my days—systems with smallish speakers augmented by subs and powered by dynamically accurate electronics—like the smallish Harbeths and REL subwoofer on engineer Darren Myers’ desk. And though they aren’t full range they are satisfying. I find myself smiling and tapping my toe, with no reservations about that which was left off.
I would encourage folks to find a favorite few orchestral recordings to have on hand for audition and testing—especially when new kit is in for evaluation. Reference Recordings has many trusted pieces.
Orchestral music may not be your cup of tea, but you just might find it instructive none the less.
This is timely as I just had a 17 year old pair of Aragon Palladium II monoblock amplifiers re-biased after we discovered more reliable documentation regarding the proper bias settings. As the original Aragon company was sold to Klipsch, which did nothing good with the Aragon/Acurus product line, which often happens, and then sold by Klipsch to Indy Audio Labs, who continues to build products based on the original design, there was a scarcity of information regrading these particular amps. After a little digging and confirmation from Indy Audio labs gave us the info that we needed, we re-biased and them amps definitely sound better. Run a bit warmer too!!
Thanks Indy Audio labs.
Tuning with current
When it comes to traditional class AB amplifiers there are two schools of thought about bias. Engineers can add enough class A current to satisfy their distortion analyzers or their ears. Most keep the analyzers happy without worrying about sound quality and it’s pretty easy to see why. Class A bias produces unwanted heat that is costly to dissipate.
Some degree of class A bias is required in a low distortion amplifier. It is bias that keeps the output devices from switching off and creating distortion. The minimum current needed to eliminate distortion isn’t much, but not all of us place economy above performance.
How an amplifier sounds—particularly in the areas of detail and low-level music—has a lot to do with its bias level. Typically more is better, but only to a point. Successful high-performance designs balance higher output current with available power supply and design goals so as not to cross the line of excess. Too much bias can actually weaken the slam and bass grunt of an amplifier if its power supply is stressed.
As in most things audio related it is a matter of trade-offs that wins the race. When we design class AB amplifiers—whether BHK, myself, Bob Stadtherr or Darren Myers—we start by assigning sufficient output current to eliminate notch distortion, then drag the amp into the listening room for the final bias settings.