PS Audio International: How to prove a point

I am convinced Bob Carver is a crazy genius. He’s given more to our industry than most and always surprises and delights with his innovative approach. His tiny cube amplifier, his miniature room shaking subwoofers and to the point of this post, his amplifier shootout.

I remember back to 1985 when several reviewer challenged Carver to build a solid state power amplifier that sounded as good as a tube amplifier. Bob was just arrogant and smart enough enough to take the challenge and the magazine published the shootout and Bob won that battle easily.

But here’s what’s interesting: he did it by degrading the performance of the solid state amplifier to match that of the tube amp. His method was simple yet brilliant. Gain matching the two amps he placed their outputs on a scope set to difference mode. When in this mode the scope will visually display the differences between the two inputs. You can see an example of this with the PerfectWave Power Plants’ built in scope that displays the differences between the in and out voltages.

Using different musical pieces played on both amps, he masterfully hand “detuned” the solid state amp to match the tube amp and reduce the differences to nothing. The results were that the two amps sounded identical in a blind shootout by the reviewers. I think Bob even tried to capitalize on the publicity by producing a power amp that claimed the same performance – alas, unless Bob personally hand tuned each model it never sounded as good.

The point of all this goes back to our post on Purity and if it is a myth. If one can retune a device to sound more musical (thus no longer pure) and if vinyl records are filters that help digital recordings sound more musical, then what of purity?

Tomorrow I’ll let you know what I think about all this.



PS Audio International: The map

In yesterday’s post we started a discussion about the fallacy of the Absolute Sound.  Absolute compared to what?  Without knowing what it is you are listening to or how it was recorded – even a hint as to what to expect – it’s a nearly impossible task to know if you’ve reached the Absolute Sound of exactly what the recordist wanted you to hear.

And that really sums it up.  We can’t expect our systems to playback the sound of live un-amplified instruments on recordings that never had that goal in mind.  But what we can expect is to duplicate what the recordist was trying to achieve.

Audiophile record producer Kent Poon has made some strides in that area – as have other pioneers in this field (including some of the original Mercury recordings).  What Kent’s done in several of his recordings is provide a layout of the musicians and the recording microphones.

I have found such a map ever so invaluable on the few recordings I have that provided it.  In fact, I remember one of my favorites was the Weavers in Carnegie Hall.  I remember finding a sort of map detailing where the performers were standing and how they miked them – wow – that was incredible.

We all strive to visualize the performers in the acoustic space when we listen.  Having a map makes it ever so much more vivid.

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