Higher and higher
As the frequency goes up, so too goes the price tag for amplification. Folks aren’t as concerned with the quality of bass amplification as they are with the mid-range region but both pale in importance to the attention and money paid to get the tweeter’s range perfect.
Think of all the ways we’ve worked on to sweeten the top end: tubes, low feedback, single-ended outputs, high class A bias.
When it comes to bass, we just want it to go deep and powerful.
Fact is, the higher the audio frequency the greater the engineer’s challenge to maintain purity, phase accuracy, and transient speed. Harder still is designing an amplifier good enough to handle both the power and depth of low frequencies with the delicacy and transient speed of the upper notes of music.
It is the rare piece of audio amplification equipment that gets high marks for all frequencies, but it is the upper ranges that we fight hardest for.
We can forgive “ok” bass but screechy highs are unforgivable.
The race for dynamic range in the recording industry is over. We won.
At the beginning of the 20th century the first sound recordings achieved about 15dB of dynamic range. 30 years later, following the Roaring Twenties and the advent of vacuum tubes, we had doubled that number to 30dB. The march ever forward has continued to where today, with the benefit of digital recording, we can boast 120dB and beyond.
And here’s the thing. We do not benefit from greater dynamic range in audio recordings. Already we can capture everything from the movement of a few molecules of air to the sound pressure of a jet engine.
Loudspeakers have yet to catch up but they cannot be too far behind.
The question then is why, after beating THD and IM below the level of audibility, increasing dynamic range past the point of absurdity, laying flat frequency response beyond measure by our ears, are we so danged far from fooling ourselves that music is live in our rooms?
Should we blame the microphones that captured the music? The rooms we play them in? Or just question the viability of the task altogether?
As engineers, we often get mired in minutiae that doesn’t move the needle any closer to the goal—like building better roads on the wrong path.
I have my guesses. You?