Part of knowing our HiFi Family so well is understanding what I like to think of as Audiophile Wisdom, the collective agreement of what we believe. For example, audiophiles pretty much agree that vacuum tubes sound one way, solid-state devices quite another. Or, LP’s and vinyl has its sound and digital something different.
Every interest group on Planet Earth has its share of collective wisdom. That’s certainly nothing new, but when it comes to audio I have yet to find any other passion-driven endeavor to be so rich and vocal when it comes to our beliefs.
Some might refer to the common wisdom as myths while others would consider much to be gospel. Whatever your viewpoint on the audiophile’s wisdom, it’s helpful to recognize some of the more popular tropes. Separating the things we believe from facts can be very helpful when attempting to untangle often complicated subjects.
One of the main goals of the Ask Paul video series is unraveling some of the conventional audiophile wisdom and helping people understand the origins of the stories and beliefs. Often, I have to check myself to make sure what I am saying isn’t simply a regurgitation—hard when you’ve been so immersed in the culture for such a long time.
I think it’s always helpful to share our collective wisdom with others. It’s also important to check your sources. Most audiophile wisdom is based in old history that may or may not be true anymore.
Be careful your accumulated wisdom doesn’t send you down the wrong road.
Today I read about a room at RMAF where the equipment cost would be around $250,000. The reviewer said it sounded good, although not for female vocals. If a system doesn’t do female vocals well, something is wrong.
Paul is writing about hybrid designs where technology is a combination of different technologies, such as solid state and tubes. His BHK preamplifier, which I just took delivery of, is an example, as are his power amplifier designs.
Here is Paul.
They’re all the rage in cars though we’re more interested in audio.
One of the first hybrids I am familiar with was Bascom H. King’s seminal achievement, the Infinity Hybrid Class A, a tube/solid state design released in 1978 and reviewed by the late J.Gordon Holt in Stereophile. More would follow, and were for some time the rage amongst forward thinking designers.
Fast forward to 2001 and the HCA’s second coming embodied in our HCA2 hybrid that graced the cover of Stereophile. Class A front tied to one of the first Class D amplifiers. Next was our GCC series featuring an analog Gain Cell for the input, class D for the output.
Finally to 2015 with the introduction of the BHK Signature power amplifier, itself a hybrid of tubes and MOSFETS.
Hybrids take advantage of synergy, a subject I have written much about in these posts. Like two complimentary food ingredients creating an entirely new taste sensation, hybrids are the ultimate weapons in the battle against mediocrity.
Engineer Darren Myers had walked into my office and suggested a new hybrid for our upcoming Stellar line. The idea of a hybrid approach wasn’t new. What he was proposing was.
Formerly an engineer for Classe’ Audio, Darren had learned much about taming the devils plaguing class D, in particular their propensity to bark and bite like a rabid dog on quick or loud transients. Once tamed, the next challenge of class D is sorting out its teeth grinding confusion on complex musical passages. Two tall challenges, but one he knew how to tackle.
When class D’s devils are banished what you wind up with is a neutral sounding power amplifier: neither great nor interesting. A bit like a Prius compared to a Tesla.
That’s when the designer’s real skills come into play. Where the magic happens.
We’ll waive our wands tomorrow.