Needles vs. lasers
Sometimes it’s instructive to pull our view of the world back and take a broader look. For example, a 30,000 foot view of music reproduction’s two core methods: vinyl and CD, might look very different than our normal image.
For example, when I don’t put much thought into comparing differences between vinyl on my turntable and CD, I consider them different yet not that different. Both make music, both are wonderful mediums, each has its upsides and downsides. A simplistic view that ignores fundamentals.
A more callous look from afar would be very different indeed. One technology is almost entirely mechanical, relying upon a needle wiggling in a plastic groove to generate a tiny electrical voltage vs. a laser beam scanning an impossibly microscopic mirror to extract ones and zeros. The two technologies couldn’t be further apart, yet each is expected to produce similar results.
For me, it’s helpful when listening to the two disparate sources to place them in different categories and adjust my expectations accordingly. I don’t hope for one to mirror the other. I experience vinyl in a very different way than I do digital.
The next time someone asks which do you prefer best, it might make sense for a moment’s pause to consider that it’s hard to compare apples to oranges.
No need to duck
We trust that when we buy a house the doorways are tall enough for us not to have to duck. And for most of us, it’s not a problem. But, imagine if you were 7 feet tall. You’d be concerned with headroom (it’s not called headroom for nothin’).
Headroom is an elusive measure for us. We know we like having room to spare. We also know that getting to close to the limits of any piece of equipment in our stereo chain can be bad.
When Darren Myers designed the Stellar Phono, he built in headroom. Lots of it. Stellar Phono can output 20 volts rms, which is a ridiculous amount of headroom given few preamp/amp combination can take at their inputs more than 2 volts (10X less than Stellar can output).
And yet, Stellar Phono has one of the most effortless presentations I have ever heard in the 45 years I have been involved with turntables and vinyl reproduction. It’s likely no coincidence that having ten times more output capability than is needed has a direct relationship to Stellar Phono’s effortless output.
Or take the upcoming Stellar M1200 monoblock power amplifier. 1200 watts and a vacuum tube input stage without feedback that can swing huge numbers of volts—far more than needed by a magnitude. The M1200 can deliver more output than any speaker system ever needs. Yet, it too shares that same effortless quality of music as does Stellar Phono.
It’s all about headroom. The more you have the greater the ease and effortless of music regardless of load.
Some call it overkill. Others just recognize the benefits of never getting close to the edges.
But, whatever you call it, you can’t have too much of it.