Giving up on Power Race, and going SET?

Has anyone completely turned around and went back with "primitive" audio components. Set and Horn's? I listened Avantgardes and they completely changed my outlook on whole stereo hobby. Unfortunately very good horns are rare as the price of the Avantgardes indicates. I would like to hear from the enthusiasts that went back to basics! Thanks!
I use a SET rig, and I think it sounds as good or better than any high power rig I've heard. You have to get the right speakers for it. I prefer a direct radiator sound, and draw the line at front-loaded horns. My preference at this time is the Lowther single-driver speaker system. I drive it with a 2 watt 45 SET amp.

I personally think that the "Power Race" is one of the most absurd things that has happened to audio since the CD was invented. The more I've lowered my amp power and increased speaker efficiency, the better sound I've gotten.
I've been messing around with low power for a couple years. I'm not evangelical about it. There are lots of ways to go and almost every design choice is a compromise of some sort. Many of the SET systems (amp/speakers) I find are really wonderful for small jazz, blues, "acoustic" stuff and I listen to a lot of that. Many are not so convincing for symphonies and heavy electric blues, R&R. Some are of course.

I like horns for some things. You almost have to get yourself to listen differently though. Lots of folks do not like horns. Twl is one I believe. Really personal taste.

One of the nicest things about low power sets is that they are simple. No more than a handful of compoments in a stage. You do not have to be very smart to get into DIY at a very rewarding level.

I think this is one of the things driving their popularity. If you are a manufacturer you can sell an amp for big $$$$$$ that can be really very simple and inexpensive to make. If you are into DIY it is easy enough to do without being an EE or something. Of course, they sound really good too. But if they were really difficult to implement I do not think they would be enjoying the resurgence.

If you do just a little reading you can afford to make several systems and tweak them to taste. Like home cooking.
Most of the circuits used in SETS were worked out 70 years ago. There is very little that is new. Again, there are exceptions like Tom's Berning 45 Otl.

If you want a cheaper pair of horns in the Avantgarde style try the Oris horns at the Welborne site. I used a friend's pair for several months and they are very good. If you have any thoughts about DIY SET I have some info about online diy info that you might find helpful. Drop me an email. It's not rocket science.

I remain
If you're not a horn fan (I am not), nor a Lowther fan, then Nearfield Acoustics offers a Performance Series 924- 6 ft 9 drivers, 18 tweeters, 96dB, and an easy load ($12K). I am getting either an ASL Fox 22i, or an AQ 1010 (4x 300Bs) to drive mine. My biz partner ordered a pair of ASL Tulips and a pair of Hurricanes, both of which should be outstanding for his Reference Pipedreams.
I am presently going thru this very conversion. I had Dunlavy SC-IVs with ARC VT-100 MKII and LS-25. I was looking to upgrade speakers as I wanted more definition, detail, imaging, depth, better bass, etc. Everything told me I was going to have to spend a whole lot more money and change out my electronics. I heard a pair of Lowther speakers and I was very intrigued. There were problems but at the same time, they were many things right. Imaging, detail, dynamics, !!! I heard these speakers with a receiver and inexpensive CD player. I wanted to hear them on my system but in the meantime, I researched a number of different forums on single driver systems. I took a leap of faith, sold my speakers and electronics, and bought a SET amp and Supratek preamp. I bought some AER drivers (sometimes called high-end Lowthers) and I am having some rear-loaded horn cabinets built. I also bought a Art of Sound Tycus subwoofer that will do double duty for the new speakers and work as a sub for my combined 2 channel - HT system. I have the SET amp and Tycus subwoofer already. I already like both of these very much with my Dunlavy SC-Is. I am using my surround processor for a preamp which leaves something to be desired but I am already happy hearing improved imaging depth, bass, da da da. I am about 4 weeks from putting the new system together so the real test hasn't begun yet. But if it works out the way I believe it will, I will have invested maybe an extra $1K for something much better.

Depending on what you want out of a system, I think you can get more bang for the buck with this type of approach. Obviously, if you have the money, you certainly can buy some very great sounding equipment via the power race.
Gosh how nice this would be for us Magnepan diehards. But we continue to chase the holy grail of high power amps to get these to sing.
I have never went after power. I am not sure if it was a money thing or a matter of not understanding why would anyone need more power. To me it was a matter of matching equipment and being happy with the sound. The fun was the ability to always change. Sometimes move up, sometimes move sideways.

I fouind some old speakers in my basement and decided to order some Lowther and Fostex drivers to try my hand at making something. If I come close, then I will turn to those who do it everyday and see where I end up.

I do like horns and SETS. The Avantgarde Solo is a surprise and affordable. At 7K most of use would have already gone beyond with amps, wires and speakers. The Solo is an all in one kit...but that's too easy isn't it? Add some interconnects intended for the microwave industry (cheap, good sounding wire) between a CD player with a volume control and the Solos, and you are all set.

Yes, it makes sense to look at this option and leave the power race.
I can't blame anyone for being a magnepan or an ESL diehard.
Both are capable of world class sound. But for me, SET or OTLs have the sound of music that make me such a diehard that I buy an amp before speakers. Then look for speakers that will show off the magic of these small watt SET or OTL amps. I wish there were more quailty speakers available that would work with 1 to 10 watts. I don't believe horns would work in my room, besides I don't want that big of a speaker. I have never had a chance to hear a Lowther speaker. I will make sure to do so in the future. I have found it impossible to go back to SS amps and I have heard many of the reportedly great ones. I have heard some very good sound from SS, it just doesn't have the ability to make me feel like there are real performers playing real instruments as SET or OTLs. Don't mean to start any arguments, just one more opinion blowin' in the wind.
For those of us who enjoy listening at high volumes, but want a relatively compact, easy to place speaker, I'm not sure there is any choice other than to go dynamic drivers/higher power, and ditto for those who prefer panel speakers. In fact, that's basically my whole concern about low power: it's not the simple, flea-powered amps that bother me in theory, it's how you're limited in the speaker department. I've only ever heard some SET systems playing in a store in passing, and haven't ever really auditioned one. But I have a hard time believing that - outside of large horns (which may have other problems, but what doesn't?) - high-SPL, wide-bandwidth, uncolored, non-resonant performance will be available from an easy-to-drive and easy-to-control ultra-high-efficiency speaker. The laws of physics are against it happening, so I assume that folks happy with their SET systems must be giving up some combination of volume, headroom, extension, neutrality, or clean decay behavior to get their special kicks (some of which are always subject to the suspicion of increased, but pleasing, low-order distortion-induced euphony). I've not properly auditioned Avant-Gardes or the like, and don't have anything against increased efficiency where possible, but it otherwise seems to me that the world's most competent speakers still demand something in the way of clean power to sound most like live music, and I for one am not ready to simply view this as a wattage 'rat-race'. I would love to be proved wrong, and have someone play me a bandwidth- and volume-unlimited SET system that sounds accurate while kicking out the live jams at a handful of watts, but I don't know that I'll ever have the opportunity (or that the speakers needed would fit my house/budget), so I'll stay with what I know works reasonably well.
Zaikesman, I understand and agree with much you have said. Finding a speaker that will give you the desired volume has been hard to find. The flea sized amps that I have heard or owned have had no problem with extension, neutrality, or clean decay. I know there are many SET and OTLs that are euphonic. I would not waste my money on an amp that is colored toward a dark, euphonic, poor extension, or lack of clean decay. There are several SET and OTL amps that do not fit this discription. But you are right, finding a speaker for these kind of amps is very limited. This is what is so frustrating for me. It is hard to argue with many of your view points. But once you hear what these flea sized amps can do with the appropriate speakers, maybe, just maybe, you will understand why people like myself love these flea sized amps.
I can pull off 105db peaks with my 2 watts, on my Lowther EX3 Voigt Pipes. I can also get right down to 40Hz without the weaknesses that are normally associated with Lowthers, due to my cabinet mods. Yes, they have limitations in the lowest octave.

So for my use, this SPL and bass response is totally adequate in my 24'x14' room with a 16' vaulted ceiling. Add to that, that these speakers make most $25k speakers sound like they have a blanket over them, and that makes you a little more forgiving if there is a little coloration here or there.

As for the "euphonic distortion", I've got to address this, because I am getting really tired of hearing that. First, all SET amps have a specific distortion profile that puts nearly all of its total harmonic distortion into one area of 2nd Order harmonics. Generally less than 1% total. Single driver speakers also have a distortion profile where their total harmonic distortion is mostly in the 2nd Order, and in the case of Lowthers, slightly less than 1%.

Now, since these amps and speakers have this particular relationship in their distortion profiles, their distortions will either be additive, or subtractive, based upon where they line up in terms of phase angle. If the amp distortion profile is 180 degrees out of phase with the speaker distortion profile, the amp AND speaker distortions will largely be cancelled, and provide a lower SYSTEM distortion than ANY other combination of amp/speaker. If they are not 180 degrees out, then reversing the speaker leads will put them 180 degrees out. Even if they fall in between 0 and 180 degrees, there is a medium level of distortion cancellation to be had. This is something that is not available to ANY other amp/speaker combination, and is the reason for the SET/Single-driver synergy that can provide lower SYSTEM distortion than anything else that can be put together regardless of price, because this combination actually causes a self-cancelling of distortion between the speaker and amp, in real time, during music playback. Not just on a lab bench.

Any time that you go to a push-pull, or SS amp, or multi driver speakers with crossover, you have distortion profiles that are spread out all across the harmonic spectrum in varying amounts, that do not lend themselves to this distortion cancelling synergy. This is why total SYSTEM distortion in all other systems is always additive. And has distortion components in the odd-orders that are unpleasant.

So next time you guys want to talk about "euphonic distortion" with SET amps, think about the fact that the "euphonic distortion" is kicking the living hell out of your amp/speaker combination's distortion profile, and makes it look like a distortion generator in comparison.

If you want to find out more about this phenomenon, there are treatises written about it on the web. That's where I found out about it a long time ago.
Twl, I don't consider the word "euphonic" to signify a bad thing qualitatively; only if such a quality is actually masking higher levels of distortion so as to sway a listener into preferring a version of reality which is farther from the truth does it raise my eyebrows. Otherwise, inevetible distortions should be both low in level and low in order, ideally speaking.

Yes, I've heard about the theory of canceling distortions in SET/single driver systems, but I don't buy it. There is just no way that I can see where, even if you stipulate identical-order and -level distortions (which I strongly doubt can ever be the case, but as you say the theory doesn't depend upon 'identical' to work to some degree), the temporal relationships and the inherent non-linear components will never match up - in whatever phase - to yield much cancellation.

In fact, I don't know why there should really be any cancellation at all: this reversing the leads business is flawed thinking to my mind. The speaker's distortions are *caused* (for the most part) by its response to the input signal. Reversing the phase of that signal will merely do the same for those distortions. (And not even considering for the time being an amp's ability to exert its control over the driver's movement, or whether the reverse occurs.)

Obviously, this isn't a unique indictment of single-driver speakers; any speaker, fed by any type of amp, will receive the amp's output signal - including its embedded distortions - and then further distort that whole signal, amp distortions included. The cancellation argument, were it true, should apply in some measure to any amp/speaker combination; the position that it will only work with low-order distortions makes no sense to me. Besides, SET amps have higher-order distortion products too. They just don't internally cancel the even orders, so the distortion profile tends to be characteristically different than push-pull amps. But it is not exclusively low-order - it is predominantly low-order.

Don't misunderstand me - the combination of class-A operation, simple and few parts and circuits, low or no feedback, and no crossover notch artifacts or device mis-matching or -tracking makes SET's appealing in theory even despite low power and higher total THD levels. Getting a speaker to give of its best under those restrictions can be a different matter, as I'm sure you'd agree.

But rationalizations like the cancellation argument just make me more skeptical than I might be otherwise. Simply the fact that apparently only the SET crowd feels the need to come up with something like this rhetoric points the finger of doubt, to me. The whole case is too facile and unsupported, as far as I can see.

Look at the contention that single-driver speakers will have lower-order distortion, for instance. How so? I have always thought that the wider the bandwidth any one driver is called upon to cover, the higher the THD over its bandwidth that will result. This makes sense, and so does the limited total bandwidth of a speaker which depends on just one driver (dynamic driver, that is). True, other distortions, such as phase distortions and crossover-induced distortions, can be lower. But if you restrict any single driver to operating only within its prime comfort zone, as in a multi-way speaker, THD (as well as non-linearities) must be lower at all orders.

I am not suggesting that higher-power, push-pull amps, of either class-A or -A/B operation, don't have their own characteristic sonic flaws, some of which are unique to their operation and shouldn't be overlooked in the quest for higher power, others of which are merely unmasked by the same (and not unmasked in SET's, presumably due to other, higher-level 'euphonic' distortions). But I don't know that anybody can claim that either type of amp, alone, sounds 'better' than the other, because the partnered speakers tend to be so different.

In that sense, SET owners will tend to have the advantage concerning comparisions, since they could reasonably experiment with higher-powered push-pull amps on their efficient speakers and draw some conclusions, whereas conventional low-impedance, low-efficiency speaker owners (like me) cannot really do the reverse comparision. But the results of such comparisions will not speak directly to the question of whether an SET/single-driver or horn combo will 'outperform' a higher-power/low-to-moderate-efficiency pairing. It almost certainly would depend in large part to the listener's priorities, so all we can definitively say is that all various amp/speaker pairings will sound different from one another.

I am also not saying that the very idea of single-driver speakers doesn't have powerful attractions. Consistent dispersion at all angles, uniform resonance properties, phase coherence, and lack of crossover-induced complications and limitations are all desirable. The trade-offs we already know. If I lived near you, I'd ask to come over and have a listen. I'd even bring my amps.

As things are, all I can do is use my mind the best I can to consider the arguments. I find the cancellation argument implausible, and more than a little ingenuous in its seemingly willful selectivity and dubious premises. I'm not on this thread to make anyone defend their system to me, just to give my own view that power can be used for good as well as evil, particularly in freeing up speaker design possibilities. I have no agenda or animus, just intellectual curiousity and a fondness for playing devil's advocate.
I think it's funny to say that SET enthusiasts make up things like I stated above, when it is plain that others make up terms like "euphonic distortion", when there is no such thing as "euphonic distortion". Euphonic distortion is a term made up by people who follow specifications, and can't figure out why an amp that doesn't spec like a SS amp can eat it for lunch. That's all it is. A term made up to explain something the number crunchers can't explain. That's because number crunchers alway look at everything in a vacuum, and not in concert with the other stuff it is working with. A bench test is fine with them. It even took us years to get the number crunchers to realize that current capability had something to do with driving a speaker. Now we're still having trouble with the vestigial remains of the "specs race" of the 1970s. Just look at all the amps out there that have damping factors of 1000 and distortion of .00001%. That is simply a result of negative feedback. There is no way any amp can get these numbers without negative feedback, whether they be SS or otherwise. Now we know that negative feedback is counter-productive to good sound. But does that stop these amp makers from using prodigious amounts of it? No. They are selling it to the number crunchers.
When an amp delivers good sound quality and has bench measurements that don't stack up to the negative feedback amps, then there is a scurry of activity to figure out some explanation for it, hence the "euphonic distortion" moniker. After all, there is no way an amp with 1% distortion could sound as good, right? Wrong.
This is not targeted at you Alex, so don't feel like I'm attacking you with this. I'm venting my spleen.
I am giving a feasible explanation to the number crunchers as to how there is a reason that they can understand, in their meager little brains, that there are things that happen outside their little test facility. Things that they didn't even think to test, or even realized existed. Things that they don't even have the foggiest idea are even existing, far from the idea that they even would know how to go about testing them. Number crunchers bring only the lowest form of understanding to the forefront. Virtually every single number crunching spec has resulted in the sonic degradation of the products that followed the results of these tests.
So you can see that I have a very dim view of these number crunchers. And if you look at their track record, you'll see I have very good reason to take this view.
So to get back to the point, the concentration of this harmonic distortion at the 2nd harmonic in both amp and speaker presents a unique possibility for self-cancelling distortion components. Not that every single bit of distortion will be cancelled, but that possibly even a majority will.
I took this position to make an explanation that could show a quantification of this phenomenon, because it is an attempt to explain something that has caused much malignment of the SET amplifier and its enthusiasts, as "lovers of certain types of distortion". This is patently false. SET enthusiasts are some of the most rabid lovers of clear clean and natural sound, in the audiophile world. They just go against the grain of the "normal" way of thinking, which includes ultra inefficient speakers and big boat anchor SS amplifiers with copious amounts of negative feedback. The term "golden midrange" didn't come out of thin air. The reason why it's "golden" has nothing to do with euphonic distortion components, but rather, the lack of them. Most good SET amps have a glorious midrange, that would send even the best SS amps running for cover. The only reason that they are limited to "golden" in the midrange, comes from the limitations of the output transformers. Of course, in my case, I have a SET without any output transformers, and it is one of only a few that can make that claim(only Berning can do it). So my "golden midrange" extends from the top to bottom. And believe me, it does.
Now SETs are not perfect, and I never claimed they were. But they do have the best midrange of any amps there are, and if the transformers were out of the way, they would kill the SS market. At least for the non-number cruncher types.
It's not some kind of SET user delusion. It is a real thing. Whether the number crunchers accept it or not is not of any consequence to me. Their way has always led to a lowering of the bar, not an improvement. If someone wants to move beyond the ordinary, they have to go to the extraordinary, and this means getting out of the mainstream boat. Anyone out of the mainstream is immediately looked at with suspicion because he is not following what all the other lemmings are following. There must be something wrong with him, they all say. Far from it. In this case, there is something very right with him.
Many people cannot move out of the "comfort zone" of peer acceptability. They will never lead, but will only follow when enough others go that way. That is the mark of mediocrity.
If you want to get to the edge of performance, you have to go to the edge to get it.
It is easy for me to understand that what I say is not easily acceptable to most. That doesn't bother me a bit, and in fact I wear it like a badge of honor.
What I stated above about distortion cancelling is an attempt at explaining what is happening, to the naysayers. Even at worst, it is no more incorrect than the term "euphonic distortion", and it may even, in fact, be a correct explanation of why SET amps and single-driver speakers have the "golden" sound that they do. I can tell you with impunity that 64 bipolar transistors running an 84db 5-way speaker will never get you there. I've been around long enough to know that for sure.
Alex, your point about single drivers and their covering a wide range, relates to potentially higher intermodulation distortion. This is another thing that has some "questioned" characteristics.
A diaphragm microphone recieves all the frequencies at once, and is also a single element. It is having the high frequencies modulated onto it, while the lower frequencies are making large excursions of the diaphragm, just like the single driver speaker does. Is it possible that the single driver speaker more accurately produces the wave, because it has this inverse relationship to the recording microphone? Possibly.
As far as what amp/speaker is better, this is related directly to the end user, and his knowledge of what good sound is. If the only exposure he has, is to "spec wonders" then he will think that is the way to go, because they don't sound terrible, they just don't sound as good as some other things that are made to sound good, not spec good.
SET's are limited in power, and in speaker selection. This is not for everyone. But if someone is in the market for very high quality sound, and looks carefully at the available products, and makes good selections for synergistic coupling, a very good result can be obtained. It will not be real deep in the bass, nor very loud, but it can get pretty loud.
This SPL and deep bass response thing is a big hurdle to overcome. It's like these are the only things that mean anything to some people. If it won't do 20Hz in the bass, people think it is not worthy of consideration. If it can't shake the house, it's no good. So they buy things that have these capabilities, but sound like there is a blanket over the speaker. It is more often than not, a big muffled thud and sizzle, like the home version of one of these modern car audio systems.
Most people who heard a SET system for the first time would have their jaws drop. They would all-of-a-sudden stop thinking about 20Hz extension and 115db SPL.
They would finally be hearing music instead of hi-fi. Funny as it may sound, I really don't think that alot of audiophiles even know what can be achieved with an audio system. (Ducking the tomatoes and running for cover!) Most are satisfied with what they can easily get at the local emporium, that got a good review. Then they think they have about as good as it gets. Natural way of thinking, but not correct.
There is no free lunch, and you don't get a free lunch with SETs either. What you do with SETs, is you forget about the Hi-Fi stuff, and get a healthy dose of music. It's not about bass response. It's not about SPL. It's not about fireworks. It's about music. As crystal clear and clean as you can get. When you start in with trying to get all the Hi-Fi hijinks, then you move away from the music to get it.
The crying shame about electrostatic speakers is that you have to have high power to drive them, and you have to get a veiled amp as a result. Oh, I know, people don't think they have a veiled amp. Listen to a SET on single drivers and you'll find out how veiled a high power amp is.
Up until now, SETs have always had a hard time with extension, because of transformer limitations. But that is now no longer the case. OTL has come to SET amplification, and full frequency extension is possible now with SETs. But the really costly SETs, with excellent iron can do a pretty good job of extension too.
I'd say that SETs are for the real musical enthusiast, or the advanced listener. They are not for readers of audio magazines, and car stereo types. This is also why SET users are almost exclusively analog users. They are after what is beyond the reach of typical gear.
I love SET and OTL amps. I believe it will be a very long time before I would consider a SS amp. But who knows what tomorrow will bring. I have thought of myself as the king of the tube snobs. I must now pass the crown to Twl. Unless i misunderstood Twl's last four sentences, there are very few audio enthusiasts among the many Audiogon members.
I guess if you own SS amps and a CDP, many of you can't be advanced listeners. arrogance or truth? Either way, Quite a bold statement. I understand Twl's passion. I even agree with much of what he has said. But I find the last four sentences a bit offensive. But he has every right to express his thoughts just as I do. I admire your passion Twl.
Yes, Thomas is very passionate, or at least much more so than me when it comes to gear and audio. As to his less humble rhetoric about who among us is a real music enthusiast, most of the real music lovers I've known weren't even audiophiles at all, and had low-fi to mid-fi systems (which isn't to say they're somehow better than we can be - just that there's no absolute connection between the two). I am much more circumspect about not only the possible virtues of my system (it never fools me), but about the possible pros or cons of any particular system approach. But then again, Twl has more experience than me.

The rant about specsmanship is not wholly unjustified, but it's also increasingly not necessary, I think (and especially not in the context of what's been written in this thread, but as Twl says, he wasn't directing it at my arguments per se). At least within the friendly confines of this forum, I think it has somewhat the quality of a straw man. His system is very unusual anyway: not only doesn't he have any output transformer on his tubes, but the whole thing is battery-powered, a virtue which is probably its own best argument for not being able to dump power like a turbine.

I am not in agreement about the term "euphonic" as applied to THD products being a misnomer. I do believe that moderate amounts of low-order harmonic distortion (probably up to a few percent at least, particularly in the lower frequency ranges) can sound pleasing. I also believe this is not true of higher-order products (at least as it applies to stereo systems, as opposed to electronic music-making), but that is the conventional wisdom. I am a tube user myself, and I have often wondered if my preference for this technology is in large part a reflection of a preference for the harmonic 'tube signature' above the harmonic 'solid-state signature' - or maybe even above no detectable signature at all, given the much lower measured distortion levels SS gear can provide.

Oops, there I went talking about measurements. I agree in many ways with Twl that measurements have often obscured due consideration of what our ears hear. I don't think this is because all measurements are worthless, but just because we apparently can't find ways to measure possible unidentified mechanisms that seem to affect what we hear. In the past, it's also been because many folks who fetishize measurements simply haven't concerned themselves with what listeners hear, a fatal mistake from a purely scientific point of view.

But I have a problem with the internal inconsistency of both refuting the supremacy of technically measurable qualities on the one hand, combined with the advancement of this theory of mutual THD cancellation occurring between a single-driver speaker and an SET amp on the other hand. First of all, let me acknowledge that while Twl advances this argument here, he is not responsible for having created it, just promulgating it. I also want to state that Thomas is, in my opinion, more technically competent than myself. But of course those things aren't enough to prevent me from attempting to take him to task a bit on the matter. :-)

Aside from this theory's (to me unmistakable) specious, lift-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps quality, my problem with the argument is mainly one of selectivity in the service of rationalization. I have no qualms with someone taking the position that they will choose to trust their ears first, and if some apparent conflict arises between what they hear and what can be meausured, they will disregard the supposed implications of the measurement as being faulty, incomplete, or irrelevant.

But then you see something like the distortion-cancellation proposal, which reminds me of nothing so much as 'creation science', wherein a belief (creationism) that presumably doesn't depend on observation of the real world for its support gets shaky knees in light of what can be scientifically supported, and cobbles together its own psuedo-scientific 'theory' as a counteractant, despite the predictable fact that it cannot be confirmed by the evidence. That analogy is not meant to imply that preferring the sound of SET's is comparable to a belief system or denying the real world, just that I find it telling when any movement first contests the methods of its opposition based on their having reached different conclusions, but then attempts to put forth a spurious bastardization of those methods as an additional prop for their position.

To me, it's got to be one or the other: either the measurements don't ultimately matter (for potentially valid reasons) and one does not require a plausible (as in confirmable) technical explanation for what cannot be understood in technical terms, or we have to affirm that there will be some connection between what is discoverable by our ears and what is discoverable through testable technical hypothoses.

In other words, if one is going to so eloquently take exception to the applicability of those technical arguments which are testable (as Twl has), then don't try to simultaneously propone one which has not been confirmed in support of your preference. I think a back-to-back rereading of Twl's first argument in favor of the alleged phenomenon of distortion-cancellation and his second argument in disfavor of reliance on technically known and observable phenomena makes the contradiction clear. Simply proposing a technical mechanism which is heretofore unknown does not reconcile the two positions.

A prime reason the distortion-cancellation argument is quite likely just too beautiful to be true is its very quality of not having been tested, because it could have been by now. This theory might well be easy enough to partially confirm or deny through normal measurements taken of the output vs. input from an SET/single-driver combo, comparing it to the same speaker driven by an amp with, say, push-pull SS topology, and also doing the same comparsions using an appropriate multi-way speaker. Somebody please email me when this is done by an SET-supporter showing that the theory proves to be correct (somehow I doubt they'll be rushing to test it).

But while I'm not trusting this theory or the motives behind offering it, neither am I saying that the appeal of SET/high-sensitivity speaker combos is going to be due to their distortion signatures. I am not adverse to giving preliminary credibility to Twl's contention that distortion (or at least some kinds of distortion) might in reality be lower for such combos - at least within limited frequency and level parameters.

My bringing up the matter of extension was not, as assumed by Twl, primarily about the low end of single-driver speakers. Even such conventional audiophiles as John Atkinson have demonstrated long-standing biases toward basically dispensing with the pursuit of non-rolled response in the bottom octave (maybe octave-and-a-half) in their personal systems - in spite of their high-powered amps and multi-way speakers - simply because of the difficulties and compromises involved in trying to do it right. My point was also not focused on any possible extension limitations of SET amps themselves, which can in theory be overcome if the speaker doesn't demand too much in the way of low-end current.

My point had more to do with the HF limitations of a single-driver design (at least with a pistonic dynamic driver; traveling wave designs [Ohm Walsh] or electrostat's are different). Obviously, single-driver operation is not a prerequisite for SET use, but I brought it up partly because of the distortion-cancellation theory's stipulation of an un-crossed-over single-driver design. Twl of course must not be bothered by it in his system, but I can't see any way for a relatively large and massive single driver to equal the HF response and dispersion of tweeters in multi-way designs.

I was also not refering (again as assumed) to intermodulation distortion when I said the THD of a single driver must be higher. I actually remain unconvinced about the legitimacy of supposed deleterious effects from Doppler distortions occurring in wide-bandwidth drivers, but wasn't talking about that anyway. I said what I meant - that THD must go up as a driver is called upon to handle a very wide bandwidth. If the driver is naturally best suited for the lows, THD must be greater in the mids and highs. If optimized for the mids, then in the lows and highs. If the driver could pristinely handle the highs, then distortion would rise rapidly for the mids and lows. I believe that similar tradeoffs must exist for macro- vs. micro-dynamic capabilities as well. The very same concerns, only to a quite lesser degree, apply in first-order multi-way designs like my own Thiels. Again, all these limitations can be looked at as trade-offs, with other compensating inherent virtues perhaps present.

My stressing of volume capability and dynamic headroom is due to my belief that on the whole, audiophiles place too little emphasis on the quality of amplitudinal fidelity. To me, a lack of purity is no more deadly when it comes to destroying the illusion of live than is too-quiet playback (or compressed peaks). Unfortunately, our rooms tend to be the most limiting factor in being able to achieve higher levels with comfort, and I will never consider myself to be a genuine pursuer of the audiophile truth until the time when (or if) I make a comprehensively acoustically designed and treated listening room. Next to the room factor, all this hoo-ha about what type of amp pales in comparision anyway.

I say this because I have had the experience of listening to my own band's playing and singing reproduced for me in such a scientifically designed and implemented space, and over innocuous little self-powered mini-monitors costing less than the average high end MC carts of today, with the audio signal being routed through a mixing board and hundreds of feet of utilitarian cable, I heard a tangible illusion of live reality that put to shame anything I've ever heard through a high end system in a normal (or even a treated normal) listening room or showroom. I can only imagine what a carefully set up high end system would sound like in that room. Talk about not knowing what can be achieved with an audio system - my head kept jerking around in involuntary surprise when the music started, and it was all I could do to keep from pointing 'at' the sound in disbelief like some kind of delerious fool. I could only try to hold myself in my seat thoughout the whole process and not smile too conspicuously (and we didn't even employ purist recording techniques, although it's true that what I'm talking about was the sound of the original master tape). When I play back these recordings on my system, some tonal qualities and such are more complete, but I am no longer in the band's presence, musically or emotionally. Just wanted to put a little perspective on things before I go. :-)
I read the above rather quickly so I apologize in advance if I missed something.

1) There are several basic papers on the topic one of which I know to be online which should be cited so folks can read the basic work for themselves and the LIMITED claims made. Eduardo de Lima Why Single Ended Tube Amplifiers?

2) Said above by Z "Simply the fact that apparently only the SET crowd feels the need to come up with something like this rhetoric points the finger of doubt, to me." This is rather cheap ain't it Z? Why a personal attack on the folk who bring it up. Attacking the person is always a cheap argument. Why not keep to the issues? Why not cite the article and give your technical point on the issue? What's the problem??? Can't do the math??? It's the easiest thing in the world to go in this direction and return itin your face .."oh yea, another SS guy who chooses to ignore the obvious because he has invested in SS."

What does that do except destroy the discussion altogether???? Which is about the way things go around here as a rule.

3) s above: "and more than a little ingenuous in its seemingly willful selectivity."

You do not have to agree with de Lima but his credentials are impressive, his work extensive, and he is extremely humble and good natured fellow. If he has made a mistake, so be it, cite to his work. But he is not going to ruin his professional reputation by the "willful" publishing of unsupported rationalizations. Again.... cheap.

"a fondness for playing devil's advocate" is a good thing, if you ask me, but not if it results in an intellectually lazy assault on someone's character.

4) The oddest thing is that compared to many of the completely unsupported technical arguments that are floated around this forum as gospel this one is rather mundane. The cancellation of distortion is common and well understood. (differential amps - P-P topology, balanced lines....)

Sorry, if I seem a bit touchy but I have pretty much stopped posting here except for an occasional joke because the arguments here are so often laced with this stuff in lieu of the issue.

Z...You are smart enough not to have to go there.

I remain,

Hi guys. Thanks for the responses. Yes, I do get quite carried away at certain times. However, my two or three posts are like a little wind in a hurricane of thoughts to the contrary. I don't expect to really get anywhere with this. The whole market is stacked the other way.

Brulee, I apologize of my last 4 sentences of my other post seemed offensive. I feel that sometimes a little "shock factor" can be useful to stir up people's thought processes.

Alex, regarding my attempt to quantify, while casting aspersions on quantification, that is a valid criticism, but it was an apparently meager attempt to communicate to the measurement people in words and concepts they might relate to. They want to hear hard reasons and even measurements if they can get them, so I gave a concept. I have no doubt that if this theory proves true, that there would be a runaway train of measurement people sacrificing the other needed qualities of the amp and speaker, to get this particular measurement. Sorry, but I do feel that they are hopeless.

I don't promote SETs/Single Drivers to everyone, because they are not for everyone. Some could not abide the certain problems associated with a system like I have. I am very aware of the shortcomings of them, because I live with a system like that every day. I would be the first to say they are not perfect, nor are they even close to perfect.

Regarding the single-driver distortion issue, they are in fact a very low distortion driver. This is due in part to very high magnet strength, extremely low moving mass, and short excursion. This makes the single-driver much more responsive than the typical cone driver, and have lower harmonic distortion than other cone drivers. As far as high frequency reproduction goes, my Lowthers are flat to above 20kHz, so I don't see a rolloff problem there. And they are clearer in the very high frequency than any dome tweeter that I've ever heard. In addition, the hysteresis is very low, due to the things I stated above, and the fact that no crossovers are present in the system. The supposed real weak points of single drivers(excluding deep bass response) is the potential for intermod and doppler distortions, and high frequency dispersion due to beaming. And these are real concerns. I would only say that these things turn out to be less problematic to my ears, than the problems associated with multi-driver systems, which number in the hundreds. For every "fix" you get from increasing the number of drivers, you get 10 more problems. When you try to "fix" those, you get 10 more. It never ends, and you move away from the music. The speaker design becomes a race to meet the expected technical aspects of frequency response, and dispersion, and loses focus of what it was supposed to be in the first place.

I may be highly opinionated and passionate, but I'm not decieved. If multi-drivers really did what they claim to do, then I wouldn't be saying jack-shit about this subject. The fact is that they sacrifice more than they gain. It's a loss-loaded movement. For every gain, there are multiple losses. And the losses are of the most harmful kind. And again it goes back to what they consider important in the design, which is paper specifications that sell speakers to the magazine reading consumer. I'd be willing to bet that very few people that even read this post have ever laid an ear on a good single driver speaker. Except for full range electrostats, and they are also a single driver speaker. People seem to think that they are fine. The only difference is the diaphram shape and size. They are low distortion, high magnetic strength, and very light moving mass, with very low excursion. And they generally have the same problems with very low bass, and wide dispersion, and even intermod.

Now if people are happy with their CD,SS, multi-driver systems, that's great. For them. In my case, I'm not happy with that. I've had that numerous times, and know just exactly what it is. I want a closer interaction with the music than is provided with that kind of system. I have found a way to do that. Would I like to get even better? Sure, and I look for ways that I can improve these things, and make mods, and even look at other roads to do it. I've picked my poison, and I know where the deadly parts are. I can live with these, at this time, until I can find a less deadly poison.

The whole impetus for this tirade I've gone on, is to confront the issue that is frequently being pushed to the fore, that somehow SET amps and single driver speakers are some kind of distortion machines, that "euphonic distortion" fetishists use, and that they just don't compare to the "big time" systems. That claim is wrong, and it is stated over and over on this forum, with nobody refuting it. That is over. I will continue to refute that issue. It is interesting that when SET/Single-driver systems are relegated to the distortion bin, which is fairly common on this board, nobody says anything about it, they just accept it as truth. But, when somebody says that CD systems with big SS amps and multi-driver systems don't cut it, watch out for the tomatoes. Then it is considered intolerant of others' systems. Snobbery. But, what is the implied statement, when the terms "euphonic distortion" and and the like, are used? It is that they somehow know that SET people don't know what "accurate" sound is, and that we are into certain kinds of "inaccuracy" that really isn't as good as their "low measurement" systems are. Is that not snobbery? Of course it is. But it is tolerated because it is the opinion of the masses. When I go the other way, it raises eyebrows. Double standard? You betcha. Then I am asked for "proof", not in terms of musical performance, but in measurement terms. Case closed. They are not interested in musical performance, they are interested in measurements that satisfy their reliance on numbers, and not their ears.

No system is a "one size fits all" system. There is room for many kinds of systems for different people. I only take exception when it is presumed that a good type of system is cast into a "lower" category because of the attitudes that are created by this numbers race. So I gave a little dose of the same medicine to everybody else, so they could experience what it feels like. And the responses were based upon my statements either appearing to be intolerant and snobbish, or not being borne out by measured data. Was this not a predictable set of responses? Of course. I went against the accepted grain of high end thinking. Thus, my premises are met with criticism and said to be unfounded in measurable scientific terms. Perfectly natural and predictable, given the mind-set that pervades high end audio today.

I am inherently a person who doesn't mind "rocking the boat" when I know I have a valid point. I am used to being met with resistance, and it's happened all my life. Some people may read this, and take a look at what I said, and seek out a system like this to listen to. If that happens, I have done my job. As far as the others go, I doubt I'll ever get through to them, and I'll always be considered to be a "fringe element" type to them. That's ok. I like being out on the edge. I've always been bored, when I'm in the middle of the "comfort zone".
Thanks, Craig! I appreciate your support and participation on this issue. I'm glad you decided to take a look at this thread, and contribute the article that I couldn't find, and your well-placed responses.
I don't think it has to be an all or nothing decision. Power is realitive to system, room, desired volume and of course subjective quality. While Twl probably has a lot more experience than I do, my conclusions are the opposite. Interestingly enough the equipment that I would most like to audition seems to be in the general direction, if not the exact path that he has chosen.
Unsound, you're right, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision. And I try not to say(although I am guilty of implying) that others should not go in different directions. Heck, if they really like something else, then they should have it. I mean, if I was a pipe organ junkie, and liked to hear it at live cathedral volume levels, I wouldn't have the system that I do. That would be trying to listen to music that struck right at the heart of the weaknesses in my current system.

I'll give you an example. Bishopwill and I used to have a running discussion about the need for deep bass. I stuck to my guns, and when he wanted a set of speakers for his bedroom system, he told me he would try a set of Lowthers because I was so high on them. Now this is a guy that actually gave what I am saying a shot, in his own home. This is the first guy I know about that actually listened instead of making a pre-judgment. I respect that greatly. And you know, he actually liked them alot. He didn't wind up getting them, because the cabinets were too big for the bedroom, but he became aware of what the single driver sound can be. And he liked it alot. And he is an organ music lover who really needs deep bass for the music he likes to listen to. No, the Lowthers didn't do that, but he really appreciated them for what they did do well.Now he knows first hand what this type of speaker can and cannot do. I don't fault him at all for not getting them. He had his reasons that were completely valid.

I'm very glad that you are interested in auditioning a system of this type. It may or may not be for you. But at least you will know what these systems can do. I strongly recommend using a vinyl source for the audition, because these systems can be very revealing, and may pass a little too much of the digital nasties to be palatable. At least that is my opinion.

I know sometimes I come on very strong about certain issues, but I'm not trying to be an S.O.B.

Sometimes it just takes a little extra zest to get people to try something different.

I just felt that I needed to get some of this stuff off my chest, because it was getting to me that people actually think I am listening to a distorted system. Jeez! I don't like distortion any more than the next guy. Euphonic or otherwise. I like it clean, and that's why I felt so compelled to say something about it. My system is clean, man. It is not full of any kind of distortion. It's just as clean as anything out there, and maybe cleaner. I want people to know that they are not moving to a distorted system, just because they select a SET amp or a single driver speaker. I wouldn't have to have said any of this if there hadn't been this movement to "tag" the SET amps with the distortion label. Sorry if I over did it.
I don't know or care how any piece of audio gear measures. I don't understand why anyone would care. What would some people do if an amp, pre, or speaker offered no measurements.
Maybe i feel this way because I don't know a thing about electronics. Still, how would a person make a decision about what speakers or electronics to buy if they came without measurments. Could it be possible that they would have to listen to make a decision? My goodness, I can't imagine such a thought. I have been such a fool for all these years because i never once considered how a component or speaker measured. Never again will I buy another speaker, amp, or whatever just because it sounds good.
I am so ashamed that I have considered myself an audiophile all these years. I don't know if I will ever be able to live with myself. I plead for forgiveness for my ignorance. And to think I had the nerve to post on threads.
Hanging my head low, hiding my face. Gonna drink a fifth of rum right now. Unless it doesn't measure the right amount of alcohol, cause it really doesn't matter how it tastes.
Way to go, Brulee!
Brulee, i wish you send this exact post to John Atkinson. He is the proponent of "...good sounding must measure good... otherwise..." You know the outcomes: Kr Enterprises, PS Audio...etc.
Brulee, your disregard of measurement data is a very extreme position. There is nothing inherently right/wrong or positive/negative in measurement data, it is simply information to be used (or misused). Furthermore, is there any real difference between information gathered by purely electrical probes or that gathered by biological means. Your ear/brain is just another measurement device. Should it really be given primacy in ever case? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.
Twl, I appreciate your position regardless of whether or not I personally buy into De Lima's theory. Thanks for taking the time to explicate your thoughts in depth. As you probably know from our past discussions, I have always been curious to get a good audition of a system along the lines of what you promote, but haven't done it so far, and admit to not having made any great efforts to do so (then again, the same thing applies to me with any audio gear - I stay away from the shows completely and the shops as much as I can, and none of my friends are audiophiles, so there you have it...).

As far as the one technical point you raise in the above responses subsequent to my last post: Although I am willing for the time being to take your word about the HF capabilities of the Lowther - or at least its perceived performance (being that un-rolled, wide-dispersion response above a certain point is of debatable necessity) - I don't really believe that this driver could be so unique in terms of its moving mass. I mean, designers and manufacturers of dynamic cone drivers have been expending great effort on reducing driver mass while increasing stiffness (something the Lowther must possess if it is to cover the frequency range it is called upon to do) through applied research and technology for many decades now, the whole world over. I will do some investigation online of this driver, because the technology presumably required for its intended application intrigues me, but will say for the time being that I find it difficult to accept the proposition that it could be so very much lower in mass than many other manufacturers' designs (even if those designs aren't intended to be used full-range).

As far as the electrostat reference we have both made goes, yes, these are much lower in moving mass per area of driver surface than any dynamic design, even a dome tweeter. This is possible because the diaphragm is uniformly driven over its entire surface, so rigidity is not needed, and HF response is not impeded by high moving mass. (I also want to mention that my reservations about the validity of the Doppler-intermodulation theoretical critique of wide-range drivers has as much or more to do with the fact that the eardrum itself is a single-membrane transducer, as it does with microphone physics - I'm just not convinced that the ear/brain is in fact sensitive to this supposed problem as it applies to driver operation.)

Clueless, I am sorry if any of my comments may have offended you, and thanks for the link. They were not intended as an attack, so much as that I personally hate to see what is quite likely a very valid movement in terms of not only providing people with another listening option, but also in serving as a useful check on - and critique of - the status quo, feeling that it must engage in what I perceive to be a black-magic, slight-of-hand pseudo-technical argument in order to bolster its case.

I of course realize that disortion cancellation is an accepted phenomenon in certain circuit designs, but I do not feel there is a direct analogy between balanced/opposing-phase circuits or lines and the SET/single-driver theory. I will read the article you have linked (although I may have read it before, I'm not certain - I know I have read about this in the past, but I can't recall whether it was De Lima himself or another writer[s] citing his [or the same] arguments). In general, I feel it is very easy for a technically literate writer who is so inclined to baffle the masses with speculative theories if they choose. My response is, show me some evidence. I may not be an electrical or acoustical engineer, but I find I can usually rely on my own BS detector to weed out the spurious arguments. In audiophilia, technical competence has never been a guarantee against quackery, even among nice guys. :-)

Again, I'm not questioning anyone's beliefs, to which they are entitled. To me, it's not about belief - if something is plausible, and its effect demonstrable, then the mechanism should be verifiable. Since no one seems to have verified this mechanistic belief, I will go with my instinct that it is not plausible. The proposition that SET/single-driver systems may be the most 'pure', on the other hand, I do not reject on its face at all; I just feel that other, and fairly obvious and well-known, factors could account for that being so, if true. If something in his paper gives me a different perspective, I will post about it here.

At the end of the day, everything we have been talking about here just comes back to the hard reality of the 'audiophile condition', if you will - the fact that there is no, and can never be any, 'perfect' speaker or amplifier design. In the real world, everything is a design trade-off dictated by the laws of physics, and I think we all acknowledge that. It's simply left to us try and pick our poisons based on our experiences and preferences. My own inclinations are pretty conventional: low coloration (even frequency response), wide bandwidth, wide and even dispersion, comfortable headroom, low distortion, accurate transient response with low overhang, etc. I do not lightly dismiss Twl's, or any other careful listener's, positions in favor of simpler systems. I do not know if his or their preferences are a good match for my own, but I do know that they are sincere, and wouldn't be listening to plainly deficient sound reproduction by anyone's standards. I regard myself as still of an open mind, not only because their advocacy leads me to believe that there must be something to it, but mostly because I am cognizant of the reality of the paradigm of trade-offs inherent in any particular engineering approach stipulated above, and that must include the approaches my own system employs.
Said above by Z: "In the real world, everything is a design trade-off"

Hey, that's almost a direct quote from my first post.

Anyway, thanks for taking it in stride and as intended.
I read my post a couple hours after i posted it and thought, line (at least) too many. It's just that a few of you regulars really set the standard for engagement around here.


I remain,
Brulee and Twl to dismiss specs is to dismiss opportunity. I'm sure that the designers of your favored gear used specs to get their desired results and to maintain those results. Ignoring specs makes system matching exhaustive. Using specs one can dismiss gear that won't work together and may actually prevent you from damaging equipment. While I'm not there yet, I hope that one day I can see an actual correlation with specs and sound. At this point in time I merely use them to narrow down choices for system compatablity. To ignore specs because they have yet to give a defintive expression of the final sound is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water.
above >>To ignore specs because they have yet to give a defintive expression of the final sound is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Amen. If the measurements do not "add up" to good sound it means we, or at least someone, has to think about them more, not less.

Hey, as an added feature here is little video on very rare vinyl.



I remain,
Uhm: I have settled in with DH/SET's and I'm a poor boy (no fancy horns for me).

Enough said, do what you like.
Alex. De Lima has some actual measurement charts on the link that Clueless provided.
Unsound, I know not to use a 10 watt amp on ESLs. I know that certain tube preamps mated with certain SS amps is not a good idea, or shouldn't even be considered. I understand what you are saying. I probably am the one who should have been more clear. Of course matching equipment that works well together is what seperates one that is tolerable to one that makes music. I guess I haven't made myself clear. I think what Dekay said is all that needs to be said.
"Do what you like" I do what I like!
Onhwy61, I hope I have not offended you with my opinions. I have the highest respect for you. But yes, I do believe the ear/brain is the best measuring device. I guess I should say that it is for me. I did not mean common since should not be used when putting a system together. To make my point simple, if it sounds good, it sounds good.
Gotta go, I think I threw the baby out with the bath water again.
Clueless and Twl, I have printed and read through the De Lima paper. Read through it a few times, in fact. You are right, there are actual measurement graphs in there, similar to the types I called for above, that would seem to demonstrate the phenomenon he advocates and that you are talking about.

The paper itself, while stipulating many worthwhile points that I could agree with, did not impress me overall. It had a few inconsistencies that made me question De Lima's rigorousness. I listed these on a piece of paper so I could post about them, but I couldn't get those graphs out of my head. I was reasonably sure that my arguments above were sound, yet here was some empirical evidence to the contrary staring me in the face.

This bothered me all night, and I did not go to sleep, instead turning it over in my head. Finally in the wee hours I quit and decided to take a shower. I should have known - I always do my best thinking (and sometimes songwriting) in the shower. :-)

There I had an epiphany, and I now believe that I can debunk De Lima's paper (or at least seriously call it into question), graphs included. I am not going to post my analysis and critique right now, both because it needs to be a detailed post and I am tired and want to go to sleep, and because I want a little more time to recheck myself in the light of day and make sure I'm not mistaken or being rash - not only because I could always be wrong - but also because if I am right, what I say might carry a bit of reputational consequences.

In the meantime, I encourage anybody reading to use Clueless' link to the article, and consider these questions for themselves. What I am thinking of is not so advanced or anything, and it's quite possible (if I am correct in my assessment) that someone with more technical knowledge than myself would see the flaw I believe I have found in a much quicker time than I did. I will give this hint: the fatal problem area of his argument as I see it (one which I have already generally suggested in my posts above) is given away by a careful logical analysis of what is contained and implied in his graphs and their associated explanatory paragraphs (further hint: you must focus on what he doesn't say as well as what he does). I shall return.
That's good Alex. If you have some further ideas that could be of help in this matter, we are all ears.
I've emailed De Lima with a couple of basic questions about his published graphs, asking for a little information which is not provided in his article or graph labels (but should be), so that I don't have to work from any assumptions if I don't have to. I'll continue with my intended post after I (hopefully) get a reply, or amend my intended critique if the answers I get fundamentally change my assumptions about what he purports to have shown. Just want to be on as firm a footing as I can here.
Unsound- Don't feel bad. You've got lots of company! "While I'm not there yet, ..." - no one is there yet! It doesn't exist, yet. Will it ever exist? Who knows. In the end, who cares. I for one do not want for the day when one goes down to the local entertainment emporium and orders an audio system pre-selected by a computer because of its synergistic relationship score. What fun is that?

Audio is more about the journey than the destination. Since most of us here don't have the talent to create or even play music, we amuse ourselves with learning about the interplay between various components with the desire to find that elusive combination that transcends mere noise, and allows us a short but spiritual experience of the emotional sublime. You shouldn't be able to find this from some cookie cutter, pre-selected computer output!

Formulas (equations) are used to design the circuits, but the selection of individual subcomponents on the basis of sound is the last area of art for most audio designers. (True innovators, like D.Berning, are in another league!)System synergy has many variables that are often as numerous as the number of potential customers. This is the type of information that you learn, not obtain from a data sheet.

For the record, I'm one of those silly electronic engineers. I'm always amused by those who are not, yet continue to think that if they look hard enough at a sheet of numbers that some revelation will come to them. I'm sorry if that sounds too dismissive. I applaud anyone who actually determines to educate themselves in the requisite math and scientific principles to understand the fundamentals of analog and digital electronics. I'm even more impressed with those who go through this arduous task, and can still find joy and beauty in the music that is reproduced from equipment without resorting to DBT and distortion figures, or worse, to bottom-line sales figures.

Is there a clear, absolute relationship between specs and sound? Currently, only in the most rudimentary areas. As an engineer, I can tell you that we design to meet the specs, or requirements doc, that are usually generated by the marketing department. As such, there are certain trends that, valuable or not, become expected. Many of these expectations can be customer generated or simply marketing tools to help differentiate a product from the competition. After awhile, these can take on a life of their own. Remember the THD wars of the 70s and 80s? Life was simple. You simply picked the component with the lowest THD figures, often below .001%, and the most power. Anyone could do it because it was made easy. Did this actually benefit the quality of the reproduced music?

Though there is quite a bit of misinformation espoused by some on this site, well intentioned of course, there is also a wealth of valuable information. If one wants to learn, just look in the archives and continue to ask questions. Don't dismiss the opportunity to learn from experienced audiophiles when it comes to equipment synergy just because the individual component specs aren't to your or some reviewer's liking.

Again, if your desire to investigate the specs of a component(s) help lead you into the study of the fundamentals of electronics, then more power to you. However, for the rest, I suggest that you go rent the movie Pi, and ponder the value of.

I did not post to anger or attack anyone. This diatribe was simply my opinion on this topic of good specs equate to good sound. Do specs have value? Of course, but they shouldn't be the primary tool that one uses when selecting audio equipment.

Bottom line- use common sense and your ears. If you don't know, ask and then listen. My audio path may not be yours, and that's probably a good thing, as my ears, room, and sonic preferences will likely differ from yours. Above all, enjoy the music!
Jcbtubes, you give me too much credit. I haven't, nor intend in the near future, to learn that much technical stuff. At least not untill there is some sort of major discovery and/or compilation of what is known that would warrant it. In the mean time I welcome what ever knowledge comes my way, with the hope that I can use it. As for me, I'm not interested in the fun of this journey. If such a computer program existed, I'd welcome it. Then there would be more time for the music and with any luck more money for everything else.
Well said Clueless!
Nicely said JCT:

I hope you were not talking about my statement above when you argue against the idea that "good specs equate to good sound." No one can seriously believe that and certainly not someone (like me) who listens to SETS at least part of the time.

I do believe, as I said above, that "If the measurements do not "add up" to good sound (and they do not) it means we, or at least someone, has to think about them more, not less." (this does not mean I think that all of life, let alone music or electronics, can be reduced to numbers so please no philosophical attacks)

So I agree with Unsound that walking away from engineering, a rather rigorous discipline (of which I am not a member) is walking away from what has made it possible for us to have audio and all of electronics for that matter. Ohm, Faraday, Maxwell, the folks who did the basic works in acoustics (J. Strutt , aka Lord Rayleigh), speakers (Theil/Small etc), Bell Labs and transistors. On and on… all measuremnt/number geeks.

I also agree with Brulee that you can be as into it as anybody without giving numbers/measurements a second thought. Get a good system and plug it in. I guess I disagree with him when he says that he doesn’t understand why anybody is interested.

All the audio-design folk I respect combine real technical knowledge with good ears. It is never an either-or and always the combination of the two. To demand one or the other is in logic the fallacy of the false dichotomy.

You can buy a good system with your ears but you will never design one or even incompetently dabble in it, as I do, with your ears alone. The only way you can dismiss numbers/measurements is if you equate them with marketing specs. This is a very simple headed way to look at them.

A little technical knowledge is also the first defense to the endless marketing hype that infests audio. The hype (at least to my mind) is at least a great a danger as a blind adherence to numbers.

Fittingly, the whole thing reminds me a little of music. Most of the musicians I admire have a strong background in what is essentially a kind of number theory. A part of music can only be fully understood in that way. You can enjoy a fugue if you have never heard of an interval, but you are never going to write one or fully understand it. It is almost impossible to approach some forms of music without coming to terms with this.
( John Coltrane comes to mind) . Of course, music rises above this and yet, in a fundamental way, seems to depend upon it in some way. On the other hand, to equate music with numbers is surely to miss the point. (Least I come across as a musical snob some of my favorite musicians didn’t know a hoot about it. Lightening Hopkins and John Hurt on guitar, for example. The strange thing is that these guys followed very distinct patterns in their playing (using 4ths and 5ths ) without ever understanding it at all. There was a recent article in “Science” magazine that says we are hard wired in this fashion. Who knows?

I remain
Amen, Clueless. Why is it again you say you generally don't desire to post at length much anymore? :-)
Probably a good analogy could be drawn between the experience of savoring food and the experience of enjoying music. I'm too lazy to do that but I favor gas cooking over electric or(God forbid) microwave. Does anyone else out there feel the same? Or have you given the matter no thought and just enjoyed your food?
What a thread! The collective intelligence of the posters is really something. I've enjoyed this a lot and NO, my tongue is not planted firmly in my cheek. It reminds me of an event in my personal life that has nothing to do with audio but it applies here none-the-less.

I spent several years constructing a car for triple duty. A street car with reasonable manners and killer good looks, a very fast quarter mile drag car and one capable of competing in the Nevada outlaw road races. All of this was to be done on 92 octane gas without nitrous or forced air induction. A change of tires would be allowed for all three types of driving.

While cutting and welding and doing all it takes for the required safety measures as well as the "looks" department I pondered all of the different ways to have the power levels needed and retain the durability demanded by such an engine. I relied heavily on technology developed by others and attempted to really do this honestly. You know, you can hang plates on a race car and install mufflers, but it's still a high maintenance race car.

I went through all the calculations projecting power output and when the motor was finished I engine dyno-ed it and after it was in the car I chassis dyno-ed again since the latter more closely duplicated acceleration in the car. Being in a rather small area here it was impossible to keep the measured results secret. Of course, there was a lot of talk behind my back and most of it was negative.

If you took the advertised power gains of the camshaft, the cylinder heads, the piston design, and all the other bits and pieces that went into this motor it would have satisfied the needs of a top fuel dragster. The computer programs predicted close to 700 horsepower. The dyno said it made 520+ hp and 495 lb/ft of torque. Was this a disappointmnet? Not in the least. It had 80% of it's power available at idle (1200 rpm). Of course, everyone knew what it actually made and my first pass at the drag strip was the talk of the track. When asked what kind of times I would run I only replied that I would run a trap speed of over 120 mph.

There were many cutting remarks made and stupid challenges offered prior to my first pass. Comments such as, "Tim has 650 hp and only goes 114 mph" and "No way, you ain't got enough power, besides, how will you hook on a 10" wide tire?" By the time I did my burnout I was depressed in spite of the confidence I had when I woke up that morning. I was wondering if this was going to be a huge disappointment.

My D.O.T. approved tires were actually little more than slicks with two grooves in them and carried a pressure of 8 lbs. The car is a manual transmission and my calculated launch rpm was 5800 rpm and the shift points were at 6200 rpm. So, I stage, come up against the launch rev limiter and when the lights came down and I released the clutch all I saw was sky. When I shifted (3/4 of a second after launch) I again was looking at sky. Guys, this was the quickest 10 seconds of my life. On a 105 degree day at a track elevation of 3500 ft. I pulled 126 mph. Later in the day as I buzzed the engine beyond the measured shift point the speeds went up. 7200 rpm shift points worked best and I approached 130 mph in 1320 ft.

The insults and the challenges came to a stop and were replaced by oohs and ahhs. When asked why my car was faster than Tim's car with 650 horsepower I replied, "My horses must be bigger than Tim's". For your consideration I offer the following: The class I ran in was comprised solely of trailer queens being full race cars. Mine was the only one driven to the track and back home and it was a small block. Nobody but a a dragster and an altered exceeded my mph.

My point is: math and measurements are important but bench racing is pointless.

Learn technique, then transcend technique. Technique not bad per se, but attachment to technique, the power of the mind through its technique, gets in the way eventually. Once that happens, you don't see that it did. Second, attachment to technique is not attachment to technique, but, deeper, is a fear of lack of power of technique. Attachment does not exist without fear of its loss.
Patrick, is there a URL with a picture posted of your baby (the car, I mean)? And have you ever seen the admittedly obscure 1974 documentary film "Funny Car Summer" (if not, you can look it up on

Macrojack, everyone prefers gas over electric, but I have to say that I do have a 'soft spot' for microwaves. Maybe that comes from standing too close to one for many years. ;^)

FWIW, no response yet from De Lima. And happy birthday Django!
Zaikesman, none other than James Beard. Go figure?

Send me an email and I'll send back a photo or two of the car.

What we need here is to line up and have a heads up audio race. Seriously, I wish we could have a small time convention of Audiogon members, perhaps on a regional level. I would be willing to invest some cash to help with renting a room and setting up a members system. We could then A/B as quickly as we could change rooms. I know it's only wishful thinking on my part but the benefits would be huge.

It's obvious that there is more than one way to skin this cat. What's important to me is getting the most bang for the buck.

Clueless, please continue to post. I know that there are some rude folks here sometimes and the same questions get asked over and over. There are quite a few old regulars that have quit participating and I would miss you if you weren't present.

Twl, continue to beat the drum. I know you are onto something that's bigger than most folks can comprehend. I admire the direction you have taken.

Brulee, Unsound, Jctubes, Dekay and others, I enjoy your posts and appreciate the insights you provide that I can't get any other way. I'm not trying to be overly senitmental but just want you guys to know that reading what you write is important to a lot of folks and maybe we don't recognize your contributions enough. I just hope I can occassionally provide a little help to someone.

Happy listening to all,
Lugnut, do you use any sort of hearing protection when tooling around? If so what type? Your car sounds very impressive.

When I tool around I don't need any. The car is very quiet. When I race it is loud at wide open throttle (still through the mufflers) but with a helmet and the windows up, which is mandatory, it's so muffled it's like wearing ear plugs. My competitors all have open exhaust. I wear ear protection as a spectator.

Chevy II, '66 or '67 I'm guessing, 496 I'm told, plain white and very stealthy-looking, and if that's your garage interior in the photo, one hell of a neat'n'clean well-outfitted shop...

Still no De Lima, I may have to proceed on some assumptions without him, but will give it through tomorrow...

It's a '67 and a 406 small block Chevy. It is my garage but neat'n'clean is a sometimes thing!! Thanks for the kind words in your reply email. Regarding the windshield wipers, or lack thereof, I can pop them on easy enough but they lift from the windshield at the track and act like they will be torn off. The hood does the same thing. Being fiberglass it lifts and shakes something awful at trap speed. The Boise area is high desert and rarely rains. It's a very nice climate here if you like mild weather and close access to snow.

Alright Alex, give us your theory. I'm getting tired of waiting for De Lima to respond to your email. My curiosity is getting the better of me.

Maybe we can discuss it while we're waiting for De Lima to respond.