from the intro do my website, for your amusement:
The Road Taken
AMHERST AUDIO is about one music lover-audiophile's earnest search for the "whole" sound of music. Like most such searches, mine (a great deal of which is tracked through reviews on EnjoytheMusic.com and Positive-Feedback.com and notes on AudioAsylum.com) has taken the classic anxious zig-zag back and forth between what are often characterized by their respective adherents as "accuracy to source" and "accuracy to performance" what outsiders call realism and romanticism. It has followed this path because I did not understand that this polarity is an artificial one that has arisen in the world of audio because the sound of live music is both romantic and real: two qualities that have, at least thus far, proved impossible to capture equally well in audio. Live music has natural, beguiling warmth but it is also wonderfully clear. I can hear that every time my twelve-year-old practices his clarinet!
The eternal trek back and forth between audio systems that bet all of their marbles on one or the other of these qualities is the real road to audio hell. Because we continually discover that were only getting half of the show truly right, the chase induces us try to tame one or unleash the other, balancing opposing forces. Pursuing realism tends to bring us the sound of correctness, which we admire
and then try to enliven with expressive cables or warm speakers. Aiming for romanticism generally leads to exciting, or at least appealing, colorations, which we must then set about toning or cooling. Both of these as ideals are easy to defend in theory Ive done it myself. But when it comes to setting aside ideals and theories and sitting down to listen, it is immediately clear to most of us that this is nuts.
What we must learn to accept is that getting audio Absolutely right involves a degree of choice, taking one road or the other followed by the Brilliant Compromise, which is the clue to it all. If you refuse to choose and continue to pursue the whole sound of music with one batch of components, you will either go crazy or end up with something bland, the famous B student, whos pretty good at everything and excellent at nothing. Weve all heard snoozer systems like that, which reviewers can only damn with faint praise. If you want to be transported by reproduced music, if you want to hear high-end audio at its Absolute best, first you must choose what matters to you most, clarity or warmth. And then you must find your way to a designer who not only fulfills this side of the equation Absolutely, but is also able to get a convincing portion of the other side as well.
There are very few of them who do this well enough. So far I have found four, though there are another half-dozen that sometimes sound competitive. [A - name omitted] systems do the best job Ive ever heard of getting the seemingly transcendental clarity of 'live' music while also producing a slightly rounded and beguilingly ever so soft quality that gets a considerable degree of a performance's natural warmth. It is Aerial-like. [B - name omitted] loudspeakers in conjunction with [name omitted] or [name omitted] electronics, do the best job Ive heard at getting the warm, emotional immediacy and expressiveness of a live musical performance with the least loss of clarity. It is almost Pan-like. Paired with [C -- name omitted] , [B name omitted] move closer to the clarity side of the equation; paired with [D - name omitted], they move toward warmth and romanticism. As a dealer I have the luxury of being able to move back and forth between these two roads in my home, which are a far cry from the radically different extremes I used to chase after. I can tell this because neither sends me running to the other. I love them both, Aerial and Pan, depending on the weather and the arrangement of my internal stars. [A - name omitted] and [B - name omitted] are uniquely successful at achieving the Brilliant Compromise. I know from long experience that despite my contentedness with either, neither really gets the whole sound of music, but sometimes its very damn close. And then, when I have to have it all, I go to Buckley Recital Hall here in Amherst or to Jordan Hall in Boston. Which is as it should be.