Speakers engender the strongest relationships … they are people in the room. They are un-ignorable and their presence requires some degree of love, like, irritation or hate. Depending on their individual owner, they are likely to be the first component to want to change, or the last. Amplification electronics … the in-between. The parts I didn’t even know existed when I first bought a record-player. The turntable was obvious, the speaker was obvious, the things behind the volume control … not obvious at all.And I think that sums up a lot of people's feelings about the 'in-between' parts, the power amp and preamp. Even sources are interacted with more, certainly than a power amp. And in the 'good old days' there weren't many choices for sources, basically a turntable or tuner was about all you had. I can remember the first power amplifier I ever owned, a vintage Dynaco 70 tube design from David Hafler. It was as plain Jane looking as they came, a perf top and a shiny metal wrap around the base. It worked, it powered my speakers, I put it on the floor and forgot about it. During that time I started playing with different preamps, phono stages, arms for the turntable (like the Rabco straight tracker) and never once gave a second thought to the power amp. She just sat on the floor doing what power amps do: quietly pushing watts. But then a friend of ours showed me Bob Carver's first beauty, the Phase Linear 400. Holy mackerel! Now this thing was cool, you couldn't help but notice it. Two giant VU meters adorned the front panel and made themselves known. I had to have this amp and, of all the amps I've ever owned, the Phase Linear 400 still stands out as a much loved piece in my many systems. And here's something else about the amp, it just killed the sound of the Dynaco (which was probably underpowered anyway). This was my first taste of things to come with power amps. And no, not the meters, but the sound. The importance of the amplifier, the part that everything else depended on for sound quality. What a revelation! But, it took flashy meters to wake me up.
My friend and CEO of Audioquest, Bill Low, sent me a few thoughts on system fundamentals I found of value.
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