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We've been focusing on the designer's choices when building a DAC or a preamp and one of my readers asked a great question: if even a single pot or stepped attenuator has a sonic signature that degrades the music, how is it then possible that the original recording chain can produce good sound with many pieces in the signal path all degrading the sound? That doesn't make sense.

In the recording chain the same effects we hear concerning pots, transistors, tubes, wires, and all things in the signal path have just as much an effect on the sound as the playback equipment does. Nothing different. So, if the recording process has 10 pots it goes through and two EQ banks, each successively adds its sonic signature to the sound. When you play it back you add yet another link in the sonic signature chain.

What I think is missing here is a good A/B – because you're comparing in a vacuum.

Imagine if we had one group playing in a studio and two recording chains. One chain was the standard kitchen sink approach and the other was an extreme minimalist chain. Yo make a recording of each and then publish two CD's. There's no question in my mind that the minimalist CD would sound significantly better than the kitchen sink one.

I would also remind everyone that this is exactly what folks like Blue Coast and Mobile Fidelity etc. do – they have super tweaked out minimalist recording chains and this is one of the reasons their releases sound so much better than a commercial recording.

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Paul McGowan

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