Prev Next


When we make progress we often assume its direction to be forward. But, that's not always the case. Sometimes, progress is made in a series of jagged moves to the left and the right. 

Sideways motion.

Let's imagine that we're a design engineering working hard at developing a new output stage for a DAC. We know the analog output stage is the single most important determining factor in sound quality. We're happy that our approach is yielding overall great sound, but we're not entirely satisfied with the bottom end: still a bit anemic and lacking punch.

We have in our bag of tricks a number of possible techniques to get better bass: extend the frequency response, increase the current, lower the output impedance, extend the rail voltages. Each possible cure requires a fairly major circuit change so we have to pick and choose what to work on. We select lowering the output impedance.

We look at our circuit and realize the chip op amp we're using has no means of controlling the output impedance. Ok, we then need to design an external output buffer stage. We do that and have a listen. The bass is a smidge better but not what we were hoping for.

But wait.

There's a sideways benefit we hear. Unexpectedly, the transparency has improved by leaps and bounds.


Now back to work. We've managed to make some sideways progress but it'll take more work to move the needle in the direction we were hoping for.

Once we achieve better bass, and assuming we can keep the sideways progress, our net result is better than if we had hit the mark the first time.

Two things we can learn from this exercise. The first is to always be receptive to improvements other than our stated goal. The second is to pull off the blinders that keep our focus so lasered in that we miss the sideways motion.

If you take a wrong turn it might be more productive to go around the block rather than make an abrupt U turn.

Back to blog
Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

Never miss a post


Related Posts

1 of 2