Start at the beginning or the end?
I was going to jump feet first into amps this morning but got blindsided by all the mail I receved on the order of importance when selecting equipment in Tuesday's postGnats and Whales. It's probably worthwhile to spend one day on the subject and return to it someday should the need to explore it increase. In that post I recommended importance be placed first at the loudspeaker and then onto amps and sources and power. Ivor Tiefenbrun, the founder of Linn Audio, has always suggested the exact opposite: start with the needle and turntable and build from there. Clearly two verydiametricallyopposed thoughts yet - each works just fine if paid attention to - but I still believe one is better than the other. Let's examine a little of both. Ivor's proclamation that the most important part of the chain was not the loudspeaker, but in fact the turntable, set heads spinning in those early years because it went against the grain of traditional thinking: something I applaud. However, since Linn made turntables, I always viewed this approach as a somewhat self serving one and while it made sense, it just never resonated completely with me. Here's the logic: it doesn't matter how good the output chain is if you cannot properly extract what's on the disc. In other words, you will always be limited by the source of the music and no matter how great your amp and speakers are, if you can't get it off the disc, it doesn't matter. Good logic, makes sense, helps sell turntables, but doesn't pass the Paul test for reality: if I take a truly bad pair of loudspeakers and connect them to the best turntable/source setup, the music still reeks. Now let's look at the opposite argument beginning with the loudspeakers as the most important element. It doesn't matter how good the source chain is if you cannot reproduce what's there in the room. In other words, a great loudspeaker/amp chain sounds great in the room even with a bad recording. Pretty straightforward, logical, and passes Paul's reality test: if I take a truly bad source (like an iPod) and play it through an exceptional loudspeaker/amp chain, the sound will be extremely good (just not great). Now I understand the argument that a great loudspeaker/amp chain only serves to show how bad the source sounds - and that's a fine argument - but I've done both tests numerous times and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that connecting an iPod into our listening room gives far better results than replacing our loudspeakers with a pair of Radio Shack Drekmasters. I am just saying.
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