The challenge of transitions

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The challenge of transitions

Over the past few days we've been reviewing a bit of HiFi history that amplified (pun intended) the observation that transitional improvements lead to better audio. The examples were moving from capacitor coupling to direct coupling, fixed power cords to removable power cords, and lastly, RCA to XLR.

In each case, a few forward thinking companies (PS among them) stuck their necks out in the hopes of changing the inferior status quo to the promise of a better future. In the examples I cited the industry (and our ears) have benefited greatly.

Transitions are risky and during the transitional period, it is unclear whether things will work out or not. Often, they do not.

I am reminded of Mark Levinson's foray into using the Lemo connector in their designs. Lemos are a Swiss invention whose main benefits are a locking mechanism. These were expensive options and sonically made no difference relative to the new (at the time) XLR connections. So, despite the braveness of Levinson to produce products incompatible with other equipment, Lemos for audio died on the vine.

The other side of the transition coin is our tendency to either criticize or fear the unsettling changes. I remember well when we first launched products with XLR ins and outs. We were roundly ridiculed for adding "unnecessary expense" for useless innovations. Why would we add expensive connectors and required support circuitry for a feature no one else could take advantage of?

Great question but with the clarity of hindsight, you can see that our stereo system's performance benefits once others adopt the technology.

You see this transitional dilemma play out in other industries as well. Take electric vehicles as an example. Individually they are not solving the planet's carbon load problem. In fact, their inefficiency of having a remote fossil fuel electric generating plant creating their energy and delivering it to their storage devices is likely making things a bit worse.

But, like any transitional enterprise, that's the price of progress. Once there are enough electric vehicles on the road utility companies will be forced to control their carbon emissions at the source—a far easier task (with far greater benefits) than attempting to make carbon fee every gasoline burning car. 

The transitional periods are tough but necessary to get from point A to point B.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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