The fork in the road

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In yesterday's post I wrote of craft; the art of relying on one's ears as well as meters. This definition offends those that have mastered only one of the skills: meters or ears. To create truly remarkable high-end audio products, you need both.

Imagine for a moment our goal is defined only by meters, features, and innovative technology. I can see the directive now.

Note from the head office: "We need a new power amplifier. It shall use the latest semiconductors, produce the lowest distortion possible, double its wattage into 4Ω and double again into 2Ω. It should be wide bandwidth, direct coupled, in a gorgeous chassis with expensive jewelry-quality connectors, and you have a budget of $X."

An engineer's dream. An Audiophile's potential nightmare (even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut).

Nowhere in this request is sound quality mentioned. Even if it were, what would a meters-only engineer do with that request?

I can think of perhaps five clear paths of circuit topology that would achieve management's goals: full complementary, GANFETS, MOSFETS, balanced, unbalanced, class D, Class A. Oops. I exceeded five and stopped myself at seven. All topologies fit management's requirement. Which should the engineer choose, and why?

Every designer comes to a fork in the road where their skills run out and leaves them to make judgments that are closer to simple guesses. For the meter-based engineer that comes rather quickly. The path chosen doesn't matter much since all roads lead to "success". For the ear-based engineer, the number of choices are fewer.

But, for the well rounded engineer, the one who leverages both meters and ears, the sky's the limit, the end game never changes, the path to the finish is nearly infinite.

Like a painter whose end goal is the creation of a lifelike image, the choice of materials, tools and technique don't matter.

It is obvious when they cross the finish line

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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