VU Meters

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VU Meters

I have always been curious about our passion for VU meters on the front panel of power amplifiers. Companies like McIntosh have made their mark on our industry by making VU meters a part of their aesthetic.

They remain on the front of the amplifier because they are cool.

Back in the day, when tape recorders, both reel-to-reel and cassette were the primary sources of music, VU meters were essential. They let you know if you were going to get decent results recording your favorite tracks. In fact, without VU meters recording anything would be a disaster—and this remains true, even today at Octave Records where we don't use tape but we do use a fancy digital audio DSD recorder.

But VU meters on playback equipment in your living room?

VU meters serve no useful function in a modern stereo system's power amplifier. Yet, their cool factor cannot be denied.

Years ago, my dear friend and former Singaporean distributor, Ben Chia, convinced me to produce a power amplifier with big VU meters.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you'll sell more amps. People love VU meters."

He was right, but that turned out to be the only product we ever graced the front panel with analog meters. Why? I just find it difficult to spend your money on features that serve no purpose. 

That said, and with my practical nature aside, there's absolutely nothing wrong with paying for a feature simply because it enhances the cool factor.

Hail to cool!

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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