We're not engineers

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Several of my readers have written me expressing concern on the course we're embarking upon; learning about power supplies. For, as they have said to me, we don't know what a power supply is and we're not too sure if we should care. We just want good sounding stereo equipment. Good thoughts and I appreciate the dilemma. One doesn't necessarily have to know the difference between a 4 cylinder and an 8 cylinder engine to appreciate the virtues of a car. But in the broader sense we, as music lovers and Audiophiles, need a certain level of savvy to understand the difference between a receiver and separates, a boom box and a component audio system. Even the most uninformed among us probably knows what a DAC, turntable, loudspeaker, power amplifier are. And who among us does not recognize the difference between a tube and solid state product? Many do not give themselves adequate credit for their knowledge. I think it important to dig a bit into the workings of things so that we may understand better what to expect when we play music though our equipment. Let me attempt to simplify things for those struggling with the understanding. We can break the components of a stereo system into sub groups easily:
  • Sources
  • Amplifiers
  • Loudspeakers
  • Connecting interfaces
We can easily eliminate the last two on the list for who among us does not understand that loudspeakers make the sound in our rooms and cables connect things together? That leaves sources and amplifiers and today we are focusing on amplifiers. Within any amplifier, whether it be a pre or power, we find only a few basic elements of the system:
  • Power supply
  • Valves (either solid state or tube)
  • Inputs/outputs
  • Sometimes a volume control element
I am assuming we all understand inputs and outputs since who among us cannot connect a stereo system to play music? And turning up and down the volume is a rather basic tenet of any stereo, one easy to understand. That leaves us with only two great mysteries:
  • Power supply
  • Valves (either solid state or tube)
We'll go slowly and in depth on these two subsystems tomorrow.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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