It's just not personal enough
After announcing Sprout will launch on Monday, several readers asked "why not just build Sprout into a pair of loudspeakers?" I think it's a legitimate question. In order for a product like Sprout to be useful you have to connect speakers or headphones, so why not just forego the chassis? Sprout's officially an integrated amplifier and inside there's a power amp, a preamp, a DAC, a Bluetooth receiver, a phono stage and a headphone amp. That's a lot of stuff for any integrated. In fact, if we take the mental leap that Bluetooth is actually the new FM radio tuner of today, then we could say Sprout is actually a high end receiver rather than an integrated. And since the design goal was to take everything we know about high end audio and squeeze it into a small all-in-one package that could become someone's primary or secondary music system, the question of why even put it in a box at all comes to mind. The answer is simple: it's not personal enough. This is a classic example of why self powered speakers never took off. Speakers are perhaps more personal than the hardware that drives them. They are the closest interface to the music we have; closer still than even our sources. Why? Because they have the biggest impact on how our music sounds. Yes, clearly that's not "entirely" true for the persnickety amongst us; as we all understand a poor performing piece of hardware sounds bad even on good speakers. However, my point remains. Given good electronics, the loudspeakers determine more about how our music sounds than anything else in the system. And that's why they are so personal. When we unveiled Sprout for the first time we used it to power the huge, floor standing, Raidho D3 loudspeakers and few could believe what they heard, so good was the performance. The Raidho's are $70,000 (and huge) and Sprout is $800 (and small), yet few would find much fault in the sound produced by this combination. I am not suggesting anyone will consider this setup, but had we decided to build Sprout's internals inside a speaker, I think we'd all be the poorer for the decision. Keeping things separate gives us the freedom most of us want to make music the way WE want in our homes. And to that end, I think we did well.
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