Our Hi-Fi systems remind me of a chain where each component is a link and together we get music.
Each link in the Hi-Fi chain contributes to the whole. If we break that chain and exchange links we will certainly get a different sound. That is because the end result is the sum of all links.
When all the links in the chain work together we refer to it as synergy, and dysergy when the combination doesn’t appeal to us. More often than not, the synergy of a system isn’t a fail or pass, but rather a change in flavor. I might like a sweeter sound while your favorite could be big and bold.
What’s rare is the component that works like magic in any chain. That phono preamplifier that sounds just right no matter what the other components might be. The amplifier that is big and sweet and acts like a magic block regardless of the other links in the chain.
As we move towards an era of greater specialization—cables specific to a given task, digital audio USB couplers, external clocks, streamers, small tube amps—we run the risk of stringing our chain together with only one possible outcome. And, that’s fine as long as we never want to mix and match or swap old for new just to keep up with technology.
Like a finely honed recipe where each ingredient is so specific to the outcome that experimentation is rarely rewarded with new delights, it’s sometimes better to go with the tried and true than the exotic and daring.
The finest chains hold their strength even when we replace a few of its links.