Synergy between components is not just a series of compromises made to elicit great results. Sometimes the mixing and matching of equipment has a magic to it that simply cannot be reproduced any other way.
Take for example Octave Record’s Studer 32 track analog mixing board. When we first bought this Neil Young-owned board, Gus and I were determined to rebuild it. The circuitry is all based on the venerable NE 5532 op-amps that I have written about before. This warhorse amplifier circuit has been around as long as I can remember. We first used it in the early 1980s when we launched our first CD player. In the meantime, many fine modern op-amps have been designed and released, some revered by audio aficionados as being light years better than the old 5532. Surely, it was time to refresh this beauty of a mixing board.
Since the Studer’s op-amps are socketed, it was an easy task to swap out the 5532s for newer op-amps with far better specs. Then the listening tests began. We had about five choices of op-amps installed in different channels and Gus played for me a series of great recordings we were both familiar with through each. The test was totally blind as I had no idea of what versions of amplification we were listening to, but one by one we went through all the choices.
In the end, the 5532 won, hands down. Clearly, it was the synergy between all the components in the chain the engineers at Studer had achieved that made the magic. If one were to have looked at specs alone, this amp would have been last on the list.
It can be difficult at times to accept what we hear, but it’s always best to trust our ears.