Soft underbelly

Join Our Community Subscribe to Paul's Posts

Life and stereo systems are compromises—a fact that causes us to make less than perfect choices. It’s helpful to understand the consequences of each choice.

Take for example amplifier power. In a perfect world, we’d have unlimited power and the best sound quality imaginable. In the real world of limited budgets, we’re likely to have to make some tough decisions: Power vs. ultimate sound quality.

If you find yourself on an economic leash that narrows your choice between high power and the sound quality benefits of small high-bias amplifiers, the first thing you want to do is determine where your soft underbelly is most vulnerable—dynamics or see-through transparency.

If your listening habits are mostly small ensemble with the occasional burst of dynamics you’re likely better off focusing your amplifier choices to those you believe offer the sweetest presentation of detail and nuance at reasonable listening levels.

If instead, you’re anticipating dynamic and spectacular, then high power trumps inner detail. There’s nothing more jarring than being jerked out of sonic bliss by the strain of struggling dynamics.

Of course, as manufacturers, we try and offer the best of both worlds as best we can but getting there isn’t always easy nor inexpensive.

When compromise strikes, do your best to figure out what’s important so you can let go of what you can’t have.