Stand out products

January 22, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When a piece of audio gear sonically singles itself out in a system it is typically not a good thing. What we hope for is a synergistic pairing of components that benefit the whole.

Sure, it's not only alright but actually welcomed when we can add a product that elevates the whole. But then elevating the whole is the point, right?

I remember years ago when I experimented with a Teac Dolby noise reduction system designed to "eliminate hiss, pops, and unwanted artifacts of sound."

Unfortunately, it was a stand out product that eliminated more than simply unwanted noise.

I love visually attractive stand out products.

I am not so sure about those that sonically stand out from the rest of the system.

For me, the beauty of music is found in the perfection of the whole.

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34 comments on “Stand out products”

  1. I could not agree more. I think a 2 channel stereo system is about the most synergistically demanding thing I know of. Getting the combination to all components to gel together is a challenge but when it happens there is magic.

    1. I too agree that having products that work as one is the goal and that getting it to gel can be very difficult. Most of us do not listen to 10's of different products and different combinations of those products on a weekly basis which would help guide one as to what works best together. This is why I think the demise of B&M audio dealers in the last few decades has hurt our hobby noticeably.

      I feel so lucky that I was able to go to B&M dealers in NYC and hear the difference that changing components made right then and there. I cannot imagine what my stereo system would be like without the dealers in NYC. I grew up in St. Louis where today there are no B&M audio dealers left.

      1. I also miss the good old brick-and-mortar stereo specialists that were run and staffed by knowledgeable people that gave a delta (keep it family friendly). For example, back in the day (1970s - early '80s) there was a dealer in the Greater Kansas City area (spread out over 5 counties in 2 states), I will call D. B. Stereo. They carried a large number of brands ranging up to what would be considered high end at the time (also semi-pro analog recording gear). In their various listening rooms that had assembled various (what we would call curated) compatible systems at various price points with a modest, but not insignificant, system discounts. Of course, you were also free to order a la carte, but at list price. More importantly they were not adverse to letting the kids bring in an LP or 2 to listen their systems, including the good stuff, as long as we did not interfere with actual paying customers. They knew that we were unlikely to purchase anything then and there, but that enlightened practice is how you cultivate future clients. It worked. Such dealerships are not completely extinct here in southeastern Nebraska, but are rare on the ground.

        I hope P. S. Audio will be able to reopen their doors for visitors someday soon. In addition, there are those little things called the Rocky Mountains to experience according to one's physical abilities. Their current practice is probably about as good as they can do now and remain in business, but still . . .

        I know that I am mostly preaching to the choir here, but it is a testimony to any new readers who are yet to experience that which we have. Maybe they don't really care now, but they can still stand to learn a bit of yet living. history.

        1. Australia has traditionally been 'behind the times', although not so much these days since the world is linked electronically...however, sometimes it's a plus.
          We have roughly six major B&M home-audio retail stores here in Sydney (where the population is about 7 million) two of them are high-end.
          Melbourne has double that, where the population is about 6 million.

  2. "I love visually attractive stand out products ... For me, the beauty of music is found in the perfection of the whole."

    Put the whole system in one box, make it visually attractive and make it perform as well or better than separates. It can perform better thanks to eliminating cables and connections, DSP, integrated software, 100% WAF factor and complete electrical isolation, and make it modular for upgradeability. Easy.

  3. When you’re building a system one piece at a time then sonic standouts become almost become a requirement. The end goal of the whole system being one with the music and your ears.

    If a one box that is visually appealing to you meets the requirements then go for it. Also feel free to hide it 🙂

    If it takes a bunch of ugly ducklings to get the sound you want then in many cases that’s acceptable also.

    Better to have outstanding pieces one at a time then to be out standing in a field in inclement weather.

  4. There is also something to be said for visual synergy. But visually, like stacks of odd old books, or all unique chairs around a dining room table, an “eclectic” look can be very pleasing.

    And audiophiles are nothing, if not eclectic 😉

  5. Today’s is one of those posts which imo change direction multiple times and make the connection of arguments hardly followable for those needing some logic.

    A product like the Teak, not surprisingly doing mainly harm to a setup by its purpose, not necessarily by its quality, then sonically positively, negatively and visually positively stand out products, some of which you like standing out, others not, leading to the conclusion that the beauty of music needs a perfection of the whole.

    Sometimes those posts make a confused jazznut not to be confused with jazznut out of me, but for others it’s just business as usual…so it’s probably me 😉

    1. It couldn’t possibly be you Jazz…. 😀
      Like a MD do no harm 1st. Then find a good plastic surgeon or chassis builder if you need pretty.
      Or love the inner beauty of the sound generated, not just the outside trophy…

  6. Utilizing a given item improperly, like the pictured AN-60, certainly leads to poor outcomes. In the early days of compansion techniques like Dolby B, outside of the tape subsystems it was designed for, or without utilizing proper calibrations with something like a Barclay-Crocker pre-recorded tape with Dolby, it would be hard to find any advantages. As with anything technical, garbage in usually leads to garbage out, exacerbated, regardless of it's appearance.

    1. Hey taiye315 🙂
      Asleep alright!
      Crashed-out very early last night.
      (5:39 Sunday morning here now)

      Sometimes it takes a standout component to
      bring synergy to a complete home-audio system.

        1. No, no you didn't...but I had the weirdest dream last night...I dreamt that I had a huge & violent argument with the headmaster at some fictitious school that I was attending...& then I killed him...a really distressing dream.
          Thankfully I woke up when I did...it was not pleasant.

              1. FR, I understand and I know what it does to you. I use to work 70 hours a week, pressure was always on. Dreams that people were chasing you with knives, axes, meat cleavers. I think when you have really weird dreams ( like cows are floating in the air ) it is due to what you ate that night. But if you have really horrible dreams it is too much pressure.

                I know this sounds selfish as all hell, but I gave the company way too much of me and did not get nearly enough back. Dark, dark dreams.

                1. Tony,
                  Thankfully all of that is behind you now.
                  But I suspect that these days you are very mindful of how many years you have left to enjoy your fairly well-funded retirement.
                  Personally, I'm under no pressure these days & I can't remember any other dream(s) that I've had in the past wherein I've ended someone's life...this is truly 'a first'.
                  But I may have created some pressure by making the mistake of reading your (above) reply to my wife, who is now refusing to cook dinners for me in future 🙁
                  Ooops...silly me.
                  I will say this though...what my brain can conjure up during REM sleep leaves Hollywood movies far, far behind 😮 😉

  7. To me stand-out products are those that last, and last, and last, constantly delivering the goods as well as they did on day one. My SONY LCD widescreen flat TV is still going strong with a beautiful image after 22 years. I never turn it off. My 22-year-old KitchenAid fridge, Jenn-Air cooktop, and KitchenAid built-in microwave/oven still look better than the newer appliances and perform flawlessly. My 23-year-old BAT VK-60 tube amp (recently retubed) still amazes me. Build quality, performance and longevity define "stand out" for me. Unfortunately, a lot of newer products on the market just don't look and feel substantial and they fail prematurely, like they are designed to fail.

    1. Great point Joseph!
      When I bought my Ditton 66's & my Luxman pre/power combo back in 1981, I knew that they were quality products, however, I never dreamed that they would still be going strong & as you say, "...constantly delivering the goods as well as they did on day one" 38 years later AND that I would be able to sell them for close to what I paid for them, not taking inflation into account of course.
      Now that's outstanding! 😀

  8. For me in this scenario it would be my AC regenerator. It is a standout in my system, however it is not a bad thing that my P3 Stellar stands out because it is a grounding foundation of an audio set up. If it were an amp or DAC that wouldn’t be good.
    Synergy really is everything.

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