When we think about audio electronics the emphasis is typically on the amplifier circuit itself: Class A, Class B, fully differential, tube, solid state. But what we rarely think about is the power supply.
Power supplies are the lesser known circuits in our gear that play as important a role in sound quality as just about anything. I think of them as unsung heroes.
I know I have relayed the story of our power supply path a number of times—when my partner Stan demonstrated to me how big of an improvement a phono preamplifier could have when powered by an oversized transformer. But, that story has led our development team down some interesting paths that far too many engineers don’t share. The end results are what matter and many of our best products perform the way they do because of these unsung heroes.
It’s difficult for engineers who are taught the rigors of what works and what doesn’t to lavish design innovation and resources on going beyond adequate for power supplies. And, just like amplification circuits, most engineers accept without question the standard thinking on them: just make sure they are up to the task at hand and give them a little headroom.
The truth is, when performance matters, a great deal of attention and energy has to be expended on our unsung heroes. It’s not enough to throw a simple 3-terminal regulator into the circuit if the engineer has the budget, skill, and desire to craft musically superior sounding products.
An exceptional piece of high-end audio equipment is far more than just a clever take on signal amplification.
To build magic we have to honor our unsung heroes.