by Steve Deckert
once had a 350 watt triode amp driving some Bose HPM100's."
Did I bother explaining to the guy that Bose never produced a HPM100,
and that in fact the HPM series was a Pioneer speaker, or that audio
triodes don't get that big and that if they did he could never afford
one? No way. All I'd get is an argument.
I've had many years to notice that audiophiles get around cool audio
gear and feel obligated to share delusional stories of former audio
exploits. In fact most audiophiles have experienced this phenomenon,
and likely participated. It's almost involuntary, a subconscious
device used to sort of rank yourself compared the coolness of
the gear you're ogling. For example, to approach a Wilson WATT System
owner and to mention, "I have a modified Haffler amp,"
is to say, "I realize I'm nowhere near as cool as you, but
at least I have a greater appreciation and understanding of your
stereo than you'd expect judging from my Michelob T-shirt."
OK. But I truly have no idea where people like Mr. Audio dream up
their stories. "A 350 watt triode? Yea, I knew a guy that had
one of these in his living room." Sure you did---it's just
that they called them radio tower transmitter tubes back then and
required a complete HVAC system to cool them, not to mention the
tube alone is a couple feet tall. "And it had giant heat sinks
on the back." Oh, I see, so now it's sold state triode huh?
But there is no... oh, never mind.
not making this stuff up, The insistence upon the inaccurate is
inexplicable, yet often predictable. Probe deeper about the gear
in question and you'll find that .005% DISTORTION is always involved.
Speakers are always HUGE. Wire is always SPECIAL and connectors
are always GOLD. Adding SILVER SOLDER to virtually any component
is always good for credibility too. If you field a correction, the
storyteller will certify that "It was a rare special edition."
And besides, the gear in question is always either the best sounding
in the area or at least the only one (or the first one) sold in
town. Countless neophytes have insisted that their stereo could
do a 130 dB in their room. Right. To prove it, you'll hear tales
of blowing away a Krell, Levinston, or Sonic Frontiers-- those being
a few of the apparent standards by which all performance is judged.
The longer ago it was, the better it sounded. Nine times outta ten,
it was sold way too cheap ("It'd be worth $100,000 today.")
or blown up one night while drunk. That I wholeheartedly believe.
also run across what can best be described as the urban myths of
the audio world. My friend, unfortunately a one-piece rack system
owner, has a favorite: CD's blow away records. No. I just nodded
when a recent admirer of my custom built corner horns (the only
two in the world---built by myself) pointed out that they were available
in a rosewood finish about 6 years ago. And did you know that Mac
uses thicker wire than HK? Hear tell, every significant amplifier
was "grossly underrated" in advertised power.
suppose the tall tales stem from years of overstatement in high-end
audio publishing. Glorification sells. Add up a bund of nebulous
audiophile buzz words and you're sure to sound like an authority.
So when an onlooker strings together a set of incongruous audio
facts, I have to step back and realize that he's simply uninformed
and not just plain stupid. All he really wants to do is admire a
great sounding stereo and feel like he's part of it. For many audiophiles,
the attention is what they really love about the hobby anyway. That
and the ridiculing of those who know less than they do. So it all
works out in the end.
point of view above is mostly paraphrased from a letter originally
written by the editor of Car Craft magazine---about car lovers.
I just switched topics as a sort of twisted form of entertainment.
guess what makes it so interesting is the human nature behind both
is exactly the same. The original letter started out "I once
had a Hemi 350 in a '66 GTO with a 400 four-speed." Of course
there is no such thing and so on the letter goes.
the flip side, I find it interesting that cars and amplifiers are
so similar. This summer I came across a '72 monte, pictured above,
and have spent the whole summer tweaking it. A process that began
with a new set of aluminum 2.02 heads. By the middle of the summer
after having accumulated 3 and a half carburetors and rotating them
on an almost weekly basis, I started to realize just how similar
this is to tweaking a Zen amp.
just the right fuel curve against the weight of the car, gear ratio,
tire diameters, horsepower and torque to achieve just the right
throttle response and feel turns out to be an endless quest of infinite
possibilities. Just like building an amplifier and getting the perfect
bias that makes everything come together and sound right. Perfect
sound and the way I want my car to feel when I drive it are both
subjective. The infinite variables that combine to yield the result
are indeed infinite. This means that success can be measured in
direct proportion to the amount of time you spend trying the combinations,
which are remember, infinite.
thing I realized is that there are two distinct levels of performance
and grace in auto tuning. Carburetors are where this became obvious.
Because air temperature, gas quality, and altitude all effect the
fuel curve of a carburetor, manufacturers can only set them up with
so much resolution and accuracy. To get one perfect, modifications
far beyond the "known" adjustments are required. At one
point, when this car project began I found myself buying the best
heads, the best carburetors, best everything and putting them together
per the manufactures recommended combinations. I was disappointed
in the results. Then I decided I need to find a guru engine tuner,
I know some must exist somewhere. The top commercial name that came
up was a guy who built cars for the speedway and was said to be
the best. Certain he would do more and know more than I did, I took
it to him to have the valves adjusted and the carb and timing tweaked.
I was very disappointed. The car actually ran worse than when I
took it in. Hey wait a minute, this seems like audio...
was in a grumpy state because I actually knew more about engine
tuning than the appointed "expert" and now was going to
have to do it myself. Unsettling to say the least, because compared
to the guru I envisioned, trust me I didn't know shit. This obviously
means that the experience or perhaps "quest" would be
a better word, is going to be just like audio. And like audio there
is an underlying level of knowledge that seems to contradict popular
knowledge and I was going to have to find it.
calls my Monte the "Zen" car because I went though the
same process of relentless tweaking and experimenting on it as I
did during the design of the Zen amp. Ironically,
or maybe not, they both came out very similar to each other and
I'm not sure which one I enjoy more. Riding in the car is not the
same as driving it, so few people get to share the experience. The
Zen amp on the other hand I get to share with everyone, and it's
only human nature to enjoy sharing ones discoveries. For that reason
it's safe to say I enjoy building and selling the amps more.
there a point to all this? Not really. That's why these papers fall
under the title:"Ramblings about Audio."