System Synergy… a Message


Some equipment won’t work together. For example, many loudspeakers on the market are rated at 4 ohms. Due to the drivers being used in the design, the crossover methodology, or the intention of the speaker designer, the load an amplifier “sees” may nominally be in this lower end of the resistance spectrum. If the “nominal” impedance is 4 ohms, the resistance may dip as low as 1 or 2 ohms somewhere at some frequencies. When many amplifiers see such a low load, they can begin to oscillate as they produce current, particularly at low frequencies where the sense of power and scale reside in music. As an enthusiastic partying music lover begins to feel the excitement of these special listening moments, all of a sudden something is wrong, the thrill is gone, and, worst case scenario, the amplifier fails, or goes into clipping, sending square waves into the loudspeaker cones, and speakers burn up. The performance envelope of a speaker must compatible with that of the amplifier. It is vital to pair right with right, not right with wrong.

Audio consumers often make decisions based on one aesthetic or another, without knowledge of electrical anomalies that can have very significant effect on the final result. Loving the look of the 301 Tube, or my favorite, the tall and powerful 845s is one thing. Expecting a superb result driving Dynaudio’s Consequence Ultimate Edition with a gold-plated 300B tube amp is a gross mismatch.

Sonic taste and aesthetics do come into play. At this level of two channel audio, system differences are almost like flavors. At some point, decisions have to be made, practicality must enter, variables must be lessened. Sometimes throwing more money at a system brings no return. Past a certain point, differences are exceedingly subtle, and not necessarily representative of “better”. On the other hand, change speakers and bigger differences are noticeable. Thus the Archive Audio “Speaker-centric” orientation.

In comparing choices for sources though, two front end performers are the references to which all others are compared. The Moon 750D is the reigning champion for digital sources at Archive. Compared to the Avid Acutus table with SME V arm with Lyra Helicon cartridge and Sutherland PhD battery powered phono section, the analogue reference, it is in some ways better, some ways, not as good. Never has digital been all that close. The real treat and “proof” that these two sources are the best I’ve experienced has come from playing old recordings, not new. When I pull out an “old” favorite, one that I haven’t played in a long time, if it sounds exceedingly good, better than I remember it, involves me more, that’s important.

A story-Shows are hard work. Four days of moving through 250 hotel rooms filled with sound and gear. Some rooms have enormously expensive systems, including sound treatment costing in the tens of thousands. This past CES, I was inadvertently trapped, and to protect the innocent let’s just call it, the Pipecleans room. I was looking for a friend of mine, but the showman jumped up, nearly grabbed a hold of me, and did a forced-choice demo, pre-planned of three songs. The whole electronics system was Budweister. The system’s out the door price was about $150,000. This is a true story.

I sat right in the sweet spot, eyes closed, the whole audiophile modality. The guy played Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird”, Patricia Barber’s “A Taste of Honey” and Roger Water’s “Amused to Death”. Well, seems these three particular songs have been receiving a generous amount of play time in my system, lately, so I knew them so by heart on my system. I completely loved the experience. I almost laughed out loud I was so happy-my system gave up nothing to the big-dog system. Not in realism, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, bass depth and realism, 3-D ness. Truly. Now I have to think the big Pipecleans system could play LARGER than my system, but, for that demo, I knew my system could render the music as well.

So, that said, I offer the above treatise regarding sources. That $54,000 front end I heard in that room ought to represent something pretty close to the “state of the art” for sources. ‘Course they coulda’ used a different digital cable and it would have made a huuuuuuuuge difference. Yeah…..throw some money at it.
Maybe come and talk to me. I might be able to help you get more value for your investment. That’s my goal anyway…have you heard that new Cambridge Audio 840 stuff? Hah! Ho ho ho, ha, ha, haaaa…Oh boy…here we go…

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