Where does science stop and art begin? Because there's no denying the two are inextricably intertwined, at least as far as certain select hi-fi designs go...
Take the EAR Yoshino V12 valve amplifier [p12] for example. There's nothing special about valve amplifiers per se; until the nineteen sixties they were utterly run-of-the-mill things. The circuits aren't especially complex, and countless hobbyists have knocked them up on their kitchen tables. So how can the EAR be worth it's £6,500 price, as we feel it to be?
Well, the devil is in the detail, and boy has that flame cloaked, pointy speared fellow been busy! Designer Tim de Paravicini is one of the world's masters of the tube breed, a wizard in the way he can take the design down to an almost atomic level, perfect it then build it up into something unique. It's not just painstaking tweakery that does it; the V12 itself is an artful conception; a visual referent to the classic 1971 Jaguar car engine. It's a beautiful thing that's an
homage to another beautiful thing; the EAR V12 is a masterpiece.
Yet, reassuringly in these hard times, you don't have to be a lottery winner to see art and science collide, as the £299 Arcam rDAC [p73] is another piece of wonderment. Inside its superbly wrought alloy casework - itself a splendid bit of industrial design - lurks silicon chips from two great British manufacturers, Wolfson and data Conversion Systems (dCS) which together offer impoverished digital audio fans a great performance, and the ability to use computers as a source, whilst not relying on their sound-degrading master clocks. This is technology normally only available on products costing thousands of pounds, and it's here, beautifully packaged for under £300!
If you do want to spend vast sums however, then the £7,500 dCS Debussy [p52] makes magnificent music from any digital signal you care to feed it. A unique, bespoke design with the trick tech of the aforementioned Arcam plus much more, when you open up the case it looks like no other digital convertor around. Yet it's equally alluring from the outside too, sat on your equipment rack static or powered up and working...
For me, that's the joy of hi-fi. Design is, as an architect once said, 'intelligence made visible' - and this issue is packed with products of innovation and artistry.
David Price, editor
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