It does one good to get out now and again. True. But the world outside can be a confusing and daunting place.
For more than twenty years, most of my attention has been firmly focused on loudspeaker reviewing, mainly for
Hi-Fi Choice magazine. I came into the business through an early chance relationship with Spendor, have always liked loudspeakers and their foibles, and feel some empathy with their unique combination of simplicity, subtlety and complexity. Add in the fact that new models are always queueing up to get themselves reviewed, and not much time has been left over to get too involved in other components.
One major bonus of reviewing loudspeakers is that it fits in neatly with the key paradigm for scientific method, to change one variable at a time. Sure, variations in positioning and room interaction, and changes in speaker cables and (sometimes) stands can affect the end result, but by and large the signal source can be kept more or less constant throughout, which brings some consistency to one’s
Or so I thought, before the Voxativ
Ampeggio Dues arrived, forcing me to confront some of the more subtle aspects of the amp/speaker interface. Sure the Voxativs work well enough on the end of the Naim NAC552/NAP500 amp combo which I normally use and continue to regard as a fine reference point. But the characteristics of these speakers do tend to highlight the limitations of that particular class of amplification, instead favouring some single-ended triode alternatives I had to hand.
It's not that one set of amplifiers was actually better than the other. Rather that one was better suited the strengths and weaknesses of this particular pair of speakers. Admittedly it took a while for the pennies to drop, but because the Voxativs have very high sensitivity and favour the broad midband over the frequency extremes, they really do work best with the low power, low noise and midband-oriented valve amps.
The corollary is that more conventional large multi-way speakers tend to better suit solid state amps.
Power amps, loudspeakers and their interactions are interesting enough, but their ultimate influence on the sound of a system is never going to be as musically or emotionally significant as improving the source.
Reducing my speaker reviewing activities has meant getting more involved in components further up the chain. I’m not sure whether this is better described as a quicksand or a minefield, but either way it has taken me further outside my comfort zone than I expected.
That has much to do with a considerable increase in the number of possible extra variables one has to deal with: support furniture, mains cables and signal cables, to name just the most obvious three.
We're talking moving targets here, not to mention an unavoidable bubble
of uncertainty. For example, early in this issue’s schedule I was starting to wonder whether digital audio in general and computer audio in particular was getting close to challenging vinyl replay. Then the Tiger Paw Khan arrived, upgrading my vinyl source and confirming anew its sonic supremacy.
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