Monday, August 6, 2007

Brutal Honesty in the Hi-Fi Business: Tim de Paravicini and tube warmth

(This is an archived post from our old blog.)

Hi-Fi. It's short for "High Fidelity". If fidelity means "the degree of exactness with which something is reproduced" (as the Oxford American Dictionary says) then wouldn't the best hi-fi system be one that plays back the recording as faithfully as possible?

Well, that's what we think. Once the music is recorded, we want the experience of listening to the recording to be as much like "being there" as possible. We don't want our hi-fi system to add "warmth" or "color" or anything else. We don't think The Philadelphia Story would be better in color and we don't think The Godfather would be better if we watched it through a sheet of gauze, so why would we want our hi-fi to "warm up" the recording?

...and since we feel this way, we thought we'd share a great quote that we came across in an interview of Tim de Paravicini of E.A.R. We don't know Tim de Paravicini and we don't sell his equipment. We just think it's a great quote.

interviewer: You use vacuum tubes in many of your designs. Some people have said that tubes have euphonic even-order harmonic distortion. Do you rely on this tube nonlinearity to achieve the sound of your mods, or do you always run the tubes in their linear region?

Tim de Paravicini: I do not rely on tube nonlinearity. I don't want a sound in my machines. What comes out must sound the same as what went in.

The "warmth" in a lot of tube electronics is due to their dismal top end, the bad transformers they use, and the loading down of their high-impedance outputs. Because of the output transformer and the feedback used, many tube circuits have a partial bass instability that gives a bloated bass. Any warmth in the tube sound is a defect, but listeners don't want to know that.

I don't have to use tubes in my designs; I only do it for marketing reasons. I've got an exact equivalent in solid state. I can make either type do the same job, and I have no preference. People can't pick which is which. And electrons have no memory of where they've been! The end result is what counts.

Our hats are off to Mr. de Paravicini. More people like this in the hi-fi business, please!

Here's the link to the entire interview over at E.A.R.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Avantone Mixcubes

(This is an archived post from our old blog.)

Let's say you've been reading up on single-driver speakers and are considering further investigation. Where do you start? If you go looking through the internet you'll likely discover a world of D.I.Y. speaker enclosures as tall as NBA players with drivers that are barely larger than a compact disc. Relax. All you wanna do is get your feet wet, right?

There's a little speaker called the Avantone Mixcube. I mentioned them in a previous post about the Auratone 5C. The Mixcubes are around $200 per pair. They're 93dB efficient so you can run them on just about anything.

The main thing is that we think they sound great. They really have that "single-driver musicality". This isn't a case of "spec a driver, slap it in a box and put your name on it". Ken Avant really worked with every aspect of this thing. And the presentation is great, too. A huge improvement over the Auratone 5C, with it's pasteboard/contact paper construction.

We know several people who have Best Buy-grade surround receivers who use Avantones with excellent results. They're great for movies and bring a terrific clarity to the dialogue.

I sometimes feel like we're shooting ourselves in the foot by recommending the Mixcubes. After all, we sell speakers that cost forty times as much. But really, they're like a "gateway drug". And in side-by-side comparisons, yes, the Tocaro 40s are worth the difference (shameless plugs abound!)

I'll warn you that there's a break-in time associated with the Mixcubes just so you don't get them out of the box and wonder what I'm talking about. During the first week or two of listening, they get a good deal better every day. This is not uncommon, in fact, I guess I don't really know of any loudspeaker that comes from the factory already broken in.

Did I mention that they have 1/4" Neoprene pads on the bottom? Or that they're shielded?

I can't recommend this little speaker enough. They're a bang-for-your-buck champ.

Here's the spec sheet from Avantone.