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.

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