Tug of war

Pass Labs X150.8 Stereo Power Amplifier

Speaking with my audio buddy about speaker driver linearity last night, I found myself asking a basic question that sprung to mind.

We’re making speakers lately, and the new design is more right and honest, he says. A hi-hat strike sounds like you’re next to the kit.

Which prompted me to pose the query: how is it that we chase our tails so much to hear that hi-hat as sounding actually realistic, when the recording / mastering side of things likely had the signal running through hundreds of feet of stepped-on, budget cabling? The mic used is likely colored by heavy use in the 10 years the studio owned it, including (for the sake of argument) a good 10 drops, plenty of plosives and lots of spit.

The mixing engineer maybe had a small room with a subwoofer that was just good enough to get the job done. But did he ever hear all of the detail and harmonics on the recording? When we can hear what we hear only with world class electronics and the best drivers made, are we hearing the music the same way the artist did?

My audio buddy doesn’t think so, and neither do I. In fact, I’m a recording and mastering engineer myself, and before I finally created a system that was worthy, I would chase my tail around trying to listen to mixes on up to 8 different audio systems to find some sort of middle of the road “truth.”

And in the years since I’ve had access to the higher end of audio equipment, I’ve done my share of evangelism, and watched musicians and engineers alike go wide-eyed and point out things they’d never heard before in their own recordings.

I should add that many in the pro field seek out excellent discrete electronics circuits and many condition or balance power, among other “tweaky” things. Many push the boundaries of what’s available to achieve the best possible sound — and we audiophiles are rewarded with fine records.

But still, audiophiles have pro audio folks plain beat in the tweaky department. Don’t get me started about fuse direction.

My test system here at The Music Room is set up well enough that equipment really shows its colors. If a component has “the stuff” to be truly world class, it shows in an instant.

It’s the same with music. I’ve got a servo subwoofer at my feet, and I’m listening to highly refined two ways with external crossovers featuring hundreds of dollars in caps, resistors and inductors.

I’m asking myself as I listen through this amazing Pass Labs X150.8 stereo amplifier whether the band Point Point ever heard their track “Serious Mood” like this before.

Modern electronic production can create jaw-dropping sound, some of which you’ll never hear in nature. Some of which makes your system really bounce.

I think I’ll chase whatever tail I need to if it means I’d get the kind of sound this Pass Labs is capable of. An amplification upgrade is always > any tweak. And it’s a great way to stop worrying so much about stepped-on studio cables!