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Old 15th December 2002
Gear Guru
Ethan Winer's Avatar



> OK, I didn't write it.

Yes, of course!

> But that's a pretty big diss

Big crap requires a big diss.

> What is it about the observations related in the article that make them eduationally useless? Are they flawed? If so, in what way? <

The only way we can further our knowledge is by methodical testing. This is known as the scientific method. Don't confuse that with the common sentiment "Science doesn't know everything and there are things we can hear but not measure" which may or may not be true. But if someone claims a particular artifact is audible that's fine, but it can and must be verified by controlled double-blind listening tests. And preferably by people without any bias or product to sell. Anything less is just guessing or salesmanship.

All of the "facts" presented in that article are anecdotal opinions. A statements like "With tubes there is a space between the instruments even when they play loud . . . transistors make a lot of buzzing" contributes nothing of value. Heck, the opening paragraph talks about running an amplifier at a level that allows transient peaks to reach 30% distortion! I don't record or monitor like that. Do you or anyone you know? Yikes, no wonder they heard buzzing!

> Is there another article somewhere that refutes it, or could you write up such a thing for us? <

The closest I have is my Audio Myths article I wrote for Audio Media magazine a few years ago. You'll find it on my Articles page here:

> It seems rather appropriate to me that the author tried to convey some sense of the perceptions of non-technical musicians <

Sure, but anyone who says one difference between tube and solid state power amps is "the bass actually sounds an octave lower" is clearly not a very informed listener! Again, without controlled double-blind listening tests where many people participate, it's all just a bunch of opinion passed off as fact.

> The main thing I came away with was the observation about relative differences in lower and upper harmonics and 2nd and 3rd harmonics. Isn't that still a valid generalization, albeit perhaps with plenty of exceptions? <

One reason that's irrelevant is because nobody aims to record with distortion. I'm not talking about Pete Townshend's guitar tone, but recording engineers trying to capture a performance accurately.

Another reason that harmonic distortion alone is irrelevant is because whenever there's HD there is also IM distortion. And IM distortion is always damaging, even when a little added harmonic content might not be.

Finally, most of the observations about tubes versus transistors, and analog versus digital, and vinyl versus CD, ad nauseum, focus on issues that clearly are not related to the difference in those mediums. You always hear terms like "sound stage" and "depth" and other spacial descriptions, and those things are affected much more by the acoustics of the recording room.