S/N and Dynamic Range- have we been conned?

Who looked at S/N ratios and bought the biggest number because they thought it was better? Who thinks that a better dynamic range figure actually means anything?

Has anyone ever considered the signal to noise ratio or dynamic range figure as including both the electrical noise floor AND the physical noise the actual component makes, because a wonderful electrical figure is meaningless if your amplifier has a lamination buzz or hum (ie it isn’t actually silent) is it? Your music will disappear not only into background hiss, but also into a flurry of laser tracking clicks, transformer hums and buzzes.

Your CD player with an obscene Dynamic Range figure that you can hear the laser and transport mechanism across the room doesn’t really have a dynamic range even approaching its specs in real life does it? Unless you stick it in the next room where you can’t hear it! My CD player has a 118db S/N and I can’t hear it physically either when 1ft away. Another is specd the same and I can hear it physically across the room.

I bring this up, because big amps have big transformers and high output powers and with that comes high S/N ratios. I had Class A amps where the transformer was audible across the room- I sold them. I had CD players that were frankly highly regarded but you could physically hear them- I sold them too.

High Fidelity reproduction should come out of complete silence, both electrical silence and physical silence. I know our rooms and ambient noise level can be the limiting factor, but gear should be completely silent or it simply isn’t hifi.

Reviewers rarely talk about the physical silence of gear and it is, ironically, the thing you hear the most in genuinely quiet passages, especially late at night when the world is quiet.

What do you think?

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