TO BE … OR NOT: Bi-amping?

PAUL MCGOWAN ...

There once was a day when power amplifiers struggled. The mainstays, tube amplifiers, couldn’t handle low frequencies well but had immaculate highs. The newcomers, solid state amps, produced prodigious bass but struggled with the high notes. None handled both.

That’s when some bright person decided to combine the best of both worlds. A real aha! moment if you ask me. Use two amps instead of one: tubes for a sweet top end, solid state for an authoritative bottom. This was a great idea but there was a problem. Hardly any speakers broke out the tweeters from the woofers. Of course, a small problem like that never bothered a true audiophile. Out came the snips and the drill. A newly installed binding post did the trick and voila! The best of both worlds.

Speaker manufacturers anxious to differentiate themselves started adding dual sets of binding posts on their upper-end models. Those speakers with dual binding posts were considered higher-end than those without (perceptions are everything).

And while speaker manufacturers went one direction, adding that second set of binding posts to every model they made, amplifier manufacturers went the opposite direction. The solid-state guys figured out how to sweeten the top end of their amps, obviating the benefits of bi-amplification.

Old habits die hard. Today we use the same amps on top and bottom, a practice with the marginal benefits of less stressed power supplies.

But now that you know the history you might consider making a mental shift away from bi-amplifying to spend a few more bucks and get a single amplifier that excels at both: highs and lows.

You’ll thank me if you do.

British / European loudspeaker members' group

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