Paul McGowan / PS Audio

Knowing what attributes are important and why can be valuable.

For example, if we understand that AC voltage regulation is beneficial to performance, it behooves us to know why. Otherwise, we might take that info at face value and implement the wrong system. Case in point, there was a period of time when a few companies built long term voltage regulators that were purported to help sound quality—motorized variacs or multi-tap step/up down transformers. While these indeed regulated the voltage they sounded worse than not having them in the system.

That’s the problem with a thin understanding.

What this ignores is the deeper understanding of voltage regulation. In order to improve performance it must be dynamic (instantaneous).  And here’s where things can get confusing. With few exceptions, it doesn’t much matter whether a piece of audio equipment is being fed 115 volts or 120 volts. What does matter—the underlying area of importance—is the source impedance. The lower the better.

Dynamic regulation lowers source impedance while slow AVR (automatic voltage regulation) increases source impedance.

Both regulate but one helps while the other hurts.

But this isn’t a rant about lower source impedance. It is about attributions. We attribute better sound to voltage regulation, not because the ultimate voltage level matters, but because a specific type of voltage regulation has the secondary benefit of lower source impedance and it is lower source impedance that matters.

We attribute better sound to voltage regulation but it behooves us to dig a little deeper into why.

Without a deeper understanding of what that ultimately means, we might easily be led astray.

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