When people ask me if parts of identical value but different construction sound unlike one another I kind of scratch my head. In my world, parts in the signal path all sound different. It’s like asking me if chocolate and vanilla taste different.
The answer seems so obvious.
But then I climb out of my cloud and plop back down into some form of reality that isn’t mine but close enough to the others in order to communicate.
When building products that people can afford it becomes a challenge to know where to spend what funds you have available. I can assure you $10 Audio Note resistors or $50 Rel Caps in every position on a circuit would place audio equipment out of reach for all but a few.
The challenge then comes down to selectivity. Where to best place your parts funds to get the performance you’re hoping for.
I remember well the tough choice I had to make when designing the Genesis Stealth integrated amplifier. The volume control in the Stealth was the heart of the device: my last all-out assault on fixing the volume control before I finally gave up and eliminated the volume control altogether through the invention of the Gain Cell.
The Stealth volume control was simple. A series resistor with variable shunt resistors. Instead of trying to use what everyone else was struggling with: a high-quality potentiometer or fancy stepped attenuator, my simple circuit depended 100% on the quality of a single resistor.
After much trial and error, I landed on a 1-watt 0.1% tolerance Vishay that in quantities of 500 pieces ran us $35 each. Ouch. That’s a lot when even a great 1% metal film costs about a dime.
The point of the story is simple. The only reason we cut into our own margins by $70 for the stereo pair was because it sounded better. A lot better.
Hopefully, this story will resonate with some and confirm with others what they always suspected. That we’re nuts.
Certainly not boring.