Don't believe everything they tell you

Over last couple of years I went through many stages of involvement in audiophilia. It included reading Stereophile back to back 10 times per issue, followed by neglecting Stereophile and instead travelling to High End shows (mainly Frankfurt Kempinski and Warsaw High End Sobieski), followed by maniacal DIY activity, followed by reading Audio Express/SpeakerBuilder / Glass Audio, followed by going crazy in DIY forums on the internet like Madisound, Audioasylum, etc. (with nick LukaszF.)

There was one thing it all had in common - I was never satisfied with the sound. That lead me to question the status quo and search for truth.  Studying MBA helped me a lot to understand the economy of Hi Fi and why we get the product we get, why those products don't play as well as we expect them to play, and things like that. In general there is much more economy in hi-fi business than we want to believe. Even in niche industry, even in DIY, even in forums.

Before I write how to get to audio nirvana and have eargasms every day and night, just in order to clear the field, in this chapter  first I want to deal with some strange opinions which I heard and read SO MANY TIMES in the recent past that I can't take it anymore. Jesus, who creates all these idiotic heresy?  Take it from an electrical engineer, please.


I read about signal path so many times I am almost ready to believe it. Short signal paths, pure s.p., elegant s.p. silver wire in s.p. you name it. I am sure everybody knows what I am talking about.

The bitter truth is IT IS NOTHING LIKE what people think it is. The so called "signal" does not flow along some PATH. Lets take a pre amp for an example. The signal  (current) enters via RCA jack, and the first thing it sees is usually a parallel resistor or some kind of parallel pot. The signal sinks to the ground through this resistor and that's all. Yes. The journey is over. It is like the movie hero who dies in the first scene. Hard to believe?
Having said that - lets agree once and for all - the CURRENT flows, and the VOLTAGE IS. The voltage does not flow.
The Waves PROPAGATE in circuits but they happen everywhere at the same time and involve all circuits.
The minuscule current flowing from your CD source to the ground via this parallel impedance of a mentioned pot  produces small voltage resulting from the impedance of the pot (Ohm's law) This voltage is then being "read" by the grid electrode of the tube, or in non-hifi units - the base of transistor, and this signal in turn regulates the series impedance of the active element. The electricity from power supply then copies the original signal in what we call "amplification stage". So this is a copy, not the original. Signal path is a myth. The VOLTAGE - does not flow by definition. The voltage IS. The current flows. But it does not flow from source to the load (receiver). The current flows from power supply to the ground via active elements. In every STAGE of amplification the current flows in VERTICAL manner, not "horizontal". If an amp has 3 stages, there will be 3 cases of current flowing from PSU to ground by the active part. So path is from PS to ground, not from CD to speakers. Once we understand it - it is easier to talk further.
Another thing is timing of signal - it does not go from one place to another. The WHOLE CIRCUIT responds to signals instantly, the whole event HAPPENS. It does not flow. The circuit response is everywhere at the same time, all elements at the same time. No flow. Input receives - output responds. At the same moment.


Many people believe, that amplifiers amplify the signal, so do preamplifiers. In their popular belief huge amplifier like KRELL amplifies the signal to monstrous levels.
Well, not quite. Amplifiers, what they effectively do, is REDUCE the output impedance of the output device. So they increase the current available at small impedance loads. But in most cases of sane listeners, amplifiers REDUCE signals. By signal I mean what is coming out of a source - like CD - which is VOLTAGE wave form.
My CD for example is a balanced unit. Standard CD has 2 V at the output when the CD plays all 16 bits as ones that is at full signal 0dB. So balanced unit has then 4 V at the output. Most amplifiers quote a parameter like sensitivity, which is a signal level that drives them to max power. That level in my mono amps is 0,7 V. So If my CD produces 4 V, it would cause 4/0,7 = 6 times overload. I measured the nice musical signal in my room to be around 1 watt of power, so I need only 1/30th of full signal at the input. (my amps are 30 W PC) I need 0,7 V / 30 to be satisfied. So I will use 6*30 times LESS signal than comes out of my CD. Funny? My preamp reduces signal by 180 times!!!
Speaking of amplifiers, my speakers are 99 dB sensitive so I need just 2,8 V to play one watt, which is very very loud. In fact my amp (because there is a preamp already reducing the signal) increases the signal from 0,0 something  Volt to 2,8 V, not by much.

It is easy to measure - just use AC voltmeter at the output terminals to speakers. Rarely exceeds 1 V really. Having said that, because the load impedance presented by speakers (say 5 ohm) is infinitely lower than that of an amp presented to preamp (say 50 K - 10000 times higher)  the ability of an amp to respond to that load according to ohm's law with 10000 times higher current must be admired. That is a result of REDUCTION OF OUTPUT IMPEDANCE in comparison with the source. Just what I said in the beginning.

If we don't use a preamp, and most of us don't, the same story is just combined - 4 V coming out of CD to become 2,8 V at amps terminals. Almost halved.


Bass drivers are a big load and need huge power., tweeters need small power. Much less current than bass.
Well, think again.
This is particularly stupid heresy, endorser by 99% people whom I heard or read.
First the load. Most tweeters are 6 Ohm in all their usable frequency range. So they present a load of 6 Ohm to the amp. Bass drivers usually due to mechanical resonance are anything between 16 to 50 Ohm from say 30 Hz to 100 Hz. In most usable range. Therefore are MUCH EASIER load to the amp. They suck hardly any current at resonance and some octaves below and above.
Some filter topologies are so ugly that the filters to the bass (lo-pass) sucks 10 times the current available to drivers. Call that engineering.

Now about tweeters power versus bass power. People think of bass as BIG, using BIG power, using THICK cables, oh everything is so big.
At best, all drivers use SAME power. Because the frequency response is near flat, that means that at equal level of musical material voltage, and at near equal impedance say 8 Ohm, all drivers by Ohm's law draw SAME current. Not AMPERES in the bass and milli-amps in the tweeter. Simple Ohms law. Kinder garden physics. So why should the wire to bass driver be THICK and to tweeter thin???
Having said all that, some MUSIC contains a lot of drumming and less cymbals, so energy content in the respective frequency range is bigger in the bass section.


"Critical components" - series components versus parallel.
Oh I heard it so many times. "In this crossover network use premium caps in series with the driver, but the coil is ONLY (!) parallel so it is unimportant. And this parallel cap can be WIMA el cheapo because it is not in the path."  PUHLEEZE! People think of the electricity as a row of ants marching through a path. The series component must be good because they walk on it like over a bridge. Parallel components are like road signs on the side of the path, They are there, but don't affect the "marching process". NOT TRUE.
Electricity is an electromagnetic energy propagating through the network, NOT marching ants. The parallel components distort the signal THE SAME WAY AND THE SAME  AMOUNT as parallel.
Imagine a sheet of paper. A4 on this side of Atlantic. Now tear it in half. Which torn part has more distorted edge??? See? Both equally. Because what is removed takes away from the whole some amount of distortion, or what stays- leaves some distortion. No difference. Mathematically speaking there is no difference between the effect that on the mathematical equation has the application of say z=jwc or z=1/jwL.  For example, if you open a series cap and if you short the parallel coil in second order filter the result is THE SAME. No signal. 100% distortion !    ;-)
Still don't believe me?
OK. The coil in parallel application of second order network is not really parallel to the signal. It is in series! Yes. The current from amp flows through the speaker wire, through the series cap, and through the parallel coil to earth. This current produces over the coil's impedance some voltage proportional to the impedance (reactance) of coil with ALL ITS DISTORTION COMPONENTS and this voltage is fed to the driver.
Does it still look unimportant?


(Beethoven's   ;-)
Digital cables conduct digital signal.
Not quite true. There is no digital signal in electricity. It is as analogue as it gets. zeros and ones come out of CD disk but after becoming electricity it is no longer a row of zeros and ones but a square wave , and not 44 kHz but high frequency over 2 megahertz square wave going out of transport to dac. It carries musical information mathematically embedded in this sine, but the cable conducts analog electrical wave form just like any other. So by digital cable we can mean a cable that is good for tens of megahertz. By the Fouriers theorem the square wave is an infinite sum (sigma) of the sine waves with one fundamental frequency and its infinite even harmonics, at least over 10*Fs.
Knowing the physics of high frequency electricity, more like radio-wave propagation, we can have a good cable with matching electromagnetic impedance, low losses, low reflections, good screening, and minimal signal distortion. That makes this cable "good". But it is not "only digital" signal, and it is not that zeros and ones are zeros and ones, no matter what cable.  READ MORE HERE


STIFF speaker cabinets are better than less stiff.
We could argue about the end result but in fact making a cabinet stiff, heavy and strong does not improve the cabinet a bit. Seriously.
The driver produces energy X. It is propagated to the surrounding universe by piston movements of the cone (or dome). By definition EQUAL  portion, that is 50 % goes directly to the room and 50 % goes in the box. This energy in the box has NOWHERE TO GO. If the box was made of 10 cm walls of diamond, or granite, or beryllium or you name it, the sound inside would keep bouncing inside infinitely, less the portion which escapes through almost totally transparent cone (1/10 th. mm of paper or 1/100 mm of silk) back to the room, causing echo or other form of distortion. We can not "sink" the back wave into black hole by strengthening of  the cabinet.
The only form of sinking is by converting the back wave to heat before it jumps back out to the room. It is doable by using sophisticated wool mixtures but it is frequency dependent, selective, messy etc. It also somehow kills the musicality. It rarely works well.
In my experience the only way to have musical speaker is to use both waves - back and front - productively ,  that is by playing them on open baffle.
That is especially true with tweeters. Just imagine - 1/3 rd of total musical energy of a given speaker (for a three way that is) being squeezed behind the dome, where is 1 cubic cm of space and sometimes - one gram of wool. It CAN'T BE SUNK. It comes back immediately via the dome. (except maybe Nautilus tweeter).

There is positive phase and negative phase in music.
This is really stupid heresy. I cant understand why 99 % of people believe it.
The usual test is like this: take a 1.5 V aa cell, apply it to speaker terminals  - if the cone moves outward - your speaker produces true positive impulse. Otherwise it is phase reversed and signal is not true because if a drum beats - the speaker cone  "sucks in".
First, lets deal with the driver movement vs. absolute phase of signal. Why moving from idle position towards listener should be "positive" ??? The musical signal is a mix of sine waves. Sine has no beginning and no end. It is infinite and continuous. Low pressure and high pressure of air happen in cycles, no cycle is preferred versus the "negative one". A 1 kHz sound is a low followed by high air pressure followed by low etc. 1 000 times per second. Does not matter which was "first" because we can't discern between the two. Our ear drum being pushed inside our head is no more real sound than our ear drum being sucked outside.
Now lets think of musical instruments. The DRUM (easy to imagine). If the drum kit has the main foot-drum on the floor, is the HIT on it producing positive wave??? How? The hammer (sorry I don't know the vocabulary) hits the drum on the drummer side, hence producing INWARD flexing of the drum skin. This is heard outside in the room  as BOOM. Positive or negative? See? And this usually feeds the pressure inside the drum. There is a mike inside this drum. It reads the high pressure by flexing the mike membrane to the left. Or Right. Or In. Or .. Or ... ??? And the electrical signal goes to preamp, console, A/D converter. Is it still positive or negative?
And what if the drumskin is parallel to the floor, like in congas? Is downward hit positive, or upward?
And what if this is a cymbal? Is a flat cymbal hit by the drumstick producing positive or negative impulse??? Anybody answer?
And how about the bass string being plucked? Is positive from left to right or the opposite?
This is truly a stupid divagation. Positive and negative speaker wiring are equal and it is a waste of time using your remote on that Wadia of yours to switch the absolute phase and argue which is more true.
And what if a Jazz ensemble has 5 musicians, all miked in a different way? And what if music is SAMPLED from 10 records by a deejay? Which part of the signal is positive and which negative?

Thick AC cables are better. Big capacitance in power supply is better.
It is funny, but few people understand how the diode bridge works in combination with capacitor bank in power supplies. The time constant RC of cap bank and load impedance seen by power supply determines time it takes to discharge the caps by "some degree". During the period when AC, after the transformer,  has higher value than DC on the caps, the caps are re-charged to the full. If the cap bank is HUGE (very macho indeed) then R*C time constant is so large that the AC sine wave is only exceeding the DC level during milliseconds of the peak, every time the AC cycle hits its maximum. So the given energy X needed by the amp must be sucked not during say half of the AC cycle, but say 1/100th. And because a sine peak happens 100 times per second, that means that we feed the amp from the wall only during a sharp peak 1/10000 of a second and 100 times per second. This peak must therefore be 100 times bigger than average power consumption during whole cycle. So it creates huge demand on power supply from the wall. And one meter of COBRA like power cord does not help. The limiting factor is TRAFO, and in-wall wiring. Trafo starts distorting, buzzing, also distorting it's other, smaller secondaries etc.
The caps should  be just big enough that the charging time (current, timing) is equal to discharging demand. So the power supply wave is a nice triangle shaped signal not a row of sharp peaks followed by 90 % of silence.
I experimented with series resistors with power cords. Guess what. I could not hear any difference in sound, including bass, impulse, perceived power - going up to 50 Ohms. Yes - 50 Ohms. Compare it to the stupid debate if a standard PC cable of 0,5 Ohm is inferior to python of 0,01 Ohm. (followed by 150 m of standard home wire to the street trafo, hahaha).
Of course the AC cables alter the sound but not by resistance. Maybe by filtering capabilities of screening, capacitance, and wire geometry. And with usual aid of 10 cent's worth of ferrite rings and 100 nF caps hidden inside the "pythons belly".

"I changed the circuit breakers in my home from 6 A to 20 Amp so I have JUICE now !!! WOW !!!"
Hey Mr. Heretic, before you burn the house or get electrocuted, note that the amount of electrical power coming to the stereo DOES NOT depend on the breaker. Of course if your Krell triggers the breaker sometimes, there is no music. But if it works, the breaker rating only tells you WHEN it will trip if current is exceeded. Does not give you more juice, even the slightest bit.
And because all in-house breakers by code must have 1,6 times bigger ones outside of the home, if we change a 10 A breaker to a 20 A type, that means that it is followed by the outside one with 16 A. So in case of equipment failure, the outside breaker will trip before the in-house one. This will require a walk with a candle to the cellar or staircase in the middle of the listening session or  finding the goddamned key to the street electrical box.

Heresy No. 10

"The tubes color the sound by adding pleasant harmonic distortions, the only real sound is from transistor, but many people voluntarily like to feed themselves with rosy tubey sound". This is the transistor salesmen mission and vision. But nothing could be more false. Transistors and opamps are semi conductors. SEMI. The tubed circuits do have a natural tendency of sounding better because they are MORE SIMPLE and more elegant. It is VERY expensive in engineering terms to employ a tube - we need some 10 W of heater power to just lit a tube, and a whole dedicated circuit to power it up. Transistors come cheap and stone cold so engineers use them by bulk, and hence OVERENGINEER products. A circuit with 2 transistors will sound as good as a circuit with 2 tubes.
Today's engineers don't know how to design with transistors, so they build the easy circuits with minimal risk with the LEGO like building blocks - op-amps. I bet that most products are produced without listening. Just autocad in the office. It MUST work.
Transistor design is a bigger voodoo today than even tubes !!! Only Marantz uses transistors for CD output and calls it HDAM. High Definition Amplification. They consider it a BIG DEAL.  If I want to hear an absolute and total truth about a signal, I will use a tube 10 times  out of 10 . But your mileage may vary.

Heresy No. 11

Last one... Spikes eliminate vibrations.

Oh yes, once I get started on that one I can't stop.
Yeah - spikes under CD players behave like a mechanical diode. The vibration of the table disappears and the music is PURE AND SWEET.
Holy shit who invents all that crap ? What do they smoke that I can't buy ??!
Once and forever: the spikes were invented by British audiophiles, who faced the problem of firm and straight placement of floorstanding speakers (and even more - standmounted monitors). The British homes are wall to wall carpeted and under the carpet they put extra foam liner so a speaker will lean forward, wobble, rock,  and play muddy sound.
Spikes address that by piercing through the carpet, through the foam and through the mites and it stands firmly on the hard floor. THAT IS VERY COOL SCENARIO. We applaud it.
But whoever sells the golden spikes for CD players and amplifiers or floorstanding speakers for wood floors like parquet - he is so smart and the customers are so dumb, he must be laughing all the way to the bank. I am jealous how smartly these sellers fool naive people.

In my opinion, the products may stand well on any shape of solid feet - the conical spike shape is totally irrelevant.  The brass feet can have a shape of crocodile legs or chicken eggs. The board of the table sees a point, but has no idea what the rest of the "spike" looks like. The board could not care less about the other 5 cm of conical; shape, couldn't care less.
So standing firm is a nice thing, its okay, but it does not eliminate vibrations. On contrary, the CD is so well coupled to the goddamned shelve, that the whole CD will perfectly resonate in tune with the music. Air moved by speakers will move the shelve and in turn - the spiked CD. Some people will find it amusing that there will be an echo of resonance correlated with the music sound. This definitely adds pleasant dither to the music but this is NOT THE STORY that the spike salesman sold you, is it ? It would be cheaper to put the CD player directly on the speaker. That would play in perfect harmony, unisono so to speak.

To deal with vibrations dear folks we must use different technique - vibration transmission media density change (hard - soft - hard again soft again)  and the soft one must be not springy but lossy and damp the vibrations. Lossy structures are sand,  potting soil, cat litter gravel, heavy rubber, foam toys, sleeping matts, bubble wrap, leather, cork, wool felt, soft  polymers, plumbing silicone, oil, etc.

To improve damping factor it is advisable to add mass to the vibrating thing. We push the natural mechanical resonance below audible range so no musical contant has a chance to excite it. A 9 Hz resonant platform would be nice. Most effective lossy media is a big bag of slightly moist potting soil but some folks ant their wives may find it over the board.
Realistically, something like a sandwich - heavy table, soft layer of neoprene or squash balls and heavy plinth again and CD on the plinth with felt liners on the feet. Add a phone book on top, or a marble slab lined with wool felt again.
If you really want to full monty - open the cd and put a half pound of sand in a cotton bag on the main PCB. Don't use the plastic bags because hot parts may pierce it. First - dry and sanitize the sand in the oven - 200 degrees for one hour. Let it cool down of course.

Wood blocks are HORRIBLE vibration killers - wood only selectively resonates which may or may not hit a pleasant note. The wood block sellers must not only laugh on the way to the bank, they ROTFL(T)AO.


LampizatOr shop with pars and kits for DIY projects
Lampizator finished products (not for DIY)
Amplifiers page
DAC pages
Music server and transport page
SILK AC filter