The human vision, hearing and other senses are not absolute measurement devices. They compare the difference between a reference and the tracked signals, and it's changes over time.
The hearing system registers sounds and requires some time to assess what they are. It then starts to track the changes giving less importance (losing interest) to long and sustained signals with no change.
It adapts to the surrounding (residual) background and concentrates on the constant changes in signal properties. Your vision is attracted by motion or flashing lights in this exact same way.
This phenomenon allows you to follow a conversation between two people in a noisy environment or listen to the voice of a singer undisturbed by a busy piece. In your office you realize how noisy it is only when the noise stops.
If the background is quiet the following sound appears louder and clearer. Anything different from the pitch-black background attracts your attention. Or if your hearing has adapted to a residual noise you start losing information (your brain does not pay attention to it). To make an analogy it is like increasing the contrast in a picture by darkening the background instead of increasing the brightness. The bright light will blind you and you will not see better, but removing the strenuous light makes your reference (black) stable and the picture becomes more vivid and sharp. It's like watching a movie in the cinema with the ambient lights on or off. Let us put this in the context we are interested in. Music is written with notes and pauses that represent sounds and SILENCE. The quality and quantity of silence in between notes is just as important as the pitch and timbre in the notes themselves.
It is rather complex why we have all those artefacts in our precious music through the reproduction chain but it is immediately apparent when they are reduced, and simply amazing when they are almost gone. Serenity and expressiveness come to mind when you experience it. It just sounds right.
The works of Japanese tube gurus are a source of inspiration for us. Shishido San's designs with transmission triodes manifested trough Wavac Audio and Kondo San's creations at Audio Note Japan are the best examples of the Japanese vacuum tube art currently in production and the different approaches taken to achieve the same goal. Their attention to detail and manufacturing quality inspired us to try and do better. The works and concepts of another Japanese designer came closest to the direction in which we were heading. Never implemented commercially, however, the designs of Sakuma San are a tough example to follow. Directly heated triodes with inductive loads seemed to deliver the effortlessness and tonal richness we are after.
Later we would realize that the root of it all was Western Electric and their creations. Their amplifiers and speakers are something like Adam and Eve for high-end audio.
Through those simple designs, music flowed seamlessly but with some shortcomings. Many tried to improve on those through the years, getting rid of most problems by unnecessary complication. The goal for improved music reproduction mutated into engineering competition in achieving meaningless target figures in areas alien to music and it's reproduction. It is a bit like specifying string weight and length in the piano. It is just irrelevant.
Learning from legacy
Looking at quality goods, wines, and watches we see the same techniques used years ago are still in use today. Yet the well made modern products are incomparably better.
We have all seen the glass piano and bodiless electric violin – again victims of technology perhaps.
We try to use as much as possible of the knowledge accumulated in the field and blend it with our own experience and cutting edge high-tech available today, so that we may achieve what previous attempts have failed.
There are superb designs out there by many reputable companies that reproduce sounds like us but few if any reproduce silence as good.
Many years of exploration in the world of high quality audio passed in listening, recording and comparing. Vast resources were wasted on “superbrand” products before we realized we can't buy the product that satisfied all our needs and felt the need to develop our own audio components. We gained experience with all available technologies and amplification circuits making headlines through the years and gradually filtered them down to a list of worthy contenders.
Peoples prejudice is the fuel driving most manufacturers marketing departments. Capitalizing on the customers lack of knowledge by trowing at him terms and figures that are absolutely irrelevant to a units performance and claiming benefits unrelated to the above.
We found numerous high-end products which promised the world, but most of them seemed to tell a different story upon auditioning. Some exhibited very good qualities but severely lacked in others.
Some products carried true innovation but these inovations were usually limited to part of the whole making it no better than the average. Ingenious approaches coupled with off-the-shelf peripherals and bad manufacturing quality was the norm, as well as a lack of understanding of the whole system.
We listened - we researched – and this led us in a strenuous 2 year R&D project in our own lab evaluating amplification topologies and circuits. Numerous prototypes were built, studied, and some destroyed until a pattern and a theory emerged.
This was followed by yet another year of hands-on research and tests on the influence of various components and their qualities on sound, involving thousands of man-hours of auditioning and comparisons.
We spent a considerable amount of time on mechanical construction and manufacturing methodology (this being clearly visible in our components). Vibration control, electromagnetic and electrostatic shielding, contact potential and many others followed. What we did had to be consistent and reproducible.
We have not discovered a loophole in the laws of physics. What we found is that people quickly forget the achievements of times past, just to "discover" them again at a much later date. It is all there, you just have to put it together. We don't believe patented ways of heating water will make the difference. We look for the simplest meaningful legacy solution, find its flaws (usually wrong assumptions) and fix them if we can. It does not matter how much better a modern solution is if it is based on the same flawed assumptions and makes the same errors but better.
Taking advantage of available 21st century technologies and materials allowed us to achieve what early designers called fiction.
True to our beliefs we decided not to re-invent the wheel, but used the works and experience of the very best and implemented their knowledge in our product. It took a lot of time and tests to determine where the truth lied.. We do NOT build our own components but we buy them from the people that make them better than anybody we know (and we know a lot). And as for the rest, which we could not buy at the required quality level, we manufactured those components ourselves.
We are probably one of the very few companies that go to this extent. We don't use a supplier's line of components for convenience but we use only the best part available for the specific design. For example, Plitron in Canada makes the transformer and choke in the Spartacus power supply and Tamura in Japan makes the signal handling ones. In Dionysos the honor goes to Lundahl for power and Hashimoto for signal. The same is applicable for tubes and other components. We could write pages upon pages as to why each component in our products is there, and why it was chosen.
Actually, there is no trick, no magic. It is a complex function of knowledge, attention to detail, common sense and an open mind that gets you there.
I hope what we came up with pleases your senses and sets you on a quest to seek those qualities in all products.