Part is Parts... NOT!
Ticking away in the background, you might even say on the outer fringes of audio design, is the question of how the actual audio building blocks sound - the components themselves, not the made up equipment nor the circuits. We are talking about resistors, amplifying and rectifying devices, capacitors and wound components, transformers and inductors not to mention connectors and wiring.
An electronics designer uses these parts to craft the circuitry and layout of an audio product. Even now, in certain academic circles, the existence of sound quality differences between technically well behaved amplifiers is disputed. However, many others contend that not only do the design and form of theoretical and practically expedited circuits matter, but also the specific components or parts have their own sonic characteristics.
Many such parts are customised through experience and unique build and specification aspects known for many proprietary audio ranges. Companies such as Audio Note exemplify such attention to detail. Taking one of many possible examples, substituting a given, selected power transformer for one of nominally equivalent size, voltage and power, will probably not generate an equal sound quality for the unit built using it. In elevated audio circles, there is rather more to a transformer spec than the standard figures for regulation and volt- amperes.
Audio Note has experienced the single-ended and transformer-coupled amplification as early as in 1986, the shock of hearing the first all silver-wired audio chain in 1992 was profound and led us to realise that components and materials choices in audio are not only far more important for the sonic end result, but also a far more exacting science than perhaps anyone had ever believed. (That has not changed much yet, but it will!)
With this knowledge in mind, we were determined to find out how far the envelope would stretch.
We had learned in the early 1980’s that the parts used directly in the signal path have a great influence on the overall voice of the piece of equipment in question. We are still learning how to squeeze the best voice out of the best components and circuits and our Audio Note finished products provide still a great learning platform from where one can continuously find little incremental improvements.
We had already discovered paper-in-oil capacitors in 1978, about the same time we got hold of the first Shinkoh tantalum resistors and silver cables. Thus began a major revision of materials, components and methodologies, together with a serious R&D program in 1992 when the collaboration with Kondo-san began in earnest.
Our philosophy of utilizing the same essential circuits or designs and increasing sonic performance through well thought out component upgrades is unique in audio, but is gaining in recognition slowly but surely, it is time consuming and expensive to apply as it places huge demands not only on your knowledge and understanding of the technologies and materials involved, but also on inventory, inventory management and finance, and as a result is unlikely to become the industry standard, as it is neither convenient nor mega-profitable.
And we happy to share the fruits of our labor as our bespoke components are available for the DIY hobbyist and OEM professionals alike.
For the love of music. That universal language capable of creating a shared visceral, emotional experience, regardless of what language you speak.