Can anyone tell me where the progress in audio went?



It went that way ====>    


making room for even more progress <================

I think; and I'm as guilty of this as any audiophile, that the progress in audio has been dedicated towards absolute fidelity and we all mostly hate it. 

You can get a 225 watt Purifi amplifier made, in a case that you could hold in one hand, with 0.000017% distortion and a 131 signal to noise ratio.

I don't know if you could argue, from a technical standpoint, that a tube amplifier with much worse measurements is more faithful to the source. 

Doesn't mean the tube amplifier won't sound better and be preferred. Hence why most audiophiles feel listening is more important than measuring. 

The progress is out there in droves but not in a direction that all of us will prefer. 



I am not picking on you, I am just using you as an example. Perhaps where audio has least progressed and has gone backwards is knowledge. I think the average audiophile today knows less about the underlying technology than the average audiophile 30-40 years ago, and consider the access to technology, that is not good. Manufacturers are absolutely complicit if not avoiding giving consumer knowledge intentionally.


Why "can" a tube amplifier sound "better":

  1. A unique distortion profile (coupled with higher distortion). This is bandied around a lot, even on here. It is usually coupled with "Well solid state has higher distortion in the real world" and "tube distortion makes it sound fuller, etc.". Here is the thing, most solid state amps today have very low distortion at any frequency. The distortion of most tube amplifiers is low enough that the purported impact on audio is questionable at best (and good luck finding validated evidence). Simulate tube like distortion in a very low distortion systems and you need way more distortion than tube amps created till people even notice a difference.
  2. The higher output impedance of tube amplifiers can result lower the distortion of some speakers? Heard that one before? There is truth to it, but it will depend on the the, in a given speaker. It wont be true for all speakers, and definitely not all drivers in any one speaker. Almost all drivers today are designed for a voltage source. That was not always true.
  3. The comparatively high output impedance of most tube amplifiers coupled with often naturally non-flat frequency responses coupled with the impedance of the users speaker, and their room response (often without room treatment), results in a pleasing frequency response often with elevated upper base to lower mid-range (where bulk of vocals and instruments sit), enhanced the perceived clarity and providing warmth, while rolling off the upper end, perhaps softening harsher reflections.


I would note that one of the defining characteristics of D’Agostino amps is an output impedance more like a tube amp than a solid state amp, and that back in the 80’s Bob Carver made a $700 SS amp, sound just like, what is purported to be a very expensive high end tube amp and did it in only 4 days. (Carver challenge)


I can’t exactly replicate #2 above in a SS amp, but just simply adding a resistor in series will accomplish a good deal of that. Carver even put a switchable resistor in some of his amps. #1 is questionable whether it is truly a determining factor in the sound. I am not discounting that distortion can change the sound, just that most tube amps don’t have enough. That leave #3 as the remaining elephant. I can easily equalize an SS amp to have the exact response a tube amp has with any given speaker. Carver did it in hardware. I would do it in software.



Conclusion?:  Because knowledge has stagnated if not declined in high end audio, a market of aspirin and sugar pills sustains itself, where the patient is not only never cured, but is discouraged from seeking treatment.