Questions about Resolving Systems

I know this will be subjective but what makes a resolving system?

Does it mean it has great detail?

How do you know if you have a resolving system?

Is that only for system that employ high end components?

I am just trying to get a better understanding.



It is a bit ambiguous, but visits to high end audio stores can zero one in on what it means.

However, it can be a very negative thing. There are components and systems designed to be high resolution that scrape details from the media and communicate every tiny detail … this can be a CD player, DAC, tt cartridge or even preamp / amp. Put these together and they can end up increasing the noise floor, increasing distortion and stripping the musical content… the emotional connection. I have hear so many terrible sounding “high resolution systems” I have lost track.

Often with these systems, the over emphasis details and subtle cues about the venue and spatial dynamics come at the expense of rhythm and pace (a large part of the the emotional connection one gets with the music) and midrange bloom. So, a system can fascinate one with hearing the conductor moving his foot or the sonic reflections of the orchestra hall and completely miss drawing you into the music. Sterile and analytical are frequently used to help describe these systems


Over time these system fail to engage the user for more than a short time. Lots of us old guys who have been pursuing the high end for decades ended up with high resolving soulless systems and re-evaluated what we were doing and heading back to musical systems, often ending up with all tube systems that are musical first. They have the details and bass, but they are in proper proportion to the musical attributes. These systems are tremendously engaging. After three hours of listening each day.. it is really hard to rear myself away.



A highly resolving system will allow you to hear everything but not at the cost of anything. Nothing will stand out, overshadowing something else. You'll see the forest and forget the tree. It will be done in a relaxed yet rich and full manner.

You'll get all the detail (if not more) you've heard in other systems that sounded bright and edgy but it will be calmly rendered. Think of substituting the edgy brightness with a burnished quality. 

You need not spend a lot to get to this level of reproduction. I've wasted more on components than what my present system costs (about $13K) so the old adage about hindsight would apply save for the fact that it took my last few purchases to get it resolved and they simply didn't exist before the last two years. Time does march on and with it, progress.

All the best,

How do you know if you have a resolving system?


If you can hear differences with cables (power cords, speakers cables and/or interconnects) and wall receptacles, then you have a resolving system.


Now you know why some people can’t hear differences in cables. *wink wink*


the first aspect of a resolving system is that it reveals differences between recordings and is able to allow each recording and performance to be unique. differences become easy to recognize. the system is a chameleon and can relate all aspects of the performance properly with coherence and balance. the musical differences are not obscured by system and room limitations.

the same things that show differences between recordings, also result in greater musical involvement, although that is not really the same thing as resolving.

the opposite of resolving is that the colorations and distortions on the system and room obscure and veil musical distinctions.

it’s normal for systems with minor colorations or distortions to become worse as the music volume increases as the small issues start to get in the way of resolution. so what is resolving at moderate listening levels is not resolving at higher listening levels. this is a lack of headroom in the signal path or acoustics.

so the idea of a resolving system is variable as to how much dynamics it can handle before it falls apart.

the best systems hold together at full tilt bogie levels.

there are matters of taste involved in tonal differences between systems. when you stray from neutral, then at a certain point of scaling there will be issues. systems tuned for particular music can become out of sorts when pushed. but the listener might do that intentionally. it’s not one size fits all. tuning for a desired coloration simply has consequences.

some gear and speakers do have higher resolution as pieces of a system, which can allow for a higher ceiling of resolution all other things being equal. but a resolving system is much more than that.

$400k speakers and $200k amps thrown together in a bad room can suck. good sound is not an accident. or just dollars thrown around is never proof of anything. yet better gear can take you further, when it’s used effectively.

some media has more resolution, some formats have more resolution. garbage in garbage out. so what you feed your system can limit how resolving it is.

There are a lot of great answers here. But for me, in a nutshell, it's a balance of detail and warmth. 

@vonhelmholtz I get what you are saying.

I don’t know the answer, but the first thing I thought of when reading your post was the album Friday Night in San Francisco.

This and Hotel California Live (Hell Freezes Over) are great "test records" for this balance. Of course there are many others.