As Reviewed by Part-Time Audiophile

Should audio components always be 100% truthful to the source? Ahhh, that’s one of those questions that has resulted in untold audiophile angst, much like the supposed supremacy of analog over digital, or tubes vs. solid state. In the end, it’s ultimately up to the ear of the listener, and nothing else. If it sounds good to you, then it’s probably good.

Me? I’m an unabashed truth guy. That’s perhaps why I tend to gravitate toward pro audio DACs and speakers for instance, which are purposely designed to tell the truth: nothing more and nothing less. I prefer resolution and purity of timbre, even if it’s not always pretty. Even so, I can appreciate that many audiophiles (and music lovers…) like a bit of embellishment, maybe as a filter to guard against less than stellar recordings of music they nevertheless enjoy. Perhaps a bit of distortion here or there is just the thing to help transport us to the venue itself, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Just the other day, amplifier legend Nelson Pass sent me a little gizmo to try out. It’s a second-order harmonic distortion generator. Yep, you read that correctly — a device that intentionally adds distortion to recorded music while on its way through the playback chain. Why? It’s quite well-known that many folks appreciate a bit of that kind of sonic fuzz tossed their way. It helps make the music sound more real, or so they say. Just ask anyone who’s been smitten by low power single ended triode tube amps. They’ll tell you all about it, and maybe even ask you over for a listen. If so, take them up on the invite and judge for yourself.

So yeah, Nelson’s little device made the music sound different. As in more fleshed out, phasey, and dimensional. It was a fun experiment, but I tired of it somewhat quickly. I took the thing over to Scot Hull’s place for him to try out. We’ll see what he thinks, but I suppose I may be too much of a purist to fully appreciate it, though I’m certain that others will...continue reading here

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January 30, 2019 — Michael Babb