Tone Report Weekly Issue 144 - Page 11

Circuit Synergy: The Whole is Greater than the Sum Today’s slightly controversial ruminations stemmed from a recent interview I conducted with a well-respected British amp designer. The subject of “top-shelf components” came up and a few things came to light that got me thinking. Talking to real-deal audio engineers is an interesting part of this job, because I start to see things from their perspective. Imagine creating a pedal or amp of your own design and putting it out there in the world, only to have the amazing sounds it emits credited to a few inanimate components. In some cases, these components impart no difference to the sound whatsoever, but because they are rare, defunct or were the standard in “the good old days,” they take all the credit. Clock drivers, BBD chips, mythical diodes and NOS tubes sometimes cost more than a great pedal (or ten) and in my opinion, it is getting ridiculously out-of-hand. In fact, many of the old parts for pedals and amps vary in tolerance and performance so much—even within the same branding or part number—that they need to be matched manually and retested by designers. We pay a premium for the time and effort it takes for “hand-matched NOS” this or that and it is often a wasteful practice when new-stock tube and component consistency is better than ever. Admittedly, I am no electronic engineer and I have played many vintage variants that for whatever reason sounded better than the reissue, but I have also had the opposite experience more than a few times. One thing I do know is that a great circuit designed by a brilliant engineer can sound amazing and evolve to suit the needs of different players in different times. Here are a few of my own experiences that I will share with some iconic pedals that fit into this category of controversy among variants. 11