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One of the greatest and the most important things for me in power amplifiers is their ability to differentiate tones. When you listen live music you practically never hear two identical tones. Even two identical pitches presented after the different preceding sequence or at different time always create the different tonal reactions within you.
With reproduced music this sense of tonal differences and tonal discrimination is severally minimized and all notes sound very much like a deviation of the same generic sound. The degree with which the tones and notes distinct in reproduced music is so small that practically all listeners do not even realized that we listen reproduced music in a very different ways then live music. Live music we listen “as it” but while we listen reproduced music we activate our real-time interpretive mechanisms and actively imagining how “it” might sound. There are extraordinary minute amount of people out there (properly no more then 100 around the world) who have thier listening techniques trained up to the point that they have an ability to listen reproduced music “as is”. Those people usually deeply dissatisfied with all that “audiophile wisdom” pitch as “excellent sound” and those people treated usually by audio community as “who the hell you think you are?!” In reality the reference points and the audio demands of those “real listeners” are so far form what an avenge zombie-audiophile could even imagine that any conversations or exchange of opinions between the “real listeners” and the rest audio-Morons are similar to the conversations between fish and kangaroo.
As far and I concern any know to me audio reproduction reduce an amplitude of the differences within the tones. I spent quite a few years to learn how to make loudspeakers with maximum possible amplitude of tonal contrast. The greatest revelation for me was Vitavox S2 compression driver and the entire Macondo Acoustic System was bult about the stunning S2’s tonal disseminative capacity. (In some ways the Lowther drivers if they locked in a very narrow midrange operation might remotely approach to what Vitavox S2 can do) However, with the amplifiers the story always was more complicated as all of them paint the world with a gray brash…
Most of SS amps that I heard convert all tones to some kind of common tonal denominator or inject into sound some none-existing in reality tones. All tubes amps might or might not differentiate the tone but all of them do it differently and in their own stupid way. Some OTLs break sound apart and scream about the tonal differences instead of play music. They do it primary by screwing up the harmonic content of sound. Thier tonal differentiation is a differentiation for the sake of differentiation and the musical result is completely disastrous after them. Most of the rest amps, would they be PP or SE do not reproduce tones but rather ring in response of the tones of original music. Let me explain what “ring” means. None of the amplifiers that I heard (and I can assure you that I head quite few) reproduce the initial tonal event but juts a reflection of this even: they do not reproduce a note but the indication of the note, “in-reached” with residues of the tone’s electronic recreation affords. In photography a single dot located infinitely far from optical system never reproduced by optical system as a single dot but only as “dispersion radius”. The diameter of this “dispersion radius” is something that describes if image is “in focus” or not. So, all amplifiers that I know have such a high “dispersion radius” while then portray tones that the identity of a single tonal dot looses its uniqueness and instead of life-like “tonal range” an amplifiers projects those “dispersion radiuses” Those dispersion radiuses are so large that the near-located tones mask out each other each other and as a result, amps output the different shades of a generic tonal monophonism.
As I said, some amps do better form point of view of “presentation of tonal differences”: for instance the Tenor OTL or WAVAC 833 but they completely loosing in harmonic (Tenor) and accelerative (WAVAC) department. Of course there is, Lamm ML2. The Lamm ML2’s ability to discriminate tone is very-very high and although in the scale of absolute amplitude is less then Tenor or WAVAC but what Lamm’s SET dose it without even minute loosing of it’s dynamic or harmonic positions. In fact the ability of ML2 to maintain it’s dynamic or harmonic integrity is almost mystical.
Graphically the lineup of tonal discrimination between the amplifiers might be presented like this:
Then the Melquiades came…
Melquiades converted the ML2’s tonal discriminative capacity into a joke, furthermore this amp completely screws up everything that knew about amplifier's tonal discrimination because it juts does not fit in the above presenting scale. I can’t place it closer or farther on the scale of tonal discriminative capacity, and if you hear Melquiades then you instantaneously understand why. Interesting that if I come up within a similar hierarchy not only about the tonal discrimination but also about the dynamic, resolution and any other audio-quantifiable scale then Melquiades would not fit in any of them as well.
Well, some of the readies of my site would accept my comments as me worshiping and glorifying my own amplifier. Yes, most of the audio idiots do exactly this and they anticipate the same behavior from others. People who know me personally know that I completely liberated form this behavioral pattern. So, accept what I am telling you about Melquiades seriously – Melquiades dose not operates nether in tonal nor in any other audio-quantifiable domain as any other amplifier out there. I’m not exactly know why it behaves as it behaves. I can talk for a long time how the “kinky” biasing of the first Melquíades’s stage did “it” but now the conversation is not about the Melquiades’ guts but about the benefits of the Melquíades’s performance.
Ok, here is the really weird part begins.
Melquiades actually does not “amplifier sound” but it instead reinstates Realty at larger level loudness. If you A-B Melquiades against any amplifier out there then you instantaneously understand what I mean. Melquiades somehow dose not recognizes the input signal but it has own sense of “how it should in Reality”. It accepts the input signal and renders it into a Reality Reinstating Event. Interesting when you hear the Sound after Melquiades you do not even question anything that you know about sound because it has no evidence that the sound was an audio reproduction. This is something that was absolutely not accustomed in audio. The most important that the Melquiades Reinstates Sonic Event that elements a necessity to listen activating those real-time interpreters because we do not listen the Melquiades Sound as a Reproduction of even but rather as a Reinstating of the event.
It is very interesting because when you try audio-evaluate sound of any amplifier on the scale that I brought above you trying to place better amps further from left. The better amps dose the further it goes to right. This virtual perception between “left” (complete fake) and “right” (reality of live music) always sits in our awareness. With Melquiades your mental perspective of existing of “left dimension” is absolutely does not exist. I’m not saying that Melquiades sounds like “live music” but rather it introduces a sense of Reality that is a Reality on it’s own and you would never question or wary how the Reality of Melquiades reproduction would related to the Reality of “live music”. I know that my explanations my sound enigmatic to most of people but “most of people” never heard audio when reproductive chain did not juts reproduced sound but recreated the Sonic Reality.
If what I said it not freaky enough for you then read on.
This week I discovered something that is completely extraordinary: Melquiades, while it recreates Sonic Realty, it dose not really care about the audio ingredients that it uses. Furthermore the Melquiades has an ability actually fix “bad audio”! It means: Melquiades recreates Reality in a way in which it “should be” and it somehow completely disregards that fact that it uses a “bad audio” as a source.
This week I played a lot of different music; all of them were great performances form the “better times” of musical history. Over the course of this week I played wartime Hans Hotter, I played Oswald Kabasta with his Munich orchestra who put Furtwangler into shame, I played begin of 40s Clemens Krause conducting Richard Strauss, I played Sergey Koussevitzky’s Tchaikovsky, I played Franz Schmidt’s Wagner from beginning of 30s, I played Walter Gieseking’s Rachmaninoff’s concertos, I played Joseph Lhevinne’s collection from 30s, I played Nina Koshetz’s songs and arias from 20s, I played Mengelberg’s Brahms cycle from 1930, I played young Karl Bohn with Dresden and Vienna, the Archduke Trio form the end of 20s, Joseph Hoffman with young Barbirolli playing Chopin in the end of the 30s, Szigeti with Walter playing Beethoven form mid-30s… and many other wonderful peaces. All of them are superb accomplishments of performing art and rally magnificent music. Definitely all of them poorly recorded audio-wise or barbarically transferred to CDs. However, we still listen those and the similar recordings and the force of performances really let us disregard or minimize our desire for a “better audio”. I mean that the extrapolative perception of listening of older none-perfect audio is so catalyzed by the level of performance that we let ourselves do not be bothered that tonally-discriminative and dynamically those recoding are very pure. Furthermore, most of those recording, besides thier natural audio limitations, went over very barbarian noise sniping possessing, tonality devastating equalization and whatever the contemporary electricians-morons are capable to do with sound. In other words those recordings suppose to sound sonically as “bad audio”. (Pay attention, I did not use the better transfers from 78s that very rarely pop up here and there but I used juts regularly bad transfers)
When I head them then here was where Melquiades made me really-really think. Believe me or not but Melquiades somehow removed the entire layer of “bad audio presenting” and suddenly allow me to listen those performances audio-wise almost “as is”. I mean Melquiades took away all superstructure of reproductive efforts and left the sound very bare, very bold, very reach and completely free form the negative effects that bad transfer inflict to those recordings. It kind of reverse engineered the process of recreating of the older sound!
If you hear 78s then you know that phenomenal speed, dynamic, stunning tonal discrimination and…. the quality of bass that 78s have. The CD and LP transfers that I played DO NOT have it. They sound quite bad and I know sound of all those “bad sounding” performances by hart after playing them for years on the best audio reproductive machines available. However, Melquiades took is further, way further! Melquiades somehow reinstated the initial sound of recording bypassing the entire coat of bad audio and bad transfers. It sounded like it knows how this Sound should sound. Whale it did it introduce so amassing rainbow-like tonal richness and so capable tonal inequity that I was sitting with my mouth opened for hours asking myself: “How the hell this happened and how this might be possible?” Evan more, the 78s, when they played, have some metallic and mechanic context. Melquiades somehow soften the matallo-mechanics and presented sound as it should be if 78s media would not screw it up Sound initially!!!
I know, it appear ridicules but is sound like Melquiades went through a conservatory and it familiar with all knowledge ever was accumulated about the theories of harmonies, orchestration, conducting and interpretation. How the hell Melquiades knows with witch acceleration climb a tone, how to stop it and with which decay to mix it with background noise if plying this moment with any other amplifiers the entire event sounds like a sonic “dispersion radius” and completely blurred into audio reproductive diffusion aura? How the hell Melquiades can do all of this and at the same time do not loose any single bit of acoustic-like harmonic integrity and do “it” at any dynamic level; including the dynamic levels where no other amps can reach?
This all really-really amassing and I was kind of at state of disbelieve for quite a whale. I send to Dima an email a few days ago saying that I sincerely feel that what Melquiades dose to sound should open a totally different perspective to the methods of Audio and present a totally different way of thinking about sound reproduction. At least it keeps doing it for me…
Romy the Cat
PS: Today I pulled the recording of Vladimir Sofronitsky playing Scrabin in beginning of 50s. The damns Russkis recorded Sofronitsky quite horrible. A couple years ago I bought an original Russian first pressing of some of those preludes – you know those thick ugly pre-Melodia records with the leg of cockroaches sticking out of the disk. When I played it before they sounded (audio-wise) as ugly as it imaginably-possible but today I played it with Melquiades. Nope, it did not sound like a West-recorded piano in Carnegie Hall at 50s but it sound surprisingly audio-interesting with quite unexpected and not heard before tonal amplitude… surpassing all audio-misery the Russians exposed the Sofronitsky recordings to.
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche