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iFi adds the "Even-Order Harmonics that All Music Lovers Crave"


sdolezalek

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These marketing statements by iFi are perhaps the first time that I have heard an audio company acknowledge that by adding tubes you are adding distortion (ok harmonics if you prefer) in order to make the sound more pleasing to the human ear. I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

 

Which is it?

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I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

Other than when valves are used in "grounded grid" mode, which is only normally used in some far more expensive designs, valves do add far more even order than odd order harmonics. In fact, some "grounded grid" valve amplifier designs are reported to sound virtually identical to the very best solid state designs.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Tube distortion is additive and usually enjoyed. Not news. Yes this company admitting it is news.

 

Tubes are colored devices as they are generally used. Beautifully colored. We are well past the point where we could do this digitally (and professionally it is already been done....read some of Mitchco's blogs).

 

Recognizing that fact, admitting that fact, instead of the BS clinging to it being something beyond SS and digital is where progress can be made. You don't need to build your own SET amps to benefit. What I have wondered is if there are other distortions that we would love were it investigated as such truthfully. The SET thing is a happy coincidence. There may be more well beyond that. The best explored and explained version of it I have seen are the ideas of Vladimir Lamm of Lamm industries.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Some of the better instruments/musical equipment are coveted for their 2nd order harmonics. Personally, I would rather not exaggerate it but I would prefer that my system relay that source information back without stressing the 3rd.

Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

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I've added "tube sound" by using DSP on Diamond Cut software-you can even pick what tube sound you want to add. It works, but does not sound as good as sticking a good tube preamp in the setup. Yes it is a form of distortion, but there is something to be said for the argument that the type of sound it produces is perceived by us (or many of us) as more similar to "natural" sound than straight digital playback....note no tubes in my system, at least not yet.:)

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I have wavered between three thoughts on why I'm OK with a little even order harmonic distortion from tubes.

 

The first is that I accept how the human body experiences music. We are naturally made to experience the world in ways that bring joy and relaxation, as well as fear and reaction. This is fundamental to our survival yet I still enjoy a sunset at the beach with waves softly breaking over the startling snap and crash of a huge tree branch coming down right next to me. Why wouldn't I want to "tune in" to those feelings? I use my music to unwind and relax from a highly demanding (and sometimes stressful) job. Metaphorically speaking, even order harmonics are more like the sunset at the beach while odd order harmonics are more like the snap/crash of the breaking branch falling.

 

The second, I recognize if "the clothes make the man/woman" (i.e. we humans are easily fooled by what seems obvious tricks into believing beauty), then I don't mind applying this to my music as a choice. The funny thing here is that I don't like "too much" as it looks/sounds tasteless and tacky. And I appreciate none at all at times! But I appreciate most a tasteful outfit/degree of even harmonic distortion. There is something very classy about a fine watch that suits the person/occasion (or a fine 2A3 tube), particularly when done tastefully.

 

Third, tubes satisfy my urge/need/illness to tweak. I can tube roll. I can search for that 1929 single plate 2A3 tube. I can add a dampener. I can track hours of play. I can change the power supply to the tube. I can change the caps around the tube. I can adjust the bias. Say what you will, but I enjoy the tweaking part of the hobby and tubes give me more opportunity to tweak.

 

So none of these are good reasons for people who value a flat curve (yet do those people have the level of room treatments that I have…i.e. they say the like a flat curve but my room measures flatter than theirs before DSP). Nor would they apply to folks who like gaudy clothes or no clothes over tasteful clothes (using my earlier metaphor). Nor would they be good for folks who like to set up and forget.

 

In the end, I know this is a hobby that I try to maximize my personal enjoyment of…including the experience of enjoying the music. I'm honest with myself and I'm better for it in my enjoyment of music.

 

Best,

John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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Many tube amps are designed for accuracy. For example, my AMC tubed preamp's rated THD is 0.03%. Frequency response for high level inputs: 4Hz-80kHz -3dB (20-20kHz +/-1dB).

 

Correct me if I am wrong but I always thought the advantage of tubes was not the pleasing even-order distortion produced by the amp itself but emphasizing even-order distortion over odd-order distortion from playback software which can be as high as several percent, especially on golden age recordings.

 

I also believe that well-designed tube equipment sounds more like music, and feel it is transistors that color the sound. The better the solid state design the more tube-like and accurate it sounds.

 

Those add-ons that give the "sound" of tubes are likely giving the sound of inaccurate tube designs and not accurately designed tube equipment in my humble opinion.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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These marketing statements by iFi are perhaps the first time that I have heard an audio company acknowledge that by adding tubes you are adding distortion (ok harmonics if you prefer) in order to make the sound more pleasing to the human ear. I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

 

Which is it?

 

The iFi product website makes claims on several of the boxes which I consider to be over the top. Adding harmonic distortion

can be music to some but poison to others. I spent many years with valve stuff but came to the conclusion that, in the long term,

I prefer low distortion Class A electronics, without active preamplication. For short term listening, valves can sound very nice

but in the long term, I do find some of the distortion artributes annoying.

fmak

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I don't know nothing about iFi tubed products.

 

I wonder why some Pass Labs owner said, "a SS that sound like tubes..."? At a heavy price of course!

 

What "distortion" are we talking about? If somebody finds it is additive is because is closer to real life music reproduction?

 

"Harmonic richness" in a today digital world? To this ears/brain system is very welcome!

 

I'm used to ESL speakers where "detail" from SS could translate to harsh sound. I confess I never tried the Pass Labs (out of my budget and no dealers this side of the world), but yes powerful Class A Krells and some Bel Canto switching mono blocks (previous to ICE Power), and no way Jose. I've never tried the Hypex.

 

I prefer not to compare SS to tubes, but yes to real life unamplified music playback.

 

Just my opinion,

 

Roch

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Thanks for all the responses. What caught my eye (not ear because I haven't heard one yet) is that the iFi basically doesn't do anything except add even order harmonics. It makes no claim that it removes anything from the music stream; and if it adds nothing then why would you buy one? So its only value is that it adds a coloration that many have found pleasing and their ad is very honest in saying so.

 

Maybe its like the vibrance and saturation feature in Photoshop -- many of us prefer richly saturated photos over a more realistic presentation in our photos. In part it makes up for things our eyes can do in terms of dynamic range and local contrast that a camera/photo printer just can't duplicate.

 

Here, the same may be true if the result is that the ratio of even to odd harmonics (at the same volume level) changes then our ears likely find that to be a more pleasing result, even if the ideal answer would be to remove more of the odd harmonics.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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I don't know nothing about iFi tubed products.

 

I wonder why some Pass Labs owner said, "a SS that sound like tubes..."? At a heavy price of course!

 

What "distortion" are we talking about? If somebody finds it is additive is because is closer to real life music reproduction?

 

"Harmonic richness" in a today digital world? To this ears/brain system is very welcome!

 

I'm used to ESL speakers where "detail" from SS could translate to harsh sound. I confess I never tried the Pass Labs (out of my budget and no dealers this side of the world), but yes powerful Class A Krells and some Bel Canto switching mono blocks (previous to ICE Power), and no way Jose. I've never tried the Hypex.

 

I prefer not to compare SS to tubes, but yes to real life unamplified music playback.

 

Just my opinion,

 

Roch

 

Some of the Pass designs have a 3rd order profile...like the F1

He seems to consistently take the distortion/harmonics over negative feedback though. Given how many designs he is responsible for there is probably an exception out there.

 

Nearly all of the First Watt designs have been passed to DIY, perhaps a more feasible option with stiff Brazilian import duties.

Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

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[...]

Maybe its like the vibrance and saturation feature in Photoshop -- many of us prefer richly saturated photos over a more realistic presentation in our photos. In part it makes up for things our eyes can do in terms of dynamic range and local contrast that a camera/photo printer just can't duplicate.

 

Here, the same may be true if the result is that the ratio of even to odd harmonics (at the same volume level) changes then our ears likely find that to be a more pleasing result, even if the ideal answer would be to remove more of the odd harmonics.

 

Hmm... In photography, neither screen nor paper has even close to the contrast range or color gamut to capture a typical scene perceived by the eye. In fact, the raw converter that turns sensor data into output file is using a camera profile to heavily manipulate the output. The color portion of that manipulation is often based on CIE color. There has never been any attempt to reproduce the light spectrum seen by the camera. Everything is based on a color perception model with 3 axis. And with the need to present a natural scene with very limited dynamic range and color gamut of the output medium, totally accurate photo reproduction has never been possible. Heavy manipulation is always necessary just to make the output look natural. Is the situation with audio reproduction similar to the above? I don't know, but intuitively it does seem likely...

 

And dumb question: Who is iFi and what's the significance of them saying tube sound is nothing more than even harmonic distortion?

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Many tube amps are designed for accuracy. For example, my AMC tubed preamp's rated THD is 0.03%. Frequency response for high level inputs: 4Hz-80kHz -3dB (20-20kHz +/-1dB).

 

Preamps operate in the small-signal regime and are a different kettle 'o fish from power amps. A tube power amp will typically have 100 times this much distortion run flat out.

 

Correct me if I am wrong but I always thought the advantage of tubes was not the pleasing even-order distortion produced by the amp itself but emphasizing even-order distortion over odd-order distortion from playback software which can be as high as several percent, especially on golden age recordings.

 

No. No amplifier can selectively identify different-but-changing frequencies for emphasis. Since the music itself changes frequency, the harmonics change frequency.

 

w

Mike zerO Romeo Oscar November

http://wakibaki.com

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These marketing statements by iFi are perhaps the first time that I have heard an audio company acknowledge that by adding tubes you are adding distortion (ok harmonics if you prefer) in order to make the sound more pleasing to the human ear. I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

 

Which is it?

 

As an early adopter of the iTube I took note of your comments. I have a system composed of Analog and digital and before the iTube I found that I loved the use of my (2) MFA Reference Preamplifiers in my (2) systems. One of the units was the full MFA Reference and the other was the Baby Reference. The costs of these units were USD$16k and $9k respectively. I found them to be indispensable in my system for the fullness and beauty they brought to the overall gestalt of the musical performance. Nothing I had listened to was able to supplant them including the ARC Ref Anniversary Pre, Allnic..,etc. The possible exception was the USD $24k Concert Fidelity Pre with about $1.4k worth of pinched waist Holland 6DJ8's installed :)

 

All this to say, that when the iTube came along, I sold both MFA units.., the Baby Ref first but then, later, I finally realized (and reluctantly faced the fact) that the iTube was more transparent than even my MFA Reference TVC. With the iTube came all the beauty of the MFA units with the absolute transparency of Pure Music's 64 bit volume control.

 

I am unclear what distortion you speak of; I am sure you are aware that harmonics and distortion are NOT synonymous. A harmonic is simply an integer multiple of the fundamental and the original signal would have harmonics (i.e. be made up of integer multiples of the fundamental) a distortion is just that.., a malformation of the original whether it be a signal or an object. Did you measure the input vs output of the iTube in order to determine the distortion you mentioned.

 

I have an active system (actually 2 active system) and the one in which I am using the iTube is composed of a Graaf Modena, a Reimyo PAT777 and a set of Acoustic Reality custom bass amplifiers driving a custom active 3 way loudspeaker. I drive it with an AMR DP777 and a Artisan Fidelity Next Gen 3 turntable (based on a Technics SP10 MK3 TT) with a Kuzma 4Point and Ortofon MC Anna cartridge. The sound IMHO is glorious. No way anyone would be allowed to remove the iTube from my system. I use it in buffer mode with presents a 1 mega ohm input impedance to my source and I use the 3D Holographic feature to great affect and judging from my buddies (universal appeal).

 

Have you listened to the iTube and personally heard this "distortion" you wrote of?

 

You may find the actual measurements performed by a very competent indivdual in the following link interesting:

 

 

http://www.head-fi.org/products/ifi-audio-itube/reviews/9473

 

Selected text from the above link:

"Surprisingly, the impact of iTube, at least on graph, seems to be fairly minimum. Yes, it is noisier with the iTube, but we are talking about 0.001% of difference in THD and 0.004% in IMD+Noise, plus less than 2dBA in overall noise level. The numbers are small enough that I have to wonder how valid they will be in actual listening. As far as the frequency response goes, iTube is as flat as it can be, at least when the Digital Antidote Plus is not engaged (*but we will leave that discussion to the next section)."

 

Looking forward to your response.

 

best regards... audiofun

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Preamps operate in the small-signal regime and are a different kettle 'o fish from power amps. A tube power amp will typically have 100 times this much distortion run flat out.

w

 

Then we are talking about 3% distortion on a "typical" tube power amp. New designs are honestly stated as 1.5 % THD or IMD at full power (if you use the full rated power). For a lot people is hard to notice less than 5% distortion, then <3% will be even harder.

 

Regarding harmonic richness (or whatever you want to name it) I guess is too subjective to discuss.

 

Roch

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Some of the Pass designs have a 3rd order profile...like the F1

He seems to consistently take the distortion/harmonics over negative feedback though. Given how many designs he is responsible for there is probably an exception out there.

 

Some amps. tube gear designers also goes the negative feedback way , some others don't.

 

Nearly all of the First Watt designs have been passed to DIY, perhaps a more feasible option with stiff Brazilian import duties

 

Brazilian import duties are lesser than in my country. But, at least for me, this is not the matter to decide which amp. design I choose, because the price range is huge in both designs.

 

Roch

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For a lot people is hard to notice less than 5% distortion, then <3% will be even harder.

The early 6V6 single ended valve amplifiers were as high as 10% distortion.

My own Solid State Class A preamps and 15W Class A are very close to 4 Zeroes distortion figures, and yes, many people can hear the effects of distortion WAY below .01% in a good solid sate amplifier.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Preamps operate in the small-signal regime and are a different kettle 'o fish from power amps. A tube power amp will typically have 100 times this much distortion run flat out.

 

Thanks for the response. My system is hybrid, tubed preamp into solid state power amp. However I just read the specs of one of AMC's power amps, the same brand as my preamp.

 

AMC CVT2030 is a hybrid mosfet valve design capable of giving superb sound reproduction.

30 watts per channel using EL-34 tubes.

Rated THD 45hz-20Khz = 1.0%

Input sensitivity for 1W / 30W into 8 ohms = 230mV / 1250mV

Frequency response 20hz-20Khz +/- 0.5dB; 10hz-80Khz +/- 3db

 

So you are correct, tubed power amps have considerably higher distortion than tubed preamps, in AMC's case 33% more THD. I had always planned to replace my solid state power amp, if it ever dies with a tubed one, after your comment I'm no longer so sure. Anyway I may still have several decades to think about it as I don't replace equipment until it dies or needs a repair that is too expensive.

 

No. No amplifier can selectively identify different-but-changing frequencies for emphasis. Since the music itself changes frequency, the harmonics change frequency.

 

I agree with this comment, however perhaps I didn't ask my question correctly. I will try another way to word it: Correct me if I am wrong but I always thought the advantage of tubes was not the pleasing even-order distortion produced by the amp itself but emphasizing tube generated even-order distortion over transistor generated odd-order distortion from playing analog software originally recorded with tubes which can be as high as several percent, especially on golden age recordings, since the playback is with tubes instead of transistors. My thinking is tube recording to tube playback equals even-order distortion and tube recording to transistor playback equals either odd-order distortion or a combination of even-order and odd-order distortion. Is this wrong?

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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The early 6V6 single ended valve amplifiers were as high as 10% distortion.

My own Solid State Class A preamps and 15W Class A are very close to 4 Zeroes distortion figures, and yes, many people can hear the effects of distortion WAY below .01% in a good solid sate amplifier.

 

I agree with you Alex,

 

But about the distortion figures in your amp only, because not many people has this kind of hearing ability. There is (or was) a lot of test in some articles, and the "common listener" just get the distortion when it achieves 3 to 5% (from power amps). This is why some guys go to deafness after a lot of heavy MP3 listening on cheaper, or bad designed, gear.

 

We must consider here "accumulated distortion", from the source to the speakers, and to the end listener, with all the speakers/room interaction. This "accumulation" could go to logarithmic rate, then, not only the sum of distortions.

 

That's why I'm not always impressed with very low distortion figures rated from manufacturers.

 

Best,

 

Roch

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Hi Roch

Please note here that I only mentioned SS amplifiers. Although the distortion levels may be very low overall, the presence of higher levels of odd order distortion will sound a little unpleasant. In the case of a valve amplifier, the presence of considerably higher levels of even order distortion effects is likely to mask the harsher sounding odd order harmonics, despite overall distortion levels being at a much higher level overall than with a good SS amplifier.

At least, that's my take on it.

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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These marketing statements by iFi are perhaps the first time that I have heard an audio company acknowledge that by adding tubes you are adding distortion (ok harmonics if you prefer) in order to make the sound more pleasing to the human ear. I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

 

Which is it?

 

Since I have posted in this thread, it is only fair that I respond to the original question of the original poster.

 

I have not heard iFi but my feeling is that tubes should not be used to change the sound of transistor gear but should be designed as tube gear, i.e.: tubed preamps, tubed power amps, DACs with tubed outputs, etc.

 

Before the invention of transistors everything was tubed because that was the way to reproduce the sound of music. My favorite recordings are tubed recordings, mostly from the golden age, so I feel there must be a connection.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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[My thinking is tube recording to tube playback equals even-order distortion and tube recording to transistor playback equals either odd-order distortion or a combination of even-order and odd-order distortion. Is this wrong? {/QUOTE]

 

Teresa

I would think that with tube recording to tube playback you may not notice a great deal more difference, although it may sound slightly "warmer" sounding.

A good modern SS amplifier should result in a fairly close facsimile of what the record producer intended.

Some record producers choose to use valve microphone amplifiers to achieve their desired result.

 

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Hi Alex,

 

At the end, like I always believe, it's a matter of taste. Then, modern tubes amplifiers and pres had evolved a lot form old designs, but even old designs has still a lot of fans.

 

What a record producer, or engineer, intended is for his own ears and taste. Will by played trough a lot of different gear, with a lot of very different sonic results, then the "facsimile" could never exist.

 

Kind regards,

 

Roch

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These marketing statements by iFi are perhaps the first time that I have heard an audio company acknowledge that by adding tubes you are adding distortion (ok harmonics if you prefer) in order to make the sound more pleasing to the human ear. I would think that most lovers of tubed equipment would disagree and argue that their equipment sounds better without "adding" anything that wasn't there in the first place.

 

Which is it?

 

Chinese equipment maker Yaqin has had several "tube buffers" of this type on sale for quite a while at different price points. So the idea is hardly new.

 

http://tinyurl.com/m8ptf72

 

George

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