…. about cables and other audiophile treatments

Spend any time reading about audio and you’ll quickly discover that it’s full of all sorts of promising claims that can seem a bit suspect at times. Things appear to sell for prices tens or even hundreds of times more than seems reasonable. For example, you can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a piece of cable, you can even buy supposedly specially treated fuses for audio equipment (at incredible prices)

Our position is that we do not debate the merits of or endorse any specific type of audiophile accessory or treatment over any other, since it is entirely a matter of personal taste.

We pride ourselves on the pragmatic design of vacuum-tube amplifiers, using best-practice circuit topologies, quality components, and a robust development and test regime. We don’t subscribe to the benefits of rare and expensive cables at all, but won’t judge anyone who does. Your money, spend it how you want.

…. about Single-Ended (SE) amplifier design

In the past, manufacturers seeking a low-cost design for amplifiers used in non-critical applications decided to use the “Single Ended” design. This was a low-cost alternative to the more complex and powerful push-pull design. The SE design needed no phase inverter and only one output tube.

The compromises were lower power and higher distortion in the output. For the low-cost AM radios and low-end record players of the time, this hardly mattered: the source signal was decidedly low-fi to begin with.

Somewhat tellingly, In the golden era of tube hi-fi, none of the high-quality designs used SE topology. They all used push-pull, which uses two output tubes working together. 

Spend any time studying how audio signals work and how tubes work, and it will be immediately apparent that the SE design is a massive compromise and by definition is very limited; while the push-pull design, apart from offering much more power, can achieve distortion figures an order of magnitude lower than the best SE designed amp could hope to.

Since the tube revival, for some reason the SE design seems to have gained traction among some audiophiles as being the straightest path to ultimate sonic purity. They are seen as the highest embodiment of the “Less is More” philosophy, since they require fewer components to work.

Most if not all of the ultra-expensive Luxury High-End tube amplifiers, costing tens of thousands of dollars, are all SE now. 

Hobbyists are also building SE designs, for precisely the same reasons they were made in the old days – namely, they are easier, cheaper, simpler and with a lower component count.

Curiously these SE amplifiers used in audiophile circles are typically used to play back fairly sparse musical offerings, like acoustic jazz, or perhaps early R&B with limited frequency response. Most SE amplifier owners wouldn’t dream of putting anything like Rock or EDM or anything with complexity and/or a lot of bass energy, through their low-powered amplifier.

Our approach to SE amplifiers in hi-fi is unequivocal: There are too many compromises in the quality for us to regard them as hi-fi.

For this reason ATRAD-Audio has no intention to ever design or build a SE amplifier.

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