I was asked about High Fidelity.... but is that the real question here? How important is each link in the chain?
The question as it was put was: "I am going to go out on a limb and ask that if each tube changes the sound of your amplifier by that much of a degree exactly then where is the high in high fidelity? no I am not anti tube"
See the original discussion on the Steve Hoffman Forums HERE
Well I would have to say that any amplifier that reveals so much from any such component change in the preamp or to a different degree, even the power tubes, would prove even further just how sensitive and delicate and revealing the amplifier really is. That shows design and build quality, and reveals the true high fidelity ability of the product as a whole. But that isn't the entire story now is it...
The truth is, there are many tube amps out there now, most of which will change with the tubes you choose... but the circuit and its chain of quality (including each specially chosen individual part) are all going to be highly important parts of designing and building any amplifier. The quality of the tubes you choose is just one of the many other important components within the circuit chain that makes each amplifier. The build quality, soldering, PC board or wiring, all of it makes a difference. Transformers are probably the MOST important to start because the power for all the components comes from that source, then it's going to be a tie when choosing capacitors, chokes, interstage transformers, wire quality and the circuit capacitance, with the proper resistors following ever so closely behind. But in the end it is everything together, the stew, the mix or whatever you are going to call it.
You will easily find out how much of a difference exists between amps when you set them side by side and audition them against one another. I think it is HUGELY important to be able to do that when choosing an amplifier.
Once you choose a quality amplifier for your system you will then see just how important the REST of the system really is also. The better the amp and speakers - the better to reveal the weakest link in the system chain. Without sensitive and revealing speakers you would never know how good the amp really is though. The cabling is probably the fourth most important part of the chain behind the quality of your sources. You can put a cheap cartridge, phono stage or CD player in the chain and depreciate everything else too. Everything counts~! Everything.
Those of you that might not know this yet can easily find out by auditioning a Raven amplifier, speakers, or cables. We now allow a full month and a half of audition period now - because we know how important ALL of it is and we WANT you to compare us against the others out there. And this is an EXPENSIVE hobby. So we will never approach any of it from ONLY the profit side. Raven is about the music, the enjoyment of building a good system, and proving that each part of the chain has its percentage of value and all are exceptionally important. It's why we are now aiming at each link in that chain.
Raven will soon be about full systems - tested together, matched, and making each link in the chain work at its peak for the price point that we can figure out how to build it at. Having the most important parts of that chain made in the USA has always been important to us. But our European allies made some excellent glass during the heyday of those times. And now some of the best parts are made in Japan, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, etc. So we go where we have to to acquire them if they aren't available here. And that is just how it has to be. If WIMA capacitors are made in Germany, and they offer an extremely low-priced high quality value for our product, we will absolutely go where we need to to get that. Building fine electronics is now about searching the world for each value we can find. Did we look at China to try to do some of our work for us.... absolutely. So far each time proved fruitless. The QC wasn't there. So we chose Dallas, which cost 6 to 8 times as much, but the quality was superb and we could easily monitor each step. In the end the profit was no longer there, but the sound and fit and finish of these products is at the top. Our customers will love the result. So its now going to be about how many we can build each time.
We have to stay alive, so eventually we will have to make money at it. And we will. It is simply a must. And we will go where we can as long as we can control the quality. There is value in building in your own back yard though. As long as we build our products like this people will seek them out. And that is how it will all work from now on.
Built in the USA, our amplifiers and speakers are going to be the best we know how to make them. So when the DAC's come out our part of the expertise will be complete for a while. We will never want any of our customers to settle without being able to try each of our new products IN THEIR OWN homes where it is most important. We have a lot of experience now setting up full systems in many different types of rooms - at shows, in people's homes, and offices, shops, wedding receptions (!). If it can be done I will haul a system out and stick it in that environment - if only to gain that experience. I think some of the most fun sound I have yet heard is when I took a lowly Nighthawk outdoors and hooked it up to a full set of JBL professional speakers, big cabinets with 3" horn drivers and 15" midrange/upper bass woofers which were 99.8db (which I never knew before that were so easy to drive) and these huge JBL subwoofer cabinets with 18" drivers in them. Of course it was better when I used a power amp on the subs, but even the little 20wpc Nighthawk was able to fill two acres with glorious music for the barbeque. People could not help themselves... as the music drifted across the grassy lawns and washed around them people started to move with the beat. It was involuntary, addictive and it changed the mood of the gathering completely. You could see it on their faces, watch it move down and around their bodies as limbs started to react and hearts started beating a little bit faster....
Music is so important to all of us. So there is important value in finding out how much each of those individual musicians put their hearts and souls into their part of the recording. And the best engineers do their best to allow each instrument and voice be a full component in the track. Sometimes its about the song itself. In the recording industry it IS about the song. But if it's not a hit on the charts, it's going to be about the quality and soul of the recorded event. If its not on tape its going to be gone in a few short minutes. The musicians know this, and its their job to put everything they have into the recording when that engineer says "rolling" over the little speaker.... and only then the magic takes place. And that is why we are all here... right? We truly love the music. Each recording is historic. It has the ability to touch us deeply inside and stir our emotions, and only a song can bring such a flood of memories and emotions rushing back to our brains... especially if it was at an important time in our lives. So knowing all of this is why we are here. This is all hugely important. We take it very seriously. And it can be so good if you can hear each note and instrument and vocals cleanly on each track. It makes it all so much better when you can.
That little 20 wpc tube amp never skipped a beat that day, and memories flowed through each of the brains controlling those legs and feet as the people remembered where they once were when they first heard each song. It was magical. It is ALWAYS magical. And its so darn important to each of us. We were only told by neighbors 250-500 yards away that they enjoyed our musical selection so much they stopped what they were doing and just sat outside and listened. Sure, I wouldn't have called it "audiophile level sound" but its important to know that it's about the "system" as a whole, not any single component - which matters MOST>! The environment/room/cables/source/speakers/amp/and your ears... all of that is the most important part of the system. And in the end the most important part of each system is YOU.
And even though I have done it literally thousands of times before, it never loses its importance. I want to go fire up some glass and listen to some music... because it's Sunday afternoon and I have some time open? No, its because I just wrote this and feel the need again remembering that day... I need to feel those feelings again. I need to remember, I need to hear music. I simply must. And I am so very proud of the quality we are providing in our components and how they can help stir the soul each time no matter how demanding the listener is. It's what drives us all here at Raven now that we aren't playing music for a living, or even for fun. Knowing that I can still do something like this... it's just so important. And I will never take it lightly. EVER.