Sad reality...on that note, you've been thoroughly expunged from Soundstream for a while now, what can you tell about the amps Karl Cummings designed, in your opinion?
Expunged - love that word... Anyway, I will answer your email as I go through it to the best of my knowledge... I never met Karl, but I think his designs speak for themselves. I have no persoanal opinion of him. but I do respect his work.
like, if a new model Reference was a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10, where would the Van Gogh series land?
OK,this is 100% subjective, obviously. SQ - I like the new Reference better, no question. Build quality - I think both pretty close. Interior design quality - I like the VG but think the new Ref is a a more intelligent and modern design. Controls - ner Ref by far. (Ok, I am normally never biased, but not I am - I designed the pre-amp stage that is in all of the new amplifiers. Well, I am not sure what is in 2013 models, because I am willing to bet they will cheapen them now that I am not there to throw a fit like a little girl until I get my way. lol) Exterior design - I like both, but I like heatsink fins- just my opinion. Honestly, the Ref amps that they refused due to quality that were sold in Germany were not blue, but rather grey. I love that look. But I could appreciate the VG in a nice install ina luxury car where the design was appropriate...
and, I see you mentioned some amps coming out of Soundstream being current hogs compared to the new school of stuff Epsilon is putting out, is this going further back than the Van Gogh, or including them?
I was referring to the Human Reigns that we were talking about. Man, when I was EXPUNGED (lol) none of the new stuff in the 2013 catalog was even on the table. The purchaser there buys whatever he wants even though... Nevermind, not going to go there. Same with the speakers. Those were all put together within a few months after my time. M designs typically take a year from concept to production. But I am a picky ass and several of my designes to over 5 revisions to get them right. And I failed at one design that never even came out because I could not get the factory to do as I told them. I was in the process to trying to get back to basics without all of the motor cover crap. Without all of the bling bling BS. I wanted to make badass drivers, with better performance, and at the same cost or even a bit less. They we just starting to listen, biut as you can see from the catalog, they finally listened. But I made it very clear in a separate post that I had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE 2013 PRODUCTS!!! I would have done everything WAY different. Anyway, with a few glances, it is obvious that all of the new products were not done by me, and obviously not done by any engineer at Soundstream, because they do not have one anymore. They have a purchaser that makes his own decisions, and they have a couple other people that give idea of they think is cool. I am guessing that they started calling factories after I was gone and asked them to send samples of off-the-shelf products to test. Then, without knowing my testing/auditioning protocol (I never did my testing with anybody else! I got opinions several times, but I never executed my personal protocol while anybody was with me) they probably listened and then said "put flat or semi-flat diaphragms on everything and follow this scheme..." Really not sure, but some things are obvious and I will not say them for everybody, only in a private PM...
and in response to why people may have hard habits about old school bulky parts, bigger boards:
when you got in, 29 years ago you probably remember the ad copy of Orion, and Hifonics, among others that came later on.
Oh yeah, I remember.
Mil-spec, was a feature.
1% tolerance, metal film resistors, remember that?
lol Yeah, I remember. They should have included the other obvious features...
Oxygen Breathing PCB Topology
SACT - Separate Actual Channel Technology
Remote Controlled Activation
And my favorite...
Customized Aluminum Heat Extraction!!!
double-sided epoxy PCB, ounces of copper in the traces...
I think as we saw more companies come to market we eventually began to expect certain things, and then you had Audio Art, you had Phoenix Gold, making the insides pretty and using high grade parts.
I still think the PG MS amos were the most beautiful on the inside... I wanted to do that but I was shot down.
I remember reading about mosfet, and when those amps moved from just the power supply to full mosfet, in the Rockfords. There was some debate even then, about how mosfet wasn't as well-suited in that application in comparison to bi-polar devices.
And that argument still is in effect today. Both work and both have pros and cons. I had an engineer dummy it down for me so I could form my own opinion. I prefer bi-polar, but that is just my opinion...
We (consumers) have a running tally in our head that is filled with perceived "better ways to do it" and look at amplifiers with virtual wish lists, and when the old school ad copy put it in our brains so long ago, that high current was equivalent to high quality, we accepted it. Complementary Symmetry circuits, good. Darlington transistor arrangement, great... When we were told that Sanken made the best bi-polar output transistors, we accepted it. When we saw high grade capacitors in products, (because we are all capacitor experts, haha) we thought wow, that's great.
I think a lot of us who look at new school items miss the ad copy, like the various advantages of using SMT and insertion machines don't get up to the level of advertising like we used to get in the days of Car Stereo Review and amplifiers being tested by Tom Nousaine and all the geek we could reliably digest, coming mainstream.
I agreee with all of that...
That whole geeked out part of the hobby and the sales pitch, using jargon and interesting sounding catch phrases, is a lost art today.
Damn right! So what do we have today. A few OS guys like me, and the new generation that thinks they know everything. There is no doubt that they will create new technologies, but EXPERIENCE COMES FROM EXPERIENCE. Experience doe snot come from a boom or primadonna opinion. It is is funny though, like you were saying, how people loved to learn about new stuff back in the day. People today want OS, yet they do not know why and what the downfalls are. Ya know, I really think the whole term "Old School" is respected too much. When I hear that term, I immediately think "oh cool! Something I can identify with from my past". Others may think they they are cool if they like OS. But when thing are remembered because they were cool, how is that much different from nostalgia? Are nostalgia and OS the same thing? Does that make them better? I guess my point is that I think alot of people want and respect OS for now reason whatsoever...
The old school, it was cool to know why someone's amp was inferior to the one the salesman sold you yesterday, because it was in the details.
I think the automation progression, or engineering tech has made it so that even the cheap chinese caps that are produced today are possibly better made than the better caps from 30 or 40 years ago.
but, what's the limit, where does the line get crossed? 10 year longevity? 5 years, stable like a rock and in tolerance, then flushed? Chinese product is made to an obsoletion lifetime where the old school amps weren't. They were products being made with the best feasible parts for a price, but the parts used weren't engineered for an average mean, they were meant to last as long as the product, and it showed in the prices.
I agree, it's a long time now passed, where the consumer not only appreciated the finer points of a product and listened to salesmen but didn't mind paying extra for perceptual quality. Today, it's mostly European product that can be looked at the same way and guess what? They charge the equivalent of old school pricing, for their stuff...
Yup. And remember ho cool the shops were back in the day. Even the flooring was awesome. Today, most shops have zero brand loyalty, and are set up like little flea markets. It is all about business, which is important, but the passion of the 80s & 90s will never be matched again, in the USA. The few shops I have been in here are very serious. Serious about quality, serious about knowledge, and serious abut trying to be better than the next shop, in every way. It is that healthy competitive ambition that makes the shops here awesome. In the USA, it is all about sales, lowest prices, for the most part...