In the recent S.A.Lab Blackbird review, I'd asked whether one could have too much control. This considered the amp/speaker interface. One school of thought proposes very powerful amps with output impedances which approach zero. This routinely requires added gain stages to offset losses from high NFB. Meanwhile the retro brigade ignorant of such advanced thinking gets away with shamefully low damping factors from very non-complicated topologies of often low power to express a quite different—more poetic less overdamped—musical gestalt when, where and if the speakers are compadre. In the recent Heco Direkt review, I touched upon the topic of natural resolution. By implication, that must define itself against unnatural resolution. I proposed that playback resolution in excess of what’s encountered in a live venue becomes unnatural; and how this is often counterproductive to the enjoyment of so-called popular music. A lot of unnatural perspective obviously starts in the recording studio where microphones are placed where no human ears would ever go. Compound this with the pixel-count obsessed version of high-resolution playback. The result is an overwhelming level of detail which can only be called overly analytical since, to get anywhere near it, you’d have to expend serious focus and effort during any live venue and sit unbecomingly close.

Here we distinguish between amplified and acoustic concerts. The former not only involve microphones and sound reinforcement over a venue’s system, they include amplified instruments like bass guitars. In such concerts, the tonal balance is invariably bassy. The image sizes of performers are far larger and more amorphous than the hyper-focused edge-limned point-source ideal of audiophilia. Pure acoustic concerts tend to exhibit a leaner tonal balance, more treble energy and more transparency. Images get smaller and more accurate though never to the extent of optimized modern hifi. Given that most modern music—which simply means, music which millions of people love to listen to—is of the amplified sort, it sounds from peculiar to downright wrong when played back over audiophile systems. Could this be why such music is on short rotation at shows? If one does play it, it routinely makes these posh systems sound quite bad. If you add up my thoughts, one naturally arrives at the hoary cliché of the obsessive audiophile who plays perhaps 20 premium-select CDs only because everything else sounds quite poor.

If you’re still with me in at least partial agreement, ask yourself just what makes resolution unnatural. For that we take an amplified live concert as comparator, in my case various Montreux Jazz Festival gigs and programs at the old Lausanne Casino, Pully and Paleo Festivals. Modern hifi systems tend to exhibit a far more treble-intense hence insufficiently bassy tonal balance; much reduced tone density; minimized dynamics and loudness; too much separation and micro detail; and image sizes that are too small and specific. By implication, (more) natural resolution would have to prioritize bass, tone density and dynamics and go a lot easier on separation, focus and treble energy. As a speaker which accomplishes exactly that, I’d called the Heco Direkt not a low but natural resolution speaker. The practical upshot was that it allowed me to enjoy all the blacklisted stuff and at higher SPL because suddenly it no longer sounded objectionable.

It’s not a popular thing to say when the overall chase is on for ever higher signal-to-noise ratios, greater file data density, faster sample rates and exploded bandwidth. But unless you listened exclusively to very well recorded and mastered productions of predominantly acoustic fare, you could really be better off jumping that resolution-über-alles bullet train. Make instead happily do with what on first blush could look like an ox cart or at least retro in general. In hifi, there are no rights or wrongs, only that which makes you happy. If Pop music is what tickles your fancy, shouldn’t your hifi play to rather than against it? Just a thought…