Once all of the requirements of a gain stage are met [as outlined in the June issue], the designer will then select the ideal requirements for a specific stage, but achieving these requirements rarely happens in the real world. Attaining one design goal is often at the expense of another. There will be limitations imposed by the characteristics of the gain device chosen, economics, physics, and a host of other factors. And as the number of stages increase, so does the difficulty in bringing them all into an optimum specification.
Great sounding amplifiers require high-quality components. Transformers used in power supplies and for audio I/O are both large and expensive. Quality coupling capacitors, gain devices, and hardware all drive up equipment costs. The classic and highly sought after Neve modules have large, expensive power supplies, plenty of transformers, and build quality of impeccable craftsmanship. You will also notice that these Neve consoles have a far simpler layout and less options than the later generation Neve V Series, SSLs, and the like. Generally, a very well-implemented, simple gain path will always out perform a complex one – and negates the need for further processing.
Bryan Martin owns Sonosphere Mastering. Over his 20+ year career he has worked with David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright, Max Roach, Run DMC, and White Zombie. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.sonosphere.ca.