Audio Distortion Fallacies


Premise:  All distortion in audio systems is detrimental to the ultimate goal of hearing a transparent reproduction of the recorded performance.

False:  An audio system can never achieve transparent levels of reproduction.

There are different levels of improvement possible in audio systems including:

                             From rotten to mediocre

                             From mediocre to above average

                             From above average to performance transparent

              Audiophiles universally seek the last of the above three and the reason is clear.  Without performance transparency one is listening to a representative but veiled perception of the performance.  The veil is subtractive of the pleasure and enjoyment which the original performance offers.

              The right equipment can and does reproduce performance transparency.  That is found most easily with equipment makers and dealers having the most knowledge in the areas of the science and engineering of audio componentry, the art of musicality and the sound of real instruments, and particular audio components which provide this performance transparency.

              Thousands will claim that such and such product is the best, but the most experienced and competent reviewers and dealers offer the most reliable information.  The listener will audition such recommended products and make his mental confirmation or won’t.  The best dealer will put the right products in audition before the audiophile.


False: Balancing the distortions of various audio components provides proper system symmetry.

              Distortion in any part of an audio system is detrimental to the listening experience.  The “advantages” of second harmonic distortion being added in for example to provide richness is therefore suspect, unless the improvement under analysis is not in actuality distortion but greater signal accuracy.  Also, electronics with glare or excessive upper frequency edge are not best dealt with by inserting speakers will rolled off high frequencies.  Exacerbating a problem obviously makes the end result worse, in this case layering distortions and increasing the veil upon the performance.


False: A performance transparent audio system makes lesser recordings sound worse.

              You may have expected the above statement to be true, but here is why it is false.  Recordings are all best represented by an audio system which reveals real and natural tones and timbres. A transparent system does that.  Does a transparent system reveal the deficiencies of a particular recording?  Yes, but harshness and thinness attributed to a recording is often the harshness and thinness of the audio system.  A transparent system with minimal distortion makes recordings sound better.


False: Many are the transparent audio components to be found and easy is the task.

              The task is easy if you look for gold in the right mine.  Remember the qualifications of the best equipment provider:  knowledge in the areas of the science and engineering of audio componentry, the art of musicality and the sound of real instruments, and particular audio components which provide this performance transparency.  Here at At Home Theatre Designs our two channel customers are building their systems into some of the best available and for less cost than such transparency usually entails.

              Upgrading to new equipment is always fun, but it is better to upgrade to something with long term satisfaction levels included.  Then upgrades don’t arise from the frustration of poor listening experiences but from genuine advancements which will add to listening pleasure already being experienced.  Sideways changes in a system don’t really make much improvement, mediocre stays mediocre, above average becomes above average.  Upgrading, as the word implies, moves a system to performance transparency.


False:  Not all parts of a system are as important to performance transparency.

              Preconceived notions about the lack of efficacy of our recommended Clarus Crimson power cables and interconnects have universally fallen to the floor when audition is actually performed.  Required though is an otherwise transparent system because other distortions in place muddy and distort the analysis for improvement.  A transparent system will easily reveal the advantages of the cables.  Also DAC, preamp, amp, and line conditioner need to provide performance transparency.

              A good illustration is from Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound in his book The Complete Guide to High-End Audio:



What we provide:

              We will guide you to products like Revel and KEF speakers, Mark Levinson, Cary Audio, and Marantz Reference electronics, Clarus Crimson cabling, and Audience line conditioners.  This is the way to performance transparency.


David Wilbanks COO


Lake St. Louis, MO