Systematic Approach – a Definition


For many years now, we have used the expression ‘Systematic Approach’. We use it in discussion with customers and dealers, with the press, at hi-fi shows, and so on. But what are we talking about?

Well here’s our simple definition of its principles and objectives:

The Systematic Approach is a unified way of thinking. It means we consider all the influences on hi-fi performance in an integrated and balanced way. And to do this we need to have real breadth of information, not just a partial story based around individual components. The Systematic Approach draws together the views that a system is both a set of discrete components and a whole entity built into an architectural framework. And it then considers how the system is affected by internal interactions as well as the environmental conditions within which it operates. The Systematic Approach enables us to make logical decisions that will take us in the right direction, towards an effective system performance, and not down the myriad of blind alleys that wait to trap the unwary. The objective is to produce a system with fidelity; where the sound is truly believable and captivating, balance; where you are not trying to trade one fault off against another and resilience; where a system remains stable under varying operating conditions, with all types of program material and over a wide range of volume settings.

And please remember, this ‘complete system’ view includes your room, your mains, your music, your tastes, and also your brain. We all listen to music in surprisingly different ways, subconsciously, and this has a significant bearing on what we need to consider when managing the upgrading process.

The Systematic Approach is very important, but it is also quite complex. It’s complex because the issues of system interaction are complex – please do not be fooled when people say that putting a good hi-fi system together is easy – it is not.

The Problems

And there are 2 main problems for hi-fi that can only be properly tackled by this approach, and these are Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), and microphony. RFI can come from many sources and be present over a huge range of frequencies. At lower frequencies things like poorly maintained electric motors can send significant levels of RFI back down power supplies.

At high frequencies we have a myriad of digital equipment around us, throwing lots of noise onto the mains – and radiating the stuff too. Mobile phones of course are deliberately radiating significant amounts of RF energy. Finally, don’t forget the hi-fi itself, which will generate its own noise.

Microphony is the susceptibility of electronics to produce distortion when vibrated. This vibration might get into your components from the ground (up through the supports), it may be internally generated by devices such as transformers and optical disc transports, or just picked up from high sound pressure levels in your listening room. Transformers constantly send their vibrations around all the mains leads, vibration from speakers is fed back to the amplifier along the speaker leads. And, similar to ground-borne vibration being fed into your system through a stand, it can also be fed into your mains loom through the sockets in your wall. And when we say acoustic or vibrational energy we don’t just mean the obvious low frequency thump of a bass drum, or foot fall. No, we mean vibration at frequencies all the way through the audio range and right through the ultrasonic spectrum too.

The Sound of the Untreated System

It is worth, at this point, describing briefly what a typical system will sound like when its left fully open to the ravages of vibration and RFI. It will sound bright, flat and 2-dimensional, heavier music will be fatiguing (limiting programme choice), bass will be lumpy and untuneful, tonal detail will be limited. Treble will be spitty with no subtlety. Timing will be poor, with different rhythmic elements of music seemingly disjointed. The system will not be transparent, so rather than the speakers and room disappearing, the listener is always aware that the sound is coming in a sense, off the face of the speakers.

Sounds a bit harsh this description perhaps. But ask any of our customers where they think their pre-Vertex system started from, and they’ll pretty much agree with this.

But now we have to go into detail about the real causes of all these problems, and how to properly deal with them. To the right you will see a list of topics. These should be read in order, and they will take the reader right through to hopefully a sound understanding of the whole Systematic Approach theories and practical solutions.

And remember, if you have any questions, please get in contact and ask!