Over the many years I’ve been in this business, I have always made it one of my tasks to study all the different types of approaches, technologies and design philosophies we find in hi-fi products.

When I look at some high-end designs I find they are very complex and at various points in recent history I have spend a lot of time listening to such devices. Of course, I always optimise the system to get the most out of it (with lots of Vertex), but what I usually find in the end, when I have spent many days going through all sorts of tweaking and music, is that I feel a little deprived of deep musical satisfaction.

Do the same with a relatively simple component and the end result is invariably reversed. Now, some simple equipment might not come up to the mark, I’m discounting anything that has silly design flaws, but take a component where its designer has chosen simplicity over complexity and balanced the issues of component quality, casework quality, power supply quality etc and I believe you are likely to have a more satisfying piece of hi-fi.

I now believe that complexity of design is like a systematic fault in its own right. Lots of processing and algorithms in digital components, or complex gain stages with lots of feedback in amplifiers, and complex control systems too – all these seem to lower the actual musical properties of the device. If you then use a chain of such devices right through a system, you can end up with a constant failure of the system to communicate musical emotion.

Now it might be that initially, such a system sounds balanced, transparent and impressive in hi-fi terms, and certainly the application of Vertex gear can really lift its performance. But with all the various bits of kit I have tested, this ‘complexity truth’ comes back in a very simple way – as I chop and change components, experiment with the development of more vertex equipment and so-on, I migrate away from using the complex designs and come back, again and again, to using the simple designs. High feedback, switch mode power supplies, speakers with complex crossovers, DACs with upsampling/oversampling and so-on – these features always slowly extract themselves from my system!

How does this almost sub-concious process come about? Quite simply really – I like to enjoy my music primarily on an artistic and emotional level and after a while, with simpler gear in place, the grin comes back – and I know.

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