OePhi Reference 3.5 Loudspeakers OePhi Reference 3.5 Loudspeakers

The OePhi Philosophy

Understand the principles behind the brand

The Art and Science of Not Making a Sound

At OePhi we believe that real music replay equipment should neither edit nor modify the signal, but simply pass through the music as faithfully and honestly as possible. While this is a claim many HiFi manufacturers ascribe to, we find that we represent a more fundamental approach that we feel is necessary to ensure true long-term musical enjoyment.

This document describes OePhi’s design philosophy, focusing on how we view the art of enhancing musical enjoyment through the science of understanding sound, and finding solutions to minimise any negative impacts on music replay. By detailing our approach, we wish to offer a pedagogical guide for understanding where we are coming from, what we try to achieve and ultimately for you to better assess whether our way of doing so could be the right one for you.

As a first step, we need to make clear some fundamental principles for audio replay that condition our approach to audio design.

Principle 1: Nothing can improve the signal.

Conversely, any entity that interacts with the signal will (unavoidably) degrade it. This follows that it is our conviction that the truest obligation of audio designers should be to seek the least audible impact of any and all stages of the replay chain.

Principle 2: Lost information can never be restored.

It is not possible to bring back lost information. This means that signal integrity has to be preserved as much as possible throughout the playback chain. The earlier the better, since signal modifications early in the chain will multiply at later stages which will not only affect the signal, but also its added distortion artefacts, which will then multiply through each successive stage in the chain.

Principle 3: Design comes before materials.

A good design will make the most of the materials being used. But better materials cannot solve inherent design constraints. For instance, a well-designed loudspeaker crossover can be improved with better crossover components, but better crossover components can never make up for limitations in the crossover design. Similarly, audio cables’ fundamental electrical properties are given by their geometrical design. Better insulation and conducting materials may affect these properties, but they will never be able to move beyond the basic limitations given by the electrical parameters i.e. the cable’s filter properties.

Principle 4: No sound is non-essentialist.

Bear with the philosophical underpinnings of this one – its consequences are indeed very practical. It says that well-designed audio products will entail less audibility. Their audible effect on a system is instead a consequence of the increased audibility of the other components in the replay chain. Because the ability to produce ‘no sound’ is fundamentally non-essential – meaning that it is not an attribute that relies on its own independent reality – its manifestations are relational, i.e., detectable only through the complex interactions of a replay system, not as an isolated, discrete entity measured in a laboratory test.

In practice, this means that we cannot insert or change one component in a replay chain and make conclusions about the sound of that component based on that change alone. Rather, we have to make multiple changes and carefully monitor which audible changes (effects) follow which components (variables). This demonstrates which variables (components) have more pronounced audible effects (inherent sound) and which components are truly transparent and simply increase the audibility of other components.

Principle 5: Sound is cumulative and subtractive.

As different stages of the signal chain add, subtract or modify the signal in different ways, the resulting sound is not only a sum of all the parts but also an accumulation of all the combined limitations as they successively add to one another. What has been lost at one stage cannot be regained at another, but only sought compensated by sacrificing something else in the signal with a worsening of the overall signal integrity as a result. The practical implication is that ‘voicing’ or ‘balancing’ of the sound should be avoided as much as possible due to its further degradation of the signal. It is always better to start by identifying the root cause(s) of the sound and its limitations and target the solutions on how to mitigate these. Should you want to change the sound, then do it as early in the chain as possible, because this will have the most fundamental impact from a single isolated change. By limiting the change to only one variable, it will be easier to assess the result and to potentially change it later if you should change your position. In other words, find the source(s) you like the best (variable), and keep the rest of the chain as transparent as possible (non-variable).

Principle 6: Physics care not for money.

While money may allow more freedom in design and material choices, it changes neither how physical systems behave nor how we should design solutions. From a designer’s perspective, this means that we should strive for developing the most optimal solutions, which again is conditioned by how we understand the problem to be solved. As a result, if we just understand the problems better, we can design much better performing products without increasing manufacturing costs. From a customer’s perspective, this means that spending more is no guarantee for better performance. Products should be evaluated purely on the basis of their performance, not on the basis of their price tag.

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