Quiet's the new loud

Audible Illusions Modulus 3A Stereo Tube Preamplifier

Low level listening is an acquired taste, but I think it’s an important exercise for the aspiring audiophile.

If you’ve ever taken time to understand the Fletcher-Munson loudness curves, you know that our hearing frequency balance changes as the volume of sound increases or decreases.

It’s the reason for the old “loudness” button on receivers — the idea is that at low volume you would press the button to lift the treble and bass frequencies slightly so that the music sounds the same as it does at high volume.

Of course, none of us ever used it properly — in most cases it was an EQ boost. The feature was mostly housed in a receiver, so mid-fi sound could be brought a touch closer to the high end, just with a press of the sweet little loudness button.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because a speaker designer takes this knowledge to heart. There are some major decisions in the timeline of a speaker design that are made to facilitate either excellent balance at low volume or excellent balance at high volume.

For example, an extra touch of 6K or so in a speaker’s crossover can make low level listening a more palpable experience. However, at the same time, a good amplifier or preamplifier shouldn’t need a loudness button when paired with neutral speakers. And speakers shouldn’t really be better at low or high volume — they should be balanced for all.

Aha!, you say. Contradiction! Well, sort of. In this masochistic hobby, as they say, “everything matters.” Speakers play a role in “loudness,” components do, and so does the recording process of the music and even the age of strings used on instruments.

When I come across a component like this Audible Illusions Modulus 3A tube preamplifier, which seems to be dynamic and exciting at all volumes, it makes me scratch my head over all of the effort I’ve put in to dial in the “loudness” balance of my speakers perfectly.

This preamplifier was conceived in the mid nineties, according to the circuit board, and it betters more than three-quarters of all of the preamplifiers I’ve ever heard in my life. Period.

Join me and revel in the abilities of your system when the music reaches out and grabs you and earplugs or shut doors aren’t needed.

Is your stereo’s sound uninviting at low volumes? Time to take a look at this and many other components we have at TMR just waiting for a turn in your system.


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