Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

38 years ago I spent a great deal of money on a good hi-fi system. At its heart was a QUAD 33/303 pre-amp and power amplifier combination.

I have used it every day since then. It has never been serviced or repaired. It simply works, and it sounds as good as it ever did. Which for me is great. I’m still playing the same music on it.

But it’s a measly 30 watt amp. You can break glass and dislodge substantial chunks of masonry with its sound output, but the spec doesn’t lie.

Shortly after I bought it, I saw Japanese-made 120 watt amplifiers at half the price. OK, they didn’t sound anywhere near as good, but just think of all that power!

I listened to a few. Cranked up, they didn’t seem to be any louder than the old QUAD (Little Feat’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor is the benchmark).

Then I discovered the reason. The QUAD’s output was measured as “the closest approach to the original sound” — that is, the clearest and loudest you could go before any distortion was audible.

That was 30 watts. The Japanese, on the other hand, took their 30 watt amplifiers and figured that as they were stereo, the 30 watts should be 60 watts. And forget fidelity of sound, just crank it up as far as it will go. So the 60 watts became 120 watts — there was no volume control as such, simply a distortion intensifier.

Faced with a 30 watt amp and a 120 watt amp, which would you buy? Right. That’s why the average IQ is 100.

Now something similar is happening with cameras. fotoLibra only accepts 8 bit images. The next step up is 16 bit, but few commercial printers can use 16 bit files, and JPEGs can’t be saved as 16 bit.

So we ask for 8 bit images to be uploaded.

Members contact us to say “You won’t accept anything other than 8 bit images? But my camera produces 24 bit images!”

Well yes it does, in the same way that those old Japanese amps pumped out 120 watts. The marketing department of the camera manufacturers have reasoned that if a digital image is a combination of a Red, a Green and a Blue channel, each of those is 8 bits, therefore 8 + 8 + 8 = 24.

And which would you rather buy? A 24 bit camera or an 8 bit camera? Right. You will almost certainly have an 8 bit camera. Unless of course you have an expensive 48 bit camera, in which case you actually have a 16 bit camera — lovely, but you’ll have to convert the images to 8 bit to upload them to fotoLibra.

Going back to those amps for a moment, the Beatles performed using 30 watt Vox AC 30 amps. 30 watts is plenty loud enough for most needs, although Vox did build them special 100 watt amps for their performance out of doors in front of 55,000 fans at Shea Stadium.

Nobody could hear them anyway.


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