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“Why 0.01% Distortion Sometimes Matters and 30% Often Doesn’t”

Audio engineer Steve Dove will present a session challenging conventional wisdom

Steve Dove bears the title minister of algorithms for Wheatstone. The audio engineer will present a session with the title shown above at the spring NAB Show.

Last year at the Broadcast Engineering Conference, he said, Dove made a rather contrary comment that “the simpler the system, the more complex its behavior.” This year’s discussion uses arguably the simplest practical audio system, a one-stage power amplifier, as a vehicle to highlight types and degrees of distortion and their sonic effects and audibility.

“Along the way,” he wrote in an email, “it became plain that all was not well with conventional wisdom.” He listed examples of such wisdom: “All odd-order harmonic distortion products are dissonant? Nope. Even-order harmonics make things sound warm? Nope. Thirty percent distortion of anything will be blindingly obvious? Nope. Not in context. Maybe not even 50 percent. Technically perfect always means better sounding? Totally nope. Better sounding always means it’s better, period? Still nope. Negative feedback makes everything better? Oh, nope.”

Dove also says many “truths” are indeed true but not for the expected reasons. He promises to expose “a minefield of completely wrong assumptions, abounding flailing contradictions and many common misattributions of effects — things being hung on something else entirely.”

His session is Sunday afternoon of the NAB Show in the BEITC.

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