Back in the mid/late ‘80s, Honda produced engines for all-conquering Formula 1 cars, superior to the competition in terms of technology and performance and astonishingly successful on the track. Shortly afterwards they produced an all-new version of their compact hatch-back, the Civic, including a ‘performance’ version dubbed the Si, which went head-to-head with the likes of the highly regarded Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 205 GTIs. Now, the Civic Si sported a VTEC engine ‘derived from’ and with the same cubic capacity as the Formula 1 power units. It had four wheels and a fifth for steering – just like the World Championship winning Williams FW11. But is anybody really going to suggest that the Civic Si is a scaled down Formula 1 car or that any technological or physical similarities are pertinent to understanding its ethos? Much more relevant is its world-view. Yes, the Si was a performance-orientated, hot-hatch model – but along the way it also had to accommodate the wife, kids and shopping, make do with four cylinders rather than six and fuel injection rather than a turbo-charger, run on stock tires and take standard unleaded fuel. The question wasn’t, how much of the FW11 do you get when you buy a Civic Si; it was, is the Civic Si the best hot-hatch?
Listening to the Trio G3 when it’s on song is a genuinely unforgettable experience. But in approaching the Uno SD, that’s exactly what you need to do – forget the performance of the Trio. Instead, appreciate that this is the same technology, the same engineering and the same thinking applied to a smaller package to be used in smaller rooms and at a smaller price-tag. That’s when the Uno SD starts to make sense. That’s when you start to realise that, in its own way and its own world, the Uno is just as potent and forthright as its bigger brethren. It offers its own balance of musical virtues and its own appeal. It doesn’t need to trade on the reputation of the company’s bigger, more expensive models. It’s quite capable of making its own case – and doing so convincingly!
Buy now – pay later…
We see examples of trickle down thinking throughout audio – along with examples of trickle down marketing. In its simplest form it might be the adoption of a given output tube or DAC chip, the same essential device as used in a higher-priced or flagship model. This ‘silver-bullet’ approach to audio marketing has never made sense, despite its conspicuous success. The idea that because an amplifier uses 300B or KT150 output tubes, that implies inherent characteristics or denotes a certain quality is utterly nonsensical, ignoring the small matters of input circuitry, driver topology, output topology and power supply (amongst others). Likewise, the fact that a DAC employs a given chipset, or up-sampling is in itself almost meaningless. Beyond the small question of how many DAC chips are used and in what configuration, there are so many other ways to screw up a digital product, that hanging its performance on a single component or processing decision makes even less sense than ‘buying by the bottle’ – surely the tube equivalent of drinking by the label.