It’s not too great a stretch to see this technological reductionism as an extension of the separation of systems into individual components for reviewing purposes. After all, if we can separate the performance benefits or attributes of an amplifier or cable from the system in which it’s used, why shouldn’t we do the same thing with electrical components or diamond tweeters? The problem is that neither proposition makes any sense. If a component or topology works in one product scenario, you can certainly assume that it might also work in another. But whether the results will be the same or even a scaled down version of the same is anybody’s guess, depending on the context in which it is used and what it too depends on to deliver its potential benefits. Just as that amplifier or cables constitutes one part of a system, so an electrical component is just one part of a product that is also a system – within a system. So yes, better circuitry or better components are a ‘good thing’. But just because they derive from a brand’s flagship product, it doesn’t follow that they will have the same benefits, impact or musical significance further down the range. There are no performance guarantees in audio.
Trickle down is such an attractive idea and carries such suggestive weight that it is almost ubiquitous in audio circles. Yet, just as the ability to build a great €10K or €20K loudspeaker doesn’t mean a company can (necessarily) build a great €50K or €70K loudspeaker, the reverse is also true. Any technology has associated costs and demands that it places on the rest of the ‘system’ in which it is used. Take something that delivers fantastic results in a product at €20K and you might just find that the other elements in the ‘system’ can’t support it at a lower price. 300Bs are great – as long as they have enough circuit driving them and enough power supply driving that. Even if a component or sub-assembly upgrade is cost-neutral, its implications and demands might not be.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that even the Uno – with great slabs of shared technology inherited from the bigger Trio G3 and Duo GT – can’t pull-off the ultimate audio trick, flagship performance on the cheap. The mistake comes if we suggest it does or expect that it will. Instead we should understand – and celebrate where appropriate – products on their own terms and merits. And believe me, the Uno SD delivers plenty to be celebrated. The other side of the coin is what the Uno does share with its bigger brethren – unbelievably exacting demands when it comes to set up. It’s not just that the spherical horns demand a greater degree of left/right symmetry, it’s that they tell you so clearly if they don’t get it. The good news is that they tell you just as clearly when they do. Take the time, put in the effort and you more than reap the musical rewards, but this is all about good old-fashioned care and attention to detail rather than some silver-bullet solution. Audio isn’t simple and trying to simplify it with simplistic concepts ultimately serves no one. Trickle down is real enough – it just doesn’t deliver in the way or to the extent that many would have us (or want to) believe.