Bruce Lee and Our DIY Audio Journey

Our audio journey should mirror Bruce Lee’s experience on his kungfu learning journey.


Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.
After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick.
Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.


When you first approached diy audio, a resistor, a capacitor is just another
component. Then after you have read so much on the Net, tried some in your
circuitry, a resistor/capacitor is more than just that. There’s carbon/metal/tantalum film resistors, constructed foil type, wirewound, non-inductive and so on… For caps, you worry about its dielectric material. Is it teflon? Paper in oil? Polypropylene?…


But when you start accepting that a resistor is just a resistor and a capacitor is just a capacitor; when you begin to look beyond its details and could now see the big picture, that’s when you reach “a higher level”.


You should have enough opinion and experience to know where in the circuit to use what. By that time, you should be exploring the circuitry in greater detail than fussing about the components.


Sure, sound is the sum of every component in the circuitry but to be able to
transcend just looking at components, and going a deeper level, that’s when you have matured as a diyer.


It’s like when you first started diy audio, you are told tube amps sound better than solid state but now you should be able to see that tubes or ss, as long as the circuitry is good, the implementation takes into account
electrical/psychoacoustics consideration, both technologies are capable of great


Remember the fuss started by 47 Labs with its Gaincard amplifier? Many ditched their tube amps for it, just like we lost count the number of folks who prefer Charlize over their amps. (BTW, count how many audio companies offering gainclones these days…)


Who would have thought that LDR volume controls could trounce Transformer Volume Controls in the region of dynamics, transparency and immediacy? Virtues which TVCs should reign supreme?


Why heck who would have believed even a volume control chip implemented ala Beyonce could already outperform TVCs?


Who would have believed a 10W Class T Charlize could out-sung tube amps whose filaments already consume more than 10W?!


So stop carrying your hifi myths. Unlearn what the industry tells you and just rely on your ears.


So tubes or no tubes, LDR or TVC, whichever the route, if it sounds better, than that’s all that matters!




On the other hand, what Bruce Lee is also telling us is that kicks and punches are just one of the elements of his art. There’s more to it than just kicks and punches.


Equally, in audio, there’s more to it than just tubes vs ss in amplifiers. There’s the preamp, the colume control, the DAC, the transport, or the phono stage, the turntable.. Moving downstream, speakers and not forgetting all the cables linking everything together, and the room where the system sits, and our state of mind…


Which means to say, if you focus only one element, say amps, it’s like just
focussing on kicks in martial arts. There will be a glass ceiling on how far you can go.


I’ve come across many diyers who only focus on ONE element of their system but do not go about holistically, to improve the sonics of every gear in his system.


It’s like an amp designer who tells the world he has built the best tube amp in the world but then when you look at the speakers and dac he’s using, you wonder how can he design such an amp…


Imagine this guy who claims he has built the amp to rival the Audio Note Ongaku but in his system he uses Bose mini sats and a $90 dvd player.


I could hear you say “He can’t be serious!” from here!


So what’s the point I want to make here?


Don’t go fussing too much about your audio components.


Approach sonic improvement like the Japanes – kaizen approach which is a
continuous improvement approach by studying every part of the system, then once
done, go through the whole system again.


So say you start with your amp. After improving your amp, focus on your DAC, then your transport, then your speakers etc. Then start all over again from your amp. Each time you improve something, it reveals the pluses and minuses of your system. Flaws obscured by your system’s lower resolution that were not heard before could be highlighted now and thus needs fixing. That piercing highs you heard may not be because of your tweeter, but your amplifier oscillating like crazy.


So you go round and round, in a cycle, improving each element of your system. And not just focus on just kicks.


System building is a dynamic process and continuous improvement is never static. It should be ongoing, it should be enjoyable and you should be having fun!


  1. Jochen April 25, 2009
  2. Anonymous May 4, 2009
  3. Tom May 6, 2009
  4. Benzene May 7, 2009
  5. Anonymous May 8, 2009
  6. seek May 8, 2009
  7. Benzene May 8, 2009
  8. Anonymous May 8, 2009
  9. yeo May 12, 2009
  10. benzene May 12, 2009
  11. adrian chin May 21, 2009
  12. adrian chin May 21, 2009
  13. seek May 22, 2009
  14. Woei Wen June 3, 2009
  15. Jester June 5, 2009
  16. yeo June 16, 2009
  17. Nicholas Chua June 22, 2009
  18. yeo June 26, 2009
  19. kimi October 10, 2009
  20. yeo October 10, 2009
  21. wabun December 8, 2009
  22. yeo January 20, 2010

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