"I was impressed by the concept underlying the Vinnie Rossi LIO, and its physical execution is stunning. But other than the RVC, moving-magnet Phonostage, and Digital modules, all of which offered good to excellent measured performance, there are problems with the other modules that bothered me. Of course, the benefit of the approach adopted by Vinnie Rossi with the LIO is that he can introduce running improvements to individual modules without requiring the owner replace the entire chassis.—John Atkinson"
There were certainly some things from John Aktinson's measurements section that puzzled me:
I did get to the bottom of why when he used the RCL module the loading was not measuring the load correctly - we forgot to install two jumpers on that board that are supposed to be installed after programming it.
I certainly did not want to get into a back n' forth with JA as I see some manufacturers do. And I definitely do not
make all my design decisions based solely on measurement. For example, the LIO Phonostage originally did not use step-up transformers (SUTs) for the MC input stage. We started out using JFETs, but after playing with SUTs in another prototype design, I much preferred the sound using them over the JFET MC input stage. The JFET input stage definitely measured better (using test tones), but with continued *listening* using all kinds of music
, I could not go back to the JFET input stage (and it was pretty good!).
The same can be said with regards to the LIO Tubestage. If I just wanted the best possible benchtop measurements using test tones, I would not have even offered it as an option. When evaluating it by ear listening to music, it is a whole other story! The same with AVC vs RVC (the transformer in the AVC seems to cause some ultrasonic boost on the freq. response curve), but I'll choose the AVC any day for listening to music.... actually, make that the AVC/Tubestage!
Overall, I was not surprised to see that JA was "bothered" by some measurements. But for me (other than the RCL not working as it should per missing the jumpers, which was my mistake for not catching) they did not bother me or take away from all the positive listening impressions that Herb mentioned in the review, and so many other of our customers and other reviewers have reported on - these are much more important to me than what anyone measures on a test bench. Again, I measure as I go along with my prototypes, but I do ALL of my final design decisions based on listening, even if they end up sounding better to me but measuring worse. For me, it's all about how a design communicates the music. I personally do not care how well something measures - if I don't like how it sounds, I will not go through with it as a product offering. On so many levels, music is far more complex than test tones and measurement. Music (like art) transcends measurement - it always will. Those who do not agree with me on this (the "measurements are everything" crowd) *might* want to look elsewhere when choosing their next audio component, as I have heard of some manufacturers that mostly, if not entirely, based their designs on measurement - not listening to music.
Horses for courses.