Posted on Sun 30 October 2016

technical escalation

The purpose of an advertisement is to plant the idea in your head that you need or want some thing that can be purchased.

Having lived in such a society for a few decades, my now-instinctive reaction to a successful advertisement is to assume that I might want a thing, but I am unlikely to want the particular thing being advertised. It’s a skepticism born of repeated disappointments. The Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs taste like sweet cardboard, and eating four boxes to get the coupons to send away with $24 results in a propellor beanie which is notable for its lack of thrust, or indeed motion, or at least motion unrelated to the incessant twitching derived from the sugar rush. (Thanks, Bill Watterson.) There are entire catalogs which specialize in items that can be carefully described to sound a whole lot better than they actually are. In the 1980s there was one which liked to sell $700 PCs for $1100, on sale from $2499 (original list price, as of three years ago) and bundled with $5000 in free software.

These days I am nudged towards things. Massdrop offers me a tiny class-D stereo amplifier for $70. Is it worth it? I google amazon. There are a bunch of similar amps, offering identical features, at prices ranging from $20 less (but in need of a DC power supply, about $15) to $30 more (including a power supply and a Bluetooth audio input.) How good are these things, really? I get a spec sheet for the chip and discover that the nominal 50W per channel is really 40W per channel into real speakers, and suffers a huge 10% distortion… but at 30W per channel, it’s basically non-existent distortion. The specs are, in fact, nearly fabulous if you never push the volume knob too high.

But at $100 you can get an actual, new, (2 years in a warehouse, but full original warranty) Yamaha stereo amp. It’s much bigger and less efficient, but Yamaha consistently makes good-sounding equipment. The Yamaha guarantees 100W per channel with the same lack of distortion that the no-name amp can only get up to 30W. If you push the volume up all the way, in fact, Yamaha tells you that you can get 140 W with the same 10% distortion on the no-name’s 40W. Clean power isn’t everything, but is a very large portion of an amplifier’s job.

Note that I have now talked myself up from $70 to $100. Well, $110. It’s not exactly a doubling in price, but once you add a $25 Bluetooth input, I’m pretty much there. Now I need to consult my will-power to see how much I want this versus money in my pocket.

I guess advertising works… but not necessarily on behalf of the one doing the advertising.


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