Large components = fat sound?

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Large components = fat sound?

Post by Mr.Kus » Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:50 pm

Just came across this statement:
"The sound quality, simply put 5U and large format modules tend to sound a lot bigger and fatter than their smaller counterparts, this is because of larger, better quality components, which provide a superior sonics and a better overall sound."
https://www.kmraudio.com/products/synth ... 5u-modular

I've no expertise on the subject, but I find it hard to believe that the size of the components has much to do with the fatness of the sounds that the modules from different systems produce. Does the bigger components produce bigger sounds, and if they do why?

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Datum
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Datum » Fri Jun 05, 2020 6:19 pm

That sounds like some marketing nonsense. I'm no electrical engineer but a lot of the 5U modules I've seen use the same components as their eurorack counterparts just with a different faceplate and knob layout. I mean, it's electricity. It doesn't care about how big the components are. Does SMD sound different than through hole? Nope.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I call BS.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Parnelli » Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:29 pm

I call BS too.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by mskala » Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:29 pm

The most charitable interpretation I can put on it is that for a few components that are of a mechanical nature, large size can be beneficial. For instance, potentiometers - if you have space to use a larger pot, then you can use one that may have a smoother feel, or put a better knob on it, or similar. Bigger connectors may connect more solidly. Thicker wire may have less voltage drop (important in some parts of the power system). But the quoted text from the kmraudio page is baloney.
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Dave Peck » Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:40 pm

mskala is correct. I'm a huge MU format fan and I generally don't enjoy using Euro format modulars but that quote from KMR is nonsense.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Blairio » Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:46 pm

I don't know about larger components making a fatter sound, but doesn't 5U operate at a higher voltage than Eurorack? 15 volts for 5U, as opposed to 12 for Eurorack. I guess that could account for a beefier sound?

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by B0bcat » Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:06 pm

Charitable interpretation is that they emphasize the “better quality component” part of their statement implies better sound.
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by DigitalNativeDunce » Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:13 pm

wait until this guy finds out about the sorcery of the mysterious 'EQ'!

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Sinamsis » Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:17 pm

Blairio wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:46 pm
I don't know about larger components making a fatter sound, but doesn't 5U operate at a higher voltage than Eurorack? 15 volts for 5U, as opposed to 12 for Eurorack. I guess that could account for a beefier sound?
Yes it does. And maybe though I doubt it. My understanding is higher voltage ranges provide more headroom. Otherwise a resistor or a cap are the same SMT or through hole. So that’s bullshit. Perhaps tolerances can be different. But you probably could spec out components identically. There might be sonic value in having a synth built of discrete components. Even this I am unsure of. It probably does make servicing it easier. But the notion that an electronic circuit is better because it’s bigger is laughable. Now in terms of ergonomics it’s hard to argue. If that matters is up to the user. I recently sold off quite of bit of my eurorack to build a Serge system. I felt I was getting overwhelmed with options and needed something more defined. And I got sick of how cramped things were with euro and wanted something a little bit more spaced out. 4U seems about right for me. 5U seems to be inefficient in terms of space. Almost to decadent. But that’s up to the user. And I still have an s load of euro haha.

Btw a lot of euro kits are through hole so there’s still plenty of through hole in eurorack. And Random Source seems to be transitioning from through hole to mostly SMT boards even on their DIY and this is under the guidance of Serge T himself. Ha I suspect he knows a thing or two about that and it seems SMT is good enough for him.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Sinamsis » Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:40 pm

Sinamsis wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:17 pm
Blairio wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:46 pm
I don't know about larger components making a fatter sound, but doesn't 5U operate at a higher voltage than Eurorack? 15 volts for 5U, as opposed to 12 for Eurorack. I guess that could account for a beefier sound?
Yes it does. And maybe though I doubt it. My understanding is higher voltage ranges provide more headroom. Otherwise a resistor or a cap are the same SMT or through hole. So that’s bullshit. Perhaps tolerances can be different. But you probably could spec out components identically. There might be sonic value in having a synth built of discrete components. Even this I am unsure of. It probably does make servicing it easier. But the notion that an electronic circuit is better because it’s bigger is laughable. Now in terms of ergonomics it’s hard to argue. If that matters is up to the user. I recently sold off quite of bit of my eurorack to build a Serge system. I felt I was getting overwhelmed with options and needed something more defined. And I got sick of how cramped things were with euro and wanted something a little bit more spaced out. 4U seems about right for me. 5U seems to be inefficient in terms of space. Almost to decadent. But that’s up to the user. And I still have an s load of euro haha.

Btw a lot of euro kits are through hole so there’s still plenty of through hole in eurorack. And Random Source seems to be transitioning from through hole to mostly SMT boards even on their DIY and this is under the guidance of Serge T himself. Ha I suspect he knows a thing or two about that and it seems SMT is good enough for him.

Oh there is one caveat here but I’m sure that’s not what they’re talking about. Not all capacitors are equal in the audio chain. There are different types of capacitors and they can impart different qualities. Not to mention vintage equipment where they have aged. A recent example for me was the Serge resonant eq. Most components were SMT. But most caps for the different bands were through hole. They did place SMT caps for the hard to find ones but I spent a decent amount (compared to the readily available ones) tracking down through hole NOS equivalents. I’m going to swap them out and see if there is much of an appreciable difference. Even with the SMT caps the thing sounds beastly.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by beepnsleep » Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:46 pm

AFAIK the main difference between through hole and SMT is serviceability. larger components mean you can fit something with higher voltage or power capacity, but that shouldn't matter much once you have components that won't blow in your circuit conditions. sounds like some marketing BS

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Pelsea » Fri Jun 05, 2020 9:45 pm

I have 5k$ worth of electronics sitting my ears*. Among other things, they can play my iPad sounds via Bluetooth. The portion of the sound spectrum I can actually hear that way is excellent, especially the low end. I doubt the electronics involved are much bigger than the head of a pin.

*Too much contrabassoon in my youth.
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by teleport » Fri Jun 05, 2020 10:09 pm

There are two main areas where size matters in electronics - current ratings and high frequency applications (way way higher than anything synth related). Consider a resistor as a three dimensional solid - for a given current flowing through that volume a certain amount of heat is produced, in a smaller part that same heat is concentrated in less material, which is why 1-watt resistors are giant compared to 1/8th watt parts of the same resistance value. Since we're talking audio - power handling isn't generally a big part of the equation, though some designs may make use of larger currents for specific reasons.

Yes, supply voltage ranges can make a difference in the analog behavior of circuits - because real-world components have some degree of non-linear relationship to voltage - albeit in the case of passives it should be a vanishingly small one, (MLCC/ceramic capacitors are a notable exception - they often have significant de-rating factors). (One of the lesser acknowledged elements in circuit design are thermal time-constants - basically energy fluctuations that occur due to the absorption and dissipation of heat in the electronic materials. (Fortunately semiconductor designers do a lot of hard work so most of us never have to worry about these kinds of things)).

There definitely are important differences between SMD and TH parts that analog designers should be aware of - it's not a matter of one technology being superior than the other - but there are subtle difference that might favor one or the other in very specific circumstances, almost always though the general product design drivers will dominate that decision. There is a bit of pro-through-hole marketing silliness floating around these days - smells a lot like silly audiophile woo, (don't fall for it).

tl/dr - like everything in life if you dig into it - it's complicated

All that being as it may - I have a very hard time believing that there is any noticeable difference in the objective fatness of the audio signal that could be attributed specifically to the size of the parts.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Tofupancho » Fri Jun 05, 2020 10:26 pm

It wouldn’t be audio without some snake oil salesmen. You will find very large transformers and tubes hanging off the back of some high end studio gear like the Manley Massive Passive, Retro Sta-Level, etc $2-3,000 per channel stuff. It would be very impractical, but a good tech/maker could put something like that in a eurorack case.

So the old rules still apply. It’s good if it’s good, unless it’s not, in which case it isn’t.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by mskala » Fri Jun 05, 2020 11:25 pm

Something else that shouldn't be forgotten is that on some electrical issues, such as susceptibility to interference, smaller is objectively better. Smaller components closer together make smaller loops to pick up magnetic fields, less stray inductance, and so on. As for "discrete," many analog circuits benefit by having transistors matched in parameters and kept at the same temperature, and that's much easier to achieve if the transistors are built side by side on the same chip. A discrete-transistor exponential converter is going to have a hard time matching the stability of one built with matched transistors sharing a chip, and a discrete-transistor op amp is going to have a hard time matching the offset performance of an IC. For those kinds of circuits, "discrete" shouldn't be a positive selling point. (The discrete op amp thing is especially offensive to me - some people are making a lot of money selling what they openly advertise as an inferior product!)

Remember when CDs were new, digital was considered a good thing, and CDs would have special symbols to tell you how digital they were (just remastered analog recordings, or really digital through the whole signal chain)? Because there was concern about people being misled by recordings that claimed to be digital but were really just analog tapes recorded onto a digital disc; sellers of fully digital music wanted to protect their branding.

As someone who lived among the granola people, I also remember how the health food community went back and forth on whether soybeans are supposed to be good or bad - when I was a kid it was a positive selling point for products to replace other things with soy, we were supposed to eat as much soy as possible, and now it's a dirty word and they have assurances on the labels of being "soy free." We can't escape the march of changing fashions in any domain.
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by MoogProDG » Sat Jun 06, 2020 12:43 am

Lots of interesting theories and analogies going on in here.

The quality of components in any audio circuits signal path does make a difference sonically. The actual sizes of those components vary to accommodate certain factors... usually voltage threshold and the actual material the components are made from being the biggest factors. With that said, “bigger” doesn’t always equate to “better quality” in the component’s design or their use in a circuit.

Below is a picture of a few capacitors that all share the same value but are all made from different types and amounts of material for rated voltage. They don’t make a “sound”, but in certain circuits/placement in said circuits for shared values... say an input cap for a distortion or a filter effect..most of the people reading this thread would be able to hear a difference between each one..good or bad.
66A03308-B168-4613-BFCC-CA2E37177430.jpeg
I won’t comment on how the designer wants to market their products.. but I won’t say the quoted statement in OP is inaccurate. One could maybe argue it’s a little misleading if they have knowledge on the subject. Quality parts and proper employment go a long way in the audio world. More so in higher voltage circuits.. but even in the 9-24v realm, audible differences can be quite noticeable.
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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Mr.Kus » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:16 am

Besides the size, does the quality of the components even correlate that much with the "fatness" of the sound? Usually the "fatness" of analogue sound seems to be attributed to the imperfections in the signal. Of course it can be debatable what's meant by the quality in this context. Maybe good quality components produce just enough imperfections to make it sound fat without sounding noisy?

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by galaxiesmerge » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:30 am

Datum wrote:
Fri Jun 05, 2020 6:19 pm
That sounds like some marketing nonsense. I'm no electrical engineer but a lot of the 5U modules I've seen use the same components as their eurorack counterparts just with a different faceplate and knob layout. I mean, it's electricity. It doesn't care about how big the components are. Does SMD sound different than through hole? Nope.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I call BS.
Well, actually there is a difference. For example, and this example is a trivial but instructive example, a very thin wire, the thickness of a hair (to give you an idea of scale) has very different characteristics to a thick wire (like a coat-hanger thick wire). This is because current travels not inside the wire but mainly on the surface. When the wire is thin, the current has to be much smaller so ambient noise (electromagnetic) has a much larger impact than bigger current on a thick wire.

This also applies to SMT versus discrete transistor circuits: larger circuit area means you spread out the relative noise floor. This happens also in the digital domain: a very large frequency spectrum carries a better signal because, for example, at 384 Kilohertz sampling, even though you only hear 20 Kilohertz the noise statistically spreads out evenly across the remaining 364 Kilohertz compared to sampling at, for example, 44 Kilohertz where the same relative noise has space to spread out in.

The fact is that human hearing is extremely refined and can actually distinguish these qualities.

So yes, this is largely why very high resolution digital (like the Bowen Solaris Synth running at 96 KHz) and the discrete components synthesizers (like the Jupiter-8, SunSyn, Schmidt and CS-80) and the 5U Modular gear generally end up with sound that we find more pleasing.

Not at all obvious but there are good explanations from statistical mechanics, physics and at the level of electrical engineering (from the power-engineering and related disciplines).

This is also a nice property of Tubes and in addition, Tubes have a completely different conductance and operational model to transistors and this physics gives sound a different character. There is no such thing as printing an "SMT" tube onto a circuit due to the physics!!!

Cheers and I hope this helped.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by galaxiesmerge » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:39 am

@mskala
And yes, that horrendous component matching process you mention is just another factor. In the end, for musicality, large components like Tubes have their place as do smaller components like, for example, integrated OTA circuits and others. I have, personally, found that the very-thin Flexi-circuit boards with micro-smt's throughout that you need a microscope to see simply do not seem to have body. Maybe body is not the right word but there is some weird quality of cheapness that comes with these things. Of course, all digital is a different matter. But then digital filters with power-compensation built in no longer sound "analog" - they are way too tame. So it's a design issue.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Paul Perry » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:53 am

To me, this makes as much sense as saying fat musicians = fat sound.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Graham Hinton » Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:31 am

I don't know anything about <insert area of expertise necessary to understand the subject>, BUT <insert irrational claim plucked out of the air>.
So I suppose <insert BS conclusion>.

Feel free to use this formula to confuse any meaningful discussion. Oh, sorry, you already are.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by trentpmcd » Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:53 am

This might be irrelevant, but... Watching videos the 5U/MU often do seem fatter than the Euro so I can see why someone might say they ARE fatter, but I always just attributed it to the fact that a lot of 5u/MU builders and players are trying to recreate a vintage sound, like the sound of a Moog, while Euro builders and users are often trying for something new and different. (Not always,of course) Perhaps someone with both the B. clone modules and,say, Mos-Labs clone modules can tell us if there really is a difference when both are trying for that vintage sound...

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by Sinamsis » Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:11 am

Graham Hinton wrote:
Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:31 am
I don't know anything about <insert area of expertise necessary to understand the subject>, BUT <insert irrational claim plucked out of the air>.
So I suppose <insert BS conclusion>.

Feel free to use this formula to confuse any meaningful discussion. Oh, sorry, you already are.
That’s profoundly insightful, and useful information. Thank you for the feedback.

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by synkrotron » Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:16 am

Yet another entertaining post in the Modular Synth General Discussion forum.

Carry on, don't mind me :)

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Re: Large components = fat sound?

Post by htor » Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:25 am

i like small and thin sounds

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