If it stands or if it crumbles only time will tell

8 June 2009

The Stretta Procedure on Tom Oberheim's revival of the SEM analogue synthesiser:

"The recent introduction of Tom Oberheim's SEM re-issue sparked a spirited debate on the sonic differences between surface mount and through-hole components..."

You have got to be kidding me. No, wait. This is world where Monster Cables is doing good business. I can believe that some 'experts' reckon there is an audible difference based on the way in which you solder components to a printed circuit board.

It's only a matter of time before someone determines that the key to the original SEM's sound is the lead content in the solder – I'm assuming Oberheim is using lead-free solders for the new SEM so that the company gets to sell them in Europe and Japan.

The only real difference - other than the updated specs of the new components on the PCB - is going to be if a surface-mount chip 'tombstones' off the board, giving you an accidentally circuit-bent synth. That's why washing-machine makers didn't use surface-mount components for a long time: the manufacturers worried about the chips being shaken off the board. Given that it's mostly discretes used in the new SEM, as I understand it, I can't see that happening very often, unless you fancy going all Keith Emerson on it.

I need to go find the discussion so I can have a good laugh.


ICW used to say that the audiophiles said they could 'hear' the difference their film caps made.

My view: if you are listening that hard to the system you are not hearing the music. And where would rock n roll be without feedback anyway?

There's a good thread on the Gearslutz forum about that phenomenon - I need to go dig up the link but I think it was carbon resistors in that case. Some swore blind they could hear a difference based just on swapping out some resistors. But, as one of the mastering engineers argued, the effect could have been psychosomatic as one person had done the 'comparison' after having rebuilt the mixing desk. Not exactly double-blind condition.