Designing the Arcturus amplifier

Holistic HiFi is dedicated to making amplifiers designed for high quality sound 
Arcturus is the culmination of 3 years development and testing
Arcturus amplifier by Holistic HiFi
It's all about the sound

Amplifiers from Holistic HiFi are designed with one over-riding goal in mind - best possible sound quality. A holistic approach to design, together with top quality electronic engineering and the minimum of compromises are employed to achieve this goal.

Let's face it, the most important thing about an amplifier is how it sounds. In the world of HiFi there are all sorts of claims and myths made for pieces of HiFi equipment - and for cabling too! - but all the words prove meaningless if the resulting equipment doesn't sound brilliant. Some people would argue that an amplifier shouldn't have a sound at all, and should be perfectly transparent to the signal it is amplifying, but anyone who has put two or more amplifiers side-by-side and compared the sound of them will know that this expectation is unrealistic. Amplifiers do impart their own sonic signature to the sound of your HiFi system, and there is no getting away from that fact.

About the designer

Before I tell you about my design approach, first perhaps I should give a little info about my credentials. I have been involved with electronics since building little devices and kits as a child in the 1970's. Things that produced sound were favourites, and by the time I was in my teens I was designing and making my own music synthesiser from scratch. Naturally I had built my own amplifier for my HiFi too, though it was a fairly basic 10W per channel unit. Later my career progressed from an engineering degree and first job at the BBC to freelancing in the broadcast television industry with specialism in systems and projects... but my personal interest in electronics and analogue music synthesisers remained.

Several years ago a friend in the HiFi industry challenged me to improve on the sound of some commercially available HiFi amplifiers. I knew that this would involve considerable time and effort so I resisted for a while, but eventually I found myself wanting to improve the amplifier in my own HiFi system and that's really where this whole development  project started...

Amplifier evaluations

Before and during the evolution of my own amplifier designs I studied and evaluated all sorts of existing designs from the very simple to the complex and sophisticated. I drew on my electronic design knowledge from my days of building music synthesisers and my time at the BBC. I also read reams of theory, some good and some not so good, as well as reading countless amplifier reviews and of course listening to different amplifiers.

One thing I realised quite quickly was that many commercial amplifier designs copied the same old designs with the same old inherent flaws, and they relied on their brand names and a healthy dose of marketing hype to maintain their sales and market presence. It was also clear that commercial amplifier designs were usually seriously constrained by cost considerations, in order that the final products met a desired price point.

Arcturus amplifier with blue LED lighting

Of course, those cost constraints are not unreasonable; most consumer products are designed with a retail price in mind, but this factor always places limitations on the designer.  It was clear to me that I could not completely ignore this last point, so my goal would need to be achieving noticeable sonic improvements atminimal cost.

Amplifier design

During my research and evaluations it became apparent to me that different people have different views on what makes a good amplifier - some say it is all about the circuit design, some say it is all about the output stage, some say it is all about the power supply, or even a particular component such as the transformer or the input capacitors. Of course the truth is that all these factors and many more affect the overall sound quality, and with this realisation in mind I started my holistic approach to amplifier improvements, and later applied that same approach to amplifier circuit design and overall amplifier construction.

Arcturus amplifier heatsink and circuit board

As I mentioned earlier, I began by making improvements to existing commercial amplifiers and as I experimented I discovered which elements provided improvements. My end goals were noticeable sonic improvements in clarity and realism - particularly for human voices and that oh-so-difficult instrument to reproduce electronically, the piano - and also in the soundstage. To achieve this I had some electronic design goals for the amplifier circuitry, principally to minimise noise and distortions and maximise linearity.

Applying my holistic approach to improvements - and recalling the old saying that "The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts" I examined each and every part of the audio power amplifier's design and construction and made improvements wherever I could, while always considering the cost implications of these changes.

After three years of experimenting, evaluating and developing amplifiers, the Arcturus amplifier has emerged as the result. I am not going to claim it is some breakthrough in amplifier design - there have been plenty of those and sadly they are almost always found wanting when it comes to sound quality. What Arcturus offers is an amplifier based on sound electronic engineering principles with a holistic approach to both design and construction; and that results in an amplifier that simply sounds superb.

Arcturus amplifier front view

 To get hold of an Arcturus amplifier for your home please get in touch with me!

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