I thought I'd weigh in here. I know I won't convert anyone who thinks we're a bunch of ancient mouthbreathers slumped over their Tek 465s, shaking our canes at these "newfangled objective youngsters," but I did want to address a few things:
1. Why did the Asgard and Lyr not have relay protection when we first launched? I've explained this before. When we started the company two years ago, we assumed we were building the highest-possible sonic performance products for an audience looking for the same, and who knew that this could involve taking some precautions. It's very common in megabuck gear to have a "turn on sequence," for example, where if you turn on the preamp after the power amp, you might be looking at voice coils. I'm not saying this is right, I'm just saying this is how it is. Now, we understand clearly that we have to provide reasonable protection. It's why we added time-delayed startup and fast shutdown relays on Asgard and Lyr, why we offered retrofits for people who want them (for free), and it's why we created one of the most sophisticated protection systems available for Mjolnir--time-delay relay mute, coupled with DC and overcurrent sensing. Any fault lifts the outputs.
2. Why do we have a distaste for negative feedback and op-amps? I think you might need to look at the kind of statements we make. This is a statement of fact: "We make amps without overall negative feedback." This, however, is a value judgement: "We make amps without feedback because we think all feedback is poopie." First, we don't make value judgements. We don't comment on competitive equipment, we don't call people names in public or private, we don't tear down other manufacturers or their approaches to product design. That's just how we operate. We make no-feedback amps. We make things in the USA. We typically use simple, fully discrete topologies. We use tubes in some applications. We like to pursue alternate topologies, especially in the headphone amp realm, where the power requirements are very low and invite experimentation. These are all statements of fact. But, bottom line, if someone can make an amp with 100dB of negative feedback and a Class-B output stage sound good, that's cool! More power to them. It's just not what we do.
3. Ears versus instruments. Yes, we listen to our products, and we believe this is a valuable part of the design process. I understand some people believe differently. That's cool. You can save a ton of money and angst in your quest for perfection if you simply purchase by measurements. To us, both instruments and ears are important. On my bench, the Stanford SR1 is one of my most-used pieces of gear. Same with Mike (he has the uber-low-jitter model, I have the analog-leaning one.) They're invaluable for finding out what's wrong with an early design and tweaking it for best performance. And it's not like this is new. Since the Theta days, Mike and I have invested heavily in test gear, from Stanford spectrum analyzers to interval counters for jitter. The reason we haven't talked about measurements very much is that they can easily turn into a game of pointless specsmanship (hey, I have -120dB signal to noise, how could you ever get by with -118db!)
4. Black and white and audio answers. To us, there's less black and white as time goes on. When I started designing audio gear, I was very much a meter reader and specs-hawk. And I have designed plenty of high-performing products by objective measure, including all the Sumo amps (which still used only moderate amounts of loop feedback, coupled with a Hawksford-style error correction system for the MOSFET output stage), and the analog output stage of the Theta DS Pro Gen V. The Gen V was an interesting case, because the Theta DS Pros before the V used (very expensive) op-amp I/V conversion. Mike believed it was the best way to go. I told him, "I can make a discrete I/V with better performance, any way you want to measure." He took me up on the challenge, and I designed a true current-input, very low impedance discrete I/V that measured better than the op-amp (10x less bounce at the summing junction for current input, and 20% lower overall THD with lower overall feedback.) Op-amps don't allow you to directly access a low-impedance input (such as paralleled emitters of a complementary discrete input,) so this is one case where, objectively, the best solution is discrete. As time goes on, things become less black and white for us. Maybe that means we're getting old and losing our grip on reality. Or maybe it's a case of having more years of perspective.
Again, I'm not here to convert anyone, nor do I think this will have any effect on anyone who thinks we have slighted them, or their beliefs. But I did want to at least have a voice.
All the best,