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The Carver / Stereophile Magazine Challenge

(Our thanks to Wikipedia excerpted from Wikipedia in order to maintain some level of objectivity)

Carver caused a stir in the industry in the mid-1980s when he challenged two high-end audio magazines to give him any audio amplifier at any price, and he’d duplicate its sound in one of his lower cost (and usually much more powerful) designs.

In 1985, Stereophile magazine challenged Bob to copy a Conrad-Johnson Premier Five (the make and model was not named then, but revealed later) amplifier at their offices in New Mexico within 48 hours. The Conrad Johnson amplifiers were one of the most highly regarded amplifiers of the day, costing in excess of $6,000 a pair.

Of note that … the challenging amplifier could only be treated as a “black box” and could not even have its lid removed. Nevertheless, Carver, using null difference testing, (null difference testing consists of driving two different amplifiers with identical signal sources and exact levels, but out of phase by exactly 180 degrees.

If the amplifiers were 100% identical, no sound would be heard. If sound was heard, the audio amps had different properties). Bob Carver used "distortion pots" to introduce amplifier characteristics, fine-tuned to null-out any sound differences.

His "motel-room" modified amplifier sound was so similar, Stereophile Magazine editors could not tell the difference between his amplifier and one costing more than $6,000. This amplifier was marketed as the M1.0t for about $400.00. Bob Carver may have single-handedly debunked any number of theories about sound quality by using physics, blind and double-blind testing and unbiased measurements (such as "gold-plated speaker wires sound better than copper wires", etc.).


Carver successfully copied the sound of the target amplifier and won the challenge. The Stereophile employees failed to pass a single blind test with their own equipment in their own listening room. He marketed “t” versions of his amplifiers incorporating the sound of the Mark Levinson and Conrad Johnson designs which caused him some criticism by those who failed to understand the true nature of the challenge — that it was possible to duplicate an audio amplifier's sound in two completely dissimilar designs.


In light of this criticism, Carver went on to design the Silver Seven, the most expensive and esoteric conventional amplifier up to that time.

Carver M1.0t. Power output: 350 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo); Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz; Total harmonic distortion: 0.1%; Signal to noise ratio: 100dB; Dimensions: 3.5 x 19 x 10.5 inches; Weight: 16lbs

This is a hazy copy of a copy of the original color photo used in promotional materials. The preparer of this web site fondly remembers that photo shoot.

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