People are attuned to symmetry. There’s just something pleasing for us when two sides of an object mirror each other. Bilateral symmetry occurs often in the natural world, which may help explain this preference. We expect a butterfly’s wings to “reflect” each other along the axis of its body; and If they don’t line up perfectly, we may feel like something’s off…as if an imbalance indicates a defect of some kind. Consider symmetry in other areas, like math. Do we find it easier to count by 9s or by 10s? Or to divide 100 or 103? Inherently, we seem to be attracted to evenness, and off-put by oddness.
This same inclination toward symmetry also applies within the pro AV industry. How often do you encounter an input or output expander with an uneven number of connections? There are notable exceptions (like microphones), but for some reason, it’s easier for us to accept if “something” comes in a unit of one than in threes, fives, or sevens.
Another major reason behind AV symmetry? The fact that we have two ears, which results in a strong bias toward sound equality. If a powerful audio source is off to one side, we naturally face toward or away from it to allow each ear to hear it equally. Try holding a conversation with just one side of your head facing the speaker. You’ll likely find it more difficult than chatting face-to-face because your brain wants to compensate for the audio delay, making it harder to concentrate.
Even within product specifications we appreciate symmetry. Which seem more appealing: an amplifier that delivers up to 1000 watts per channel, or one that goes to 993? I would bet most of us gravitate toward the round number. For whatever reason, they’re just easier on our brains.
But for some problems, there’s no better solution than asymmetry. Take implementing sound reinforcement in larger spaces, a scenario where asymmetric power delivery reigns supreme. A wide variety of speakers can and will be used in these environs, with a corresponding variety of SPLs, impedance, etc. This means amplifier flexibility – in power delivery, impedance selection, and even topology support – is critical. System designers are keen to use as few amps and amp models as possible given the slim profit margins on many jobs.
Most amplifiers that support asymmetry do so at a cost, either in terms of channel count or power loss. For example, your symmetric four channel amp might become an asymmetric three channel amp, or you lose 4-8% of the overall power bank when asymmetry is activated. The good news for system designers is Biamp is now shipping its TesiraXEL line of asymmetric amplifiers. The 1200.1 model has a total wattage of 1200W, the 1200.2 provides 2400W, and both are 100% asymmetric; no power or channel loss will occur if you need asymmetric power delivery. With out-of-the-box support for 802.1X authentication, an audible Locate feature to validate speaker runs, and more, I highly encourage reaching out to your Biamp salesperson for a demo.
While we may naturally be drawn to balance, don’t underestimate the power of asymmetry. Our TesiraXEL amplifiers are a testament to appreciating the odds. They’re truly a thing of beauty.