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Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Costumes

Costumes, uniforms, and appropriate dress rules are important to most in our society. We expect doctors with stethoscopes, scientists in white lab coats, police in uniform wearing a badge.

We’re all susceptible. I would really struggle with my expectations at a fancy restaurant if the head chef came out in a grimy t-shirt and shorts. Even if it was Thomas Keller.

We like to think we’re above it all.

We’d like not to judge a book by its cover or the importance of a Nobel laureate that doesn’t fit the mental image society has ascribed to them.

And yet, we struggle with that.

I am reminded that some folks look at our group of amazing engineers in their everyday clothing choices—shorts, t-shirts, jeans—and perhaps don’t give them as much credibility as a marketing picture of other high-end audio companies with engineers prancing around in white lab coats. Which, of course, we all intellectually understand is silliness and yet…

Years ago, my friend Matt Polk of Polk Audio was hornswoggled by the company’s then marketing and sales director, my dear friend Sandy Gross (and other suspects), to sport a white lab coat and let him be branded as a genius. Matt struggled with it but eventually capitulated and it formed one of our industry’s most successful marketing campaigns.

Back in those days, we somehow acquired a lifesize cardboard cutout of Matt in his lab coat and at lunch used it as a dartboard. All in good fun.

That was a long time ago, but I doubt our tendency to judge others by their outward appearance hasn’t diminished at all.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Easy isn’t always better

How many times have you gotten advice to take the easy path, the quickest road?

Why paddle upstream?

Unfortunately, the easiest path often nets us the lowest return: snacks vs. real food, receivers vs. separates, driving your car around the block when you could get some exercise.

In my experience, people often mistake simple for easy.

The simplest answer is often the best while the easiest is more often than not a shortcut with returns commensurate with the effort expended.

Like an investment, I think it’s safe to say the results of our efforts and hard work are often reflected in the final outcome. A carefully curated high-end audio system with hand-selected cables and components, set up with meticulous care and understanding, will nearly always outperform even the most highly touted plug-and-play solution.

It might be safe to suggest easy is rarely better.

Taking the time and energy to gain the knowledge of what you’re seeking to achieve and then making the effort to get it right is how the best audio systems in the world come to be recognized.

If you’re reading this post you’re already investing the time and energy to make things better.

Go get ’em!

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Puzzle pieces

Every bit of new information we receive can be viewed as a puzzle piece. Put enough of the puzzle pieces together and suddenly you have a picture of the whole.

Those puzzle pieces are what contribute to an aha! moment. And we all love those aha! moments.

Reading reviews, talking with fellow audiophiles, blog posts, forums all contribute bits and pieces of new information and ideas. And each time we add another information puzzle piece it’s probably a good idea to step back and see if that piece was enough to make the overall picture clearer.

Drip by drip, piece by piece, we accumulate bits of new information on sometimes an hourly basis.

“Aha!” is music to my ears.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Besides stereo electronics and loudspeakers, PS Audio is now making LP’s. Quite a company!!!

Vinyl’s here

It’s been a long slog getting here but, at Octave, we’re finally launching vinyl LP’s. I am over the top excited.

As some of you may know, there are only a couple of excellent vinyl pressing plants in the world and of the one or two of the best, they are back-ordered beyond anything I would have imagined. Lead times of 6 months or more are commonplace.

We waited for the best.

Being patient is not one of my few virtues despite the sage words: “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”.

Part of the deal with vinyl is we’re running a single groove-coated stamper so the run will all be identical (though small). These high-performance 180-gram virgin vinyl stampers are limited to about 500 pressings so that’s what we’ve limited them to. They are also individually numbered so you know where in the batch your copy comes from. If you’re interested in reading about the whole vinyl process, go to either of the two releases and click on the vinyl details page just below the samples of the music.

We sent an announcement out the day before yesterday and nearly half of the run was spoken for, another hundred or so are gone as of yesterday.

The vinyl sound so magical….I mean…wow.

The two we have still available are Gabriel Mervine’s Say Somethin’ and Don Grusin’s Out of Thin Air.

These collector’s item gems won’t be around long.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

It’s all in the translation

For most people, amplification of the musical signal means just that. Taking the original signal as generated by the source and making that signal bigger.

Only, that’s not what happens.

In the same way the energy from your leg pressing a gas pedal is not actually amplified in the movement of an automobile, it would be more correct to think of it as being translated rather than amplified.

Why is this important? Because understanding at a fundamental level that an audio amplifier is a power supply whose output valve is controlled by the input signal shines a bright light on the importance of the valve and the power supply rather than focusing on the input signal.

Going back to our car analogy, we shouldn’t care about the quality of the shoe used to control the gas pedal. Instead, we want to focus on how perfectly the translation of our foot’s instructions is carried out by the car’s drive train.

It’s the translator that we should be focusing on as opposed to harboring the notion we’re somehow preserving tiny signals in their original form.

Thus, we designers must pay strict attention to the power supplies that feed downstream stereo equipment and the responsiveness of the valves used to regulate the flow of their power.

It’s all in the translation.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Audiophile Day

Every single day of the year there are multiple celebrations of every imaginable topic.  In fact, this month there are more celebrations than there are days in the year.

And, among those, and special to all of us reading this post, is the 6th annual, Audiophile Day.

It’s a day to remember why we’re here. For some it’s the stereo gear, for others the music, still others the camaraderie.

We are unique. A wonderful mix of good-hearted people from around the world. People in love with music and its faithful reproduction in the home.

To all of us, a happy Audiophile Day!

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

DetoxIT or Zinfandel

“DeoxIT or Zinfandel – the struggle is real” — Sameer Verma c. 2021

When reader Sameer sent me a note about his struggles with upgrading and tweaking vs. simply sitting and listening I laughed out loud.

Clean your connectors or sip a glass of fine wine and enjoy the music?

What happens when we think everything in the stereo system is perfect enough to relax and enjoy only to discover yet another flaw? For some, it’s easy enough to let small deficiencies go and just start their feet tapping to the music. For others, it might be impossible to relax knowing it could be better.

For me, I have to consciously recognize the faults I am listening through and determine to ignore them in order to relax. It’s sometimes hard.

The best moments are when we let it all go and just enjoy the bounty of what we have.

Tomorrow’s soon enough to tweak.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Generalities

While reading through the comments section of this blog I stopped at one standout.

“I prefer the sound of loudspeakers from across the pond.”

Generalities. We tend to group our opinions into neat little boxes: British speakers are bass deficient, American loudspeakers are big and brash, silver conductors are brighter than copper, tubes are warmer than solid-state.

The good news with generalities is that it offers us a quick way to sort through the myriad of choices.

That’s also the bad news.

Whenever possible, I find it more helpful to narrow my generalizations around smaller proven segments that allow greater latitude for technological variances: people, companies, and philosophies. I can more easily trust how someone I am familiar with will respond or act and the same is true for companies and philosophies: A design from PS Audio’s Darren Myers or Chris Brunhaver will most assuredly sound great; A new product from Apple will look and feel like an Apple product; It’s unlikely a Buddhist monk will be starting a drunken brawl.

The trick with generalities is honing and polishing them such that they don’t limit but instead assure.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Enhanced or held back?

If we make a change for the better to our room or stereo equipment, one that gets us closer to the music, was it achieved by a fundamental change or by the removal of existing obstacles?

When I first asked myself that question my immediate answer was semantics. What’s the difference if we achieve better by removing obstacles or improving performance?

I believe it’s more than semantics. In fact, I think it may be at the core of what we do.

Lowering distortion might be viewed as removing an obstacle while improving the slew rate probably qualifies as an enhancement. Both work to improve performance, each in a different way.

Perhaps another way to look at this would be the difference between removing obscuring veils vs. improving dynamics. Or, for a more common metaphor, the difference between cleaning a room vs. redecorating. One makes better what is while the other addresses fundamental weakness.

Lumped together they become more difficult to focus the engineer’s efforts.

Viewed as separate tasks we clear away misconceptions and arrive at a clearer path towards better performance.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

New PS Audio speaker coming.

Tech talk

I am most comfortable in the company of engineers.

It’s more than just camaraderie.

To non-engineering folk, our conversations might sound like a different language what with all the terminology bandied about.

But more than terminology is the implied understanding of bigger concepts. Terms like -3dB, half power, slew rate, open loop, rise times, wave shapes, carry with them major implications. If our depth of understanding of terminology’s implications is shallow, we can often find ourselves either lost or worse, drawing incorrect conclusions.

In a recent forum post, PS engineer Chris Brunhaver was generously answering some questions about our upcoming loudspeaker:

“We’re still preparing some marketing materials on the FR-30 but I can share that the low frequency cutoff is -6 db at 27 Hz. While a reflex/passive radiator enclosure, the roll-off below this is rather steep but you’ll see typically see extension from 20-25 Hz in-room. Still, as other mention, the benefit of multiple subs/ LF sources will help smooth the response wider listening area.

Please keep in mind that, if you listen to dynamic music in the bass and want a subwoofer that “keeps up” with the speaker, you’ll need something pretty potent. A pair of FR-30, with their 8 x 8″ woofers and 8 x 10″ passive radiators is capable of ~120 dB (in half space) from 25 hz and up with (when driven with 600 watts x 2) at the Klippel rated Xmax of the woofers. Of course, you won’t want to listen full range at that level, but the system is certainly capable of it in the low frequencies, so that it has very low distortion at more moderate levels and a feeling of effortless bass dynamics.”

I love that our engineering team reaches out to our HiFi Family.

Chris speaks in very dense terms even when he’s doing his best to keep it simple. Unpacking terms like “Klippel rated Xmax of the woofers” or even the innocent sounding “want a subwoofer that “keeps up” with the speaker” carry with them loads of implied understanding.

The challenge for any engineering-centric company is to figure out a way to effectively communicate complex concepts to a hungry audience and to do so without boring the crap out of people.

Chris does an amazing job and I love it when he talks like that. 🙂

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