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.

Built in head amp?

Head amps are devices used to separately amplify moving coil cartridges to the same level as moving magnets. They can be built from active electronics with power supplies or simple step-up transformers. They are needed because moving coil cartridges typically have outputs thirty times lower than their moving magnet brethren. Why they are separate has always been intriguing to me.

Moving coil cartridges have been around for many decades. I think it was in the late 1940s that Danish company Ortofon started selling moving coils, but for the most part, turntables and records were played primarily on moving magnet cartridges. From my memory, it wasn’t until the 1970s that moving coil cartridges like the famous Koetsu made their presence known and the need for head amps became the hot ticket for manufacturers.

PS Audio made its first head amp, the MCA, in the late 1970s. Not long after its introduction we also outfitted our preamplifiers with the ability to play moving coils without aid of a separate head amp, but that was rare.

Ron, from Hayes, Va., asked me a good question about head amps in this video about reducing vibrations. “Why don’t they just build head amps into the turntable’s headshell?”

This is a great idea because it eliminates the need for separate boxes, power supplies, connecting cables. But that’s also the problem. Unless the head amp is a passive transformer, you still need most of that stuff to make the circuitry work. Moreover, most head amp manufacturers aren’t the ones building turntables, arms, and headshells.

But the notion of miniaturizing the sensitive electronics that provide gain to these low output moving coil cartridges is certainly food for thought. Perhaps a better place to put a head amp is at the base of the turntable itself—where the tonearm mounts to the table. There we can have power and space to make this happen.

What’s stopping us? I suspect if you ask most turntable manufacturers why they don’t include a built-in head amp I’ll bet you’ll get one of two answers: we don’t do electronics or, the more practical of them all, audiophiles don’t want any sort of built-ins.

Separates are, after all, what distinguishes many of us from the crowd.

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.

Good general tips for loudspeaker placement, although I don’t necessarily agree with all Paul is saying on the subject. Much has to do with size and shape of room and type of speakers.

Optimal distance between loudspeakers

Before we get started on today’s subject I wanted to offer an apology as well as an explanation about the hats. I love these hats and wear mine proudly. I’ve been approached three times now, asking just what an audiophile is and the conversation is always a pleasure. Those of you that have sent me pictures wearing your audiophile hats have warmed my heart. Thank you. It’s a level of awareness we want to support. That said, I want to apologize for messing up.

In my original post to you about the hats, I told you they were hand-crafted by Legacy Athletics of Hannover, Pa. American made. That’s not entirely true. The hats themselves, known in the industry as “shells”, come from one of three approved manufacturing plants around the world: China, the Philippines, or Taiwan. The “decorating” embroidering work, bill forming, inspection, and packaging happen in the United States. My bad. Please accept my apologies for the misinformation. If you want a refund or wish to cancel your order just email me. Again, I am truly sorry.

It’s an unfortunate truth that few of us have the freedom to place our speakers where they sound best. Instead, we pull them out from the front wall as much as our living situations afford and call it good.

We need to know three basic things: how far out into the room is best, how close together they should be, and how much toe in.

With respect to the first question, we’d like to use the rule of thirds. This simple formula places the speaker pair 1/3 the way into the room as measured from the front wall (the wall behind the loudspeakers). The listener is then placed 1/3 the way into the room as measured from the rear wall (behind the listener).

The second question is how far apart should the pair be? Here, we want to form an equilateral triangle: the left and right speakers at two vertices, the listener at the remaining vertex.

Toe in (pointing the speakers at the listener) is really dependent on the type of speaker you have and its off-axis response. My advice is always start with the speakers facing straight ahead and toe in to solidify the center image without sacrificing stage width and depth.

These are great starting points for system setup. Depth of soundstage is controlled by front to back movement of the speakers (away from the front wall increases depth). Tonal balance changes with distance between the left and right channels (closer together increases midbass coupling giving a fuller sound).

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