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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.

Lane changes

Whenever I veer away from writing strictly about high end audio I receive more than a few finger wags to “stay in my lane”. My recent Paul’s Post of my experience with the vaccine is a great example.

The idea of me staying in my lane is as far away from understanding or relating to me as I can imagine.

I have spent my entire life changing lanes. I cannot think of anything more boring than staying in my lane.

If it weren’t for frequent lane changes our company would never advance beyond the industry standard ho hum products.

If we stayed in our lane we’d be guilty of fitting into a crowded niche.

I don’t believe our HiFi Family is interested in everyday ordinary.

What are your thoughts?

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.

Personal DSP

Our hearing is a combination of what we receive from our ears and how those signals are processed by our brains.

As our ears change over time so too does our brain’s interpretation. What this means is that we can compensate for the peaks and valleys in our ear’s response.

Think of it as an internal DSP.

Our Digital Signal Processor has been running a full-time feedback loop—continuously adjusting our perception of sound to match the physical reality of our environment since our earliest days of childhood.

Thanks to our internal DSP we recognize voices and instruments with as much accuracy today as we did when we first learned them, despite the fact our hearing has changed.

Which is why scratching one’s head over the results of a hearing test is probably a waste of time. Our internal DSP hasn’t yet learned to equalize for test tones in the same way it does to fill in frequency gaps on the sound of a violin.

So if you’ve ever wondered why it takes a bit of time to adjust to a new system or upgrade, it’s your internal DSP fiddling with the knobs.

It’s enough to drive a measurementist crazy!

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.

Valves

We’re all familiar with the terms amplifiers and valves. We use electronic valves like vacuum tubes and transistors to amplify audio signals. Yet, even writing those words makes me a bit nervous because I can see how they might be misunderstood.

When we talk of amplifying the input signal it sounds like we are taking a small signal and somehow boosting it. Maybe a good analogy can be found in an airport and its moving sidewalk. You’re walking along at your pace and then step onto the moving conveyor belt, boosting your speed. That’s amplifying your walking.

That’s not what’s happening in an amplifier.

In fact, the input signal never reaches the output. It does its work and then is discarded, never to be seen or heard again.

We don’t amplify the input signal in the same way a moving sidewalk amplifies our forward motion. Instead, the input signal turns a virtual valve up or down to release more or less voltage and current from the power supply. What gets passed on to our loudspeakers and headphones is not the input signal, but voltage and current straight from the power supply.

It’s more than semantics.

Our input signals are but instigators.

Once they do their work they are gone forever.

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.

Our first integrated

I just received my second CoViD shot last night and so find myself on shaky ground at the moment but wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a day of a post.

I was just ruminating on the steps leading up to our first integrated amplifier, the Elite.

When Stan and I had built our fledgling company to the point where we hired our first two employees, Lowell and Jeff, we were building two products: our phono stage and its companion Linear Control Center. The LCC was not a whole lot more than a volume and balance control, an input, and a gain selector.

From a circuit perspective, there was a 10X stereo preamp inside that offered 20dB of gain the user could choose to run the signal through or not. Passive or active preamplifier.

As Jeff and Lowell did their best to keep up with customer orders, Stan and I worked on our new power amplifier to be called the Model One. The power amp’s circuitry was not a whole lot more than the LCC’s gain stage with a pre-driver, driver, and output transistors. The Model One was capable of 70 watts per channel into 8Ω.

Because we didn’t want to “color” the sound of our new amplifier while it was in development, we chose not to use the LCC as a volume control. We wanted the signal path as free of circuitry as possible so that we would be tuning only the amplifier and not the combination of LCC and amplifier.

But we still had to control the volume of the turntable/phono stage.

Stan grabbed a power drill off the shelf and without saying a word proceeded to punch a hole in the amp’s front panel, then from inside the amplifier popped in a potentiometer, and added a knob.

Voila! The first PS Audio integrated amplifier.

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.

Over the top

When it comes to having company over for dinner my family’s general rule of thumb has always been better too much than too little.

Too much at the dinner table just sets the stage for lunch leftovers. No big deal.

But when it comes to your HiFi system, too much can be…dare I say…..too much.

As audiophiles, we can fall into the trap of pushing the improvement envelope too hard: adding DSP or an equalizer when all we really needed was some time and elbow grease. An add on super tweeter or perhaps one of many aftermarket tweaks guaranteed to make everything that much better.

It’s always tempting to turn what’s great into something even better.

In my experience, those add-ons are short-lived.

If you’re looking for better, always start with the basics: loudspeakers, power amplifiers, preamps, and sources, such as turntables and DAC’s.

A lunch of leftovers is easy.

Unloading to the used market unnecessary add-ons gets painful.

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.

As I had my second CV 19 shot yesterday, I thought I’d chime in on Paul’s post, although it has nothing to do with audio.

I’m about 14 hours past my second and only have a little soreness in the arm that received the shot. I was told that different people react differently and that reactions with the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer, which is what I got are also different. Paul got symptoms at 20 hours, so will see how that goes for me.

Brain fog

As I mentioned yesterday, I got my second vaccination for CoViD. I feel pretty lucky and this is one of the few times I am grateful for being more than 70 years old. ��

As we all need to get vaccinated I thought it might be helpful to briefly share my experience with you.  First shot was a walk in the park: bit of a sore arm, felt listless for a couple of hours, no big deal at all. Second shot was worse. Perhaps 20 hours after getting my second dose, I got the classic sore arm and joints, then chills. Then I got a slight headache and the classic “brain fog”: a fogginess and inability to focus on tasks. I hit hard the bottle of Tylenol and felt much better.

I know there’s lots of angst and misinformation floating around so if you’ll indulge the engineer in me, I want to give you the facts in language that’s easy to understand.

This simple explanation is from one of our closest family friends, Dr. Stuart Weiss. You can sign up for his newsletter here if you’re interested.

We have many cells in our body. Each cell has a nucleus that contains our DNA, the genetic code which makes us who we are. When our cells need to make new proteins, the DNA in the protected nucleus is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) which is then transported out of the nucleus through special pores in the nuclear membrane and into the cell cytoplasm (the cytoplasm is everything inside the cell membrane besides the nucleus). Once in the cell cytoplasm, the mRNA goes to the protein manufacturing part of the cell (the ribosome) and gives instructions on what should be done there. Once the mRNA instructions are given, the mRNA is pretty quickly broken down.

So what do viruses do, you may be asking. A virus injects its own genetic material into our cells and forces our ribosomes to stop making what our mRNA is telling it to make but instead to make complete copies of the virus. These new viruses burst out of our cells and infect other cells to make more new virus. So with viruses, as opposed to bacteria, we create more virus ourselves and viruses could not spread without a nice host, like us. Bacteria, on the other hand, can reproduce on their own given the right conditions.

So this is where the mRNA vaccines like the ones from Pfizer and Moderna get really interesting. The vaccines are little bits of mRNA that get taken into our cells and instruct our ribosomes to make viral spike protein. The vaccine doesn’t give all the instructions to make complete virus copies or we would get sick. It just makes the one spike protein. The vaccine mRNA is degraded pretty quickly but the spike protein is seen by our immune system as foreign and we make antibodies to it and activate t-cells against it. The mRNA can’t get through the nuclear membrane into the nucleus because there is no mechanism to do that. The transport mechanism moves mRNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm and not the other way around.

So we get all the benefits of an immune response without having to be infected with the actual virus. It’s really ingenious and it’s not new. Scientists have been looking at mRNA vaccines for decades in the fight against flu, Zika, rabies, and CMV.

Its cool technology and these types of vaccines can be built in a lab against new pathogens more quickly than traditional vaccines. It’s very exciting.

We must all get vaccinated to prevent further widespread infections with variants. The more people that have an active infection, the more chance the virus has to mutate into something worse.

When you are eligible, get yourself vaccinated.

 

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.

Starting point

Where you start matters. For example, when it comes to designing a new amplifying circuit if your starting point is first the amplification path and second the power supply, you’ll get a very different amplifier than if you reversed the two.

If instead, your starting point focused first on building the perfect power supply and second adding the best means of modulating that supply (in cadence with the incoming audio signal), your design would likely be very different than the first example.

It’s all a matter of viewpoints and priorities.

An amplifier is a valve at the end of a power supply but also a valve fed from a power supply. The difference is one of perspective.

In my experience, designers who understand the critical role power supplies play in stereo sound quality make far better sounding designs than those that just tack on a decent regulator and call it a day.

Where you start always defines where you end.

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.

Reviewing the critics

A stereo reviewer is an audiophile with knowledge, experience, and the chops to write about it.

They are essential community assets.

Theirs is a tough job. Imagine the challenge of reviewing loudspeakers. It’s hard enough for any of us to get a new pair of speakers and set them up properly. It must be a magnitude more difficult to do this for a review. Get the setup wrong and readers get an unfair evaluation of the speaker.

And then there’s the challenge of passion. A dispassionate clinical review—one that’s not clouded by personal bias—is what most of us think we’re after. To quote Sgt. Friday, “give us just the facts”.

But honestly, how many of us don’t thrill to a reviewer’s passion? It’s actually what I look for. Their level of excitement tells me more about a product’s virtues than any technical description or dispassionate analysis.

I care about how the stereo equipment made them feel.

Because how the audio equipment makes us feel is what it’s all about anyway.

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.

Before taking the plunge

We are all different.

When I want to learn something I jump in feet first, immerse myself, learn and do everything I can so that later it becomes easy—second-hand nature.

Others ease into the learning slowly, drip by drip until it’s easy.

My method works for me because I can quickly pivot if the path I am taking appears wrong. Others would be better served to take their time and make minor tweaks along the way.

However you learn the art of building a high-end audio system—taking the plunge or starting small and growing over time—it’s important to remember that finding a good starting point can be critical. Our lifelong opinions are shaped at the end of our learning process.

Study up before taking the plunge.

If we start off on the wrong foot, cobbling together a compromised system that misses the mark, it may take a lifetime to unravel bad habits learned.

Once formed, opinions are awfully difficult to change.

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.

Varying mileage

Two identical car models will both live up to their performance promise, yet they come with a warning their mileage will vary.

Of course, the variance is not in the car’s promise but in the drivers.

Stereo equipment is no different.

Identical audio systems in different hands and rooms will never be the same. A fact that makes it rather difficult to provide an accurate list of expectations.

What we can confidently provide are trends, flavors, and promises. “Our new transport will reveal once-hidden nuance and detail. Its sound is sweet and never fatiguing.”

Your mileage as measured by exacting standards will most certainly vary.

What should never vary is how we feel—our emotional response to a promise given.

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