Turning hobbies into products

Picking up on our story of the isolation base shootout at the Munich High-End show of a few years ago,we move back to Boulder Colorado and jump ahead a few years.

In our main listening room everything was powered by a Power Plant Premier sitting on the aforementioned wooden isolation base. I had tried to remove it on several occasions because of space restrictions but every time I did the sound was noticeable deflated and smeared or muddled sounding. Sigh.

At the time we were working hard on designing the new PerfectWave series of Power Plants and moving production from China to Boulder – an undertaking of massive proportions for us and one I would never want to repeat. Working with our mechanical engineer Bill Abplanalp, I wanted to make sure the new Power Plant design took care to address some of the issues I suspected were to blame for the Premier’s sensitivity to microphonics and vibrations. To be honest I was hoping to eliminate the need for the wooden base.

Bill came up with a number of clever additions, using heavier materials, soft density polyurethane mats under the big transformers and a unique heat sink design that would diffuse some of the vibration transmissions picked up by the “singing” heat sink fins and transmitted back into the amplifier components.

Bill’s work was well received and the new designs much less sensitive to being on or off the base but still, I could not live with the new P5 or P10 off the base. That bugged me for the longest time and I began to get the itch to try and solve the problem. At first the new isolation base idea I worked on was just a passing hobby but later it got more interesting and began to form as a real project that used engineering resources.

Understanding that I needed a combination of mass and diffused contact with the resonating surface the base would sit on, I started out with a huge 1/4″ thick plate of raw steel that weighed about 15 pounds or so. I mounted a set of rubber feet below the plate and set the Premier on top of it. Interesting results. There was a definite improvement but not as good as the wooden base.

Tomorrow the new base takes shape.

Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The beginning

The beginning

Reader David Zigas sent me this quote after reading yesterday’s post titled 1+1=3. ”As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality” Albert Einstein.

Thanks David, you gotta love Einstein quotes.

What I was referring to was our new product concept piece called the PowerBase – which is a new idea that combines two essential elements together – an isolation base and a power conditioner to build a unique product whose sum is greater than its parts taken separately.

Over the last week or so we’ve given you a better understanding of what and why power and microphonics matter in our high-end systems and today I will start to share with you the process of how we got to this idea of the PowerBase and then we’ll wrap up the discussion and move onto a new subject.

Most inventions happen out of necessity and the PowerBase is no different. While at the Munich high-end show a few years ago I ran into a fellow who was building an isolation base for equipment and he was very excited about what he had built. Formed from multiple density pieces of wood in a unique pattern that he had designed over a few years of experimentation, this heavy wooden base was touted as “blowing away any cones or feet”.

We’ve all been to the “mine blows away yours” party but being the polite fellow I am I heard his pitch and agreed to a shootout that very evening in our booth after the show closed. Come the evening it seems I had forgotten he was coming by – all that was on my mind was a cold Hefeweizen beer of which the city of Munich is famous for. Not much can deter me from a cold German beer in the evening after standing on my feet all day but in he walks, isolation base in hand, and ready for battle.

As this was a few years ago all we really had to display at the show was our Power Plant product – the PerfectWave DAC still in engineering – and he was anxious to show me how much of an improvement it would bring. The Power Plant Premier was on machined metal cones more for looks than anything else as I had previously auditioned it both ways and didn’t hear a significant difference between on and off cones. But hey, it’s a show and we’re there to impress.

Once we listened to a good orchestral piece we were all familiar with we left everything exactly the way it was, lifted the Premier off the cones while he slid his base underneath and down came the Premier ready to go. We played the same piece again at the identical level and jaws dropped – most notably mine. We repeated the test multiple times and I was simply stunned and mystified. This was a Power Plant not a preamp, amp or DAC. It produces a pure sine wave from the wall and should be immune to what it sits on.

Over beers that evening (finally) we talked about his theory of why it worked, which boiled down to diffusing the vibrations with both mass and different density materials and – unlike hard metal cones which had the same density and little to no mass – the platform “just worked” and I had to admit he was right. I bought several from him and have used them ever since to great advantage.

The story continues tomorrow.

Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.