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.

Building systems

We cobble together multiple components to form a stereo system. Speakers, cables, equipment, are all necessary elements to produce music in our homes.

The skills needed to assemble a proper stereo are not taught in school and with the single exception of Jim Smith’s excellent work, I’ve yet to see a book explaining it well enough to use. In fact, most of us learn by the seat of our pants (or with the help of a friend).

There was a fabled time, long ago and in a galaxy far from here, where neighborhood dealers filled the role of system gurus. Some were genius at the task, like Jonas Miller of Los Angeles, and Mike Kay of New York City. Sadly, those days seem to have faded into the past (for the most part). The new paradigm of every man for himself would likely put a smile on the ghost of Ayn Rand.

One of my long-held dreams is to fill the role of system builder for our customers. The idea of personally curating entire audio systems (everything from the AC wall socket to your ears) and then figuring out a way to ensure they sound just right might be the stuff of dreams, but I believe it to be a worthwhile goal—one we intend to pursue with all we have available to us.

In the meantime, as we work with the legendary speaker designer Arnie Nudell (of Infinity fame) to complete the audio chain, a few manufacturers of speakers would like to recommend the types of speaker cables you use.

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.

Speakers with plugs

The secret to selecting the perfect amplifier chassis, location, topology, and wattage rating can be found inside the loudspeaker—not in the form of a hidden note—but rather in the demands of the speaker itself.

But that’s not the way it all shakes out when it comes to selecting amps and speakers (where we typically follow one of several patterns): matching the speaker to the amp or choosing an amp big enough to work with anything we throw at it.

In the first example, if we have a small amplifier (perhaps a lower power SET), we don’t want to connect to a power hungry loudspeaker. Instead, we’d choose an efficient horn or cone design. Failure to get this right results in clipping and bad sound.

The purchasing pattern most familiar to us is amps big enough to handle just about anything. Several hundred watts will do, even one hundred’s probably stout enough to drive most loudspeakers to respectable volume levels. Is it a perfect match? Who knows.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph we’d be much better off if all speakers came amplified. Designers could match amps to speakers and customers would be the beneficiaries of perfect matching. If the speaker had nasty impedance dips, or lofty resonances needing taming, no worries. Just match amp technology to speaker requirements and voila! Perhaps the best performance might be a small and sweet tube amplifier driving the tweeter while the bass might benefit from a brute class D beast. Together, sweet music might be the result.

Only, this rarely happens. Why? I am not entirely certain but for the longest time, I suspected two things: speaker designers rarely have expertise in amp designs and people were uncomfortable with the AC cord required for both left and right channels. I am quite certain of the first observation, less of the second since increasing numbers of speakers have plug-in subwoofer amps.