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

It’s not that simple

An isolation transformer cleans up noise on the AC line yet often harms system performance. How can it be true that an improvement over here impacts performance over there?

The simple answer is that the problem is not that simple. The cleanest power in the world only gets you so far.

This question of influencing performance can be a real head scratcher: we know that lower distortion is a good thing yet not all low distortion audio amplifiers sound good. We know that low output impedance is preferable yet at what cost?

Here’s the thing. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the Long Tail, as we get closer to perfection each link in our progress chain become more important. Where it used to be alright to swap a major piece of equipment in the chain without too much worry, now even the smallest bits have a great impact.

When we place an isolation transformer in the AC path we improve one area, cleanliness, by degrading another, regulation and impedance. An isolation transformer helps keep unwanted noise from the system at the cost of voltage regulation.

It turns out that voltage regulation is far more important than clean power. The greater the regulation the lower the impedance the better the sound quality.

An AC regenerator like our Power Plants provides the tightest regulation and highest current delivery of any power product on the market today. There are other technologies that might provide cleaner power, but none that focus more on what’s really important.

It’s just never quite that simple.

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

Violas and violins

If you take a dozen different recordings of acoustic stringed instruments and find violins sound more like violas you can safely predict your system needs work.

Or the opposite, where violas have lost their lush bodies and sound more like their smaller cousins.

It’s consistency that helps us get our systems to sing the right tune, and that tune doesn’t have to be built from violas and violins. It can be any authentic instruments you are familiar with, like voice or guitar.

Which is why we don’t adjust our systems to get one track just right at the expense of others. A wide variety of musical choices played at appropriate levels helps balance the system setup. Bass plucks needn’t all thunder nor sound like they are without body. A carefully chosen set of music displaying a decent variety of recordings and instruments is essential to getting the system properly voiced.

If your system only sounds good on small ensembles or big rock bands, you might consider venturing out into change.

Violas and violins should sound like themselves on any system worth its salt.