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.

Is the day of the source over?

I will avoid getting mired in the audio source vs. audio output argument of which is better. Long time readers of my posts already know I believe the output end of things matters more than their beginnings (though both are important).

The question I have been pondering as of late concerns our move towards streaming music. Yes, I understand vinyl is a critical and wonderful medium—and so too are our silver disc collections—but over the next decade, I believe streaming will continue its inevitable forward march. The lure of a multi-million piece library is just too much to resist.

And if we follow this thread to its logical conclusion, what’s the chance that sources will even matter in the future?

We know, from our work on the upcoming Octave server and Memory Player, that it’s now possible to gather digital bits together in such a way as to render them identical to each other. That their source will increasingly become irrelevant if we handle them properly.

What that would appear to mean is the eventual elimination of the source as an equipment category. Our source might just be the pipe that connects us to the internet.

What might just emerge is a whole new crop of amazing output devices to enrich our lives.

That sounds pretty enticing to me.

You?

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.

Looking in the wrong direction

When we read that others have found major benefits to one technology or the other, we often assume their reasoning is correct.

I remember being told the sonic differences in two audio power cords I was auditioning came from the quality of copper inside. One had OFC while the other just dirty old copper. That made sense, sort of, but the differences I was hearing were huge. One was restricted and muffled sounding while the other open and airy. Of course, the one I liked had the better copper. Yet, that still didn’t satisfy me.

It turned out that the cable I liked also had a completely different construction: same gauge wire, but the shielding and dielectrics were miles different.

Redoing the experiment with similar geometries reduced the variables to reasonable and now the differences were subtle. There, but subtle.

It’s really easy to get fooled into believing one thing or another about technology. The problem with wrong information is we make so many decisions based on what knowledge we have in our heads. If it’s incorrect, well, the results are pretty obvious.

A healthy dose of skepticism can be beneficial at times, yet too much and we never open ourselves to new ideas.

It’s a tough balancing act.

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.

Does it have to make sense?

Some of the best purchases I have ever made were spur of the moment. They tickled my emotional buttons enough to take the plunge and override my sensibility meters.

They may not have passed the sense test, but they sure felt good.

We’ve all got multiple sides to our personalities. There’s our logical side that guides us to do what’s “right” and makes sense: can we afford this, how does it fit into our lives, what will others think?

Then, there’s our emotional side: looks tasty, I gotta have that, the world be damned.

In my experience, it’s good to let both sides have their day in the marketplace.

It doesn’t always have to make sense.

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.

Arguing about religion

If you want to stir up a hornet’s nest then there’s likely few better ways than challenging someone’s views on religion. And I don’t mean just religion in the classic sense, but long-held beliefs of any kind that guide our lives.

We understand, from an intellectual standpoint, our views are not the unquestioned truth. They cannot be since they differ, if even slightly, from our fellow 7 billion soul mates on this journey. However, they feel right and absolute.

The question for today is why does it matter enough to argue?

Are we in hopes of swaying others to our own thoughts? And the follow up, why does that matter?

Is it a tribal thing where we’re testing the waters for common ground? People like us do things like this?

We tend to gather in like-minded groups. I certainly am more comfortable chatting with our Hi-Fi Family than “outsiders” to the group.

If I had to guess, I’d think it’s a way to learn as opposed to hoping to sway.

Whatever the case, arguing feels like it erects barriers rather than reaching across the divide.

If learning or gathering is the goal, sharing’s probably better than arguing.

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.

Dark Rooms

Go to a busy public place, a playground, a park. Sit.

Listen.

Wait and then close your eyes. Listen.

What do you hear now?

A whole lot more. More details, more sounds you were unaware of. More of everything you could not have perceived moments ago.

Repeat the process as many times as you wish.

Now you understand why in a darkened room, late at night, music from our stereos sound so much better and you hear into it, rather than just it.

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.

Have we come that far?

Reader Ted Williams sent me a photo of a 1959 Johnny Mathis album sleeve from Columbia Records.

I love it. It’s educational and must have been a great tool for Columbia to sell their hardware products—products I didn’t even know existed.

But, it begs the question, how far have we actually come since this 60-year-old liner sleeve?

We’ve just launched one of our best phono preamplifiers ever, the Stellar, and it is designed to reproduce these very same 1959 pieces of plastic.

Sure, we no longer make “Stereophonic High Fidelity Console Phonographs”, and I’ve never even heard of an Osmian needle, but it boggles the mind to be lavishing modern circuit technologies on this most ancient reproduction format.

Only, when you listen to the vinyl we’re playing you’d swear it’s the best you’ve ever heard music from a pair of speakers—after all, it’s today’s state of the art.

How would today’s state of the art compare to yesterday’s? It wouldn’t take much to beat the performance of the Columbia 632 Console Stereo that’s pictured on the liner sleeve.

And yet, I’ll bet the level of enjoyment in either era would be the same.

State of the art is a moving target.

 

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.

Matters of opinion

Each of us has different wants and needs, yet all of us share much in common. While I might search for tonal accuracy, dynamics, and detachment from the speakers, and you might be more interested in transient and top-end response, we’re both here for the music.

Our love of music and the home audio systems that reproduce it is why we’re a community, or as we like to call it, a family.

Families form around commonality but work best when differences of opinion are honored.

If our differences get too big it can strain family bonds. That said, I wouldn’t be an advocate of pushing too hard in the direction of sameness. While strength comes from agreement, forward motion comes from differences.

The best communities are always moving forward in search of the greater good. We don’t have a roadmap to get there. Often, we don’t even know where exactly we’re trying to go other than forward, but that’s where all the differences of opinion work to open new paths.

We’re all on the same page when it comes to our love of bringing great music into our homes, but we have a lot of diverse opinions on just how to get there.

It’s our extended family—differences and all—that keeps me going.

Thanks for being a family member.

It matters.

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.

Even guys like Paul can be audio flakes. How many times do we get gobsmacked by something in our audio system, like a tweak, to forgetting about it the next day, or figure out that it’s even not as good as before? Has happened to us all, plus he has a phono stage to sell and I don’t begrudge him for that.

The problem with exuberance

As I waxed enthusiastically about my vinyl LP experience shared in yesterday’s post, it never occurred to me I might have been divisive. That readers not included in the event might feel slighted or worried I was now suggesting a major shift in my long held views on DSD and digital audio, that vinyl’s superior to digital (I am not).

And that’s the problem with exuberance. The energy and excitement of the moment are at the exclusion of the bigger picture.

I suppose there will always be a downside to emotional reporting, which is likely why people like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board speak in such muted tones using carefully groomed words. One hint of excitement or disappointment in any one direction could send financial markets soaring or plunging.

Ours is an emotion-packed field. We work hard at coaxing out buried nuance and exposing our souls to the joys of home reproduction in the hopes of eliciting excitement—even exuberance.

Putting a damper on the excitement meter is not in the cards for me.

Now, where’s that grain of salt?

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.

There is one picture with this post that shows people listening with their eyes closed. I wonder if any of them are asleep. With much of the music at shows being simple things that sound good on almost any stereo, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are one or two!

Vinyl exceeds CDs

Yesterday we learned that sales of vinyl LP’s have outstripped CDs for the first time in decades. An article posted in Rolling Stone Magazine made the rounds at RMAF, yesterday. I haven’t yet figured out if this means sales of CDs are continuing their downward spiral or vinyl’s picking up steam, but whatever the implications, it’s certainly a twist of events.

And speaking of vinyl, one of the great treats of a consumer trade show like RMAF is the chance for our Hi-Fi Family to gather together and enjoy what we all are interested in, music and 2-channel audio.

Reviewer Micahel Fremer of Stereophile and Analog Planet fame was generous enough to bring his collection of prized vinyl to our room and play it to a packed house for an hour. Just check out the crowd. I could barely squeeze into this standing room only group outside the few prized seats in our listening area to get this picture in the first place.

What a treat! Mikey pulled from his arsenal a prized copy of Joni Mitchel’s Court and Spark to start the afternoon off, and I don’t believe anyone in the room had heard such glorious music. All were transfixed with the vinyl he played. I had chills running down my spine listening to his last track, Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven. Holy Moly! I am so used to the flat and lifeless digital version that I had no idea of what the recording really sounded like.

Fremer and Stellar Phono designer, Darren Myers, worked well together to make this a seminal event. In the second picture down, we were also honored by the presence of Sharyl Wilson of Wilson Audio fame in the front row.

Here are a few more pictures from the event to enjoy.

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.

RMAF is gone, but PS Audio has introduced a loudspeaker and its expensive, although moderately expensive by today’s luxury standards.

Opening day

With apologies, I am writing this post a day before you actually get to read it. It’s not always easy to juggle all the balls I have in the air and sometimes it’s the best I can manage.

Opening day at a trade show is mixed with both excitement and nerves. Excited because it’s new, fresh and shiny. Nervous because you never know how your efforts and those of your team are going to be accepted. And I can lovingly say our team just knocked it out of the park.

My wife Terri’s in charge of our shows and she directs every aspect of the design and how the room finally looks. And thank goodness for that. If it were left up to me there’d be a stereo system plunked down at one end of the room, a gaggle of folding chairs, and a stack of media in an otherwise empty room. Terri makes our place beautiful.

I’ll have more for you as the show progresses and we get things sorted out, but for today I am sharing a couple of photos and offering an assessment of the sound. Wow! The AN3s are just kicking ass. Dynamics and imaging like we’ve never had at a show in our 45-year history. Wowsers!

And LP’s? With our new Stellar Phono connected to a Lyra cartridge on VPI’s amazing 40th turntable, and Darren and my friend Jim McCullough’s hand picked vinyl, I gotta say it’s impressive. I think this is the first time we’ve spun vinyl in a quarter of a century. Amazing.

Hope you can stop by if you’re in the area.