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.

Not sure there is anything like convention in the Audiophile world!!

The merits of convention

The corollary of yesterday’s post Purpose and Intent is to be alright with choosing convention.

Which, if you think about it, was the point of that post.

Choose with purpose because it’s the best thing to do. I purposefully choose to follow convention because, in the end, it’s what works for me.

Don’t choose convention just because.

Choose the convention of tried and true with purpose and confidence because it’s the best choice.

That’s the thing about choosing with purpose.

You’re confident it’s the best choice.

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.

The perfect loudness

One thing we can be certain of. Perfection is specific to the individual, the time, and the circumstance. What works for me today may not work for you even in identical circumstances.

And yet, there is a perfection we can both achieve as long as we recognize what’s perfect in one instance will never be the same as the second instance.

Take for example loudness for a particular musical track. Much depends on the room, the track itself, the number of people in the room, the loudspeakers, the audio cabling, the mood, the time of day—even the room lighting.

What we can agree upon is that every track has a perfect listening level specific to that moment in time. What I think is often confusing about this observation is that it is never the same for two systems or two people. Thus, me telling you that the perfect listening level on Flying Blind from Temporary Circumstances is X on the BHK isn’t going to do you a lot of good when it comes to duplicating what I want you to hear.

That is, of course, because everything for me is different than for you.

What we can suggest with some confidence is that getting the volume correct is critical. And you will know it when singers Jessica and Giselle are in the room with you.

More than that we cannot say.

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.

I don’t use EQ the way Paul describes below, however I do use EQ on my home made Altec 604 GPA loudspeakers. Although I only use them in the band centered around 2k, it helps makes a great speaker sound even better. My EQ’s, which are UREI 539’s, only cut level, not add and this is actually the right way to do it!

Eq limitations

Equalization is the act of increasing or decreasing the amplitude (loudness) of specific ranges of frequencies.

The most common form of EQ was once the ubiquitous bass and treble controls found on consumer audio equipment. These knobs or sliders allowed one to reduce or increase the amounts of both frequency ranges. (in my experience they were almost always cranked up on high).

Today, a few brave souls are using EQ to help adjust low frequencies anomalies in the room—mostly with the addition of a low cost easy to use DSP product like the MiniDSP. For $100 this device can take the analog output from your preamplifier and be used to feed a separate bass amplifier in a bi-amped system. Once inserted between the preamplifier and woofer amplifier, a simple and intuitive user interface can be used to adjust the bass response of your woofer.

Any loudspeaker with separate binding posts for woofer and tweeter can enjoy the benefits of biamping and EQ control using this simple setup.

While I wouldn’t recommend trying this for anything other than a woofer, it can be helpful in smoothing out the peaks and bumps caused by room modes and standing waves.

While peaks and bumps are easy to eliminate fixing the dips and valleys caused by the room are almost always impossible to fix. That’s because the loss of bass frequencies in a room are caused by cancellation (just as peaks and bumps are caused by addition). And unfortunately, regardless of how much more loudness you pump into the system at those frequencies, the cancellations just keep doing their thing.

So, should you go down this EQ road, just be mindful the most valuable improvement you can hope for is the reduction of peak and boom, not the pickup of missing bass.

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.

Unlocking secrets

There are literally thousands of books claiming to unlock secrets: how to lose weight, read faster, become a better person, sharpen the memory, improve your stereo system.

And to one extent or another all of them no doubt have value.

So one must ask themselves a basic question. If there’s so much knowledge available, why haven’t I availed myself of it? Why don’t I have a better memory, read faster, become a better person, or learn the art of turntable setup?

I believe the answer’s really simple. We’ve not yet opened the door. It’s the old you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink routine.

There’s loads of advice at the ready when we are at the ready.

We’re not interested in uncovering the secrets of room acoustics until we have a need for it. We don’t search out the answers to proper turntable VTA adjustment unless we’re interested in setting one up.

Educating ourselves without first having a need for the information is often a wasted effort.

We unlock secrets when it suits us.

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.


What an interesting idea. To preconceive of something. See the future in your mind’s eye. Imagine how something is going to sound.

When one of our engineers like, Darren, Bob, Chris, or Chet come to me with their grand vision of how a proposed new stereo product is going to sound or a new design is going to look, they have this amazing preconception of the final result. They share it with me in such a way that I too get excited of the prospects for its end results despite the fact it doesn’t actually exist.

And then the long weeks and months of hard work begin. Work needed to turn a vision into a reality.

Rarely does the finished product match exactly the preconception, but more often than not it’s at or beyond the level of expectation.

And when we exceed our expectations of a future vision that’s when it feels like magic.

Whether you’re dreaming of building a high end audio system or imagining how much better it will sound by swapping out this product or that, the act of preconception is how we establish the dreams that become our reality.

Imagine that!

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.

The last ten percent

I find most of us are in two major camps. Those who are starting from scratch building their stereo system in the hopes of getting the first 90% right, and the rest of us striving to get the last 10% nailed down.

Both are equally difficult challenges though they each require different disciplines.

For group one who are building from a clean slate, the choices are defined by a broad brush stroke: digital, analog, or both? What kind of speaker and why. What are the limitations and potentials to be dealt with in the room? How to apportion the budget.

The decisions for group two are cut from that of a much finer brush: how to maximize what works and minimize that which is holding us back. Perhaps it’s time for new loudspeakers, a cable upgrade, a room tweak.

Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, the challenges are of equal measure.

As our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr is fond of saying, “it doesn’t matter if you’re working on the first 90% or the last 90%, it’s all good.”

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.

Loud and inexperience

Have you ever noticed how often the loudest voices seem to come from those with the least experience?

I posted a YouTube video on the benefits of braiding power cables and why it matters. The responses were, as expected, quite angry and negative.

First, I don’t understand the anger.

Second, it seems like those with the most heated objections are those that have never tried listening to the differences in audio cables.

It’s as if the idea is so abhorrent that it’s not even worth their time. And yet, it seems worth folk’s time to voice loud and angry opinions.

That doesn’t make sense to me if only from a simple conservation of energy perspective if nothing else.

Is their loudness commensurate with their level of outrage at how far from their worldview the idea is or something else?

The louder people shout about things they’ve never tried the more I am confused.

There is much in human nature that eludes me.

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.

PS Audio’s Octave records newest release.


December’s Octave release is a wonderful piece of music from two talented artists, Bonnie and Taylor Sims.

The work is a lovely collection of country music recorded and mastered in pure DSD by our own Gus Skinas.

I’ve been enjoying the honesty and openness of this heartfelt music on the new FR30s in Music Room 2. What an amazing reference recording to enjoy.

Best of all is the music. Unpretentious, soulful and honest.

With over 130 million streams of their hit song, I See Red, featured in the Netflix film 365Days, their recognition soared as they charted on Billboard, Rolling Stone and signed with Columbia Records.

We are honored at Octave Records that Levelland is their first acoustic duo release and is available exclusively from us.

If you like good country music with a touch of modern, give a listen here and then grab a copy for yourself before they are sold out (as are many of our releases already).

And, if you get a chance, check out our Octave Record’s YouTube channel.

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.

Got to hand it to Paul…Introducing their new loudspeaker. I think they are too close together.

The FR30s in Music Room 2

Sometimes, despite our worst fears, life shines its happy light on us. And we should be thankful for those times that it does.

Making the decision to swap the IRSV room with that of the FR30 was frightening to me. Both speakers were working great in their environments. The thought they could each benefit from the move was only a guess. What if I was wrong? What if I had to put everything back? And if put back would it (could it) be at least as good?

Taking a leap of faith is frightening to most of us especially when we’re moving from something that works to (hopefully) working better.

What’s the old saying? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

But, fix it we did and now we had to live with the changes. First, the IRSV. As previously mentioned in yesterday’s post, the IRSV really benefitted from the move. We did well!

Bolstered by the improvements we enjoyed with the new home for the IRSV, I made the decision there would be no turning back now, a decision that brings to mind yet another of those old sayings: in for a penny in for a pound.

We wouldn’t be reversing course. It was time to tackle the FR30 in Music Room 2.

One observation I will share with you before I jump in. Speakers are like friends. One needs to get to know them before really feeling close. The FR30 are no different.

I have had to spend time with these beauties to get a feel for what they want and what they give in return. For example, the FR30 are very appreciative of diffusers on the front wall behind them (the IRS likes them too but not quite as much). Also, the FR30 want some sidewall help (where the IRSV don’t). I placed one of our DAAD diffuser towers on each side wall in MR2 and the improvements in coherence and tonality were remarkable. Here’s a picture showing both DAAD diffusers, one on each sidewall just after the Vicoustic panels closest to the listener. (the speakers’s designer, Chris Brunhaver sits on the left side while PS engineer, math whiz, and geek programmer, Carl Solway gets his first listen)

Aside from those two observations, setup is relatively easy. Like most speakers, the FR30 like being away from the front wall. What’s interesting is that (unlike the IRS) they still image remarkably well even with only a foot or two of breathing room behind them.

They, like the IRS, prefer to be pointed straight ahead and then toed in slightly. Here’s a picture where you can see the cool coasters under the feet we supply to make moving the speakers easy and the 3 diffusers on the far wall. The big amps are the prototypes for the BHK 600s (which are…breathtakingly good) and for the sharp eyed observer wondering what the little white boxes sitting on the amps are, they are custom control boxes allowing us to measure every amp parameter and adjust bias, etc.

After an easy hour of moving them around (using the aforementioned coasters under the spiked feet), I was suddenly and unexpectedly flabbergasted by the FR30’s soundstage width. Playing an oldie but a goodie, James Taylor’s Gaia, the image extended from wall to wall and beyond. The IRS had never managed that and even in MR3 it still cannot. I then switched tracks to Jamie Woon and Skin. This amazing track has always been a stunner but now with the FR30’s greater resolution (than the IRSV), I was shaking my head at hearing for the first time precisely how Woon’s voice had been electronically augmented and mixed. Wow. Next, I switched to Octave Record’s release of Foxfeather’s the Nature of Things and their track Too damned small. This piece should have the slam and excitement that reaches into your guts and on the FR30s in MR3 it did not. It was good, just not amazing as it was when I heard it in person. Now, on the FR30 in its new home, it smacks you in the chest and raises the hairs on your neck—your foot taps instantly.

I guess I could go on.

The drum track on Octave’s The Audiophile’s Reference disc begs to be turned up beyond sane levels. On the FR30 Michele’s drums are right there in the room with you—almost frighteningly so. On Reference Recording’s spectacular Organ Sensation with young Felix Hell, track 15, Allegro needs to be cranked up to 70 on the BHK (where we normally listen at 40 to 45). Holy crap! The room shakes when he hits the pedals and any questions you might have had concerning the FR30’s ability to move the room with its woofers go out the window. You feel it in your gut, your pants flap, and you cannot help that shit-eating grin on your face.

Downsides? MR2 still has some serious frequency-specific low-end suckouts that the IRS was able to somewhat overwhelm and the FR30 less so. Pete Belasco’s Deeper misses a few notes while others move your seat as they should. MR2 also has a 50Hz slap echo that when the IRSV was in the room didn’t matter much, but now the smaller FR30 struggles with (this we fixed in MR3 with special absorbers that we will add to MR2).

In the end, I have found my new reference. The FR30 has been elevated to the new reference standard for PS and the venerable IRSV has taken an honorary role as hell yes! It’s a great ride and fun! 

The greater resolution and musicality of the FR30 vs. the IRSV is a real ear-opener, something I didn’t think would happen.

I could not be happier.

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.

Making moves

After yesterday’s disconnection work of the PS Audio reference loudspeaker system, the IRSV, it is now time to make the big move from Music Room Two to the larger Music Room Three.

Physically, this is an incredibly difficult move, one where we risk damage to these classic beauties from the 80s. Or, worse, one of the 400-pound towers was to fall on someone. While this might seem a stretch I’ve had it happen to me while trying to single-handedly move a pair of Genesis One towers of the same weight. I thought I was being clever using a hand truck and that I could manage it if I were careful—something that turned out to be true until the wheels of the dolly hit a snag and I lost control. That tower took out a wall in the listening room.

Emotionally, I was past the point of the feeling of loss I had experienced just moments ago. Once disconnected, I bit my lower lip and turned my fear into excitement. Here was a chance for something better to happen.

Normally we take apart the wings and center tweeter and midranges. But since the move was just next door….

Well, I’ll let this video tell the story.