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.

If you have a moment

Our good friend and former editor of Copper, Bill Leebens, is facing some hard times at the moment. Bill’s looking at some expensive surgery for which he does not have the funds to cover the costs.

If you know Bill or would like to help out, a donation link through Facebook (yeah, I’m not a Facebook person either) has been set up here.

Thanks for anything you can do.

As for audio related stuff, how many of us have had the notion to get our money’s worth when it comes to subwoofer performance? I know I’ve felt the urge.

When REL’s John Hunter upgraded my home theater’s REL subwoofer from a smaller 10″ to a massive 18″ version, the first thing I did was crank up the Kevin Bacon movie, Termors to laugh again as Val and Earl fight giant earthworms. Aside from the fact the movie’s a crack up, I was of course hopeful the new sub would rattle my cage and shake my booty.

It did, and then some.

But when the fun’s over and the excitement of the new has worn off, it’s time to put that subwoofer in its place—where we don’t hear it as a separate entity, but rather as it should be: integrated seamlessly with the main system.

Got to make sure those giant earthworms sound real.

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.

Maybe Paul’s hearing has changed a wee bit?

Just a little louder please

For many years I marked the volume setting for each track in my reference library. On playback, it was easy to set the proper level by adjusting it up or down to compensate for the number of listeners in the room.

Then something changed. I am not sure exactly what but I suspect it was an incremental combination of things: a new software upgrade for DirectStream coupled with new cables.  Whatever the cause, over time I started noticing a desire to turn up the sound a few notches above where my reference marks were.

Have you experienced the same sort of thing? You have a stereo system that’s perhaps on the edge of a slight brittleness or brightness. You’re hesitant to turn up the music too loud. Then something changes that removes the touch of glare and voila! Time to crank it up just a bit.

Some tracks of music and some types of audio equipment encourage playback at louder levels while other combinations are not quite so welcoming.

When I look at my reference library I can see the trend towards playback of the tracks that encourage me to turn it up just a little louder.

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.

Crossfeed

One of the touted advantages of headphones is their lack of crossfeed. Unlike loudspeakers, the left and right channels are always separate.

And so it surprised me to learn of headphone folks interested in adding crossfeed to their rigs—kind of like adding unwanted distortion.

First a bit of explanation. When listening to loudspeakers we are immersed in what is called crossfeed: the left channel is first heard in the left ear, followed a millisecond later by that same signal getting into the right ear (and vice versa). Thanks to that small delay between ears our brains can sort out the difference so that we hear two separate channels. Headphones eliminate this crossfeed and thus have an entirely different sonic signature: the left hears only the left channel while the right only what is fed to it.

In real life audio (as opposed to our reproduced version of it), crossfeed is natural. Extend your arm as far to the right as it will go then snap your finger. The right ear first receives the snap and a millisecond or so later your left ear gets a slightly modified version. It sounds natural.

One argument in favor of zero crossfeed is that we’re doubling down. First, the microphones pick up all this spatial information, and then through loudspeakers, we’re doing it all over again. Essentially double crossfeed. True enough but it’s worth considering that most recordings are made with a single microphone and then artificially panned without that delay.

The advocates of adding crossfeed to headphones suggest it sounds more natural and I suppose there’s a reasonable argument in favor of that. But, I wonder. Does it sound more natural or does it sound more like the loudspeaker version of natural we’ve all gotten accustomed to?

What’s your opinion?

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.

Adjustment time

When evaluating a piece of audio gear there are two schools of thought. Make a quick judgment or live with the device for a while and see how it feels.

Both methods have their good and bad points.

The quick method works well for me because it’s something I’ve trained to do over the years. Using a tried and true set of reference materials with a broad enough range of musical diversity, I can make a pretty accurate rapid assessment on a consistent basis. This method doesn’t work for everybody. Without proper training, mistakes are easily made from using such a small sample. The good news with this quick method is that our ear/brains don’t have time to adjust to differences…which brings me to the second method.

Spending good quality time with a new piece of stereo equipment whether electronics, cables, or speakers has its merits. Instead of a rush to judgment that might have some folks anxious about missing important bits, the long and winding road of living with equipment has the advantage of thoroughness coupled with greater confidence in the decisions made. The bad news is the problem of maintaining impartiality. The longer we live with something more our ear/brains adjust to the quirks and mistakes to the point of sonic blindness.

We lose our reference.

Perhaps the most seasoned approach is a combination of the two: a quick evaluation noting any possible problems coupled with a longer term live-in period focused on compatibility with the noted issues.

In the end, it’s of course important to know what does and doesn’t work for you.

And even if you’re wrong, it’s fun having the luxury of trying out new gear!

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.

Stand out products

When a piece of stereo gear sonically singles itself out in an audio system it is typically not a good thing. What we hope for is a synergistic pairing of components that benefit the whole.

Sure, it’s not only alright but actually welcomed when we can add a product that elevates the whole. But then elevating the whole is the point, right?

I remember years ago when I experimented with a Teac Dolby noise reduction system designed to “eliminate hiss, pops, and unwanted artifacts of sound.”

Unfortunately, it was a stand out product that eliminated more than simply unwanted noise.

I love visually attractive stand out products.

I am not so sure about those that sonically stand out from the rest of the system.

For me, the beauty of music is found in the perfection of the whole.

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.

Lot’s of pro use AP gear.

Measuring measuring gear

One of my readers, Jake from Boston, sent me the following note that might someday make it to an Ask Paul video, but for now, it’s certainly worthy of a post.

Hi Paul, I have been doing some reading about measurement tools such as those produced by audio precision, and I was wondering how accurate these tools can be considering they produce their own noise, etc. It doesn’t make sense to measure it because the tool you would use has the same issue. Are these tools good enough to the point where their own inherent problems are truly negligible?

The simple answer to Jake’s question is yes, the measuring equipment we rely upon for our designs is certainly quiet and low distortion enough to measure beyond the point of audibility. And that’s what’s important.

Our mainstay of measuring equipment is, as Jake suggests, made by an Oregon-based company called Audio Precision. (For those who are observers of URLs you might notice that Audio Precision has one of the rarest URLs known, a two letter URL AP.Com).

From their website on the equipment we use: “With a typical residual THD+N of -120 dB and over 1 MHz bandwidth, the analyzer surpasses the analog performance of all other audio analyzers, including a 5 dB improvement compared to our 2700 Series analyzer. Add to this FFTs of 1.2 million points and full 24-bit resolution, and you have performance unmatched by any other instrument.”

So two comments about this. First, from even years ago, the measurement equipment we rely upon to design our products have specs that outperform the human hearing mechanism by a major magnitude. Second, measurements are critical to the design process. From a time standpoint, 80% of all our design efforts are spent at the measurement bench getting the product to do and perform as we wish.

Lastly, as folks who read this blog know, the last 20% is spent with our equally important measurement tool, the listening room.

To make a world class product it takes the best measurement equipment for the job—both on the test bench and in the listening room.

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.

Can there be a right and wrong?

Whether you believe in gravity or not you’re going to get hurt when you hit the pavement after falling off a 30-foot ladder.

It’s not a question of right or wrong to wonder about the validity of gravity. The decision to fall off the ladder might be one where right and wrong play a role, just not the outcome.

Gravity is always right.

In a distantly similar vein, the question of right and wrong becomes less clear as it applies to transducers, connecting cables, and stereo electronics.

And this is because, like cables, phono cartridges, electronics, and loudspeakers, none are perfect.

One cannot with any accuracy suggest this microphone, that phono cartridge, that amplifier, or that connecting cable is “right” because unlike the finality of gravity all to some degree are wrong.

And once you grasp the idea that everything in our system is in error, then it becomes a lot easier to pick and choose between imperfections to get as close as possible to what feels right.

Right for the moment; right under the circumstances; right for to

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.

New gadgets

I love great gadgets that make life better and I want to share two of them with you today. The first is something affordable you should own, the second is the exact opposite.

Terri and I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We also have a lot of indoor plants. All that adds up to an irritating problem for us, fruit flies—irritating tiny buzzing gnats that drive us nuts. They seem especially prevalent in the winter months, mostly (I assume) because it’s cold outside and they are happier inside.

What to do. After some searching, I found the perfect trap for these little buggers. It’s called a Katchy and it is brilliantly simple.

A proper frequency light to attract the flies, a quiet fan to suck them in, and sticky paper to trap them.

We keep one in the kitchen and within a few days of its installation, there’s nary a fly to be seen. About every 60 days we pull out the replaceable sticky paper disc that’s now covered with the victims and slide in a new one.

The second gadget I wanted to share is nothing short of amazing. It’s a marker of how advanced robotics have gotten.

The robotics company, Boston Dynamics, (owned by Google) is the clear leader in robotic technology. Go here and watch their video of the dancing robots. If that doesn’t suggest to you how close robotics are to becoming human-like, I don’t know what would. (If you prefer, there’s also this video with the Rolling Stones and the robots)

To be clear, these robots aren’t “dancing” in the sense they are of their own free will reacting to the music. No, this is clearly scripted and they are simply moving to a specific set of instructions. But that’s just the beginning.

Have a look at this video to see that the robot can “think” for itself as it navigates rough terrain as well as make its own decisions about how to respond to being put in a difficult situation.

They are expensive. If you’d like to purchase one, go here and drop a cool $75,000 (about the cost of some loudspeakers) and have fun.

Two ends of the spectrum gadgets to enjoy. One makes your life better, the other hopefully gets you to think about the future that lies just around the corner.

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.

Secondary truth

Not everything is straightforward.

Take for example brushing your teeth. Despite the minute or two of brushing recommended by dentists, it turns out not more than a few swipes of the brush and paste against your enamel is all it takes to keep them clean. The extra time is about gum health, not teeth.

Just the other day I queried my dentist on this observation. He laughed and said I’d uncovered their secret. “Can’t get people to brush their gums but tell them two minutes with an electric brush will keep your pearls white and we get what we want anyway.”

I think many of these primary tasks are more about their secondary benefits than their primary names. Think about the yearly good practice of reconnecting your HiFi system and dressing up your stereo cables. The real benefit is deoxidation. Same with swapping vacuum tubes. I recommend going through your dozen or so favorite tracks every quarter, not because you need to hear them again, but to recenter yourself and make certain everything’s as you imagined it to be.

There’s often more to routine than meets the eye or the ear.

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.

Ain’t it the truth?

In answer to the question of “how you doing” one of our readers wrote the following:

Burst pipes under the house, flooded basement, washing my dishes in the bathroom sink, credit card got hacked over the holiday, some rogue wind fueled branch performed an emergency skid landing on my roof which now leaks, my ears ring, I can comb my hair with a hot dog, nobody ever ever warned me about the ridiculously vast amount of time I would have to relinquish coughing and clearing my throat strictly due to my moronic inability to correctly and effectively swallow my own spit, but other than that – I’m pretty good dag-nabbit!

That made me laugh. Dag-nabbit!

It’s been two years since the pandemic and its associated wave of insanity ran over us like an out-of-control truck.

I haven’t yet figured out if 2022 is slowly returning us to some level of sanity or if it’s just me getting used to it.

Ain’t it the truth?