Slap in the Face

Yesterday I wrote about a new power amp technology that simply blew my skirt up to the point where I have cleansed the listening room of anything but this product to amplify the Maggies. The decision to consider doing this took about 10 seconds: I knew immediately this was it. I then spent nearly a week pinching myself to make sure it was real – a battery of tests, listening to cuts I formerly couldn’t stand to hear, new cuts I had never heard – all in an attempt to uncover the dirty little truth that what I was hearing was too good to be true. It is true, my fears unjustified.

What cues slapped me in the face to make this decision? How did I instantly know this was something extraordinary? I’ll tell you in this post but let me caution you that for serious listeners, the process is different for each of us. This revelation that we each know extraordinary performance in a different way took a lot of years and conversations to figure out – and during the process of realizing this interesting fact I had many troubling days filled with self doubt. Why didn’t I hear what someone else heard when it was so obvious to them and brushed right past me?

I think the answer lies in how we recognize patterns that relate to reality. My cues that tell me what I am hearing is live or recorded are probably different than yours. I am extremely sensitive to image placement and audible pattern memory. For example, when I am on my morning walk into work I can tell the location of sounds around me as well as instantly know what created the sounds – the starters on different cars are immediately obvious to me: Chrysler starters vs. Subaru, vs. GMC, 4 cylinder engines vs. V8′s, different birds, how the neighborhood I walk through normally sounds vs. anything out of the ordinary.

Others pay no attention to this but use other means to identify and register their surroundings every moment in the day. It is something we all do in our own way and when it comes to a high-end system and recognizing a good performance and a bad performance I believe the same holds true. We each hear something different that cues us into the window of “closer to the truth”. For some it’s pacing, others tonality, and still others it’s imaging. For me, I fall into the latter.

So when I switched on the new power amplifier module I was evaluating, which had been gain matched to within a 10th of a dB to the reference power amplifier, I almost fell over when the speakers literally disappeared. I don’t mean a little, but 100%. They vanished, no sound coming from them whatsoever and the music totally divorced from the source. Cut after cut I went through and the same thing occurred.
So concerned was I that something was wrong I had engineering check and recheck and still, it’s perfect in all respects.
This was a major slap in the face and I’ll keep you informed if anything comes of it. For now I am feeling a bit selfish listening and enjoying but heck, there’s gotta be some bennies to the job!

Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Shaking Your World

Not often I run into something that simply shakes up my world and when that happens it’s hard for me to not stop everything we’re doing and shout it out loud. Thank goodness for this little blog – I can shout without disrupting PS Engineering.

Case in point the new power amp we have been working on. We haven’t released a new power amp in a couple of years because to date I haven’t heard anything that just knocked me out. Why is that important? Because no one in the company has any interest in building products just to fill a hole in the product line up. We build products because they deserve to be built. To date I haven’t heard anything that deserves to be built when it comes to power amplifiers.

But then …… an OEM manufacturer twisted our arm to give their new technology a listen and finally, after the device sat in the listening room for months, I finally got around to auditioning it. I was stunned. My world shaken so badly that I asked our chief engineer to take the unit back and run a full battery of tests on it so convinced I was that something must be amiss technically. And if so, I needed to know what it was because if technically incorrect then maybe we need to reevaluate what’s right and wrong.

But no, it was perfect, flat, correct. Identical in specs to every other amp we listened to. Identical to our reference amplifier in every respect except how it sounded. It’s back in the listening room, the reference amp retired forever. The new amp sitting open on a piece of plywood, sans chassis, with wires dangling about.

Tomorrow how I knew.

Paul McGowan – PS Audio Intl.

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