Tag Archives: amplifier

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.

Misconceptions

It’s easy enough to have a misconception. It is a notion of one thing that turns out to be quite something else.

Misconceptions happen because we go into a situation with a set of expectations that aren’t met. Then, we label the whole thing a misconception.

When engineer Darren Myers took me upstairs and into Music Room 2 to hear his first cut at a new power amplifier, the M1200, I had a very clear idea of what that would sound like. And, I was wrong.

The new Stellar M1200 is a massively powerful audio amplifier as its model name implies. 1200 watts is big! Big enough to dump unfettered bass energy into even the most demanding of speakers without batting an eye. I dare say, nothing is likely to phase the M1200. Whatever one would hook it up to will enjoy tons of headroom and never suffer dynamic compression.

But what took me by surprise was not what it did, but what it didn’t.

The M1200 has a vacuum tube front end. And, it is this input stage that I assumed would give the amp a “tube sound”: lush, fat, warm. What I heard was not that, but rather a tonal accuracy that belied the nature of its input stage.

I should have known better. The first time I experienced vacuum tubes sounding like music (as opposed to adding stereotype characteristics) was in the BHK series. Bascom King demonstrated to me that tubes didn’t have to match their reputation of coloring the sound. In fact, properly designed, they would cut through the expectations of lush, fat, and warm to offer instead, musical truth.

The M1200 won’t be available until close to Christmas, but when it launches, it’s certain to change one’s expectations of tube sound.

Misconceptions are erased when what we expect is met.

Expect great things to come in time for Christmas.

 

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.

Unsung heroes

When we think about audio electronics the emphasis is typically on the amplifier circuit itself: Class A, Class B, fully differential, tube, solid state. But what we rarely think about is the power supply.

Power supplies are the lesser known circuits in our gear that play as important a role in sound quality as just about anything. I think of them as unsung heroes.

I know I have relayed the story of our power supply path a number of times—when my partner Stan demonstrated to me how big of an improvement a phono preamplifier could have when powered by an oversized transformer. But, that story has led our development team down some interesting paths that far too many engineers don’t share. The end results are what matter and many of our best products perform the way they do because of these unsung heroes.

It’s difficult for engineers who are taught the rigors of what works and what doesn’t to lavish design innovation and resources on going beyond adequate for power supplies. And, just like amplification circuits, most engineers accept without question the standard thinking on them: just make sure they are up to the task at hand and give them a little headroom.

The truth is, when performance matters, a great deal of attention and energy has to be expended on our unsung heroes. It’s not enough to throw a simple 3-terminal regulator into the circuit if the engineer has the budget, skill, and desire to craft musically superior sounding products.

An exceptional piece of high-end audio equipment is far more than just a clever take on signal amplification.

To build magic we have to honor our unsung heroes.