Tag Archives: amplifiers

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 have owned plenty of tube amplifiers with high second harmonic distortion that sounded great, so a little different take on this than Paul.

Does distortion matter?

If we have two amplifiers under consideration, and one has twice the THD as the other, does that matter? Would we choose one over the other because of its distortion spec?

I can recall years ago when Halcro trotted out their vanishingly low distortion power amplifier, setting the world back on its heels with triple and quadruple zero percent distortion levels—levels that challenged even the most advanced measurement equipment of the day.

And yet, the difference between an amplifier with 0.1% THD vs. another with 0.05% may not only be hard to hear, it’s entirely possible the higher distortion model might sound better. Or not.

The point of this is simple. When distortion and frequency response measurements exceed audible limits there’s an obvious result when we listen. When the measurements get below a certain threshold, those measurements mean less and less on their own.

To a design engineer, they might give clues as to the underlying circuits producing them, but used as a measure of sound quality, relative to others with very similar results, they are next to worthless.

Below a reasonable threshold, distortion measurements do not matter.


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.

Paul is introducing a new amplifier from PS Audio. It’s based on a B&O Ice Power module, which is a lot better sounding Class D module than any Hypex based amp I’ve heard and is very powerful, efficient and probably sounds very good, if not excellent.

Myth busting

Just about everything in our lives goes back to a story living in our heads. Perhaps it’s the story of your childhood, or maybe how you learned to drive, or your first stereo system. When we think back over our experiences we come to understand we’ve built stories around them, stories that help us navigate the world.

When those stories are incorrect we refer to them as myths.

One of the most common audio myths is the need to match a power amplifier’s output wattage to the connected loudspeaker. It’s been taught to us we don’t want to overpower a speaker. Connecting a 1,000 watt amplifier to a bookshelf speaker just feels wrong, yet that’s only a myth.

The facts of the matter are pretty clear. All power amplifiers deliver only the number of watts they are told to by the preamplifier. The speaker’s role involves only its impedance. A 4Ω speaker draws twice the 8Ω power needs for a given volume level.

Of course, most myths have their roots in truth. A 1kw power amplifier has the potential to fry the crap out of a small speaker just like a 500 horsepower engine has the potential to slam your car into a cement abutment at 100 miles an hour. But, potential should not conflate to will.

I bring this to your attention because we’re just now making public the webpages for our new 1.2kw monoblock amplifier, the Stellar M1200.

We’ll be beta testing the Stellar M1200s this month, and I can tell you that it is a stunning achievement. Rarely have I ever heard dynamics as uncompressed and open as what the M1200 provides. I mean, I’ll go so far as to suggest that in my 50 years of HiFi listening I have yet to hear anything as dynamic as these new monoblocks.

When the going gets tough, when the orchestra revs up, the trombones blat, the 32 violins get rippin’, the double basses get bowin’, the tympanis are poundin’, and the horn section blares, I swear I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. The crescendos seem to just soar outside the room with zero hint of compression.

Until you hear 1.2kw driving the system you simply do not know what’s been holding things back. You can’t. Not until it’s been removed can we know what we’ve been missing.