Tag Archives: analog

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 use vintage Urei 539 EQ’s, which are all analog and they sound great. So, while I get what Paul is saying, there are exceptions, like the Urei 539!

Conflating D and A

In yesterday’s post on tone controls, there were a number of comments about the use of DSP, yet few about the differences between analog and digital controls.

There is no question that if one is happy staying entirely in the digital domain, DSP EQ and correction is a near-perfect solution. We can design extensive tone controls that have zero phase shift and are sonically neutral.

The same cannot be said for analog. And therein lies the rub.

If you’re going to add tone or EQ controls to an analog preamplifier you are going to suffer added circuitry, phase shift, and sonic degradation. That’s just the cost of doing business in the analog domain.

As a manufacturer, we have to be sensitive to all our customer’s needs. We can’t, for example, produce an honest analog-based preamplifier with DSP for EQ. To do that would require the analog signal to first be converted to digital and then back into analog.

Which is why blanket statements about EQ and tone controls are difficult. We first need to set the ground rules of the playground before making blanket statements.

Just sayin’.

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.

Moving forward

When Stereophile Magazine awarded Stellar Phono its coveted Analog Product of the Year award we were, of course, ecstatic. What an honor.

That award got me thinking about the near-impossible job of a phono preamplifier: to amplify without noise a tiny signal 30,000 to 50,000 times smaller than what comes out of your preamplifier.

I remember from 40 years ago my struggles to design without noise PS Audio’s first moving coil preamplifier. It felt impossible. How does one add, without additional noise, 30dB of gain in front of an already high gain moving magnet phono stage? Everything I tried came with unacceptable levels of noise. I searched, I studied, I consulted with experts. At the time, the general consensus was it couldn’t be done and we should instead do what everyone else was doing: use a step up transformer.

I own up to being a stubborn mule. Dammit! I was going to figure out an active solution and so I continued to slug it out with various schemes. Finally, after a year of constant failure, I succeeded. Low impedances and a single common base BJT amplifier were the answer.

One of the industry’s very first active moving coil amplifiers, the PS Audio MCA, was born.

That was four decades ago. Today, innovative bright young engineers like Darren Myers are blazing trails I couldn’t have imagined.

Progress. Breaking new ground. Moving forward. It’s what gets me up in the morning.

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.

Good for PS Audio!!

Analog product of the year

“Wow!” That’s about all I could say when I learned PS Audio’s Stellar Phono Preamplifier had been named by the editors at Stereophile Magazine as their Analog Product of the year.

“Wow!”

Congratulations to the entire PS Audio engineering team who worked hard to build this beauty. And a special shout out to the product’s principal architect, PS Audio’s own Darren Myers.

That an offering from our most affordable product line, Stellar, was chosen as the best analog product of the year from a crowded field of mega thousand dollar competitors makes this award even more startling.

Thanks to our HiFi Family for your support of this fine product. Also, thank you to reviewer Michael Fremer who was first to review the Stellar Phono and the editors of Stereophile Magazine.

We are honored.

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.

Audio pedigree

Pedigrees authenticate bloodline lineage. They’re important for dogs, royals, and source materials.

If you’re hoping to purchase an analog recording, it’s not genuine if it was first recorded digitally. Which is why there’s often so much confusion around modern LPs or even remasters. I shake my head when I learn a particular vinyl LP released remaster was first digitally transferred from analog tape.

That’s a mutt.

In a similar vein, it’s unhelpful when labels offer us versions of their libraries in multiple formats without being clear as to their pedigree. First recorded in PCM then released in both DSD and analog does not a DSD or analog recording make.

Here’s a vote for transparency into proper breeding.

If I want to purchase only purebred DSD recordings, I want an accurate pedigree.

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 meaning of analog

“That sounds so…analog.” What does that actually mean? And what are we saying when we suggest something sounds “digital”.

I wonder if our terminology isn’t out of date. We offer praise when a digital reproduction sounds analog yet we know analog has limitations that digital does not.

I would never suggest that while listening to a live performance that it sounds either analog or digital. I might say it sounds natural, perhaps full and rich, but analog or digital? Never.

I wonder why then we cling to these antiquated terms. And I am not pointing the finger at anyone but me. I am a big offender and want to work on my language at every opportunity.

Perhaps when I slip up you all can help remind me.

There’s no such thing as the sound of analog and digital. They are antiquated terms and I can do better.

 

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.

Shutter speed

Moving picture film appears continuous when running at 24 or 36 frames per second, just like digital audio sounds continuous when sampled at 44 thousand times a second. Yet, slowed down we understand the magic trick.

As long as the choppy images or audio are faster than what we can perceive as changing, we agree to accept them as continuous.

Of course, nothing is really continuous. Take our old friend analog as an example. Many will assume that analog is continuous while digital is chopped up as previously described. What we take for granted as a steady tone—say the continuous press of an organ note—is in actuality a series of on and off modulations occurring too quickly for us to hear as anything but continuous.

Our seemingly unbroken analog world is an illusion.

As long as change occurs quicker than we can perceive it’s all analog.

 

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 has a phono stage!!

When measurements take a backseat

As engineers, we always start a new design with the best of intentions. We’re hell-bent on making sure our new creations perform to their best. One of the ways we do that is by measurement which always precedes listening.

When PS Audio’s analog engineer Daren Myers set out to design the new Stellar Phono Preamplifier his first stop was the measurement suite in PS Audio’s lab. “Extremely low distortion? Check. Vanishingly low noise? Check.” Then, it’s on to the music room to see how all that fine measuring equipment sounds. And that’s sometimes where confident hopes turn to disappointed scowls.

There is a video on the PS Audio website that gives us an inside scoop on this new product that’s sure to set the high-end audio world buzzing.

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.

Building a new speaker Part 1

Starting today, and going through the next three days, I’ll be detailing the making of the new AN3 speaker. If you’re not interested in learning about the development process I’d skip the next few days of posts.

One of the reasons I wanted to spend time with this subject is its fleeting nature. Once the process is completed: the pain, sweat, angst, triumph, and failures along the way are lost—and to my way of thinking they are all part of a product’s DNA as much as a young person’s upbringing shapes their lives.

As you read this, know that the AN3 prototypes are now bouncing along I-80 in the back of some truck on their way to Chicago for the Axpona show.

The battlefield where engineers Darren Myers, Bob Stadther, and I (ably assisted by Jordan Kamper) devoted our days nights and weekends in service of making great music has been relegated to the inner canister of a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

A look inside Music Room One would offer no clue of what occurred there: the building of a new kind of loudspeaker—a 4-way hybrid of ribbons and cones and analog and amplifiers and servos and DSP capturing the magic of Arnie Nudell’s work and the bounty of music properly reproduced.

I have filmed four videos to go along with each of the four parts of this saga. The first can be viewed here.

In this opening video, I spend the entire 11 minutes explaining Arnie Nudell’s reference system: what it is, why it works, what he tried to achieve and how. If you’re familiar with that system, the one following his triumph of the IRSV and all that came afterward from Genesis Technologies while he was at the helm and me at his side, then wait until tomorrow to watch Part 2.

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.

Radical ideas

Whenever I hear the term “radical new idea” two things happen: my ears perk up and my caution guard goes up too.

I think most of us are both interested and skeptical of radical change. We love the idea of the new, the radical, the brass ring solution that leapfrogs us away from the land of incremental changes. And yet, how many times have we been disappointed? The 200 mpg carburetor, the Bedini Box speaker cables.

Most radical ideas go nowhere but on occasion, they spark improvements in the tried and true. I remember our first discovery that huge oversized transformers improved the audio performance of source equipment and that discovery lead to the creation of the Power Plant AC regenerators.

The cycles between radical shifts in technology seem to be becoming shorter. Vacuum tubes to transistors happened in a 50-year cycle while the move from analog to digital audio was a little more than half that.

With all the work on new materials for generating sound like graphene and the research on beamforming to direct sound to specific locations, I am guessing we’re in for a radical new approach in the field of reproduction by the middle of the next decade. That’s not a lot of time.

I’ll also wager that the new approach, whatever it is, will come out of left field—or certainly a field far from high-end audio.

As I write these words some companies are installing audio beam projectors capable of following individuals in a crowded public area to spam them with advertising—and only the targeted individual will hear it. Applied to a stereo system it means sound could track the individuals within a room perhaps moving the soundstage with the person.

It’s fun to imagine what the future might hold for audiophiles like 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.

Digital gaps

It’s common wisdom that because digital breaks up sound into bits there’s missing information between those bits—information not lost with analog. But is that accurate?

The comparison between the uninterrupted straight line picture of analog and the chunky digital copy might lead us to imagine differences that don’t necessarily exist.

If I were to side with the measurementists I could pretty definitively demonstrate there is nothing measurably missing in a proper digital recording.

If were to then take the opposite side and agree with the analog proponents that correctly point out the audible differences between digital recordings and analog recordings, we would then be at a stalemate.

If nothing is missing in digital what explains the differences in sound quality?

We can say with absolute certainty that a PCM recording of a live music feed sounds different than an analog or DSD recording of the same event.

Yet, it is also true that a PCM recording of the analog playback is nearly indistinguishable from the analog playback.

Tomorrow I am going to suggest what might be going on.