Tag Archives: audio

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.

Yes, audio cables make a difference, but if you follow certain rules regarding capacitance, inductance and shielding, you get most of the way there. Expensive cables are in many cases a joke, but bless the guys who make a fortune doing this as they are delivering something many audiophiles want and if people want it, give it too them.

Cables matter

Oh boy. I saved this and the next Fact or Fiction for last. This is a real viper pit of a question and those loyal readers of this blog know my answer before I even write it. Of course they matter, but only if we’re a bit open to proving that to ourselves.

I suppose we’ll begin with the most reviled of them all, power cables. Tomorrow we’ll tackle signal cables.

I am told our company loses credibility among the professional engineering crowd whenever we suggest power cables matter to sound quality. And, here’s my answer to that. I am sorry, but that doesn’t change the facts—nor am I incentivized to soften my stance. That the idea power cables matter makes little sense to someone who believes they have the electrical world figured out is something I won’t waste anyone’s time defending. If you firmly believe this to be true—that with your wisdom and knowledge you’re convinced it cannot be true—you should skip today’s post because you’ll be simply wasting your time.

The biggest head scratcher for people is this: if there’s several hundred feet of copper wire between the power pole and your equipment, what’s another 6 feet of expensive wire going to matter? As we’ve seen so many times throughout this Fact or Fiction mini-series, how you phrase the question makes all the difference in the world. Posed in the standard way I just described it makes no sense whatsoever. How could it? Let’s try asking it another way. In an AC circuit is the interface between the middle noisy load important? Now, our answer might look a bit different.

The notion in most people’s heads is that the powered equipment is at the end of the long copper power chain. This is actually wrong because it’s in the middle of the AC circuit (think of an AC circuit like a loop where the equipment is in the middle, the AC source at the opposite end). Furthermore, our equipment is both inductive and noisy. In fact, chances are good the point where the AC comes out of your home’s wall is the noisiest environment in your home—an environment hostile to good sound.  This is why shielding your power cables is so important.

“Whoa, skippy. Who cares if there’s RF and EMI on the power line? It’s all eliminated in the power supply anyway.”

Ahh, another good point, but again, a little myopic in favor of supporting a philosophy in opposition to what we in the high end already know. Thing is, power supplies might look good in a schematic but that’s about the only place. If the equipment grounds (which are tied directly to the AC plug ground) are noisy then there’s sonic trouble. What we hope for is to shield and deliver as unfettered and clean power as possible to our equipment.

At the proverbial end of the day, it’s easy enough to sonically compare a stock power cord with a decently shielded heavy gauge version.

You won’t have to go back and forth more than just once.



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.

Parts quality affects performance

When this particular Fact or Fiction proposition was originally proposed I passed it over because its answer seemed so evident. Yes, of course, parts quality affects performance. It’s a no-brainer, right? Maybe not to everyone.

We can easily agree that low tolerance audio parts that change value depending on temperature or variability in their construction can measurably impact delicate crossover and filter circuits, increase distortion, and upset the balance of essential circuitry, but that is not what I mean when posing this question. No, I am referring to the actual materials and technologies behind the building of those parts assuming tolerances and variabilities are the same: the type of film in capacitors and resistors, the materials in dielectrics, the base metals in connectors and wires.

To our engineering staff differences in capacitor construction, for example, are so obvious as to be classified as night and day: a REL Cap vs. a Jantzen, or Mundorf of the same value and materials. This is a particularly difficult problem when we are working on building equipment to a price point. We’re unwilling to compromise sound quality and thus we have to apply inordinate amounts of clever combinations of quality parts and circuit tricks to afford what we want. It may mean that if we cannot afford the quality of a particular drop-in-easy coupling capacitor required to achieve the performance we want we will have to spend another week of engineering time designing a lower cost DC servo circuit instead.

I remember well when we first launched Ted Smith’s amazing DirectStream DAC for the first time we spent a similar week’s worth of engineering time choosing whether it sounded best to use thick or thin film SMT resistors in the output attenuator. Common wisdom is that thin film SMT parts sound best and that’s what we populated the first production run boards with, but something just wasn’t right when we activated the attenuator. After hours and hours of work we discovered in this one instance, it was thick films that won the race. We had to hand remove (using a microscope for some of the techs to even see them) the parts and replace them with thick films before we released the products.

So, yes, parts quality affects performance.