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.

I don’t always agree with Paul on audio matters, but he’s a lot more of a hobbyist than I am and have to hand it to him, he’s been able to turn his passion into a wonderful business and still stay a hobbyist.

Copper

On March 7, 2016, the first issue of Copper Magazine was launched into the world with zero subscribers.

Today, 171 issues later, Copper Magazine is read by nearly 50,000 subscribers.

I am often asked why we spend the time, money, and energy to publish this ad-free bi-weekly magazine. The answer is rather simple.

Copper is our gift to our community.

In a world where it sometimes seems like everyone’s got an angle to explore or an axe to grind, Copper is a shining example of the joy of serving our community.

And we are fortunate to have at its helm editor Frank Doris. Few people I have met along my half century audio journey are as passionate and generous as Frank.

Like the Carbon Almanac project I was privileged to be a part of, Copper is without affectation.

Both exist to generously serve communities without expectations of returns.

Thanks for your support.

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.

Another piece of the puzzle

I often tackle the same question multiple times. With each new answer to the same question, the different angle of attack seems to illuminate the lightbulb of understanding for at least one person.

An aha! moment. For me, that’s reason enough to keep trying.

We’re all perhaps a bit weary of me beating the DSD horse. I get it. But, I am also convinced that most of my readers don’t quite understand the difference between the two main digital audio formats: PCM and PDM. And I think it’s important to shine a light on it.

One of our HiFi Family members, Tony Plachy is a retired physicist with a gift for explaining hard-to-follow concepts.

Here’s from one of his comments:

“There is something very special about DSD256. I will try to explain what it does and how it does it. First, lets call DSD256 what it is. PDM ( Pulse Density Modulation ) which is a special case of PWM ( Pulse Width Modulation). I have been to seminars and lectures where notable mastering and recording engineers have said that the remarkable thing about PDM is that when the sampling rate is high enough ( and DSD256 is certainly high enough ) and you make a digital copy of analog music and the convert the copy back to analog what you get back sounds like the original. To say it another way is DSD256 makes exact copies.

I have a DSD recorder that i use to make copies of my best vinyl. It copies at DSD128 and the plays it back at DSD64. During the recording I can toggle between the copy and the original listening to the headphone feed from the recorder. To these old ears the mastering and recording engineers are correct.

How can this be? What does this happen with PDM and why does PCM ( Pulse Code Modulation ) seem to leave a digital footprint on the results? The answer is two things, one of witch I have all ready mentioned. First, the sampling rate must be high enough ( DSD256 or at least DSD128 ). Second, with PDM the amplitude of the analog signal is NOT ( yes, is NOT ) digitized. You can see this for yourself if you go online and find an article that shows the DSD output of digitizing a sine wave. Even if you are not an EE ( Electrical Engineer ) it should be obvious that all you need to do is use an analog low pass filter to get the sine wave back. Do not ever try this if you have the PCM output from digitizing a wave, all you will hear is horrible noise.

So does PDM do this for all music? The answer is yes, it does. To understand this you need to go online again and first look up a guy named Fourier and then look up how a square wave is made from a Fourier series. If you understand this it will be obvious that PDM can make exact copies of all music.

End of lecture, do your homework, this will be on the final exam! 😉

Thanks, Tony!

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.

Thought I would take a minute to write about Paul McGowan, who owns and operates PS Audio, as well as writing a blog, that I copy, with his permission, almost every day and have for the past severral years.

Besides writing his blog every day, PS Audio also publishes a monthly magazine, only available digitally, that talks about all sorts of things related to audio. It’s called Copper magazine and is accessible here, through their website, www.psaudio.com/copper-magazine.com/

PS Audio is making very good sounding and well built electronics at several different price points, from entry level, to expensive, although in todays high end stereo market, their high end products are damn reasonable and could almost be considered bargains. Their product line  includes Power Protection and AC regeneration products, DAC’s, preamplifiers and power amplifiers. Lately and after several delays spanning several years, now loudspeaker systems.

Besides all this,  PS Audio also has a recording division, called Octave Records, where they make excellent sounding DSD digital releases. While some of the music isn’t that interesting to me, they sound great and I support them because when it comes to an audio hobbyist, Paul is the poster boy for our hobby.

A Monday treat

I had previously written about the great pipe organ project we were involved in for Octave Records.

I still tingle with goosebumps every time I hear the playback of that amazing DSD recording session at Temple Emanuel in downtown Denver.

I thought it might be fun to share with you this Sunday morning a sneak peek at the setup process for the recording and then an actual performance from that recording.

Go here on YouTube and enjoy trumpeter Gabriel Mervine’s father, Ken Mervine (a master of the instrument), at the keyboard of one of the great instruments of all time.

Just watching his feet dance on the pedals is reason enough to watch.

Have fun this Sunday morning.

(This release on Octave Records will be part of a new series we’re preparing: The Art of HiFi. The first release of the new series will be all about ‘dat bass!)

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.

Looking in the wrong places

Digital audio is a very complex subject, one most of us don’t really understand at a level deep enough to make a reasoned technological change.

Yes, we can change cables, equipment, programs, and even formats and hear the differences. But most of us aren’t able to dig deep into circuitry and programming to make those changes.

Our changes are broader—surface level as opposed to digging deep into the machine.

As someone on the other side of the fence (with just enough deep knowledge to be dangerous), it’s always a balancing act helping people get to where they want to go by separating fact from fiction as best I can.

For example, in our ongoing quest for getting better sound out of our digital audio systems we work with cables and purifiers to improve the resulting audio. And it works! But why?

Lower noise? Less jitter? Better signal shape?

Without a clear understanding of what we are actually attempting to control or improve, most of what we do is more of a crapshoot than a reasoned approach.

I suppose the point of all this is that as we delve deeper into the benefits of galvanic isolation—benefits we will all have access to when we soon release the new DirectStream MK2—it might set a lot of folks to scratching their heads as to why those fancy cables and purifiers have so much less of an impact.

Once you know where to look it’s easy to see.

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, everything does matter and well beyond high end audio.

Everything matters

Back in the 70s, 80s, and even into the early 90s there was no such thing as Power Plants or power conditioners for high-end audio. Heck, there weren’t even high-end power cables.

Back then we just plugged into the wall and went about our business.

And we had some great sounding systems back then because everything we knew about mattered. We paid attention to cables and amplifiers and loudspeaker placement. And it all mattered.

AC power issues that we now know held back performance were not a thing. So we did the best we knew how to and got great results unaware of how much better they could be.

I remember the first time I heard a power conditioner. A passive one from MIT. Arnie Nudell and I were shocked at the difference it made.

It took us about a week to realize that while the sound was cleaner and quieter it also had been stripped of its life (as all passive conditioners do to some degree) and so we returned to plugging into the wall.

Everything matters in the audio chain.

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.

Why DSD isn’t everywhere

As diehard advocates of DSD as the ultimate audio capture technology, we are in the infinitesimal minority.

We find ourselves here on the wild frontier for one reason and one reason alone. DSD sounds remarkably better than any other capture method (including analog).

So the question continues to pop up. If DSD is so darn good why wouldn’t major studios like Abbey Road use it? They claim to be state of the art.

I’ll venture forward with a couple of thoughts on the matter.

First, DSD is a pain from a workflow standpoint made worse by the one program to work with, Pyramix: an ultra-sophisticated network-capable DAW used by many of the major studios and orchestras. It is used not because it is easy (it is anything but that) but because of its incredible network capabilities. Without worry of latency or loss, hundreds of channels of high-sample rate PCM or DSD audio can be moved around a network connected only by CAT6 cable.

But moving hundreds of channels of audio data around isn’t something Abbey Road needs, or for that matter, any of the famous recording venues. And of the studios, live venues, production houses, and orchestras where Pyramix is used it is almost never DSD. (In fact, in speaking with the engineers and owners of Pyramix it turns out almost no one uses it for DSD)

Big and famous studios have to accommodate workflows and knowledge chains of visiting engineers and producers—none of whom have any experience with DSD or Pyramix. They are in the business of being the best there is within the bounds of what those who might use their services know and understand.

And, that is not DSD nor Pyramix.

That our quest for the best sound regardless of the difficulty and limitations in achieving it is what drives us in a certain direction—one not shared by the mainstream—should come as no surprise.

It’s why they call us Audiophiles.

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.

Barking up the wrong tree

When we’re chasing down audio gremlins like hum or jitter it’s always helpful to know what’s actually happening.

Take hum for example. We might suspect a nasty buzz is caused by something (seemingly) obvious, like the AC powerline, but later find out it was from a cable TV ground.

Or jitter. If we hear an improvement in sound quality after upgrading our ethernet cables we might think we’re lowering jitter. Of course, there is no timing in ethernet (so no jitter either), though it’s entirely possible we lowered noise and that affected something else that’s prone to jitter down the line.

If we know what “tree” our problem is sitting in it’s a heck of a lot more effective than simply barking up every tree until something shakes loose.

Take a moment to understand the potential sources of the problem first.

You’re much more likely to catch what’s hiding up in that problem tree.

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.

Budget systems

People new to our corner of the world of high-end audio often find what we do daunting.

Eyebrows are raised at the idea of many thousands of dollars spent on electronics and speakers.

What often brings them back to planet Earth is knowing that for around $1,000 one can bring the magic of high-end audio into their homes. A system built around a Sprout and a pair of Elacs makes wonderful music.

That same $1,100 spent on a cheap receiver and speakers is light years away from what even a modest budget audiophile system can bring.

It’s not the money.

It’s how you spend it.

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 great unboxing

Unboxing videos have become quite popular. Like opening Christmas presents online to see what’s inside!

Our BHK600 unboxing video is different.

For one thing, it’s more than 30 minutes long. Half an hour to unbox this big power amplifier? Allow me to explain.

When our attorney (and the former president of PS Audio), Peter Rudy suggested we do an unboxing video that covered every little detail of getting it out of the package and then connecting it to the system, we were intrigued. Few people I know of are as detail oriented as Peter. Why not?

In this video, which you can click here to watch, Peter and our own James Herrod roll their sleeves up and wipe their brows. Turns out the only day we could get everyone’s schedule to work was the same day we were pulling maintenance on the air conditioning system. Peter and James sweat their way through a quite enjoyable (to watch) journey down the road of unboxing one of the great power amplifiers of all time.

If you’d like to learn more about the BHK600 monoblock amplifier, head here to get the full story.

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.

Conventions

Ever wonder why salad forks are smaller than dinner forks? Is it easier to pierce a shard of lettuce with a smaller instrument?

I suspect it is merely convention. Sometime in the past when we were worried about being fancy there likely had to be a way to distinguish between the proper etiquette of which utensil to use, which side of the plate the napkin went on, and so forth.

Downton Abbey style.

When it comes to audio we too have our conventions. The hot seat listening position. Long interconnects and short loudspeaker cables. Long speaker cables and short audio interconnects. Wash the vinyl before playing. Warm the equipment before listening. Turn the lights down low.

The list is likely exhaustive.

Some conventions are born from experience while others are simply “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

The thing about conventions is to always question them.

Are they helping or hindering?

Sometimes we realize our conventions are holding us back. That’s the time to reevaluate and readjust.

Else we get stuck in a rut.