Tag Archives: Audiophile

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

Who’s to say?

I remember the first time a worried audiophile came to me for help. It was many years ago at a consumer tradeshow.

The fellow—let’s just call him Ed—was concerned because a system in a room sounded wrong to him. That was particularly upsetting to Ed because he had been assured by the owners of the room that the system was near-perfect. That if he didn’t hear that perfection then something was wrong with him (as opposed to the system).

Ed came to me for help. Would I give a listen and offer an opinion?

We traipsed down the hall, walked into the room, and listened. Ed was right. The sound was aggressive, forward, amusical to a fault. A wall of loud high fidelity.

The owner of the brand spotted me and smiled.

“What’cha think?” he asked.

“Not really my choice of music. Could we try something a bit gentler, perhaps with a vocal?”

Now the fun begins. The vocal was not a lot different than the wall of sound first on offer, but at least it was music I was familiar with. Norah Jones, if memory serves.

“Very revealing,” said I.

That was good enough for us to be given a hall pass to leave.

As Ed and I walked back to our room he asked me, “you found it revealing? So he was right?”

“What did you hear?” I asked.

“It still sounded all wrong. Completely the opposite of your room where the musicians sound live and in the room.”

“Right,” I said. “The last piece he played was very revealing of that fact. I just didn’t want to finish the sentence and make him feel bad.”

In later years I came to understand that brand owner’s idea of great audio was to bring the sound as far forward as possible. That to him, that represented what was right and best and natural.

Who’s to say what’s right and wrong?

If our ultimate goal is to reproduce the sound of live music in our rooms, then ultimately it’s how we each perceive that sound.

Right for him may not be right for me.

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 in the past used very expensive audiophile cables from Analysis Plus, Audioquest, Cardas, Siltec and many more than I want to remember. However, right now, I don’t use a single cable over $100 in my system and it sounds great. Maybe the best stereo system I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard a bunch. So, like Paul a bit befuddled on this topic.

Directional

When it comes to directionality I find myself a bit lost.

Let’s take for example an AC power cable. Directionality is easy because each of the two connectors is different.

But a fuse?

Perhaps someone can help me understand how a fuse connecting the AC input of our equipment to the wall power can have directionality. Most aftermarket fuses have arrows indicating direction and it is said the construction is different at each end. Fair enough, but which end is the right end and right for what?

An AC power source alternates between plus and minus 50 to 60 times a second. Which direction is right?

Imagine a pendulum. Does it matter if it begins from left to right or right to left?

I have in the past bought into interconnect directionality. Here we too have an alternating current signal. But now the story goes it’s the wire’s directionality when it is being drawn out of the die that the copper was pulled through, thus realigning the crystal structure in such a way as to make it sound better or worse depending on source or receiver side. This argument still befuddles me but I have consistently heard differences in an RCA interconnect.

At least I think I have.

Without reconstruction this cannot be tested in an XLR or AC power cable (the male and female connectors define its source).

But a fuse?

Color me confused.

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.

Audiophile sound

I often hear the term Audiophile Sound in reference to gear. Especially speakers.

How does a loudspeaker sound audiophile and what does that mean?

My guess is that it depends on who is asking the question.

From our viewpoint, the audiophile sound means it’s as close to live as technically possible. In other words, it doesn’t have a sound. In fact, the less it has a “sound” the closer we believe it to be perfect.

From an outsider’s viewpoint, an audiophile quality system is so far removed from their experience of reproduced sound that it warrants a label of its own. “Sounds like an audiophile speaker”.

The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

It all depends on who is asking the question.

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 golden ear myth

I wonder about the origin of the audiophile myth of golden ears.

In my experience, the differences we hear, the quality of the music played on our stereo systems are immediately obvious to any and all newcomers. I have never had anyone tell me they couldn’t hear “the difference” we bring to the table.

So why are we labeled golden eared? What is it that makes us appear to have special powers of audio observation?

Indeed, I have been with people I would consider as having golden ears. Listeners so astute at their craft they can pinpoint problems and point to probable causes.

But do most audiophiles have greater sonic acuity than your average consumer of audio?

I think not. I believe what the difference is that audiophiles have been exposed to better sound and know the difference between the drek foisted off on consumers vs. what good sound can offer.

We have been exposed to what music can sound like when properly reproduced.

That’s a golden experience.

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.

Not sure there is anything like convention in the Audiophile world!!

The merits of convention

The corollary of yesterday’s post Purpose and Intent is to be alright with choosing convention.

Which, if you think about it, was the point of that post.

Choose with purpose because it’s the best thing to do. I purposefully choose to follow convention because, in the end, it’s what works for me.

Don’t choose convention just because.

Choose the convention of tried and true with purpose and confidence because it’s the best choice.

That’s the thing about choosing with purpose.

You’re confident it’s the best choice.

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.

We had a console too!!

“You can see wires

Reader, Jack Flory sent me this touching story of becoming an audiophile and I wanted to share part of it with you.

I don’t remember the exact date that I became a budding audiophile, but it all started in 1965 when I was in the seventh grade.

My parents were building the house of my mother’s dreams. My father agreed as long as he was allowed to put a newfangled Stereo in the living room. It would be a huge upgrade to our ancient record player that lived in a wood box on a table. So, off we went shopping.

It was a cold rainy night on the east coast and we went stereo shopping, riding in our venerable and well-ventilated Army Jeep. I hid under a blanket in the back until we got to the store that sold Marantz and McIntosh equipment. And this is when it happened. I listened to music played through a system of McIntosh components connected to a pair of Klipschorns. I was hooked. I wanted that system in our home, but the look on my mother’s face wasn’t promising. I was so enamored with the fidelity of the music, I asked the salesman, a friend of my father if he had room in the back such that I could move my bed in and stay there. The parents were not amused. However, they did consent to allow me to stay there under the salesman’s supervision for a short time as they did other shopping in the mall as long as I sat in a chair, didn’t move and didn’t touch anything. That would probably be labeled child abuse today. On the way home, my mother issued her edict from the front seat. “John, I don’t want that in my house. You can see wires.”

And there you have it. Classic. Even in the 60s, the sight of wires or the workings of a stereo were unwelcome in so many homes.

I remain convinced this is one reason our systems remain a niche category despite the fact I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love better sound.

(In Jack’s much longer version of the story, the family finally settled on a Zenith console stereo with no visible wires)

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.

We don’t know what we don’t know!

We love to judge

One of the readers of this daily post, Bernard, suggested I remind us of some famous words from Linn founder, Ivor Tiefenbrunn.

“If you haven’t heard it, you don’t have an opinion.”

Now that’s fairly direct and to the point. I don’t personally know Ivor but from what I gather he was always that way.

It’s often tempting to pass judgement on something we’ve not personally experienced, which makes sense when we’re discussing extreme activities like parachute jumping, rock climbing, or daredevil stunt flying.

When it comes to offering an opinion on something closer to home like the differences a fuse or an audiophile cable makes, I am guessing the vast majority of naysayers have never actually taken the time to do the work of listening.

Where I will argue with Ivor’s statement is easy: everyone’s got an opinion.

And we read about those opinions as if they were facts. Valid or not.

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.

Audiophile Day

Every single day of the year there are multiple celebrations of every imaginable topic.  In fact, this month there are more celebrations than there are days in the year.

And, among those, and special to all of us reading this post, is the 6th annual, Audiophile Day.

It’s a day to remember why we’re here. For some it’s the stereo gear, for others the music, still others the camaraderie.

We are unique. A wonderful mix of good-hearted people from around the world. People in love with music and its faithful reproduction in the home.

To all of us, a happy Audiophile Day!

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.

Too wide of a gap

Between a high-performance audiophiles stereo system and the casual plop-it-down-and-listen setup, there seems to be a pretty wide gap.

Which makes me wonder why there isn’t something in the middle.

Imagine a single wireless all-in-one floor-standing speaker. You unbox it, set it up along a living room wall, connect to your WiFi, and voila! A great, full-range musical performance fills your room.

Instead, we seem saddled by Home Pods and glorified boom boxes that pretend to reproduce music as it was intended to be played.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a great two-channel audio system as much as the next. It just seems to me there’s a huge chasm between what we can plunk down and play versus setting up a many-box rig with wires and speakers.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Maybe someday someone will fill that gap.

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.

Status roles

I am aware it makes some of us a bit uncomfortable to admit we use our stereo system’s status as our calling card, but I’d like to suggest it’s fine.

There’s nothing wrong with rating yourself by the status of your audio equipment.

“I am an audiophile,” said the first, proudly.

“Yeah? What’s your system?” asked the second.

As the list of prized components gets rattled off, a judgment forms as to the seriousness and the caliber of the first. This is perfectly normal behavior and one I encourage.

Your equipment is, after all, a reflection of you.

And we should never feel bad or inadequate for being who we are.

We are the best we know how to be.