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.

Audiophile rating system

While answering a customer’s question about matching amps to speakers an old memory popped into my head. The industry’s effort to craft an audiophile rating system.

It was a few decades ago but back then the idea seemed promising. Within the audiophile community, we’d set up a rating system for sound quality to insulate us from the overzealous performance claims of mass market consumer audio companies. Perhaps it would be on some sort of sliding scale or points system, whatever. It really didn’t matter how the metrics worked, just that there would be some agreed upon standard of performance. Once that was decided then manufacturers could submit their products to a listening panel for review. That panel would then rate the product to be “audiophile approved” or not. This rating could apply to equipment and recordings as well.

The purpose of this rating system was simple: a means to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you go online and read the descriptions of power amplifiers, for example, everything from a $19.95 20-watt amp to actually decent sounding products all claim to be “high-performance” or “audiophile grade”. Clearly that is not true nor will it ever be true.

So, how’s a customer suppose to decide if an amplifier, CD player, preamp, recording, or loudspeaker meets some sort of minimum standard of performance? What might be helpful is a stamp of approval similar to a Michelin Star system but without the gradations. Just approved or not approved. Simple.

In the end, the idea was abandoned because of manufacturer infighting. Who would make these judgments? Who would maintain them? Wouldn’t members of the review board wield too much power over the industry? Would there be an appeals process? What if bribery got involved?

My arguments were on the flipside. Perhaps manufacturers that wanted to be approved but weren’t could be given a ratings sheet letting them know where they fell down: poor FR, flat imaging, 2-dimensional sound, too bright, too this or not enough of that. Then, their engineers could upgrade the product until it met with approval. Bingo! Better sales, better sound. Win, win.

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 do both, depending on the type of component and in the case of my speakers, both.

Anchor or isolate?

Audiophile wisdom is rife with both good and bad advice. It’s a good idea to pay attention to the electronic chain’s component quality while it’s a bad idea to spend so much on tweaks you ignore the fundamentals.

Sometimes this common wisdom finds itself in the middle of a great philosophical divide. For example, if producing great bass is our goal, should the speakers be anchored or isolated?

On the one hand, the anchor folks spend a great deal of energy using all manner of specialized hardware to couple the box to the floor in the hopes of a good outcome. The isolationists do the opposite expending great energy to float the speakers.

Both methods can’t be the best way of achieving the same goal. So, how does one determine which way is best?

I think the answer is not a simple one because the solution will inevitably be a compromise. You can’t fully anchor or isolate. So then we have to lower expectations of perfection and select the most practical within our means.

For most of us unwilling to suspend our speakers in the air or embed them in the concrete of our flooring, the most common solution is a simple set of spikes or the narrow contact area of a roller ball.

In my IRSV system, I do neither because the speakers are so massive and so anchored to the cement slab that there would be no advantage.

Practical trumps perfection. Choose which way gives you the best results.