Tag Archives: 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.

Poetry

My favorite Fair Trade coffee describes itself as having “smooth earthy notes”. The coffee I thought I would like, but do not, describes itself as “sweet and rich with floral notes”.

These poetic offerings attempt to describe how one will respond to what’s on offer. They remind me of how we audiophiles refer to the sounds of our stereo system: full bloom, foot-tapping, syrupy, slam.

Using poetry to describe emotional responses makes more sense to some while infuriating others. Why the dichotomy?

What I prefer between the two coffees is how one is inviting while the other off-putting—probably because the one I like has lower acidity (or whatever it is that gives some coffee a “bright” taste). The same could likely be said for different stereo system designs: a list of lower this and higher that.

Would we really better off with a laundry list of variables as opposed to poetry reflecting emotion?

Isn’t the end goal of a good cup of coffee and a great listening session how one feels at the end of it?

It is 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.

Audiophiles vs. music lovers

We just love to apply labels to people and things. Puts them in neat little boxes we can shuffle around in our heads.

“Audiophiles are more interested in the gear while music lovers are more interested in the music.”

I am not sure that’s true in the same way most generalizations aren’t.

But still, we love our labels.

Here’s one from author Louis de Bernières sure to put a smile on your face: “A German plans a month in advance what his bowel movements will be at Easter, and the British plan everything in retrospect, so it always looks as though everything occurred as they intended. The French plan everything whilst appearing to be having a party, and the Spanish…well, God knows.”

There once was a time when audiophiles might have been so fascinated with the idea of stereo that they listened more to sound effects than music. At times we all have been guilty of paying a little too much attention to noises in the recording: a chair’s squeak, the hiss of an air conditioner, the conductor’s footfalls.

But let us not forget that regardless of what aspect of high-end audio floats our individual boats it’s the music that brings us together.

How’s that for a generalization?

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.

This article from Paul mentions MQA. MQA, or Master Quality Authentication,  is another way to record and playback music that’s supposed to sound better than full WAV files, yet save disc space…That is, it supposed to sound as good or better than anything and  take up less file space. Does it work, or just the latest fad? My T+A MP2500R Digital Multiplayer, which is an SACD and CD transport, as well as a UPnP player, AM/FM tuner, Internet Radio renderer, etc, sounds fantastic, yet no MQA and I do not believe its in T+A’s plans to make their products compatible with the format.  I can tell you that if it actually improved sound quality, they would probably implement it and do so in a heartbeat.

I do not have it to compare, but after promoting it heavily at the beginning, I sense its fading as so many other musical formats before it. Not a big surprise…

Lossie

The title of today’s post might be a misspelling of a very famous collie or a word that should be expunged from audio’s vocabulary.

Lossie media files save bandwidth by sacrificing musical content. As audiophiles, we should be up in arms or at least a little upset. ��

In the same way few of us are happy about the dumbing down of society, why is it in this day and agree we are alright with lossie music?

The creators of MQA tried to make us believe it was not only ok to lose data but worse, it’s better than lossless!

Spotify seems alright feeding us with lossie music. Fine for them because that’s their business model, but why do audiophiles support them? Probably because Spotify’s library has far more tracks to choose from than the lossless services.

In the end, whatever floats your boat works. Music’s music and it’d be a shame to miss out on great tunes because we’re worried over quality.

Still, it stresses me the word lossie remains alive and well in the context of music reproduction.

 

 

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.

Blind squirrels

There’s an old saying that even a blind squirrel on occasion finds a nut. A humorous aphorism about stumbling into success.

The more we get involved in the recording industry the more convinced I become that the paucity of great recordings comes from the same set of circumstances dictating the quality of the average home stereo. Most people wouldn’t know what we audiophiles consider truly great sound if their lives depended on it. Run-of-the-mill recording engineers included. The majority of their work is by audiophile standards mediocre. Once in a while, they stumble upon a great recording.

At Octave Records, we record exclusively in DSD because it sounds better than PCM and analog tape. But it’s a pain in the butt to edit which is why few engineers take the time and effort to use it. And, if what you’re working with sounds great to you, why would you bother?

Audiophiles know what remarkable sound is.

We’re a rare breed of sighted squirrels.

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 opposite of spring

In our hemisphere, it’s now Fall.

With winter’s approach, we’re going to be indoors a heck of a lot more than we already are—and for most of us, that’s been a lot.

Were spring approaching I’d be guiding you to jump into the spring cleaning mode where we disconnect our systems, clean connections, tidy cables, and breathe new life into the music.

Fall is a time when I prepare the stereo system for greater use. I make sure the vacuum tubes have been replaced with fresh new ones ready for the long-haul winter. I have been loading up my playlists with great suggestions from fellow audiophiles. I’ve gotten the vacuum out and thoroughly gone through the chairs with the upholstery brush.

It isn’t a great deal of work but it’s work worth doing. Perhaps more for the feel of it than anything useful.

Prepping the system for the long winter is good for my soul.

When finally I nestle in, I know it’s ready to go.

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 independent audiophile

In just about every endeavor I can think of there’s more imitation than originality. Groups who buy one sort of product fall into predictable patterns: Apple computer devotees rarely stray off brand, cowboys wear boots.

Audiophiles are different. Duplicate systems are rare. Hard to say what electronics Magneplanar owners will have, just as it’s nearly impossible to suggest what speakers will be employed by PS Audio owners.

We audiophiles are independent thinkers, ready willing, and eager to experiment with exotic stereo equipment and connection combinations for best results.

It’s our differences that bring us strength.

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.

Road maps

Finding your way is easy once you’ve been somewhere. When it’s an unknown, a map is essential.

Problem is most newcomers to high-performance stereo don’t even know there’s a place they should be, let alone locating a map of how to get there.

Years ago in what seems like another dimension, we had the neighborhood dealer to act as our guide. Within the walls of their shop, we could get an idea of what 2-channel audio sounds like, what wonders were in store for us, and a helping hand in how to get there. Today it’s increasingly anyone’s guess how newcomers find their way.

Certainly, print magazines like Stereophile, Absolute Sound, and HiFi News are great starting points. One could even delve into the online mags like John Darko’s, Tone Audio, and the many others. The problem with all these magazines is they seem to come with an entry-level requirement that readers have a clue what’s going on—something unlikely if we’re talking about true newcomers to the fold.

For PS Audio’s part, we help newbies into better sound through Sprout, our all-in-one integrated no larger than a small-sized novel. It’s really refreshing and informative to read the amazing comments and answer newcomer’s questions. No, most Sprout owners are not audiophiles, but they are interested in good sound and proud to have found this little jewel amongst the rough and tumble of the online audio wild west.

Sometimes road maps are not what one might normally expect. Instead, they are found in small tastes of what’s possible.

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.

Relative better

Last night our Octave Records recording crew went live at a beautiful church venue here in Boulder. There we set up the Sonoma 8-track recorder, a Decca Tree microphone arrangement with DPA microphones, and recorded a spectacular string quartet.

What a great experience and I can’t wait to share with you the recording in a future Octave Records release. This particular recording will be on the upcoming Audiophile Guide setup SACD.

What caught my attention for the subject of today’s post was the little introductory speech I gave to the ladies before they began to play. Our producer, Giselle Collazo, asked me to brief them on what we were hoping to achieve with this recording. Soon I found myself explaining who audiophiles were and what makes us different than someone with a Sonos speaker or a Bose radio. Their blank stares were really telling.

Our world of high-end audio is so far removed from what people consider good home music reproduction as to be mind-boggling. I wish I could have invited these musicians over to PS Audio after the session and play for them their recording in Music Room Two. They would have been quickly brought up to speed of what’s possible in our world. But, alas, the pandemic…

Better is always a relative measure. Sometimes it is so far removed from what most consider normal as to be remarkable.

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.

Cable elevators

Over lunch with engineer Darren Meyers we got to talking about systems and when it’s time to turn to cable elevators for improvements. Cable elevators get the speaker cables off the floor and improve sound quality: they are ultra-tweaks. Your system needs to be at a certain point of perfection before they matter.

Some audiophiles dress their systems to the nines without ever going through the step-by-step audition process to find if any of their efforts actually help—kind of like automatically adding spice without tasting. Others get everything as right as rain and then start the process of ultra-tweaking, listening along the way.

I find myself in both camps at different times. If I’m hustling through a setup for a show or helping someone with theirs, then we dress everything in the system as best we can and cross our fingers for best results. But when the system is part of our long term project it’s best if we tweak a little at a time, listening along the way.

My best systems have come about because I take what I like to call the ladder approach—each change happens in step-by-step order.

The careful grooming of a system generates more than just great sound. You gain knowledge as well.

 

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 art of illusion

Following the threads of the last few day’s posts, it’s become clear to me how much we’re invested in building a palpable 3-d illusion with our high-end audio systems.

We’ve known for some time that turning the lights on low, closing our eyes, and tapping our foot to the music not only gets us in the groove but helps build this imaginary world where orchestras play in our living rooms, Diana Krall serenades us with her ivory tickles, and Art Pepper romances us with his horn.

When we audition new gear it’s not just for tonal accuracy, full frequency range, or increased clarity. Those are important attributes, to be sure, but I’ve yet to meet an audiophile that isn’t like me in wishing for that 3d illusion (I am certain someone will pipe up in the comments section of these posts – I can count on it).

Audiophiles and high-end stereo systems are in the business of crafting illusion, and my oh my, what a fine illusion we can build. Just turn the lights on low, close your eyes, and be transported to the recording (or vice-versa as we haven’t yet figured that one out).