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.

Perceptual confusion

Regular readers of this blog will know I often am critical of a few well known speaker brands. This doesn’t sit well with owners of those brands and for that I apologize. I single out a few brands because, to me, they represent great examples of perceptual confusion—conflating two ideas together that don’t necessarily match.

Take Sonus Fabers for example. These are excellent speakers and ones I heartily recommended to my son Lon when he wanted new speakers for his house. They are beautifully built, great looking, wonderful value, and good sound too. So, what’s the beef? Why do I not recommend these to most audiophiles? They aren’t what I consider highly resolving speakers on sonic par with (say) a Von Schweikert, Magneplanar, Wilson, or Infinity. They are not. Which is not say they aren’t great speakers, ones I would not hesitate to recommend again and again.

The difference is I would not recommend them to someone interested in achieving audio nirvana. That’s not what they do.

Nor do B&W (for that matter). Their persona is one of technical accuracy, designed and engineered by teams of white coat scientists with million dollar spectral analyzers. They are, indeed, that. And, if that’s what you want, then there are none better than B&W. But, if recreating the illusion of an orchestra in your home through the disappearing act of musically perfect speakers and electronics is your goal, then I would not be recommending them.

This rant is not about downgrading two fine speaker brands. Not at all.

I have the ultimate respect for both brands and the customers of those brands.

My purpose is to help align expectations and reduce perceptual confusion.

It’s always tough to sort through the perceptions and positioning of products to suss out the essence of what you really are after.

But, when you do, life gets a lot easier.


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.

It doesn’t have to make sense

We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching.

We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the goal of doing no harm: the purer the signal, the better the sound. It’s why we make sure there’s perfect power, low distortion, unfettered transient response. We also understand that less is more—the fewer stages a signal has to pass through the better its chance of arriving unscathed.

Which is why it is so maddening that a good preamp placed between the DAC and amplifier sounds better than going direct.

When this statement of fact is presented to people you can almost always categorize their response: agreement from those that have a proper preamp, disbelief from those that don’t, or sometimes anguish and denial because it rubs against the grain of all they know.

The idea that audiophiles often make decisions based on what they hear as opposed to what they “know” is what drives the Objectivists bonkers.

It doesn’t have to make sense.

It just has to sound good.