Tag Archives: DAC

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.

My audio DAC does nothing with the signal, playing it back with the exact information that it was recorded with, bit for bit and at the native sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz.  The DAC does have  all sorts of oversampling, which is manipulation of the bitstream, yet it sounds best, by a long ways, in its non-oversampling mode.

Still I owned a PS Audio DAC for many years and it sounded great too, although I like what I’m using now a bit more. However, both are musical. When it comes to audio design and life in general, different strokes for different folks.

Regenerating vs. conditioning

There is a fundamental difference between purifying water through boiling and distillation vs. merely filtering it. The first fundamentally alters the source while the second just modifies it.

Of course, this is the basis of our Power Plant AC regenerators, units that fundamentally alter the power coming into your home.

I am reminded of another kind of regeneration vs. filtering and this time in the digital domain.

In the mid-1990s, as digital audio was just gaining a foothold in high-end audio, we had learned a new term. Jitter. Jitter is a timing error, a deviation in time against a fixed standard. If that deviation happens at a quick enough rate we can hear its distortion. Slowly deviating jitter—measured in seconds, minutes, or years—is not audible.

No sooner had the subject of jitter bubbled up to the attention of the high-end audio community than clever engineers offered us a means to reduce it. Jitter filters were suddenly everywhere. These filters typically used a PLL (Phase Locked Loop) which is a fancy term for a way to detect variations in timing, speeding up or slowing down the digital signal to compensate. Better, to be sure, but still a Band-Aid in the way those early products worked.

That’s when our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr, and I decided to take a different approach. Instead of speeding up and slowing down the data stream to get closer to an ideal periodicity, we decided instead to throw out the original data stream and generate a new one with a jitter-free clock. In other words, we regenerated a new digital signal free of jitter and changes in speed.

We called it the Digital Lens because it perfectly focused the digital audio stream.

Cleaning up a mess is effective, but rarely as good as starting fresh.


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.

Change of vantage

Music Room Two, with its magnificent Infinity IRS V, BHK monoblock amps, multiple P20 Power Plants, BHK preamp, DirectStream DAC, and Stellar Phono is one of the most revealing systems I know of. It’s our reference that allows us to hear deep into the music. It’s an invaluable tool for the design and voicing of PS Audio products.

Yet, Music Room Two is forever changing, something you might think a reference should never do.

As we change cables, improve DACs, find new music, or tweak speaker positions, our vantage point changes and it sounds different. Often, we’ve enough improvement that previously unnoticed details in familiar music come to the forefront, requiring us to readjust our expectations.

I think of this change in vantage point very much like changing one’s seat in a favorite concert hall. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to attend New York’s Carnegie Hall or the Met, it’s been in different seats. And each of those positions gave me a very different perspective of the whole.

Even in Music Room Two I’ll often take the right-hand seat instead of the center sweet spot just to change vantage points and listen from a different perspective.

We can get inured to the point of ignoring the obvious if we’re not careful.

A change in vantage point is often the best way to refresh and renew the music.