Tag Archives: electronics

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.

A quiet revolution

My father Don was one of the few in our neighborhood that had an actual sound system. It was a cobbled together group of separates: Rek-O-Kut turntable, Stromberg Carlson electronics, homemade speakers. The few neighbors that had sound systems relied upon the classic all-in-one console, while everyone else got music through a simple radio.

All that changed in the late 1960s with a quiet revolution. Japanese receivers, speakers, and turntables began infiltrating American homes—not through stereo stores at first, but through the military. It was the height of the war in Vietnam, NATO troop buildups in Europe, and cleanup activities in Korea. The US military was everywhere and so too were the audio stores and PX where low cost Japanese (and eventually American) hifi equipment found their way home to America. Entire systems could be had for hundreds of dollars and GIs in search of bargains, their pockets filled with cash, flooded the stereo outlets.

By the mid 1970s, when the Baby Boomers were taking over, the stereo situation had completely changed. Now, there were almost no homes, dorms, apartments, or condos without the minimum requirements of a turntable, receiver, and pair of speakers. It was the heyday of the music revolution.

When I think back on these days it occurs to me there was a perfect storm of simultaneous revolution going on: the British music invasion, Woodstock, vinyl LPs, FM stereo radio, folk music, protest music, Motown, and what today we refer to as Classic Rock.

Without many taking notice we went from radios and the occasional console stereo to a near complete penetration of sound systems in every home—and it wasn’t just America. All over the world people plugged in, played music, and changed the world.

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.

Comparing sound

One of the most difficult challenges we audiophiles face is making sonic comparisons between equipment. God, it’s hard. And while speakers are the worst, electronics aren’t too far behind in difficulty.

In some parts of the world, a forest of them are lined up in elevated tiers like choir members. A number is assigned to each pair and the listener can quickly go through the lot making what some consider a determination of sound quality. For me, it’s a bad scenario, but not as bad as what others do.

Many dealers limit choices to only a few pairs of different audio brands. At first, the challenge seems easier because there’s fewer to choose from but look again. Those narrowed choices reduce the field to a point where you might easily be choosing between decent, almost good, sort of ok, and maybe not good at all—and you wind up choosing the best amongst a mediocre group. Speakers vary so widely in their sound and performance that it’s nearly impossible to make sense of it all from a small handful of preselected choices.

And then there are electronics where differences are more subtle. Electronics benefit from long-term exposure in a person’s home. I don’t envy people trying to make a snap judgment on a DAC’s sound quality while comparing it from a limited group in the unfamiliar environment of a dealer’s showroom.

No, comparing the sound of audio kit needs to be done in the peace and quiet of one’s home to see if it matches not only the listener’s tastes but the environment it is being asked to perform in.