Tag Archives: hifi

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.

Tinkering

One hundred years ago a tinkerer was a traveling craftsman skilled in the art of metal repair. He would be invited into homes to repair eating utensils and small metal objects.

Today, in our disposable society, there’s no need for a person to repair a mangled spoon or a fork’s broken tine. We just throw it out and replace it.

A more modern usage of the word tinkering might apply to an audio purist’s quest to build a musical system. A modern tinkerer will mix and match stereo components, tweak and tune an audio system until reaching a new level of purity.

When it comes to high-end audio I cannot think of another personal pursuit that so encourages tinkering. Most endeavors support the use of pre-approved (often brand-specific) components: Canon lenses on Canon cameras, Tesla swag on Tesla cars.

Not so much HiFi. DACs from one manufacturer connect to preamps from quite another and both interconnected from yet a third vendor.

Mixing and matching, tinkering and adjusting, tweaking and tuning.

It’s part of what makes our passion so unique and our results so personal.

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.

Uriah Heep made many great records, most notably for me,  Salisbury and Look at Yourself. Both came out in 1971 and they were certainly prolific.

Salisbury, the title song,  was with an Orchestra and for 1971, pretty far out there. Look at Yourself had a mirror on the front of the album cover and may great sounds. I haven’t listened to much of anything else of theirs, but with 25 records, maybe its time as I still love rock and subscribe to Qobuzz!!

Say what?

While emailing back and forth with several new members of PS Audio’s HiFi Family it became apparent they weren’t aware of our podcast, Ohm’s Law. In fact, turns out they had yet to ever listen to a podcast of any kind.

This is foreign to me. I listen to podcasts daily and find them a wonderful way of absorbing new information on the subjects that interest me. Here are some of my favorites:

Throughline, because I am a history buff and appreciate learning the origins of what is happening today.

Akimbo, because Seth always inspires me.

Infinite Monkey Cage, because I am at my core a science nerd.

Revisionist’s history, well, as I said, I like history and the roots of why things are the way they are today.

And for those of you unfamiliar with Ohm’s Law, which for the most part is simply an audio version of my Ask Paul videos, here are some of my favorites from back when they were separated.

Uriah Heep

Bernie Grundman

Arnie Nudell

Cat Stevens

Elton John

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.

Unprecedented control

I’ve been having a blast learning and working with musicians, producers, and engineers at Octave Records. It’s fast paced: quick learning steps leading up the ladder to new understandings of more than just the subject at hand, especially as it relates to how we listen.

When you and I are playing music on our stereo systems we’re constantly evaluating the work of producers and recording engineers. Up until recently, the only control we had over how their efforts sounded involved only the playback chain.

Once you’re immersed in both the playback and recording an entirely new vista of comprehension opens up. If I hear something not quite right in Music Room 2 I can go into the mixing room and change it: depth, width, tonal balance, room size, etc.

There is much to think about with this new found control—questions that we have been asking ourselves for decades. How do we voice our electronics for the greatest number of our HiFi Family members becomes how do we voice our recordings for the greatest number of HiFi Family members? What’s right and what’s wrong? How does it honor the music? The musicians?

Fortunately, there is a common thread that we’re confident in. If it sounds great on our reference system it will sound great on the vast majority of our HiFi Family’s systems. That’s a wonderfully comforting thought—one we have verified time and again over the years with efforts like our Mountaintop DAC upgrades and how our products sound and perform in the field.

But this is new. The level of control when one starts at the microphone and gets to optimize the entire chain right up to the ear is startling, to say the least. Much more will come of this. We are just beginning to scratch the surface.

I predict our future holds not only lots of great recordings but discoveries and revelations on the playback side too.

The closer one gets to the source, the easier it will be to uncover the truth.

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.

Why HiFi?

When I first watched this wonderful video, Why HiFi, I hesitated to share it with my readers for fear of pushing our products. As you know, I am mostly interested in educating and sharing my thoughts with our community. But…

This video by Terry Ellis is so well done and so heartfelt in its message I simply cannot in good conscience not share it. Sure, his system is PS Audio based, but then there’s the KEF Blades, the stacked REL subs, the gorgeous art on the wall.

When the video’s subject, Tim Alanthwaite, starts to share what a high-end system means to him it simply reminds me of why we’re here.

Take the video for what it’s worth. I think it’s just priceless.

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.

Except for a few of my audiophile customers, none of the people that I have worked with care about audio cables and audio tweaks. I do, but mostly because Its a hobby and I enjoy it.

That being said, I’ll say it again, a few basic rights and wrongs and you’ve got most of what you need to accomplish with cables taken care of.

I’m not convinced

Boy oh boy, my simple post about our lunchtime conversation concerning cable elevators has once again let all the worms out of the can.

Of course, the controversy is to be expected. Anything involving cables, tweaks, isolation bases, fuses, and whatever manner of heresy I write about will naturally draw ridicule. And that’s alright. I can remember when the notion that electronics sound different or the idea that CDs sound different than vinyl were thought to be subjects worthy of burning one at the stake. Today, that’s mostly accepted.

What truly tickles me is when I get notes from readers announcing they are not convinced. That my words and opinions did not sway their opinions. Thank you for those comments. Anytime someone reaches out and connects it’s welcome.

Here’s the thing. I am not attempting to sway opinion or convince anyone of anything. What I do is to openly share my thoughts with you, our HiFi Family—our community. Think of it like standing at the bar of our local pub, mug of frosty white in hand, chewing the fat about what we believe and why.

We’re community. Family. Friends. I am not out to change the world nor sway others to my thoughts.

Mine is about sharing.

 

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 brief pause and no arguing this one….

A note about masks

I know this is perhaps the last thing in the world you want to read about. We’ve all heard enough about the pandemic and come here for a bit of relief. I get it, but I also am concerned about the health and safety of our HiFi Family. So, please, indulge me. Tomorrow we’re back on track.

With the recent numbers of daily infected Americans rising to new record highs—over 50,000 new cases, 10,000 alone in Florida—we need to help out by wearing our face masks and practicing social distancing.

Masks do not protect the wearer. Masks protect the others from you. If when we’re in public places we each wear one and maintain our distance we beat the pandemic.

Many say, “You cannot make me wear a mask.” That is true, but why wouldn’t you want to? You wear a mask to protect those around you, to beat the pandemic, to keep the economy open. Just like not smoking in restaurants or speed limits — they exist as public health interventions that make sense.

Let’s each do our part to help beat this pandemic so we might get back to a semblance of normalcy like many other countries are starting to enjoy.

Wear your mask (or keep your distance) out of respect for the others and set an example.

Let’s all get through this safely and on to a better day!

 

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.

Pauls post reminds me of a joke I heard at a MD’s convention a few years back. The Audiophile version of this applies and would be the following:

If you ask 10 Audiophiles how to set up a system, you’ll get 20 answers as each of them would eventually change their minds, at least once.

Holograms

There are numerous aspects to the high-end audio system: tonality, resolution, inner detail, micro, and macro dynamics, and of course, the holographic image.

Whether your system provides little more than the basic phantom center channel or a full-on three-dimensional holographic soundstage, you’re always dealing with an audio hologram.

A few days ago I wrote about the importance of not cluttering up with equipment the space between the loudspeakers. That’s important for two reasons. First, our sources and preamps are sensitive to microphonics. We should get them as far away from the speakers as is possible. Second, that clutter of equipment visually interferes with the hologram.

Whether we like it or not, our vision is often a distraction when it comes to generating a perfect audio hologram. It’s why it sounds better when we lower the lights or listen in the dark. Once our visual distractions are removed, the brain can more easily process the deep, tall, and wide soundstage that lurks behind our loudspeakers.

Of course, not all setups have managed to build the proper holographic image where the speakers have disappeared, and the musicians are standing behind them. But, on a proper system, this holographic image can be breathtaking—an essential element in a great high-end rig.

If your HiFi doesn’t image the way it should, consider removing physical and visual clutter from where you hope the phantom soundstage will appear.

If it hasn’t a place to exist, it likely will not.

 

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.

Another stereo book!!

The Audiophile’s Guide

I have been making steady progress in writing The Audiophile’s Guide. This will be a new series of books, the first of which is The Stereo.

The Stereo will be a step-by-step guide to assembling, tuning, and working with your speaker and room setup so your system sonically disappears and in its place appears a holographic soundstage where the musicians perform. There will be an optional CD to aid in setup.

I am quite excited about this work—something I have been planning to do for decades. I believe there will be few in our HiFi Family that would not benefit from its guidance. A weekend spent with the setup procedure outlined in The Stereo will net big gains in sound quality without spending a dime.

As I near completion I wanted to engage our community for a bit of help. Below I have listed the major subjects covered in the guide. Did I cover everything? Is there something you’d like to see in this first book in The Audiophile’s Guide series?

If you have a moment to drop me a note, I would be very appreciative.

Here’s what I’ll cover in The Stereo. Again, the book’s goal is to help with setting up and tuning the system.

  • Introduction
  • The history of 2-channel audio
  • What to expect for budget
  • Choosing the right loudspeakers
  • Choosing the right stereo electronics
  • The room
  • Basic setup
    • Placing the speakers
    • Placing the electronics
    • Placing the listening seat
  • Basic tuning
    • Making the speakers disappear
    • The grid system
    • Paul’s secret formula
  • Advanced tuning
  • Advanced room acoustics
  • Subwoofers
  • The importance of connection
  • The importance of power
  • Digital room and speaker correction

Of course, I didn’t include all the subchapters. But, this gives you a basic idea of what’s there.  Let me know if it’s complete enough and what else you might want to see.

Thanks.

 

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.

Gluten free peanuts

Ever notice how some audio products advertise meaningless features? I can recall companies in our industry touting magnetically isolated AC power, low ESR caps on housekeeping circuits, and rhodium plated knobs.

Of course, we all want to place our stereo equipment in the best possible light. If we don’t it’s unlikely others will. But when we fluff up meaningless attributes it challenges our community’s trust.

I often wonder how many companies place the interests of community ahead of their own needs? I suppose the question’s a little like asking if politicians are more interested in humanity’s well being than their own chances at reelection.

But here’s the thing. The healthier our HiFi Family the likelier it is to grow and thrive.

And, isn’t that what we’re all hoping for?

 

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 is not a normal post, but a PS Audio Newsletter that I thought appropriate to post. Buy a little and give a little to help a worthwhile charity.

Power the Performers

During the month of May, we (PS Audio) had a special on the Stellar Power Plant 3.  Get a great price and for every one sold in the US, we’ll donate $100 cash to Music Cares, the charity arm of the Grammys.

We are delighted to have presented Music Cares a check for $18,400 to help music creators, producers, recorders, stagehands, roadies, lighting people, and whoever is in need of some assistance during the pandemic. (We actually gave Music Cares a real check and not this big fake one Terri and Scott McGowan are holding).

It’s been one of our prouder moments in the company’s 50-year history to have helped the very people we depend so heavily on to craft our music.

In these difficult times, it’s music we increasingly turn to for relief and release from the pressures that have come to bear upon us.

Thank you to our PS Audio HiFi Family for your support helping music and musicians the world over.

On a personal note, may I ask that each and every one of our HiFi Family members continue to be safe? In the United States, the pandemic remains in full swing. We, as a nation, haven’t fared as well as many other nations yet there’s talk of easing restrictions, of letting down our guards, of getting back to normal. Of course, that’s what we all hope for, but as I write this, 1,000 American lives per day are lost to the pandemic with no end in sight. I need each and every one of you to be safe. Please.

You matter. You are family.