Tag Archives: loudspeaker

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 depends a lot on the loudspeaker design. Paul uses Infinity IRSs, which are line source, planar magnetic drivers for the tweeters and midranges and they are designed to be used the way he uses them.

Fractions matter

In yesterday’s post, we looked at long wavelength bass notes—some exceeding 50 feet in length. Today, let’s have a look at their shorter cousins, high frequencies.

Where bass frequencies are typically multiple feet in length, higher frequencies are generally in inches or fractions of an inch. 1kHz, for example, is right around 1 foot, while 10kHz is a little more than an inch.

When it comes to system setup what makes these frequencies challenging is their very short wavelength. You can imagine toeing in or out one channel’s loudspeaker a “skosh” and making a very big sonic difference.

The short wavelengths of higher frequencies are one reason I have long been an advocate of relying upon the off-axis response of the system for best imaging (as opposed to pointing tweeters directly at your ears). In my setups you’ll almost always notice the left and right speakers are nearly without toe-in, pointing instead almost straight ahead. The energy distribution of the off-axis response is much smoother and less prone to laser-like problems we get when we rely instead upon a perfect triangulated setup of speakers.

Fractions matter when it comes to higher frequencies but one can mitigate some of this specificity by relying instead upon speakers with excellent off-axis response.

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.

Headphones vs. speakers

I’ve never understood the rift between headphone and loudspeaker advocates.

Chat rooms, forums, and blog posts by the hundreds are rife with strong opinions why one’s superior to the other. It is constantly pointed out that headphones are more full range, lower distortion, generally have only one driver, are easy to drive, and so on. Defenders and provocateurs of loudspeakers point out that headphones miss out on any visceral feel, they cannot recreate a true sense of room, and they do not encourage sharing.

The arguments and battles seem rather endless.

I take a different, more moderate view. I like both.

Instead of pointing out the flaws inherent in each, I prefer to instead focus on the positives afforded by these very different methods of playing music.

Each is high-end and each provides an entirely different and unique listening experience.

It’s not that one’s better than the other.

We could safely suggest that both bring us closer to the music in ways the other misses.

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.

Who’s on first?

Making a decision as to which model of loudspeaker, amplifier, phono stage, or preamplifier can be daunting. There are more brands than one can count and, within those brands, many models.

In the days of dealers, we relied upon their curation skills to narrow the field. The only problem with that model is that most times big dealers carried not what they believed you needed most (after all, how could they?) but what worked best for them.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the norm in our small high-end industry. The dealers we loved and honored were those that stocked what they loved and eschewed brands and products that didn’t meet their standards. Those were the good guys in our industry. Personal pride and a love of audio drove their interests and formed their opinions.

Sadly, many of those heroes are gone. (Lyric HiFi recently announced the closing of its New York City store)

Despite the shrinking number of honest and heartfelt curators, it is still possible to cut through the cruft to narrow down the field to a few choices.

That happens through trust. Trust built through a magazine, an advisor, a reviewer, a manufacturer, or a friend.

Who’s-on-first gets less confusing when we’re working with people we trust.

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.

I use a bit of an unorthodox approach to loudspeaker placement here for my Daedalus Ulysses and it works wonderfully. I think it probably looks different to many audiophiles, however there are good reasons for how they are placed and it sure does work.

However, this does not mean this positioning will work for all loudspeakers in this room, as my GPA Altec 604E based speakers do not sound best set up the same way as the Daedalus speakers.

Auditioning speakers

If you go to a big box store, or even a medium-sized store, you’re likely to encounter a switch box approach to speaker selling. Multiple pairs of speakers are lined up as if in a forest and the salesperson can play any of the many speaker models at the push of a button.

This same switch box method is also used in the smallest of shops where there’s not enough space for a proper listening room.

The advantage of a switch box audition is its rapidity. While playing the same track of music, one can toggle through speaker models quickly.

The downside, of course, is that none of the speakers are properly set up to maximize their potential. In fact, none are set up at all. Plunked down upon a shelf, typically standing side-by-side like soldiers at attention, one can make accurate gross judgments about tonal balance preferences but not much else.

Contrast that demonstration mode with what used to be called the single speaker audition favored by some high-end audio shops. In this demonstration model (pioneered by UK brand Linn) only one pair of speakers were allowed in the room at a time.

The advantage of this approach is the potential for proper setup without any distractions. The downside is comparisons are more difficult for the inexperienced listener. Those not spending a lot of time auditioning and comparing audio products haven’t yet built the skills necessary to hold in one’s memory what one system sounds like when comparing to another.

Auditioning any products is a challenge.

Speakers are the greatest of them all.

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.

Subwoofer history

In one of my Ask Paul video questions, I was asked how far back subwoofers go in 2-channel audio. The community member had only become aware of subs as they related to home theater.

Of course, many readers of Paul’s Post know subs date back much further than home theater.

From Wikipedia: In September 1964, Raymon Dones received the first patent for a subwoofer specifically designed to augment the low-frequency range of modern stereo systems (US patent 3150739). Able to reproduce distortion-free low frequencies down to 15 Hz, a specific objective of Dones’s invention was to provide portable sound enclosures capable of high fidelity reproduction of low-frequency sound waves without giving an audible indication of the direction from which they emanated. Dones’s loudspeaker was marketed in the US under the trade name “The Octavium” from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. The Octavium was utilized by several recording artists of that era, most notably the Grateful Dead.

Two years later, in 1966, my former partner in Genesis Technologies and the co-founder of Infinity, Arnie Nudell, along with his airline pilot friend, Carry Christie, launched the second and perhaps most important subwoofer of its time, the Infinity Servo woofer, based on an 18″ Cerwin Vega driver.

My experience with a subwoofer began a few years later when I was first introduced to a true high-end audio system. There, in the living room of local audiophile Norm Little, was serial numbers 1 and 2 of aerospace engineer Eugene J. “Gene” Czerwinski’s creation, a pair of 18″ Cerwin-Vega subwoofers capable of producing 130 dB at 30 Hz, an astonishing level during its time (or any time).

I suppose I have never gotten over the experience of hearing for the first time, all there is in the recordings, including subsonics.

Until you hear it all, you’re not going to know what true high-end audio really is.

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.

Inspiring confidence

I don’t believe it comes as a surprise that at my core I am an engineering nerd. My internal fires light up when we start talking engineering-speak.

One of the real downsides to CoViD has been our separation. Before the pandemic, our engineering group was together and right outside my office door. When an interesting discussion would start my ears perked up and I joined into the fray—the classic water cooler conversation. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

So I was heartened when on our PS Audio forums, I read a long technical ramble from our loudspeaker guru, Chris Brunhaver. Chris knows more about the technical aspects of loudspeakers than any human I have ever over the last 50 years. When we get talking tech, his depth of knowledge is so great it’s actually sport to egg him on into a  drill-down just to see how deep he can go.

If you are like me and enjoy getting deep into the technical nuts and bolts, head here and click on this linkhttps://forum.psaudio.com/t/high-efficiency-speakers-low-efficiency-speakers/22908

The whole conversation started in response to one of Steve Guttenberg’s questions about loudspeaker efficiency with one of the Zu Audio fellow

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.

Undressing

I know, you’re waking up to this blog post and getting all excited.

Undressing! (Thank goodness it’s not me doing the disrobing).

I am referring to the undressing of the grille cloth from in front of the loudspeaker.

How many times have you wondered about grilles on or off? Did the designer voice and measure the speaker with grills on or off? What’s the right thing to do?

If it wasn’t meant to be listened through why did they put it there in the first place?

Truth is, speakers are generally designed and measured with the grills off—which is also how you should listen to them. The exceptions would be a Vandersteen or Golden Ear where the grille “sock” is an integral part of the design.

Grilles are generally window dressing that should be immediately disrobed, set naked upon the world.

Naked speakers.

See? I didn’t get you all excited for nuthin’.

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.

Oddballs

Of the hundreds of people I have been privileged to know it’s the oddballs, the characters, the off-the-charts bonkers people I remember most.

I am not sure why I am so attracted to the oddballs.

I remember the first time I met the Bedini Brothers. Crazy as loons but brilliant. I’ll never get the image of John Bedini, just inches from my face, berating me for believing the RIAA phono curve existed.

Or Enid Lumley telling me how much better our phono stage sounded when upside down.

Or Mike Moffat excitedly demonstrating to me and Stan the difference a loudspeaker cable made.

Or smoking a joint in Threshold’s CES room with Nelson Pass.

Or desperately trying to focus on the deep insights of Bob Carver when, over dinner and drinks, his hairpiece had gone askew.

I could go on.

It’s the oddballs I love.

I don’t remember the normal.

Each day is a chance to live life to its fullest.

Let’s all grab it when we can.

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.

Visual roadblocks

Long ago, in a time far, far away, when there was no pandemic, visitors regularly flocked to Boulder Colorado to hear PS Audio’s reference system. Though the sound made us all happy there was a problem.

To a person, the giant Infinity IRSV were a visual impediment. To fully get the illusion of the speakers disappearing one was best served listening with eyes closed, lights low, or both.

We deal a lot with the visual impediments inflicted by loudspeaker enclosures upon our living spaces. They are neither furniture nor decorations. Rather, speaker enclosures are more tolerated than visually appreciated.

If they didn’t make beautiful music I seriously doubt we’d voluntarily place them in our living room.

This brings to mind the notion of bookshelf speakers on stands: small enclosures struggling to mimic their full-range brethren.

Why do we tolerate the shortcomings of small boxes on thin stands as opposed to full-range boxes of identical dimensions? Both have the same footprint, so it can’t be a matter of living room real estate.

I suspect we all know the answer.

It’s the title of this post.

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.

Story time

We catalog and explain concepts like careers, hobbies, science, heritage, family, and even our stereo systems as stories.

Stories help us wrap our heads around that which is unknown, complex, or only partially understood.

In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that long ago we believed the Earth was the center of the universe: the blackness of the night sky composed of a solid material called the Firmament, the shining stars as holes in that firmament, their light emanating from a bright physical place atop the firmament. Heaven.

It’s a lovely story and for hundreds of years considered fact.

We get new information and then the story changes.

The height of high fidelity was based around a single loudspeaker setup. Monophonic sound. We told ourselves it sounded like the musicians were in the room.

Then stereo came around and the story changed yet again.

We explain ourselves and the world around us in the form of a story.

We just need to make sure it’s a good one.