Tag Archives: Music room

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 get this, but to me, the design of the loudspeaker, as well as the size and  shape of the music room dictates the set up. I am lucky enough to have a large room, listen in the far field and can get intimacy I want by turning the volume up to 11!

Near vs. far

Upon hearing a well set up near-field loudspeaker system or, for that matter, a properly set up far-field rig, it is hard to say one is better than the other.

For example, the near-field setup is more intimate. There is less room but more detail and closeness.

And our “normal” setup where the speakers are equal distance from the listener as they are apart have depth and room the near-fields cannot touch. But at the expense of detail and closeness.

The tradeoffs between the two are inevitable.

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

They are simply different.

Which one appeals to you more?

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’ve used both of these methods over the years and ultimately what sounds best depends on the loudspeaker radiation pattern and the room the loudspeakers are placed in.

Generally, for most of the people whose homes I’ve visited, using speakers that have controlled directionality, works best, as it takes some of the room effects out of the equation, or at least, minimizes them.

For me, with my particular music room being being relatively large, at 18′ x 23′ and acoustically treated, I can use both methods and for the best sound staging and tonality in my room, I use Paul’s preferred setup.

But, I’ve tried both and have gotten fantastic sound quality both ways.

Beyond the sides

The soundstage illusion is complex.

Move your speakers far apart, point them towards you, and the soundstage appears like a hologram between them.

Put them closer together, toe them towards your ears only slightly, and now the soundstage extends beyond the outer edges of the speakers.

When we’re setting up a system it’s important to first determine which of these two soundstage models you prefer: stuck between the two speakers or extending beyond them.

Both are valid, both give great results, both work.

But one must choose.

For my stereo systems, I prefer the model where the soundstage extends beyond the speaker’s outer edges. This is a fairly simple setup that places the speakers as far apart as they are from the listener to form an equilateral triangle.

To get the most effective illusion from this method the room typically benefits from diffusion behind the speaker.

What works best in your system?

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.

Got to hand it to Paul…Introducing their new loudspeaker. I think they are too close together.

The FR30s in Music Room 2

Sometimes, despite our worst fears, life shines its happy light on us. And we should be thankful for those times that it does.

Making the decision to swap the IRSV room with that of the FR30 was frightening to me. Both speakers were working great in their environments. The thought they could each benefit from the move was only a guess. What if I was wrong? What if I had to put everything back? And if put back would it (could it) be at least as good?

Taking a leap of faith is frightening to most of us especially when we’re moving from something that works to (hopefully) working better.

What’s the old saying? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

But, fix it we did and now we had to live with the changes. First, the IRSV. As previously mentioned in yesterday’s post, the IRSV really benefitted from the move. We did well!

Bolstered by the improvements we enjoyed with the new home for the IRSV, I made the decision there would be no turning back now, a decision that brings to mind yet another of those old sayings: in for a penny in for a pound.

We wouldn’t be reversing course. It was time to tackle the FR30 in Music Room 2.

One observation I will share with you before I jump in. Speakers are like friends. One needs to get to know them before really feeling close. The FR30 are no different.

I have had to spend time with these beauties to get a feel for what they want and what they give in return. For example, the FR30 are very appreciative of diffusers on the front wall behind them (the IRS likes them too but not quite as much). Also, the FR30 want some sidewall help (where the IRSV don’t). I placed one of our DAAD diffuser towers on each side wall in MR2 and the improvements in coherence and tonality were remarkable. Here’s a picture showing both DAAD diffusers, one on each sidewall just after the Vicoustic panels closest to the listener. (the speakers’s designer, Chris Brunhaver sits on the left side while PS engineer, math whiz, and geek programmer, Carl Solway gets his first listen)

Aside from those two observations, setup is relatively easy. Like most speakers, the FR30 like being away from the front wall. What’s interesting is that (unlike the IRS) they still image remarkably well even with only a foot or two of breathing room behind them.

They, like the IRS, prefer to be pointed straight ahead and then toed in slightly. Here’s a picture where you can see the cool coasters under the feet we supply to make moving the speakers easy and the 3 diffusers on the far wall. The big amps are the prototypes for the BHK 600s (which are…breathtakingly good) and for the sharp eyed observer wondering what the little white boxes sitting on the amps are, they are custom control boxes allowing us to measure every amp parameter and adjust bias, etc.

After an easy hour of moving them around (using the aforementioned coasters under the spiked feet), I was suddenly and unexpectedly flabbergasted by the FR30’s soundstage width. Playing an oldie but a goodie, James Taylor’s Gaia, the image extended from wall to wall and beyond. The IRS had never managed that and even in MR3 it still cannot. I then switched tracks to Jamie Woon and Skin. This amazing track has always been a stunner but now with the FR30’s greater resolution (than the IRSV), I was shaking my head at hearing for the first time precisely how Woon’s voice had been electronically augmented and mixed. Wow. Next, I switched to Octave Record’s release of Foxfeather’s the Nature of Things and their track Too damned small. This piece should have the slam and excitement that reaches into your guts and on the FR30s in MR3 it did not. It was good, just not amazing as it was when I heard it in person. Now, on the FR30 in its new home, it smacks you in the chest and raises the hairs on your neck—your foot taps instantly.

I guess I could go on.

The drum track on Octave’s The Audiophile’s Reference disc begs to be turned up beyond sane levels. On the FR30 Michele’s drums are right there in the room with you—almost frighteningly so. On Reference Recording’s spectacular Organ Sensation with young Felix Hell, track 15, Allegro needs to be cranked up to 70 on the BHK (where we normally listen at 40 to 45). Holy crap! The room shakes when he hits the pedals and any questions you might have had concerning the FR30’s ability to move the room with its woofers go out the window. You feel it in your gut, your pants flap, and you cannot help that shit-eating grin on your face.

Downsides? MR2 still has some serious frequency-specific low-end suckouts that the IRS was able to somewhat overwhelm and the FR30 less so. Pete Belasco’s Deeper misses a few notes while others move your seat as they should. MR2 also has a 50Hz slap echo that when the IRSV was in the room didn’t matter much, but now the smaller FR30 struggles with (this we fixed in MR3 with special absorbers that we will add to MR2).

In the end, I have found my new reference. The FR30 has been elevated to the new reference standard for PS and the venerable IRSV has taken an honorary role as hell yes! It’s a great ride and fun! 

The greater resolution and musicality of the FR30 vs. the IRSV is a real ear-opener, something I didn’t think would happen.

I could not be happier.

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.

Making moves

After yesterday’s disconnection work of the PS Audio reference loudspeaker system, the IRSV, it is now time to make the big move from Music Room Two to the larger Music Room Three.

Physically, this is an incredibly difficult move, one where we risk damage to these classic beauties from the 80s. Or, worse, one of the 400-pound towers was to fall on someone. While this might seem a stretch I’ve had it happen to me while trying to single-handedly move a pair of Genesis One towers of the same weight. I thought I was being clever using a hand truck and that I could manage it if I were careful—something that turned out to be true until the wheels of the dolly hit a snag and I lost control. That tower took out a wall in the listening room.

Emotionally, I was past the point of the feeling of loss I had experienced just moments ago. Once disconnected, I bit my lower lip and turned my fear into excitement. Here was a chance for something better to happen.

Normally we take apart the wings and center tweeter and midranges. But since the move was just next door….

Well, I’ll let this video tell the story.

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.

Apple carts

I am not certain where the term upsetting the apple cart came from but I can only imagine the hassle of cleaning up an overturned cart full of apples.

Now that the FR30 has been dialed in to Music Room 3 something I never thought would happen has happened. To my ears and everyone that has a chance to hear it, it clearly outperforms the IRSV. And not by just a little. In terms of musical pleasure, in terms of effortlessness…heck, just plain pleasure…the FR30 wins.

Now, is that partly because it’s in the larger of the two rooms? Is it because of setup? We’ve used close to the same AQ cables and the same audio electronics. So, clearly, the differences come down to the loudspeaker itself (which thrills me to no end) and the room.

The IRSV has been our gold reference standard for years. I am not yet ready to abandon it.

Then, my son Scott had an idea. Why not swap rooms?  Move the Infinity IRSV from Music Room Two to Music Room Three. What a great (and terrifying) idea. The larger dimensions of MR3 better fit the big IRSV while the smaller dimensions of MR2 more perfectly fit the new FR30. Maybe.

Fact is, the FR30 are killing it in MR3. It’s risky to “break” what works in favor of potentially something better.

Oh well, here we go.

I am truly excited to swap speakers and systems in these two classic rooms.

I will be reporting on the results in an upcoming post and video series.

Stay tuned.

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.

Dealing with the ordinary

Newspapers and media don’t report what’s ordinary and every day. That’s not news!

And neither do the audio reviewers. They want to bring you the latest, greatest, and whatever it is that will attract your attention.

Ordinary does not attract our attention.

Yet, it is the ordinary that makes up the majority of our lives. The ordinary everyday music, friendship, smiles, and great sound on our stereo systems.

Sometimes I sit in Music Room Two and just smile. It works.

Music sounds great.

Life is good.

I have my health.

I have you.

The ordinary can be pretty newsworthy when you think about it.

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.

Having a stereo system that can play anything at any volume level, with great dynamics, I love this post from Paul!

Holding back

While over the weekend I had the pleasure of spending time in Music Room Two and the IRS auditioning some new Octave releases. The producer and audio engineer, Scott, had worked hard on one particular complex mix and it was sounding amazing.

Then it happened. Buried just beneath the other instruments rumbled in a low synth note. I cocked my head and listened again. There it was buried under the other notes.

“Was the synth an afterthought?” I asked.

“No,” said Scott, “it’s the foundation of the track called Caves. It’s showing the depths of the cave.”

“I can barely hear it.”

“I was holding back.”

For years Scott and other engineers have more often than not been holding back deep subterranean bass notes (no, not the higher frequency ones we hear rattling the cars next to us in modern synth music).

Turns out the reason recordists and mixers held back was the limitations of most playback systems the average track will be reproduced on.

When I told him to forget all that and let it rip, to bathe us all in the glory of the lowest frequencies washing over the room, his face lit up from ear to ear.

“We’re audiophiles!” I explained. “We spend thousands to reproduce all the notes from the lowest to the highest. Do not in any way hold back!”

It’s a real eye and ear opener being in the middle of a recording studio.

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.

Opening up

If we’re lucky, we learn something every day.

While auditioning with the artist a new set of Octave record mixes we asked them to tell us which of the two they preferred. On the first go-round, the two musicians shrugged and said they didn’t hear much in the way of differences.

Knowing they were not used to listening to a reference system like that in Music Room Two I let them settle in and relax. Before long, they were hearing all sorts of differences. And accurately identifying exactly what we had been working on.

What was interesting to me was to watch the time it took for them to relax enough in the new environment to be open to hearing differences.

Their ears and hearing were always the same, yet relaxed vs. uptight made all the difference in the world.

We are not machines.

Listening—really listening—is an emotional event.

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 T+A PA3100HV has a lighted panel, including meters,  and while I usually don’t like lights on in my dedicated music room when I’m listening, I like this one, so on it stays, albeit at a reduced illumination setting.

Tingle meter

I am convinced that the majority of McIntosh owners were attracted more to the big and cool front panel metering systems than they were sound quality.

And I get it. They are wicked cool. The techno-junkie part of me also lusts after eye candy.

But my best metering system is when the hairs on my arm rise up. That tingling sensation when everything’s just right.

Meters are cool, but when my tingle meter pegs, that’s when the fun begins.

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 just did this same exact thing, when I re-painted and re-draped the stereo room. Much better, now and I use a Lutron remote dimmer to control the lights.


One of the more overlooked aspects of the home listening room is lighting. Too often we take no pains at improving room lighting and take what’s there.

I am as guilty as the next. In Music Room Two we went to a lot of trouble and expense to optimize the lighting options: soft wall sconces, directed cans, specific color temperatures, low noise dimmers, etc. and yet when I come to listen, I just turn the lights on high.

Instead of taking the 10 seconds to set the lighting beforehand, I get complacent. It’s only when the music gets intimate and I sense the soundstage can be improved that I get off my lazy ass and set the mood with lighting.

Most home settings haven’t taken the time or money to work with lighting. It’s often more an afterthought.

But let me assure you that in a high-performance 2-channel audio system one of the best tweaks possible is mood lighting.

Mood lighting enhances the stereo illusion.

Just think about how much you’ve spent over the years enhancing the stereo imaging with equipment upgrades. Spending a weekend installing dimmers, getting the right temperature LEDs to match the room’s aesthetic is likely chump change in comparison.

Sometimes its the peripherals we don’t even think about that can make a huge difference.