Tag Archives: preamp

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.

Is simple better?

Forty-something years ago we believed with all our hearts that  within the audiopath, simple was better. That a single potentiometer (volume control) in the signal path was the cleanest, purest, best sounding preamplifier anyone could build. Today, we’ve come to understand it was close, yet no cigar.

Rarely are things as simple as we would like them to be. We’re happiest when an issue, problem, or thought can be tick-and-tied neatly with a bow and set on the shelf as fact so we can move on to the next problem. It’s rarely that simple.

It’s true a simple signal path is cleaner and has a better chance at purity than a many-stage device. Take our single potentiometer idea as an example. When Stan and I first started building products in 1974, we made a high-end phono stage. To test that product we tacked a single high-quality potentiometer onto the input of an amplifier. This was the cleanest way we knew to hear our phono stage without the encumbrance of another line stage of a preamp. It worked well because we were able to marry the pot and amp together without connecting cables.

When we tried to extend that logic to a product—a pots-in-a-box preamp with an input selector switch and output cables and connectors—things started turning sour. The sound remained pure but music’s impact, bass, and authority was lost. To fix the problem we needed to add a transparent, active buffer, something we didn’t know how to build back then.

Four decades later the buffer is an easy build and the increased number of parts in that short signal path make for better sound.

Simple isn’t always better, but it’s a great place to start.

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.

The next post from Paul reminds me of my first business venture into high end audio. It’s about the beauty of audiophile gear.

For around one year, about 17 years ago, I imported a beautiful tube based, transformer coupled preamp made in Australia.  It had a Jarrah wood chassis. The top plate and the transformers that sat on top of the preamp,  were covered in chrome. There were two domes on top of the preamps, covering the two external output transformers. They were striking.  Some of the preamps could be ordered with a copper top plate and even shiny copper domes, which were even more striking

The very first one I received didn’t work and I brought it over to my friend Andy, who was the only guy I knew that could work on it. We popped open the cover and saw the biggest mess of wiring either of us had ever seen. Think bowl of spaghetti and you get the idea.

While it was on the bench, my friend Cornelius came over, took one look at it and uttered, “I want that preamp”. I jokingly asked him if we needed to fix it first, or if he just wanted to look at it. He eventually bought one that worked out of the box and  several months later asked me to sell it for him as he wasn’t computer literate at the time. I did this for him and that produced the one and only negative rating  on my Audiogon score, as apparently the preamp had a problem he did not disclose to me and I did not find out about until almost a month after he shipped it to his buyer.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as Corn probably wasn’t totally forthcoming with me and I didn’t learn there was a problem with the preamp, until negative feedback got left.  I was able to get the negative rating erased as the buyer disappeared off of Audiogon, but this took time and effort.

So, that first one went back to Australia at a cost of $200 there and $200 back, and while I stuck with trying to sell them for one year, it became not fun, so I stopped before I got into financial trouble with the line.

I had a similar problem with the first pair of monoblock power amplifiers I imported from him, which went back and forth between here and Australia twice at a cost of over $1000 for shipping, but that story can be for another day.

The builder was a great guy, but had his way of doing things that I could not live with as this meant service nightmares and nobody here would work on them.

So, that ended that.