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.

Steam power

I love the term “running out of steam”. It’s an obvious reference to the beginnings of the industrial age where our world transitioned from animal power to steam power. When something runs close to its limits we say it’s running out of steam, or gas.

Recently there’s been quite a flap over on Ask Paul’s Videos. A question came to me about a subject that seems a tough one to grasp. Can preamp gain make up for low wattage? You can see the video response here.

Turns out this is a tough one for many to understand. I’ll see if I can approach it from a slightly different angle to chip away at the answer.

What’s confusing is the idea that if you put the same loudness music signal into both a big amp and a small amp, they produce the same number of watts (assuming they have the same gain – which most do).

To be more specific, let’s assume we have a 50 watt amplifier and a 500 watt amp, each with the same gain. Put 1 volt of music into either amp, and you will get (for this example) 30 watts out of both.

With me so far?

Using the same setup, now we will double the input voltage to both amps. Same thing happens, only the little amp will run out of steam—it can’t produce double the 30 watts and it clips. The bigger amplifier has plenty more steam available so it merrily outputs the expected 60 watts.

So, going back to the original question, can preamp gain make up for amplifier power, the answer is no. More preamp gain simply increases the input signal size to the power amplifier. It will still run out of steam at the same point. A preamp just gets it there quicker.

 

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.

Change of vantage

Music Room Two, with its magnificent Infinity IRS V, BHK monoblock amps, multiple P20 Power Plants, BHK preamp, DirectStream DAC, and Stellar Phono is one of the most revealing systems I know of. It’s our reference that allows us to hear deep into the music. It’s an invaluable tool for the design and voicing of PS Audio products.

Yet, Music Room Two is forever changing, something you might think a reference should never do.

As we change cables, improve DACs, find new music, or tweak speaker positions, our vantage point changes and it sounds different. Often, we’ve enough improvement that previously unnoticed details in familiar music come to the forefront, requiring us to readjust our expectations.

I think of this change in vantage point very much like changing one’s seat in a favorite concert hall. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to attend New York’s Carnegie Hall or the Met, it’s been in different seats. And each of those positions gave me a very different perspective of the whole.

Even in Music Room Two I’ll often take the right-hand seat instead of the center sweet spot just to change vantage points and listen from a different perspective.

We can get inured to the point of ignoring the obvious if we’re not careful.

A change in vantage point is often the best way to refresh and renew the music.