Tag Archives: preamplifier

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

Hitting the mark

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or more commonly known by his first name Michelangelo is credited with saying:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

I think this is excellent advice and a good reminder that the goals we set for our home music system should be more than just a good sounding setup.

I have always been an advocate of stretching myself a little farther than I feel comfortable with: reaching for the stars in the hope of landing on the moon.

I remember when I first became convinced that some preamplifiers had better sound than no preamplifier. For decades I had been an advocate of the philosophy of less is more, that a purer signal path would always trump added circuitry. And for all those decades that was true until I got my arm twisted to purchase one of the few great preamplifiers out there, the Aesthetix Calypso. That move changed my life and my thought process. Suddenly I heard more to the music than I thought possible: air, transparency, space around the instruments and voices, and a more palpable sound stage than I thought possible.

And that’s when we set our sights on building our own preamplifier that could perform the same magic, but with a twist. We wanted to push the envelope farther than it had ever been pushed before. We didn’t want to be as good, we wanted to see where the trail led, how high we could go. When I approached BHK on building a new preamplifier it wasn’t with the intent of matching anything, but rather reaching for the stars.

So, when you’re next dreaming about an upgrade or a new system altogether, aim high my friend. Aim higher than you’re comfortable with and hope you hit something spectacular.

It’s a lot more gratifying than aiming for merely good and hitting your target.

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.