Tag Archives: preamps

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.

Source specific

Every component in our audio system was chosen based on our source preference: digital or vinyl. If we’re assembling a vinyl system then everything that follows is judged on how good music tracked with a needle sounds. Or, if digital, how a CD sounds.

We’ve covered this ground before but it is ground worth revisiting.

When building a system my advice is to choose your loudspeakers first and to invest the greatest amount of money in them. Everything else follows from there. But that isn’t quite the same as my opening statement of tuning to the source. Or is it? When you evaluate those new speakers it will likely be based on the source you’re most comfortable with.

We don’t always think about our selection process in terms of source material. Few think of the process as building a vinyl-based system, or a digital one. Instead, we tell ourselves we’re building a music system and we just prefer one source to another. The reality is that the source mediums are so different they wind up dictating just about every decision in the chain: speakers, amplifiers, preamps, wires, room conditioning, positioning, voicing. All tuned to our source material.

Which is why you can’t judge source technology by simply plopping it into a system pre-tuned for the opposite. Dropping the finest digital source equipment into a vinyl-based setup won’t work. You will always prefer the original.

It may not be possible to have a system that’s optimized for both so let’s not make sweeping proclamations about which is better, digital or analog.

All we can legitimately say is what we prefer in our optimized 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.

Personal speakers

Speakers are far more personal than electronics because they are far more flawed. Where amps, preamps, and DACs stretch the limits of measurement equipment, speakers challenge the credibility of accurate reproduction.

Whenever someone asks me to make a speaker recommendation the first questions I have to ask are what their goals are. What kinds of music do they listen to? What do they hope to achieve? Without that information, I cannot give a valid suggestion of brand and type.

It probably bears repeating that I believe the process of building a high-end music system starts with the loudspeaker and works its way back through the chain. If your end goal is to perfectly reproduce small chamber ensembles at the expense of massive symphonic splendor you’re likely not going to want an electronic chain that focuses on brute force.

Most of us find ourselves in the position of already having an audio system and trying to do what we can to maximize its performance. But, sometimes it’s best to think long and hard about our speakers and the choices we’ve made. Are they the right ones for what you hope to achieve? Would it be worth rethinking your choice?

Tough questions to ask and even tougher ones to answer.

Speakers are personal.