Tag Archives: PS Audio

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.

Not to get political, but to look at 2020 any other way than a nightmare is unfathomable to me.

I know a lot of people that are in the right tax bracket, or have benefitted from Government programs  are doing ok, as long as they haven’t contracted CV 19, but over 335,000 unnecessary deaths on its own is enough.

However, the Pandemic and its gross mismanagement by this President and his GOP enablers, as well as a  morally, intellectually and corrupt President of the US,  makes 2020 even worse.

And then there are those that support someone who most likely is a traitor to the US and their support for this deeply flawed and dishonest President is is extremely disappointing to me.

There is no apparently no middle and 2020 and 1/20 can’t happen fast enough for me.

Getting near the end

As we approach the end of 2020 we likely all have mixed feelings about this crazy year.

I won’t dwell on the obvious bits of 2020 we’d all like to put behind us. As 2021 approaches I think we’re all hopeful the bad parts stay in the rearview mirror.

The rising sun of 2021 is just there, peeking over the horizon, anxious to spread its gentle glow across a tortured landscape.

At PS Audio we’re excited for what is to come. Our long-awaited loudspeakers, the Octave Player, a new PS Audio website, to mention just a few. In fact, there are seven new products on our busy 2021 docket, the descriptions of which I will roll out to you over the coming months.

I am convinced that with vaccines on the way and a hopeful easing of the massive divide we see in our country, 2021 will be a great and gentler year to look forward to.

 

 

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.

Some well deserved marketing from Paul today, heaping praise on PS Audio’s new power amplifier, their Stellar M1000 monoblock power amplifiers. I’ve not heard them, but a lot of power for their size and very efficient, using a Class D output stage.  One reason they probably sound good is due to their use it of B&O’s ICE power modules, which I think sound a lot better than the more typically used Class D Hypex modules.

And the hits just….

…keep on coming. In the January issue of the UK’s HiFi News, our killer M1200 monoblock combo received another stellar review (pun intended).

“The latter track positively erupted, the amplifiers creating a searing midband with Matt Heafy’s sinewy guitar tone brought to the fore, and drums again hitting with the speed and aggression of a champion boxer.”

Reviewer Mark Craven goes on to write:

“This slender monoblock amp is not solely devoted to room-shaking power. It has that capability, but appreciation of its punch comes with an appreciation of its grace. The sound is a confluence of steel and silk – fast, rhythmic and able to respond astutely to the shifting dynamics of music. A smooth treble lifts it high above the realms of the rough-and-ready, and there’s an energetic delivery of the midband. But the star attraction – the one that gets your blood pumping right away – is its exceptional bass handling.

To check my Bluesound Vault 2i was behaving itself, I fired up, at random, Chris Rea’s ‘Daytona’ [The Road To Hell; Tidal Master]. After no more than a second I had stopped worrying about my network connection and started focusing on the music. This gentle, mid-tempo homage to a Ferrari race car (complete with tires squealing over the outro…) arrived with a slippery, fluid and authentic bass sound that I wasn’t prepared for, the kind that has you wondering why you haven’t always done your listening through 600W monoblock amplifiers.”

If you’d like to read the entire article, you can download a copy by clicking here.

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 glass race

It’s relatively easy for our purchaser, Dan McCauley, to order the thousands of parts needed to build a PS Audio product. If you look at one of our BOMs (Bills of Materials) the list is eye-crossing long: screws, nuts, resistors, chips, insulators, feet, displays, silicon, etc., etc.

It’s hard enough to visualize all the bits and bobs that go into a stereo product, but it’s even harder to work your way back through their sourcing. Just imagine the chain of events that has to happen to make something as simple as a screw—from the mining and smelting of the ore into stainless steel to the machining and inspecting of every part, to the stocking and delivering it to us. And that’s just a screw. Imagine what it must take to produce a several million gate FPGA from the sand used to grow the silicon crystal.

It’s truly mind-boggling, though easy enough to take for granted. That complex chain has long been established and the industries that support it have been humming along for eons.

Now imagine what it must be like to be a part of the race to save our lives. The pandemic’s crush won’t fully go away until the arrival of a vaccine. And while we’re all in awe of how quickly scientists have designed one, it’s not going to do anyone any good unless it can be delivered around the world.

The supply chain.

I was fascinated by an article in the December issue of the New Yorker magazineThe race to make glass vials for the Coronavirus vaccine.

The article details one small critical step in one of the most massive undertakings in our history. Making the billions of specialized glass vials to contain the vaccine.

The vials are not off-the-shelf glass. Standard medical vials—made of borosilicate—often break as they’re filled, and just one damaged vial can ruin a batch of doses and stop a production line.

Photographer Christopher Payne details through this brilliant piece of photojournalism the rush to develop a new type of glass vial called Valor-Glass.

It’s a beautifully photographed essay and one worth your time and nerdiness to read.

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.

Before remotes

When we started PS Audio in the early 1970s there was no such thing as a remote controlled volume. No, we had to get off our lard butts and adjust the preamp’s volume knob—which led to very different stereo setups. Preamps were inevitably within arm’s reach.

Today, that might be pretty much unthinkable.

The changes needed to switch from a culture of knob twisters to remote control button-pushers were monumental. We went from motorized pots to electronic gain control over the span of decades and still, to this day, there’s no industry standard for the control of volume.

PS Audio went in the direction of variable gain amplifiers. Others use off-the-shelf attenuators based on CMOS ladder networks, while still others hang on with light-dependent photoresistors (and don’t get me started about early DACs losing resolution in exchange for remote-controlled volume levels).

What’s fascinating to me is that while once the industry standards were pretty simple, and the performance dictated by the quality of parts and implementation of either pots or stepped attenuators, the need for people to control the volume without leaving their seats has forever changed the circuitry and performance levels of what we listen to.

Sometimes technological improvements lead to welcomed cultural shifts: dial phones to cell phones, throttles to cruise controls, radios to televisions.

Other times, welcomed cultural shifts lead to questionable industry performance improvements.


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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.

Moving forward

When Stereophile Magazine awarded Stellar Phono its coveted Analog Product of the Year award we were, of course, ecstatic. What an honor.

That award got me thinking about the near-impossible job of a phono preamplifier: to amplify without noise a tiny signal 30,000 to 50,000 times smaller than what comes out of your preamplifier.

I remember from 40 years ago my struggles to design without noise PS Audio’s first moving coil preamplifier. It felt impossible. How does one add, without additional noise, 30dB of gain in front of an already high gain moving magnet phono stage? Everything I tried came with unacceptable levels of noise. I searched, I studied, I consulted with experts. At the time, the general consensus was it couldn’t be done and we should instead do what everyone else was doing: use a step up transformer.

I own up to being a stubborn mule. Dammit! I was going to figure out an active solution and so I continued to slug it out with various schemes. Finally, after a year of constant failure, I succeeded. Low impedances and a single common base BJT amplifier were the answer.

One of the industry’s very first active moving coil amplifiers, the PS Audio MCA, was born.

That was four decades ago. Today, innovative bright young engineers like Darren Myers are blazing trails I couldn’t have imagined.

Progress. Breaking new ground. Moving forward. It’s what gets me up in the morning.

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.

Road maps

Finding your way is easy once you’ve been somewhere. When it’s an unknown, a map is essential.

Problem is most newcomers to high-performance stereo don’t even know there’s a place they should be, let alone locating a map of how to get there.

Years ago in what seems like another dimension, we had the neighborhood dealer to act as our guide. Within the walls of their shop, we could get an idea of what 2-channel audio sounds like, what wonders were in store for us, and a helping hand in how to get there. Today it’s increasingly anyone’s guess how newcomers find their way.

Certainly, print magazines like Stereophile, Absolute Sound, and HiFi News are great starting points. One could even delve into the online mags like John Darko’s, Tone Audio, and the many others. The problem with all these magazines is they seem to come with an entry-level requirement that readers have a clue what’s going on—something unlikely if we’re talking about true newcomers to the fold.

For PS Audio’s part, we help newbies into better sound through Sprout, our all-in-one integrated no larger than a small-sized novel. It’s really refreshing and informative to read the amazing comments and answer newcomer’s questions. No, most Sprout owners are not audiophiles, but they are interested in good sound and proud to have found this little jewel amongst the rough and tumble of the online audio wild west.

Sometimes road maps are not what one might normally expect. Instead, they are found in small tastes of what’s possible.

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.

On the cutting edge

It’s tough being on the cutting edge of new audio product design. One slip and that edge might just slice you right open.

Yet it’s pretty boring just nosing along the fringes and worse trudging through middle ground.

I think what floats the boats of most forward-thinking designers is to be somewhere just beyond the limits of comfortable as they move the state-of-the-art forward. Too comfortable and you’re not really pushing boundaries. Too many risks and the stereo project’s in danger of never getting to see the light of day.

The balance between building yet another ho-hum product and something new, fresh, and exciting is often a tough one to achieve, but I believe the results are almost always worth it.

Take for example our PS Audio M1200 monoblocks by designer Darren Myers. These cutting edge products were a real game-changer: a 1200 watt power amplifier with a vacuum tube input available at a price most people could afford. It was a gutsy move because who needs a 1200 watt monoblock amplifier?

Turns out people don’t need that much power but what they do need/want is that much headroom and the sonic liquidity that comes along for the ride.

Stepping out on the edge of what people think is normal can be risky, but it’s often worth it.

Sometimes the risky becomes the new norm.

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

PS Audio is building new stereo stuff, so this is about that. I admire Paul for his passion for high quality music reproduction.

However, if I buy his transport to play SACD’s, but my DAC will only accept DSD (SACD) through USB, which it already receives via my Melco server, how would I get the best out of this, without unplugging a cable from my Melco server and exchanging it for a USB cable from his transport?

Hmmmmm…Nobody that I know of makes a DAC with dual USB inputs. Maybe someone should and it wouldn’t surprise me to see that it’s PS Audio.

My idea first??

Rip or play?

As we move closer to releasing for beta this September the new SACD Transport, there comes again talk of the virtues of playing discs relative to ripping and/or streaming.

Which sounds better?

The plain truth of it is perhaps not what many wish to hear, but from my perspective, I think it’s worth saying anyway.

The source shouldn’t matter.

Regardless of whether it streams down from the heavens, is pulled kicking and screaming from a hard drive, or coaxed out of the pits and lands of an optical disc, the differences in sound quality inevitably must be tied to isolation, noise, and jitter.

We understand the bits themselves are the same, thus what remains are the aforementioned trio of culprits.

As we built the SACD Transport, we focused our efforts on what our digital mentor, Ted Smith, is also striving for in his latest works: galvanic isolation. The more isolated and insulated from the means of retrieving the digital data the better and cleaner it will sound.

This has proven to be true in the upcoming transport. It remains to be seen if we can manage the same performance in our forthcoming streamer.

Time will tell.

 

 

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 something to say

There are a few ways of deciding within a company what new products to launch. The most typical is to look around at the competition, see what’s working, and build more of the same so people have a broader choice. The more difficult path, the one we have always chosen, is to only build products when you have something new to say.

When I left Genesis Technologies in 1997 to reform PS Audio I had nothing new in the art of designing  stereo amplifiers to say. There were already loads of great products in the marketplace and I needed time to get my head back into the groove. What I did have new to offer was not an amplifier but rather a new idea in AC power, the regenerator. At a time when all AC power products were passive boxes of coils and capacitors, I was anxious to share a new vision of how power was delivered to equipment: regulated, perfected, and without the debilitating waveform distortion common to the AC power line. This was the regenerator, the beginning of what became known as the Power Plant.

Move forward by 23 years and we are still producing products that are not copies of prior art, but entirely new thoughts on how music is reproduced through a particular piece in the audio chain.

If you enjoy learning of the inner workings of companies and the thoughts of their designers, check out Steve Heliker’s new Ultimate Stream YouTube channel. In this latest edition, Steve interviews me and design engineer Darren Myers. You may find it interesting.

Click here to watch the interview.

 

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.

Another non-audio post from Paul and a great one.

Juneteenth

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” A brave beginning to a tough problem.

Today, June 19th—or as the holiday has come to be known, Juneteenth—acknowledges when US Major General Gordon Granger, along with more than 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state, and ensure freedom for the last remaining slaves in the area. Finally, our war-torn nation could begin the long process of healing.

While this was a major milestone in our country, the legacy of slavery and racism still permeate our culture. It is unfortunate that it took the recent tragedies to bring this holiday to the forefront of our minds, but we are committed to keeping it at the forefront. PS Audio will close for the day and will treat this as a paid holiday for our staff in order to look deeply into ourselves as a company and as individuals to better understand how we can be agents of change in the fight for racial equality.

I hope you will take 30 seconds out of your busy day, as we will, to reflect upon the words of an earlier document signed by our founders on July 4th, 1776.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.