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.

Would love to hear, or at least read a review of these new loudspeakers from PS Audio!

Have speakers. Will travel.

It took me literally years before the proverbial lightbulb in my head went aha! as to the meaning of actor Richard Boone’s character, Paladin’s calling card.

Have gun. Will travel.

Talk about dense. I mean, it was the title of the show after all. Just one of those things where you register something as a thing rather than words with meaning.

All that to get in position to share with you how the actual packaging of a complete pair of FR30s looks as they leave PS Audio on their journey to anxious customers.

Designer, Chris Brunhaver stands next to his life’s work.

Note the cool cardboard pyramids atop each of the pallets. Turns out shipping companies are fond of stacking one pallet on top of another.

Our shipping company manager, Suzie with Aeronet has made the FR30’s white glove delivery service her personal mission to exceed customer expectations. Though I doubt any of the movers will have actual white gloves on, her pro team will unbox the FR30s and set them up where you tell them to.

One set of the two you see pictured here are on their way to Kansas, the other set to Illinois. For those in the UK, a set of FR30s are winging their way over to Signature Sounds where Kevin Akam is going to set them up for audition by appointment.

We’ve still got a few opening for August reservations left if you’re interested.

Sure feels good to be shipping speakers.

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.

Ringing in the new year

Wow. Here we are once again. Ringing in the new year.

What an amazingly nutso period of time we’ve been through together. As PS Audio’s president, Jim Laib, is fond of saying, this is the 24th month of 2020.

We’ve got a lot on tap for 2022, from the delivery of the new FR30 loudspeaker, the launch of the new BHK600 amplifier, the AirLens audio streamer, and new Octave releases each month just for starters.

I have very bright and optimistic expectations for 2022.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful year ahead and thank you, as always, for being a part of our HiFi Family

Here’s to a great year ahead!

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.

Mon, Oct 18 at 5:04 AM
Why not everything?
In a recent post, I wrote about balanced audio cables and how they work.

Unlike simple RCA cables with their single signal conductor and ground wire, a balanced cable has two signal conductors with opposite polarity signals. The receiving equipment amplifies only the difference between the two opposing signals and ignores anything in common, such as noise or distortion.

Balanced cables are by far the better choice when connecting audio products together.

And if that’s true why do most audio products continue with only single-ended RCA for their interconnection options? Why would manufacturers such as PS Audio, concerned to the point of (sometimes) lunacy about sound quality offer a lesser means of interconnecting equipment?

Old habits die hard.

The need for compatibility often trumps our best intentions.

I am going to wager that 80% of high-end audio systems still rely upon their RCA connectors for their goes-into and goes-out-of.

My guess is that if you asked a cable manufacturer their ratio of sales between XLR and RCA cables that my 80% guestimate would be pretty close to right.

With as much attention to tweaks and perfection in equipment that we as a group lavish upon our systems, you’d think that percentage would be flipped around.

But I suspect you’d be wrong.

Old habits die hard. Even the ones so clearly wrong.

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.

In or out?

Over on the PS Audio YouTube channel, there’s a spirited debate over terminology. In a balanced signal, are the two halves out of polarity or out of phase?

I suppose the fact viewers are in a heated discussion over such semantic differences is a good thing. Or maybe it means folks have more time on their hands than I imagine.

The answer is both are accurate though one is more technically correct than the other.

Phase generally refers to a change in time while polarity is absolute.

In balanced audio, we have two conductors with signals, each 180˚ out of phase with the other. As one signal is rising its mate is falling. Sum the two signals together and they should perfectly cancel each other out and we get zero signal. We use this difference between the two to our advantage. If our balanced signal is fed into a balanced input, then only the difference between the two signals is amplified (and they are 180˚ different from each other). Any signal common to both signals is rejected (called common-mode rejection). Hum and other noises leaking into the balanced audio cable are eliminated.

So here’s the rub. If we say the two signals are of opposite polarity to each other we communicate correctly what the signals are that make up a balanced cable. It is also accurate to say the two signals of opposite polarity are out of phase with each other.

So, both are correct though one way of expressing it makes for fewer arguments among us nerds.

The trick about communicating is to make sure you’re speaking clearly to the audience and that they understand.

Or, find an audience with less free time on their hands to argue about such trivia.

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.

Paul is prepping us for the new PS Audio BHK 600 amplifiers and looks like as ultimate an amp as they can build. Unfortunately, they are only direct now, so, as a high end audio dealer, I won’t be able to partake.

Besides, after talking my T+A PA3100 integrated amp out of my Furman IT Ref 20i power conditioner, I don’t really want anything else, as sonically, these are fantastic sounding amp. At least plugged directly into the wall.

However, with no surge protection this way, I will be installing a SurgeX SA20 surge protection unit, which also has EMI/FRI filtering. I hope not too much of the latter, as I now know that this can kill the amps sound, as the Furman did.

The $35 resistor

I am well aware people in our HiFi Family think were nuts. And, that’s ok. Better nuts than boring.

When people ask me if parts of identical value but different construction sound unlike one another I kind of scratch my head. In my world, parts in the signal path all sound different. It’s like asking me if chocolate and vanilla taste different.

The answer seems so obvious.

But then I climb out of my cloud and plop back down into some form of reality that isn’t mine but close enough to the others in order to communicate.

When building products that people can afford it becomes a challenge to know where to spend what funds you have available. I can assure you $10 Audio Note resistors or $50 Rel Caps in every position on a circuit would place audio equipment out of reach for all but a few.

The challenge then comes down to selectivity. Where to best place your parts funds to get the performance you’re hoping for.

I remember well the tough choice I had to make when designing the Genesis Stealth integrated amplifier. The volume control in the Stealth was the heart of the device: my last all-out assault on fixing the volume control before I finally gave up and eliminated the volume control altogether through the invention of the Gain Cell.

The Stealth volume control was simple. A series resistor with variable shunt resistors. Instead of trying to use what everyone else was struggling with: a high-quality potentiometer or fancy stepped attenuator, my simple circuit depended 100% on the quality of a single resistor.

After much trial and error, I landed on a 1-watt 0.1% tolerance Vishay that in quantities of 500 pieces ran us $35 each. Ouch. That’s a lot when even a great 1% metal film costs about a dime.

The point of the story is simple. The only reason we cut into our own margins by $70 for the stereo pair was because it sounded better. A lot better.

Hopefully, this story will resonate with some and confirm with others what they always suspected. That we’re nuts.

Certainly not boring.

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 a real company, wile many high end audio companies are not, so PS Audio uses a pretty standard pricing model, while others, get what they can and often times a lot better margins on what they sell, if they can make a market for their stereo products.

Pricing models

As of late, there’s been some discussion on the forums about the model we use for product pricing.

From what I can ascertain, the general view seems to be companies have a complex pricing model based on a combination of what they believe the market will bear and what it takes to cover all their R and D and tooling costs. At some level, this pricing model surely exists, else how do we wind up with half-million-dollar loudspeakers or $50K audio cables?

When it comes to the mainstream companies I think the truth is somewhat simpler.

My guess is we’re all pretty much the same: a simple multiple of what each product costs to manufacture. The multiples vary depending on the expected number of units to be sold and what the sales volume of the company is.

At the end of the proverbial day, companies have to charge enough to cover expenses.

For most companies like PS Audio, pricing is based entirely on what it costs us to build your products.

Simple works best.

 

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.

Labels

Labels are necessary for communication yet offered without thought of consequences they can be destructive.

There’s no harm in labeling sodium chloride as table salt. In fact, labeling a shaker of white crystals as “salt” is extremely helpful at the dinner table.

But what happens when we label stereo equipment with opinions? For example, labeling a particular phono cartridge as wooden or tight-assed can destroy a product’s reputation. Imagine taking home an expensive moving coil cartridge and on your audio system, it doesn’t sound right. You label it with your opinion and it is forever tainted—even if all that might have been wrong was your ability to set it up properly.

I remember the first time I heard about Cambridge Audio products. Asked what their shtick was I was told it earned the label: cheap gear. Good, but cheap. It wasn’t until I spent the time to audition their products myself that I realized the label was not only unwarranted but unfair. Not because it wasn’t inexpensive gear (it was) but because that label assigned it a low value in people’s minds. I began to support the brand by telling people it was an exceptional bargain.

PS Audio products were for years labeled as “The poor man’s Audio Research”. I guess that’s a compliment, though I probably could have picked a better label.

I guess my point is we should be careful about the labels we assign products and certainly people.

They have a habit of sticking.

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.

Wow and flutter

The terms wow and flutter will bring back memories of tape recorders to some, perhaps pictures of butterflies to others.

Wow is a low-frequency fluctuation while flutter is a much faster version of the same thing. Steady state instruments like oboes and piano are particularly affected by these mechanical distortions prevalent in tape recorders and record players.

I was reminded of these ancient problems when digital audio pioneer, Tom Jung of DMP Records visited Gus Skinas in Octave’s studios. For those of you unfamiliar with DMP records, look up one of my favorites, Tricycle by Flim and the Bbs. To this day it remains one of the punchiest tracks I know of.

It was great to see Tom and we chatted and laughed as we both remembered our relief when the move to digital audio began. No more needles, wows and flutters to worry about. (of course, there was plenty of other problems, but that’s another chapter).

(pictured from left to right: PS Audio’s Gus Skinas, Chris Brunhaver, Darren Myers, and Bob Stadtherr followed by Tom Jung and disc mastering engineer, Matt Lutthans)

I recently ran across a 2018 interview in Stereophile magazine between Jonathan Scull and Tom Jung.

Jung: Well, back in ’76 it was the absence of wow and flutter. No matter how you slice it, it’s still there in analog machines. And you can hear it, especially with the piano. Digital’s absence of wow and flutter sounded more like what was coming off the studio floor. Of course, at the time we couldn’t compare it with the lacquers because they were all carefully packed and sent to the manufacturing plants. But we did compare it with the analog tape, and everybody in the studio thought there were things they liked better about digital. But as time went on I came to realize that digital sounded maybe a bit confused…

Scull: No pun intended?

Jung: [laughs] Anyway, something we had in analog was missing. So no free lunch, but overall digital was a better thing from the get-go.

Scull: Ah, a chink in the armor. What was missing, do you think?

Jung: Well, information. You know the way PCM or any digital works—it breaks the analog signal down into little pieces. And I’ve learned that the smaller the pieces are, the better it’s going to sound. That, and a lot of attention to detail all the way ’round. And, given that, to me DSD just sounds better. In fact, one of the biggest problems with PCM digital today is the analog circuitry that surrounds it. But PCM can sound very good if the analog is really done right both on the A/D and back again.

Remembering our past helps us move forward in our future.

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.

External power supplies

On the periphery of exotic upgrades is the external power supply. Sometimes this supply is bigger and more powerful than what’s standard inside audio products, but more often than not it’s simply the only means of powering a product. A wall wart is a great example.

In my experience, the first use of an external power supply came from PS Audio, nearly 50 years ago (though likely others did it too).

When Stan and I were working on building new products, Stan had discovered the benefits of an oversized power supply: more slam, openness, greater solidity in the bottom end, and far better transparency. The bigger the transformer the better the sound.

At the time, we only made line-level products like preamps and control centers. These types of products were always housed in 1U, 2U, or sometimes a 3U chassis (a “U” is short for Rack Unit and is a standard for rack mounting at 1.75″ tall). Our 2U chassis height could never accommodate a monster power transformer so we did what anyone trying to shoehorn in a 5-pound hunk into a one-pound bag: we put it in a new and larger housing. We called it the HCPS for High Current Power Supply.

The benefits from externalizing the power transformer were many: better sound, lower hum, and the ability for our customers to choose what level of performance they could afford. The last one we produced was back in the PCA2 preamp days of the 2000s, as well as a smattering in the Gain Cell line of products. It was (and is) a cool idea but, alas, limited in its appeal.

Seems the trend today is less rather than more.

Big external boxes powering high-end audio products are rare and often viewed more as exotic than standard.

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.

Grails, holy and hopeful

One of the more famous literary motifs is the idea of the Holy Grail, a metaphorical vessel with miraculous powers providing happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance.

Grails, both holy and hopeful, can apply to any number of aspirational audio goals. For me, that grail is to be found in digital audio.

We’ve long known that digits are digits and thus can be endlessly replicated without loss. That said, we’ve also known that digital delivery and processing are prone to differences that are most audible.

The Grail would, for me, be to design a series of digital audio devices that are agnostic to the storage, transmission, and processing of bits. That no matter how one gets those bits delivered and processed, the audible results would be the same.

We are a long way away from drinking from that grail vessel, though with PS Audio’s recent innovations of galvanically isolating inputs and CPUs from the digital outputs we’re more than one step closer.

Grails, both holy and hopeful are what keep most of us in research and development going.