Tag Archives: SACD

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 setup dance

In my new book, The Audiophile’s Guide, The Loudspeaker I liken the challenge of system setup to that of a dance.

As in my earlier post about devilish details, the setup dance can either be feared or embraced.

Fearing the dance inevitably leads to shortcuts: desperate attempts not to get sucked into the vortex of one-change-leads-to-another.

In the end, it’s better to embrace the dance as something to look forward to.

This is your chance to really make better that which you have invested so much time, love, and resources.

The end results of dancing with your 2-channel partner can be breathtaking.

If you have a chance to pick up a copy of the book, the associated SACD/download will be available at the end of September, beginning of October (and you will need both).

I’ll keep you in the loop.

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

My T+A MP2500R plays SACD’s, as well as CD’s and boy, does it sound great doing it!

Go for the gold

Today marks a smile milestone for Octave Records.

We’re launching two new killer discs, each mixed on the FR30s, and each available as a 24-karat gold CD in addition to our standard SACD and download versions.

While our SACD releases are popular, we get soooooo many requests for lower cost CD versions that we rolled up our sleeves to see what we could do.

Our first challenge was to make sure the 44.1kHz versions of the original DSD masters were flawless and held all the magic of a DSD recording. Our second challenge was to find the perfect pressing plant to make these rare 24-karat releases with the quality that we demand.

And we did! Now, for the first time for many, you’ll be able to enjoy state-of-the-art recordings as made by Octave.

Our first is our latest Audiophile Masters compilation number 6. What a wonderful collection of tracks from the likes of guitarist Miguel Espinosa, the Seth Lewis Quartet, a touch of country, classical, and sweet music.

The second is without a doubt killer. The Everlasting Dance by Tierro. I can’t wait for you to hear the recording quality we achieved on this masterpiece.

Both are available now.

Can’t wait for you to see what your system is really capable of.

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.

Jumping up and down

The humidity levels during winter months in Colorado are really low. Low enough that every time I slide my butt off the listening room seat I get a charge of static electricity—enough to really zap myself and the equipment. I’ve gotten used to discharging the static buzz by touching the grounded equipment rack.

But it reminds me that I rarely move off the stereo listening chair. That not since long ago when vinyl was king and I had to get up and down to change the vinyl LP side or select another track have I even given much thought to the jumping up and down of vinyl.

The most I ever do is when I am listening to a disc on the PST and it needs to be changed. I do find that discs (even CDs) still sound better than streaming but I hope that as soon as I get my greedy little hands on the upcoming AirLens that will resolve itself for CD and higher resolution PCM files on Qobuz and I won’t be jumping up and down quite as much.

That said, there’s nothing in the streaming world that I am aware of that’ll be playing the DSD SACD layer…though perhaps I’ll then switch over to Octave downloads and “stream” them from my computer in DSD.

No big conclusion here. Just a bit of ramblings and ruminations about jumping up and down.


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.

More than what’s obvious

In yesterday’s post, I made the point that regardless of the delivery method—transport or streaming—identical digital audio bits received at the DAC should sound the same.

They do not.


Let me first start with a little story. When we had the opportunity to listen to the PerfectWave SACD Transport (PST) for the first time, we had high expectations. Inside was a new way to handle bits: an extension of the work we had been pursuing for years, the Digital Lens.

A DL is a big buffer with a low jitter fixed output clock. Bits go in one end of the DL, gather together in a holding pen, and then when the jitter-free output clock has the “time” (pun intended), it pulls from the holding pen the next set of digital audio bits to send to the DAC.

The lowered jitter produced by the Digital Lens provided a revolution in sound quality.

What was different inside the PST—the new innovation we had been sitting on pins and needles to hear—was more than just a DL (we already knew what that sounded like). The PST’s internal DL had been galvanically isolated as if it were an entirely separate entity from the PST. We had built this new structure in the hopes of removing the last vestiges of sonic degradation: noise and jitter introduced by the power supplies and shared grounds inside the transport.

It worked. The sonic differences between the new PST and the older DMP it replaced were more than just better. They were extraordinarily better—a first-note-obvious better.

And therein lies what I believe to be the answer to yesterday’s question. Identical bits cannot sound different unless something else has changed. That something else is noise and induced jitter on shared grounds.

Which is why, in large measure, digital audio received from a computer via USB sounds remarkably different than the exact same bits as received from a transport.

It is not the veracity of the bits but all the baggage associated with the gathering and delivery of those bits.

As is almost always the case, it’s more than what’s obvious.

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.

Streaming vs. discs

The controversy over music streaming vs. physical disc seems endless.

On the one hand, we know that all things being equal, there’s no difference to the DAC how it gets its digital audio data. It can come from as close as three feet away via cable or can stream from thousands of miles away via the internet. As long as the bits received are identical it won’t matter.

Yet that seems not to be the case.

Discs currently outperform streaming on any platform I’ve experimented with by a lot. I believe that has nothing to do with the bits and everything to do with how they are received and processed (though this does not explain in any way why Tidal and Qobuz sound vastly different with Qobuz the clear winner—a subject for another day)

Let me share a bit of my thinking. If I upload to Dropbox an Octave master DSD file, then download it and capture it to a USB memory stick, and play that stick in our PerfectWave SACD transport, it sounds absolutely identical to the same file as played on a DVD data disc. Thus, the round trip travel to the Cloud and back again have zero impact on the data. Transferring that same data from a hard drive on a Qobuz or Tidal server should then be identical to that of a Dropbox server. In fact, several of these choices employ the same Amazon Web Services for their server. For all we know, the two could be housed in the same building.

Yet, they sound remarkably different.

Tomorrow I will discuss why I believe that to be true.

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.

Studio sterile

When enjoying live recordings we get more than just a great capture of the music. We get a sense of the crowd, the stage, the air conditioning system, the floor bounce, the room acoustics.

Live recordings are the polar opposite of the sterility of studio recordings where great pains are expended to neutralize studio acoustics, quiet the room, make whisper-quiet the air conditioning system, and silence any hint of an audience.

Live recordings capture both the brilliant musical surprises as well as whatever mistakes happen (which is one reason many live recordings are actually a compilation of multiple night performances presented as one).

In a studio session do-overs, punch-ins, editing, and overdubs cover the mistakes and often over sterilize the performance.

There are clear differences between the spontaneity of live recordings and the sterility of the studio versions. Both have their charms, benefits, and weakness.

The one observation I will make is that I wish more studio recordings would be alright with some environmental noises. When we were recording the Audiophile’s Guide SACD reference disc, many tracks were captured in PS Audio’s warehouse where, without much effort, one can clearly hear the air conditioning system at work, creaks, groans, and sighs from the metal roof, and a generally more “live” sound.

I often miss all that recording studios spend small fortunes eliminating.

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.

A whole new experience

Octave Record’s first release, pianist Don Grusin’s Out Of Thin Air, was a huge success and much loved by those who bought it on SACD or download. We’re nearly sold out of the final edition of the SACD.

The recording is one I am very familiar with, having heard it any number of times on the big system. It’s one of the best piano recordings I have ever heard.

And now we’re getting closer to releasing Out Of Thin Air on vinyl. We will press a limited edition of 500 LP’s on 180-gram virgin vinyl, mastered at 45 rpm and released on 4-discs.

But here’s the crazy thing. Having been personally involved in the process from day one, as Gus worked with the cutting engineer, I am flabbergasted by the sound. It is Soooo different (in a magical sort of way) than the master DSD from which it was cut.

How can this be?

These discs were cut directly from the DSD master, something almost never done (as we’ve learned). To facilitate the transfer our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr, designed a DSD delay splitter that made certain the real-time cutting head feed (that sets the groove width in accordance with the signal amplitude) is identical to the delayed musical signal. Every step of the way we made certain the purity of the original master DSD tracks were perfectly preserved.

It should sound pretty darned close to the master.

It does not. There’s a vinyl magic that sets it apart from its source.

This drives me frickin’ bonkers. I know we’ve been many times down this road, but still…

It’ll likely be a few months before we have the finished discs so you can hear for yourself.

I think I am going to go run some cold water over my head.

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 has a new CD/SACD transport.

SACD Transport

The Super Audio Compact Disc was Sony and Philip’s follow-up format to the original Compact Disc—itself an innovation that fundamentally changed the world forever.

It’s hard to get lightning to strike twice, which is why it should have been no surprise at the SACD’s tepid success.

The problem for Sony and Philips getting their new super format to replace the many millions of CDs already in play turned out to be of their own making. Few but audiophiles cared about getting sound better than the CD. After all, the CD was pitched as perfect sound forever.

Now, nearly 40 years after the introduction of the Compact Disc, we chuckle at the absurdity of their marketing claim.

Chuckles aside, I think it’s helpful to recognize just how big a step better than CDs SACD’s can be. A CD is limited to just under a megabyte of data, while a dual-layer SACD can store 8,500 times more data. Put another way, one could conceivably archive 8,500 CDs on a single dual-layer SACD.

But we don’t use SACDs for storing our CDs. Instead, their greater storage capacity allows a new and better sounding format to capture our music—DSD. And on top of DSD we can have multiple channels as well as a complimentary CD layer ensuring older CD-only players aren’t incompatible.

PS Audio’s latest transport, the PerfectWave SACD Transport, or PST for short, is more than just a better transport capable of playing SACD. The PST ushers in an entirely new way of delivering digital audio data—whether from a CD or SACD—to your DAC.

Galvanically isolated audio data—pure and noise-free digital audio data without any physical or electrical connection to the transport’s inner workings.

Galvanic isolation happens through our AirGap interface isolating the unit’s internal power supplies and transport mechanism from your connected DAC. PST owners get the isolated benefits regardless of how they connect its output to their DAC: I2S, Coax, AES/EBU.

What’s wonderful about this innovation is we don’t need SACDs to take advantage of it. Good old “perfect sound forever” CDs sound unlike anything you have ever imagined possible.

Yup, just good old CDs shine as never before.

If you want to learn more or experience for yourself the benefits of total isolation for CDs or SACDs, head 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.

Walls vs. ceilings

The four walls of our rooms are both friend and enemy. They contain and support the generated sound field while at the same time distorting music’s reproduction.

We cannot live without our walls yet it’s a struggle to listen within them.

To my room’s walls, I can mitigate problems through acoustic treatments such as bookshelves and furniture as well as pictures and diffusers.

And then there are the other two often ignored walls: floor and ceiling.

Floors covered in carpet are partially better but only for higher frequencies.

Ceilings are even more of a problem: hard to reach; carpet looks goofy; extremists can add diffusers and absorbers.

It’s relatively easy to partially address the room’s problems through wall treatment, but incredibly difficult to apply the same to our fifth and sixth walls—floor and ceiling.

I don’t have a magic cure, though the best course of action involves seating position setup—something covered in the Audiophile’s Guide.

The book itself is currently available on both Kindle and paperback on Amazon (where it is a national bestseller), and later this month, the entire package of the book and its companion Reference Music will be available on PS Audio’s website.

My son Scott will reach out to you with full details when the reference SACD and complete package are available on our website. Stay tuned for details.

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.

This article from Paul mentions MQA. MQA, or Master Quality Authentication,  is another way to record and playback music that’s supposed to sound better than full WAV files, yet save disc space…That is, it supposed to sound as good or better than anything and  take up less file space. Does it work, or just the latest fad? My T+A MP2500R Digital Multiplayer, which is an SACD and CD transport, as well as a UPnP player, AM/FM tuner, Internet Radio renderer, etc, sounds fantastic, yet no MQA and I do not believe its in T+A’s plans to make their products compatible with the format.  I can tell you that if it actually improved sound quality, they would probably implement it and do so in a heartbeat.

I do not have it to compare, but after promoting it heavily at the beginning, I sense its fading as so many other musical formats before it. Not a big surprise…


The title of today’s post might be a misspelling of a very famous collie or a word that should be expunged from audio’s vocabulary.

Lossie media files save bandwidth by sacrificing musical content. As audiophiles, we should be up in arms or at least a little upset. ��

In the same way few of us are happy about the dumbing down of society, why is it in this day and agree we are alright with lossie music?

The creators of MQA tried to make us believe it was not only ok to lose data but worse, it’s better than lossless!

Spotify seems alright feeding us with lossie music. Fine for them because that’s their business model, but why do audiophiles support them? Probably because Spotify’s library has far more tracks to choose from than the lossless services.

In the end, whatever floats your boat works. Music’s music and it’d be a shame to miss out on great tunes because we’re worried over quality.

Still, it stresses me the word lossie remains alive and well in the context of music reproduction.