Tag Archives: speaker

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

I haven’t yet heard PS Audio’s speaker, but would be interested in seeing what they have come up with. Totally custom, I believe  and  expensive!

Nearfield FR30 loudspeakers

The first round of FR30 loudspeakers are almost ready to be shipped to anxious customers. We’re close. Very close.

How exciting!

Never ones to rest for very long, as we’re waiting for the FR30s to be released into the wild we tasked the FR30s designer, PS Audio senior loudspeaker engineer Chris Brunhaver with building us a pair of custom nearfield monitors for Octave Records. These are one-of-a-kind, active nearfield monitors tuned specifically to the main control room at Octave Records.

This is super exciting. As many know, one of our goals at Octave is to be end-to-end perfect. To hear everything from the microphones to the final master on the FR30s. This will not only ensure we hear every last nuance possible, but the level of consistency in recordings will be quite remarkable.

Problem is that in the tracking control room where we lay down the recording tracks, the engineer has to be fairly close to the window looking out into the studio. This means that when he or she is making decisions based on microphone techniques and creating the rough mix they will have to be closer to the FR30s than they were designed for.

Enter in our resident speaker genius to save the day.

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

I’ve used both of these methods over the years and ultimately what sounds best depends on the loudspeaker radiation pattern and the room the loudspeakers are placed in.

Generally, for most of the people whose homes I’ve visited, using speakers that have controlled directionality, works best, as it takes some of the room effects out of the equation, or at least, minimizes them.

For me, with my particular music room being being relatively large, at 18′ x 23′ and acoustically treated, I can use both methods and for the best sound staging and tonality in my room, I use Paul’s preferred setup.

But, I’ve tried both and have gotten fantastic sound quality both ways.

Beyond the sides

The soundstage illusion is complex.

Move your speakers far apart, point them towards you, and the soundstage appears like a hologram between them.

Put them closer together, toe them towards your ears only slightly, and now the soundstage extends beyond the outer edges of the speakers.

When we’re setting up a system it’s important to first determine which of these two soundstage models you prefer: stuck between the two speakers or extending beyond them.

Both are valid, both give great results, both work.

But one must choose.

For my stereo systems, I prefer the model where the soundstage extends beyond the speaker’s outer edges. This is a fairly simple setup that places the speakers as far apart as they are from the listener to form an equilateral triangle.

To get the most effective illusion from this method the room typically benefits from diffusion behind the speaker.

What works best in your 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.

What price effortlesness?

An often overlooked aspect of music reproduction is effortlessness.

One of the first qualities of what listeners to the IRSV notice is how relaxed and effortless the sound even on the loudest passages of music. And it’s easy to see why when the output is divided amongst 108 drivers.

When we set out to design and build the FR30 loudspeakers one of our goals was to offer a similar effortlessness to music—a tall task since the FR30 has but 22 drivers to the pair.

What speaker designer Chris Brunhaver did was to take a different tack. Instead of what Infinity chose to do—divide the reproduction duties amongst many mediocre drivers—Chris’ approach would be to focus instead on the drivers themselves.

In the same way a power amplifier can sound effortless (by increasing headroom), speaker drivers can benefit from the same approach. For a given output level, the drivers on the FR30 have been designed to have a headroom of about 10 times better than even the best off-the-shelf drivers. This increased headroom can be quantified in multiple ways but perhaps the easiest to understand would be in lowered distortion at high output levels.

For a given output level most woofers have about 20% distortion. By pulling out all the stops and designing drivers without regard to costs, Chris was able to reduce that to well under 1% (even at very high output levels).

What this means in terms of effortlessness is immediately noticeable upon listening. Relaxed, effortless, with a sound that seems to go on forever.

So, instead of  Infinity’s 108 mediocre drivers dividing the sound up for an effortless presentation, the FR30 achieves its effortlessness with 22 drivers each with 10X better headroom.

You do the math.

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’s new loudspeaker system. Looks good.

Impressions of the FR30

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of living with our new loudspeaker, the FR30. I thought you might be interested in a few of my impressions on those listening experiences.

First, a note on naming. The FR30 is one speaker in a line of what will be 6 models—3 below the FR30 and two above. (The two above are future projects we’ve not yet started work on. The 3 below will be launched within 2022). The series will be named aspen. Like the tree.

The FR30 is unlike any speaker I’ve yet spent time with. It is absolutely seamless from top to bottom of the frequency spectrum. This is something that becomes immediately apparent to listeners, especially if you’re used to the sound of multi-driver speakers that aren’t seamless. Like the Infinity IRSV. As gorgeous as the IRSV are they are not seamless. If you live with them as long as I have you kind of get used to their transitions between woofer and mids and tweeters. Once you hear music without those transitions you find it hard to ever go back.

That’s where I am at. Finding it hard to go back.

And the midrange. For years I had lived with electrostats because of their window-like midrange. From Quads to Acoustat’s to Martin Logans—and later Maggies—I gave up dynamics, bass, and slam to bathe in the glory of that midrange. The FR30 is better than they and without their drawbacks.

I could go on and over time I certainly will.

I have much to learn in their setup, their tuning, their character. What I can share with you is a sense of musicality unlike anything I have ever heard. Chris Brunhaver has crafted a masterpiece of which I have to spend more time with.

Like a great painting or work of art, spending quality time with it is more than a requirement.

It is an honor and a pleasure.

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.

Closest to accurate

Despite the fact we use some of the most expensive in the world, a microphone’s output isn’t even close to what I hear in person.

And this charade of realism carries forward through our loudspeakers. Different speakers make the microphone’s feed sound different again.

It’s an endless loop.

When I declare a microphone sounding one way what I am really saying is how the combination of microphone, audio amplifier, and speaker sound.

Changing any one element in the chain changes the sound of all three.

Thus, if we are to speak in absolutes the closest to accurate is but a myth.

We could more correctly suggest one chain of equipment or another is closest to accurate—just not a single link within that chain.

Few things stand solidly on their own.

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.

What makes a reference track?

In yesterday’s post, I offered an extended list of my reference tracks.

Some of you may have noticed that not all tracks are great recordings. What gives?


Whether you’re setting up your stereo system, designing new products, or simply enjoying music, the key to great reproduction is diversity. A proper system should be able to handle a wide variety of tracks without shedding volumes of dander. If you can only enjoy perfect recordings then you might have to rethink some of your equipment or setup choices.

The very best systems show off great tracks and handle without upset the tough ones.

Depending on your goals, diversity can also work against you.

I remember well one of my first introductions into the dark secrets of the Hi Fi industry. While on the road and working with a well known dealer, I watched how he used a very specific tracklist of demo material to sell a certain brand of loudspeakers—a very famous UK brand with a particularly bright tweeter. The idea was that speaker, when paired with the right music, stood out from the pack because of how live the highs sounded—every other model sounded dull by comparison. Lots of people went home with that brand only to discover they had to change the rest of their system to deal with the aggressive tweeter (but that’s another story).

The point of all this is simple. The beauty of a diverse playlist is to offer a broad range of challenges for the system. Too much focus on one quality of recording and you may find yourself home with an equipment choice that only plays nice on a small not-so-diverse list of music.


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.

Cable elevators

Over lunch with engineer Darren Meyers we got to talking about systems and when it’s time to turn to cable elevators for improvements. Cable elevators get the speaker cables off the floor and improve sound quality: they are ultra-tweaks. Your system needs to be at a certain point of perfection before they matter.

Some audiophiles dress their systems to the nines without ever going through the step-by-step audition process to find if any of their efforts actually help—kind of like automatically adding spice without tasting. Others get everything as right as rain and then start the process of ultra-tweaking, listening along the way.

I find myself in both camps at different times. If I’m hustling through a setup for a show or helping someone with theirs, then we dress everything in the system as best we can and cross our fingers for best results. But when the system is part of our long term project it’s best if we tweak a little at a time, listening along the way.

My best systems have come about because I take what I like to call the ladder approach—each change happens in step-by-step order.

The careful grooming of a system generates more than just great sound. You gain knowledge as well.


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 stereo book!!

The Audiophile’s Guide

I have been making steady progress in writing The Audiophile’s Guide. This will be a new series of books, the first of which is The Stereo.

The Stereo will be a step-by-step guide to assembling, tuning, and working with your speaker and room setup so your system sonically disappears and in its place appears a holographic soundstage where the musicians perform. There will be an optional CD to aid in setup.

I am quite excited about this work—something I have been planning to do for decades. I believe there will be few in our HiFi Family that would not benefit from its guidance. A weekend spent with the setup procedure outlined in The Stereo will net big gains in sound quality without spending a dime.

As I near completion I wanted to engage our community for a bit of help. Below I have listed the major subjects covered in the guide. Did I cover everything? Is there something you’d like to see in this first book in The Audiophile’s Guide series?

If you have a moment to drop me a note, I would be very appreciative.

Here’s what I’ll cover in The Stereo. Again, the book’s goal is to help with setting up and tuning the system.

  • Introduction
  • The history of 2-channel audio
  • What to expect for budget
  • Choosing the right loudspeakers
  • Choosing the right stereo electronics
  • The room
  • Basic setup
    • Placing the speakers
    • Placing the electronics
    • Placing the listening seat
  • Basic tuning
    • Making the speakers disappear
    • The grid system
    • Paul’s secret formula
  • Advanced tuning
  • Advanced room acoustics
  • Subwoofers
  • The importance of connection
  • The importance of power
  • Digital room and speaker correction

Of course, I didn’t include all the subchapters. But, this gives you a basic idea of what’s there.  Let me know if it’s complete enough and what else you might want to see.



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.

Amen to this and most folks I know don’t have a lot of options when it comes to loudspeaker placement. I do and have the marks on the carpet to prove I’ve tried a bunch of different locations and it seems each speaker is different. Sometimes, changing electronics has me change things a bunch.

However, as I get older, I justs want to listen and where my Daedalus Ulysses speakers are now, works great, so I’m done…Probably…

Speaker placement

There’s perhaps nothing more important than speaker placement. Where those two boxes sit in the room vs. where you the listener sits, largely determines how your music sounds.

And here’s the sticky part. There are multiple right places, each sounding quite different.

I have watched many an expert set up speakers and each has a completely different approach that results in very different placements. If one watches Wilson Speaker setup expert Peter McGrath work, you’d notice him first walking the empty room clapping his hands and speaking into the air to find the best starting point for the setup. Contrast that with REL Subwoofer owner, John Hunter, who starts with but one channel and spends hours moving it about the room discovering the best place for bass.

At the end of each expert’s process, the sonic results are wonderful yet sonically night and day different.

Now think about your own best efforts at speaker setup. No doubt what you have achieved sounds different indeed from what they would have come up with.

I am in the middle of writing the first in a new series of books called The Audiophile’s GuideThe Stereo offers a detailed step-by-step setup guide for getting the most out of your 2-channel audio system. Following my instructions, there’s no doubt your system will take a leap forward in performance.

But, here’s the thing. My setup methods are different still than experts McGrath and Hunter. And so, yes, once set up, music and its image on the soundstage will be different yet again.

I think the point of this post is to point out just how much difference setup makes.

It’s easy to imagine otherwise.


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 psychological than real, people would probably not know the difference between speaker wire lengths in a blind test. However, as Audiophiles, we are neurotic group, so a no go.

I think interconnects are as important as speaker cables, but as long as low inductance on speaker cables and low capacitance on interconnects, things should be good, without spending a fortune.

Audiophile cabling can be a crazy thing.

Same length cables

One of the often asked questions concerns speaker cable lengths. Should they be identical?

For some reason, we rarely ask the same question about interconnects. Interconnects feel like a pair and I have never seen anyone use them otherwise. But, speaker cables? All the time I see differing lengths of speaker cables.

I succumbed to this oddness at several points in my long audio journey, and each time I found myself squirming in the listening chair, uncomfortable in the knowledge one speaker was different than the other.

Here’s the thing. Of all the analog interconnects in your system, speaker cables have the most impact on sound quality. The interactions between speaker and power amplifier are complex, forming a type of network that impacts the audio. So, while it might feel wrong to have to coil up the speaker cables for one speaker, while the other channel sits in a proper straight-line connection between amp and speaker, you’re better off with two equal lengths.

Where cables are concerned, symmetrical lengths rule the day.