Tag Archives: stereo 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.

The long and winding road

The road to sonic bliss has always been long and winding, but today it’s getting straighter and shorter.

Remember back in “the day” when information was scarce? Aside from a few magazines, finding out anything substantial about how a stereo system might fit into your home was more than just challenging. It was nearly impossible. A real crapshoot.

You took the word of the HiFi dealer and crossed your fingers. Most of the “research” you did was more about qualifying the dealer rather than the gear.

Today, things are easier. We have a wealth of information at the touch of a mouse.

To me, the road ahead looks much straighter and shorter. Instead of rolling the proverbial dice, today we can read the opinions of others, give a try at home, make our decisions, and sit back and enjoy.

Not only is the road less daunting, but the drive itself is much more enjoyable.

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.

Clear goals

Perhaps one of the most difficult hurdles to cross is the setting of clear goals. What is it you hope to achieve? Where is it you hope to go to? What’s it look like when you get there?

“I want a great stereo system.”

That’s a reasonable goal but perhaps a bit too broad to form a set of useful guidelines.

Maybe better to focus more on the end result.

“I want good sound with no compromise bass that shakes the rafters and flaps my pant legs.”

That’s a lot easier to achieve now that we know more specifics about the end goal. Focus your efforts on the biggest, baddest subs you can afford, and do your best to marry them with what you have for a system.

Wanting “the best” or working to achieve “the greatest” is an endless loop with no reasonable end point.

The more specific your end goal the better chance you’ll have of finding a way to get there.

It’s why visible goalposts on the playing field work.

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.

Synergistic sound

The dictionary describes synergy as “the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.”

Isn’t that the truth?

How does your stereo system fit into the room? How about those connecting cables? Digital? Analog? Moving coil or magnet?

Each and every choice we make is part of the whole.

Creating a synergistic sound is the challenge we all face when setting up or assembling together a HiFi system.

What are the bits and pieces you find essential to creating synergy within your system?

How important are they?

Could you do better?

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.

Talent vs. skill

We think of someone with talent as having a natural ability—a born-with level of skill.

They got the brass ring.

I would suggest this notion of talent is somewhat of a self-limiting myth.

Vladimir Horowitz wasn’t born to play the piano. His combination of physical attributes coupled with his life-long development of skills got him where he wound up.

If I am willing to invest the time, energy, and dedication to developing a particular skill I can elevate myself to the point where others might look at me as having talent. (which would make me smile because I know how many years of hard work it took me to become an overnight-talented success).

If you want to build the best stereo system in the world you don’t need talent.

You need only desire and persistence.

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.

Matching specs

Imagine for a moment two analog gain blocks, each with identical input and output impedance as well as gain.

To make our little thought experiment more interesting, let’s also imagine their THD and IM measurements are identical as well.

Now, here’s where it gets juicy. Let’s imagine circuit A is a traditional high open loop bandwidth amplifier with lots of negative feedback applied to establish its gain. Circuit B is the opposite. Here we have a circuit with very low open loop gain with very little negative feedback.

Would the two sound different if we played music through them and listened on a highly resolving stereo system?

Having made this comparison more than a few times I can tell you my own findings are pretty clear. Indeed they do sound quite different, especially when the type of music we’re using has lots of rich harmonics and overtones played in a non-cluttered setting where those overtones can easily be heard.

It’s in fact not even a contest. Instantly noticeable and consistently the same even in blind testing.

But, why? What measurements might we apply to see those differences?

A differential null test?

Why haven’t we, as an industry, together created a measurement system that clearly demonstrates those differences on a measurable basis?

And even if we did, would anyone care?

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.

Correctness

One of the reasons why we published the Audiophile’s Guide discs and book is simple. Getting the system to adhere to an easy to attain standard.

Standards are important for getting a stereo system to play nice with all types of music. If you can dial in a simple recording of voice and piano, for example, then chances are excellent a full orchestra will sound right too.

But it doesn’t always work in reverse.

In other words, if you try and use a large and complex piece of music as a standard for which you base your system on, it may not work with the simple.

I am certain better minds than mine have the reasons for this figured out, but in my experience, getting a simple trio or small non-complex group to play perfectly on your system almost always insures the large and complex with be near-perfect too.

Get the simple reference track dialed in and everything else will follow.

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.

If only…

Spending some time away from home over the past few days has given me a somewhat different perspective on the day-to-day needs of audiophiles.

One trend I had, in my isolation, neglected is the need for a bit of spice. “My system’s almost perfect. If only…”

Indeed, how many of us are completely satisfied with what we have achieved?

I suspect only a small percentage.

For many I believe we’re looking for that added touch of spice, that extra measure of transparency, just a little more space around the instruments, a bit more blat from that trumpet.

For me the “if only” phase comes and goes in small waves. For the most part, I am somewhat in awe of how my stereo system sounds. More of a constant reminder of just how great everything sounds as opposed to a desire for more.

But once in a while a bit of “what if” creeps in. A healthy dose of non-complacency.

It’s the “what ifs” that lead us down the path of crafting better.

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.

Absence of evidence

Here is a wonderful aphorism I am fond of:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

This can have multiple meanings but the one that rings true for me concerns our age old debate about measurements and the fact that not everyone hears the same things.

If you don’t hear any difference between two products we can draw multiple conclusions. Among the many are:

  1. There are no differences
  2. Your stereo system cannot resolve those differences
  3. You’re not listening to program material that contains musical information where those differences are most pronounced.
  4. You’re not an experienced listener.

That you hear no difference is not definitive proof it does not exist. It is merely an observation that in this particular set of circumstances you do not register a difference.

The same holds true for measurements. If we’re only looking for a fixed set of variables (FR,THD,IM,N) the fact we missed a circuit’s tendency to ring when stimulated by a specific square wave does not mean it didn’t ring.

It merely meant we missed it.

There’s nothing wrong with a good measure of hubris unless it is so strong it blinds us.

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 perfect reference disc

I wonder what the perfect reference disc would include.

Our first attempt, the Audiophile’s Reference, has sold thousands and served her audience well.

But the Audiophile’s Reference was in service of the accompanying book which was designed to help audiophiles perfect their home stereo system setups.

Once you’ve gotten everything right, then what?

I am wondering what it might look like to build what perhaps would be called a finished disc.

The ultimate checksum.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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.

Excitement vs. caution

What would happen if you were presented with a radical new idea? A way to improve the sound of your stereo system, one that would require you to adopt a whole new way of thinking.

Would you be excited or cautious?

Though I don’t have one up my sleeve, the question remains.

Jump in and swim or wait and see how things pan out over time?

Clearly, we’re all different. I would be first in line for the new because that’s just me. Though I am in the minority, I love and embrace change.

Moving forward with the new is what gets me out of bed in the morning and dreaming of the possibilities keeps me lying awake at night.

For most others, it’s quite the opposite.

These fundamental differences are probably built into our DNA. Developed over countless generations, I’ll bet that the reason there are fewer people excited over change is that they likely had a much lower survival rate. It wasn’t that many centuries ago that early adopters were the first to try something new and the first to bite the proverbial weenie when something went horribly wrong.

Thankfully, we live in an era where it’s safer to experiment and stretch our wings into the new.

I’d say that as a culture we’re becoming more comfortable with experimenting with the new.

And to me, that’s exciting.