Tag Archives: Stereo

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.

Magic sprinkles

For those of you that have purchased and received a copy of The Art of HiFi Series: Bass, I wonder how many have noticed a touch of magic sprinkles I added to one of the stereo tracks.

I am curious because what I did was a bit daring and out of the ordinary. Also, if your system isn’t set up for the best imaging, you won’t hear that sprinkle of magic.

I am referring to Track One, Erase Me, by Kaitlin Williams.

And I’ll even hint at where to look: listen to the chorus where the background singers chime in.

Interested to see how many folks catch what I did.

I love adding magic sprinkles.

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.

Theoretical, I say. Stereo cables are controversial in my world and after spending big dollars on some, supposed, really good ones, like Transparent and MIT, etc., they have all been sold and there’s not a cable in my current system that’s over $100. I’m back to relatively inexpensive and happy for it. As long as they are good, meaning good quality conductor material (Litz or solid core type wire for me) and built well, some cables are a little better than others, as long as they are good to begin with. Different gauge wires in a cable for different frequencies seems like a stretch to me.

Multi gauge cables

If you had a chance to read my post of several days ago titled The Bypass Cap you might have been thinking it was about headwear. Or, you might have gotten my analogy of using a super tweeter to augment a standard tweeter.

Here’s another for you.

If you were to take a thin, 22 gauge wire and use it to connect your loudspeakers to your power amp, I am quite certain it would sound dramatically different from whatever you are now using. What you would likely hear is a reduction of bass and a focus on higher frequencies. Thin sounding.

You might also notice that the highs you do hear are perhaps more extended sounding than your typical speaker cable setup.

This experiment is the basis of one way to design a cable, using multiple wire gauges in parallel: a slim wire gauge for the treble, a thicker and with more surface area conductor for the midrange, and a brute for the bass.

This technique is somewhat like designing a 3-way loudspeaker. Big woofer for the bass, a smaller driver for the midrange, and a tiny tweeter for the top end.

When PS Audio was making cables this is the technique we used to craft some really good sounding ones.

There are any number of ways to maximize the sound of cables.

This multi-gauge method is but one.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

Plasticity

What a great word.

noun:
1. The quality of being easily shaped or moulded.
2. The adaptability of an organism to changes in its environment or differences between its various habitats.

Plasticity very much describes our ever-adapting ear/brain mechanism.

Unlike our stereo test equipment which we rely upon to be solid and unchanging, our ear/brain mechanism is constantly changing, adapting, and learning. It is why we can identify with remarkable accuracy the most delicate of sounds: one violin from another, the tiniest of changes in vocal presentations. And we can do this all throughout our lives despite the fact our ears aren’t working as well as they once did.

If I owned a piece of measurement equipment that was constantly changing and adapting I’d send it in for repair. Microphones, analyzers, scopes, and test gear are only valuable to the extent they are unchanging. They are a reference.

Fortunately, our ear/brain mechanisms are the exact opposite.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

Never do either an AV or stereo installation where heat can be a problem and if equipment is stacked and/or does not have good ventilation, don’t do it!

Too cool for comfort

Can audio components run too cool?

This is an interesting question. We’ve all experienced how different our systems sound when we first turn them on. Cold they sound like their temperature: stiff, sluggish, perhaps a bit sterile. Warmed up for an hour or so we become much more engaged.

On the other side of the proverbial coin is the opposite: too hot and they can lose the life of the music. I’ve experienced this more than a few times when equipment stacks have been poorly ventilated. Let them cool down to normal operating temperatures and life returns to the music.

In the end, most equipment sounds its best when it’s happily within its acceptable operating range.

As a rule of thumb, I like a minimum of 30 minutes minimum to get started. If the system’s been on all day that works too (as long as there’s proper ventilation).

As in most things the extremes are not where we want to be.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

New DAC from PS Audio. I’d love to hear it, owning and truly enjoying the previous version, but they are now dealer direct, so not for me. Besides, ignoring the fact that fact that what I use now is roughly twice the cost of this piece, what I’m using now is a lot more functional. Adding a T+A MP2500R SACD/CD player and streamer to the mix is the best quality stereo I’ve ever had and the ability to stream Qobuz through it, is the coup de gras of musical convenience.

They’re here……

Since the beginning of the pandemic and the partsdemic: the crazy times we all seem to be accepting as “normal”, there is sometimes a light of success shining through.

Yesterday afternoon we shipped the first lot of DirectStream MKII DACs to anxious beta testers.

What a journey it has been. If memory serves correctly, designer Ted Smith performed 8 revisions of the MK2 board to accommodate the changing parts and packages.

As those keeping up with the changes know, at the last moment we found yet another problem. All hands on deck! The problem’s been resolved and the solution gave us an even better design.

But now they are shipping. And, let me tell you, this DAC is nothing short of extraordinary: quieter (the audio emerges from the black of the deepest velvet), faster, with separation of instruments unlike anything I have ever heard before.

A triumph of years of research and development.

For those beta testers awaiting theirs, the spigot’s been turned on. A trickle today, opening more tomorrow, and the flow at full blast by week’s end.

We can’t wait for you to get your hands on this beauty.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

Loudspeakers and the room are more important factors on sound quality than anywhere else in the amplification chain, although there is some amount of variability between the sound of high end audio stereo components.

Put a great Turntable system, preamplification, amplification and speakers in a really crappy room and the sound quality wont be very good.

Put good equipment in a good room and good sound. Put great equipment in a great room, as I have the fortune to experience and it’s great!

Beginning or end?

Linn’s Ivor Tiefenbrun famously suggested that if you can’t get the information off the vinyl disc in the first place then nothing else you do afterward matters.

There’s much truth in what he said (though I have never agreed with the conclusion that some make that turntables are more important than loudspeakers).

But this thought process has deeper implications when it comes to capturing sound.

In my experience, DSD is a far better capture technology than PCM. Why this would be is something we can over time sort out (is it the format or is it the capture hardware?).

Regardless, using the finest A/D hardware available there is a clear and undeniable sonic advantage to capturing sound in DSD. Later converting that DSD capture to PCM has far less loss than either recording in PCM in the first place or converting DSD to analog for mixing and then back again.

There are plenty of folks who do not agree with me on the latter part of my statement (conversion) but let’s leave that debate for another day.

Here’s the main point. Like the difference between a great turntable/cartridge and a mediocre one, there’s no valid argument possible when it comes to capturing the information. You either do or don’t capture what’s on the disc (or case in point with what is available for capture on our microphones).

If you can capture all there is available, what you do afterward is less important than putting the right effort into the initial capture.

As Ivor said, if you can’t get the capture right nothing else you do down the rest of the chain matters.

When you grab a copy of an Octave Record you know the capture was done properly with DSD.

Once we have captured the data without loss, it doesn’t matter as much the form you listen to it in.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

I seldom listen to music that sounds bad on my stereo, as there’s so much ow, that sounds great and that’s for me

Bad recordings and great systems

We often think of the revealing nature of a great stereo system as a double-edged sword: wonderful recordings sound better while poor ones sound worse.

The idea of a system’s ability to magnifying a recording’s good and bad points is problematic when it comes to simply enjoying the music. This is why a lot of folks narrow down their musical choices.

To the extent our systems bring us pleasure to enjoy all recordings can, in the end, be a good yardstick by which we measure success.

Fortunately, it isn’t always that black and white.

In my experience, systems go through three evolutionary phases:

  1. Phase one we go from a mediocre consumer setup where nothing sounds great yet nothing sounds bad. Oatmeal.
  2. Phase two we have upgraded systems and setup so the great recordings sound spectacular and the poor recordings are exposed.
  3. Phase three we elevated performance such that truly great recordings are breathtaking and poor recordings don’t irritate us—they can be appreciated for what they are without reaching to turn down the volume control.

Where is your system?

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

Polished or live?

When we make a studio stereo recording it’s understood it will be polished and perfect. The best we can do in a controlled environment.

When we record live our goal is quite different. Now, we want to capture perfectly the moment.

Like the old Memorex ad, “Is it live or Memorex?” we hope our studio recordings have that live sound. They might get close but they aren’t complete. There’s no audience applause. There’s no clinking of glasses. And, there are mistakes.

Polished or live?

At the proverbial end of the day, no matter how live a studio recording sounds it’ll never be truly live without capturing that single moment in front of an audience.

When done correctly, the real magic is in live.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek Audio and Paul McGowan of PS Audio, Intl.

I’ve made more than a few mistakes with regard to my stereo equipment, but more mistakes trusting business associates and thoise hurt a lot more.

Mistakes

Thankfully, mistakes happen. Without those mistakes, we’d never make forward progress into the new.

What’s often frustratingly confusing about those mistakes is when we make them along a proven and trusted path. Even then, if we make enough of them, we wind up changing that path for the better.

The older I get the more I am thankful for my mistakes: learning opportunities I would never have if I wasn’t comfortable making mistakes.

I believe it was Albert Einstein who said “The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas”.

After you get over your Doh! I made a mistake moment, replace it with a smile.

If we can get our mindset right, mistakes are a gift.

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.

Personal standards

We all have our personal standards by which we determine whether or not something lives up to our expectations. When I play a new track of music I expect a certain level of musicality, transparency, tonal accuracy, and overall believability. If I listen without any preconceived expectations I can either accept or reject the new music.

Sometimes, however, I manage to let my expectations get a bit out of hand. I struggle to separate high-hope expectations from personal standards.

Or, put another way, I might have unrealistic expectations of a new recording or piece of equipment. If that happens it’s hard to then accept it based on those minimal personal standards.

Why does this sometimes happen?

I think most of us are on the lookout for that undiscovered gem (I certainly am). We hear from those we respect how great a new piece of music is or how much better their stereo equipment sounded when they added this or that. Our expectations might soar and we give it a shot. If the results match our high hopes, bingo! But, if not, we sometimes reject it out of hand (despite the fact it meets our personal standards of acceptability).

All this to suggest the more we approach expectations with a touch of caution the more likely we are to discover the new that meets our personal standards.