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 Paul’s Post  is short, but it hits home with me as often in high end audio systems, the details make a lot of difference.

However, you need to have an excellent audio and/or video system with all the major things correct, in order for the little details to have their full effect.

Our audio systems are only as good as the weakest link, but these are seldom tweaks, such as cables, although if you put bright sounding silver cables in the wrong system, it can ruin it.

Here’s Paul.
Fine details

Champagne has a pronounced taste not found in white wine, yet the difference is only a dose of CO².

A motional feedback corrected woofer is a significant upgrade, yet the difference is only a small bit of circuitry.

A homemade waffle with expertly browned butter-infused maple syrup is an extraordinary experience. A Kellog Eggo waffle…not so much.

It is often the fine details that differentiate good from great.

It’s easy to overlook the details and focus on the big stuff, but it’s often a mistake.

 

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.

From Paul about phono cartridge loading for our turntables.
There ought to be a law!

…and there is. Ohm’s.

Ever wondered why phono cartridge loading is so important? We want to make sure a moving magnet is properly loaded at 47KΩ, the moving coil perhaps 100Ω.

Get those input impedances wrong and the system won’t sound right.

A phono cartridge is little more than a coil of wire. This coil of wire is where the electrical signal is generated. A magnet attached to the end of the cantilever is surrounded by this coil in a moving magnet. This coil is attached to the end of the cantilever and surrounded by a magnet in a moving coil.

In either case, (the magnet moving closer to the coil or further away) a voltage is generated in response to the movement of the needle in the record groove. Apply this tiny signal voltage to the input of a preamplifier equipped with the proper equalization, and voila! we get music.

Seems simple enough. But there’s a catch. When we use magnetics (coils of wire) to either transfer or generate energy, we run into a hitch in the get along. These devices are not flat in the frequency domain. At their frequency extremes, they work differently than in the middle of their range. At the lowest frequencies, they don’t work at all. At the higher frequencies, they lose steam and begin rolling off—but not before they get louder—sort of a last gasp before their swan song.

This louder signal at higher frequencies is called a resonance, a peaking. It is to this peaking we apply our buddy, Mr. Ohm.

In a moving magnet cartridge, we want to terminate with a 47KΩ resistor and a small capacitor. This damps out the peak and makes for a smooth transition as the cartridge rolls off on the top end. Too high a terminating resistor and we get an unnatural boost at the top end from this peak. Too low a resistance and we lose the top end. The same applies to the moving coil, just on a different scale.

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 is the first installment of my summation of an article written by Robert Schryer in the December 2016 edition of Stereophile.

The title is “Take Two Grateful Deads and Call Me in the Morning.” It is also referred to as “Good Sound is Good For Us.”

The article is about the effect of music in general, and music played back on a really good stereo system, when it comes to mental health. In other words, how music can have a positive effect on the brain and how the better a stereo system is, the more its positive effect, at least with many people.

In this case, it was prompted by a friend of the author who had progressively worse panic attacks that eventually became manageable because of his listening to music played back on a really good stereo system. When listening to MP3 files, which is the most widely used digital format today, the effect on his panic attacks were lessened, compared to listening to high quality music files, like the WAV files I listen to, on a good stereo system.

I’ll write more about this, as my sons senior project was about the positive effect of music on Alzheimer’s patients and as a treatment protocol, music is something easily, although to get high quality music re-production will cost somewhere between a bit and a lot more than a bit.

More soon, as I think this is a very interesting subject and pertinent to many people.

 

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 technical one from Paul and not sure many of you are interested in this, so I’ll probably start writing more stuff soon about the High End Audio, Home Theater and AV worlds.

But, for now, here’s Paul.
Input impedance

Every electronic product with an input has an impedance, though I suspect few of us pay much attention to it.

Understanding input impedance is valuable for those connecting equipment or making purchasing decisions.

Input impedance is defined by Wikipedia as, “… the measure of the opposition to current flow (impedance), both static (resistance) and dynamic (reactance), into the load network being connected that is external to the electrical source.”

What a lot of gobbledygook. Let me see if I can put it in more understandable terms.

Input impedance determines how easy or hard the source equipment works to supply music. The lower the number, the harder it works.

Over the next couple of days we’ll look at some of the use cases and what they mean.

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.

From Paul writing about Total Harmonic Distortion, or THD.

When solid state replaced tubes in amplification,  low THD used to be the measurement that mattered. All the mainstream companies used to design their products, just to get the lowest number for THD.

We have learned that while an impressive stat, the lowest THD percentage doesn’t really matter when it comes to sound quality, as other things, some not measurable, contribute to ultimate sound quality more than the lowest THD.

Now from Paul….
What matters

Here’s the thing about THD distortion. It mostly doesn’t matter. Even relatively high levels of THD are not recognized by the ear.

The impacts of what amp designers do to lower it are far more noticeable than the added harmonics themselves.

And loudspeakers make orders of magnitudes more THD than amplifiers.

Factoid: the next time you see higher levels of THD listed on an equipment spec be attracted rather than repulsed. Higher levels of measured THD often signal a better sounding design than the opposite. (Not because they are higher, but because the design is likely more musical).

Measurements that do matter are mostly not mentioned: TIM (Transient Intermodulation Distortion), slew rate, or open loop stability are examples.

One measurement often included, but not understood, does matter. IM. Intermodulation distortion is quite noticeable to the ear and is often the red-haired stepchild, mentioned but not angst over.

Tomorrow we’ll angst together.

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.

It’s how you get there

If the engineer’s goal is to have as little distortion as possible, then the amplifier or loudspeaker with the lowest number wins. Right?

Wrong. Just ask the receiver manufacturers who boast of vanishingly low THD but aren’t worth the metal they’re made from when it comes to high-performance audio.

Designing audio equipment that sounds good is an art. A balancing act.

The tools we have at our disposal to affect THD are many, but not all of them are something we want to use.

For example, negative feedback. Judiciously applied it’s good. Overused it makes for hard and bright sound.

An input stage without any negative feedback might produce a relatively high THD level of 0.1% – but sound better than one with lots of feedback measuring 0.001%

Today’s takeaway: it isn’t the measurement that matters. It’s how you achieved it.

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.

From Paul.
Hitting the right note

The phrase, “hitting the right note” has many meanings. To a classical music performer, accurate to the score; a jazz musician, true to the vibe; a stereo system, enhanced emotion.

We all recognize when a wrong note is played. Step into any reproduced music environment and you’re pleasurably or painfully aware of music’s veracity.

Our acceptance of right or wrong depends on expectations. We’re forgiving of our child’s first band concert.

When it comes to a system hitting the right note, we’re always pleasantly surprised when affordable gets our foot tapping.

And painfully aware when expensive is off key.

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 is an interesting post as it talk about preconceptions in audio.

If we hear an audio system with small speakers, yet it appears to make great bass, is it a great speaker? Does it make great bass, for what it does and its size, or does it make great bass, including low frequency notes that can mostly be felt, not heard?

When  people buy Bose, is it because they have evaluated it over some long period of time , or is it because Bose knows most people either won’t listen to their stuff before they buy, or maybe give it a 10 second listen at a big box store, say it’s great and buy it ? Most people I know what have bought Bose, bring it home, hook it up and don’t listen to music much. Coincidence? No……

I will write about this in more detail at a later time.

In the meantime, here is Paul.
The best listeners

Often the best listeners are the uninformed, the inexperienced among us, the spouse in another room, a neighbor with zero expectations.

Expert listeners often arrive with so much baggage—preconceptions about what something should, or should not sound like—that we cannot hear the obvious differences.

I do my best to go into listening situations with as few expectations as possible.

Clearing away preconceptions often leads to unexpected results.

 

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.

From Paul.
Breaking in what?

It has been said that break-in, the phenomena of equipment improving its sound quality with use, has more to do with breaking in the user’s ears than the kit.

I think that opinion is misleading.

There is a difference in equipment performance with break-in. Of this I am certain. I can almost always tell when a unit is fresh off the line or has been in service for some time. It only takes a single audition.

That’s not me breaking in. It is the equipment changing with use.

That said, here’s an uncomfortable truth. Our ear/brains break-in over time too. The longer we listen the more accepting we become of sound.

While both are true, one does not negate the other.

It’s tempting to dismiss the equipment break-in observation because equipment break-in is hard to explain. Often a mystery.

Mysteries are there to solve, not dismiss.

improving its sound quality with use, has more to do with breaking in the user’s ears than the kit.

I think that opinion is misleading.

There is a difference in equipment performance with break-in. Of this I am certain. I can almost always tell when a unit is fresh off the line or has been in service for some time. It only takes a single audition.

That’s not me breaking in. It is the equipment changing with use.

That said, here’s an uncomfortable truth. Our ear/brains break-in over time too. The longer we listen the more accepting we become of sound.

While both are true, one does not negate the other.

It’s tempting to dismiss the equipment break-in observation because equipment break-in is hard to explain. Often a mystery.

Mysteries are there to solve, not dismiss.

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.

Change of scene

I sometimes group systems into two categories: those you can step into without adjusting, and those you cannot.

A great place to experience what I am referring to is an audio show, where room after room has a different system setup.

Enter room one and your reference disc sounds like what you would expect. Enter room two and that same disc sounds very different.

What you might find illuminating is this: the longer you listen, the more acceptable your ears are to the sound. You get used to the colorations of the system.

I personally struggle with this. If a system is so far out of my comfort zone, it doesn’t feel to me as if it’s musical. I don’t stay and get adjusted. The transitions are too jarring.

What’s been your experience?