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.

We are changing direction today to LP vinyl playback.

Paul is saying that he believes the most important  aspects of vinyl playback are the tonearm and cartridge parts of a turntable.

Well I get this, but what about the phono stage, which is necessary to convert a tiny signal into a larger one suitable for playback through our stereos? It is this phono stage which also applies the EQ necessary for our records to sound right.

Perhaps, this is a case of “it is only as good as its weakest link”.

Which parts matter most?

Turntables can be expensive propositions, but the bulk of expense often lie in the table and platter themselves.

Yet sound quality wise, I would imagine the arm and cartridge to be bigger contributors.

It’s the age-old question of where to put money: in the chassis and connectors or the circuitry they serve? The table and platter, or the arm and cartridge that do the reproduction? The transport mechanism of a CD player, or the output circuitry it feeds?

Of course, we understand it all matters, but decisions must be made and it can be confusing knowing which parts matter most.

My advice is to put your trust in the judgment of the companies building the kit you desire.

Let the results of the overall product be your guide.

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.

Some good stuff here

In answer to yesterday’s post about the Secret lives of Audiophiles, we got some great answers. Too many to reprint but I picked a few of my favorites.

“Really, you still listen to vinyl?
Yes, never stopped.

I gave my records away a long time ago.
I’m sure someone is still enjoying them…

I’ve got all my music on my phone, now.
Ummm…well I’ve got some music on my phone too but

Haha—can’t do that with records!
Well, actually, you could if you really wanted to but

Why wouldn’t you want to?
Hmmm…well…hey, look at the time—gotta run.”

And…

“Why do we need to explain it? Some people understand my passion for music and some don’t. I have been at it for 40 years (I am 54) and hope to get another 30 before I punch out, and hope to waste as little time as possible defending my interests to others during whatever time I have left. Now back to vinyl…”

Many shared their hesitation to brag or explain why they spent a lot. Completely understandable.

Or, my fellow manufacturer, Jim McCullough who writes:

“I would have answered your question with “Because they just won’t get it”, which is pretty much the same as “I am constantly misunderstood”.

And I too have changed from “My company makes high end audio equipment” to “My company makes stereo equipment”.

I now occasionally (actually more and more) get the Sonos variant on the Bose response: “Oh, you mean like Sonos”.”

But perhaps the best answer is the simplest. Most people don’t openly share their hobbies and passions with others because…well…that’s just not something we do. Who cares?

High-end audio is something that will likely remain a well-kept secret and that’s alright.

It’s ours.

 

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…
What if…

What if more people became aware of high-end audio and it became ‘a thing” that spread like wildfire? Would it be a good thing?

Or, would it suddenly attract the attention of the ‘big guys’ and become yet another soulless commodity?

We’ve seen the trend over-and-over again. Cool artisan based industries filled with the passion and dedication of its tribe are suddenly found by the mainstream and commoditized, strangling the lifeblood of those that started it.

Of course, there’s always the chance it gets better—like craft beer, but then it could go the way of organic foods as Nabisco and General Mills sink their teeth into it.

Be careful what we wish for.

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.

Celebrating those that have served our country today.  Most from WW2 are gone and these folks were heroes, in the greatest sense of the word.

My life as an Audiophile isn’t much of a secret and most people I know don’t much care about stereos like mine, but I sure enjoy it.
The secret life of Audiophiles

I am smack dab in the middle of writing a memoir of sorts, one I’ll share with you when done.

In the meantime, I have a question. Why do so many Audiophiles keep their passion a secret? It’s the oddest thing. Amongst members of our community, we’re as vocal as all get out. Step outside the fold and we rarely talk to people about our passion.

Why is that?

I can tell you the reason I don’t share it with folks. I am constantly misunderstood.

Fellow airplane passengers always get around to the same question. “What do you do for a living?” My stock answer for many years was “I own a company that makes high-end stereo equipment.” Their inevitable follow-up question was “Oh, you mean like Bose?”

I got tired of correcting them and now I just say “I own a company that makes stereos.”

But, I am not you. Curious to find out why most of us keep our passion close to the vest.

 

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.

In home audio equipment, just because a piece of equipment has XLR inputs and outputs, this doesn’t mean that it is a balanced piece of gear.  I’ve owned both and there are a couple different ways to do balanced, but if a piece of equipment isn’t  designed to be balanced, it does not have the benefits balanced gear offers, including one that is very important, common mode rejection, which lowers the noise floor of audio equipment. It’s what pro audio uses, exclusively. Even cheap pro audio…

That horse ain’t yet dead!

My unconditional recommendation on going balanced in yesterday’s post set off alarms.

Here’s the problem. Balanced is only better in equipment that is designed to take advantage of balanced benefits.

Honestly, I thought we’d killed off that old warhorse of “fake balanced” equipment and didn’t want to flog it again. I wrongly assumed all high-end audio products are like ours, true balanced. Ever the optimist, I am still going to be hopeful and suggest that most high-end products are true balanced.

At a minimum, you need to make sure the receiving product is properly designed to take advantage of balanced’s benefit of common mode rejection—a subject I’ve written many words on in the past. For example, if you’re connecting a preamplifier with balanced cables, make sure your preamp has true balanced inputs that offer significant common mode rejection. If you can’t verify that with the manufacturer, you’re better off single ended.

All it should take is a quick call to the manufacturer.

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 use almost all balanced cables in my system and if you want the no compromise way to do audio, balanced  interconnect cables work great and takes much of the ballyhoo out of expensive cabling.

For those that don’t know, this type of cabling is all that is used in the recording business.  The connectors are called XLR connectors, generally with three runs of wire in each cable.  Each of these runs can use multiple conductors, depending on the design.

As long as the equipment has balanced circuitry, why, if they use balanced cables in recording and live playback, would we not use them when we play back music in our homes?

I’ve owned some really good single ended system, but none are as quiet as my current balanced system  is and I doubt I will ever go back to single ended systems again.  Then again, you never know…
Balanced cables

I never connect my stereo equipment with single ended cables if I can avoid their use.

Balanced cables always sound better.

I am surprised this is still new information for many people, and not just newbies entering the field.

Perhaps part of the reason is slow acceptance by manufacturers of audio equipment over the years. I can still remember Audio Research’s refusal to go balanced or, for that matter, add an IEC connector for aftermarket AC plugs. Bill Johnson, the head of Audio Research for many years, refused to even consider changing from what he considered perfect.

Most modern high-end audio gear has balanced ins and outs, if for no other reason than because they don’t want people to disqualify their product because it doesn’t have it—a silly reason but, hey, there are lots of silly decisions made by manufacturers.

If your setup has the benefit of XLR balanced ins and outs and you’re not using them, time to step up to the plate with the big boys.

It’s worth 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.

Paul could have called this post, Audio Jewelry.

With their so many high priced audio components on the market, how much does it actually cost to produce and item, taking into account, design, cost of to manufacturer, market and operating costs?

Well, some folks, like PS Audio, make a box and use it for several different products, reducing cost to manufacturer,  so they can offer great value for what they offer.

Some others, just charge a bunch, because they can get away with it. Audio Jewelry….Too many of these, for my tastes…..

From Paul.
What should its cost be?

Reviewer Eric Neff wrote a bold comment in his recent review of the BHK 250 in HiFi Plus Magazine.

As audiophiles, we sometimes fall into the ‘price equals performance’ trap. We fear being the emperor with no clothes when our friends ask how much we paid and it was, gasp! LESS than what flagship gear is supposed to cost. Naturally it must not be that good.

The same phenomena occur if the chassis isn’t heavy enough—or festooned with enough audio jewelry. it can’t be good.

These preconceptions of price, heft, and glitz, are so ingrained that they are nearly impossible to overcome.

Some manufacturers recognizing this paradigm jack up the price to what customers perceive as “worth it” and then add sufficient bling to the chassis to justify the price. The innards and performance remain the same.

As a company, we’ve never been able to do that, perhaps to our detriment. That kind of behavior simply goes against our value system.

Is it possible to change this dynamic of how we evaluate product?

Are we, as an industry, so entrenched it might be easier to whistle Dixie?

 

 

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.

Nothing wrong here…So, here’s Paul.
…and while you’re at it

If you took yesterday’s advice to reposition your speakers to be more parallel with the rear wall, I have another task for you today.

Spring cleaning.

This is even easier but has a very positive impact too. Physically unplug everything in your setup: AC cords, interconnects, speaker cables. Do them one at a time then put them back so you don’t have to think a lot about where they came from.

What you’re doing is scraping the oxidation off the connectors, the pollution, whatever has accumulated on the connectors and plug.

It’s even more effective than washing your car, something we all acknowledge makes it run better.

And, if you want to thrill your spouse, do a little dusting and vacuuming too.

Then, kick back and enjoy the music for me.

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.

Oenophilia

I have often characterized Audiophiles like wine aficionados, more technically named Oenophiles.

The word Oenophilia did not exist in the wine lexicon until 1977 when Shirley Copperman coined it for her new bring-your-own-wine restaurant she and her husband dubbed “Oenophilia”, located on the upper West Side of Manhattan. A reviewer in a local paper, The Westsider, wrote about the debut: “If the name suggests a rare disease you wouldn’t want to catch, a sign in the window informs you that you may already have it. ‘Oenophilia’, it says, ‘is an affliction of the senses characterized by intense cravings for good food and service and vintage wines served in a tasteful, comfortable setting at reasonable prices.’”

Like Audiophiles, Oenophiles not only enjoy the good stuff, they’re often times obsessed with it to the point of becoming experts. In the same way many of us can hear what’s technically wrong in a piece of electronics or a pair of speakers, Oenophiles can identify exact years and vintages of wine in blind tests.

What’s fascinating to me is it’s unlikely—probably impossible—to measure what Oenophiles use their taste buds and knowledge to identify. I am willing to bet that while machines can accurately compare one vial of wine vs. another, there’s no device yet built that can match a master Sommelier’s uncanny ability to pinpoint region, year, grape type and vintner from a single taste.

The point is simple. Both ‘philes possess learned abilities to uncover fine details through built-in sensors that few devices can match.

It’s not nothing to have honed your listening skills or taste buds to the point measurement tools cannot match.

So have a sip for me.

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.

Precise vs. accurate

There’s a difference between precise and accurate. Weather predictions are often precise in their reporting of facts but wrong in their final outcome. Or, take digital audio.

It’s not hard for audio engineers to focus on the precise—getting the right bits in the right place, but it’s rare when everything else is taken into account so it can be accurate, like timing, or wave shape, or noise.

Getting things accurate is far harder than precise. We are reminded of this fact every time we listen to reproduced music—the elements we have captured are perfect down to the smallest detail, yet it still doesn’t sound live. Precise, but not accurate to the event.

It’s intoxicating to believe when we get a few things right that the whole will somehow transcend the pieces, mimicking their precision.

But it’s a shortsighted view.