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 new analog

I’ve just finished a really good read. Damon Krukowski’s, The New Analog. This book is centered around the notion that in the transition from analog/tape/vinyl to digital audio, much was lost. In particular, noise.

Krukowski’s both a musician, (Galaxie 500Damon & NaomiMagic Hour) and the editor/publisher of Exact Change.

While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I do agree with his basic premise. Too many producers and recording engineers have lost sight of what was good in analog and focused more on emphasizing their new found digital toys: loudness, compression, endless tinkering. The purists among us take advantage of the areas of digital where it clearly outshines analog: dynamic range, full frequency response.

To his point, I do miss noise. There’s a comforting, enveloping aspect to hiss.

Near the end of this series of essays, he attacks something near and dear to my heart. Subwoofers. I understand his hesitation, but not his outright dismissal. Here’s a case where yet another musician hasn’t been exposed to high-end audio, an all too common experience.

Regardless. The book is worth the read. I highly recommend it.

Oh. And you must get the analog version. Hardcover.

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.

Ironic that I had custom plinths made for my custom speakers, that are arriving from Washington State today, to both drive them closer to the floor, yet position them for slightly better imaging potential.

Not sure  that I agree with Paul on this. Gettin main speakers to play as cleanly as possible seems good to me. What he is talking about is bass reinforcement, but I’ve got two subwoofers for that.

Different strokes for different folks.

The spike dilemma

Audiophiles spike their speakers for better sound. Debate rages as to spike’s efficacy, but I don’t intend to address that in this post. Instead, I want to examine the decision to use them in the first place.

Spikes are supposed to provide a degree of isolation. The thought goes something like this. Coupling a loudspeaker to the floor with its full base touching, transfers speaker energy into the floor—something we don’t want to do. Some would rather all the energy moves air instead.

I would argue that one of the reasons we even use speakers, as opposed to headphones, is to recreate what happens in a concert where sound pressure moves more than just air. We feel sound as well as hear it.

If spiking a set of loudspeakers lessen the physical movement of music in the room, are we not attempting to ameliorate one of the principal benefits of the speakers themselves?

Food for thought.

 

 

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 also agree totally with this one. My audio system does both!

Small is better

Yeah, I know, the joke opportunities abound. Humor aside, I remember the very first time Arnie Nudell demonstrated the massive Infinity IRS III to me. His choice of music was a surprise.

Standing in front of these gargantuan 7.5′ tall behemoths, the first thing you’re thinking is the 1812 Overture, Pink Floyd, or Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator.

Instead, Arnie played for me a single acoustic guitar. Instead of serving fireworks, I got an aperitif.

I was immediately stunned at just how real the instrument sounded: perfectly formed, the right size, just as if the artist was in the room.

“The real test of a system is not its largess,” said Arnie, “but its ability to render singular voices and instruments in proper perspective, as if the performer was in the room.”

Once we had established the credentials of the system on the small, we moved to the big and were not disappointed.

Few systems can reproduce the power and majesty of a full orchestra.

Even fewer can manage perfection of the small.

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 agree with this one completely.

Headphones are great for many situations and their sound can be truly great. However, it’s not like listening through loudspeakers, which is the way we often hear music in the real world. Even in an acoustic performance, the player don’t reside in our heads.

Still, I have a very nice set of headphones and a tube amplifier to drive them and while I don’t often listen, there are times when it is what I use, especially if I get complaints around the house.

The problem with headphones

I like headphones. Readers of this blog know that I went through a whole period of not liking them, then being introduced to the wonderful Audeze products, which changed my mind. Long history there. I learned.

Headphones have many great traits and advantages. They are not colored by the room. They can get really good bass—better, often, than speakers—and they’re resolving power is unmatched.

But headphones don’t reproduce what we hear in real life. Speakers come closer.

When we go to a concert we feel the music through our skin. If we’re near enough, it can physically vibrate our bodies.

Our ears naturally hear everything together. Sounds from the left and sounds from the right. Those sounds, of course, are delayed in the ear farthest away. It’s what makes imaging natural and we hear the orchestra or band in front of us when live, divorced and behind the loudspeakers in a proper listening room. Headphones block one ear from hearing what the other does.

Headphones block one ear from hearing what the other does. There are crossfeed schemes galore, but they are just Band Aids.

Headphones are great in their space, but let’s not fool ourselves into believing they can bring us closer to the absolute sound—to a high-end  audio experience that transports us to another venue where the recording took place.

No. For that, we need loudspeakers and rooms.

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.

Getting closer to analog

What an odd goal. Building modern hifi equipment that matches the performance of vinyl or tape.

Is that what we really mean? sounding-vinyl-like?

I certainly don’t. What I mean when I use that term is achieving sound like what you would hear if the musician was in the room.

Vinyl and tape are analog processes, not reference standards.

Our reference is live unamplified sound.

The last thing I want to do is build high-end digital audio equipment that matches the performance of vinyl or tape.

What’s really important to me is the same with both mediums: capturing the essence of live, unamplified sound.

Wish there was a better term.

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.

Describing sound

We can’t accurately relay what we see, hear, or feel without a flurry of descriptive terms—and even then—the words only offer pale facsimiles. Imagine sharing the power of Beethoven’s 9th symphony with only words.

The same is true when we attempt to share our experiences with sensory rich products like wine, or audio equipment. A description of a Chardonnay might read “Creamy and luscious with tropical fruit characteristics like banana and green melon followed by toasted bread and buttery popcorn”. Of course, Chardonnay tastes nothing like cream, fruit, toasted bread, or buttery popcorn. But we get the idea.

An arm, phono cartridge combination might read “lush, fat, yet unfocused, where voices and massed strings struggle to pull themselves out of the noise and background confusion of the overripe presentation.”

And again, how could a cartridge and arm be fat? or struggle to pull themselves out of something?

We do the best we can with words but I would advocate caution with literal interpretations.

Your mileage may vary.

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 a great example of what a  hobbyist driven company, that  makes great sounding  audio products, wants to make some money and employ a lot of people, does.

This is the latest free upgrade from PS Audio for their Bridge II network adapters. This allows to stream from TIDAL and use MQA “unfolding” processing. MQA is the latest compression scheme to give us better sound, but taking us less storage when it isn’t being actually played. The new firmware update also allows uses to use Roon, an information rich, computer, playback system

Thanks again, PS Audio.

Early Christmas

The process of getting MQA and Tidal onto the Bridge took so long I turned another year older. More gray hair. Fewer brain cells.

Patience has never been one of my virtues.

But, here we are. All Bridge II owners can now update to the latest Bridge OS for free and get full MQA unfolding (up to 192kHz 24 bit) and access to Tidal. Couple of things to note.

Bridge updates are via the front panel of either the DirectStream, DirectStream Junior or PWD. Go here for a How To if you’re not familiar with the process. It’s really quite simple.

To use Tidal you’ll need a subscription as well as the paid MConnect app ($6) installed on your mobile device from the iTunes store or Google Play.

Bridge II works with DirectStream, DirectStream Junior (built in), and The PerfectWave DAC. If you have either DirectStream DACs, Huron OS is required. This is a free update and if you’ve not yet made the change, you’re missing out on some great sound in addition to the feature updates available for Bridge II owners. If you’re unfamiliar with the DAC upgrade process it’s explained in this How To.

If you have a PWD you’ll need to install 3.03 which can be downloaded for free here. If you’re not familiar with the PWD upgrade process, you can review this How To.

Bottom line, Bridge II owners are now Roon, MQA, and Tidal ready.

All free, from your friends at PS Audio.

Enjoy.

 

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.

Reference standards

We built DMP, a reference standard disc player, at a time when interest in the medium is said to be waning. Why do that? Why not march forward with products that many believe represent the future?

There are two reasons. The world needs a reference standard, a benchmark from which to judge all future products. Fact is, streamers and servers still struggle. We hope this won’t always be the case. We’re working hard on having that happen. But so far it hasn’t. Servers and streamers are still second place, sonically.

Secondly, there seems to be this perception that because the future is moving away from a medium it spells death for the format. We can prove that because sales of CD and SACD have dropped dramatically. It must mean no one is playing them. Only, that’s about as accurate as those who predicted vinyl’s demise.

Formats don’t just suddenly vanish. Most of us have large collections of discs we still enjoy. And some of us, like me, aren’t happy with second best no matter how convenient.

I truly hope someday servers and streamers will trounce the best disc players. We are working hard to make that a reality.

In the meantime, we need reference standards.

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 is interested in designing a console stereo, including speakers and a turntable, which is something we had when I was a kid. This is the way people did stereo systems back in the 50’s and 60’s.

Hi-fi furniture

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a term many are unfamiliar with. Hi-fi furniture. Don’t feel bad. I made that term up, but not out of thin air.

I have often wondered why no one is making high-end audio furniture. Sure, I’ve seen the cool stuff with built-in turntables, retro systems, a few tubes, even a speaker built in. But nothing I have run across comes close to what’s in my head.

I am imaging an ultra cool credenza for the living room that serves as its intended funtion—storing stuff—but doubles as a high-end audio product. Buried cleverly inside are full range loudspeakers, power amplifiers, servo woofer systems, and a server—probably a turntable for those so inclined.

Instead of imposing towers of sound the spouse hates, imagine an actual piece of furniture that not only lights the room up with music but sounds great at the same time! How cool would that be?

Over the next few months, maybe years, I plan on putting a prototype together to see if it’s even feasible.

Here’s the thing. I would want one if it worked the way I am imagining.

And Terri would too. How often can you say that about a potential hi-fi purchase?

 

 

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 wonder…

My long-term goal for PS Audio company has never veered off course. Bring high-end audio to as many people around the world as possible.

That’s quite a challenge, especially at a time when industry consensus is we’re shrinking and interest is waning.

I don’t buy it. I don’t see it, either—and I am uncertain where those feelings come from.

I am convinced my long term dream is viable, I am just not certain what form it might take.

Would high-end streaming services like a better version of Sonos describe what I have in mind? Hard to say, but what intrigues me are the possibilities ahead.

Imagine if we could build hi-fi furniture or small appliances that connected the world with quality sound. Would that not be something special? Who would not spend a few extra bucks to have better sound?

I refuse to believe quality is not a product.