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 Do Over

We’ve all made mistakes and I’ve made many. In fact, I’ve made so many I am getting proficient at fixing them, covering up their trail of destruction and moving forward in the hopes of not repeating them.

One thing I’ve learned from my mistakes is the Do Over. That sometimes it’s not good enough to clean up the mess. Better to start over and get it right.

The Do Over is a hard lesson but oh so valuable, especially when it relates to your stereo system. If you’ve started out with that perfect set of loudspeakers before following it with some poor choices in electronics and cables, I have always found it preferable—though painful—to start over instead of trying to fix the problem.

When we choose active room correction, warm-cables to soften harsh-electronics, blocks and magic discs to quiet power supplies, we’re often aiding and abetting a failed set of purchases.

Sometimes we haven’t a choice. Economics, room restrictions, and any number of hurdles get in our way.

But, given enough freedom, it’s often better to go for The Do Over than the Band-Aid.

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.

Net positive

Audio distortion is a net zero in the same way poison is. The less you have of it the better.

On the other side of the coin, there’s the net positive, like exercise. The more you do the better you feel and the stronger you get. Or thinking, absorbing knowledge, or helping others.

Some audio systems—the rare few—are net positive. They produce an experience better than the original.

Take for example a full range audio system in a great listening room playing an intimate violin performance. We’ll imagine that the recording was made by a pair of stereo microphones positioned above the performer. This is a net positive because you’d never have the chance to listen in the same spot as the microphones were located—dangling upside down from a microphone stand.

It’s one of the beauties of what we do in our field. A chance to beat life and get something unobtainable by any other means, including a live performance.

Yes, there are a few missing elements in this imaginary scenario: the smells, noises, audience, and temperament of the moment.

But I’ll take the best seat in the house in the comfort of my home as a great alternative anytime.

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.

Is simple better?

Forty-something years ago we believed with all our hearts that  within the audiopath, simple was better. That a single potentiometer (volume control) in the signal path was the cleanest, purest, best sounding preamplifier anyone could build. Today, we’ve come to understand it was close, yet no cigar.

Rarely are things as simple as we would like them to be. We’re happiest when an issue, problem, or thought can be tick-and-tied neatly with a bow and set on the shelf as fact so we can move on to the next problem. It’s rarely that simple.

It’s true a simple signal path is cleaner and has a better chance at purity than a many-stage device. Take our single potentiometer idea as an example. When Stan and I first started building products in 1974, we made a high-end phono stage. To test that product we tacked a single high-quality potentiometer onto the input of an amplifier. This was the cleanest way we knew to hear our phono stage without the encumbrance of another line stage of a preamp. It worked well because we were able to marry the pot and amp together without connecting cables.

When we tried to extend that logic to a product—a pots-in-a-box preamp with an input selector switch and output cables and connectors—things started turning sour. The sound remained pure but music’s impact, bass, and authority was lost. To fix the problem we needed to add a transparent, active buffer, something we didn’t know how to build back then.

Four decades later the buffer is an easy build and the increased number of parts in that short signal path make for better sound.

Simple isn’t always better, but it’s a great place to start.

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.

Elton John

In 1972 Elton John and Bernie Taupin released the song on John’s 1972 album Honky Château. The track became a hit single, rising to No. 2 in the UK and No. 6 in the US. The world premiere for Rocket Man was played on Armed Forces Network on my radio program called Underground.

I still have the two-channel master tape of Rocket Man given to me by Elton John.

Elton, whose real name is Reggie, and I spent a good hour enjoying lunch together in a Munich Cafe in 1972. I found him to be a sensitive, intelligent, warm-hearted man.

My interview with him launched today on my Podcast Ohms Law.  If you’ve subscribed, and I hope you have, it’ll automatically appear on your iPhone or Android mobile device. If you haven’t it’s easy to do. If you have an Apple device just activate or download the podcast app and search for Ohms Law. If on an Android device it’s just as easy to download any number of podcast apps or directly to Google Play.  And last, if you prefer to listen on your computer’s browser, here’s a link to the Elton John interview.

Each Saturday I’ll post a new interview. Next week we’ll learn about and enjoy the music of the late Steve Marriott of Humble Pie. And daily, it’s a short podcast of all things audio.

Have fun and thanks for subscribing.

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 you ain’t got that rhythm

We judge our stereo system’s performance by a long list of criteria. There’s tonal balance, imaging, dynamics (both micro and macro), soundstaging, top end, bottom end, midrange bloom, noise levels, and of course pacing and rhythm.

When I was first got involved in high-end audio no one spoke of pacing and rhythm as a measure of quality, let alone refer to an acronym like PRaT which stands for Pacing Rhythm and Timing.

I can’t remember the first time I heard about the toe-tapping qualities ascribed to equipment with PRaT but it’s often attributed to the Brits and I don’t know why. Prat without the capitalization is British slang for an incompetent, stupid, or foolish person—with a secondary meaning of the buttocks.

Here’s the funny thing. I don’t need PRaT qualities to tap my toe. Music does that for me in nearly every reproduction form it takes from my car radio to a shoulder mounted boombox.

That said, I can attest to the fact that some systems get my rhythm section moving more than others and I guess this is what is meant by this odd 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.

Kindness

Tim, our warehouse manager, walked into my office loaded with an opened box.

“Check this out,” he demanded.

Inside were multiple Nipper collection pieces: three 1913 style delivery truck Nipper banks, Nipper serving trays, a Nipper parts bag, etc.

There was also a note from the sender, Richard Wiecker, who had just received his BHK 250.

“Dear Paul, I wanted to thank you and Bascom for signing my new amplifier.”

Our customers just blow me away. Not because they send gifts but because of their kindness and generosity. When I announced our intent to carry Arnie Nudell’s legacy forward by building a line of PS speakers, we were flooded with advice, contacts, information, hints, tips, and offers of help—and for no reason other than the kindness in the hearts of our customers.

Sometimes it feels like a dream.

Thanks for all you do.

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.

Judging bass

When you look at the self-amplified subwoofer system of the mighty IRSV you might think it’s not a great speaker to judge bass performance of the main power amp.

You would be wrong. Few systems I have owned have been so revealing of bass performance than the IRSV.

Bass performance begins well before the lowest notes of the system. The slam, impact, and transient quickness we hear are the result of the system’s performance starting at about 150Hz. There, if the phase angle varies, or the signal hesitates, our perceptual hearing tells us there’s something wrong in the lowest bass regions. Which is why we can tell differences in power amplifiers on full range systems augmented with powered subwoofers.

If you doubt that fact, listen to the subwoofers without the main speakers. All you’ll hear are dull and sloppy thuds.

It is the amplifier driving the main speakers that provide the snap of a stand-up bass, or the kick of a drum. And the lowest notes? Those too. If the amp doesn’t produce unfettered subterranean bass you’ll hear that weakness in the same way.

You don’t need to watch the race to predict the winner between a tortoise and hare.

It’s obvious by the time they get to the starting line.

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 is hard

We sure like our routines. We take the same route to work, eat our favorite foods, listen to familiar music, hand select entertainment we’re pretty sure we’ll like. It’s safer that way.

Change is hard because it’s risky. We might get rewarded, but we also might get disappointed. That’s the nature of risk.

What I enjoy about change is the chance to massage, tweak, and extend the comfortable routine into the possible better. It’s why I often have trouble leaving ‘well enough’ alone. Heck, it can always be better because perfection is an illusion. It exists only in the abstract because it depends on the world stopping, something we trust won’t happen.

About a month ago we upped the ante on our PS Audio forums with new, improved, software. People spend a good deal of time on our forums and that’s something we encourage because what’s most important to everyone at PS is our community.

Out of the chute we had complaints. The improved features like a search field that works, the ability to reply to a specific post, the ease of quoting, the fluidity of the interface and navigation, and the improved speed weren’t enough to help some users look beyond the cartoon graphics and overly bright colors.

As with any new product, code, or service we launch, we roll our sleeves up and start ticking off the problems and addressing the complaints one by one until we’ve gotten where we want to go. I think we’ve managed to make really good progress.

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 you ain’t got that rhythm

We judge our stereo system’s performance by a long list of criteria. There’s tonal balance, imaging, dynamics (both micro and macro), soundstaging, top end, bottom end, midrange bloom, noise levels, and of course pacing and rhythm.

When I was first got involved in high-end audio no one spoke of pacing and rhythm as a measure of quality, let alone refer to an acronym like PRaT which stands for Pacing Rhythm and Timing.

I can’t remember the first time I heard about the toe-tapping qualities ascribed to equipment with PRaT but it’s often attributed to the Brits and I don’t know why. Prat without the capitalization is British slang for an incompetent, stupid, or foolish person—with a secondary meaning of the buttocks.

Here’s the funny thing. I don’t need PRaT qualities to tap my toe. Music does that for me in nearly every reproduction form it takes from my car radio to a shoulder mounted boombox.

That said, I can attest to the fact that some systems get my rhythm section moving more than others and I guess this is what is meant by this odd 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.

Savor

We savor a moment, a taste, an experience. It’s a special instant in time where something extraordinary has occurred: a musical performance, a child’s smile, a learning moment. When they occur we want to revel in them and never leave, savoring all aspects and nuance.

Each of us searches for golden moments worth savoring. Mine’s often in the sound of new audio designs; the spark of new ideas; a new artist or an old one revisited; music that reaches deep inside.

In a way, it’s all about connecting. Far too often we feel disconnected from life’s flow like flotsam and jetsom floating downstream. When we do connect it’s often through music or laughter.

The next time something touches with deep connection, remember to savor the moment. These moments are both fleeting and distant, but precious enough to wallow in their splendor when they occur.