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.

Visual roadblocks

Long ago, in a time far, far away, when there was no pandemic, visitors regularly flocked to Boulder Colorado to hear PS Audio’s reference system. Though the sound made us all happy there was a problem.

To a person, the giant Infinity IRSV were a visual impediment. To fully get the illusion of the speakers disappearing one was best served listening with eyes closed, lights low, or both.

We deal a lot with the visual impediments inflicted by loudspeaker enclosures upon our living spaces. They are neither furniture nor decorations. Rather, speaker enclosures are more tolerated than visually appreciated.

If they didn’t make beautiful music I seriously doubt we’d voluntarily place them in our living room.

This brings to mind the notion of bookshelf speakers on stands: small enclosures struggling to mimic their full-range brethren.

Why do we tolerate the shortcomings of small boxes on thin stands as opposed to full-range boxes of identical dimensions? Both have the same footprint, so it can’t be a matter of living room real estate.

I suspect we all know the answer.

It’s the title of this post.

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 norm

I was just ruminating on the date. February 23, 2021. Two months into the second year of a pandemic lockdown.

Who’d have guessed?

As audiophiles, we’re thankful our passions are inside our homes. I mean, if you have to be trapped inside better with great music and sound than without.

Thank goodness for music.

Thank goodness for Copper Magazine.

Thank goodness for our HiFi Family.

We’ll get through this together as families 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.

I agree with this!!

Center perfection

Over the years I have noticed a perfect center fill can foretell a perfect soundstage.

And while it might at first seem simple a simple formula—get the center image right and the soundstage falls into place—it doesn’t always work that way.

The problem with relying upon the center fill as a harbinger of soundstage correctness can be found in the difficulty of getting the phantom center channel perfected.

It’s easy to use extreme speaker toe-in to get a holographic center image. Unfortunately, that’s often at the expense of soundstage width.

Center fill perfection occurs when we have all the center channel elements in place: depth, height, size, palpability, and three-dimensionality.

As I write in The Audiophile’s Guide, the solution to getting the center channel right is found not with toe-in but without. The closer you can get to center channel perfection with the speaker baffles parallel to the left/right horizontal ear-plane, the wider, deeper and more convincing your soundstage.

As I explain in the book, the degree to which you can have your center channel and soundstage cake and eat it too depends on your speaker’s off-axis response character. A relatively flat off-axis response is key to soundstage perfection.

Set your bullseye for the center but don’t ignore everything around 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.

Hysteresis

Hysteresis describes how something appears or responds based on its history.

What we see in the present is that way only because of what happened in the past. Stretch a rubber band and upon its release, the band does not return to its original shape. That’s hysteresis.

Understanding hysteresis means we can put its somewhat predictable behavior to good use. Take for example your smartphone’s reaction to finger flicks.

Because hysteresis can be a dynamic lag between an input and an output that disappears if the input is varied more slowly—called rate-dependent hysteresis—a slow flick of your finger on the smartphone’s screen inches up a list while a quick flick sends the list zooming forward.

Hysteresis.

We build the same rate-dependent hysteresis in PS Audio’s volume control knobs. A slow turn inches forward the volume but a fast turn sends the level up or down quickly. This programming is not by accident.

Hysteresis.

As long as we’re still in the audio category there’s also something called hysteresis distortion. This kind of distortion occurs in audio products based on magnetic principles: loudspeaker drivers, crossover inductors, or all those magnetic components in a Class D amplifier. Once the passage of a varying audio signal magnetizes in one direction a piece of magnetic material, it retains that state. When our constantly changing audio signal then reverses direction, the magnet’s historic memory adds or subtracts from the audio signal causing distortion.

Its history affects its future outcome.

Hysteresis.

It’s not worth getting hysterical about hysteresis (I couldn’t resist those words) but maybe fun to read up on it and how it affects our everyday life.

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.

Lane changes

Whenever I veer away from writing strictly about high end audio I receive more than a few finger wags to “stay in my lane”. My recent Paul’s Post of my experience with the vaccine is a great example.

The idea of me staying in my lane is as far away from understanding or relating to me as I can imagine.

I have spent my entire life changing lanes. I cannot think of anything more boring than staying in my lane.

If it weren’t for frequent lane changes our company would never advance beyond the industry standard ho hum products.

If we stayed in our lane we’d be guilty of fitting into a crowded niche.

I don’t believe our HiFi Family is interested in everyday ordinary.

What are your thoughts?

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 DSP

Our hearing is a combination of what we receive from our ears and how those signals are processed by our brains.

As our ears change over time so too does our brain’s interpretation. What this means is that we can compensate for the peaks and valleys in our ear’s response.

Think of it as an internal DSP.

Our Digital Signal Processor has been running a full-time feedback loop—continuously adjusting our perception of sound to match the physical reality of our environment since our earliest days of childhood.

Thanks to our internal DSP we recognize voices and instruments with as much accuracy today as we did when we first learned them, despite the fact our hearing has changed.

Which is why scratching one’s head over the results of a hearing test is probably a waste of time. Our internal DSP hasn’t yet learned to equalize for test tones in the same way it does to fill in frequency gaps on the sound of a violin.

So if you’ve ever wondered why it takes a bit of time to adjust to a new system or upgrade, it’s your internal DSP fiddling with the knobs.

It’s enough to drive a measurementist crazy!

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.

Valves

We’re all familiar with the terms amplifiers and valves. We use electronic valves like vacuum tubes and transistors to amplify audio signals. Yet, even writing those words makes me a bit nervous because I can see how they might be misunderstood.

When we talk of amplifying the input signal it sounds like we are taking a small signal and somehow boosting it. Maybe a good analogy can be found in an airport and its moving sidewalk. You’re walking along at your pace and then step onto the moving conveyor belt, boosting your speed. That’s amplifying your walking.

That’s not what’s happening in an amplifier.

In fact, the input signal never reaches the output. It does its work and then is discarded, never to be seen or heard again.

We don’t amplify the input signal in the same way a moving sidewalk amplifies our forward motion. Instead, the input signal turns a virtual valve up or down to release more or less voltage and current from the power supply. What gets passed on to our loudspeakers and headphones is not the input signal, but voltage and current straight from the power supply.

It’s more than semantics.

Our input signals are but instigators.

Once they do their work they are gone forever.

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.

Our first integrated

I just received my second CoViD shot last night and so find myself on shaky ground at the moment but wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a day of a post.

I was just ruminating on the steps leading up to our first integrated amplifier, the Elite.

When Stan and I had built our fledgling company to the point where we hired our first two employees, Lowell and Jeff, we were building two products: our phono stage and its companion Linear Control Center. The LCC was not a whole lot more than a volume and balance control, an input, and a gain selector.

From a circuit perspective, there was a 10X stereo preamp inside that offered 20dB of gain the user could choose to run the signal through or not. Passive or active preamplifier.

As Jeff and Lowell did their best to keep up with customer orders, Stan and I worked on our new power amplifier to be called the Model One. The power amp’s circuitry was not a whole lot more than the LCC’s gain stage with a pre-driver, driver, and output transistors. The Model One was capable of 70 watts per channel into 8Ω.

Because we didn’t want to “color” the sound of our new amplifier while it was in development, we chose not to use the LCC as a volume control. We wanted the signal path as free of circuitry as possible so that we would be tuning only the amplifier and not the combination of LCC and amplifier.

But we still had to control the volume of the turntable/phono stage.

Stan grabbed a power drill off the shelf and without saying a word proceeded to punch a hole in the amp’s front panel, then from inside the amplifier popped in a potentiometer, and added a knob.

Voila! The first PS Audio integrated amplifier.

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.

Over the top

When it comes to having company over for dinner my family’s general rule of thumb has always been better too much than too little.

Too much at the dinner table just sets the stage for lunch leftovers. No big deal.

But when it comes to your HiFi system, too much can be…dare I say…..too much.

As audiophiles, we can fall into the trap of pushing the improvement envelope too hard: adding DSP or an equalizer when all we really needed was some time and elbow grease. An add on super tweeter or perhaps one of many aftermarket tweaks guaranteed to make everything that much better.

It’s always tempting to turn what’s great into something even better.

In my experience, those add-ons are short-lived.

If you’re looking for better, always start with the basics: loudspeakers, power amplifiers, preamps, and sources, such as turntables and DAC’s.

A lunch of leftovers is easy.

Unloading to the used market unnecessary add-ons gets painful.

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.

As I had my second CV 19 shot yesterday, I thought I’d chime in on Paul’s post, although it has nothing to do with audio.

I’m about 14 hours past my second and only have a little soreness in the arm that received the shot. I was told that different people react differently and that reactions with the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer, which is what I got are also different. Paul got symptoms at 20 hours, so will see how that goes for me.

Brain fog

As I mentioned yesterday, I got my second vaccination for CoViD. I feel pretty lucky and this is one of the few times I am grateful for being more than 70 years old. ��

As we all need to get vaccinated I thought it might be helpful to briefly share my experience with you.  First shot was a walk in the park: bit of a sore arm, felt listless for a couple of hours, no big deal at all. Second shot was worse. Perhaps 20 hours after getting my second dose, I got the classic sore arm and joints, then chills. Then I got a slight headache and the classic “brain fog”: a fogginess and inability to focus on tasks. I hit hard the bottle of Tylenol and felt much better.

I know there’s lots of angst and misinformation floating around so if you’ll indulge the engineer in me, I want to give you the facts in language that’s easy to understand.

This simple explanation is from one of our closest family friends, Dr. Stuart Weiss. You can sign up for his newsletter here if you’re interested.

We have many cells in our body. Each cell has a nucleus that contains our DNA, the genetic code which makes us who we are. When our cells need to make new proteins, the DNA in the protected nucleus is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) which is then transported out of the nucleus through special pores in the nuclear membrane and into the cell cytoplasm (the cytoplasm is everything inside the cell membrane besides the nucleus). Once in the cell cytoplasm, the mRNA goes to the protein manufacturing part of the cell (the ribosome) and gives instructions on what should be done there. Once the mRNA instructions are given, the mRNA is pretty quickly broken down.

So what do viruses do, you may be asking. A virus injects its own genetic material into our cells and forces our ribosomes to stop making what our mRNA is telling it to make but instead to make complete copies of the virus. These new viruses burst out of our cells and infect other cells to make more new virus. So with viruses, as opposed to bacteria, we create more virus ourselves and viruses could not spread without a nice host, like us. Bacteria, on the other hand, can reproduce on their own given the right conditions.

So this is where the mRNA vaccines like the ones from Pfizer and Moderna get really interesting. The vaccines are little bits of mRNA that get taken into our cells and instruct our ribosomes to make viral spike protein. The vaccine doesn’t give all the instructions to make complete virus copies or we would get sick. It just makes the one spike protein. The vaccine mRNA is degraded pretty quickly but the spike protein is seen by our immune system as foreign and we make antibodies to it and activate t-cells against it. The mRNA can’t get through the nuclear membrane into the nucleus because there is no mechanism to do that. The transport mechanism moves mRNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm and not the other way around.

So we get all the benefits of an immune response without having to be infected with the actual virus. It’s really ingenious and it’s not new. Scientists have been looking at mRNA vaccines for decades in the fight against flu, Zika, rabies, and CMV.

Its cool technology and these types of vaccines can be built in a lab against new pathogens more quickly than traditional vaccines. It’s very exciting.

We must all get vaccinated to prevent further widespread infections with variants. The more people that have an active infection, the more chance the virus has to mutate into something worse.

When you are eligible, get yourself vaccinated.