Category Archives: Blog Posts

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 price of scarcity

When something desirable is scarce its value increases.

It’s the old supply and demand theory we learned about in school. If more people want something than there is an available supply, the price adjusts upward.

Think of a vinyl album where only so many copies were pressed. Or, consider that only 58 pairs of IRSV speakers were ever made.

Scarcity can even apply to simpler things. Terri and I were skinning a bushel of our homegrown tomatoes last night. We turned those beauties into a delicious tomato sauce we’re going to freeze and sparingly consume over the winter months. No one else on the planet has the same tomato sauce as do we.

Thankfully, much of what we as audiophiles value with respect to new equipment isn’t scarce. You can grab a copy of a production DAC, integrated amplifier, or preamplifier without much worry about bickering over price. That’s not quite as true with vintage equipment.

What we can say about scarcity is that for most of us, the collection of hand-picked equipment, cables, room treatment, and careful placement is unique in all the world. Your stereo system in your room sounds different than mine because of the environment and the choices made to create that system.

What kind of price would you assign to your hand-built creation?

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.

Very different vs. right or wrong

Octave Recording artist and trumpeter extraordinaire, Gabriel Mervine, notes near the end of this video that “vinyl sounds different. Very different.”

In fact, identical master recordings sound very different depending on the recorded medium.

Which one is right?

One could easily suggest that because the recording was captured on DSD that playback would be right only when reproduced using the same technology.

Yet to many, the music sounds more “real” and “right” through the lens of LP’s.

As audiophiles, we’re always in search of sonic truth.

Though truth, as I mentioned in an earlier post, isn’t always the same for everyone.

Very different can be just as right as very right.

It’s all in your perception.

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.

Truth

The author of the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous line was, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

And so it goes about the truth. We’re taught as children to always be truthful but it doesn’t take too long to figure out the truth can sometimes hurt—like a smack on the butt or a good scolding for whatever crime the truth-teller has just owned up to.

But being truthful is at the core of trust and it is trust most of us work our whole lives to earn.

That said, I think it’s important to titrate the truth to fit the situation at hand. Never lie, but sometimes it pays to soften your words. You’d hardly want to crush the spirit of a young child asking for your opinion on her latest crayon creation, and then there’s always the potential minefield for unsuspecting blockhead males not thinking through the answer to “how does this dress make me look?”

When it comes to high end audio there is as well a fine line to walk. How could I tell the whole truth of how awful something sounds when the presenter has worked their heart out crafting the masterpiece?

I make a point of doing my best to never falsifying anything. I mix this credo with a dash of softness and a sprinkle of surely there has to be something positive to say.

And then there’s the opposite situation where words aren’t adequate to express the truth and beauty of someone’s stereo system.

The truth cuts in many ways.

Never lose sight of it, but like strong medicine, be careful with its application.

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.

Fortune telling

Over my 73 years, I have come to discover I am not very good at foretelling the future.

So why is it I put so much credence into worrying about a future I cannot accurately predict?

That worry often stymies forward motion.

Yet, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I don’t seem able to accurately foretell the future, it turns out that I am a reasonable navigator landing close enough to my intended target that the slight course deviations required for a successful outcome can be handled on the fly.

Why’s this matter?

I think it is likely that most of us are better navigators than fortune tellers.

We imagine a future outcome, like how a piece of stereo equipment is going to perform or how our system is going to sound, and then we move forward. If our expectations are to get close enough to make it work as opposed to hitting the bullseye, I’ll bet we’d have a lot more confidence in trying something new.

Getting close to new and better is perhaps more profitable than never leaving home.

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 prepping us for the new PS Audio BHK 600 amplifiers and looks like as ultimate an amp as they can build. Unfortunately, they are only direct now, so, as a high end audio dealer, I won’t be able to partake.

Besides, after talking my T+A PA3100 integrated amp out of my Furman IT Ref 20i power conditioner, I don’t really want anything else, as sonically, these are fantastic sounding amp. At least plugged directly into the wall.

However, with no surge protection this way, I will be installing a SurgeX SA20 surge protection unit, which also has EMI/FRI filtering. I hope not too much of the latter, as I now know that this can kill the amps sound, as the Furman did.

The $35 resistor

I am well aware people in our HiFi Family think were nuts. And, that’s ok. Better nuts than boring.

When people ask me if parts of identical value but different construction sound unlike one another I kind of scratch my head. In my world, parts in the signal path all sound different. It’s like asking me if chocolate and vanilla taste different.

The answer seems so obvious.

But then I climb out of my cloud and plop back down into some form of reality that isn’t mine but close enough to the others in order to communicate.

When building products that people can afford it becomes a challenge to know where to spend what funds you have available. I can assure you $10 Audio Note resistors or $50 Rel Caps in every position on a circuit would place audio equipment out of reach for all but a few.

The challenge then comes down to selectivity. Where to best place your parts funds to get the performance you’re hoping for.

I remember well the tough choice I had to make when designing the Genesis Stealth integrated amplifier. The volume control in the Stealth was the heart of the device: my last all-out assault on fixing the volume control before I finally gave up and eliminated the volume control altogether through the invention of the Gain Cell.

The Stealth volume control was simple. A series resistor with variable shunt resistors. Instead of trying to use what everyone else was struggling with: a high-quality potentiometer or fancy stepped attenuator, my simple circuit depended 100% on the quality of a single resistor.

After much trial and error, I landed on a 1-watt 0.1% tolerance Vishay that in quantities of 500 pieces ran us $35 each. Ouch. That’s a lot when even a great 1% metal film costs about a dime.

The point of the story is simple. The only reason we cut into our own margins by $70 for the stereo pair was because it sounded better. A lot better.

Hopefully, this story will resonate with some and confirm with others what they always suspected. That we’re nuts.

Certainly not boring.

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.

Vanishing sound

One of the more ironic tasks in HiFi is to make the speakers disappear. Quite a feat of magic for big boxes dominating the room.

Yeat, difficult or not, that’s exactly what we want to do.

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re system is working correctly is to close your eyes and see if you can point to the playing loudspeakers. You shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the source of sound.

Getting this right can often be challenging, especially when you don’t use much toe in (as I often recommend).

The fixes for non-disappearing speakers are often a mix of room treatment, proper electronics, and setup.

I would always start in the reverse order from which I just listed. Setup can often make invisible the speakers right in front of you.

If it takes a change of cables or stereo equipment because of harshness or colorations that focus attention on the source of sound, that becomes a more difficult task.

Whatever the case, working towards achieving vanishing sound certainly has its rewards.

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.

Hmmmm, but they have a business to support and sound quality should be better, as their other stuff offers great value, but the BHK stuff can definitely sound better, compared to the higher end of great stereo sound. Competitive at their prices, but there’s room upmarket for PS Audio and I think this is where they are headed and I don’t blame them one bit.  I owned the BHK Preamp and DAC and what I’m using now is light years better sounding, although a lot more expensive. Time marches on and so do they!

Why better?

In yesterday’s post about the fluidity of my stereo system, I mentioned upgrading from the amazing BHK300 monoblock amplifiers to the newer BHK600s.

More than a few people emailed me asking why. Why would I upgrade what is already an overkill amplifier to one with even more wattage?

It’s a good question. Let’s look at some of the specifics.

The Infinity IRSV in Music Room 2 is about 90dB efficient. Meaning that for 1 watt of input power we can expect to get 90dB of sound at its output.

90dB is loud.

1 watt is nothing.

300 watts is overkill.

600 watts is absurd.

And yet I am still over-the-top excited. Not because I have more power than I could possibly want but because this new amp will bring an entirely new level of performance to an already amazing system. And because the extra wattage I now have places even less of a demand upon the amp.

What we do in high-end audio isn’t always logical.

It won’t take but one listen to not care about the logic.

It’s all about the sound.

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.

Too wide of a gap

Between a high-performance audiophiles stereo system and the casual plop-it-down-and-listen setup, there seems to be a pretty wide gap.

Which makes me wonder why there isn’t something in the middle.

Imagine a single wireless all-in-one floor-standing speaker. You unbox it, set it up along a living room wall, connect to your WiFi, and voila! A great, full-range musical performance fills your room.

Instead, we seem saddled by Home Pods and glorified boom boxes that pretend to reproduce music as it was intended to be played.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a great two-channel audio system as much as the next. It just seems to me there’s a huge chasm between what we can plunk down and play versus setting up a many-box rig with wires and speakers.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Maybe someday someone will fill that gap.

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.

Work in progress

How many of us can say we’ve reached the highest pinnacle we’re ever likely to achieve? That where we are and what we’re doing is it. Fini, finito, finilizado!

I suspect not many of us. Not if we’re being honest.

My stereo system is finished and perfect only in the sense of right now. It comes with the understanding it’s a work in progress and that as soon as the next best thing comes along, it’ll change. Hopefully for the better.

It won’t be too long, for example, that I am able to upgrade my BHK300 monoblock amplifiers with a pair of our new BHK600s. I can’t wait.

My system and I are a work in progress.

Always have been.

Always will be.

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.

PS Audio is a pretty amazing company. They build all sorts of power re-generators, stereo amplifiers,  stereo preamplifiers, DAC’s and now, loudspeakers and do it all in the USA. They also make high resolution recordings, which they release in all sorts of formats, including LP’s.  Paul is the ultimate audio nerd and I say that in a good way. I have a lot of respect for his passion.

Cat’s out of the bag

In case you have yet to see the latest issue of Stereophile Magazine, I wouldn’t want you to be the last on the block to know what’s going on.

In that latest issue is a two-page color spread showing for the very first time our long-awaited FR-30 loudspeaker.

At 60″ tall it’s not as big as the IRSV it’s pictured in front of, but it’s not small either. The FR-30 features 4 custom designed ultra low distortion long throw 8″ woofers supplemented by 4 10″ side-mounted passive low-frequency radiators. Ribbon tweeter front and back and a 10″ ribbon midrange. No internal amplification, this speaker will light up the room with as few as 100 watts per channel.

It’s been a long time coming. To my eyes and those of the few that have been lucky enough to see them, they’re are a thing of beauty.

Hopefully you can make it to RMAF this year to hear them (and hopefully RMAF actually happens!)

And sonically? Hang on to your hats my friends. Hang on to your hats.