Tag Archives: High End Audio

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 real company, wile many high end audio companies are not, so PS Audio uses a pretty standard pricing model, while others, get what they can and often times a lot better margins on what they sell, if they can make a market for their stereo products.

Pricing models

As of late, there’s been some discussion on the forums about the model we use for product pricing.

From what I can ascertain, the general view seems to be companies have a complex pricing model based on a combination of what they believe the market will bear and what it takes to cover all their R and D and tooling costs. At some level, this pricing model surely exists, else how do we wind up with half-million-dollar loudspeakers or $50K audio cables?

When it comes to the mainstream companies I think the truth is somewhat simpler.

My guess is we’re all pretty much the same: a simple multiple of what each product costs to manufacture. The multiples vary depending on the expected number of units to be sold and what the sales volume of the company is.

At the end of the proverbial day, companies have to charge enough to cover expenses.

For most companies like PS Audio, pricing is based entirely on what it costs us to build your products.

Simple works best.

 

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.

Does gold matter?

Most high-end audio equipment uses a microscopically thin layer of gold plating on their connectors. We certainly do. It’s what’s expected.

And the general consensus in the audiophile community is that this layer of precious metal makes a sonic difference. I know from personal experience that the choice of precious metals like rhodium, palladium, silver, or gold, has a sonic impact on a quality constructed connector.

How much does the obvious beauty of the outer finish contribute to sound quality vs. the actual construction of the connector?

Here’s my take on it. Gold plating, in and of itself and without benefit of proper cable and connector construction, does not necessarily sound better. We can purchase gold-plated RCA cables from Amazon Basics for $6 that sound like dog-do compared to a well designed nickel plated higher end cable of proper design.

How about if we turn an old saying on its head? All that glitters is not gold might in this context make more sense if it read: All that is gold does not mean it sounds good. (ok, I am not a good adage writer :))

Perhaps the best adage of all would be Beauty is only skin deep.

It’s what’s inside that matters.

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.

Cultures and communities

Most of us are born into a culture. Over time, we embrace other cultures and join the communities that support them.

Take our group’s choice of the culture known as high-end audio. It’s unlikely any of us were born into it (though to be fair my father might have qualified as an audiophile). And I would speculate most of us chose to embrace this culture and join its community.

We speak the lingo, we understand the concepts, on occasion we finger-wag our firm beliefs, we often preach the gospel, we sometimes shame outside thoughts that run counter to the culture that defines our community.

I know plenty of my fellow audiophiles that bristle at the suggestion ours is a culture. They would prefer the term community.

I would suggest one doesn’t work without the other. They are forever intertwined.

Cultures tend to be more long-term while communities are more transient.

The culture of high-end audio has been evolving for more than 100 years. Our community that supports, feeds, and helps shape our culture comes and goes.

Culture and community are dance partners.

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.

On the playground

As a kid in school, I was likely not alone in my favorite class, recess. The bell would ring and we kids were released onto the playground.

Some kids liked sports, some the swings, others the monkey bars. Me? I liked the groups. The clans.

Like-minded kids would gather together and plan and talk about “stuff”. Some of it was devilish, some of it was inspiring, some of it was…well, thank goodness we never followed through with half our plans.

Playground groups remind me of audio shows. Not the devilish bits, but the group get togethers of like-minded people.

I get a daily taste of the camaraderie here at PS Audio, but it’s just not the same as an audio show where for two to three days in a row every person in the building is there for one reason and one reason only. Our passion for high end audio.

We’ve just signed a contract for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to be held October 8th through the 10th in Denver.

If you’re vaccinated, into high-end audio, then this is where you’ll want to be come this October.

And yes, we will be playing and displaying the long-awaited FR-30 loudspeaker.

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.

Peeling back the onion

It must have been a bit maddening as early researchers into the structure of the physical world kept finding smaller and smaller building blocks: molecules, atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, and smaller.

Every time they uncovered what they suspected must be the essential particle upon which everything else is built, they peeled back yet another layer to discover even smaller particles, like the “God particle” from the 1993 book The God Particle by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman.

Our noble quest in high-end audio to peel back the obfuscating layers of sonic hash in order to hear deeper into the music has similar colorings.

The more we clear away the more we can hear what stands between us and the music.

The excitement of discovering that which lies buried is infectious.

What a great journey!

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.

Bling is important in high end audio and maybe more important than just audio quality, especially with higher priced stereo equipment, although I just purchased some Analysis Plus Silver Apex IC’s and their Big Silver Oval speaker cables and they weigh a lot more than my previous stuff, look nicer and sound a lot better, so there’s that one. A lot more expensive too, at around 10 times the cost of what I’ve been using.   Worth it? It is, to me.

Passing judgment

Leafing through the latest Stereophile Magazine I ran across an interesting ad. Its question to me was whether I would get more excited about paying a high price for a product that weighed very little or half the price for one that weighed significantly more.

Audio by the pound.

How many of us really have a handle on what to consider when it comes to choosing new gear?

How do we know what will synergistically fit into the complex puzzle we call our high-end audio system?

For some, I suspect it’s based on brand loyalty. This brand has always worked fine in my system.

For others, perhaps it’s the allure of new technology, the promise of uncharted waters.

And still others, the sheer emotional draw that gets us salivating.

Whatever motivates you to try something new doesn’t really matter.

At the end of the proverbial day, if it slots in and works then hallelujah!

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.

Amateur Audiophiles

One of the reasons I wrote The Audiophile’s Guide was to help fix the biggest problem in high-end audio systems. The one most of us take for granted, yet never master.

Setup.

Sure, we all know the basics: approximately where to place the loudspeakers, how to connect the kit, how to tame a lousy room.

But basics are not mastery in the same way learning how to boil water doesn’t make you a culinary expert.

With over 10,000 copies in circulation, I am happy to report that more systems sound better than ever before.

But, the Guide doesn’t work for everyone because not everyone gets the same benefits from simply reading a book.

That’s where someone like David Snyder can help. David, who refers to himself as an amateur audiophile (aren’t most of us?), has taken apart every aspect of The Audiophile’s Guide and methodically laid it out in much easier to understand language than I was able to.

He’s published this work in a 5-part series called Unlocking Great Sound and to be honest, he’s done a far better job than I.

If you’re interested, you can go here and begin with part 1.

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.

Hope for the future

There are many reasons why we launched Octave Records, but chief among them was to add to the small supply of high-resolution recordings as well as to help set standards of what we as the high-end audio community demand in the way of well-recorded material. To that end, I think we’re on the right track.

Part of the reason we felt compelled to add our voice into what seems like an empty wilderness is the deplorable state of most modern recordings. Seems the state of the art has been sliding backwards for years.

I was heartened to learn that a committee formed by the Grammys has been pushing to set some standards for high-resolution recordings. Though they are not taking a stance on either heavy-handed compression or the loudness wars, they are at least addressing the issue of resolution and…get this…pushing hard against not only MP3, but raising the sample rate above CD quality!

Imagine!

“THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 44.1/16, 48/24, 96/24, 192/24 AND BEYOND
Is there truly a noticeable difference between MP3s and 192/24 files? Absolutely, but everyone owes it to themselves to listen and compare. In most cases the differences between CD-quality and 192/24 are at least noticeable, and frequently, they are stark. Skillfully mixed and mastered music with a wide dynamic range benefits dramatically from a hi-res workflow. For recordings
such as symphonic film scores, classical music, or other recordings that feature acoustic instruments, hi-res audio is a perfect fit—the increased audio quality can be appreciated by virtually anyone who hears it. In the experience of this committee and the audio professionals we interviewed (including numerous rock, pop, and urban producers and engineers whose work is aggressive and powerful), recording, mixing, and mastering at resolutions 96/24 or better results in a final product that is both sonically superior and faithful to the sound of the final mastered mix.”

You can download the paper here.

I realize this is a task akin to steering the Titanic away from danger, but we gotta start somewhere and I am heartened to read that recording engineers are being told resolutions higher than 44.1kHz are audible and preferred.

Maybe there’s hope for the future.

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 started

We all want better quality high end audio but where do you start if you’re not getting all you hope for?

If the imaging or tonal balance are off, do you work with the loudspeakers or the electronics? If your speakers aren’t disappearing or the music is presented in your lap rather than on a proper soundstage, do you tweak setup or change cables?

It is difficult to know where in any complex system to start.

My advice has always been simple (though often not very satisfying).

At the beginning.

It may seem obvious to some, but if you don’t have the basics of setup, AC power, and room tweaks in place then every effort at improvement is more a Band-Aid than a fix.

I have helped countless audiophiles get a handle on their systems by pulling their attention away from the tweaks and back to the basics.

Getting the fundamentals right—especially the initial speaker and listening position—is critical to every system.

Getting started on fixing weakness when you haven’t first addressed the basics is like trying to shore up a teetering house with chewing gum and baling wire.

Fundamentals first.

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’d be willing to bet that for every audio designer that thinks high end audio amplification design like Paul, there are an equal amount that think otherwise. As far as an amp breaking a sweat, my experience with certain types of solid state amps is that they sound their best when breaking a sweat.

Careful on the input

One of the ways we designers make good sounding audio amplifiers is to lightly limit the input frequency while at the same time extending its high-frequency response.

That’s something that might seem counterintuitive but it works.

For example, at the input of a power amplifier, I like to form a light low pass filter of around 30kHz but within the amplifier’s circuitry, extend its bandwidth to as high as is practical—hopefully somewhere close to 100kHz.

This combination of limiting what the amp has to deal with while making sure what does come in is easily handled makes for a wonderfully open and easy presentation of music.

I like to think of it as a car with more power than it needs, and then a light foot on the accelerator pedal.

Easy in so the amp never breaks a sweat.