Tag Archives: stereo equipment

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.

Over etched

I love this term (though I don’t appreciate its sonic impacts). It’s used to describe an unnatural emphasis on some higher frequencies some of the time.

It is typically associated with solid-state amplification gear.

We rarely ever use the term to describe the performance of a loudspeaker. Here, we would say it’s bright or has a glare to the sound.

Over-etched seems to track along with the music as if it were added as opposed to inherent.

Why would this matter?

Because the causes of over-etching are typically dynamic distortion products generated by specific combinations of frequency or amplitude events. We know this because once identified by competent circuit designers it can be reduced or eliminated through changes in the basic circuitry topology.

For example, it is not uncommon to experience over-etching in high feedback circuits yet extremely rare (or non-existent) in zero or low feedback topologies.

Segregating the differences between bright and glare vs. over-etched can be a real key to the circuit designer of stereo equipment.

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.

Not sure about this.

In the center

When I look at the wonderful collection of system photos from our HiFi Family photo album, the one thing I notice is that most people place their electronics stack between the speakers.

I too do this when at a tradeshow, but almost never do this in my personal or reference system if I can help it. In fact, for many years, almost no one would consider placing their electronics in the center of the front wall and between the speakers.

Before there were remote controls, it would have been a real pain in the keester to have to jump up and down to change volume levels for each track.

I understand most folks don’t have the luxury of extra real estate to be able to put their electronic stack to the side, and some are anxious to keep their cable lengths short, but I am guessing there’s also another reason.

We like to see the stereo equipment when music’s playing. After all, most of us own some pretty cool looking gear.

So here’s the thing. My recommendation is to keep the equipment stack—or anything for that matter—out from between the loudspeakers. Equipment racks, tables, televisions, all wreak some level of sonic havoc.

It’s not always easy nor convenient, but if you can manage, put the shelf-full of kit off to the side.

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.

No such thing, but there are better choices to make than others, given the opportunity and discipline to not buy based stereo equipment solely on magazine reviews. If you hear a stereo system that does it for you, start with the person who put this system together and take their recommendations.

Secret wishes

If we’re to be honest with ourselves (itself a frightening thought), wouldn’t each of us secretly hope to find that miracle product? The one that magically transforms our audio system into the next major step forward?

I certainly am always on the hunt for such a product or technology. The last one I was party to was our new AirGap interface. When our digital guru, Ted Smith, got us inspired to take the next leap in technology—isolating and quieting our digital products—the results were like a miracle.

I see folks going for the latest cable, external power supply, ground plane enhancer, or radical new technology DAC.

All in the hopes of taking the next leap in performance.

It’s a good thing and a noble goal.

I think it’s ok to go public with our secret desires. After all, we’re family!

 

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.

Labels

Labels are necessary for communication yet offered without thought of consequences they can be destructive.

There’s no harm in labeling sodium chloride as table salt. In fact, labeling a shaker of white crystals as “salt” is extremely helpful at the dinner table.

But what happens when we label stereo equipment with opinions? For example, labeling a particular phono cartridge as wooden or tight-assed can destroy a product’s reputation. Imagine taking home an expensive moving coil cartridge and on your audio system, it doesn’t sound right. You label it with your opinion and it is forever tainted—even if all that might have been wrong was your ability to set it up properly.

I remember the first time I heard about Cambridge Audio products. Asked what their shtick was I was told it earned the label: cheap gear. Good, but cheap. It wasn’t until I spent the time to audition their products myself that I realized the label was not only unwarranted but unfair. Not because it wasn’t inexpensive gear (it was) but because that label assigned it a low value in people’s minds. I began to support the brand by telling people it was an exceptional bargain.

PS Audio products were for years labeled as “The poor man’s Audio Research”. I guess that’s a compliment, though I probably could have picked a better label.

I guess my point is we should be careful about the labels we assign products and certainly people.

They have a habit of sticking.

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.

Moods

Ever notice how our mood changes our hearing? How good or bad our system sounds?

We may or may not be in a mood to listen to one kind of music or another. We choose which to enjoy based on our inner feelings.

What’s interesting to me is how much this affects our perception of sound quality and by logical extension how stereo equipment sounds.

Of course, there would be those that rise up and say prove it to me.

And there would be my response that there’s no need to prove that which you already know to be true.

What kind of music are you in the mood to listen to today?

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.

Is it good enough?

I am often asked if a particular piece of stereo equipment is “good enough”. Though this is a great question it’s often hard to answer.

The problem is defining the boundaries.

Good enough to work? Absolutely.

Good enough to get your foot tapping? Probably.

Good enough to suspend disbelief? Rarely.

The age-old question of when something’s good enough starts out easy but soon spirals out of bounds.

Good to first know what you’re hoping to achieve.

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 home stretch

In yesterday’s post, we learned that our homes present an impedance of about 1Ω to our stereo equipment. This matters, as you can imagine, because when we try and drive a 4Ω speaker with a power source with that high of an impedance we get power line modulation.

Put another way, we make things worse for any audio equipment plugged into our power lines.

Adding an active power amplifier like that found in a Power Plant will improve that situation by an easy factor of 100. And, 100 times better performance is a welcome thing to most of us.

But now we have an opportunity to make things even better.

If we only use the impedance lowering amplifier for that single purpose we lose the opportunity for a couple of major improvements: voltage regulation and waveform correction.

Our incoming powerlines suffer from all sorts of maladies including fluctuating voltage, waveform distortion (called flat topping), and powerline modulation from equipment in our own home.

Simply lowering the impedance in the line doesn’t solve any of these problems.

That’s where we take the next step in the magic of a Power Plant, we feed the input of our impedance lowering amplifier with a perfect sine wave (instead of the raw incoming power).

Now, we have lowered impedance by a factor of 100 and fixed the waveform and restored the missing energy from a flat-topped sine wave.

Life is good, but we still haven’t tackled the last wish on our list, increasing the size of the power supply capacitors inside our equipment.

How to make the caps in your equipment’s power supply bigger is tomorrow.

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.

Mon, Apr 12 at 5:02 AM
Many edged swords
Perhaps my single most asked question is what piece of stereo equipment makes the most difference.

My quick answer has always been the loudspeakers. Loudspeakers are the most flawed element in the chain and thus the most variable of the bunch.

In one sense, speakers are like clothing. You choose them because they best fit your taste.

But there’s a many-edged sword in this choice. Highly resolving speakers display more flaws while speakers that mask differences are gentler.

Of course, we understand system chains rely upon a synergistic relationship: one bad apple spoils the bunch.  That said, without both great electronics and a highly resolving loudspeaker, there’s no hope for ever reaching the lofty heights so many of us dream of.

As in most things in this life, it’s a balancing act.