PS AUDIO: The two mysteries I am plagued with at the moment are upper energy loss and polarity

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Paul McGowan writes: There are many great mysteries in the world: how the pyramids were built, the Easter Island Moai, why whatever hair I lose on my head seems to pop up somewhere else, and I am sure there are plenty more.  There are two great mysteries in audio that are currently bugging me and, if I thought about it, there would be many more.

The two mysteries I am plagued with at the moment are upper energy loss and polarity.

I wrote about the apparent upper energy loss we’re experiencing with the new PerfectWave Amplifier prototype.  This loss can easily be identified by a lack of upper harmonics in stringed instruments, the snap of the castanet, the sheen on a cymbal.  The amp measures flat beyond human hearing.  I can add some of this energy back by removing feedback in the input circuitry of the amp.  How much energy can be added back is yet to be determined.  Most amplifiers we have tested also lack this upper energy.  We are not alone.  When you hear the few amps that have it, you’ll understand.

Polarity of individual recordings is something I have stressed over for many years.  Polarity is simple.  Sometimes  referred to as phase, you have two choices, in phase or out of phase.  Polarity is probably a more proper term but either will do.  Most products have a polarity or phase button allowing you to flip one for the other.  When I use this feature I will always do it with the PWD since flipping polarity in the digital domain is a safer bet than through a preamp.  None the less, I have gone through periods of caring and not caring about polarity on a track by track basis.  Frankly it’s a pain in the butt.  I mark the proper volume for each track I play a lot, not the polarity.  That may have to change.

One of my readers is known as the Polarity Pundit.  George Louis is all about proper polarity and marking each track on every medium for proper polarity.  At a recent event we hosted, one of the tracks played didn’t sound quite right and a CAS member asked me to switch the polarity.  I did, it got better.  A lot better.  There wasn’t anyone in the room that didn’t hear it.  We went back and forth several times.  On the older system in Music Room One the differences were noticeable but not clear which was better.  They were just different.  On the new system they are painfully obvious and carry increased importance because one is without question better than the other.  One is right, the other wrong.  How can I not mark each with the same importance as the perfect volume level?

Changing polarity makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I have heard most of the theories and from an engineering standpoint they do not hold any water.

Neither of these mysteries are easily explained.  Neither are the pyramids, the Moai or my changing hair locations.  But they are real, staring us right in the face.


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