BALANCED IS … BETTER

Paul McGowan writes … In my mind, there’s no question that between components the best connection is balanced. Balanced cables offer lower noise and better sound. I understand there are single-ended holdouts (wait, we disagree on something in audio?). Perhaps their equipment doesn’t support balanced. Perhaps their cable collection doesn’t include balanced. Or maybe they […]

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Is louder better?

Paul McGowan … If we’re playing a dynamic piece of music at a moderate level it’s likely we’ll not hear the soft parts of the score. A little compression would enable us to hear both the softest and loudest passages. Yet to purists, compression is about as acceptable as farting in a crowded room. Let […]

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PS AUDIO: High voltage and linearity

In a recent post we covered the fundamental differences between tubes and transistors and one of those we’re interested in is linearity. Tubes and transistors are only partially linear devices – which means they will not always faithfully reproduce a larger version of the input signal on their outputs. In our example yesterday we placed […]

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Ignorance and confidence

When we set our sights far in the future the world looks nice and rosy. Imagine that new pair of speakers gracing your living room, the new amplifier, the rebuilt room. According to Mark Twain imagining the future takes a combination of things. “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind […]

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INTERMODULATION

When we think about distortion products we are generally referring to the harmonic kind. Harmonics are naturally occurring byproducts of sound: a plucked string will generate the intended frequency (called the first harmonic) and then higher versions of that note, each slightly less loud than its predecessor. These higher frequencies are all integers (whole numbers) […]

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Global feedback

When we speak of global feedback we’re referring to the practice of wrapping the output signal of a device back to its input for comparison and correction. Because the input “knows” what’s right, a simple comparison circuit between the two serves to rectify any differences. Of course, nothing in engineering is a free lunch. You […]

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Surround ambience

Paul McGowan …. My friend, Sandy, is having good success adding a layer of ambience with a rear-positioned second set of speakers fed from an old Audio Research SDP1. You can read the late J. Gordon Holt’s evaluation of it here. Essentially, the device extracts the difference between the left and right channels, adds a bit […]

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PS AUDIO: Class is now in session

Paul McGowan … Sorry about the headline, just couldn’t resist.  We are going to start delving into the working of Class D amps, also incorrectly known as “digital amps” and correctly labeled PWM amps – short for Pulse Width Modulation. As is our custom we’ll start with an overview and then get into details. It’s […]

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PS AUDIO: Why flat?

Paul McGowan writes: When we look at the specs for a piece of audio equipment we want to make sure it doesn’t emphasize or reduce one frequency area over another.  We routinely see flatness specs that are within 1/10th of a dB from below where we can hear to way above where we hear.  These […]

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BURIED TRASURE

Linn’s founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, wanted to sell turntables. He did this in the early 1970s by building a great product, certainly. But more than just a product, he threw a bit of wisdom into the high end lexicon that I believe has had more of an impact than anything else I can think of. The […]

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PS AUDIO: How does one measure the differences between amplifiers when they clearly sound different?

How does one measure the differences between amplifiers when they clearly sound different? The first and simplest measurements are frequency response and noise levels: frequency response shows us that everything we put in makes it through to the output and noise levels are an obvious thing to measure so we don’t have hiss. Fancier measurements […]

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It doesn’t have to make sense

Paul McGowan … We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching. We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the […]

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Image size

Paul McGowan … All stereo systems produce a sonic image—some better than others. But, regardless of the image quality, there’s one thing we can say they have in common: a size to that image. If you turn the level of the stereo down to a whisper there’s a tiny image trapped between the speakers. Crank […]

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Tailoring the sound

Paul McGowan writes: TAS reviewer Michael Fremer has an extraordinary music system—the best vinyl setup I’ve ever heard. And it makes sense that he does. Mike’s spent a lifetime learning about vinyl audio reproduction and hand selected the best equipment in the world. His digital setup played through that same setup doesn’t quite match my […]

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PS AUDIO: The significance of the folding transmission line in a loudspeaker?

What is the significance of the folding transmission line in a loudspeaker? My guess is that not many of you have heard of a folding transmission line in a loudspeaker, much less ever heard one working.  The late Bud Fried, from Fried Audio (pronounced “freed” as opposed to what one might do with eggs), was […]

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