Perfect audio systems

June 23, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

6 comments on “Perfect audio systems”

  1. Being an audiophile is a process not a product. It’s sort of like the search for the holy grail, which never ends. If it did the story would be over. And besides define perfection. I suspect it varies for each of us. So if anyone person could find perfection, that would only be the end of one story with multitudes still not in the final chapter.

  2. I would LOVE to visit and hear your top system. I have been an audiophile for 55 years but have NEVER heard a top notch system. (So that probably makes me a hi-fi buff rather than an audiophile). I never had the money to get really good gear myself – and hi-fi showrooms I have been in have always disapppointed, Maybe one day…

  3. Paul, I must tell you, you are right on the money man!
    I have a friend that is 60 something years old.
    We got in to a discussion about mp3 files verses audio CD.
    That opened the door for me to tell him about DSD.
    But when he told me that he’s never heard of DSD, that’s when I told him, “DSD blows CD right out of the water.
    What’s on a standard audio CD, is PCM wave files, but they don’t tell you the whole story about what’s really going on in the music.”
    He was like, “I’ve got to hear this!”
    Then I went on to tell him, “DSD is kind of magical.
    It puts all the musicians and singers right there, in front of you.
    But the ketch 22 is, you have to have a very revealing stereo system that’s properly sat up in order to be able to hear it all.”
    He is still listening to an old Sansui system that he bought in the early 80’s.
    Go figure ha?

  4. I chased audio nirvana (i.e., resolution) for 40 years, buying top brand electronics and 3-way tower speakers. I wasted so much money. But it never sounded right to me. The closest I came was a classic Yamaha integrated (CA2010) and Allison 3 corner speakers in a great room.

    Then, I discovered PSAudio and took a chance on their trade-in program. Over the last few years I have acquired all-PSAudio electronics that are now paired with speakers that may sound crazy — Tannoy Cheviots. This is old-school, British speaker technology. But to my old ears, Dual Concentric blows away traditional 3-ways — in dynamics, realism, phase coherence and wide dispersion. Dynamics is my new holy grail. When I play DSD files or SACDs, my system is amazing. Even Roon/Qobuz and regular CDs sound crazy-good. And I don’t even feel a need to go down the vinyl path. Here are two items that also made a surprisingly big difference in my sound quality — a power regenerator (PP12) and two REL subs (T/7i) wired via speakon/HL connection.

    Everything matters in the chase for ‘SQ Nirvana’ — the original performance, the recording production, music format, electronics, speakers, connections, subs, room acoustics, speaker positioning. I fiddled and I fiddled. And I fiddled some more. Now I have pianos without “glare” and orchestras without chaos and R&R with real beauty. With Roon/Qobuz I have all the world’s music on my iPad. It’s just astonishing to think about. I have discovered new favorite music from those Qobuz algorithms. It’s a remarkable time to be a music lover and a sound quality “fiddler.”

    Let’s remember that our hearing is intensely personal — relying on incredibly delicate mechanics and processing by our individual brains. There is a lot of psychology at play. One person’s “snake oil” is another person’s audio “solution.” Everyone’s ears and brains are so different. And everyone’s pocketbook is different. I hope you find what I did. Good luck to us all.

  5. Paul I’m an advocate of DSD recording but this video is really, really confusing and almost some kind of rant You say “High sample rate DSD”, then mention “PCM straight off of the mixing desk”, “the ‘CD version” then talk about “double DSD”. I thought Gus Skinnas was your recording and mastering engineer for Octave? I thought he uses the Sonoma system that only works with single rate DSD(64)? are you saying the CD version of this recording is effectively inferior? Please can you enlighten me….


  6. I would recommend anyone buy the late Al Schmitt’s book, On The Record, as the first part of his engineering life was tough. There were no tape machines and when someone came into the studio and the mics (mono set up) were up, a lacquer was cut and given to the customer when they left for $15. There was no tape recorders when he started in NYC. There was no mixing or mastering, It would be what a Direct-To-Disc session would be today. There were no do-overs.

    If you record to DSD there is no mixing or mastering. It is what it is. You do one track at a time.

    In PCM even I can do 24/192 in my Sony Sound Forge and I can change it, increase or decrease levels, add reverb, compress and EQ as I like, and with 99 levels of Un-Do I can even undo what I have changed and try again.

    My “understanding” would be that once you start rolling in DSD you must make sure you have “no overs” as you can’t fix that. I also don’t want any overs in PCM either, but if I was to record too low, I can increase the level in any increments I want; full db’s, or fractions there of to get just below “0” db, remembering that digital overs are bad. I try and stay at least 2db under “0”.

    If I buy a Tascam DA-3000 DSD recorder, in my sessions I would run 2 stereo feeds; 1 to the DA-3000 in DSD and a 2nd into my Tascam DR-680MK2 at 24/192 so I would have both formats. I would not have to convert the DSD into PCM for a release as 24/192 or 24/96, or 16/44.1. The PCM’s I can change to any other PCM format and master them.

    To me this would be like in the old days where some engineers would “gain ride” the faders to make sure there were no “overs” in the recording. Before I get set I ask the musicians to play the loudest passage they have in the track and set my levels to that so I can be sure I won’t have any overs. I prefer not to use hard limiting as it affects the sound as well. In PCM you just want to make sure you have turned on the last bit, which would mean you could leave 5db of headroom and be fine, if you wanted. Every bit is 6db. If your set up is quiet this will not be an issue with a high noise floor. As I said before, I try and get to -2b below “0” and I am good to go.

    Al also mentioned that what they did at Capitol was from outboard converters at 24/192 into ProTools as their masters now.

    Just my 2 cents.

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