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Pulling back 16

Posted 3 weeks ago

Have you ever thought about how intertwined our systems are? That the choices we’ve made in those systems were based on a specific room, source, or set of circumstances at the time you assembled it? Maybe that process just happened or, more likely, it’s been a work in progress. How does one pull back from […]
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Violas and violins 29

Posted 3 weeks ago

If you take a dozen different recordings of acoustic stringed instruments and find violins sound more like violas you can safely predict your system needs work. Or the opposite, where violas have lost their lush bodies and sound more like their smaller cousins. It’s consistency that helps us get our systems to sing the right […]
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Brand stature 32

Posted 3 weeks ago

When I was heavily involved in photography we would judge people first on the equipment they used: Hasselblad, Nikon, Canon, Leica all meant you were in the know—A pro worth talking to. Yashica, Olympus, Voigtlander, not so much. I’ve seen the same thing in audio. When two audiophiles first meet what’s likely to be their […]
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Early to bed 14

Posted 4 weeks ago

“Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It’s a nicely written rhyme which is about all it has going for it. As life advice, it makes no sense unless you’re prone to constant late night parties. And that’s the thing about nicely constructed pat sayings—we tend to give them more […]
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Choosing what to listen to 20

Posted 4 weeks ago

We’re told to listen to our bodies when it comes to what to put into them. If something’s not agreeable it’s probably a good idea not to continue eating it. On the other hand, there’s plenty I eat that agrees with me but should be kept in moderation: potato chips and sour cream, chocolate, giant […]
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Who would decide? 28

Posted 1 month ago

In yesterday’s post, I proposed we craft an aggregate measurement system to wrangle sound quality into a numeric rating system. It is certainly not a new idea. Engineers and marketers have been trying to do the same thing since the beginnings of our industry. An ad for HiFi equipment of the 1950s would have you […]
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Looking in the right place 28

Posted 1 month ago

Before we get into the heart of today’s post, Looking in the right places, I thought I would share with you a picture of the new Music Room Two. There’s still more work to be done, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing it in its current configuration. It is a significantly better sounding room than […]
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Old shoes 18

Posted 1 month ago

I work as hard as I can to get the most out of an old pair of shoes. Moving to new ones with all the discomfort of break in is a fight I don’t look forward to. Once accustomed to the new I can’t imagine going back to the old. It’s that disorienting period of […]
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The importance of bling 32

Posted 1 month ago

When we think of bling the words most commonly associated are ostentatious, unnecessary, over the top—Terms we’re not comfortable with and that have a negative connotation.  Yet, bling is an essential element in successful products. A beautiful paint job isn’t necessary to a car’s performance but it certainly is to the owner’s emotional attachment to that […]
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Wildcards and curveballs 5

Posted 1 month ago

Sometimes everything goes according to Hoyle. But, more often than not, a wildcard gets slipped in—a fact not listed in Hoyle’s Games—but true none the less. Most people around the country can put their trash in the outdoor receptacle without a second thought but not residents of our neighborhood. Hungry bears. When we get a […]
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Product loyalty 18

Posted 1 month ago

There are some products in the McGowan household that have earned my loyalty. They can get cranky, sputter, even break, and I will tolerate, coddle, and repair them without flinching. Others are a hairsbreadth away from replacement or outright termination. It might seem odd to think of inanimate objects in terms of emotional attachments but I […]
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Hip Hop 41

Posted 1 month ago

A few weeks ago we attended a hip hop concert by the Atlanta band Arrested Development. The venue was Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a crowded and intimate space located in a former brothel in downtown Denver. Terri and I did our best with ear protection but wound up struggling. I am on the hunt for even better means than […]
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For want of a screw 20

Posted 1 month ago

In Benjamin Franklin’s 1758 manuscript The Way to Wealth he wrote a now famous proverb: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of care about […]
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The biggest mistake of my life 14

Posted 1 month ago

My very first product was a phono preamplifier copied inaccurately out of a book. That misstep changed my life and a thousand others. The book was Walter Jung’s IC Op Amp Cookbook and in it was a schematic for a phono preamplifier. The schematic called out for one type of IC, a 741 op amp, and […]
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Whack a mole 15

Posted 1 month ago

Engineering is like the game where you try and beat down critters as they pop up. Change one thing and something else goes differently. Feedback is a great example: increase or decrease its amount in an amplifier and a whole list of changes happen, some expected, others not so much. For example, in a power […]
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Ignorance is bliss 28

Posted 1 month ago

The old saying ignorance is bliss means if you don’t know about something you don’t have to worry about it. That’s probably true but it’s not something I ascribe to. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge and when that occurs in a field we have some measure of interest in, like music or hifi, […]
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A simple experiment 23

Posted 1 month ago

We’ve proposed that the act of detaching sound from your loudspeakers is a result of all the elements that make up your system including the speakers, amplification chain, source, and connecting wires. To prove this point I made a simple experiment. I bought a low-cost system: A $150 Sony 2-channel receiver and wired it up to […]
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Detaching sound 13

Posted 1 month ago

First things first: Snowmass for DirectStream Junior has been released. Now, DSJ owners can enjoy the miracle of a new DAC through a simple, free, firmware upgrade. Go here and download the latest firmware, Snowmass for DSJ (and, Senior too!). I have spoken much of soundstaging: how wide, deep, and big it should appear within your […]
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Getting closer to ideal 35

Posted 1 month ago

In yesterday’s post, I detailed the problems we were having in Music Room One that we hoped to have solved when we moved across the street to Music Room Two: Uneven bass response because of massive standing waves. Unfortunately, the problem with the bass didn’t magically get solved, it just shifted from piles of standing […]
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Gotta dance before you commit 12

Posted 1 month ago

New listening rooms are like new partners. You gotta spend time with them before you know them. The two biggest unknowns in any system are the room and the speakers. Both are so far away from perfection that they must be lived in and with for a reasonable period of time before committing to dealing with […]
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The biggest challenges 11

Posted 1 month ago

It is exponentially more difficult to design a great sounding budget product than a state of the art contender. When we’re shooting for the moon the budget’s not a consideration. We’re not constrained by anything other than skill and technology. But when an economic hard line in the sand is drawn now the game gets […]
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The big move 17

Posted 1 month ago

It is done. Finally, after more than a decade and a half of service to us and our guests, Music Room One is officially retired. We emptied her out and handed the keys to her new owners who will soon tear her down to gain new warehouse space. A fleeting structure. I put together a […]
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Feature sets 15

Posted 1 month ago

One of the most difficult, as well as enriching, tasks faced by manufacturers is deciding what features to add or not add to new product. Do you throw in the kitchen sink or just offer the basics? A Swiss Army knife or a P38 can opener? I know in our case we gather in groups […]
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Swan song 27

Posted 1 month ago

“Music is so powerful that it can even avert death” is an ancient notion popularized by the Greeks in legends and fairy tales centered around the swan. In Aesop’s, The Swan and the Goose, a beautiful swan, mistaken by its owner for a goose, was saved from the chopping block by its song. Turns out […]
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Breaking rules 15

Posted 1 month ago

How do we rationalize Follow the rules and stay out of trouble vs. Rules are made to be broken? Can both be true? Indeed, both can be true and often are at the same time. We follow the rules that keep us safe and respectful of others but break the ones unhelpful, antiquated, flawed, or not worth […]
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