Like it or not

July 30, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

We might feel pretty righteous that no decisions were made to balance sound with equipment and cable choices: warm cables to offset cold electronics.

No, ours is selected pure. Each piece chosen for its own merits and without regard to enhancing one at the expense of another.

But is that true?

I would argue you are always making decisions in the same way. Not out of purity, but out of synergy. No equipment is judged alone. Speakers play in systems, and systems do not play without speakers or headphones to listen.

Every decision you’ve ever made was never decided in a vacuum. That preamp you love? It has never been neutral, none are. And that speaker? Accurate to the ‘nth degree and ruler flat? Hardly. And that room you’re playing in, or those headphones you’re auditioning with?

Like it or not, choices you make are always based on synergy with other components.

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21 comments on “Like it or not”

    1. A most interesting link which supports my permanent requirement and quest for an ‘integrated’ solution from a competent supplier! 🙂

    2. Wow – that’s a great article – thanks! Soundminded, if you’re browsing, feel free to refute

      And Paul, if you get a chance, given your power knowledge – how, and should we go about reversing polarity on the mains?

      1. Experts always told me that a symmetrical design of the mains should be most beneficial for HIFI-systems, meaning instead of 240 volts just +/- 120 volts! 🙂 There are even transformer boxes available that allow to transform the mains to these symmetrical conditions!

      2. I posted about this awhile back. Lampizator makes A product called a silk , before posting if I remember right I told Paul why don’t you make one. His answe is correct it will be hard if at all due to industry standards set by UL AND SAE labs.
        What it does is very simple it has 5 or so single outlets at the rear and one power cord . It has a series of switches in the front . Each switch reverses the polarity of each outlet. You simply flip switchs till it sounds best. Paul you are Ina unique position here why not make a switch at the rear of each of your devices that could mimick this concept. Any thoughts on this. ?? Have you or your team ever tried this even as an experiment . You have a great name in both hi end audio products and power sources . This is your name all over it.
        The explanation I got from Luke of lampizator is this. There is no standard of transformer windings. Meaning starting on left or right. The product aligns the windings of each product to be the same orientation. It’s a product I would say is snake oil lol. But this is audio and it Really works. It does not improve every situation. But it can even effect the sound of just one device as well.
        Not sure of this was the intention of the post but I do love the reply of some.

        1. Not exactly the topic today, but it is important the point you touched

          I do not know if you are aware that in the early 70s, The Dybaco ST-400 was manufactured with an AC switch with 3 positions: Off, normal, and reverse (AC) polarity.

          Dynaco technicians realized that the amp sounded better when one of the two positions was used.

          At this same time and in the golden age of one of the most popular magazines specializing in Hi-End audio published a simple method to determine the correct polarity for each of the components of the Audio chain, including turntables.

          All power supply leaks, these leaks are lower when the polarity of the alternating current is reversed.

          It is not difficult to understand that these small voltages interfere with the delicate audio signal

          The method is to measure these small volatages (AC) that appear with a polarity and then compare the read by reversing it.

          The voltages are measured between the chassis of the DUT and a real grounding.

          Obviously the lower voltage that can be obtained is that which will give the correct orientation.

          You can put a mark on the leg that has the lowest reading.

          For components that come with cables with 3 legs, it is assumed that manufacturers have already sent with the correct polarity, as long as they have assimilated the teachings of the technicians of the old factory (Dynaco) as they were: Bongiorno, Hafler , Sequerra and others. If they have not, use a 3-pin adapter to make the measurements.

          Until the PS Audio manufactures the device for you so emphatically suggested, try the method described here, the results may surprise you.

          You just have to make measurements on all devices at once, while living in the same place. Also if you buy a device that reverse the polarity, this will serve only once.

          1. I did this and bought the silk , not measured but by sound. Nice to see the name hafler. I built a a still have a few items. The dh220’and 500 amps and a preamp dh 120 I think

            1. The Hafler devices mentioned by you are true classics , like the Dynacos .

              F. Van Alstine more than three decades ago made new circuits for devices of both brands with which dramatically improved sound quality of them .

              Not only they sound better , but they are practically indestructible

              I still use the Dynaco PAT -4, PAT -5 and Dynaco -Van Alstine Double 400, all of them rebuilt by him.

              If you have already solved the problem of polarity , I not then understand why your clamoroous request made to PS Audio.


              1. Well for two reason of product for ps audio. Second to learn as you just did for me. I she posted about polarity many times. Not one person ever relpied
                Yet they buy fuses and power cords and of course the position of the fuse itself. While part of me laughs. This is hi end audio and if it were not for lampi I would have not tried it
                Food for thought no body here is
                Crazy just a little disturbed lol.

                1. I transcribe to you, the relevant part of the topic, as it appears in the user’s Conrad- Johnson Premier Two Preamplifier Manual:

                  “In any system of audio electronics minute leakage currents from the ac line transformers will flow in the signal ground connections between preamplifiers and amplifier. These currents can intermodulate with the signal and affect the clarity of sound. Generally, one orientation of the line cord will provide much lower current flows. When combined with the finest associated equipment this effect is clearly audible with the Premier Two. After installing the unit try reversing the line cord at the wall outlet to pick the most satisfactory orientation”.

                  As you can check here, it is sometimes possible to find simple and cheap solutions in audio, and it is what I do, because I need the money to buy tickets to listen the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler.

                  1. Just try a cheater adaptor it’s very cheap it has a three prong input and two prong output. If needed cut the edge of the wider prong to allow insertion upside down. But please make sure you connect the ground tab on the center of the outlet plate. If you have decora or rectangle outlets they sell them with a green wire to each the top
                    Or bottom screws. This process also helps ground noises as well. Sorry if I am pushing off topic conversation

      1. Such-and-such a product does this-or-that “OMS” – ON MY SYSTEM
        or “IMS” – IN MY SYSTEM. Acknowledging that component synergy (or lack thereof) may be a factor, and that in most cases, we are a “focus group of one”.

        Much as folks say “IMO” – “in my opinion”. Humble or not.

  1. That’s an interesting statement.
    From some discussions about the DS DAC within the forum I interpreted, this unit for example was developed, avoiding any harm like noise, jitter etc. and doing things right. It then came out just right without a need of any special sound influencing. Maybe I misunderstood and this was meant only fort he SW coding, not for the development of the periphery. However.

    I think most manufacturers claim, they just do the right thing and their gear is not colored towards a certain sound to possibly compensate other gear.

    Assuming most manufacturers don’t have a full portfolio, it seems they must expect, that if their gear (assumed they make electronics) doesn’t perfectly fit to whatever environment of room/speakers/cabling, speaker and cable manufacturers to make „colored“ equipment to compensate for their own electronics if necessary. Because their electronics is „just right/neutral“.

    But how can it be if all speaker and cable manufacturers also claim they just do the right thing and make uncolored/neutral gear?

    The truth might be, that every manufacturer makes „colored“, „restricted neutral“ equipment due to the environment they mainly voice it in.

    My experience:
    I think very few people have the chance to choose their speakers among many options which have been really tried out at home. So due to the theory of this post, they must compensate with electronics and cabling. If a company like PS Audio would claim to make „just right/neutral“ components and if someone i.e. sees the need to have more richness, treble, bass or whatever, he either hast o change to another manufacturer or tweak with cabling.

    In my opinion tweaking such theoretically big tonal impacts with colored cabling is one oft he worst possibilities. Especially „warm“ or analytic sounding cabling never was the best choice at the end.

    For a certain time I also was in the typical High-End-addict status, switching components, speakers and cabling until the perfect match, which due to the nature of the game, when implementing new technical improvements, was never really reached. Since I had the option to compensate tonal variations with a highly customizable active speaker and a parametric sub, this ended and I tried to really find the best, neutral equipment and periphery, which improved overall sound very much.
    And I’m not sure the DS DAC is one of the more „neutral“ pieces in my setup or not. However it’s performing much better in most aspects than what I knew so far (with some compensation ;-).

    1. jazznut –

      “For a certain time I also was in the typical High-End-addict status, switching components, speakers and cabling until the perfect match, which due to the nature of the game, when implementing new technical improvements, was never really reached.”

      It is an IMAGINED IDEAL we strive for…and I think folks often assume perfection in recordings, complicating matters.

      ” Since I had the option to compensate tonal variations with a highly customizable active speaker and a parametric sub, this ended and I tried to really find the best, neutral equipment and periphery, which improved overall sound very much.”

      Not sure how compensating with a highly customizable active speaker and parametric sub differs from other means?

      Not trying to be a PITA, it’s an interesting topic.

      1. “Not sure how compensating with a highly customizable active speaker and parametric sub differs from other means?”

        It’s different in terms you are free in equipment and peripheral choices and got the option to compensate tonality without harm to the signal as most tweaks among my other options are done just with level adjustments for certain drivers or param. EQ of the sub, where the pos. effects overrule possible disadvantages by far.

        And sure, perfection can’t be reached and is depending of the recording , but at least we look for a proper balance for most of our music.

  2. Here is another Blast form the past
    I had Krell’s for many years and sold them. I am using now the poor mans Krell’s Aragon’s 8008BB. I plan to try Paul’s new mono blocks when I can
    I also have someone to let me try a goldmund series amp as well.
    Truth be told the Aragon’s are very much what the Krell’s were perhaps a bit less upper mid liquidity
    But fine for now.

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