April 27, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

I think we can all agree that a product’s pedigree is no guarantee of anything. At the end of the proverbial day, it’s all about performance.

But a pedigree or brand can often set expectations.

If you listen to one of PS Audio’s products you have an expectation that piece will perform up to a level commensurate with the brand’s past performance. Our last DAC or power amplifier proved itself to the high-end community by virtue of its performance. You have every right to expect nothing less and (hopefully) more from a follow-up offering.

What’s damaging in our small community is when companies leverage their pedigree with products that do not live up to expectations. You often see this after a company has been swallowed up by a bigger conglomerate.

Pedigrees matter but performance is always the key.

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28 comments on “Pedigree”

  1. 100% Paul!

    Example #1:-
    The Pioneer ‘A-400’ integrated amplifier (1989-1992) was an absolute
    stunner; five stars from everyone, however the next model, the ‘A-400X’
    (1994-95), was a dog…an absolute sonic disaster in comparison.
    It can happen, & not necessarily because of an inappropriate corporate

    Example #2:-
    More recently, same thing with the Onkyo – ‘A9010’ (5 stars) but the
    follow-up model, the Onkyo – ‘A9110’ ‘meh’!

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  2. Is it me alone who doesn’t buy into brands? My little system is made up of RCM, Expert Stylus, Shunyata, SoundSmith, Wilson, Innuos, Jelco, Origin Live, Devialet, Claro and Townsend, with things from IsoAcoustics, Cardas, Blue Jeans, Furutech, SoTM, EE8 and Atlas, and a Loricraft record cleaner. Everything on its merits. Only two items were upgrades (Jelco and Shunyata). Bit of a miracle I’ve owned three things from PSA.

      1. There are people who have a wall of one brand, Naim, Linn, Mackintosh, Audio Note may be the more likely candidates.

        Paul poses a good question. Audio Note systems make sense because their components work so well together, very old school, whereas so much these days is easy to mix and match. Will people go for a Chris Brunhaver speaker because they bought a Ted Smith DAC? The probably will, I hope so for Paul’s sake, but I can’t see the logic in it.

        I just buy things I like, most of which seem to have different names on the front.

        1. Andrew Jones has just started to work for ‘MoFi’; guess why?
          He’s building ‘MoFi’ loudspeakers so that audio-nuts can buy
          everything ‘MoFi’ from input to output…it’s catching.

          At 21yo I started with everything ‘Luxman’ & the Celestion Ditton 66’s.
          Now it’s Marantz, Musical Fidelity & DeVore Fidelity…that’s enough.

    1. I have been loyal to the following brands for about twenty years. This means that I have bought their products at least a second time if not more: conrad-johnson, VPI, PS Audio, Magnum Dynalab, Kimber Kable. I have used Ortofon cartridges for the last five years.

      Interestingly, the two products that have made the biggest difference in my system are both first time buys for the brands. Magico speakers and a Constellation Audio power amp. Both were done after auditioning the product. In the case of the speakers it was considerable auditioning.

  3. Yeah Steven, I really think it’s just you as I look at my setup too. PSA, Schiit Audio, Hafler, Cambridge, Musical Fidelity, Pi4, Rega, Zu Denon 103, Ortofon, Mofi, Definitive Technology, Velodyne, VooDoo DIY, Tributaries, HiFiman, Yeah, it’s just you 🙂 🙂

    1. Incidentally, my Expert Stylus cartridge is also a rebuilt Denon 103R. They stick in a ruby cantilever with a paratrace tip and the result is spectacular, for about the same price of the Zu Mk2. They keep the plastic body, have no issues with it.

  4. It happens in other industries as well. Conn and King were once “cream of the crop” in Brass Instruments. They (esp. Conn) were swallowed multiple times and each time quality suffered. The only things recognizable about them today are the names. Sad.

    1. Buyouts always disrupt key personnel. Typically top engineering talent does not like the new administration and splits…
      ‘Survivors’ stay around, you cant get rid of ‘em.

  5. Of course, what matters is performance and not the name. However, once a band is established as being good it must continue to live up to the standard that it made for itself. When a brand is sold it is almost always bad news. Occasionally there is no harm and in some cases the brand goes down hill, it is sold again and it partially recovers (e.g. Marantz ).

    Sometimes a brand simply self destructs. I think Sony is such a brand. At one time Sony was know for its engineering. Its top of the line gear was considered amongst the best. Then Sony decided to become a music, gaming, and entertainment company. When that happened it took about a decade for Sony’s reputation for producing great gear to be destroyed. In 2011 Sony introduced a really nice speaker, the Sony SS-AR1. It retailed for $27K and had a really sweet sound. Sony could not find a single dealer in NYC who would carry the speaker. They all said the same thing. “No one will spend that much money on Sony gear.”

    1. Agreed! On the other hand Sony acquired Konica/Minolta and the performance of their actual digital cameras are highly respected today! Most strange!

  6. Is it me alone who gets all the “wrong” devices…?
    Just to be clear, the following little story is not a rant, just what I experienced with PSA gear. YMMV.
    Long story short.
    The PWT I once bought had functional problems soon after I bought it. Not responding to remote/touchscreen. So unusable.
    My DSJ broke down just 10 months after I bought it.
    In both cases the distributor was able to repair the devices, but still…
    Not long after the repair of the DSJ the digital coaxial input stopped working (out of the blue).
    My P10 broke down last year and in the process damaged my power amp.
    Despite all that I recently decided to try the SACD player to replace the PWT.
    Immediately after unpacking (!) a big problem.
    The 1st cd I played stopped a few times at completely unpredictable moments.
    No matter what the settings were (“layer” and “layer default” on “cd” OR on “DSD”).
    All I could do was turn off the player (rear switch) and start all over again (track 1).
    Same problem with almost every other cd I played.
    De distributor was willing to send me a new device, but I decided to stop with PSA.
    So, talking about pedigree, did PSA live up to my expectations ?
    The sound is good, but, based on my experience, (very) poor reliability.
    With EVERY other brand I owned (and some still own) such as Bryston, Levinson and Classe I never had any problems.
    Well, once in 2007 because of a lightning strike that ruined my Levinson player.
    So, I wish the company all the best for the future, but I’m done with PSA.

    1. Considering the forum stories you have several fellow sufferers in the extreme range, noticeably more isolated affected complainers and those who stay quiet. Certainly a majority must be on a much better level, as otherwise it wouldn’t work out well with sales.

      Memories from the past of extreme cases (Musical Fidelity A1, which was a unit where perceived quite every 2nd sample collapsed by heat problems) showed, that it takes a lot until magazines or consumers noticeably react on real problems.

      But look at another branch. It also depends on manufacturers‘ and consumers‘ priorities. E.g. Tesla buyers must have definitive priorities on innovation. The cars are kown for quite a few downsides connected either to the concept or the brand in particular: limited reach, long charging time, theoretical but not practical feasibility of sporty driving, poor workmanship in terms of large chassis gaps, paint defects and cheap materials, every now and then a car burns in its car port due to more or less unresolved electronics problems or kills its passengers by unforeseeable errors in the automatic program…but still…it sells like sliced bread 😉

      1. I guess I have been lucky. In the 50 years that I have done audio accept for one $500 tweeter that I fried doing something stupid, most problems I have had with gear is something wearing out and needing repair or replacement after 15 – 20 years of use.

        I choose my gear on how it sounds, but I do pay attention to what is being sold on various websites and try to avoid brands that are always being sold after 3 or 4 years of use.

      2. I had a Musical Fidelity A1. 20 watts of solid state white hot Class A! Many years later my son’s first job was working for the guy who designed the radical casework.

        My only failure in 35 years was a Primare amplifier, after 8 years of use, and they repaired it at no charge, including international shipping costs. There’s a challenge to PSA.

  7. Decades are required to build a brand’s reputation for good quality, but only one day is required to destroy a good reputation for quality.

  8. Pedigree counts, especially concerning build quality and customer service. But when it comes to SQ, nothing beats glowing, detailed component reviews by multiple credible, trusted reviewers, confirmed by actual listening comparisons. For that reason, I doubt I will ever have all components from the same brand.

  9. ENDOFACTOR – The new age in audio.

    At the last convention of the AEES, a new method was introduced that will revolutionize every phase of audio equipment.

    The Audio Engineering Society is a professional body for engineers, scientists, other individuals with an interest or involvement in the professional audio industry.

    ENDOFACTOR allows rating any, every, and all audio equipment with absolute, 100% accuracy. The rating encompasses all aspects of audio performance, including accuracy and musicality. On a scale of zero to 10, an audio amplifier, DAC, dongle, speaker, etc., may be unequivocally rated definitively.

    Thus, an AV receiver, high end amplifier, or loudspeaker, rated as 10 would be and sound absolutely perfect to all listeners, in all environments. It would be ideally accurate and muscical simultaneously.

    The ENDOFACTOR test requires only a 10 second sample of output from an audio device to make and conclude its test.

    The ENDOFACTOR was developed in cooperation with Mst. Ramesh Balwani, who has many patents, and worked on the discovery of Post-It Notes glue, focusing lenses on the international space telescope, sub-atomic binaries, and many other crucial break-throughs. Mst. Ramesh is an astro-physiograph, medical director of, auto-interpreter and didact.

    Thr ENDOFACTOR team included contributions from many leading scientists, including Dr. Marie Coury and Dr. Paulan Stan.

  10. Paul it is true that some companies are putting out new products even if they are not as good as the previous products. They rest on their laurels of previous success and cheapen the product to save costs and maximize profits while hyping it as better than the previous one. It’s why consumers are attracted to the used market if they can pick up the older product that outperforms the newer one for half the cost or even less than the newer product. How else does a company stay in business unless they claim to have the newer state of the art component to trump the release of their competitors new product? The newer product better be at least as good as their previous one. How many sell off their old gear thinking they are upgrading? If you want something newer fine, but it better be as good. Buyer beware.

  11. I miss OPPO. I wish they continued. They made great Blu Ray/SACD hybrid players. Also when they got into the high end portable AMP/DAC market with Headphones I think they did a great job. Sad to see them go.

    Anyhow. I feel B & W and PS AUDIO seem to offer the best bang for your buck when it comes to speakers. I mean for 26 to 30 grand your pretty much set. I could be wrong though. 😉

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