Saturday morning

May 22, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Depending on where you are in the world this post will arrive at your doorstep on Saturday morning.

What a fine day to finally get off the old duff and fix up the system. Yeah, I know, it’s probably a better day to kick back and roll some tunes on that system, but having just spent the last few Saturdays revamping and refreshing the PS Audio reference music system in Music Room II, I can tell you it is worth the effort.

For a few years now I’ve listened past some obvious sonic problems in Music Room II. Problems like high distortion at 100Hz from the EMIM midranges, and the lack of kick in the drums as a result of trying to make the EMIMs do more than they were really capable of doing. In short, as good as the IRS V system is, it isn’t without its faults: faults I and others have turned a blind ear to because…well…we could and we were lazy.

Speaker designer Chris Brunhaver and I had a come to Jesus moment over that system. Chris did his best to be gentle in pointing out how in the 100Hz to 300Hz region those EMIM planar drivers just cannot (and never could) produce the dynamics in music—especially pop music. And, when they did what they could there was distortion—like on the order of 10%. This never much bothered Arnie nor me when we were listening to classical and orchestral music since in that area there isn’t typically a lot of energy. And when it came to pop or rock music, mentally I have for years compensated for that deficiency. But now with so many producers, musicians, and rock/pop people relying upon that system for the ultimate standard reference, it was time to change.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what we did and what happened as a result of it.

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34 comments on “Saturday morning”

  1. Hmmm…sounds like it’s time to treat MR 2 to a pair of ‘Magico M9’ floorstanders plus 4 ‘REL No. 25’ subwoofers Paul 😉

    With your infinite wisdom & experience (cough, cough) regarding active DPS loudspeakers,
    now is your big chance to prove to all of us here that you really know what you’re talking
    about & advise Paul what loudspeakers he should replace his IRSV’s with.

      1. Revolutionary design build, carbon fibre enclosure and aluminum honeycomb core with perhaps a hint of form & style inspired by Estelon. The cash outlay begins @ $750K per pair, you’ll also need two stereo amps or four mono blocks per side.

        Magico is local, they’re just a hop, skip & jump across the Bay in Hayward.
        Peter McKay, who used to run Nakamichi Canada is their Sales Manager,
        he’s a good man.

        My best guess is they fly potential client’s into SFO for M9 auditions.

  2. Hopefully whatever it is you’re about to tell us is practical for applying to a set of Infinity RS 4.5. Which is another set of Infinity that used the drivers the IRS used and has some glaring weaknesses that a lot fewer of those drivers display in speakers that are much less than the IRS. I’ve always thought the RS 4.5 needed a dynamic mid bass coupler like other Infinity speakers had. Stereophile had a huge problem with lacking mid bass in an early set Infinity provided to them that required a number of crossover updates to correct and I expect never really corrected much like your IRS have never performed as well as they should at the frequencies you’ve stated. You just have many more of those drivers to make up for some of the more apparent weaknesses.

    Unless you’re about to tell us the solution is to replace them with modern speakers. That would be a kind of weak excuse to fix the IRS. You’ve already decided it was necessary to replace all the woofers and that left a bunch of old Infinity aficionados with raised eyebrows.

    Say, Paul. Doesn’t one of your kids have a set of RS 4.5? Seems like I’ve seen a video one of them did with a set of them.

  3. That’s human and we all don’t always face the truth about what we want to be great. But to be honest I can’t fully understand you didn’t (want?) to realize (probably several noticeable) shortcomings of those dinosaurs over the years. But on the other hand you’re a master of selling…stories…opinions…products 😉

    1. Yeah, they’re dinosaurs, but they’re glorious dinosaurs from Paul’s accounts and vaguely recalled printed reviews. Not perfect, nothing is. When things return to a reasonable semblance of the old normal and PS Audio reopens it doors, I hope to hear them (and especially drive through the Rocky Mountains again, it’s been far too long and I’m approaching the end of the line).

      I have an abiding fondness for Big Boy articulated 4-8-8-4 steam locomotives. They are coal-fired, soot and carbon dioxide spewing beasts. Only 25 were ever made, of which 8 survive and then only No. 4014 is in running condition, so de minimis detrimental effect on climate change now.

      1. Maybe the analogy with steam trains is right, maybe unjustified 😉 I’d love to hear them myself, just heard a smaller model long ago. I’m very sure they sound impressive, but I’m also quite sure at least the original version of them already found their master in several regards long ago.

        I know from myself, I highly value my speakers at home, just to hear when listening to e.g. the large PMC flagship speaker at a show, what dynamics really means 😉 I couldn’t authentically tell people my speakers are reference or among the best available, if I experienced that. My best selling claim would be that I may have one of the best compromises for me personally in my room.

  4. “mentally I have for years compensated for that deficiency.”

    I’m sure we all do that to some extent. The mind and its associated imagination could be one of the best tools we have in our systems, ably assisted by the ears of course.

  5. Speaking of come to Jesus moments… I may have to skip Sunday services for the follow up tomorrow. As an old reverend once told me, as long as you get in the 18 stations of the course all will be forgiven and ok. Headed to the course today. ✌️ 😀 ….to be safe

    1. Now that I’ve read and had a little time to digest today’s post I don’t know what to think. On one hand I almost feel scammed, and on the other I’m glad that an issue is being addressed. Somehow it’s worked up to this point, as I don’t feel bad about any PSA products I currently have, especially the ones Darren has had a hand in.

      Some of today’s post brings back the old stereotype images of audiophiles, and what I experienced in my youth. “The only way to properly judge a system is with orchestral music, so get the rock and jazz shit outta here”.

      If filling in an audio playback deficiency is just a mental exercise, then maybe the next book should be about how to best accomplish that. It certainly would alleviate a lot of strife, simplify the speaker selection process, and make reviews a lot easier.

      1. Yes Mike, we all have the perfect system within our grasp, whether at home or on the move.
        You want music, just hum yourself a tune, to change tracks, hum a different one 😉

  6. My system is nowhere near the upper echelons inhabited by your PS audio test systems, however I would love to know how one (i.e. me, not an audio engineer!) finds such a problem (a test track, a microphone and an app?)… and then identifies the cause (room? speakers?) and then fixes? Also how to know which problems (like the 100Hz issue you mention) matter most for which genre? E.g. if I discovered a problem in my system which only manifested in chamber music I wouldn’t mind, as long as it didn’t also manifest in rock! Hope that makes sense.

    1. hiace,
      Can you HEAR a problem anywhere along the frequency range in your audio rig?
      If not just kick back & enjoy the tunes.
      ie. don’t go looking for problems that may not exist 🙂

  7. Paul says: “mentally I have for years compensated for that deficiency.” My wife says the same thing!
    Also, Jackson Brown comes to mind:
    Don’t confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them. These Days.

  8. Time to replace the Infinity dinosaurs in MR2.
    But…that’s not going to happen probably…too much nostalgia for the owner to make a rational decision.

  9. What will become of Music Room 2?

    Well it succumb to the evil Dr. Distortion?

    Can it ever reclaim the title as the ultimate in audio listening?

    Tune in tomorrow for the continuing adventures of “Regenerator man” and his faithful companion “Speaker Boy”.

    Same PS time same PS website.

  10. My first reaction is of irony since on of the IRS’s predecessors, the Infinity QLS, pioneered the use of a single “mid-bass coupler” (IIRC) cone driver to deliver those critical frequencies. Maybe some QRS-1D-type amalgamation using another small line array of small cones could be integrated as a solution. That’s getting complex, though.

    It’s also interesting that if new EMIMs did this, why Arnie and his Infinity team didn’t test them more thoroughly for distortion.

  11. Paul, I never liked the IRS speakers for the very reason you describe. I think most Western music depends on a solid foundation in the 100-300 Hz range. Many speakers, especially when pulled away from walls to improve imaging, suffer from deficiency in that range, which is also not helped by cancellation from floor bounce. A partial solution would be to raise the crossover on the IRS so the EMIMs won’t need to struggle so much.

  12. In listening to the PSAudio Reference Disk on my system I often wonder how the same disk sounds on IRS V. What reference loudspeakers were used in the mastering of the PSAudio Reference Disk?

  13. Seems like another way to fix would be to give up half of the subwoofers in favor of non-sub woofers that would be flat well up into the EMIM’s range. The new Purifi woofer pops into mind as an interesting candidate.

  14. You have asked this before, what it takes to achieve “REAL” dynamics, i.e. equal to the original event, the loudest acoustic instruments and “classic” pop/rock amplification. This is 125dB peaks. Most speaker designs assume a pink noise curve, and nearly all audio engineers mix and master to fit the constraints of consumer speakers in a vicious circle.

    EMIMs have Sd, but not enough Vd. I use 12″ mid-bass couplers from 100Hz-400Hz and 8″-10″ midranges. This and AMT1’s gets me louder than a Steinway Model D played at maximum volume without excessive Doppler distortion. The only other speakers that go all the way are floor to ceiling line sources with cone mids, horns big enough to walk in without ducking (including corner horns) and a few pro systems with advanced engineering (Danley, Meyer). Note that you also need 98dB efficiency to keep power compression under control.

    A good test signal is an uncompressed trap set, directly compared to live acoustic instruments. I have speakers that can reproduce a kick drum, but snare dynamics are slightly out of range – they are too fast and too loud. Cymbals challenge tweeters with the complex overtones and phase relationships. If you close mic the edge, they have a lot of bass too!

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