Sensaitionalism

August 2, 2018
 by Paul McGowan

We love the sensational. We rubberneck at accidents. Our eyes jump at breaking news. And few things are more sensational than the imminent demise of an institution.

The pundits love to clean their crystal balls and trumpet the future. Yet, it’s rare the future just plops down on us without our notice. Take the cries of doom and gloom for the venerable Compact Disc. Despite the fact most of us have hundreds, if not thousands, of the silvered optical discs, we hear it’s time to forget we own them and certainly time to mothball our players.

Yet, for most of us, this just simply is not true. We hang on to our collections of physical mediums like CDs and albums because there isn’t yet a ubiquitous alternative we can rely upon. Yes, there are lossless streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz, but Tidal’s said to be on shaky ground and neither has my library of tracks.

Here’s where I believe the actual state of things is. The generations of music lovers born into the 1980s are either streaming lossy files or listening to vinyl. Most are in the streaming camp and don’t own much in the way of physical media. They’ve grown up with the idea of streaming and are comfortable with it. When they get to an age where sound quality matters they assume lossless streaming will be ready for them. And, they’re probably right.

For those earlier generations raised on physical media, we will continue to keep our collections at the ready. Some, like me, have transferred much of our libraries onto hard drives and that trend will continue growing as servers and rippers become easier to use. At the moment, the state of the art in servers is mostly a bewildering mess.

On another note, for those interested in the continuing development of our upcoming line of Arnie Nudell inspired loudspeakers, I am including this cool mockup of the AN-1, our top of the line replacement for the Infinity IRSV in Music Room One. This bad boy has the same six 12″ servo-controlled woofers as the IRS only these will be built in (3 per side with slots in the wood trim panels). At 7 feet tall they are almost the same height as the IRSV but far slimmer and easier to fit into a home. The driver complement has five 10″ tall folded ribbon AMT midranges, sixteen 1″ ribbon tweeters, and two 8″ servo-controlled midbass couplers on the front. Two more AMT midranges, four tweeters, and another 8″ midbass coupler grace the rear. Internally there are over 4,000 watts of woofer and midbass amplifiers to get the lower end right. If all goes as expected the speaker will be quite efficient with (hopefully) 95dB sensitivity, meaning you can drive this beauty with just about anything from a 20-watt tube amp to a 300-watt BHK monoblock.

No pricing or availability yet, just a sneak peek. There will also be two smaller models in the line. The AN-3 will be the entry-level model and the AN-2 what most will aspire to own.

Hopeful to see something in 2019.

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55 comments on “Sensaitionalism”

  1. Paul, these beasts look gorgeous and not terrifying as the IRSVs. I guess the biggest improvement is based on the mid bass coupler concept – whatever this means – and the active (!) crossover design. Is the latter based on DSP and SW-upgradable? I once had some 7 feet speaker towers (4-way, D’Appolito) in my listening room and the weakest link was the huge crossover (some 95 parts) totally robbing PRaT. But the staging was great.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Yeah, they make me antsy to have a pair! If you want to see a closer view of these beasts here’s a link to an animation we created. https://www.dropbox.com/s/2tme2l6724kgm64/7-31-NarrowTall-Turntable2.mp4?dl=0

      The midbass coupler is part of a 4-way system. It is, in my opinion, the single greatest innovation in loudspeakers to come along in years. It’ll be the subject of tomorrow’s post. There is DSP on the woofers, but not the midbass coupler. The MBC has to be clean and clear of any kind of phase or transient problems and specifically amplified in perfect concert with the specific driver.

      More tomorrow.

      1. Many thanks, Paul, for sharing the animation. The cabinet’s proportions can be judged much better and are most elegant. I am looking forward to learn the USPs of the MBC. Finally the chosen Dipole design should be rather listening-room friendly. I wonder to which degree the smaller ANxs share these ideas.

        1. All three models share exactly the same technology and concept. They are all dipoles and they all have the VMC (Variable Midbass Coupler) and DSP based subwoofer. The differences between models will be in the number of drivers and amplifiers.

  2. Paul, hello, new PS audio owner here, enjoying my Stellar DAC and Amp Combo. I am in my early 40s and i admit I am totally in with the streaming bandwagon. About 10 years ago, fascinated with the whole idea of putting my CD collection into the computer, I ripped my whole collection into iTunes, and little by little kept upgrading to other computer players, but when lossless streaming started and now with hires support, I was all in. While some argue that the actual CD sounds better than the losselss file, I am comfortable with the compromise of possibly loosing some quality in order to listen to as much music I can. I admit I am that cheap friend that always asked for a cassette copy of the latests albums, and while over the years I ended up with a modest 400 CD collection, for me is a dream come true to listen to cd quality music and mqa files for 10 dollars a month ( veteran’s discount).

    1. Never. Neither Arnie nor I were ever fans of ports and our speakers over a certain price point will always be sealed boxes. We have a smaller, ported, 2-way Sprout speaker we’re working on but that almost has to be ported to get any decent bass out of it.

  3. Paul the new speakers look fantastic! I’m saving my pennies for your entry levels…can’t wait! As far as physical media, at 41 I stream very rarely, and am utterly addicted to collecting physical media (app 1,100 CDs and 1,200 records). I love the compact disc as much as I love vinyl, probably more so in fact because of how cheap and flooded the used market is these days. For me its about price and availability. The CD has become what vinyl was about 10 – 15 years ago, I’m picking up titles from $3 – $8 (used) which is about what I was paying for vinyl back then. Everything gets uploaded to a mac server which for me, is way more accessible and enjoyable than playing vinyl. I don’t see CDs going away anytime soon, as there are just way too many on the market, and the prices I see for out of print CDs on Ebay and Discogs is way too high for them to be so quickly disposable. As long as people keep hating on the CD, I’ll keep snatching them up at a great price!

  4. Will be shopping for speakers, perhaps next year. I’m seriously looking at Legacy which also is highly regarded. I will be listening to Legacy locally so as you have hinted in other readings–the only way to know is by hearing in my home. Your AN-1 looks like they will need a large listening room & its of $$$$. Will await pricing & more info, especially regarding room sizing. Meanwhile I’m attracted to the lighting & what is that dish thing?

      1. Thanks..I am the wife factor…so not in my room!
        Lots of fun ahead in my audio journey for new speakers. Will only want to compare 2-3 at most. It’s much more difficult in our new era-even trying to compare at similar price points. As a seasoned listener I’ve tons of albums & CD’s. So my hardware is important though I admit looking at 2 companies for music servers as well. Love hi res if done well!

    1. I have owned a pair of Legacy FOCUS since 1997, if money were not an issue, but not unlimited, the Aeris with the Wavelet would be my next speakers.
      The only other speakers I would like to hear are the Focal Utopia [don’t remember full name, other than V2] that Upscale has, unless sold out, marked down from over $30k, to just under $20k.

      My curiosity on the Utopia line was peaked after Ted the designer of the Directstream DACs posted pics of his listening room. All Utopia, the big boys in front, and smaller floor standers in the rear.
      I don’t think you can go wrong with the current Legacy line, even the Calibre on stands appear to have real potential.

      1. I’m all in with the Aeris & wavelet–perhaps the model above. We’ll see what Paul and his group present. I enjoy the Focals but have not listened seriously. Whatever I choose, it will be my last set of speakers! I love my current horns from S. Korea but would use those in a home theater system I’m planning– I inherited some nice gear!

    2. I’ve had Legacy speakers for years – pretty wonderful. I often dreamed of them using AMTs in a vertical array – just like this speaker is doing. I look forward to hearing the results.

  5. I have yet to encounter a high-performance speaker system – playing dynamic material – that didn’t greatly benefit from disconnecting the internal woofers, and adding an external woofer module (or two)…
    If the new AN-series speaker systems can crank out major bass without ‘fuzzing-up’ the treble/highs (due to the usual cabinet vibrations) then I’ll be happy to consider them, “IRS killers.”*

    -Stan

    1. “battery powered and blue tooth driven?”
      Yes of course they are.
      Otherwise the cables would catch fire so close in front of the fireplace.
      BTW., it always surprises me (well, actually not) that there are people already nervously, impatiently and feverishly scraping their money together and even (wanna) pre-order without ever having heard these towers at home.
      Sorry to disappoint you, but they may “not necessarily” sound good in YOUR room.
      Don’t forget (the acoustics of) the room is more important than the speakers for the end result (soundquality).
      And do you have the right electronics (not only a matter of power) to drive these things ?
      And, not unimportant, ask yourself if you have the right wife/girlfriend (Paul McG. certainly doesn’t) to accept these towers (or the slightly smaller ones) in the living room ?
      A hasty purchase is never good, except for the manufacturer of course.
      But ok, if you don’t wanna listen…
      Make no mistake, I’m fully aware of the fact that potential buyers already have high temperature and turn a deaf ear.
      Speaking of high temperature, it is in fact damn, record breaking hot in Europe, in the USA as well I think.
      As far as I’m concerned not weather to listen to music in a living room of 80+ Fahrenheit.
      Reading these posts under these conditions is already tiring enough.

      1. If I had the money and wife acceptance right now I’d buy one of them blind, no problem. There will hardly be any speaker more compatible to any room by its bass DSP, separate mid amp, highly located bass drivers and the directional ribbons. After a lot of experience with various speaker concepts I guess this would be the peak. The features combined with Paul’s preferences in sound quality characteristics and voicing are quite a guarantee imo.

      2. I sold most of my valve and class A amps to fight this summer’s climate. I made 25K with these sales. Will that be enough to buy the AN1s? I fear not. And I am already musing about the fate of the slaves that carry these behemoths up the stairs to my loft on the fifth floor in this heat. They deserve a tip, but how much should I give?

        1. Is 1k okay?

          Reading ‘Paul McGowan August 2, 2018 at 3:02 pm #’ my guess about missing cables was not so bad. Something wireless and hires, much better than bluetooth, could be a revolution. It will convince interior designers and enhance WAF. It might not please some eco minded people fearing more radiation. The larger share will like it.

        2. Assuming you are not joking (could be) : what SS amp did you buy after the tube sale ? I’m just curious.
          And I agree that the slaves certainly deserve a tip.
          Maybe the privilege to come to your appartment next year and listen to the AN1’s for about 1 hour.
          So they know what they have been slaving away for.

  6. The problem with an endless deluge of hyperbole from dealers, reviewers, manufacturers where every minor variant of a product is a major breakthrough is that when a really sensational idea or product comes along, no matter what is true about it, no matter what anyone says about it, it’s all lost in the noise.

    Everyone with an idea thinks he’s a genius. But last year’s genius idea is this year’s ho hum plain vanilla and tomorrow’s old junk nobody wants anymore. This is more of a problem for consumer markets than industrial users. You can’t pull this kind of nonsense on engineers and scientists and get away with it for very long. Once your reputation is shot for making unfounded claims, it’s very hard to get it back. That is why for example Belden will not make the same kind of claims Audioquest will and why they won’t charge ridiculous prices for their audiophile wires. Their meat and potatoes is their industrial market. The audiophile market is only a small part of their bottom line. They can’t afford to lose credibility with their industrial users.

    From what Paul said in a prior posting, the IRS killer wasn’t such a killer after all. It was only marginally better and not worth the extra cost. One problem this creates is that when you have bought one year’s super duper whatever that is claimed to be the best in the world from a manufacturer, what do you do with it when a year or two later he tells you he has a much better (and of course more expensve) product that kills his previous best in the world model? At least with the direct stream DAC, when you buy one and a new best in the world software release comes out that blows the last one away, Paul gives it to you for free. And he’ll give you a trade in allowance for old equipment. Not many manufacturers will do that.

    1. I think there’s good reason to grant Paul a little hyperbole with a new product like this. I think it really will be one of the major innovations for customers buying in this price ranges and probably above. Too many very special and thoughtful features built in to be anything less.

  7. Let’s hope the entry and mid-level offering is more reasonably sized or us large urban dwelling folk are going to have to look elsewhere, unfortunately. In my opinion, 48″ is MAX for people living in city apartments/condos.

    1. Agreed, which is why the AN3 is just under 48 inches. You really need a speaker to have its high frequency center around 38 inches to hit ear level when seated. I wouldn’t get anything smaller. Not if you want full range.

  8. Paul, why have some of the drivers actively driven, and leave the high-end to the owner? Seems like a fully active loudspeaker with
    PS Audio amplifier technology for the whole package is both within your capabilities, and (I believe based on what I’ve read from you in the past) something you support/prefer. Is the decision based on market forces where audiophiles feel like they want to be able to pick and choose, even if it’s a crap shoot and the results could vary drastically?

      1. Great! Fully active is coming..!!
        I will sell both my kidneys if needed to get me a pair of these..or AN2 if I should be more realistic..
        Fantastic design Paul!

      2. Now it get‘s interesting!
        This might move me sometime from one fully active speaker to another (yours). You have this evil plan for either size?

        1. I’ll give you a hint of the evil plan. It’s been obvious to me for quite some time that wireless speakers is the future. I love all my boxes and connecting cables as we all do, but in the end, we can do a better job when building a dedicated system.

          Problem is no audiophile believes this. It doesn’t allow for individual tastes and tweaking. Worse than that is a persistent psychological problem we face: no matter how good a wireless state of the art speaker is most people will believe in the hearts it could be bettered with their choice of external boxes and cables. I would be equally suspect which is why I get it.

          The solution is devious, sneaky, and effective. Go at it the opposite way. Build the speakers with passive crossovers and establish a baseline performance for them. Thus people will get to know the speakers, rate those speakers, know them for all they can do. Once that baseline is established, then—and only then—let them discover that low and behold some clever future thinking person thought to make the passive crossover removable and replaceable with an active wireless alternative. They unplug the passive plate, slide in the new active plate and go to town.

          In this way customers can convince themselves the system is either better or worse. With our money back guarantee it’s easy to try it and see. If we’re right, trade in the passive module and you’re good to go. Wrong, send back the active module.

          It works this way. It doesn’t the other way. Slowly but surely my devious plan will infiltrate the industry and prove itself. Stealth-like. Evil. Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone.

          1. That’s really keen and would be a big step to make wireless highend.

            I feel it takes a while until I fully understand the combination of wireless AND active. On the one hand it’s obvious, on the other it’s independent in this specification.

            As far as I understand current technology, the active module could be better than separate boxes with passive crossovers, while I would consider wireless vs. cabling as worse. So the sum might be positive for those who went passive with less high quality cable before but negative for those who went active already but with great cabling.

            I assume you presume a major development of wireless technology in advance of your vision.

            As a more present time question would remain: do you also plan fully active versions with conventional cabling connection? Would you expect them to be better even if you couldn’t built in a full BHK300 quality? Usually active can achieve this in my experience.

  9. These look outstanding, and I am sure they sound every bit the part. However, they obviously are not for a buyer in a standard suburban home in my part of the world. There are just no rooms in a standard Midwest home that could ever accommodate a speaker of this nature (or the multitude of similar sized speakers in the market). In the case of the sample photo (and yes, I know it’s a mockup) I would be buying that home pictured for the room and the fireplace and whatever view is outside the window and there is just no way that any sane person would allow those behemoths to cover things up. So….I see these as going to someone who owns a large open loft space, or a dedicated (probably non-basement) listening room (or has no partner to whom they have to make housing accomodations :-). I have 20′ ceilings in much of the main entry area of my new home but still not enough footprint to put these without covering up windows or the fireplace or doors to the other rooms. I certainly plan to take a listen to them at AXPONA or wherever else they may be featured in the coming years.

    I have thought about opening an audio-centric bar, gathering place. With a large open room perhaps something like this works (until a drunk pokes a hole in them ha ha). They really do look great though to my eye!

  10. Funny mock-up. Polished stone floor in front of speakers. Toasty fire behind one of the speakers. Speaker blocking part of sofa. But it gives a good idea of the look and scale of the speakers, which is the intent. Will the speakers only come in dark walnut, or will a lighter wood finish be offered for those with a more contemporary. lighter color scheme? Stainless steel would also be awesome.

  11. Paul- You will definitely need some loyal PSA locals to come in and give these a listen. Get moved in and some protos running….These look like a very cool project endeavor.

    1. There are several, though no one can replace Arnie. When we get to voicing them we have Arnie’s original prototypes to compare them to and I am a pretty decent listener having been trained by Arnie over the years. There’s also our engineer, Darren Myers that is an excellent listener and spent the last days of Arnie’s life listening with him. And then there’s Bascom King who co-developed these very same prototypes with Arnie.

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