Work in progress

September 7, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

How many of us can say we've reached the highest pinnacle we're ever likely to achieve? That where we are and what we're doing is it. Fini, finito, finilizado!

I suspect not many of us. Not if we're being honest.

My stereo system is finished and perfect only in the sense of right now. It comes with the understanding it's a work in progress and that as soon as the next best thing comes along, it'll change. Hopefully for the better.

It won't be too long, for example, that I am able to upgrade my BHK300 monoblock amplifiers with a pair of our new BHK600s. I can't wait.

My system and I are a work in progress.

Always have been.

Always will be.

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80 comments on “Work in progress”

  1. We are all works in progress, until the day we die.

    I hit the home audio 'reset button' nearly 3 years ago now because of the age of my loudspeakers (38yrs) & 11 weeks ago I upgraded my amp, but it was an unplanned upgrade; the right product at the right price flashed across my laptop screen & I just had to pull the trigger.
    I suspect that there are some contributors here, in their mid-70's, who are satisfied with their current rig(s) & have no plans to upgrade anything...never say never.
    I don't think that I will ever reach the sort of home audio system heights again that I did in the 1990's but...never say never.

    Paul, I'm guessing that even as we type, your new pair of BHK-600's are
    burning-in, 24/7, on a workbench somewhere in the bowels of the PSA factory.
    You should have your signature engraved on the fascias of the soon-to-be
    previous pair of BHK-300 monoblocs & do a give-away promotion 🙂

    "Hopefully for the better."...true that!
    Nobody wants to spend money just to go sideways.

  2. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, eh Paul! We just gotta go build something that little bit better.....
    I'm in a similar mindset as FR... Been there done that, happy with what I got (a sound stage to get lost in), until something pops it's head over the parapet at the right price - then curiosity will get this cat once again!

    1. Uh ha. I spent much of of my adult life as what I call a “Beg, Borrow and Steal” Audiophile. (Replace Steal with ‘BS the Wife’). I’m in In my mid-70s now and am very happy with my system but as Fat Rat said..:: ‘never say never’.

  3. A work in progress… because I chose to… although that’s better than I have to.

    That’s probably the fundamental difference between someone with a fully integrated system and someone with a room full of separates.

    How much different do the 600’s sound? What’s internally different about them versus the 300’s?

    If the work is always in progress is it ever finished?

    1. Internally, the 600 is radically different. I've never seen so much power supply stuffed into any one unit. Giant copper buss bars fed by thick copper braid because we cannot use single core wire that's big enough to do the job. An vacuum tube gain stage as well as input pair (that's a first for us). And on and on. It's in a P20 chassis if that helps you visualize the size of this beast.

      I am still waiting my turn for a chance at a serious audition. I've had only but a taste and that was mighty enticing, that taste.

      1. “The Beast” sounds impressive. The power supply description so far is impressive.
        Thanks for the overview.

        Will be looking forward to finding out more… as I’m sure you will be looking forward to informing and spending time with. 😀

          1. That’s why he has a young work force… 😉

            Apparently I need to put in a freight elevator and loading dock….. call it infrastructure to support my audio habit…

      2. I don't get it, Paul. What is the point? Is it bragging rights? When a Decware tube amp drives highly sensitive and resolving speakers to blissful levels and magical sound with 2.3 watts for between $1k and $2k, one has to ask if there is more to the weight/power/beast race than increased realism in musical reproduction.

        Sure, tube amps are not the same animal, and are certainly not the PSA focus. However, the bigger the beast, the more expensive. I have to wonder if PSA has not lost its way, which I thought was "affordable excellence."

        1. The point of going bigger with the BHK? It's getting us closer to what I assume many of us are working hard to achieve. A musical experience unlike anything we've yet been able to achieve.

          I understand a big and expensive amplifier isn't for everyone. I get it. But sometimes it's ok to shoot for the stars.

          PS Audio has always been about performance and value. We've never made a product that doesn't have oddles of both. When we build a $1,500 monoblock amplifier you can bet it'll outperform and out-value anything even close. I try my best to make sure we're easily as good or besting products 5 times its cost.

          That gets more difficult as the price goes up and we can't ensure the same ratios, but I guarantee you whatever price the BHK 600 comes out at it'll best amplifiers at multiples of its eventual price. We don't promote bling, we don't add "chrome" and glitz to justify price. What you get from us is pure value and performance.

          Specifically to your question about who the heck needs an amplifier as expensive and giant as a BHK 600? Not many. Only a handful in this world, and that's ok. Often, we build products we want to own and hope we sell enough of them to justify the cost of bringing them to market. I suspect this is one of those products.

          1. Far be it from me to argue against shooting for the moon. It is how progress is made. However, outperforming and out-valuing products five times the PSA cost, or even realistically aiming to, is to me hyperbole.

            I am fortunate to live in the Palm Springs area where the concentration of wealth is as high as any in the country. The folks who belong to my audio club reflect that wealth in their audio gear.

            I love PSA products or I would not own them. However, we've often compared them to a myriad of audio gear in listening rooms that are exceptionally well designed. My experience is that PSA products punch well in their price range but I would not go much further. There are just too many international players with offerings that must be heard to be believed.

            With that caveat, now that I better understand your intentions, I applaud your efforts to create exceptional niche products, perhaps the audio equivalents of concept cars, that serve your needs and can be funded by those who can afford them. I am sure some of that technology will in time filter down to other products in the line and we will all benefit.

  4. Now that I'm "not so young" anymore (sounds a lot better than "old") I'm in the same camp as FR and Streamin'Steven (a lot of Stevens here).
    Been there done that, happy with what I got.
    In fact I go "back in time" so to speak.
    The last 5 years I have a growing desire to downsize my audio set.
    Not in quality, but in quantity (devices) and size (speakers).
    So I sold my floorstanders and bought high quality compact speakers to replace them.
    Less bass (<35 hz) but I am not a sucker for bass so I'm okay with that.
    And the good news is that the bass coming out of these speakers is very clean and tight, no problems with room modes.
    Next step could be the replacement of my cd-transport/dac combi by a high quality cd-player
    with a streaming module built in.
    The period of my life when I always wanted the "best" I could afford (in audio) is over.
    I hear that from a lot of old(er) audiophiles. When you were young you always wanted devices that were financially out of reach. But you kept dreaming about the damn device (I cannot afford it now, but one day I'll have the money and then...).
    Now that you're older and have more money, the urge to spend all that extra money on audio is gone.
    I have a wonderful audio setup but could spend more on audio if I wanted to.
    But what's the point ? Pay thousands of dollars extra for hardly any increase in listening pleasure..? No thank you. At a certain point the law of diminishing returns kicks in. (often mentioned here).
    However, I understand that from an entrepreneurial point of view this is not the right mind set 😐

        1. More like a small house in Rhode Island. I could re-purchase the home I owned in Narragansett for about that price right now. It was a beautiful 2600 square-foot contemporary home in a gated community, a 30 second drive to the Bay and 15 minutes to Newport. Do you think I would choose a $450,000 turntable to a great lifestyle of days gone by with old friends for whatever years I have left?

      1. Thanks for the wonderful tip Stimpy2, but my point of diminishing returns kicks in a lot sooner.
        And besides, $450,000 for a turntable is just a bit too much for me. $450,000 to be precise.

        1. That $450,000 turntable set up was posted on a YouTube video I believe. I made mention of it a couple of days ago and I thought you might’ve seen it. I cannot in my wildest imagination believe that this set-up can be that much better than a $50,000 front end. There is some mighty wealthy people out there and how many units like this do you think the designer hasto sell to make a living?

          1. I read the article about the TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable.
            And in some magazine (can't remember the name) I read that people with golden ears, beryllium eardrums and a platinum Eustachian tube can hear the difference. And Michael Fremer of course 🙂
            Maybe bats also.

            1. Michael Fremer is entitled to do whatever he wants. He’s paid his dues, his wife doesn’t object and vinyl is the name of his game. My SOTA Sapphire Turntable with Goldmund Platter Mat and Record Weight, Graham 2.2 Arm and Lyra Lydian Cartridge on an Mission Isolation Platform with built in Sorbothane Pads sounds just fine to me.

              1. Even if he had not paid his dues he, like anyone else, is entitled to have what he wants. He keeps the economy going and you can't take it with you.

                It's up to us to realize that just because he has the equivalent of the Crown Jewels does not mean that his rig sounds better than others that are mass-affordable.

                I, for one, take his reviews with a grain of salt, not because of his gear, but because videos of his listening room look like an episode of "Hoarders". If room acoustics and speaker placement are key to realistic sound reproduction, I fail to see how the room "arrangement" compliments the quality of his gear.

                1. I was using Michael Fremer as an example. A day or two ago I spoke about how outrageous this analog frontend price was and how many super wealthy people there are in this world where the cost is chump change. I believe it is a great example of diminishing returns except for the ability to show it off to their other rich friends.

                2. psalvet,
                  There is a theory that all of the records & general 'hoarder's crap' in Fremer's listening room assists with breaking up any standing waves & also forms a large part of his acoustic room treatment.

  5. I don't expect ever to change my turntable. Many people have a turntable for decades.

    My all-in-one was made in 2010, the dealer upgraded the insides in 2013 and I bought it from him in 2016 and got another internal upgrade. As part of the same upgrade the streaming section was upgraded in 2017. That upgrade cost about 25% of the cost of a new unit. It has had several software upgrades, including Roon Ready status in 2019 and room correction in 2020.

    In a mere 3 years my Innuos server has evolved by software upgrades from a Roon server to a standalone Innuos streamer and network store. I may upgrade the Innuos Zen to Zenith, which costs less than the original price difference because the cost of SSD drives has fallen since I bought it.

    All this serves to illustrate is that I purchased these units because they benefit from free software upgrades that give major improvements in functionality, as well as modular design allowing very cost-effective hardware upgrades.

    I think that, other than passive speakers and turntables, pretty much everything is going to end up upgradeable either by software, modular design or both. So I expect my audio system to improve from time to time, but I don't expect to change boxes and the improvements will mostly be free software.

  6. As a teacher, I'm still learning (thank heavens). As a music lover, I'm still learning to discern changes in the sound of my system.
    Three years ago I bought a new turntable to occasionally play some long-owned vinyl.
    First impressions, good.
    Now, 100 lp plays later, it sounds much better. Of course, the bearing, motor and cartridge have 'run in.'
    Two years ago I bought new speakers. They too sound better now. I wonder, is it the turntable alone, or the combination of speaker burn-in?
    Work-in-progress always means new learnings and new questions in progress.

  7. Good morning Paul!
    I'm asking the same question that Mike asked.
    What really is the difference between the BHK300 and the BHK600 amps?
    Are the BHK600 amps cranking out twice the power then the BHK300 amps?
    To everyone else, my dream speakers, has always been the Legacy Audio Wisper Series.
    But as of right now, they're out of my reach financially.
    There are two amps that I would very much love to own.
    Those amps are the Mcintosh MC-2150, and the VTL Siegfried 2 Signature Series.
    Sure those amps are tube amps.
    But they all are kick but amps.
    I believe those amps will give the amps made by Rogue Carry Conrad Johnson and Audio Research and even including Manley a run for their money.
    I mean, those amps are that good!
    My only problem with them, is I can't afford them yet.
    But I'm working on that.
    The same thing, is also true about the speakers.

    1. Well, the short answer is yes, it's twice the size of the BHK300 in wattage. But more than that is what it takes to do that. Thbere are three input vacuum tubes, not two. There are massive amounts of capacitance in the power supply, thick copper buss bars, and so on. It's a true beast.

      1. Hi again Paul!
        Please correct me if I get this wrong.
        The BHK300, only cranks out, 300 watts.
        But the BHK600, cranks out 600 watts.
        But to both the best of my understanding and membery, the BHK300 is a class AB.
        And I suppose, the BHK600, is also a class AB.
        What are the trio of tubes that are being used in the input of the BHK600?

  8. This statement from Paul’s posting today rang my bell…

    “ It comes with the understanding it’s a work in progress and that as soon as the next best thing comes along, it’ll change. Hopefully for the better.”

    “…For the better” ,for me, is mandatory if I’m working towards the “next best thing”. No hope involved. If I’m working towards down sizing or other fundamental changes, then the definition of the work has changed and a whole new world of possibilities has opened up.

    In Paul’s case, since he has control, the next best thing is guaranteed.

  9. It appears that Paul is after perfection but I am not. What I want is just a system that can convey the feeling of the performance. When this is achieved to my satisfaction, then that's it. Until I discover something I am dissatisfied with, I rather save the money for my old age than replacing any of my equipment. Good luck to those who like Paul want perfection.

  10. Off topic…
    Oops...?! regarding the 1st page of this months PSA Stereophile ad. 2nd page is beautiful but perspective is skewed?

    Obviously no one knew of the cancellation by the time the magazine went to print.

  11. "Never say never." At this stage of my life ( a baby boomer with a beat up body ) it is hard for me to generate the energy that is required to take on new challenges. More often than not I look at things and say "that's good enough". I seldom said that when I was younger.

    Given that I have a beast of a stereo power amp that produces 750 W per channel, I doubt that I will be buying the BHK600 amps, even though I suspect that given BHK's track record they are wonderful sounding amps. OTOH, when Ted's new DAC comes out I want to be first in line for it.

    My wife hates it that I am slowing down. She married Superman and she thinks Superman should still be lying next to her in bed. She keeps trying to get me to keep trying and I suppose that will go on until one of us cannot try anymore.

  12. This is such a relative statement by Paul. There are some things that physically I have already reached my peak. There are some things I cannot get better at.
    There are many things where I can get better things, but these may also involve trade-offs. Some trade-offs are going to appear worth it for me, while others will not.
    If you stick to the appreciation of music, even there I make trade-offs. I will go to the Hollywood Bowl despite listening "unnaturally" to the PA (even though the tonality of the system is amazing) to being inside Disney Hall with the terrible acoustics but "natural sound". Being packed inside doesn't appeal to me these days either.

    Big box system don't appeal to me anymore. I am more looking at
    "miniaturization" and advanced AI of the system. I do not think that in the electronics side we can get better sound. I am convinced that it is only in the speaker-interaction that things can get better. JRiver is not the most user friendly software but it works extremely well.

    I am not excited by Paul's bigger amps using old fashioned technology. It is Class D where I see things. Smaller, efficient, enough power to my hungry coffin-speakers. Sometime in the near future we will get good AV processors and connected to powered speakers we will resolve a lot of things. Hopefully wireless as was discussed a few days ago.

    Big&heavy boxes are like the dinosaurs. Nice for museums.

    But, I think Paul is driving to his trade-offs. That of a 70 year old man who has been doing the same thing very well forever. The new generations will be bringing the truly innovative stuff. Paul will keep improving the things he knows, but it is unlikely he will bring something completely innovative.

    1. Innovation, or rather the innovation that you are referring to, may come
      to PS Audio with the young guns there at some time down the road.
      There is an amount of innovation between the BHK300's & the BHK600's
      to satisfy Paul & his current team of audio engineers.

      1. It looks to me based on Paul's description that the 600 is just pure brute force. Bigger is better. Thicker copper, more caps, more tubes...
        Innovation, changing of paradigms has come from the Putzeys of the world.

        Just look at what Kii or D&D are doing to the speaker business. But it requires still some sophistication from the audience to get them. How many even here say "they don't want amps in them speakers!"? The amazing performance of the ICE module for my subwoofer is incredible, for a "value proposition" that is just wonderful. How many here think they will be "wired forever"?

        If you have wireless connections and amped speakers it disrupts the PowerPlant business of Paul as well. As it does the Fraudioquest, Cardas and the rest.

        Sometimes true new innovations are so disruptive that the old disruptive innovators miss the boat. How many people still use Blackberries?

        In just a few years, you will have some streamer device connecting wireless to small speakers that are DSP'd to sound correctly in your room. Nothing more. You can even do this today, but not that easily.

        1. Paul likes amplifiers with lots of headroom.

          You are aware that the PSA's 'Stellar' range is 'D' class & uses the ICE module that you have previously mentioned?
          Also you typed, "In a few years..." well, let's see what the future holds, but at present active loudspeakers with DSP & streamers are not in the realm of the most resolute high-end home audio gear.
          Paul is well aware that his company is producing a niche product & he is still ok with that.

          I assume that you are also aware that companies like 'Ayre' 'Boulder', 'Gryphon', 'Constellation', 'Krell', 'Jeff Rowlands', 'Pass Labs', 'Dan D'Agostino, (& the list goes on) are also still manufacturing 'boat anchor' amplifiers & have no desire to stop doing so?

          I'm wondering if you take the time go to the websites of all the other 'boat anchor' amplifier manufacturers & tell them that they've got it all wrong.
          A 'streamer attached to a pair of active loudspeakers with DSP' type of home audio set-up is never going to give the same sonic purity as the component set-up that high-end home audio manufacturers are still refining & persisting with, in my not so humble opinion.

          Streamers & active loudspeakers are still best left to the mass produced/midstream home audio sector of the market.

          1. Oh, I know about those amps. They are not for me.
            I would never remotely be interested in those amplifiers. They do not do anything sound wise of any relevance.
            If I truly wanted a SOTA amp, I would have dual Benchmarks. But the Hypex based amps are very close and good enough for me.
            I know what ICE is. I said my subwoofer uses an ICE module. I know Stellar is ICE based, with some input modifications by Paul. It is while deciding on a new amp and studying the Stellar that I "discovered" modern Class D. Stellar was too expensive for the technology for me. But, if I were to buy a PS amp, I would definitely get a Stellar over a BHK.

            All studios depend on active speakers. They may have some passives around for comparison, but almost all the work is done on the actives. Whether Genelec, Neumann, PMC, PSI, Focal, etc.

  13. To stay in business, manufacturers have to keep stimulating demand, mostly by making us feel that we are missing out on something.

    And we may well be missing out on something that could significantly improve sound quality. Technological improvements never stop, with some having more audible impacts than others.

    However, what audio makers can't forget is that most audiophiles also want value. And now, more than ever, there is plenty of value to be found from competitors, foreign and domestic.

    There is such a thing as price sensitivity. I am in the marketing segment where PSA has priced itself out of new gear for me to consider. Fortunately, there are audio makers offering quality, performance and value to fill the gap.

    Schiit Audio is an American company doing rather well with its value propositions. So is Decware for audiophiles with highly sensitive speakers. So is Klipsch, one of the makers of those sensitive speakers.

    Then there are the Chinese companies. In my second system, my new Willsenton R8 tube amplifier is every bit the performing equal, if not the superior, to my BHK300, at about a quarter of the price. My Denafrips Pontus II DAC outperforms my Directstream DAC at again a quarter of the price.

    Stimulating the market is a matter of survival for an audio maker. But absent attractive value propositions, the stimulation may just be generating business for more efficient companies that have found ways to sell at lower prices while still offering quality and high performance.

    1. I have both the Denafrips Terminator with the updated DSP board and the DirectStream DAC with the Sunlight firmware. Both sound very good. I cannot say one sounds better than the other. Both sound excellent using the I2S inputs, and both are powerful enough to drive my amps direct without a preamp when I so desire. The DS DAC has the much appreciated volume control. The Terminator does not have volume control, so something like a preamp or adjustable volume digital source must be in the chain. I have not heard the latest, more resolving Terminator Plus, which sells for $6,437 USD compared to $5,999 USD for the DS DAC. When one takes advantage of PSAudio's generous trade-in allowance, the DS DAC is the better value IMHO.

      Word of caution. After two years the Terminator power supply module died. I reported the problem to the Denafrips distributor in Singapore and he had the China factory ship me a replacement module and asked me to ship the defective module to their technician in Georgia. I was told that about 3% of the power supplies failed--lucky me. The replacement power supply module required me to follow poorly written instructions to de-solder seven existing wires and solder seven new wires. Good thing I am handy and have a good soldering iron and decent soldering skills.

      1. No doubt going Denafrips is not for the faint of heart. Even more so for the Terminator. It is not a good value and it is not something I would buy. However, I don't think you have to go to a Terminator to match the performance of the DirectStream DAC. The Pontus II suffices and the Ares II comes close, both for less than $2,000.

        I have the DS, Ares and Pontus and the latter is my favorite by a good margin. Of course, it depends on the synergy with other gear, the listening room and my ears, which I would say are slightly larger than normal. I sometimes think they are like horn speakers in reverse 🙂

        1. I have not heard the Pontus II, but have read glowing reviews. No doubt it is an excellent performer for the money, but from the reviews online I gather that the Pontus II cannot match the level of detail, transparency, focus, bass and refinement of the Terminator. Steve Guttenberg was blown away by the under-$800 Denafrips Ares until he heard the Terminator and the Terminator Plus. He says he prefers the sound of the standard Terminator, which he keeps as his reference.

          I have not pitted the Terminator against the DS DAC in my systems. I'm not sure I want to know the answer to which one is best, because I like them both where they are in my two systems, and have tweaked everything around them. I use the Terminator in my digital pipe organ system, which is a different system from the one my PSAudio gear is in. I am too lazy to disconnect all the cables and move the heavy Terminator around to compare. When I replaced my previous DAC with the Terminator I noticed a huge difference in the sound quality of the high-rez stereo organ pipe samples that I use. The pipe voices and their reverb tails sounded more extended and real, and the space more expansive and clear, something my previous Bryston BDA DAC could not achieve.

          According to some reviews online, the DS DAC is more laid back than the Terminator, but that is not necessarily a bad thing in many systems. If the DS DAC were perfect, PSA would not be working on a new DAC. I predict that if the Terminator holds any sonic advantage over the DS DAC, that advantage may disappear with the new PSAudio DAC. But unfortunately the price tag for either is too high for most consumers.

          1. Hi Joe,
            Lately SG reviewed, & went nuts over, the Mola Mola - 'Tambaqui' DAC, claiming that it is the best DAC that he has ever heard (eye rolling emoji)
            I'm wondering if it will become his new reference......

            1. I think so, especially if he gets a big discount on what otherwise sells for $13,400 plus applicable sales/use tax. The reviews of the Tambaqui are compelling.

      2. Joseph, You say that both DAC's sounded great with the I2S interface. Does the Denafrips Terminator use the PS Audio HDMI I2S protocal? If not which transport did you use to feed the Denafrips Terminator?

            1. Joseph, Thank you so much, this ( and the YT video in one of the comments ) has been very educational. I noticed you said you send files to the DAC from you PC. I assume those PCM files. I would love to hear the Terminator Plus, however, it appears no dealer in the US. Since I almost always use my DAC and transport to play SACD's I am not sure how much I would gain from using a DAC that will convert to PCM and the use a R2R DAC for the D to A conversion. Their website mentions a DSD architecture but I am not sure what that means. I do love the idea that their I2S HDMI interface is programmable.

    2. @psalvet, Sep, 7 2021: I agree with every sentiment you have expressed.

      https://youtu.be/NA9GD7arBlw

      There are indeed other high-end audio makers to fill the gap. Things are becoming a lot more competitive.

      From my personal disastrous experience with PS Audio over my DS DAC over the last two and a half months, I can attest to the fact that more is not necessarily more, and less can certainly be more!

    3. @psalvet, Sep, 7 2021: Thank you for your post. I'm a little curious as to what prompted you to get the Denafrips Pontus II DAC, to move from the PS Audio DS DAC to the Pontus II. Did you not consider this to be a downgrade, given the big price difference? I'm not remotely being critical at all, as I myself am considering the Pontus II from my PS Audio DS DAC because of the issues I've had with the PS Audio. In the context of this thread also, I'm currently in that work in progress phase of my system, and as an audiophile, I want bang for buck: high performance and quality at value for money. I'm also price sensitive. The Pontus II may not be up to the performance of the HoloAudio KTE May DAC, but the latter DAC comes in at way more than double the price of the Pontus II. The Pontus II has received some good reviews, recently from Michael Lavorgna at Twittering Machines and Tarun, A British Audiophile (both these reviews are posted on the Denafrips website).

      I'm keen to hear your honest assessment of sound quality between the Pontus II and PS Audio DS DAC, as it seems you are in the same boat as me.

      It is indeed interesting that you say that the Pontus II outperforms the PS Audio in terms of sonic performance. That is a bold statement, so I would very much like to hear your further perspectives on or impressions of the sound quality of the Pontus II. Do you stand by that statement? I'm asking this because it will help me to make an informed decision on a new DAC.

      Thanks.

      1. Hi. I have two systems, the main one is in the living room, the second in my office. I got the Pontus II based on reviews and the fact that I was not going to again spend the amount needed for a second Directstream DAC for my office.

        After comparing the Directstream with the Pontus II I was glad to have taken the risk. In my rig, which had the BHK stereo amp and Klipsch Forte IV speakers, the DS DAC sounded dull and lifeless in comparison to the Pontus II. The brass in particular lacked sparkle. The soundstage was not as wide, tall or deep. Finally, it lacked the top-end extension without loss of detail that the Pontus II possesses.

        The DS DAC is no slouch and sounds better than all other DACs I tried in building my office system, except for the Pontus II. Going head-to-head it competes poorly. I still have it, but it is now in my secondary office system. The Pontus II, originally intended for that role, is now in my main system.

        Were PSA prices more in line with what I consider affordable luxury, I would have just gotten a second DS DAC and not gone on a search for an alternative. Unfortunately, they are not. When one goes on a search, the chance of discovering something quite good is always there. Brand loyalty wanes when the pocketbook is involved. I hope that answers your question.

        1. @psalvet, Sep, 14 2021: Hi. Thank you so much for your feedback, for coming back to me. This is incredibly helpful and useful. I appreciate it very much. I have two systems as well; the main in my living room, and the second in my home office. "Brand loyalty wanes when the pocketbook is involved": I fully agree. It wanes also when a product that is beyond affordable luxury, that is punted as such a "metamorphic" high-end product, that costs an absolute fortune, becomes a huge disappointment when it goes south within just a few months and fails in one's system (where, in other words, it is not fully operational in one's system at home); and I'm not talking about the run-of-the-mill mechanical breakdown that may occur with normal use over time. That to me results in serious very high-end audio disaffection and disillusionment, considering the price that you pay. Not that one wants to sacrifice on quality and high-end performance. But the competition in this league or category is growing, competition that gives you more bang for your buck. As I said earlier, sometimes "less" is more. You seem to have perchance made a very good discovery, without breaking the wallet or the bank. I'm fairly confident that I can now make an informed decision myself. Thanks again.

            1. Thank you so much. I’m looking for a reference DAC to replace my PS Audio. Unfortunately, the HoloAudio May KTE is beyond me at the moment, also in terms of import costs. I think the Denafrips Terminator II DAC is a reasonable alternative, considering that it costs more than $1000 less than the May KTE. There are a couple of local audiophile technicians to do any necessary repairs under instructions from Denafrips/Vinshine Audio, if the need ever arises. I will email you.

        2. Guys, I asked Joseph what he was using as a transport with the Denafrips DAC and I will ask you the same. Also what do you listen to the most with the Denafrips DAC: CD, SACD, or music files?

          The reason why I ask these question is because when I went from the old PS Audio DMP transport to the new PST it made a huge difference to the sound of my SACD's which is what I mostly play when it comes to digital. I was shocked that a transport could make that much of a difference.

          1. The Jay’s Audio CDT2 MK3 CD transport is also a quality, high-end product that is more within my budget. Most of my CDs are Redbook, and the few SACDs that I possess are hybrid CDs. The Jay’s is value for money for me and more than suited to my needs. Everyday it opens up more during the burn-in period. I look forward to pairing it with either the Denafrips or HoloAudio.

  14. The old guys in the business, like for instance Nelson Pass and, indeed, PaulmcGowan are entitled to do whatever they want. They paid their dues, the wife doesn’t object... (sorry Stimpy2).
    They do what they do best.
    But don't expect innovation from these men.
    Companies like these are as innovative as the Rolling Stones were the last 30 years.
    Maybe more innovative ideas and products from the moment a "changing of the guard" has taken place. A breath of fresh air, new ideas is always good.

    1. Ha Hah Hah Hah Hah Hah. Why are you sorry?

      I think someone like Nelson Pass has the abilities to still be innovative. Paul has some young and innovative engineers designing right now don’t you think? Take a look at the designs they’ve turned out over the past 2-3 years like the FR-30’’s, the new Transport and Ted Smith‘s new DAC that’s coming soon. Ted doesn’t look like a kid to me. If you want to take a look at a company that seems to be coming out with some outrageous new products, take a look at Mola Mola.

  15. It seems nearly every product is a "work in progress." Each new version offers new technology, added ingredients and design refinements. A good example is car tires.

    I was recently advised by my Audi service person that my SUV tires are seven years old and that tires are considered unsafe after six years from date of manufacturer. What? My car is a ticking time bomb?

    My Michelin tires are what came on the car in 2014 and were considered the best all-season tires made at the time. They still look brand new with hardly any wear, because I drive like a granny and only have about 8,000 miles on the car. Even so, the industry declares them unsafe after six years, even if they have sat mostly in a garage the whole time. (A couple of tire manufacturers say their tires can last up to ten years with frequent tire inspections, proper rotation, alignment and inflation, but they make no guarantees.) What if audio manufacturers designed their audio components to be "unsafe" after six years, regardless of how many hours and at what volume they are played? Hmmm.

    Because I want to feel safer when I occasionally drive 80 mph on the interstate, I've been researching new replacement tires. The top of the line tires five years ago have now been superseded by tweaked rubber compounds and refined tread designs. Manufacturers claim these vastly outperform earlier versions. Rather than take the manufacturers' word for it, I've been reading industry and consumer reviews for a wide range off all-season tires, and have come to the following conclusions:

    Consumer review scores from various sources do not agree with manufacturer scores. A few older, less expensive designs are ranked highest by consumers in all performance categories, even higher than the newer, more expensive versions touted by the same manufacturer. The newer "higher performing" tire designs typically wear out faster. Many consumers complain that the initially quiet tires become noisy and ride harder after only a few thousand miles. I've settled on a modestly priced 2019 version of an all-season Pirelli tire that is consumer-ranked higher in most categories than any of the more recent, more expensive all-season versions by any manufacturer. I'm going with that tire.

    I'm a believer in consumer reviews, especially from multiple sources outside the influence of the manufacturer and in a sufficiently large pool to enhance reliability. Before I buy any product I like to hear from users who have first-hand experience with the product.

  16. It doesn't matter that I think a 600w amplifier that weighs as much as a car is completely pointless and about as desirable as a kick in the head. If someone else gets aroused by the concept enough to flex plastic, then job done and well done Paul.

    1. That is true. Businesses satisfy needs. Business owners can only hope that there are enough customers with a particular need to make the product worth producing.

      That's where analysts come in. I expect there will always be customers who value weight and gobs of power. Not having all the facts, my guess is that more sensitive speakers and quality watts are the trend. If that is true, charging by the pound would not generate much revenue. I hope the PSA analyst is a good one.

    2. From one Steven to another..
      Totally agree with the concept.
      Well done that man for identifying the desires of those particular audiophiles and crafting a piece of equipment that will be irresistible to them.
      One man's Bach it's another man's Pink Floyd.

    3. It is pointless to me too!
      The real complete disruption in this audio business will occur when wireless supports "Hi-res" data, of at least 24/48 or maybe 24/96.
      Once this happens, you won't need DACs, pre-amps, amplifiers, silly expensive cables, etc.
      A DAC that can do crossover in the digital domain is cheap and with performance that is transparent. Amps like ICE or Hypex can be very cheap and transparent. All that inside speakers, where you would also avoid the cost of passive crossovers means that all this fancy box driven business becomes dead.
      What is really disruptive for Paul is that wireless will be PCM driven. I am not aware of "DSD" based wireless. So his recording studio based on DSD becomes vulnerable too.
      How long this will take to happen? Who knows. It could be fast or it could be many years.
      You will be left with some vinyl guys but the younger vinyl users will digitize and transmit their data to the speakers, wirelessly. Maybe Bosch season 18 will be the last guy with a TT, McIntosh tubes and Ohm speakers.

      1. You've completely missed the point - again.

        What you or I think is irrelevant, all that matters is that there are people who love the idea of a massive 600w A/B amplifier.

        You also seem to be obsessed with cost and cheap products, which you often mention, sometimes more than once a day. There are lots of people out there with lots of money who get great pleasure from buying expensive (to you, probably not them) audio equipment.

        I have very good cheap and very good expensive and enjoy both equally - figure that out.

        1. Not really. There are people driving Ferraris, Bentleys, Lambos all the time where I live. They can spend the money the way they want.
          I don't personally see PS Audio as the same profile, it is not the Bentley of audio. I also see the business changing. Paul is 70. Most of the people in this forum seem to be above middle age. How long is that sustainable? For more examples, see Harley Davidson.
          And the point is not that electronics are cheap. The point is that you can invest in R&D of fully complete speakers that the "appearance enthusiast" will like taking advantage given that the electronic side will be easy. The software is where the innovation will come.
          Originally, PS Audio was a brand for "value conscious" audio. It is Paul's strategy to go higher. You can read yourself here quite a few comments of people stating this and not happy about it.

          PS is not even the brand you have.

          To me cheap is not significant. Value is. RME is not cheap, but it is very valuable to me. And significantly less expensive that PS's DAC.

          1. If you look at the PSAudio product line, you see a range of high-quality products affordable to the masses. Stellar and Sprout offer the kind of "value conscious" audio you may be referring to. Or are you wanting cheaper than that? A lot of trickle down technology from the more expensive offerings go into those excellent low-price point components. My first loudspeakers were $4,500 wonderfully sounding floorstanders made by Albert von Schweikert when his company was located in NY. Through the years he offered award-winning, affordable loudspeakers at the same time that he made and sold $200,000 loudspeakers to rich people around the world. Nothing wrong with that business ethic. It's a win-win for all kinds of people.

          2. CtA,
            Hmm...sounds to me like you need to start up your
            own home audio manufacturing, or at least design
            company, since you clearly have all the answers as
            to the direction that this industry should be going.
            Have you ever heard the expression,
            "Put your money where your mouth is" ?
            😉

            1. I don't think this is the point at all. Paul can do what he wants, it is his money.
              I just look at the industry in different ways. Where could it be going?
              The miniaturization and significantly reduced costs make it much easier to innovate in other aspects. Cheap, small, energy efficient and transparent DACs, amps and crossovers in the digital domain facilitate innovation. It is not cheap for cheapness sake that I push.

              For a speaker to go stand alone, with almost SOTA engineering, it could cost around$1,000-1,500 per speakers depending if it is a two or three way of electronics. You would save around $500 in SOTA passive x-over components depending on the complexity of the x-over.

              Look at the front baffle of the D&D. It is a work of art! The factors I mentioned above plus the easier access to other technology, like measurements and scientific research, makes the opportunities wonderful.

              Paul elected to continue with what he knows. Big amps and an old fashioned speaker system but "up marketing". He may be right for a few years. I don't have the data where the industry is going. But if I look at the example of Harley Davidson, where their customer base is literally dying of old age, classic audiophilia is going in that direction.

              Personally, I am interested in the next big idea, not in bigger old ideas.

              It was a group of young engineers at Apple that came up with the iPhone. Jobs was strongly against it for a long time. He didn't get the concept. Think about it. Someone who drove so much innovation did not get it. But once he became convinced he drove it hard. Now people think it was his idea.

  17. There is a real argument for higher powered amps. A 200 watt amp putting out 175 watts typically has a lot more distortion than a 600 watt amp of the same type/quality when outputting the same 175 watts of power. Add in transients and overhead starts to make a lot of sense.

  18. Since nothing is perfect there is always room for improvement but one thing should always be at the forefront in one's mind i.e. simply different does not mean better. For example is the BHK 600 better sounding than the BHK 300 or it's just the higher wattage of the former ? Time will tell. Regards.

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