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Posted (edited)

I have been exploring the internet lately and listening to some bits and pieces on the internet, given that I have some extra (unwanted) spare time.

I came across a couple of pieces to camera on Youtube presented by Paul McGowan, head of P.S. Audio - an american company based in Boulder, Colorado. The ones that i came across were about horns, another about electrostatics and a third Youtube broadcast was in conversation with Ian Atkinson, the editor of Stereophile magazine.

What a joy to listen to these two elder statesman (both now 70 - nothing bad about that!) chatting about Dacs, hifi magazines , and 'outreach' to existing P.S. Audio customers. The latter is all about creating a community of P.S Audio customers. Also there is a Youtube broadcast of Paul taking Ian on a tour of the P.S. Audio factory. Two intelligent and experienced men discussing all sorts of interesting topics.

Another American in hifi who is eminently good copy is a certain Ron Sutherland. Ive heard the Sutherland 20/20, owned by a friend, and its an excellent product.

For my part, I stumbled onto an Ayre P-5xe phono stage and that led to the purchase of the matching K-5xeMP pre amp.

I think there should be sufficient interest on the Wam to start a thread about American hifi and Americans in hifi.

Let's see where this thread takes us..

I'm sufficiently impressed by what ive seen and heard about both to suggest this is a promising area to explore..

What American Hifi have you owned and what stories have you to tell?

Are they better than us?

Jack NSM

Edited by Non-Smoking Man
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Yes I have posted a lot of these videos recently by ps audio , very informative even if you don't agree with it all

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Yes these videos are very informatiive. My Wadia and amps are Americam, coupled with great British Monitor heritage speakers...a perfect combination.

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Posted (edited)

I have had Ayre amp and Harbeth combo for almost 20 years now (few combinations within their respective lines) and I have heard many other brands but have not had the urge to upgrade at their respective price points. My front end has always been Linn.

PS Audio products are just okay to my ears - like really good mid-fi stuff.

Also, I think hi-fi is company specific and is agnostic to country of origin.

Edited by chesebert
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This was never a conscious plan but the majority of my system is actually American: Bel Canto power amp, Shearwater main speakers and Power Sound Audio subwoofer. The other main component is my miniDSP SHD from Hong Kong.

If/when I replace my speakers I'm tempted to prioritise British brands to try to balance things up slightly! 

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Posted (edited)

One or two things that strike me about Paul McGowan: he's a lovely man with a great voice-to-camera style - chatty, pally, simplistic (in a good way) and not at all didactic; secondly, he is knowledgeable about a range of hifi issues.

I want to raise one of those issues now - amplifier sound. Do different amps sound different?

Paul, in his customary downbeat manner, discusses in one of his podcasts (I'll call them that for now) the fact that, though he has been designing and building solid state amps for 40 years, he is now building one with a valve front end. He describes how he got on board an eminent amplifier designer (Bascom King,   initials BHK) to design a new amplifier. Unfortunately this guy insisted on using valves as part of the deal. So what Paul M. did was to construct an experimental prototype with the best output stage he could using solid state devices, but arranging the input side of things with a versatile 'plug in' whereby a conventional transistor, mosfet, and, thirdly, a valve device could be inserted. The deal was, said Paul to the new man, if your valve stage can beat the other two, you are 'in'. Well apparently, not only did they all sound different, but the valve stage was much better. So the new amp has valves.

In the course of this piece Paul very ably explains the differences and similarities between all three devices. He states its because of these differences that its totally implausible that amps using these different devices could sound the same 'even if they measured the same'.

This something I've been mulling over for some time - that its wrong to reduce differences between amps to a distortion figure. I have seen it put forward that if two amps measure the same, then they will sound the same. Not so.

I'll try and find the particular podcast (or maybe you can find it Phil and provide a link for us).

Jack NSM

P.S. The podcast I selected here was dated 1st Oct 2017, entitled 'Do pre amps enhance sound quality?'

Edited by Non-Smoking Man
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I have the following North American gear in my home:

Bozak Symphony speakers. Bought these from UK ebay. They have 2 x 8 ohm bass drivers when they should have 2 x 16 ohm. Converted them to actively bi-amped as a work-around.

EV Sentry III speakers - made in Switzerland according to the label on them. I suspect they may simply have been assembled in Switzerland? This pair were in the main hall of the National Theatre for 35 years. I bought them from the person that removed them as part of a refurbishment of the theatre.

EV Patrician 800's with 2 x 15" JBL's in custom cabs. I bought these off US ebay. Imported them in half a shipping container from near New York. The original owner died and the remaining family weren't into hi-fi in the way that he was.

4 x JBL/Urei amplifiers, bought 3 different models off UK ebay for prices ranging from £15 to £150.

Coincident Frankenstein 300b prototypes. Pre-production version of the Coincident Frankenstein. Bought from used from US ebay, imported from California.

Korneff clone. Bought this SET new from Tube Audio Labs.

Various valves to keep the above 2 SET's going for a few years. Imported after buying from US ebay.

A pair of American made tweeters. This is the first part of my long hoped for DIY Frankenstein raised from the dead from cherry picked body parts, 4 way, high efficiency speakers. The other 3 pairs of drivers have been hard to come by at the right price. If I lived in the USA I'd have them by now...

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2 hours ago, Non-Smoking Man said:

I'll try and find the particular podcast (or maybe you can find it Phil and provide a link for us).

Jack NSM

P.S. The podcast I selected here was dated 1st Oct 2017, entitled 'Do pre amps enhance sound quality?'

Here you go:

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Before this thread disappears down a preamp related rabbit hole I'll just mention that I get the impression that senior people as US hifi companies seem rather better at engagement with customers. Paul McGowan is one example. Tom Vodhanel is another, who is the the guy behind Power Sound Audio, and was the 'V' of SVS before he left to form his own company.

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Hi Jack,

As you know i'm a big PS Audio fanboy, being lucky enough to have a Directstream Dac for a few years now (this replaced a previous PS Audio Dac, that set me down this path).

I've been subscribing to Paul's daily email blog for several years, somedays it's more interesting than others, i don't always agree with him, but it does give insight into the mark of the man. I can recommend his autobiography -99% True- to better understand where he has come from and what drives him, why he bought back the company he co-founded with Stan, and brought production back from China to the USA I think he's a very decent human being.

I love that my Dac is upgradable for free, via a new firmware release every 12 months or so, to my ears the sound quality always improves on each release. i'm not saying it's the best Dac in the world, but it's definitely up there with the best.

Big fan of the PS Audio philosophy, if they decide to build a piece of equipment and don't feel they have the necessary experience in-house, they employ the best expert in that field to prototype it. This is what happened with the valved BK pre-amplifier ('who designed the best preamplifier that i've ever heard' - Bascom King), their new phono stage designed by Darren Myers, and their new range of speakers (can't remember the chap's name, but recommended to Paul by his late friend and mentor Arnie Nudell, of Infinity speakers fame).

On the question of American hi-fi in general, well i own or have owned pieces from Britain, Italy, France, Germany, China, Canada, USA, NZ, Oz. 30 odd years ago countries all seemed to have their own hi-fi 'sound', but i don't think that's true any longer. The world has become a much smaller place with the advent of the internet, you can buy anything from anywhere. I don't dismiss or recommend any equipment based on it's geographical location, just on how it sounds, and the MOST important thing, it's synergy with the other components in the chain.

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I had a really intense love affair with US equipment. Most of it is really well designed and comes in well engineered boxes. You see a full system and the first thought is this system means business. The sound, as always, depends on the design and components but what I have used seems to really do BIG scale. Or maybe that was my choice. So when Naim were doing speed and dynamics of rock music along comes Krell with a big powerful sound. And Naim produced 70w/channel and this stuff was doing 400w/channel. And I really loved it.

My top system (all bought used due to the ultra high pricing) was a Krell KPS 25SC, Krell 600 monoblocks into Wilson 6s. That system had power. grace, 3D imaging and really, really deep and powerful bass. I got a little diverted and had an ARC Ref 5SE and Ref 75SE with an Esoteric P03/D03 and there was still that huge 3D soundstage but with a more gentler less intense presentation.

The downside is of course the US/UK exchange rate and the outcome was a $3,500 preamp costs £3,500 when it arrives here. Despite that the sound quality was on a different level and was sufficently high that it was competitive. For me Pass Labs competes and it is not ultra expensive. But when China entered the market seriously and companies went there this ethos changed and people went for cheap. Some US companies went for a quick $ and unfortunately companies changed.

Krell (although their newstuff has changed and looks really good) and ARC have gone down the pretty box/high price route. A pity. But then Naim has venture capital that want good returns.

A lot of US audio is still superbly built, sounds very good, can be serviced  and represents a good deal especially on the used market. I look at the Krell KPS25SC, Krell 400CX and Wilsons with dewy eyes as that power and scale is very difficult to get with other equipment. Yes it is not as refined as some newer equipment but then it does not cost 6 figures.  

Some really good used US equipment around at the moment.

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Bit of a side note I guess but the thread title keeps making me think of the band American HiFi. Probably not to most tastes here but I have this on CD somewhere:

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I have a HRT streamer 2 + american dac and it is awesome ( for the money ) oh and a jolida dac ( made in China though)  another awesome dac.. 

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Posted (edited)

Just realised most of my system is from USA.
Dacs - Schiit, and Cherry Amp Co,  Pre - Wyred4sound,  Power - SST,  Speakers - Shahinian with Jps labs cables,  Headphone amp - Schiit.

More than happy with it..

Edited by Mand

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