McGowan waxes philosophic about exorbitant prices


(Henry) #47

It is all about how well any task is done. I think we all agree that Roon does a pretty good job of digital manipulation so what it does is transparent if not absolutely bit perfect.
Oh and after declaring I couldn’t afford PS Audio earlier, I have something of a confession.


Reduced to $999 in the US, less than the cost of an iPhone!


#48

And how the original price ($1895 if I’m not wrong) looks now? For me… kind of overpriced. And I do not think for a moment that with an almost 50% price reduction PS Audio will lose money on this.

This also happened before with a $5000 power plant that some dealer had for $1000 less (for a while).


(Scott Winders) #49

Just because you decide to interpret each sentence out of the context of a previous sentence in a paragraph doesn’t make you right or the authority of what my intent is. I get it…you just need to be contrarian…


(David Liguori) #50

I don’t think it’s any secret that high end audio does not follow the usual rules of supply and demand. It’s what’s known as a “Veblen Good”. Raising the price of one of these things may very well increase demand for it. In high end audio the demand is heavily driven by reviews in magazines.

I don’t get angry at companies like PS Audio for acting in their interests. I just look elsewhere. Something I perceive as a good value may well end up being very expensive in absolute terms, but if the price is clearly based on perception, with little correlation to cost of production, I find something else to do the job at lower cost.

An example of something I consider a good value despite its high price compared to its mass market equivalent is the Oppo UDP 205, which is now my main Roon endpoint. Unfortunately, for reasons I am unaware of, it was withdrawn from the market. An example of an extreme Veblen good is a boutique power cord, speaker cable or interconnect. Products from Blue Jeans Cables, for example, work just fine for me.


#51

Encouraging to see that sanity still exists!


(Reader of the Internets) #52

I’m using AmazonBasics. :smile:


(Robert Kosara) #53

When I got my new speakers, I “splurged” on a set of bi-wire speaker cables from Blue Jeans. Could I have gone with speaker wire from Amazon? Absolutely. But I wanted something nicer. Do I need bi-wiring? No. Do I believe it makes an appreciable difference? Honestly, no (but I haven’t tried the speakers in both configurations).

But the point is: I can. It’s nice to have something that’s made by a small, local company (since I’m in Seattle), something that’s well made and that makes me happy just to own. I don’t spend five figures on audio stuff, but I think the same applies at any price point. Somebody talked about how audio stuff is luxury recently, and I think that’s exactly it. Trying to argue about specs or things sounding that much better or whatever is mostly just trying to justify and rationalize what is, deep down, the pure joy of spending money on something nice.

I honestly don’t think that I’d be able to tell the difference in sound between the bi-wire cables and (reasonable-gauge) AmazonBasics speaker wire. But I don’t regret for a second having spent five or six times the money on the ones I have (and the same is true for many other things, but your cables comment gave me a good excuse for a little rant ;).


(Jeremy) #54

There are those who pay many thousands for cables for some specious miraculous claimed benefit. Clearly this kind of thing is overpriced hyped nonsense. Blue Jeans are pretty reasonable. XLR on Star Quad cables is the best for interconnects. Pro level XLR balanced is the best for components (runs on about 18volt power and at +24 dBu) - typical SNR benefit is about 13 dB over consumer grade RCA and up to 40 dB better EM/RF power supply hum immunity.

So better cabling is real and has huge benefits, however, it isn’t expensive and it isn’t available on consumer grade RCA type components. So as usual there is some element of truth in all the hype. As usual consumers get sold a lemon (RCA)…audio rags, manufacturers and boutique retailers are all in cahoots with their profit in the forefront of their strategy rather than the listener experience.

This is what a PHD at Audio Precision (maker of the standard industry test gear used to design all audio components) has to say

http://signal.ece.utexas.edu/seminars/dsp_seminars/01fall/AudioMyths.pdf

Audio Precision doesn’t make or advertise anything for sale to ordinary audiophile consumers so they can be brutally honest without burning bridges within their customer network. Nevertheless it is rare to see such honesty because of potential repercussions from within the industry where magic pixie dust is often a major selling point for many manufacturers…contrast this view from a VP at Audio Precision with Steve Guttenberg or Paul McGowan who have something to promote or sell.


#55

IMO there’s actually a lot in that which is outdated and/or incorrect.


(Jeremy) #56

Can you be a little more specific on which statements from Audio Precision are incorrect? (Perhaps this should be broken out into another thread.)


(Henry) #57

96 kHz sampling rate makes design of
reconstruction filter easier, but is much more
than necessary; 192 kHz is just a waste of
bandwidth; performance is traded off to get
these sampling rates

I think the bit about trade offs for 192 kHz is no longer the case. While you can justifiably question the need for it, achieving it no longer requires performance trade offs.


#58

Myth 1: Analog is better than digital
In 2001, when the detrimental (and audible) effects of digital filters were not fully understood, we did “know” that something wasn’t quite right with digital vs. analogue.

Myth 2: Sampling is bad
Agree; it’s not bad

Myth 3: Quantization is bad
Kind of assumes that ADC and DAC conversion is perfect. Conversion has improved over the years. A lot.

Myth 4: We need 96 kHz, no, 192 kHz
This was before the audibility of ringing was known.

Myth 5: 16 bits are not enough
Some good points about typical listening environments, but repeated application of dither does actually raise the noise floor. also, headroom for processing is important. Back in 2001, there was very little DSP going on in the reproduction side of the audio chain.

Myth 6: Negative feedback is bad
I don’t know enough to comment.

Myth 7: Fewer stages are good
I think that amplifier design has come on leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. Again, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that if you put a SOTA amp up against a 2001 vintage one, objectively, there won’t be a contest. To state that additional signal path is absolutely not a problem is rather naive. IMO. It kind of depends what they were measuring back in 2001…

Myth 8: Glass is better than silicon
Some people like a “valve” sound. Probably more of a reflection on c.2001 solid state amps rather than solid state vs. valve, per se.

Myth 9: Integrated circuits are bad
Agree; not a problem.

Myth 10: Switches degrade the sound
I’m on the fence here, not actually having any evidence either way. Again, may be an implementation issue.

Myth 11: Power supply is critical
Perhaps not an issue in 2001 (though I seriously doubt that); absolutely an issue in 2018 with SMPS plugged in everywhere in the house. Mains power is rubbish these days. Plus having power headroom is almost certainly a good thing - you’d not want to run your car at max power continuously and I think that the analogy translates well.

Myth 12: Cables are directional
Agree; this is utter nonsense.

Myth 13: Audio transmission lines
Agree for analogue; do not agree for digital where reflections at the (not exactly 75ohm) phono connector / cable boundary smear the waveform (= jitter).

Myth 14: Gold is better
Agree with his “truth”.

Myth 15: Black boxes improve things
Not a well defined “myth”, so no point commenting.


(Jeremy) #59

Myth 1: Analog is better than digital
In 2001, when the detrimental (and audible) effects of digital filters were not fully understood, we did “know” that something wasn’t quite right with digital vs. analogue.

Disagree. Nothing was not already known or not already understood about digital filters that we know today.

Myth 2: Sampling is bad
Agree; it’s not bad

Myth 3: Quantization is bad
Kind of assumes that ADC and DAC conversion is perfect. Conversion has improved over the years. A lot.

I disagree - it says nothing about assuming perfect conversion.

Myth 4: We need 96 kHz, no, 192 kHz
This was before the audibility of ringing was known.

Ringing was well understood before CD Redbook was invented. I studied this stuff before CD came out. So once again a straw man argument.

Myth 5: 16 bits are not enough
Some good points about typical listening environments, but repeated application of dither does actually raise the noise floor. also, headroom for processing is important. Back in 2001, there was very little DSP going on in the reproduction side of the audio chain.

Agreed. But his caveat is for mere straightforward playback and he admits that in the studio )or processing environment) that more bits is useful. So not really wrong.

Myth 6: Negative feedback is bad
I don’t know enough to comment.

Myth 7: Fewer stages are good
I think that amplifier design has come on leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. Again, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that if you put a SOTA amp up against a 2001 vintage one, objectively, there won’t be a contest. To state that additional signal path is absolutely not a problem is rather naive. IMO. It kind of depends what they were measuring back in 2001…

I think he means relatively speaking. Apart from Class D and SMPS there has been almost no progress in amplifiers since 2001.

Myth 8: Glass is better than silicon
Some people like a “valve” sound. Probably more of a reflection on c.2001 solid state amps rather than solid state vs. valve, per se.

I think he refers to euphonic sound vs accurate sound. This is still a reality today. Many Folks enjoy euphonic coloration of the sound.

Myth 9: Integrated circuits are bad
Agree; not a problem.

Myth 10: Switches degrade the sound
I’m on the fence here, not actually having any evidence either way. Again, may be an implementation issue.

Myth 11: Power supply is critical
Perhaps not an issue in 2001 (though I seriously doubt that); absolutely an issue in 2018 with SMPS plugged in everywhere in the house. Mains power is rubbish these days. Plus having power headroom is almost certainly a good thing - you’d not want to run your car at max power continuously and I think that the analogy translates well.

Agree but the highest performing devices now use SMPS because of less power supply noise (hum)

Myth 12: Cables are directional
Agree; this is utter nonsense.

Myth 13: Audio transmission lines
Agree for analogue; do not agree for digital where reflections at the (not exactly 75ohm) phono connector / cable boundary smear the waveform (= jitter).

Strawman argument as he is clearly referring to analog audio signals.

Myth 14: Gold is better
Agree with his “truth”.

Myth 15: Black boxes improve things
Not a well defined “myth”, so no point commenting.


#60

Whatever. We can agree to disagree. The guy clearly had an agenda (everybody does, even if it was just raising his stock in this instance). I don’t like his presentation in general terms and I am a serious anti-snake-oiler…


(Jeremy) #61

Great that you are a serious anti-snake oiler too. I believe that most of what you have heard in audible improvement in DACs is due to the industry finally getting things right (following the science) as various manufacturers eventually designed better filters and better SRC and volume controls in their DACs and in software. By the mid-90’s, science of digital audio was well understood and supported by a decade of practical experience with CD, however, it takes many years for manufacturers to catch up and improve. ITunes used to have terrible digital volume control in 2000. Apple Core Audio still to this day has a lousy SRC converter! And Apple is supposed to be no slouch when it comes to audio.

So I agree with you that in many instances there are DAC audible improvements since 2001 however the root cause is that designers and manufacturers have for the most part finally improved on previous poor engineering and sloppy manufacturing. Most products were not tested thoroughly enough and mistakes only became evident in the market place.


#62

PerfectWave DirectStream DSD DAC from $5.999 to $3,999.00. I’m curious, doesn’t the original price look overpriced now?


(Robert ) #63

This special price doesn’t allow for the trade in policy of 30%. I have a DS Jr, which is regularly $4k. They are expensive, but constant upgrades make them a worthy piece of equipment.


(Jeremy) #64

The design is in its fourth year and is one of the most successful intermediate to high priced DACs. No doubt the volumes that PS Audio sell have probably yielded some volume cost savings with suppliers. The reason for stratospheric prices on DCS, EMM and MSB is likely similar to Maclaren cars - they simply don’t sell high enough volumes - so R&E cost must be built into a far fewer number of units and supply chain costs for small numbers of units must be very high.

PS Audio seems to be getting enough volume to be able to provide decent product support, reduced prices as well as providing reasonable cost upgrades. I think their approach has been to release a not quite fully baked product in 2014 but to continue to support it and improve it without gouging their customers when it comes to upgrades. The new TSS DAC from PS Audio should be out next year - perhaps this sale is to move inventory in preparation for that. My guess is that PS Audio will use much of what they learnt from the PS DSD Sr in the new TSS superDAC. Identical design but with better isolation of key parts and reduction of noise (a big weakness of the PS DSD DAC). For example, when I look at the placement of the output transformers, I can’t help but think they would benefit by being placed much further away from everything else. However, the popular sound of this DAC is probably related to those very output transformers - as everyone knows, high quality line level output transformers are very expensive - also transformers have characteristic distortion that is regarded as being pleasing to some (like tubes) - they also offer galvanic isolation. Output transformers suffer from phase distortion at low frequencies but with their own code running on an FPGA, I suspect PS Audio can partially correct some of that.


(A Welshman, currently exiled in Hampshire) #65

That would be “Pot calling kettle black” maybe?


#66

Or you can simply put all of your explanations under just one word: overpriced! :wink: