My Visit to PS Audio

I recently had the opportunity to visit Boulder, CO. As soon as I knew my schedule, I contacted Paul and he graciously invited me to visit.

As part of the “Paul’s Posts” community I expected a casual and friendly hospitality, and I was not disappointed. It was a real pleasure to meet Paul, Terri and the assembled PS Audio team.

It’s always interesting to me to see manufacturing operations and a thrill to speak directly with people who have positively impacted my appreciation of music. As I am from the Northeast, I appreciated an atmosphere where people are both quite focused while still being, if not relaxed, unharried.

Paul’s listening room is an audiophile’s dream. Yes, the speakers are enormous. The Infinity IRS is a legendary speaker system; that my visit came so soon after the introduction of the DirectStream was pure serendipity. That I also had a chance to hear the new amplifier during its development phase – well, what can I say? To quote Roy Orbison, “In Dreams”.

All commentary on my listening experience must be taken in context. The thing about a system like this is that it is dazzling; I had no true touchstone to relate my experience to until Paul played Shelby Lynne’s star turn on “Just A Little Lovin’”. Reflecting backwards to each recording, the multifold virtues of the system were put into some personal context. I trust I would use the same terms anyone would – not merely dynamic but unbounded, no hint of compression, congestion, etc. The timbral accuracy is what one would expect from a ribbon-based midrange and tweeter system, but I’ve never heard this type of accuracy on this grand a stage! And while electrostatics are the last word in speed, the leading edge and the decay of the system were as impressive as the “slam”.

If one compares the typical “high-end” system to an aural home theater, this was IMAX. I’d never heard an orchestra reproduced like that – the Mahler was simply immense! The choral music imparted a beautiful impression of being in a cathedral – I noted to Paul that the voices were magnificent, but what really impressed me was the soundstage.

And as Paul reminded me, we were listening to Red Book CD through the DirectStream. Folks, it didn’t sound Red Book.

The Buddy Holly cut was fascinating (Paul, please remind me of the song – I got lost in the sound). I had the impression of listening to a 35-foot Buddy from a platform at the level of his chest. I have never heard anything close to this type of clarity from a Buddy Holly recording, with a truly super-sized soundstage (and again, Red Book).

The soundstage, of course, changed with each recording. The real Frank Sinatra stood 5’ 8”; the IRS Infinity had a 6’ 2” Chairman of the Board. This is in no way a complaint: most high-level systems typically deliver soundstages between 50% - 90% of reality depending on the recording; 120% - 150% is not something to complain about. But something struck me.

As we started listening to “Just a Little Lovin’” by Shelby Lynne, Ms. Lynne’s voice sounded as though it was coming from someone 8 ½ feet tall. After the volume was lowered, the image seemed just over 6 feet. The bass, especially, seemed to take on proportions closer to natural.

As the Infinity IRS throws a soundstage so much larger than anything I’d ever heard before, I was struck by the effect of soundstage size in relation to perceived loudness. I had never had a similar impression with the more typical aural soundstages I have experienced before.

Let’s face it; the speakers usually get the lion’s share of attention – especially when they are this outrageous. I can’t say I’ve completed a formal assessment of the DirectStream, not to mention the new amplifier. I can speculate, however, that weaknesses in the audio chain would be exposed by the Infinity IRS. My current home system includes the PWD Mark II streaming most of my collection, including a number of hi-rez files. All I can say is that, when Paul played some Frank Sinatra, I heard the back of his throat. On a Red Book CD. A bass drum sounded exactly like a bass drum – and I’ve stood near bass drums for the past 40+ years.

If the DirectStream can make Red Book CDs sound like this, I’ll be having one of those serious conversations with my wife…

Thanks again to Paul, Terri and the entire team at PS Audio. I had a great visit, and I hope my schedule gets me to Boulder again!

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bassman23 said: After the volume was lowered, the image seemed just over 6 feet.

I have experienced vertical changes in soundstage height, but I do not recall it changing with volume. I have a recording of Renée Fleming singing various arias which places her voice at a different height with each track - very odd.

It appears you had a successful visit.

I would suggest most of the time volume level on a system makes for wider AND taller - I have heard tales of 35 foot wide pianos and so forth. On this system you get taller and wider, plus reduce depth with volume.

@bassman23 Buddy Holly and True Love Ways is what we heard Tom.

I loved the enormous aural images - it was fantastic to hear music reproduced like that. But I’ve been listening to “Just A Little Lovin’” and enjoyed the illusion of having Shelby Lynne in my personal listening room. I’d say after you attenuated the system that she was still a bit “larger than life”, but I sure didn’t mind.

The Mahler gave me the impression of being in the third row. While I’m a second balcony, center kind of guy, your soundstage was staggering. Keep up the great work, Paul!

That photo above is one of the better perspectives on just how BIG the IRS V is. In the back of your mind you just have to ponder, “Is this going to hurt?” :))