An audiophile since the age of 8, I have owned quite a number of high end components over the years, all in an effort to achieve the “more of everything” that audiophiles lust for, including the elimination of thinness and brightness that many audiophiles hear in digital sound.
If you already have a system that provides satisfying imaging, depth, height, horizontal spacing, tonal accuracy and instrument separation, and does not distort at reasonably high sound levels, then you need read no further. If you don’t, you might find what follows instructive.
In my quest to tame the digital beast I came close to raising the white flag of surrender. That is, until I happened upon one of Paul McGowan’s videos. Besides having the rare ability to soothe audiophile panic with his persona, Paul is entertaining, informative and manages to introduce PS Audio products in the lowest of keys.
Liking Paul’s gift of information and marketing savvy was not enough to make me risk thousands of dollars on products from a company I knew little about firsthand. It was PS Audio’s return, trial and trade-in policies that got me to jump into the water rather than simply dip my toes in.
It also helped that the first person I talked to was Chris, a salesman whose genuine and consistent good cheer breaks down shopping awkwardness in a hurry. High Fidelity is a complicated industry. Chris did not always have answers but he never failed to go out of his way to find them. Others in the company I’ve talked to on occasion were similarly helpful.
The combination of Paul as a front man, company policies and helpful staff got me to take an uncharacteristic risk. Instead of trying one component at a time I went for all the components I needed sans speakers. It turned out to be a fortuitous approach. Trialing one component at a time is time consuming and seldom yields definitive results.
After about three weeks of patient and continuous listening the thin and bright sound I associated with digital left my listening room. It was a gradual departure but one that unmistakably took place as the gear aged. Paul insists break-in is real. I can confirm that for the doubters.
My Martin Logan Expression 13A speakers are unforgivably resolving but can also be a pain in the rear end. Maintaining that elusive sweet spot can put you at risk for diabetes, lest you keep making slight placement changes to go along with maturing audio components.
My components coming out party coincided with my discovery of Primephonic, a high resolution classical music streaming service. My now grown up gear presented Tidal and Qobuz in a much better light than my old components. The Primephonic presentation, however, was a revelation. Unexpectedly, playing the same tracks from all three services turned out to be a contest with an easy winner.
I did not expect my new PS Audio components to reveal differences in streaming services, but they did. Life is full of surprises. The combination of the DirectStream DAC with the BHK250 amp and the P15 power plant from PS Audio added punch, attack and openness to Primephonic’s streaming presentations.
As I write this memoir of my journey, I am listening to the ending of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I am transported to my 2nd row center, first balcony seat at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. I sat practically on top of the orchestra for ten years. I can no longer do that. Fortunately, I have a system that gets me pretty close to my memories.
I close my eyes and feel the satisfaction that Paul describes in his videos when he sits in front of his Infinity speakers. As the current coronavirus pandemic rages on I entered into a voluntary period of self-isolation. A quarantine is so much easier when the whole world of music is but a mouse click away.