Visit to PS Audio Oct 31 & AN3 Speakers

My wife and I visited PS Audio on Oct 31/19 and it was a treat! We were given the grand tour, met much of the team, and were tremendously impressed with the AN3 prototype speakers.

We live in western Canada and the last time we had been in Colorado was 2013 for RMAF. I had just retired and was eager to hear some great audio systems - but we were very disappointed. There was plenty of expensive gear that simply did not sound good enough to justify the prices.

Since then, I’ve improved our audio system with big leaps (DS DAC, P12 Power Plant, Simaudio Moon 600V2 integrated amp, etc). I’ve heard numerous other “high end” systems and have again shaken my head over the lousy “performance per dollar” paradigm.

So, I did not have my hopes super high for this visit to PS Audio, even though I am very happy with the performance of our DS DAC and P12. After 30 seconds of listening to the AN3 speakers (Version 2 as demoed at RMAF 2019), I was filled with relief and happiness. We listened to about 10 songs on the CDs we brought, and every performance was a totally new experience. The sound was very open, natural, amazingly detailed, and allowed us to appreciate every syllable of the vocals by The Be Good Tanyas, Bruce Cockburn, The Tragically Hip, Patricia Barber and Richard Thompson. Clearly the distortion levels are very low because nothing seemed obscured, and the percussion, harmonica, banjo, guitars, and other instruments sounded so good. And… there were no irritating resonances, glare or harshness. I’m a very careful audio consumer so I take a long time to want something, but this experience quickly convinced me I must go back to Boulder to hear the final version of the AN3s.

Yes, the AN3s were driven by PS Audio’s best electronics, which in my opinion are reasonably priced considering their high level performance. I estimate the retail price of the equipment and cables at somewhat over $50K (US) excluding the speakers, yet the equipment was not “tweaked” as much as my system. For 40 years I have been a DIY enthusiast, building amps, speakers, DACs, etc, and tweaking every little detail to get better sound. But the last couple of years I’ve realized my efforts cannot match some of the incredible engineering evident in (some) high end equipment. In my opinion, PS Audio is one of these industry leaders.

Our current speakers are the Thor transmission line model, designed by Joseph D’Appolito, with the SEAS Excel tweeters and dual 6.5 inch Excel magnesium cone woofers. It took me two tries to build the enclosures accurately, and I’ve tweaked them considerably with better internal wiring, crossover parts, connectors and Track Audio feet. They are quite revealing and musical sounding, and the improvements in the latest Windom firmware for the DS DAC are very evident and enjoyable. I’ve been unsure about replacing them due to the high cost, but PS Audio’s speaker development progress is very exciting and interesting.

When we arrived at PS Audio that morning of Oct 31, we met Paul McGowan as he was arriving, camera in hand, for an engineering meeting. The sales group was short on staff at the time, so the President, Jim Laib, welcomed us very warmly and provided the tour throughout the business. While we were waiting for Jim, Chris Brunhaver noticed us in the lobby, so we had a brief chat and later he became our listening enabler in Music Room 3. We gave Chris our feedback about the AN3s and had some terrific discussions about speakers, music, etc when he periodically checked up on us listening to our songs. Chris described the differences in distortion between the AN3s and the cone drivers in our SEAS speakers.

Yes, we did listen to the IRS V speakers, but only for portions of two songs while Darren Myers demoed them for other visitors. Let’s just agree they are a piece of history, impressive on their own, but the AN3s are the future.

As a final point in this long story, I think PS Audio should consider setting up another sound room in a highly accessible location, with their best gear. The intention would be to demonstrate, to as many people as possible, how good music can sound. Call it the $75,000 Music Room, or whatever is needed to be dramatic, and keep it the equipment static, always warmed up. It would benefit music lovers and audiophiles of all ages - to hear what is actually possible with high end audio gear. I made this suggestion to Chris Brunhaver, and he did not look at me like I was nuts.


Nice report of the AN3 and the visit at those nice folks!

Not that I‘m too surprised, but for someone who hasn’t the chance to get there, Paul’s hype of the IRSV, some admiring 3rd party opinions but also several posts so far, at least between the lines expressing a kind of incomprehension of the hype, makes it even more desirable to hear them :wink:

I bet the AN3 are far more homogeneous/coherent playing.

After Paul’s own relativitazion of the IRSV performance once the AN3 were out, I suspected some previous need of relativitazion :wink: But I bet they sound extremely impressive alone due to their size and big sound.

Great suggestion! What a pleasure it was to meet you both.

Thanks for the kind words and feedback. It was a real pleasure to meet you and your wife. Please keep in touch!

I have owned a pair of TL speakers with a pair of 6.5” mid/bass cones (PMC Fact.8). They are highly regarded and a reference speaker for some reviewers, but they have limitations. I replaced them about 5 years ago. For a floor standing speaker, they are radically different to the AN3. I was wondering what commercially available speakers you were contrasting when listening to the AN3.

I wish I could give you a thorough answer - the difficulty for me is that I’ve not kept notes on what I’ve heard. As further background, I should say that I’ve used my SEAS speakers for over 15 years. One of the standout disappointments has been the Audio Note speakers, both the commercial versions and the kits. I was very interested in buying a kit as I have built 3 Audio Note kits already (two DACs and a Phono Stage). First at RMAF in 2013 we heard a full Audio Note system (all commercial) and we were stunned at how bland it sounded (was it the room, the cables, etc?). A few weeks later I went to the Toronto Audio/Video show and heard two complete Audio Note systems - one commercial and the other all kit gear. I had the same basic reaction. And I love the kit electronics, so does that mean the speakers were the big problem? Or was it that the speakers were not supported properly and that many other useful tweaks (isolation, etc) were not utilized on the electronics (Audio Note is mainly tube or valve gear)?

A couple of times I heard the Martin Logan ESL 11A electrostats at the dealer I bought the DS DAC from. They sounded mid-fi (not good) and I believe the problem was the rest of the setup (not a great CD player, etc). By the way, the dealer just took my order for the DAC, I was sold by the PS Audio forum.

Quite recently, I heard the flagship system at a new local shop in their best sound room. I did not take notes, but their website describes the equipment and I’m reasonably sure it’s the gear I heard. Speakers are Audiovector SR 6 Avantgarde, driven by amps somewhat similar in design to the BHKs. The sound was close to my system/speakers, just a bit less detailed but the sound room provided a better soundstage. The bass was the problem - it was more forceful but there was a reasonance on the low notes. When I mentioned that to the shop owner, he was a bit offended. I was playing the same songs as I played last week at PS Audio, and the AN3s with the top PS Audio gear perform at a dramatically higher level. I’m not a reviewer, and I’ve only heard a fraction of what’s out there.

I love Quad ESL, bought a pair without the wife’s permission and they lasted a month. Audio Note never gets mentioned here. They quietly take bespoke orders and make kits, never advertise, don’t have a price list and are very profitable. I’ve heard a few Audio Note systems. One day I heard a large Ongaku powered system that was limp and a little P2 powered system in a small room with some AN-K’s and it sounded absolutely lovely. Plus Audio Note speakers love room corners. I doubt ESLs or AN speakers bear any relation to the PSA speaker. I can’t say I’ve heard of Audiovector. Sounds like you don’t have a regular diet of full range with active bass, and such speakers probably all sound terrible in small audio show hotel rooms. I think bass presentation is a very personal thing. It seems Paul has the AN3 well set up in Colorado.

Interesting comments! Over forty years ago a relative had Quads with the Quad amps, and they sounded strange but amazing. Now that was in the day when we used lamp cord for speaker wire and the cheap ICs that came in the box with the Pioneer, Akai or Sansui receivers (I sold that stuff for tuition), and now equipment sounds better with proper cables and connectors.
All the Audio Note setups had the speakers in the corners - the sound was veiled and congested over the whole frequency range.
Yes, I agree that bass presentation is a personal matter. I have a powered subwoofer but can’t get it to integrate properly so it’s off. I have spent a lot of time finding the exact place in my room for the speakers to lock in, and now they have, so I have very clean and reasonably low bass, and upstairs the bass sounds great. Kick drums are very clean and dry sounding with decent detail and the AN3s bass has the same character but much more detail. I had the volume on the AN3s in the low 80dB range with peaks in the higher 80s, so not loud, just like at home. Hence I did not test the AN3s for chest pounding bass - my wife is not into that, and I am interested in clarity so I can appreciate the creativity and talent of all the band members, Chris mentioned that they have some adjustments for bass, and the room tuning is not yet there, but I was impressed with what I heard. The IRS-V speakers demonstrated very strong low bass on a Boz Skaggs song, but it was quite loud and not what we are looking for. We were at a Mavericks concert last month at the symphony hall, and the low bass was boosted to clipping. I was ready walk out, but my wife loves their music so we put up with the bad sound (all frequencies were distorted). I suspect most people like amplified bass that way - instead I like to hear all the harmonics in bass notes, plus the snap of the string, the sound of the instrument bodies and fingers on the strings. That’s what the AN3 speakers make so clear. My reference songs I played on them had plenty of kick drums and bass guitars and when I can hear so much detail in the whole performance, I feel connected to the art of music.

Pictures, say more than thousand words.

Yes, I’ve heard this expression before. Is it a statement or a question?

Statement. Some pictures to accompany your report would be nice, like getting an impression of the AN3 listening room or see the AN3 in comparison to the IRS5.

No, I’m not going to post my poor quality iPhone photos.

It was a great privilege to be allowed to see and hear the AN3 speakers, as prototypes, in their R & D room. So I would have to get PS Audio’s permission to post the photos, and it would serve no purpose. The speakers have been seen in public (RMAF), the rooms and IRS Vs have been seen in Paul’s videos and photos (with much better quality than my photos).

In the conversations with PS Audio, quite a bit of “insider” information was shared, and I was careful in my writeup to be non specific, as it is their information to share publicly on all the interesting projects they are engaged in. All I tried to do in my writeup was share my impressions of the sounds I heard, in the context of my personal equipment, listening skills, and so on.


Great Post…Your have peaked my interest in the AN3 even more. I live up in NE BC and have very little exposure to other system and components other than what I have. So great to hear your take on the AN3. My almost exclusive PS Audio system 9 components is crying out for me to have a pair of AN3. Although my room is sounding really good lately. Mostly since Windom firmware update and adding a complete quiver of NRG 7.5 Awg power cables. Both of these added a substantial level of system coherence that still blows my mind of how is it possible. I am a relative newby audiofile. It has taken me about 10 years to get where i am now. And it was not pretty in the beginning. I bought 4 large " Nuance" towers with a Harmon K AVR. Paid too much and in hindsight it was crap…each tower had an active subwoofer that eventually all stopped working. So now i have two REL G2 gen1…for subs. They add so much to my towers…and i gutted the towers and replaced the driver’s with Golden Ears Invisa in wall speakers. Built in cross overs on each driver. Easy to install. The Invisa 7" mid bass drivers fit strait into the old 12" subwoofer ports…2 in one tower and one in the other. Two 6.5" mid-range drivers in each tower dropped right in. Each driver has a AMT tweeter. Rated at 89 db. All connected internally with 12 awg silver copper teflon skin insulated…I have the large towers on the Stellar M 700 and the others on the BHK 250. It’s a big sound. Very revealing and finally sounding warmish.


Sounds like a very interesting system, would like to see some pics, especially of the speaker work :slight_smile:

Hi Joma

I just tried sending a couple of pics from my phone but files too large to send apparently. It is something i have to figure out to reduce data on pics. Not very functional on the functions…

Cheers Simon


nice though, thanks :slight_smile:

Wow you could open a PS Audio showroom. Impressive.