Yesterday I had a meeting of the Colorado Audio Society at my new home. About forty people showed up, almost all right around the 2:00, which was when the event was scheduled to start. I’ll admit that I blew it – I really hadn’t expected that many folks to all show up at once. My listening room demo was originally set up to hold six audiophiles comfortably (with good imaging) and my planned demo was going to be about 25 minutes long. Doing the math I realized that it would take at least six sessions to cycle everyone through the demo, which was never going to happen in the allotted meeting time.
Programming triage was urgently required. I added two more seats and reduced the presentation to fifteen minutes of actual music (the talking took up, on average, another ten minutes or so), and managed to hold four demo sessions.
The first part of my demo took only a minute – I use an Audioprism NoiseSniffer device to ascertain whether an AC line has EMI or RFI noise. When I moved into my new home I was alarmed to discover that my incoming AC line had a lot of noise. Fortunately the PS Audio Dectet (and Duet and Quintet) completely removed this noise. The demo was as simple and graphic as I could make it. First I plugged the NoiseSniffer into an unfiltered line, let the audience hear the high levels of noise emanating from its small built-in speaker. Then I plugged the NoiseSniffer into a twenty-year-old “AC conditioner” from a firm who need not be mentioned – the audience heard noise, but not quite as much and it had a different pitch. Finally I plugged the NoiseSniffer into a PS Audio Dectet so the audience could hear the complete absence of noise that can be achieved with the right power conditioner.
During the third demo I had a problem – when I plugged in the Noisesniffer it didn’t work – no sound – nothing. At first I thought “damn, what a time for the darn thing to die.” But then I noticed that my plug in voltage measuring device was dark as well and it dawned on me to check the breaker panel. There I discovered that the circuit breaker for the particular circuit had flipped. Why? I have no idea. I reset it and completed the demo, but I can’t begin to tell you what that did for my composure (or lack there of). Harlan Ellison coined the all-too-apt expression – “flop sweat.”
After this rather dramatic A/B demo I played a series of tracks that I’ve recorded recently. All were original DSD 128x recordings made with my Korg MR-1000 recorder and one pair of stereo microphones. All the tracks were played back in native DSD mode through the PS Audio Direct Stream DSD DAC. Among the cuts I chose were recordings of Bryan Sutton and Chris Eldridge playing “Church Street Blues” that I recorded outdoors, under a tent during a guitar workshop at the RockyGrass Academy. Another recording featured the Brazilian band Choro Das Tres that I made at a small church in Boulder. I ended my presentation with a recording I made at the Salina Schoolhouse of the acoustic band, Mr. Sun doing a wonderful version of “Deep Ellum Blues” that included a note-for-note Eric Clapton solo that Darol Anger transposed from Cream’s version of “Crossroads” on Disraeli Gears. Listening to Anger’s fiddle doubling Grant Gordy’s guitar lines never fails to give me goose bumps.
To give the folks waiting something to do besides, eat, drink, and schmooze I set up a mini “head-fi” exhibit upstairs on my main floor. I put up five portable players – an iPod classic 160, Astell & Kern AK100, Astell & Kern AK240, Sony NW-ZX2, and Calyx M. I also connected five pairs of headphones – the AKG K-7xx, Audio Technica ATH A900X, Beyer Dynamic DT-880, Sennheiser Momentum on-ears, and Oppo PM-3. I left these set up around my dining room table.
Although I was so wrapped up doing demos downstairs that I didn’t get a chance to see how many folks tried out one or more of the portable rigs, my spies told me that quite a few people listened to at least one of the portable rigs. Also, judging from where the headphones were connected at the end of the day, they were swapped out (which was part of my intent for the demo) quite a bit during the course of the afternoon.
After the affair ended I was whipped. I have to say that doing just four demos in a row gave me new respect for anyone in the industry who is charge of trade show presentations. I’ve been fortunate enough during my audio career to see and hear some of the best demonstrators in the industry – Marc Levinson, Robert Stuart, Sandy Gross, and others – and frankly, in a moment of honest self-reflection, I’ll admit that I’m not in their league. But hopefully my demo wasn’t boring. It seemed that everyone did have a good time – I could hear the sounds of everyone upstairs talking away even downstairs in my usually very quiet listening room – the party din added another 3 dB to the base noise levels in the room, which also gave me sympathies for audio show exhibitors (who often have this problem, but with even greater intensity) along with a serious bout of déjà vu taking me back to the many demos I’ve sat through where I wished the background noise levels were lower.
Fortunately the feedback I received after the demos did make me feel better. One gentlemen, who’s heard several of my systems over the years, with different gear, in different rooms, commented that he was impressed by how consistent they sounded, including the current one, in their clarity, imaging precision and intimacy. My goal has always been the same with all my systems – minimum room and component coloration of the music. And while over the years the gear in my systems has been in constant flux due to my chosen profession, the goals have always been the same – greater neutrality, less coloration, and more musical information getting to my ears. Hopefully the people who sat through my demo got a taste of what I think high-performance audio is all about.