PS Audio DirectStream DAC, P20 and P15 PowerPlants, AN3 loudspeakers, and AC Series cables; BHK Signature preamp, Stellar phono preamp, and Signature 300 Monos; VPI HW40 turntable

Here, I regret to say, is another report not on the equipment but on the room.

The story in the PS Audio room was the company's new loudspeaker, the AN3, various prototypes of which have been demoed at audio shows throughout 2019. The RMAF demo pair was described by the company as the final prototype. The design—strongly influenced by the late Arnie Nudell, the "AN" in AN3—includes servo-corrected powered woofers, a folded ribbon tweeter, a rectangular planar midrange, and an 8" cone "mid-bass coupler. (The information in the previous sentence was based on earlier prototypes. Here's the current info: Both tweeter and midrange drivers are planar magnetic. "Mid-bass coupler has become two drivers in a modified D’ Appolito array. Bass is a 12” powered woofer. The driver has a split-ring magnetic assembly and there is DSP being designed that, in combination, may mitigate need for a servo." Quoted text is from PS Audio's Bill Leebens.—JCA)

The AN3s were set up quite differently than YGs in the VTL/YG/Nordost room. The result: The sound on Loreena McKennitt’s “Cymbeline” was lovely, warm, and smooth—ditto for a track by Jamie Woon. But the PS Audio room did not entirely escape the wrath of the acoustic demon of the Gaylord Convention Center. A 24/96 Tidal stream of part of the Shostakovich’s Symphony No.11, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons, was midrange-preponderant and overly smooth. It lacked punch. On LP, Hank Jones, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, performing “A Night in Tunisia,” could have used more sparkle on top.

To repeat: What I heard was so obviously and strongly influenced by the room that I can't draw conclusions about the equipment’s sound. It's not that the room was terrible; it just didn't give up many secrets. [Editor's note: This is very common at shows, even typical, which is why, to the chagrin of a handful of our readers, Stereophile refrains from all but the most basic sonic commentary in show reports.—JCA.]

Heard: PS Audio DirectStream DAC ($5999), P20 PowerPlants (2@$9999/each), P15 PowerPlant (1@$7499), AN3 loudspeakers (price TBD), and AC Series cables; BHK Signature preamp ($5999), Stellar phono preamp ($2499), and Signature 300 Monoblocks ($7499 each); VPI HW40 turntable ($14,999); Mac Mini.

SalvorHardin's picture

A shame about the room, and the prototype AN3s ther-in. I've been following PM's podcasts about them, including the present redesigned versions. Was looking forward to an impression of the new design. If I may say so: In general, it sounds as though the new venue sounds like a washout. i.e. Twice as expensive for a room, a lot fewer exhibits and incredible distances between displays. I'm impressed, JVS, that you visited the number of rooms you could. And, most of the rooms on which you reported, seem to lack the ability to show off the equipment they contained.
Oh well, maybe next year?

jimtavegia's picture

Could you have listened on a great set of headphones you know and then draw some conclusions? Speakers and rooms are just too problematic and I have gone to more and more listening on my AKG K-701's, which many will say are not high end enough, but at 72 years, they are for my listening.

I feel for manufacturers who spend crazy money to do these shows and the rooms do them no favors. You do get to rub elbows with great people and potential customers.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wonder whether PS Audio would set up a dealer network for at least the AN series loudspeakers? ....... PS Audio recently announced that, they are going to have direct sales only model for their electronics :-) .......

pbarach's picture

It would be great to hear some of the high-end equipment that's out there, but so many reviews comment on poor sound because of the room, the same trite tracks being played (and often of music not to my taste), difficulty getting to a "sweet spot," and excessive volume.

tonykaz's picture

Why are Show Rooms being reviewed here ?

The Story is about AN Loudspeakers nearing production, the continuing quest of Paul McGowan.

This is an opportunity to be in at the ground floor of discovery, like Tyll & Steve G had in 2011 when they were discovering Schiit by Stoddard & Moffat.

Tony in Venice

frankears's picture

Tony - I'm guessing Jason punted to room sound since the speakers themselves didn't sound that great and it would be premature to blame the design until heard in a familiar environment.

The discovery in this case may turn out to be high-priced mediocre sound!

You'd have to think if the company couldn't get them to sound good, with all the resources at their disposal, maybe there is a problem with the product . . .

tonykaz's picture

The report reads as : Higher Authority criticism intending to diminish and disparage.

Shows are noisy meeting places.

Tony in Venice

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I'm afraid, because this entire Saturday set of 8 or 9 blogs covers rooms in the convention center, that I've left an incorrect impression of the show and hotel acoustics as a whole. As I will state in my wrap, the rooms in the hotel tower, which come in many different sizes and flavors, are quite good sonically. I went into any number of them that either had no treatment whatsoever or had only addressed first reflections.

The Göbel room is the last room I visited in the Convention Center. My first set of reports, along with the eight that are to follow, all address rooms in the hotel tower.

BTW, in reference to another comment, I had no difficulty reaching the sweet spot in the rooms, and I don't think I've complained once about the music. I spoke to at least one other member of the press about the music being played, and we agreed that the preponderance of music we heard was fresh and interesting. Yes, selections are often limited to what LPs or files were on hand - I had files with me, but didn't want to take the time to transfer - but the selection was, in general, quite good. In addition, David Solomon joined Carol and Dave Clark for a seminar about music played at shows, which probably helped get the word out to exhibitors to freshen it up.


Bogolu Haranath's picture

We are thankful that, JVS is not reviewing the carpets and the other furnishings ......... Just kidding :-) .........

SalvorHardin's picture

All else being equal, I was really curious about the AN3s. While I believe Paul McGowan to be an enthusiastic and sincere man, he admittedly has a knack for hype. I would have loved to hear a better first impression of the speaker itself. No criticism intended to JVS. Rather commendable working on his own and trying to cover as many rooms as he did.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

There were rooms whose acoustic left me feeling safe to comment on the sound at length. This convention hall space did not.

SalvorHardin's picture

Then, here's to a job of coverage well done. And, hopefully, when the AN3 comes out, someone will have a crack at it.
One thing: Is there some reviewing rule about a product being available in at least five outlets to be eligible for review? With PSAudio going to direct sales, how does that work? Unless I'm wrong about the rules.

Jim Austin's picture

With PSAudio going to direct sales, how does that work? Unless I'm wrong about the rules.

Good question, pretty simple answer. I recall that when I first became aware of the rule, direct sales of audio equipment were a fairly rare thing. That has changed a lot in the intervening years, and you've probably noticed that Stereophile has reviewed a few online-only products. Yet, as far as I know, the policy was never officially changed.

I regret it a little, but times have changed. I've been thinking a bit about this and will think more about it in the future. I think it's fair to assume that the policy will be changed officially--just not here and not now. The issue requires a bit more thought before I make a public pronouncement.

My Best,

Jim Austin, Editor

tonykaz's picture

PS Audio has always done Mail Order. PS Audio , Paul & Stan were our ( my ) very First Dealer Agreement, back when we were B&K Imports ( I was the K while Sir George Buckley was the B )

Paul McGowan is a man of Integrity.

PS Audio is and always has been a wonderful Company to work with and rely on.

Tony in Venice

ps. I'm also a Jason Stoddard fan but I have never been one of Schiit's Dealers. ( if they have any )

ps. 2 Stereophile has to include PS Audio in reviews, who would read this important Journal if Great American Craftsmen's Products weren't being reviewed ? Does anyone Subscribe to read about another unserviceable Chinesium Throw-away device ?

ps. 3 I miss Tyll, whom I met at RMAF11, this RMAF Show ain't the same without Tyll, Steve G ( who just did some brilliant Journalism with N.Pass ) & John Atkinson doing Seminars . Someone needs to track-down Tyll for a nice follow-up piece about his new Vagabond Life in the SouthWest, please tell him we love him.

Jim Austin's picture

To quote JA: "It is the editor's decision whether a product distributed by mail-order or via the Web qualifies for review. However, at minimum the company must have a formal US presence and must offer a 30-day, money-back refund policy. (Many companies charge a restocking fee for returned products; I believe this is a legitimate practice.)"

Stereophile's longstanding policy on products sold direct (and other reviewing practices) an be read at