Interview with John McDonald of Audience

January 26, 2012

John McDonald, President of Audience, LLC, has kindly agreed to be interviewed for the Ultra High End Audio and Home Theater Forum.

Audience has so many product lines – from speakers to cables to capacitors – it’s hard to know where to begin. Would you tell us about the origins of the company and the reasons for its product diversification?

The origin of Audience goes back to the late 70s when the late Richard Smith and I established Sidereal Akustic Audio Systems. Then again in the late 90s Audience was established with the primary vision of developing a loudspeaker that was void of typical design limitations. Instead of working around the usual limitations we wanted a speaker that did not possess the limitations in the first place. Fourteen years later, this dream is becoming a reality with the development of ClairAudient loudspeakers. The larger scope is that Audience designs audio systems and is now close to offering complete Audience playback systems.

Let’s tackle power conditioners first. What differentiates your products from others in what is a very crowded field?

While on one hand we assert no hocus pocus there are a great many features that set the Adept Response power conditioners apart from all others.

• Ultra low DC resistance of 40 mohm from the power cord plug all the way through to the receptacle for low impedance current path. Power amplifiers are not limited in the aR. It is like plugging directly into the wall.
• Each receptacle is isolated from all other receptacles (expect in aR2p and aR2p-TO). You can plug digital gear next to analogue without any RF sharing.
• Ultra high efficiency/highest quality filter components on every outlet.
• All hand wired. No clip on connectors. Buss bar and ground plane connections are welded for all out best low impedance energy
• 100% cryo treated.
• Low resistance, heavy duty magnetic circuit breaker power switch.
• Locking Powercon power cord connector
• Audience powerChord included.

Since RF filtering is such an important part of power conditioning, do you use Auricaps and/or Multicaps in your power conditioners? Is there a common thread for what makes a capacitor great in a speaker crossover, a preamp/power amp, and a power conditioner?

We use Auricaps high resolution capacitors in our standard power conditioners and Aura-TO ultra high resolution capacitors in our “Teflon” version conditioners. Both capacitor products are made by Audience.

You make two levels of interconnects and speaker cables – Conductor and Au24. Please tell us the differences among them as you progress upward in cost. What audible improvements can the user expect?

There is much that can be said of the Au24…it has long been considered to be one of the very best high performance cable products ever made. The Conductor line is very much like the Au24 in every musical aspect. The difference with the Conductor line is only in degree of resolution, Au24 being a higher resolution product.

Your speaker cables are quite thin. Why not garden hoses as we have come to expect from other companies?

Audience strongly believes in low mass low eddy current products. High mass products tend to create smeared audio signals among other problems.

Your latest cables carry the “e” moniker. What is the nature of the enhancement represented by such designation?

The nature of the e enhanced products is of greater resolution, transparency and coherency.

Audiophile power cables seem like the last cable frontier. What does a power cable – and the Audience powerChord in particular – do to improve the performance of an audio system in the last four feet to offset the problems that have arisen in the preceding several hundred feet from the transformer behind your house to the wall socket?

Power cords are one of the most controversial and least understood pieces of an audio or video system. Instead of looking at it like the last section of wire, we look at it as the first section of wire that a component sees. The more we experiment with power cords, the more we realize how impactful they are on the sonic characteristics of a system. Primarily a power cord can restrict or allow for unimpeded flow of power. However, and maybe more importantly, every power cord design imparts a unique sound, or lack thereof…and as such, careful selection of a power cord is extremely important.

Before meeting you, I was unaware that Audience offered the Wavemaster preamplifier and Wavepower power amplifier. You are certainly flying under the radar with them. Surely you would like to get the word out about what makes them special?

Actually, those products have not come to market. However, they are intended to be very special components and to live up to the Audience standard of excellence. Much more will be revealed about these products, hopefully in the not too distant future.

With the exception of your newest offering, all of your speakers are line arrays. Would you explain the strengths of a line array compared to a traditional multi-driver dynamic speaker or a planar magnetic design?

We like to refer to the Audience ClairAudient loudspeaker arrays as “true” line arrays because they are just that. Where as an array of woofers combined with an array of ribbons or tweeters is a dual line array delivering the sound from two different sources. The ClairAudient loudspeakers are made with Audience proprietary A3S full range drivers, thus allowing for a single line source. The primary advantage of line arrays is the use of multiple similar drivers providing for greater efficiency, power handling, dynamics and reproducing music with greater ease and lower distortion. The specific advantage of the Audience approach over multi-driver dynamic speakers is coherency. The specific advantage of the Audience approach over planar systems is dynamics. Audience loudspeakers provide high resolution/low distortion, coherency and dynamics all in one loudspeaker system.

The Clairaudient THE ONE is your latest speaker design, utilizing a single A3 driver. It seems like quite a leap to go from so many drivers to a single one. What are its advantages and limitations?

The advantages of the single driver ONE speakers are small size applicability and point source reference reproduction.

Finally, Auric Illuminator has long been a staple for enhancing the playback of CDs. Without giving away any proprietary information, would you tell us exactly what it does and why it is beneficial?

Bottom line is that Auric Illuminator provides for a large improvement in resolution and coherency when applied to all optical disc formats. To best understand this phenomenon I recommend reading Robert Harley’s “The Complete Guide to High-End Audio” Fourth Edition. In brief, however, there are two elements; the first being the removal of static energy from the CD and all that is implied. The second benefit is improved optical retrieval of the ones and zeros that equates to improved TIMING retrieval. There is no perfect buffer; therefore, Auric Illuminator seems to bring improvement to even the very best digital payback systems.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your company or its products?

Audience is about music or the unhampered, unimpeded, uncolored delivery of music. The first and foremost rule at Audience is “do no harm”. Audience has never made a product just to fill a niche or a price point or a marketing scheme. Every Audience product is intended to have true merit.