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Paul’s Posts

PS Audio founder and CEO, Paul McGowan, takes a few hours each day to write to readers of his daily post series. Subjects range from how to setup your system to helping you understand the complex technical issues of streaming, vinyl, tubes, transistors, loudspeakers, holographic imaging and more. Not much is sacred; there’s no hype or sales pitch. Easy to subscribe and even easier to unsubscribe if you wish. Join us.

Working backwards 1

Posted 6 hours ago

In any good detective novel we start with the crime scene first and work our way backwards to find the culprit. It’s no different when discovering sources of hum. As I did with the garage door remote control problem, we want to isolate the issue down to what works, then branch out to find what doesn’t. Just […]
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Hummin’ along 1

Posted 13 hours ago

Why do systems hum? Not in answer to the classic Audiophile joke or Ella Fitzgerald’s famous 1960′s memory lapse, which earned her a Grammy for Mack The Knife. They hum for a multitude of reasons: transformers, ground loops, shielding, poor design etc. Fortunately the root cause of hum can be discovered with a rather easy technique, […]
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One step at a time 11

Posted 1 day ago

It’s typically easier to fix than to find problems. Finding what the root cause of a problem is takes time and a careful routine. For example, yesterday I described the strange circumstance of interference from my theater lighting system with the garage door opener. Today I want to start explaining how I arrived at this […]
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Shedding light on problems 12

Posted 2 days ago

In yesterday’s post Troubleshooting, I described a problem I was having with my garage door opener. It just suddenly stopped working. Nothing I could think of would explain it. One day it worked, the next it was dead. I tried everything I could think of. Nothing helped. Everything I tried only deepened the mystery. And […]
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Troubleshooting 5

Posted 3 days ago

Finding and fixing problems is a learned skill that can be honed over many years of experience. I have rarely seen this skill come naturally to people, though I suppose it must be a part of some of us. For me it took a number of years to get good. The term itself, troubleshooting, originated from […]
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Fear 20

Posted 4 days ago

Fear’s a funny thing. Useful for some things, not much for others. Fear’s good to keep you alive. Fear’s bad when it holds you back from exploring new things and being safe. And fear plays tricks on us. I mentioned in yesterday’s post I might fear ridicule at the hands of those who scoff at […]
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Need anyone say more? 31

Posted 5 days ago

My friend Mark (aka. Soundminded), a frequent contributor to the comments section of these posts, posed a question of his own. I will paraphrase: “Would I rather have a great performance and a bad recording or vice versa?” Most of us would immediately respond we’d prefer a great performance over a great recording. But what about the […]
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Paul’s Picks 18

Posted 6 days ago

I have written many times about some of the musical selections I rely upon to evaluate speakers, electronics and cables. I am often asked for a partial list of Paul’s picks. Here’s a list with some pertinent notes. Holly Cole, Temptation, Train Song. My friend Arnie turned me on to this old chestnut. Great for tonality […]
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How do you know? 9

Posted 1 week ago

…when you’re right? It’s a great question. If we design by listening and that listening is performed on an imperfect system, playing in an imperfect room (as all are and do), how can you design by listening? Wouldn’t the biases of the system and room enter into each of your designs? Indeed this is a […]
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It might sound good 4

Posted 1 week ago

… but nothing’s perfect, not even live music; it has imperfect venues to be played in. We were discussing complementary transistors: PNP and NPN devices. They too are not perfect. Each alone has its own quirks but they are different. And that’s a problem when we try and divide the top half of the sine […]
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An idea worth spreading 0

Posted 1 week ago

Christmas is fast approaching and we are reminded this is a time of giving. There are many in our community that haven’t as much as we do. There are families that struggle to make ends meet, to heat their homes, to put healthy food on the table. For some in our community Christmas doesn’t mean opening presents […]
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Complements 5

Posted 1 week ago

One of the reasons people tend to like the sound of single device amplifiers is inherent in their very design: a single ‘sex’ device. By ‘sex’ we are referring to the type of device (in the same way as we might describe male vs. female). Tubes have only one ‘sex’ but transistors have two: positive […]
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5

Posted 1 week ago

After what’s turned out to be a rather lengthy discussion in these pages about balanced circuitry I was prepared to move on today. Recent postings by others, as well as multiple emails from some of my readers suggest perhaps we spend a few days more finishing the subject. Then we’ll move on. Part of the […]
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True balanced 6

Posted 1 week ago

When we use the term ‘true balanced’ we mean a circuit that is balanced from input to output, as opposed to one that is balanced only on its input, output or both. Why is this important? Because true balancing a circuit means we not only take advantage of noise reduction on the input, but we carry […]
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Marketing vs. expectations 11

Posted 1 week ago

If a marketing person tells you their circuit is balanced, then you have a reasonable expectation you will enjoy the full benefits of balanced audio. In many cases you might be wrong. Not wrong in your expectation, wrong in what you get. Let’s take a look at what a typical balanced input might look like. I’ll use […]
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Resolving differences 1

Posted 2 weeks ago

In my earlier posts about balanced audio I used an audio transformer for the input to our amplifier. This was easy to show how to identical signals would not be passed. Because there are no differences between two identical signals, no current flows between the two signals and the transformer sees nothing. This is great […]
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True balanced? 2

Posted 2 weeks ago

For many years audio equipment gave only token acceptance to balance outs and ins. Treated more as a courtesy or ‘sure, we have them too’ attitude, designers quickly hustled out recycled products with balanced outs to differentiate themselves without regard to their actual benefit. I think that happens less today but it certainly isn’t gone. Before […]
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Too deep 16

Posted 2 weeks ago

I fear in yesterday’s post I may have lost a few of you: too technical, too many drawings and things to wade through. My apologies. Let me try again. The premise I started with was a single device amplifier, like a SET amp, having only one tube per channel, cannot produce linear audio. This means […]
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Push or pull 4

Posted 2 weeks ago

In yesterday’s post I showed a classic SET tube amplifier. I displayed this because I wanted to show you how distortion products in amplifiers are made, then we can see how a balanced design help eliminate them. In yesterday’s drawing we saw a single amplifier element. This is the simplest of designs: a single device running in […]
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Votes are in 9

Posted 2 weeks ago

Okay, I received a fair number of requests from people that want the balanced series to continue: far more than those that don’t, so onward! What shall we go over? We left off with the little known fact that balanced circuits reduce common distortion products – sort of a free benefit. But maybe a sidetrack […]
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Differences 26

Posted 2 weeks ago

I wanted to continue this in depth look at balanced audio and its benefits. I’ve received a few notes from folks speaking of sheer boredom with the subject. Sigh. Sorry. Let’s make this the last in the series, for now, and then we’ll return. Apparently not everyone’s interested in balanced audio. Go figure! Let’s cover […]
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Balanced inside 10

Posted 2 weeks ago

We discovered in yesterday’s post how music is differentiated and noise is eliminated in a balanced cable. Are there benefits beyond simple noise reduction possible through the use of common mode rejection? Yes. And that is because the rejection of things in common is not limited to noise. Everything in common is rejected: music. noise, and interestingly enough, […]
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Inside out 3

Posted 3 weeks ago

If you’ll recall our discussion on balanced audio and transformers in this post, we finally got to a point of understanding how noises that are common to two conductors within a single wire are ignored. The technique is called Common Mode Rejection. Any signal of any type, common to two wires feeding the input to […]
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Eating the family 5

Posted 3 weeks ago

Thanksgiving is an American centric holiday. Begun in 1621, this will be the 393′d time we’ve celebrated the event. That’s a lot of celebrating! As Terri and I are vegetarians we don’t bother old Mr. Turkey for our celebrating, but Mr. Potato, Mr. Stuffing, Mrs. Pie and Aunt Bread don’t fare well at all. They […]
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Getting rid of noise 3

Posted 3 weeks ago

In yesterday’s post I explained an input transformer would accept any audio signal that wasn’t the same. Today we’ll find out why that makes a difference to noise. One thing I should mention up front: a modern stereo with a balanced input does not use a transformer. Yet noise reduction, every bit as effective as if it […]
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