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Paul’s Posts

PS Audio founder and CEO, Paul McGowan, writes a daily blog: short, informative, fun, often controversial, but always interesting. Subjects range from personal stories, how to setup your system, news of the day, streaming, vinyl, tubes, transistors, loudspeakers, holographic imaging and more. Kind of like the Car Talk of audio. Not much is sacred, and there’s rarely a mention of our own products. Easy to subscribe and even easier to unsubscribe if you wish. Join us.

Another clue 35

Posted 12 hours ago

One big clue about the nature of break-in. Memory. We know that once broken in, cables and components retain many of the benefits earned through extended playing time. If we put our Sherlock hats on we could make some guesses as to what kinds of characteristics are capable of being stored. Capacitors change character after voltage […]
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Stretching 39

Posted 1 day ago

My friend Seth recommended I switch to a cast iron pan and I did, comparing it to Berghoff ceramic. At first, the Berghoff was the clear winner. It took two days to break in and stretch its wings on the stove. The cast iron took longer. A lot longer. After nearly a week of use, […]
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Saving up 42

Posted 2 days ago

The best sounding cables I have heard were a bare set of wires. Hardly practical in the real world, cables without shielding and insulation sound better than those with them. We insulate cables so their conductors don’t electrically touch each other. We shield them with tin foil or woven metal to protect them from noise. […]
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Charging up 86

Posted 3 days ago

I hate it when I am wrong. Or miss something. But that’s life. I don’t play music through an amplifier or preamplifier that’s burning in. The reason’s simple. What’s going on inside the amplifier is the forming of capacitors and the settling in of parts and circuit boards. Playing music hasn’t much impact on those […]
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Life’s investments 33

Posted 4 days ago

I am always struck by the magnitude of experience needed to design a state of the art high-end audio piece. Think of the lifetime of work invested in products designed by Dave Wilson, Bascom King, Arnie Nudell, John Curl, Steve McCormack, Richard Vandersteen, Jeff Rowland, Ray Kimber. Each has poured their hearts and souls into […]
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New ideas 17

Posted 5 days ago

Every new idea has risk. When radical new inventions like the light bulb, car, airplane, or escalators were launched most scoffed at their introduction. Yet, today they are commonplace. Change is hard for most people, but a small group of us are eager for it. We’re known as early adopters. The vast majority of people want to […]
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The good stuff 35

Posted 6 days ago

Issue 31 of Copper Magazine launched this morning and it’s a really good read. Former Twisted Sister leader, Jay Jay French—a heavy metal member that’s an Audiophile?—helps us understand the machinations of the music business while editor Leebs reminisces on tone controls. I bring this issue of Copper to your attention only because I wanted to […]
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Air conducting 16

Posted 1 week ago

I don’t seem to be able to restrain myself with music. My hand just starts waving in the air—like Peter Seller’s character in Dr. Strangelove—though mine’s in the style of a conductor rather than a demagog. I am always impressed at the power of music to move me. And I am not alone. Cadres of […]
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Alternative reality 16

Posted 1 week ago

There’s plenty of alternatives: facts, behavior, butter, education, apparel, and reality to name a few. Reality occurs when the original recording was made. A live concert or a studio session sets the reality stage and engineers capture it on recordings. When our stereo systems recreate that moment of reality we agree to suspend disbelief and accept an […]
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Setup day 15

Posted 1 week ago

Setup day is a lot more fun than teardown, though both are a royal pain in the ass. Here in Chicago for Axpona to help out the Scaena guys I came yesterday to help setup and make sure the sound is as good as it can be within the confines of what we have to […]
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Sometimes it’s a mystery 32

Posted 1 week ago

You’d think that after forty-something years of designing high-end audio equipment I/we would have most mysteries figured out. In fact, the opposite is true. The more we learn the more we understand how little we know. Humbling. At last weekend’s Colorado Audio Society meeting I knew there would be a lot of interest in the DirectStream Memory […]
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The joy of discovery 29

Posted 1 week ago

The world’s a tough place to navigate during childhood. We burn our finger, fall off our bike, spit out food we dislike, get caught red handed in the cookie jar. Most of those hard-won lessons stick with us until we start to branch out a bit. And that’s when it gets interesting. Food discoveries were my first […]
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Sensibilities 13

Posted 1 week ago

Is there some reason we must always be sensible, efficient, and purposeful? We don’t bother with it on vacation, at the park, on a hike, or snoozing on a warm Sunday afternoon. But driving to work we obsess over saving a few precious minutes. An early birthday present for me was a $150 cast iron […]
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A beginner’s guide 26

Posted 1 week ago

Every year about this time we host the Colorado Audio Society (CAS), as we did this past Saturday. They are a wonderful group of people and it’s an event I always look forward to. We share stories, enjoy music together. CAS is the group that hosts the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF), the one big […]
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The mistakes we love 23

Posted 2 weeks ago

Live performances are risky. Mistakes are inevitable. But that’s what we love about them—they are honest. And the opposite is true. The perfection and polish of studio recordings place a barrier between us and the artist—like the difference between a conversation and prepared remarks. One is honest and heartfelt, the other weeded and manicured. It’s […]
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Music or kit? 29

Posted 2 weeks ago

Do Audiophiles live for music or gear? It’s a classic question, one asked at every juncture of our wonderful endeavor. I think the answer is both, but certainly, some lean one direction, while others in the opposite. Arnie Nudell sent me a link to a great BBC archive film on this very subject and it […]
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Hidden clues 17

Posted 2 weeks ago

Not all evidence points to a root cause. Often we see something that on its own cannot explain how it works, like flapping bird wings. When man first struggled to unlock the secrets of flight, he assumed it was the flapping of wings—when in reality it is their shape. When we hear differences in two amplifiers […]
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Added sweeteners 31

Posted 2 weeks ago

Every audio company has a design philosophy they ascribe to: ruler flat, textbook perfect, back of the napkin, high feedback, low feedback, no feedback, tubes, solid state, hybrids, rich with harmonic distortion, squeaky clean and lean. PS Audio has always focused on honest engineering offering musical truth. Our digital wizard, Ted Smith, is one hell […]
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Satisfaction 33

Posted 2 weeks ago

The Rolling Stones couldn’t get any satisfaction—how about you? Is your DAC, cable, amplifier, or preamplifier bringing you satisfaction? Is it good enough, or could it be better? I have noticed over the years that parts of my system are so good it’s hard to imagine them ever getting better. Take my speaker cables as an […]
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Tying it together 38

Posted 2 weeks ago

I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a few words on tying our system together with cables: power, interconnect, speaker. I remember when cables were an afterthought. Zip cord and cheezy RCA drek did the trick until we realized they mattered. My first encounter with cables came from one of the founders of Schiit […]
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Scraping, lasering, streaming 25

Posted 2 weeks ago

There are a number of ways to get music into your system: Dragging a needle through record grooves, shining laser light onto a CD, streaming out of some magical cloud. However you wish to bring music into the system, the quality of that source is critical to good sound. You’ve read in yesterday’s post where […]
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Beginnings or ends? 25

Posted 3 weeks ago

The chicken and egg question is the classic circular logic argument—which came first? A close second is the importance of source vs. loudspeaker—which matters most? The circular argument goes something like this: If you lose or distort music at the source, nothing at the output can fix it, versus, even the best source does not […]
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Connections 28

Posted 3 weeks ago

Yesterday’s post described an example of speakers and subwoofers we could easily afford in our quest to build an excellent music setup for $12K. If you go for the Vandersteens and a pair of RELs, you’re at about $7K with only a little negotiating. That leaves us $5K to buy electronics, wires, and a source. There […]
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You’d be surprised 37

Posted 3 weeks ago

You’d be surprised what magic can be had by careful construction of a Mid-Level system. We had set our Mid-Level price constraints at about $12K—not much by Audiophile standards, but a fortune for most people walking into a Best Buy. We’ve asked all the right questions and our answers pointed us towards building a full […]
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Levels of Fi 33

Posted 3 weeks ago

My friend Seth writes: “Mid-Fi is what we call a system that’s more reliable than the very high-end, closer to the juiciest part of the price/performance curve and sounds fabulous. Mid-Fi owners understand that swapping out anything to go to the next level means that they will be either giving up reliability or money for […]
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