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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.

Why separates 11

Posted 13 hours ago

A stew combines the same food elements as are found in a fancy restaurant’s small expensive plates: tastings that are ever so much more flavorful than their amalgam. The same can be said for most integrateds and receivers, but not because they are in one box, but because of the shortcuts taken in their design. Most […]
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The importance of house wiring 4

Posted 1 day ago

When we built Music Room One we made a point of electrifying it properly: Dedicated circuits with heavy gauge wire. Had we the time and budget we would have also used grounded conduit as a shield against noise. The importance of a proper AC foundation cannot be understated. The two properties we focused on, wire gauge and […]
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The Bose 901 22

Posted 2 days ago

We don’t often think about reflected sound, but a man name Amar Bose did when he set the audio world on its ear. Pun intended. When we look at a pair of speakers sitting in our living room we imagine the sound comes straight from them and arrives at our ears unscathed. Nothing could be […]
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It’s all so confusing 25

Posted 3 days ago

I received an email from a new customer seemingly overwhelmed by the myriad of choices in equipment, and he didn’t mean brands. Just assembling the simplest of high-end systems can be a challenge. Though I dislike the term, back in the day, I can’t think of one better to describe the long ago when it […]
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Perceptual hearing 24

Posted 4 days ago

Maybe our focus has been too narrow. We think of our ears as mere microphones. We then design measurement equipment to unravel all the distortions and intricacies that might trip up a microphone, only to wonder why those measurements and our hearing perceptions don’t line up. Our ears are microphones, but that’s only the simplest […]
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Attraction 9

Posted 5 days ago

They say beauty is only skin deep and I think that’s a true statement. If the outside appearance doesn’t match the insides, then we reject the entire package. This is one of the challenges industrial designers face. They have the privilege of foreknowing the insides of a new product and charged with designing the outer […]
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Better than the original 37

Posted 6 days ago

With yesterday’s announcement of the P20 Power Plant’s launch, inevitable questions fly. One that piqued my interest is “how could any device improve upon the pure output of a power generator?” It’s a great question and one that requires a bit of explanation.  In yesterday’s post, I had offered a bit of history when developing the Power […]
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Rabbit holes 24

Posted 1 week ago

The problem with rabbit holes is they are easy to go deep before you realize it’s the wrong one. I went down several in the design of the amplifier line that eventually became the BHK, as well as building the first Power Plant two decades ago. My first idea to design a perfect AC power […]
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Delicious 25

Posted 1 week ago

When we bite into a juicy sweet apple we say it’s delicious. What a great, descriptive word. Delicious can apply to almost anything. A delicious read. A delicious idea. A delicious track of music. I remember the first time I heard the DirectStream Memory Player. The first track I listened to was our One Cd and Reed Foehl’s Fly. […]
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Personal choices 42

Posted 1 week ago

Terri and I chose to live in the safety and quiet of Boulder, while my son Scott and his wife Teresa chose the much livelier city of Denver. They get the nightlife in trade for tolerating the city’s chaos, something Terri and I have less interest in. All our choices come with baggage. I chose […]
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When hard sounds easy 22

Posted 1 week ago

I was marveling at the skill of my tongue. It rarely gets in the way, it hardly ever gets tied, and it nicely punctuates speech without a great deal of effort. In fact, I never think about it, which is all the more amazing given its critical role. I often think of weird things. Thoughts […]
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Do amp’s sound different? 22

Posted 1 week ago

What a silly question. Of course they do. I am certain no reasoned person, engineer or audiophile, would argue that a solid state power amp sounds identical to a same-wattage tube amplifier. They’re just so different that you can easily hear (and measure) those differences. But if two amps of radically different topologies sound different, […]
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Secret sauce 15

Posted 1 week ago

Back in my unhealthy, meat-eating, junk food laden younger days, I couldn’t get enough of the secret sauce the local hamburger joint served up. It was orange, fatty, with little bits of sweet chunks that made burgers come alive. I always asked for extra. After enough pestering, the manager told me what it was. Thousand […]
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The little things 17

Posted 1 week ago

Sometimes it’s the little things that make something special. A smile, just at the right moment, or perhaps a helping hand when one wasn’t expected. When I think about what makes a piece of audio equipment special it’s often the little unnoticed touches that, together, make a product worth owning. Take for example the powder […]
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Taking it personally 30

Posted 2 weeks ago

Most of us take our systems personally. We’re proud of our achievements. We’ve worked hard learning, listening, and setting up. It’s the rare music lover that doesn’t feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. I think that’s awesome, and I’ll be the first to bust my buttons over the performance of Music Room One. But […]
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Setup matters 29

Posted 2 weeks ago

There are very few pieces of hifi kit that won’t benefit from a great deal of care and attention. But one benefits far more than anything else I can think of. The turntable. Vinyl’s playback is almost entirely dependent on proper setup. Getting the arm and cartridge combination playing nice together is certainly an art […]
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If it quacks like a duck… 48

Posted 2 weeks ago

Daniel von Recklinghausen, the renowned audio engineer at EAD and KLH is famous for this old chestnut: “If it measures good and sounds bad, — it is bad. If it sounds good and measures bad, — you’ve measured the wrong thing.” Hard to argue with the man’s logic. One of the ways I like to […]
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Speaker headroom 33

Posted 2 weeks ago

We’re pretty comfortable with the idea of headroom. More food on the table than needed, more horsepower than required, more amplifier wattage than necessary. But, what about speaker headroom? The one characteristic of music’s reproduction that stands out for me in speakers is a slight compression when the music gets loud. I hear it in every […]
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Sound quality doesn’t matter 54

Posted 2 weeks ago

What a shame. The 60th Grammy Awards show sound quality has made progress, but unfortunately in the wrong direction. It’s a bit worse than 2017 and a lot worse than 2016. Loud music passages were pinched off by over-aggressive limiters to the point of cringing. The Grammy awards are a chance for the recording industry […]
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Live music 46

Posted 2 weeks ago

Before Infinity Speaker founder Arnie Nudell’s unfortunate passing, he and I were working on a new concept in loudspeakers, one based on the idea that it just might be possible to get closer to live orchestral sound levels than we have in the past. A full orchestra can hit peak levels as high as 120dB. […]
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Can modern music be high-end? 41

Posted 2 weeks ago

If our definition of high-end is lifted from The Absolute Sound Magazine’s tenet: “the sound of unamplified instruments and/or voices as heard in a natural, acoustic performance space” then does it make sense that modern electronic or multitracked music can ever be considered high-end? I believe it can, but not before broadening our definition. Perhaps it […]
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Filtering 24

Posted 3 weeks ago

Our brains edit what we see and hear like a film director’s viewfinder. You’re probably familiar with this concept every time you take a picture of a distant mountain, seascape, or harvest moon and are disappointed with the outcome. What your vision records is entirely different than what the camera sees. Our brains edit out everything […]
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The death of hand wiring 21

Posted 3 weeks ago

Printed circuit boards, those thin copper strips laminated to fiberglass, paper, or ceramic plates routing complex electrical signals are common today. It wasn’t always so. PCBs, as they are known, poked their collective heads out of infancy in the late 1950s after being invented by an Australian engineer, Paul Eisler, in 1936. They languished in […]
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That missing element 32

Posted 3 weeks ago

Life is often a series of trade-offs. We gain here, lose there, creating tough choices because gains and losses are rarely black and white. Such is the case with headphones for me. On the one hand, they are wonderfully focused sonic microscopes. They offer privacy and intimacy, and their output seamlessly covers the entire range […]
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Rough edges 23

Posted 3 weeks ago

One of my readers sent me the following note: “I was just at a friend of the families winery. They produce some of the best cabernets in California and have been doing it for quite some time. During a private tour with the 81 year old founder, he said an interesting thing. He described how […]
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