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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.

Focus 23

Posted 7 hours ago

It’s no surprise that vinyl and digital are different. Different mastering techniques, playback equipment, recording chain (often), bandwidth, dynamics. So it should be no surprise that a system optimized for one, doesn’t sound as good playing back the other. Music Room One, for example, has been optimized for digital audio reproduction. Michael Fremer’s listening room […]
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Circumstances 30

Posted 1 day ago

It’s been hot for the past week before last night’s rain and cold descended upon us. With morning’s first light the birds were happy; the worms, not so much. The sudden change brought an aviary feeding frenzy. Unexpected change freaks us out. We like things to stay the way they are. Dammit! “Stop changing on me.” […]
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Backing off 34

Posted 2 days ago

Several respected readers have suggested that my dogmatic stance against strict measurements as the be-all-to-end-all has been aggressive. At times, disrespectful of other people’s views. I think that’s a fair criticism and I want to work on fixing that. When I am passionate on a point I tend to hammer it home. A character fault, […]
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The DAC in my head 46

Posted 3 days ago

There’s a DAC in my head and ears are digital. Sound waves enter the ear canal and make the eardrum vibrate. This action moves the tiny chain of bones in the middle ear. The last bone in this chain ‘knocks’ on the membrane window of the cochlea and makes the fluid in the cochlea move. […]
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Seesaw 55

Posted 4 days ago

I always imagine progress as a seesaw; as one side goes up the other travels down—often frustratingly so. Take the original  PWT Memory Player as an example. For years, simple Red Book CDs sounded better than any streaming device I had experimented with. Then a combination of cables, USB regeneration, shaman-waving potions, elevated the Mac Mini a […]
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Want a new DAC? 31

Posted 5 days ago

Audiophiles are passionate, interesting people. We can make some happy but it seems to always be at the expense of someone else being upset. I suspect I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love strong opinions. Ted Smith has labored for close to a year on our two DAC’s new operating system, Huron. He […]
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Rediscovering music 53

Posted 6 days ago

One of my all time favorite operas is Verdi’s Don Carlo with Plácido Domingo and the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini on an EMI Classics recording. The work is an utterly inspired 1971 recording of the five-act Italian opera. The cast is stunning, with Domingo as a brash Don Carlos, and […]
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Nothing is best 20

Posted 1 week ago

I’m not sure how this thread morphed into a How I built this about volume controls but things have a tendency to just drift in a certain direction. But, I ramble on. In yesterday’s post, I told the story of boiling the innards of a volume control down to nothing more than a single high-quality resistor. […]
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Peak images 19

Posted 1 week ago

Creatives climb aspirational mountain peaks by building mental images: authors through words, composers through music, designers through styling, engineers through schematics. The peak I aspired to climb as far back as the early 90s was solving the age old problem of volume controls. Every scheme to date was a compromise: the sliding dissimilar materials of […]
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Ruffling feathers 25

Posted 1 week ago

Sipping my morning cup of java I stared aimlessly out the kitchen window. My reverie was suddenly interrupted by the loudest cacophony of angry, chattering, magpies I have ever heard—an easy dozen of the white trimmed black birds all with feathers ruffled. Below them, next to my neighbor’s fence, was a small bobcat who clearly was […]
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Falling off the tracks 33

Posted 1 week ago

Televisions and home theaters need remotes, our hi-fi systems do not. For those ancient enough to remember when equipment did not have remotes, we solved the problem of volume adjustment in the same way we made it easy to play a record. The preamp and turntable were next to us. No system worth its salt was […]
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Back when it was simple 19

Posted 1 week ago

One of the first cars I ever owned was a ’55 Chevy with a 265-cubic-inch 8 cylinder engine, carburetor for gas and air, and distributor for the spark. It was a simple design, one even I could work on with a minimal number of tools. I look under the hood of my car today and other […]
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Seismic shift 12

Posted 1 week ago

A seismic shift is one that literally means moving the Earth. That’s a big change. When I got started in 1974 there were no computers, cell phones, digital circuitry. It was all analog. We learned the art of analog design because that was the only way to build a high-end audio product. Analog in, analog […]
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A different viewpoint 23

Posted 1 week ago

A recording of a solo instrument or voice seems easier to faithfully reproduce than that of an orchestra’s many voices. You’ve probably noticed this as well. As the complexity of sound increases, the believability factor goes down on all but the best systems. Does this mean we’re taking the wrong approach to music’s reproduction relying on […]
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Glitz 23

Posted 2 weeks ago

The term glitz refers to adding fancy, sparkle, or fluff value—something of no useful nature other than eye candy and appeal. But, wait a minute. While it’s easy to suggest none of us buy into needless glitz when it comes to our stereo systems, I beg to differ. We can’t escape it. We don’t buy the […]
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Sorcery 43

Posted 2 weeks ago

Not many of us understand how a modern piece of digital equipment works. Right? We get it about converting analog to digital in big brush strokes, but down to the actual bit level? Not likely. Even fewer could actually program a DAC like Ted Smith does. And it’s not just digital audio that’s a mystery. […]
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In the presence of greatness 15

Posted 2 weeks ago

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you impressions of Huron, our new operating system for DirectStream DAC. For those of you that own DirectStreams you can go here and download Huron onto an SD card and install it in your DAC for free. Couple of reminders: The SD card cannot be larger than 32gB The file […]
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Get ready for the weekend 28

Posted 2 weeks ago

Huron, the revolutionary new upgrade for DirectStream is finished and ready for release. Here’s some background. DirectStream and DirectStream Junior are FPGA based DACs. This means that instead of an off-the-shelf DAC chip as most DACs are, DS products are completely handled in code through a complex arrangement internal to the device. This means the […]
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Audiophiles come close 68

Posted 2 weeks ago

We’re a rare breed, we audiophiles. We get closer to the sound of live music than just about any other group of people on the planet. And yet, we’re miles away from the real event. Stereophile reviewer Herb Reichert sums it up nicely in this ‘ode to live sound’. “I have seen Tina Turner drip […]
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The space that matters 27

Posted 2 weeks ago

How we stack our equipment impacts sound quality. That’s one of the difficulties of separates. With an integrated or a receiver, we give up the rewards of choice enjoyed with separates. In exchange, we get a unit whose interaction and proximity issues have already been dealt with by the designer. I have always advocated separating units by […]
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Counter intuition 8

Posted 2 weeks ago

A glass of water weighs more than a glass of air. So rain clouds floating in air hardly make sense—they are, after all, composed of water. The idea of heavy water floating in light air is counter intuitive. (The answer, by the way, is that the constituent parts of water—oxygen, and hydrogen—have a lower molecular […]
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Generosity 25

Posted 3 weeks ago

I was honored to be a participant on TAS Editor Robert Harley’s panel, Legends. To sit amongst audio luminaries Richard Vandersteen, Bob Stuart, and John Curl was a real treat. And fun too. One of the audience questions was a great one. “What magic words can I use to help friends understand we can hear […]
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Stereotypes 18

Posted 3 weeks ago

If you didn’t know better you’d think the title of this Post meant a type of stereo, when in fact it describes something very different. The term stereotype derives from the Greek words στερεός and τύπος: stereo and impression. An image or representation of an idea or theory. The term originated from the publishing trade […]
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The world is not flat 22

Posted 3 weeks ago

Flatness is not even. Our perception of flat frequency response changes with volume, which is why there isn’t as much bass or treble at low listening levels. The problem with this should be obvious. If our goal is a flat response curve as concerns a meter’s measurement, our system will sound flat only at specific volume […]
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Buzz words 51

Posted 3 weeks ago

Buzz words are everywhere: gluten free, modularity, Dark Web, transparency, imaging. They represent a shortcut to understanding, a lexicon of quick speak to evoke meaning. When I suggest a system is sounding ‘flabby’ an entire concept of sound is communicated in a single word. The problem with buzz words comes when they are added just […]
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