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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.

Can you hear that? 5

Posted sometime

In the early 1980s, graduate student Karlheinz Brandenburg began working on digital music from an unusual perspective. How much detail could be removed before the average listener noticed what was missing? His efforts paid off with the creation of MP3, the first popularly accepted lossy music compression scheme. MP3 changed the world. Where once file […]
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Lengthening words 21

Posted 21 hours ago

Author’s writing guides advise caution when it comes to the number of words in a sentence. Fewer are preferred. Likewise, dollar words should be avoided when pennies will do. The same isn’t true for digital audio, where longer is better. We prefer 32 bits to 16—more information rather than less. Twenty years ago when Bob Stadtherr, Arnie Nudell, and […]
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Breaking bad 26

Posted 1 day ago

We break in horses, shoes, jeans, speakers, gloves, phono cartridges, hats, skis, and cars without batting an eye. Suggest the same for electronics and the scoffs are unmistakable. We understand the mechanical, yet struggle with the notion of invisible electrons finding better routes from which to operate. Not all electronic break-in is a mystery, like […]
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Jumping to conclusions 14

Posted 2 days ago

The moment you place a new piece of gear in a system the clock begins ticking and the questions fly. Is this better or worse? If I’ve made gains, what were the qualities lost? How do you evaluate the new within the old? Our systems have been set up and optimized for existing components. Newcomers […]
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Two ways to look at a problem 6

Posted 3 days ago

The problem with problems is they first need recognition. If you don’t see something as a problem, you won’t look for a solution. Take AC power as an example. If your HiFi system displays a constant low-level grunge, or a bright tinge riding atop music’s notes, chances are good you have an AC problem. Some […]
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Stacking the deck 8

Posted 4 days ago

Technology stacks; one advancement atop another. Like building blocks, or cards. Without computers there would be no digital audio, without digital audio there would be no DACs, without DACs there would be no personal music player built into inch-long headphones. Each time we advance the state of one art, another benefits from it. This makes predicting […]
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Cagey 18

Posted 5 days ago

There are two camps when it comes to protecting intellectual property: cagey/secret, and open/forthright. Most companies producing technological equipment fall into the first camp, cagey/secret. They dance around their consumer offerings, extolling the advantages of unexplained mystery technology. They never reveal their magician’s tricks. Then there’s the few who do their best to be open […]

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What we don’t know hurts us 23

Posted 6 days ago

Counter to the old chestnut, ignorance is bliss, I would suggest the opposite is true when building and enjoying great systems. If you don’t know that cables matter, electronics sound different, compression formats are not the same—that it all matters—then you are missing what others enjoy. Every low-end audio consumer exposed to the high-end comes […]
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Where to draw the line? 32

Posted 1 week ago

Choices that impact only us are easy to make. Only my waistline is affected by my eating decisions. Expand the circle to friends and family and decisions become more difficult. The larger the group, the more varied the opinions. And what happens when the group balloons to thousands, like our customer base? Suddenly the sphere […]
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Cathedral ceilings 22

Posted 1 week ago

If I could change one parameter of Music Room One it would be the ceiling height and shape. We are fortunate for the ceiling’s height, at ten feet. And we are fortunate the speakers are a line source which negates much of the ceiling and floor bounce. But, if you’ve ever had the chance to hear […]
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Failures 7

Posted 1 week ago

There are lots of failures. Take this contraption as an example. Functionally sound, but could you imagine using this without cracking yourself up in the mirror? (apologies to any of you that own this) One of the tenets of being an entrepreneur is the acceptance of failure. Innovators constantly fail, more often than they succeed, but they pick themselves […]
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Getting a grip 23

Posted 1 week ago

Yesterday’s post, Blurred Numbers, made the point it’s near impossible to visualize the high speeds and tiny spaces we take for granted in audio. We think nothing of slicing sound into 192,000 individual sections each second. We think even less of what happens to each of those 192,000 sections—themselves broken into 2,147,483,647 additional steps (for 32 […]
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Blurred numbers 13

Posted 1 week ago

I can remember when a million sounded like a big number. A thousand, thousand. That’s a lot of thousands. New highway construction was always in the hundreds of thousands per mile; suddenly a mile jumped to a clean million dollars. The neater number package of a simple “one million” made it easier swallow than the more […]
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Bending with the crowd 48

Posted 1 week ago

Sometimes we set the pace, other times we try and keep up. Take MQA for example. As my readers know I’ve not been as big an advocate as others have. I have heard impressive demonstrations, but none that would make me run home and stop other engineering projects in its favor. Yet, it’s important to […]
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Battle of the bots 26

Posted 1 week ago

We are fortunate because we live in a time of great technological change. Within most of our lifetimes, the user interface will completely change from touch to speech. It’s no longer science fiction. I have always been a fan of the human interface: human to human, human to machine, machine to human. We first interfaced with […]
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More is better 55

Posted 2 weeks ago

When people come to hear the IRSV system in Music Room One they’re always in awe of the number of drivers: 36 tweeters, 12 midranges, 6 woofers per side. Most loudspeakers have one of each: tweeter, woofer, perhaps a midrange. On a speaker like the IRS, the duties are shared. Each tweeter handles 1/36th of […]
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Dialing it in 19

Posted 2 weeks ago

In yesterday’s post, I suggested the use of a cool Laser leveler device to dial in your loudspeakers. I still support its use (I find it invaluable). Laser light can damage your eyesight. Don’t look directly into the laser light. The idea behind the laser cross-hatch is simple. You’d like the tweeter to be aimed pretty much directly […]
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The cheapest tweak ever 33

Posted 2 weeks ago

Pardon me, if you’ve heard this before, but tweeters are particular. Their wavelengths are so very short, often less than an inch, that small changes in distance to your eas can make big differences in sound quality—in particular, imaging. I have two trusty tools you can use to fix this problem. The first, you know […]
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How do you know? 35

Posted 2 weeks ago

Does your system give you the lowest bass notes? Is it right in the room? How would you actually know? I don’t need to remind most of my readers of the value I place on adequate, accurate, bass. It’s the foundation of a good system and most systems get it wrong. Subwoofers are almost always a […]
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Great and free 38

Posted 2 weeks ago

Just about everything Google does is free. Google search, Docs, Gmail, maps, Earth, and so on. In fact, one of the coolest apps I have ever used is Google Translate. And it’s free. Dining at an Italian, French, or Chinese restaurant and can’t read the menu? Open the app, click on the camera and point the […]
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The art of metal 28

Posted 2 weeks ago

When Stan and I first started PS Audio we did everything ourselves. Literally. We punched each hole in the chassis, sheared the metal, bent it, silk screened the letters on, cut the walnut end blocks on a table saw, hand sanded each one, oiled them with Watco. We even silk screened, etched, and drilled every […]
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Does knowledge limit magic? 17

Posted 2 weeks ago

Enjoying a fresh cup of coffee this morning I am in awe at a most amazing sunrise. Reds and oranges color the eastern sky with a fluorescent palette—a work of art. But why? Why the color in the morning and not at noon? Ordinary sunlight is composed of a spectrum of colors that range from […]
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How much power do I need? 19

Posted 3 weeks ago

It’s a great question when it comes to pairing amplifiers and speakers. One that’s often asked, though rarely understood. Most reasonably efficient loudspeakers can be driven from a wimpy SET amp to reasonable levels if you’re ok with distortion. And, you probably are, since SET amps distort in a most graceful manner. But is it […]
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Sound of silicon 21

Posted 3 weeks ago

I remember the first time we dropped a JFET in place of a BJT. Wow! What difference. More tube-like, softer, rounder, less detail. Interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the idea that you can simply substitute one device for another without any other changes is always fascinating. Second, the two types of silicon are […]
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Keeping things warm 50

Posted 3 weeks ago

When PS Audio began in the early 1970s, Stan and I would not allow power switches on our products. Nada. Nothing. Why? Because neither of us would tolerate the idea of turning products off, only to then force owners to warm it back up again before listening. So counter to convention was this practice that […]
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