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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.

Shopping for inputs 1

Posted sometime

Preamplifiers consist of three essential elements: input selection, volume control, output. Of the three the volume control is by far the most difficult to get right, but the input selector isn’t far behind. Few of us give much thought to the mechanics of switching inputs. Your preamp might have four, perhaps five input choices. Some have as […]
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Volume, balance, oh my… 29

Posted 22 hours ago

As part of our new affordable line of electronics, Stellar, we’re building what’s known as a “pre-DAC” though I am not big on that term. A pre-DAC is a preamp and DAC combo. Analog preamp, digital DAC, one box. The term I prefer is Control DAC and that’s what the new Stellar piece is called. The […]
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Surround sound 27

Posted 1 day ago

One of the joys of the upcoming holiday season for me is music. The best venue is right around the corner. The University of Colorado is within walking distance of our home and each year the college of music puts on a sold out spectacular in the university’s Macky auditorium—one of the better sounding venues […]
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Clean vinyl 38

Posted 2 days ago

My son Scott created Sprout to satisfy his lust for vinyl. I don’t believe he even owns a CD. I gave up my fascination with vinyl years ago, yet it still holds a soft spot in my heart. When I read about a product that’s life changing, I want to share with others. Michael Fremer […]
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Wrapping it up 14

Posted 3 days ago

We’ll wrap up our series on balanced audio today. I think it’s run its course and then some! The last balanced piece I want to touch upon is the phono cartridge. Phono cartridges are all balanced. This is because a phono cartridge is a coil of wire with two ends—naturally balanced audio comes out. Unfortunately it’s […]
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Diff, diff 23

Posted 4 days ago

I had mentioned in yesterday’s post the standard way to build a balanced output stage was to simply tack on another amplifier that flips the phase around. That’s pretty much how it’s done, but it isn’t best because it’s “unbalanced”. A purposefully misleading statement. Adding an extra stage for one signal that is not present for the other is […]

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Balanced outs 10

Posted 5 days ago

If you’re going to use balanced audio cables you need a balanced output from the source driving those cables. That source can be generated from an output transformer (as we do in DirectStream DAC), a phono cartridge (sometimes), or a piece of audio kit properly configured. Of all the tasks and challenges for the design engineer, […]
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It gets even better 14

Posted 6 days ago

I’ll try not to extend this series on balanced audio too much longer. I don’t want to wear out my welcome. But I do think its an important subject to understand and not as many people as I would hope seem to grasp its importance—especially the British. As best I can tell British hifi companies […]
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A new difference 11

Posted 1 week ago

We make friends by focusing on our common experiences, thoughts, opinions, and tastes. If our differences are too great, we typically don’t bond. The opposite is true with a difference amplifier, the heart of most electronics you listen to. We’ve looked at balanced inputs and cables to discover how balanced audio ignores common noise and amplifies only […]
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Pop quiz 4

Posted 1 week ago

What do airplane wings, teeter totters, balancing scales, subtraction, gravel sorters, batteries, stereophonic sound, and balanced audio have in common? They all rely on differences. Airplane wings can lift tonnage by the differences in air pressure between the top and bottom surface. Put two equal weight people on a teeter totter and nothing happens. Place two identical […]
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Double your pleasure 13

Posted 1 week ago

I had promised in yesterday’s post to get a bit more depth of understanding about balanced audio. We learned that balanced audio cables achieve their superior immunity to both radiated electro and magnetic noises by the use of a differential amplifier—a device that amplifies only differences, ignoring anything in common. Since radiated noises contaminate both conductors […]
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The war of noise 20

Posted 1 week ago

There’s nothing more irritating than a buzz, tizz, or hiss permeating the room when we’re critically listening. How distracting! You close your eyes to hear deep into the symphony’s soft passage and visualize the musicians at work. “Hummmmmmm.” The illusion is suddenly shattered by an unnatural hum or electronic sound. Unless we rely upon an […]
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Working out our differences 8

Posted 1 week ago

There are two types of analog connecting cables between audio equipment: single ended and balanced. A single ended cable has an outer protective ground shield and one signal conductor, a balanced cable simply adds another signal cable to the mix. That “simple” addition of another signal cable is the key to balanced audio’s success at lowering […]
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Ins and outs 12

Posted 1 week ago

I think one of the problems people face understanding balanced audio has to do with how it is applied. The terms that get thrown around, like true balanced, are so generalized they lose meaning. They get inaccurately applied across the board. In tomorrow’s post I will show you how a balanced signal works and why. But […]
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Togetherness 28

Posted 1 week ago

I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your kindness and community I so enjoy. It’s been five years—six this August, that I have been allowed to write these posts every day. What a privilege to have written more than 2,000 columns, sharing with readers the many stories, experiences, laughs, trials, […]
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Promoting dischord 4

Posted 2 weeks ago

Balanced audio isn’t very friendly. While most in society strive for harmony and agreement, the basics of balanced audio call for the exact opposite: a complete rejection of anything in common. But peace and harmony aren’t what we want when we turn to a balanced approach to signal handling. We’re going to start our understanding […]
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Overnight success 42

Posted 2 weeks ago

It takes about ten years of hard work to become an overnight success. In the case of balanced audio, it took many more than ten. Balanced audio has been around as long as there have been audio transformers in use—and that’s a long, long time. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit […]
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Truth or fiction? 16

Posted 2 weeks ago

If you approach a piece of equipment with balanced inputs your expectation seems obvious. To enjoy balanced audio’s benefits, of which there are many. You would rightly feel cheated if that balanced input wasn’t actually doing anything differently than its single ended mate. Right? Such is the buyer’s dilemma. Not all XLR inputs are balanced. And this […]
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Maintaining balance 38

Posted 2 weeks ago

There was a time when almost no high-end audio equipment had balanced inputs. Today, the opposite is true. The same cannot be said about pro audio equipment, where balanced ins and outs have been the standard for as long as I can remember. The reason pros adopted balanced is easy. Noise reduction. I don’t imagine the same […]
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Words 32

Posted 2 weeks ago

We use words to describe that which we feel, see, hear, and imagine. Inadequate at best, commonly misleading, words struggle to convey meaning. I had suggested in my post of a few days ago that our engineering team was able to “neutralize” the problems common to class D output stages in anticipation of connecting a robust Analog […]
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Painting pictures 52

Posted 2 weeks ago

Authors paint pictures with words, composers with notes, musicians with sound. Watching the terrific PBS series Soundbreaking last night I was inspired by the late George Martin describing how once, producers made every effort to perfectly photograph sound. Thanks to his own ground breaking innovations with the Beatles, first heard on their album Revolver in Lennon’s Tomorrow never […]

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A touch of magic 51

Posted 2 weeks ago

Before we get into today’s post I wanted to let my USA readers know of a program worth watching. Soundbreaking. It is an eight-part series that airs on Wednesday nights on PBS. I rarely have time for TV, but this is worth it. We’ve been plugging along on our story of achieving neutrality in an […]
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Hybrids 18

Posted 3 weeks ago

They’re all the rage in cars though we’re more interested in audio. One of the first hybrids I am familiar with was Bascom H. King’s seminal achievement, the Infinity Hybrid Class A, a tube/solid state design released in 1978 and reviewed by the late J.Gordon Holt in Stereophile. More would follow, and were for some time […]
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Old dog tricks 47

Posted 3 weeks ago

Ashton Haga is one of the smartest people on our staff. She runs the front office and handles accounting “stuff”. To be honest, I could not fill out a job description for her because I am essentially clueless. I just know we can’t exist long without her. I was again flummoxed over a recurring problem that […]
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I’ve been robbed! 28

Posted 3 weeks ago

Way back in 1997 when I restarted PS Audio, it was to address a problem that had really bothered me for quite some time. Being robbed of harmonic richness—the overtones of music you didn’t know were missing until they were returned. In those early days the thieves were passive power conditioners that bleached music into […]
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