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Paul’s Posts

PS Audio founder and CEO, Paul McGowan, takes a few hours each day to write to readers of his daily post series. Subjects range from how to setup your system to helping you understand the complex technical issues of streaming, vinyl, tubes, transistors, loudspeakers, holographic imaging and more. Not much is sacred; there’s no hype or sales pitch. Easy to subscribe and even easier to unsubscribe if you wish. Join us.

Real time analyzers 1

Posted sometime

Several readers have been asking how we measured the response of the speakers in the sound room. As well, others have asked if there is a good test for determining if your ears are working well. I’ll share with you what we did and do. To measure your loudspeaker’s response you will need two things: […]
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We funny humans 12

Posted 19 hours ago

As I reported yesterday the tweeter circuit in the IRSV right channel took a nose dive recently and it wasn’t immediately apparent to me. I was speaking with a good friend about this and he was a bit incredulous. “But you have listened to these speakers, that system, more than anyone and you know it […]
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Looking through glasses 27

Posted 1 day ago

How very strange the way music travels through a wire. Imagine trying to explain to someone from the past that it does. He would think you a magician or a liar. And stranger still is how music passes through a capacitor. Not a wire where electrons march through physical material, but through space without benefit of a […]
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Capacitors 5

Posted 2 days ago

Inside a film capacitor there’s not a lot going on: plastic and tin foil mainly. Other types of capacitors known as electrolytics, used mostly in power supplies, also have nasty chemicals in addition to the foil. Film type capacitors are used in many applications but of particular note this morning is a loudspeaker crossover. Capacitors […]
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Is ‘bits is bits’ bunk? 21

Posted 3 days ago

“It can’t sound any different, bits is bits!” And yet the empirical evidence suggests otherwise in example after example: comparison between DACs, hard drives vs. optical medium, digital cables, power supplies, Macs vs. Windows, and the list goes on. I used to think the staunch refusal to acknowledge empirical results may just be that some are uncomfortable with concepts they do not […]

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Observations and expectations 6

Posted 4 days ago

One of the pitfalls of being an evaluator is presupposing the results. For example, if you test drive a new car and think “I am going to like this car” then you may miss some of the problems you might otherwise have found. This happens because you cloud your judgment with expectations of what you think will […]
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It’s ok to make the wrong call 7

Posted 5 days ago

Critics are people whose opinions are valued by others, and we’re all critics to someone. Perhaps your children look to you for approval on food, movies or entertainment. Or maybe it’s your contemporaries with whom you look for guidance. Or maybe you read and contribute on a blog of like-minded people who offer their evaluations of music […]
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Sommelier of the ear 12

Posted 6 days ago

I watched with fascination as aspiring sommelier’s identified wine types by tasting. Not only did they accurately identify year, country and vineyard, but in some cases much more. And all from tasting the wine in a blind test. Sound familiar? Most Audiophiles I know of have a similar set of skills that rely on all the senses and […]
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Amplifier artforms 9

Posted 1 week ago

Sometimes that which I write can conflict with my world view of what we do. This happens when I am trying to make a point about one thing and unintentionally is at the expense of something else. A good example was yesterday’s post where I suggested a vacuum tube was the last thing I would design […]
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Food for thought 5

Posted 1 week ago

One of my readers asked me an interesting question recently concerning the appropriate time to make the transition from analog to digital. Should you do it as soon as the digital audio comes from the source, as you would in a DAC? Or would it be better to keep it in its native form as […]
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Make the right choice 15

Posted 1 week ago

Thank goodness we have choices in the devices we design into an amplifier; not all are best for a given application. If you were to ask me to list the worst devices to build a power amplifier output stage a vacuum tube would be first. And there are a number of reasons why. Let’s remind ourselves […]
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Class B, AB, and A 12

Posted 1 week ago

Ever wonder what the classes of amplifiers mean? There’s Class A, Class AB, Class B (and a few others). Here’s a bit of history and an explanation. Early transistor power amplifiers had their share of problems: crossover distortion, poorly designed output stages, slew rate limitations, transient slewing, little attention paid to power supplies. These failings […]
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Turning the tide 8

Posted 1 week ago

Once the transistor had been released to the general engineering community it didn’t take long before those that used it stopped trying to duplicate tube circuits and ventured out into the new design idea phase. At that time tube designers were still the majority and in audio circles they reigned supreme, unaware of the impending […]
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Early amplifiers 4

Posted 1 week ago

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the early transistor amps invading the hi fi and consumer electronics scene were dreadful sounding. But why? The tale is long and complicated, filled with many twists and turns and the complete story is not within the scope or space of these short daily posts. But I can shed some […]
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Audio tsunami 14

Posted 1 week ago

My friend Jack Bybee once told me the only result of being first in the marketplace is to be the recipient of many arrows in your rear end. In his opinion, bringing new technology to market rarely benefits the brave soul that introduces it. Instead, it’s better to wait until all the problems are worked out […]
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Trends and patterns 9

Posted 2 weeks ago

If you look back through the history of high end audio amplification you see numerous design trends, followed by patterns of development to address their shortcomings and maximize their strengths. Take vacuum tubes for example. The first power amplifiers were what we would now call SET (single ended triodes) where one tube fed an output transformer […]
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Hard vs. soft 6

Posted 2 weeks ago

Ever think about where the naming of wares as hard and soft must have come from? I was sitting in an engineering meeting last week and the subject turned from DirectStream’s new operating system release, to the upcoming BHK amp and preamp. We switched mental gears quickly and when the subject of upgrades came along I just […]
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Added warmth 8

Posted 2 weeks ago

Over on the forums there’s a lot of talk about providing multiple versions of the Pikes operating system for DirectStream. Good conversations. Stimulating talk. The idea centers around tuning the OS to each person’s system. Create multiple OS releases, some warmer, some cooler, others with stronger top ends, still others with better bass. It’s an […]
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Making everyone happy 9

Posted 2 weeks ago

Ok, we know that’s not going to happen. Not with the latest Pikes upgrade for DirectStream, not with the latest tweak to a cable, power conditioner, feature on a Power Plant regenerator or favorite vacuum tube. Which can be frustrating for those building products that make music in people’s homes. But sometimes, amazingly, we get it right enough to […]
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It’s easy! 11

Posted 2 weeks ago

Yesterday we launched a new operating system for DirectStream called Pikes Peak. The raves are coming in and we are very gratified to read them and share experiences. Ted’s work on the DAC continues to evolve and we all enjoy the benefits of his brilliance. That the upgraded operating system is free is another benefit […]
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Climbing the mountain 7

Posted 2 weeks ago

We just released a new operating system for DirectStream DAC. Some of the first reactions to the upgraded OS are very gratifying. This quote, from an admitted skeptic, sums it up nicely. Let me start off by saying I’m a bit of a tweak sceptic. Given this and the fact that the last firmware upgrade did not […]
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Cable break in 2

Posted 2 weeks ago

Before I finish the story of the first regenerator I started yesterday, I wanted to share with you a fascinating discussion taking place on our forums. The question had been asked “why do cables break in?” Our resident software genius, Ted Smith, was brave enough to venture an answer. I learned a lot from the discussion […]
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Harebrained schemes 21

Posted 3 weeks ago

We’ve been discussing why we and other manufacturers don’t build regenerators into our equipment. Real estate and expense is certainly one of the biggest reasons. But one of my readers correctly pointed out we actually did build a regenerator into one of our products and I think I remember Mark Levinson (the company, not the […]
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..and let’s not forget 5

Posted 3 weeks ago

While I am busy picking on Class D power amplifiers and their noisy power supplies polluting our AC lines we should not let traditional power supplies off the hook either. No, in fact, traditional power supplies can be just as nasty as Class D, just different. A conventional power supply gets its power mostly at […]
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Kickbacks 7

Posted 3 weeks ago

We’ve discussed some of the basics problems Class D amplifiers have when used as AC regenerators. The last problem I will discuss is one that applies not only to Class D amplifiers in regenerators, but in audio amplifiers as well.  It concerns not what the speaker or equipment AC input sees, but what your wall socket sees. […]
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