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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.

The Beast 1

Posted sometime

It was the summer of 1987. PS Audio was located near the beach on California’s Central Coast, my family and I perched high atop an inland hill in Atascadero, a pleasant 30 minute morning commute. Earlier that year I had gotten my first taste of the Infinity IRS III speaker system and wanted one more than anything I […]
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Dream setup 34

Posted 20 hours ago

If I were to roll my sleeves up and design a speaker system from scratch, I’d not use passive crossover components connected directly to the drivers—as is done in 99% of all speakers. Being an electronics guy, I’d self amplify this mythical speaker, assigning the right amp for the right driver: class D mega amp for […]
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Passive aggressive 17

Posted 1 day ago

The vast majority of loudspeakers use passive means to separate frequencies. Capacitors, resistors, coils, do the work of splitting music into two, three, four, sometimes five separate paths to individual drivers. This separation allows the best suited driver to handle a specific range of music: large woofers for bass, smaller woofers for midbass, midranges for the next […]
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Speaker extremes 77

Posted 2 days ago

Tomorrow I want to move on to another way of dividing frequencies in speakers, the amplified electronic crossover. But first, let’s wrap passive speakers up with a look at a very expensive one. Wilson Audio has always been among my favorites. Sure, every loudspeaker has its fans and detractors, but ever since the first day I […]
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Woofers and tweeters together 30

Posted 3 days ago

Yesterday I shared with you what a single tweeter looked like. If you’ll recall, it was anything but smooth and flat. But we don’t listen to tweeters alone. Our systems use both woofers and tweeters in the hopes of reproducing flat sound. Here’s a response curve from Stereophile’s review of the YG Anat professional monitor. […]
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Voicing 11

Posted 4 days ago

I am not a speaker designer, but I’ve spent much time with some of the best in the world. I don’t envy their task. When I design electronics the initial work is relatively straightforward and the results predictable. Even first year engineers haven’t too much trouble designing platforms with full frequency response and low distortion. […]
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Getting things right 12

Posted 5 days ago

In yesterday’s post I wrote of the classic 3-way: a 2-way with the addition of yet another frequency dividing network and driver, the midrange. Now that we have a clear idea of how all this works, let’s think about what it takes to make things sound good. Imagine a musician standing in your room. He […]
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Midrange drivers 16

Posted 6 days ago

First, a quick note that John Darko published a terrific, insightful and informative review of DirectStream Junior. Now, on to speakers and crossovers. We’ve covered how tweeters and woofers get their sound isolated for proper operation in a 2-way loudspeaker. The crossover separates highs from lows and sends the signal to the correct driver. Tweeters […]
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Tweet, tweet 19

Posted 1 week ago

When Arnie Nudell first proposed the idea of Genesis loudspeakers he said something I’ll never forget. “A speaker line is based on the tweeter. Everything else follows from there.” Every amazing loudspeaker traces its routes back to its tweeter. Tweeters reproduce the higher frequencies, typically from 1 kHz through 20 kHz. They come in every shape, […]
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Coils and caps 17

Posted 1 week ago

Yesterday we talked of the original AR-1 two-way loudspeaker with its tweeter and woofer. The tweeter is fed only higher frequencies while the woofer, everything else. An electronic circuit called a crossover divides the music into separate outputs to feed the drivers. Here’s a schematic for the AR-1: You’ll note the drawing has two sections. The upper […]
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2-way loudspeakers 19

Posted 1 week ago

The 2-way loudspeaker is the cornerstone of audio. A tweeter and a woofer cover the full spectrum of sound. From the beginning, 2-way speakers had crossovers separating highs from lows. I am no history buff, as Copper Magazine’s editor Bill Leebens is, but my best recollection of an original multi-driver loudspeaker would include the Altec Lansing A-7 […]
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Every design… 15

Posted 1 week ago

…of loudspeaker has its good and bad points. None are perfect. Not even close. With electronics we can get closer to the ideal, though perfection will always remain an elusive goal. Single driver loudspeakers, of which we have been discussing as of late, are no different. I have heard many good ones, and just as […]
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The many hands 10

Posted 1 week ago

Issue 13 of Copper Magazine published this morning. This new issue marks several important milestones, and I wanted to spend this morning going over them. We’ll be back to dividing up speaker frequencies tomorrow. First, there’s a completely new look to the publication. There’s a story to this change. I rely a great deal on the […]
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The first hurdle 24

Posted 1 week ago

I am reminded by the Rio Olympic games how problems can be taken one hurdle at a time. Designers face challenges like runners face obstacles. If you want to design a full range single-driver loudspeaker, there are some seriously tall challenges to face. First and foremost, at least in my mind, is what we commonly […]
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Slicing and dicing 11

Posted 1 week ago

Dividing sound into separate areas of frequency in the hopes of seamless reproduction, is like trying to make a 4-wheel car out of two motorcycles. Possible, yes, seamless, hardly. The reasons we divide reproduction duties between different drivers is to optimize performance. Tweeters are best for high frequencies, woofers for bass. The problem of this slicing and […]
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Divided we stand 3

Posted 2 weeks ago

The task of any loudspeaker is to present a seamless field of music closely resembling the source. To do that, the full range of frequencies within the human auditory experience need to be reproduced. That’s a tall order for a single moving element, yet small single drivers do it all the time, as any headphone aficionado will […]
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1-way, 2-way, 3-way and beyond 9

Posted 2 weeks ago

When buying sunglasses I select rose colored bright lenses and eschew the darker ones. Light rosy lenses magnify my half-full worldview. But not everyone likes the light colored views.  Some head closer to half-empty because we see the world struggling to live up to a rarely-met personal standard. Regardless of the fullness/emptiness of your own glass, how each of […]
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Building in steps 13

Posted 2 weeks ago

None of us build out of pure originality. Each new discovery—aha! moment—came through a series of steps: spaceships from firework rockets, DACs that wouldn’t exist without digital audio pioneers, transistors that wouldn’t have been looked for if not to replace tubes. Ted Smith’s amazing FPGA based DirectStream builds on the work of others. My invention of […]
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Personal biases 39

Posted 2 weeks ago

We each see our respective worlds through glasses colored by personal biases. I view electrostats as head-in-a-vice while others see pinpoint imaging. I view audio transformers as coloring sound while others find them enchanting. My mouth rebels from tasting strawberry ice cream, others swoon. The problem with all these many biases is coming up with an […]
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Electrostats 18

Posted 2 weeks ago

Most of my long time readers know of my love/hate relationship with electrostatic loudspeakers. I’ve owned many but never kept one for too long. I am love with their clarity and window-like see-through qualities, but turned off by their lack of dynamics and their head-in-a-vice requirements. In particular their lack of dynamics. Electrostats haven’t any […]
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Yet another transformer type 13

Posted 2 weeks ago

Before we switch subjects from transformers to something else, and I don’t yet know what, let’s spend two more days looking at other uses for the things. We discussed how transformers work. Two coils of wires, one for the input, the other for the output, couple energy through magnetic fields. The ratio of the turns between […]
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Not all xformers are the same 18

Posted 2 weeks ago

When we think of a vacuum tube power amplifier the first image is that of the classic open frame chassis. Glowing bottles atop a bed of metal with three large transformer-bricks at the rear. The classic McIntosh MC2102 pictured here represents that well. What you won’t see is the donut-like toroidal transformer shapes, and there are […]
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One or the other 9

Posted 3 weeks ago

Modern high end audio equipment uses more toroidal transformers than the classic EI. Exceptions seem to be tube equipment. Why? Which is superior to the other? The choice of transformers has as many variables as opinions on which to choose. Bottom line, there are no right answers. Toroids radiate less noise and are more efficient […]
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Toroidal transformers 21

Posted 3 weeks ago

There are many types of transformers, most using the alphabet to describe them: R-core, C-core, EI, and what’s most in vogue, the toroid. The label toroid comes from its shape—a torus. Torus refers to a rotating circular form around a line that lies in the same plane but does not intersect it. Gobbledygook for a circular shape […]
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Alphabet transformers 8

Posted 3 weeks ago

Now that we understand the benefits of transformers, isolation and getting the voltage where equipment wants it, let’s take a moment to discuss the different types. The two main styles of transformer construction are the traditional brick-looking affair called an EI, and the donut-like toroid. Today we’ll cover the classic EI type. Here’s a picture of what the […]
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