Court and Spark

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Back in the mid 1970's when Stan and I were first starting PS Audio we both had a lot to learn: Stan electronics, me listening. Stan was the Audiophile while I was the nerd who knew how to design stuff and we both helped each other learn what was missing in our quest to build a high end audio company that could bring affordable equipment to Audiophiles.

At the time we had but one product: the original phono preamplifier. Our goal was to get as close as we could to the Audio Research SP3 preamplifier's phono stage and that, I assure you, was a tall order. The SP3 has always been one of the most musical and enjoyable sounding preamplifers I have ever listened to: even to this day. It has a wonderful, big, rich and euphonic sound to it - accuracy not being part of its vocabulary - but musicality is over the top. Our competing design was more accurate, had better bass response, better measured response, yet sounded less like music than did the AR.

At first I had to rely completely on Stan's judgment of the differences and that was a frustrating experience for me. I could hear the differences between the two quite plainly, but to my ears the extended bass response, crisper highs and smoother sound of the PS product was better than the Audio Research which sounded rather bloated and tubby to me. Stan assured me that one sounded musical and the other did not. It was a mystery but I trusted Stan's ears and they were confirmed by every other Audiophile in the room.

After every listening session we'd discuss what our next steps were to get closer to our reference. For me it was like shooting in the dark because while I could hear every change we made I couldn't really tell if it was Audiophile better or just different.

One of the most popular albums of the time was Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark and we listened to tracks like Help Me and Free man in Paris until I think I knew every note and word by heart. I focused intently on the bass, the highs, the depth of the image till I thought my brain would hurt.

As we got closer to the Audio Research reference sound, a process that consumed nearly a year, I started to understand what it was Stan was hearing and I was not.

Tomorrow, we'll share the rest of the story together.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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