Trying too hard

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When we first started PS Audio in the mid 1970's Stan and I were hell bent for leather on getting as close as we could to our reference preamplifier's sound, the Audio Research SP3A4 which is still a great sounding, musically satisfying design even to this day. We wanted to produce an affordable version of this fine preamplifier, one people like us could afford as the SP3 was, in those days, a lot of money.

As we got closer to the musicality of the AR, with our solid state design, I was still struggling to hear this "musicality". Focusing as hard as I could on the quality of the cymbals, the pluck of the bass the tiny nuances of the voice I could certainly tell differences but I could not, for the life of me, tell which was more musical. Musicality in a piece of stereo equipment was a concept that really eluded me - yet seemed so obvious to the group of Audiophiles we knew at the time.

It's tough being the one guy in the crowd that knew more about how things worked but less about how well they worked than anyone else.

I was always a music fan and went to as many live concerts as I could but honestly, those concerts never sounded even remotely the same as even the best stereo systems I had ever heard. Yet this live music seemed to be the standard by which everyone judged the performance quality of their stereos. It was baffling.

The big breakthrough for me came from my partner in PS, Stan Warren. Stan said something like "you're simply trying too hard. You're focusing on the gnats and gagging on the whales. Does one sound closer to actual musicians playing in the room and the other more like a hi fi system trying to duplicate the same?"

Surely it couldn't be that simple. What Stan was telling me was something I have never forgotten to this day - to stop focusing on the little specific bits in a performance and step back to take in the whole experience - despite the fact the musicians never really sound like they are in the room (in the literal sense of the words) it is all relative.

It may seem obvious to many of you what I have just written and I am sure my initial ignorance applies only to me and a few like me. I get very literal at times - a tendency I see a lot in our engineers and programmers. The nerd in me was just struggling to look so closely at the details in order to find the whole.

We'll look deeper tomorrow.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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