Paul's Picks

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I have written many times about some of the musical selections I rely upon to evaluate speakers, electronics and cables. I am often asked for a partial list of Paul's picks. Here's a list with some pertinent notes.
  • Holly Cole, Temptation, Train Song. My friend Arnie turned me on to this old chestnut. Great for tonality and imaging. Bass instrument mistakes a lot of the fret work and it's easy to hear. Whistles and sound effects seem tough for DACS to get right.
  • Nils Lofgren, Acoustic, Keith Don't Go. Ok, everyone's sick of this album and this track. I do this for a living and the over-played tracks are over-played for good reason. This is amazing for any number of qualities. The richness of the guitar plucks and harmonic content can be very revealing.
  • Boz Scaggs, The Essential Boz Scags, Thanks to You. Great bass track, most systems won't reproduce the lowest synth note on the end of the first riff. This is where using a proper subwoofer is very revealing. Good vocals.
  • Cantate Domino, Proprius, Koreansk folkmelodi. Another old chestnut. Terri's favorite track, brings tears to people's eyes if reproduced well. Can be screechy if not.
  • Buddy Holly, From the Original Master Tapes, True Love's Ways. Part of the New York recording sessions around 1958. Stunning recording for vocal timbers and depth of image.
  • Mahler 2nd, and Mahler 5th San Francisco Blue Coast. The entire Mahler series is stunning and available as DSD or PCM high rez downloads. Some of the best classical around.
  • George Frideric Handel, Arias for Durastanti, Qual Leon. Great arrangement and tonality, spaciousness is good. Hard to reproduce, can sound quite analytical and CD-like if not on a good DAC.
  • Diana Krall, Stepping Out, Body and Soul. This piece is a good commercial recording with restricted dynamics and compressed sounding until you hear it on a proper DAC and discover its other qualities that lie hidden.
  • Brian Bromberg, Wood, Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers. Perfect for hearing the quick pluck of the standup bass and making sure the instrument sounds as if it were in the room with you.
  • Shelby Lynne, Just a little Lovin', Just a little lovin', analog tape recording in studio, proper transfer to digital. The cymbals and rim shots are excellent and few DACS and power amps can do proper justice to them. I first discovered this when DirectStream came on the scene. With any other DAC the cymbal sounds 'normal' and expected. On DS you can hear the metal of the cymbal. Almost eerie. Pre-echo tape bleed on her voice is quite apparent if everything's setup correctly.
  • Red Norvo, The Forward Look, How's your mother-in-law? One of Keith Johnson's earliest works. Recording at distance from the group and the sensation you are there, in the audience, is extraordinary if everything's working right. This is one of those gems that can easily flatten out if you haven't gotten your system setup properly. Should be 100% divorced from and behind the loudspeakers.
  • David Roth, Pearl Diver, Stockfisch Records, Vincent. I found this on a giveaway CD at the Hong Kong Audio show and find it an enjoyable cover of this classic with wonderful tonal balance and vocal accuracy.
  • Mari Kodama, Pentatone, Appassionata. This classic Beethoven piano piece helps me with determining complex passages and how electronic pieces fare when pressed with intricate harmonics and overtones.
  • Daft Punk, Random Access Memories, Within. Stunning recording showing off what's possible on 44.1kHz CDs when you are able to pull all that is there on the track with something like DirectStream. This is one of those tracks that until you hear what's there, you can never know what's missing.
  • George Frideric Handel, Apollo e Dafne, Come Rosa. Recorded in a very live room the hall ambience is terribly revealing of minor details and is difficult for electronics of all kinds to get it right.
  • John Rutter, Rutter Requiem, Requiem Aeternam. Like Big? Pipe organs? This amazing piece has a chorus that seems in the room, filling the soundstage wall to wall and just when you thought it couldn't sound more real the pipe organ kicks the lower pedals and your jaw drops. Few systems can handle this piece appropriately.
  • Keith Greeninger & Dayan Kai, Looking for a Home, Bluecoast. Great recording by Cookie. The performers are in the room. What always gets me about this recording is the desire to turn the level up, so good is the performance and when you reach lifelike volume levels, they get over loud on you and it takes quite an amplification chain to handle those surprise dynamics. Anything less than the best power amplifiers 'squeal' in protest.
  • Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, Welcome to the machine. Ok, you've gotten everything right and you just want to blow your socks off on the IRSV then this'll do it.
Of course I have dozens more but these give you an idea of the different tracks, genres and breath of music I use to make sure one of our products lives up to expectations.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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