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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.

Setup recording 21

Posted 54 minutes ago

I have a lot of long term projects in my head and one that comes up often is the creation of a setup CD (or LP). There have been attempts at just such a product in the past. Stereophile’s setup CD remains one of my favorites. When I set up a new system I always […]
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Demanding proof 40

Posted 1 day ago

There are plenty of loud voices in audio. Is it incumbent on us to answer them? What is it in our nature that when we’re faced with a proposition we don’t agree with we revert to crossing our arms and assuming a defensive posture? Is it a form of protection and, if so, protection from what? […]
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Expert mistakes 33

Posted 2 days ago

How many mistakes does it take to become an expert? We tend to judge experts by their cumulative successes and years of learning, but I would argue a more valuable metric might just be how many times they’ve failed. We learn to walk by falling over. If I am interested in a stereo setup expert I […]
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Hobby or lifeline? 19

Posted 3 days ago

For some, building a reference audio system is a hobby. For others, their life’s blood. Which is it for you? When I ask this question of people I often sense a defensive reaction as if one envokes less passion or commitment than the other. I am not sure we need to make that distinction. Sure, the […]
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Goosebumps 22

Posted 4 days ago

When it’s cold, tiny muscles stand our body hairs on end creating a sort of blanket to trap and warm air. We call them goosebumps. When awe strikes, those same tiny muscles bristle in response to strong emotions—emotions sometimes invoked by music. It doesn’t happen often but when a crescendo lifts us out of our […]
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Radical ideas 29

Posted 5 days ago

Whenever I hear the term “radical new idea” two things happen: my ears perk up and my caution guard goes up too. I think most of us are both interested and skeptical of radical change. We love the idea of the new, the radical, the brass ring solution that leapfrogs us away from the land […]
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Microphone preamps 36

Posted 6 days ago

As Gus Skinas and we build out the new recording facility we run into the inevitable issues of electronics, in particular, the microphone preamplifiers. There are so many opinions on which preamp topology betters the next you’d think we were back in audiophile land. Maybe worse. There’s transformer coupled designs, transformerless, tubes, transistors, high voltage, […]
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Turntable setup 34

Posted 1 week ago

Proper setup of a turntable’s arm and cartridge are more important to great performance than even the electronics it feeds. Of course, it’s all a system and even the most accurate setup won’t sound great through a mediocre phono preamplifier but it’s equally true that the world’s best phono stage won’t be worth its cost […]
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Investing 13

Posted 1 week ago

For most of us, our stereo systems are lifelong investments. We’re not casual buyers of commodities. Instead, we do our research, get advice, study the forums, speak to our friends, go to shows, and work hard at getting up to speed like savvy Wall Street players. We rarely subscribe to collectives as a monied mutual […]
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Happiness is… 29

Posted 1 week ago

We’ll likely never know what happiness was to John Lennon but we can get a glimpse of his wry humor when he wrote the song Happiness is a warm gun. The title, taken from the cover of a gun magazine, was so outlandish he said, “I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to […]
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Keeping it personal 19

Posted 1 week ago

Emotions, as well as passions, run deep in high-end audio and that’s one of the reasons I am personally invested in it. In our discussions on preferences for the various camps of reproduction—like vinyl vs. digital—emotions sometimes run as deep as political differences between Democrats and Republicans. I’ve seen near fist fights erupt at audio […]
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Navigating through fog 20

Posted 1 week ago

When we attempt to navigate through the unknown we rely on what’s worked in the past. This matters because we often find ourselves in unfamiliar territories, like when we get a new piece of gear. If you’re installing a new component in your system your hopes for success are likely high. You’ve pre-imagined how it might […]
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Building foundations 21

Posted 1 week ago

I am not a building contractor but I’ve watched enough new construction to know a few things, like the importance of building a strong foundation. Constructing a beautiful home atop a shaky base is just asking for trouble. (Though, the opposite is equally true) Top to bottom foundational strength matters in our music systems too. […]
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Making luck 17

Posted 1 week ago

Can we make luck in the same way we make other things like love, fun, and music? Luck can seem so random at times especially when the dictionary defines it as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” What would happen if we viewed luck more as a result […]
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Bewildering 24

Posted 1 week ago

Imagine the angst of a first-time buyer of high-end audio equipment. Few places offer systems and everywhere there’s a bewildering array of component choices. Where does one start on a hi-fi journey? It used to be that we went to our local dealer and picked from amongst a tier of systems from the affordable to […]
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Take only pictures 31

Posted 2 weeks ago

If you hike a bit you’re bound to see signs about leaving the land as you found it. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” The origins of this saying aren’t as clear to me as its meaning. Do no harm. This simple idea might be good advice for more than just hikers—it can easily apply […]
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Is it right? 26

Posted 2 weeks ago

How do you know when the system’s right? Some of us figure it’s fine when music sounds the way we expect. Others need to reach a certain level of excitement while still others rely on the judgment of others. Clearly, if your system continually provides an expected level of enjoyment there’s no need to even ponder […]
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Buying speakers over the internet 37

Posted 2 weeks ago

More and more products are being sold over the internet: speakers, amplifiers, CD players, televisions, even automobiles. More people are willing to click a button to buy than ever before. It is certainly more convenient to click a mouse than to drag yourself into the car and journey to the store, yet mouse clicking doesn’t […]
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World’s most popular IC 15

Posted 2 weeks ago

Here’s a bit of nostalgia for you. My first, and to date only, attempt at programming used the world’s most popular integrated circuit ever manufactured—the venerable 555 Timer. The 555 timer is a simple device. It is an 8-pin IC that can be configured as an oscillator, clock or simple timer with the addition of one […]
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Sounds like wine 20

Posted 2 weeks ago

A friend dropped off a bottle of pinot the other night and I just got around to enjoying a small glass before dinner. It tastes nothing like the light, soft and easy on the palette pinots I am familiar with. This particular blend reminds me more of a rich Burgundy (of course the Burgundy region […]
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Source specific 21

Posted 2 weeks ago

Every component in our system was chosen based on our source preference: digital or vinyl. If we’re assembling a vinyl system then everything that follows is judged on how good music tracked with a needle sounds. Or, if digital, how a CD sounds. We’ve covered this ground before but it is ground worth revisiting. When […]
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Music like novels 9

Posted 2 weeks ago

An author starts with a story and builds a novel around it: filling in the characters, describing the place and time, build tension and release points, offer cues and setups for what is to come and weave a credible tale from the small kernel of a story. It seems to me a composer must do […]
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Words and pictures 13

Posted 3 weeks ago

We use words to describe pictures, concepts, models, and experiences. They are imprecise and open to interpretation. Remember the Telephone Game where a short story is repeated from person to person and at the end nothing like its beginning? I have for years tried to explain the dance between impedance, voltage, current and all things […]
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Running interference 102

Posted 3 weeks ago

I have long been fascinated that reviewer Michael Fremer finds PCM copies of vinyl listenable yet not CDs. Both are employing the same digital technology, yet one is listenable while the other not. How can that be? And here’s another question. When mastering engineer Gus Skinas makes a transfer from analog tape to digital it […]
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Digital gaps 47

Posted 3 weeks ago

It’s common wisdom that because digital breaks up sound into bits there’s missing information between those bits—information not lost with analog. But is that accurate? The comparison between the uninterrupted straight line picture of analog and the chunky digital copy might lead us to imagine differences that don’t necessarily exist. If I were to side with […]
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