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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.

Frameworks 13

Posted 9 hours ago

We all love to learn but today’s education systems are antiquated to the task. Student’s heads are crammed full of information that bears little relevance to their lives—information they will someday learn how to put to use but in the meantime essentially worthless. The problem is the lack of a framework. Imagine trying to build […]
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Soft underbelly 23

Posted 1 day ago

Life and stereo systems are compromises—a fact that causes us to make less than perfect choices. It’s helpful to understand the consequences of each choice. Take for example amplifier power. In a perfect world, we’d have unlimited power and the best sound quality imaginable. In the real world of limited budgets, we’re likely to have […]
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Cord cutting 32

Posted 2 days ago

I got close. Obsessed with the idea of joining the ranks of the Cord Cutters, I have found myself on the roof pointing antennas, buying boosters, and generally scraping my knuckles a whole bunch in this nutso distraction. Here’s the deal. Terri and I watch very little television: the occasional live broadcast from PBS, a […]
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No surprise 38

Posted 3 days ago

The LP was introduced in the year I was born, 1948, but it didn’t really get good until the all important tape decks to make the recordings became more readily available. The state of the art in tape recorders in the late 40s and early 50s was the Ampex 200A. This breakthrough recorder was full track […]
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The value of libraries 31

Posted 4 days ago

The value of a library can easily be measured with only two metrics: its quality content and easy access. If you have 1,000 treasured record albums but cannot figure out where any of the best titles are located it has a lot less value than an organized version. As we work on our upcoming music […]
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Mood changes standards 12

Posted 5 days ago

When I am hungry I order more food than I should. When a track of music floats my boat I often want to turn up the volume level—and when it sinks my ship the level goes down. Our moods dictate our actions because we’re emotionally based creatures (whether we want to admit to it or not). […]
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Audio battlegrounds 22

Posted 6 days ago

I have never been much of a sports fan. I coached my boys T-Ball team and rooted at their soccer matches. I watch the World Series and if there’s nothing else going on perhaps the SuperBowl. Rarely do I know which teams are playing. I suppose that means I am not all that competitive but […]
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Image size 24

Posted 1 week ago

All stereo systems produce a sonic image—some better than others. But, regardless of the image quality, there’s one thing we can say they have in common: a size to that image. If you turn the level of the stereo down to a whisper there’s a tiny image trapped between the speakers. Crank it up to […]
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Minimal volume 24

Posted 1 week ago

I am often asked if there’s a minimum volume level for speakers. It’s a valid question prompted by observation. If the level of the system is too low the sound seems weak and lackluster. Of course, there are a few explanations for this starting with the Fletcher-Munson curve. The Fletcher-Munson Curve illustrates an interesting phenomenon […]
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Cheating 27

Posted 1 week ago

Cheating is something we want to avoid unless the Grim Reaper’s involved. We’re taught in school to do our own work so we can be judged on our personal merits. Cheating, we’re told, is shameful. We’re the ones that lose. But, what exactly is cheating? Is it a cheat when we take a shortcut? When […]
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Expectations 16

Posted 1 week ago

Our expectations often determine our reaction to a piece of equipment before we even listen. If we expect the new preamp to sound warm, rich, and revealing then we’re either delighted or disappointed depending not on its actual performance but rather how close it met our expectations. I learn the most about a new circuit […]
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PS Audio’s demo music part 2 44

Posted 1 week ago

In yesterday’s post I offered up a partial list of PS Audio’s demo music we use to demo our products, go to shows with, design our products from, and evaluate software changes. Today I will provide the balance of that list for those of you interested in assembling your own definitive list of great tracks, […]
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PS Audio’s demo music part 1 23

Posted 1 week ago

I am often asked what we use for demo music in Music Room Two. The answer is never quite the same as new ones are constantly added while the tired ones deleted and the classics maintained. The tracks are used to evaluate equipment, changes, and software and what to play when guests arrive. The list […]
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Lines of demarkation 41

Posted 1 week ago

“Well, that it!” I say to myself. “Now things have changed forever.” And then, they aren’t. How often do we reach a point of crossing a mental line in the sand of no return only to retreat the next day? Happens to me on a fairly regular basis: not going there anymore; not doing that […]
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The best part of a bad day 17

Posted 2 weeks ago

We all have good and bad days but it’s typically the bad ones that stand out like sore thumbs: our grand plans squashed, the project failed, everything that could go wrong did. Those days where I am in a constant battle to stay above zero are days where I have been pulled out of my […]
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Unspoken language 35

Posted 2 weeks ago

There are plenty of things understood that don’t require words. If I list something for sale on Craig’s list for $125 it’s understood I am really asking $100. We don’t need words to set our expectations for a high-performance audio system because we’re already in the know. We’ve been here before; done that before; know […]
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Perceptual confusion 57

Posted 2 weeks ago

Regular readers of this blog will know I often am critical of a few well known speaker brands. This doesn’t sit well with owners of those brands and for that I apologize. I single out a few brands because, to me, they represent great examples of perceptual confusion—conflating two ideas together that don’t necessarily match. […]
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It doesn’t have to make sense 47

Posted 2 weeks ago

We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching. We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the goal of doing […]
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Downstream equipment 8

Posted 2 weeks ago

If you live next to a big river it’s tempting to use all the water you could possibly want. After all, it’s a big river and full of water. What difference would it make? Clearly, you’ve not considered the downstream effects. Communities all along the river depend on that water and those near the end […]
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Measuring width 33

Posted 2 weeks ago

How wide should your soundstage be? And, for that matter, how deep? How high? The answer varies depending on the recording, but there are guidelines we can use to set our expectations. On well-recorded tracks like some from Blue Coast and Reference Recordings, the soundstage should extend beyond the walls of the average listening room. At […]
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Expert help 18

Posted 2 weeks ago

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” Niels Bohr Which is why aspiring medical doctors and structural engineers are closely supervised for a few years after graduating. Mistakes they make can cost lives. But, hifi engineering or setup experts are expected to […]
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Designer’s dilemma 42

Posted 3 weeks ago

If we weren’t concerned about market acceptance we would likely build products few would buy: we tend to want all products to do all things. Self-contained wonder machines. Yet, the more features we pack in the less focused the product becomes. How many times have you gone searching for a simple product only to be […]
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Cutting corners 20

Posted 3 weeks ago

I was just party to the greatest line from a salesman I have ever heard and I thought it would be worthwhile to share the story. While in the process of getting a couple of bids for a few home improvements I had narrowed my search down to two well respected local contractors. When their […]
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It’s not that simple 22

Posted 3 weeks ago

An isolation transformer cleans up noise on the AC line yet often harms system performance. How can it be true that an improvement over here impacts performance over there? The simple answer is that the problem is not that simple. The cleanest power in the world only gets you so far. This question of influencing […]
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The long tail 22

Posted 3 weeks ago

Times have changed in how we view the world. In the past, changes to a small group of influencers resulted in a big swing of the long tail: tubes to transistors, records to CD, radio to television, dial phones to cell phones. As technology advances, we see increasing evidence that the opposite is happening: relatively […]
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