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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.

Side by side 20

Posted 7 hours ago

I think most of us are comfortable with side-by-side comparisons. Take two amplifiers and within the space of a few minutes decide which sounds more musical. Easy peezy. It gets exponentially more difficult when we make comparisons from memory because we each remember differently. For instance, my memories of specifics are weak while those of […]
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Over etched 23

Posted 1 day ago

The search for inner detail is somewhat like a treasure hunt. We get excited when new cables and/or equipment peel back obscuring layers, exposing that which has been waiting to be heard. More detail. Closer to the truth that waits to be heard. Yet sometimes instead of uncovering new details, we get a false sense […]
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Stay tuned 37

Posted 2 days ago

In 1967, LSD and counter-culture advocate Timothy Leary produced an album mirroring his famous call to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Though it’s unlikely to have made Billboard’s top 100 list, his ideas of tuning in and dropping out sparked a worldwide movement that forever changed the culture. (The album’s available on Spotify if […]
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Walls vs. ceilings 20

Posted 3 days ago

The four walls of our rooms are both friend and enemy. They contain and support the generated sound field while at the same time distorting music’s reproduction. We cannot live without our walls yet it’s a struggle to listen within them. I can mitigate problems to my room’s walls through acoustic treatments such as bookshelves […]
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Distance affirmation 36

Posted 4 days ago

One of the more satisfying affirmations happens when two or more unrelated people make the same sonic observation. We send out an update and emailed observations roll in. “What happened to the bottom end?” Or, “The top end just opened up.” For better or for worse, it is fascinating that so many unrelated listeners hear […]
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Pete Kelly 28

Posted 5 days ago

When I think of the actor, Jack Webb, I cannot help but think of Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday. But there was much more to Jack (real name John). Jack Webb had a lifelong love of jazz. His interests started early on when a former jazz musician—one of the tenants in his mother’s boarding house—gave him […]
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Staying relevant 23

Posted 6 days ago

Our minds are like muscles. They need exercise, change, and challenges to grow and stay relevant. We all know this to be true yet how many of us actually give ourselves permission to change? We get our news from the same sources, trust some opinions but not others, stay with the tried and true. Daily […]
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Microphone madness 21

Posted 1 week ago

Without microphones we’d not have much in the way of recorded music. We’d instead be stuck back in the days of yelling into a horn in the hopes of directly moving a cutting head. This was the state of recording onto wax cylinders when Edison was inventing them. At about the same time Edison was […]
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Processes 42

Posted 1 week ago

As one whose direction is steered with his engineer’s nerd brain, I am continuously fascinated by processes. For example, what kind of process do nut processors employ to individually open pistachio shells? Is it the roasting process? Automated insertion of a hypodermic with compressed air and blowing them open? Somehow, 95% of pistachios are opened […]
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Nyquist 20

Posted 1 week ago

Swedish electronic engineer Harry Nyquist figured something interesting out. If you want to capture sound using digital audio conversion, you need to sample at twice the frequency you hope to preserve. Thus, if your goal is to capture without loss frequencies as high as 20kHz, you need to build a system that gathers twice that […]
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Conflating D and A 27

Posted 1 week ago

In yesterday’s post on tone controls, there were a number of comments about the use of DSP, yet few about the differences between analog and digital controls. There is no question that if one is happy staying entirely in the digital domain, DSP EQ and correction is a near-perfect solution. We can design extensive tone […]
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Tone control 64

Posted 1 week ago

There was a time in our HiFi history that the ability to electronically control music’s tone was necessary. Necessary because the entire chain of electronics and speakers were bad enough to warrant their intrusion. Sure, many bemoan the lack of bass and treble controls, even full band graphic equalizers, but for the most part, we […]
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Decaf 37

Posted 1 week ago

The taste of decaf coffee isn’t the same as caffeinated, in the same way that Diet Coke, vegetarian bacon, or high-end MP3 players aren’t the same as what they started out as. It’s good we call out differences between the original products and their derivatives, but at times it can seem a bit odd. As […]
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Hertz 33

Posted 1 week ago

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve written the abbreviation, Hz—1 kHz, 1,000 kHz. It is, of course, short for Hertz. The car company? Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was a German physicist who first proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Invisible forces that had a specific periodicity (frequency) that later were named in […]
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Sample rates 36

Posted 2 weeks ago

There sure is a lot of confusion over sample rates. We hear about CD-quality sample rates at 44.1kHz (and its multiples), or another common sample rate, 48kHz (and its multiples), and then there are multiple higher sample rates (176kHz, 192kHz as examples) and of course DSD. Lots of numbers. All very confusing. Perhaps a short […]
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AC receptacles 28

Posted 2 weeks ago

For those of us with long memories here’s a flashback. Remember when preamps sported rear-mounted AC receptacles to power the rest of the system? The first memory I have of the rear-mounted AC receptacle was on my father’s McIntosh C28 preamplifier. Note the use of switched and unswitched outlets. The idea was that unswitched outlets […]
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Teachers 28

Posted 2 weeks ago

I was filling out a group of standard internet security questions and the one that is almost always front and center stood out to me. What is the name of your favorite teacher? Of all the milestones we remember in our lives our favorite teacher is almost always a part of it. Teachers shape futures. […]
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The price of flat 45

Posted 2 weeks ago

There’s really no such thing as a ruler-flat loudspeaker. Loudspeakers are such inaccurate mechanical devices that if one were to attempt anything other than a relatively flat frequency response, enormous levels of compensation would be required. And, even then, those compensating changes in amplitude would only work in a very small area. Unlike an amplifier […]
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Ringside seating 32

Posted 2 weeks ago

On most recordings, there is a combination of close and distant miking. The close miking gets us a closer-than-natural intimate view of the instrument or performer, while the distant microphones add the missing ambiance and space close-miking cannot capture. What’s odd about this miking technique is that it works despite the fact we are never […]
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Is higher better? 38

Posted 2 weeks ago

Working with DSD and PCM has been a real learning experience. The two formats sound different from each other though it is unclear why. Is it the analog to digital conversion processor? The DACs? That DSD is closer to analog? They are all different technologies. On the one hand, DSD runs at a much higher […]
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Walking on water 55

Posted 2 weeks ago

A magician can easily walk on water. All one needs is a few inches of the wet stuff and some Plexiglas shoe-lifts. Amazing. Magical. Knowing how the trick is performed ruins the illusion and that’s the last thing we want to do. Better to be amazed than to think too hard about how it was […]
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Poetry 38

Posted 3 weeks ago

My favorite Fair Trade coffee describes itself as having “smooth earthy notes”. The coffee I thought I would like, but do not, describes itself as “sweet and rich with floral notes”. These poetic offerings attempt to describe how one will respond to what’s on offer. They remind me of how we audiophiles refer to the […]
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Perspectives 52

Posted 3 weeks ago

Perspectives color our view on reality. It’s how two-dimensional drawings are perceived in three dimensions. We see what we want to see in an effort to better understand our world. When you look at a freshly bloomed flower you can see beauty or sneeze-inducing pollen. When we see an expensive collection of high-end gear we […]
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Getting near the end 31

Posted 3 weeks ago

As we approach the end of 2020 we likely all have mixed feelings about this crazy year. I won’t dwell on the obvious bits of 2020 we’d all like to put behind us. As 2021 approaches I think we’re all hopeful the bad parts stay in the rearview mirror. The rising sun of 2021 is […]
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