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.
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The perfect mistake

The perfect musical rendition is one that captures our soul and connects us in a way only music can. Which means, of course, that the perfect performance—one without any flaws, note-for-note true to the score—may not be perfect. Not if it doesn’t connect with us. Often, the perfect performance is one with just the right…

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If you have a moment

Our good friend and former editor of Copper, Bill Leebens, is facing some hard times at the moment. Bill’s looking at some expensive surgery for which he does not have the funds to cover the costs. If you know Bill or would like to help out, a donation link through Facebook (yeah, I’m not a…

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Crossfeed

One of the touted advantages of headphones is their lack of crossfeed. Unlike loudspeakers, the left and right channels are always separate. And so it surprised me to learn of headphone folks interested in adding crossfeed to their rigs—kind of like adding unwanted distortion. First a bit of explanation. When listening to loudspeakers we are…

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Adjustment time

When evaluating a piece of audio gear there are two schools of thought. Make a quick judgment or live with the device for a while and see how it feels. Both methods have their good and bad points. The quick method works well for me because it’s something I’ve trained to do over the years….

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What am I missing?

What’s the old gag about making sure you’re not missing anything? The one where you touch four corners of a make-believe cross and say: “wallet, watch, spectacles, testicles”. Humor aside, I find myself wondering how YouTube audio stars expect us to judge the quality of their equipment through means of an audition. I mean, my…

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Stand out products

When a piece of audio gear sonically singles itself out in a system it is typically not a good thing. What we hope for is a synergistic pairing of components that benefit the whole. Sure, it’s not only alright but actually welcomed when we can add a product that elevates the whole. But then elevating…

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Measuring measuring gear

One of my readers, Jake from Boston, sent me the following note that might someday make it to an Ask Paul video, but for now, it’s certainly worthy of a post. Hi Paul, I have been doing some reading about measurement tools such as those produced by audio precision, and I was wondering how accurate…

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Can there be a right and wrong?

Whether you believe in gravity or not you’re going to get hurt when you hit the pavement after falling off a 30-foot ladder. It’s not a question of right or wrong to wonder about the validity of gravity. The decision to fall off the ladder might be one where right and wrong play a role,…

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New gadgets

I love great gadgets that make life better and I want to share two of them with you today. The first is something affordable you should own, the second is the exact opposite. Terri and I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We also have a lot of indoor plants. All that adds up…

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Scratching the knowledge itch

Over the last 4 decades, I have been lucky enough to be in a position to repeatedly offer the same advice and information on setup, equipment choices, and how things work. As an example, I just finished explaining to a customer the differences between amplifier classes: A, A/B, B, H, D, and so on. I…

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Ain’t it the truth?

In answer to the question of “how you doing” one of our readers wrote the following: Burst pipes under the house, flooded basement, washing my dishes in the bathroom sink, credit card got hacked over the holiday, some rogue wind fueled branch performed an emergency skid landing on my roof which now leaks, my ears…

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Skill vs. hardware

I find it fascinating that a skilled designer with a good ear can make a cheap set of speaker drivers and a bang-together box sound great, while the opposite doesn’t appear to be true. Take for example the work of speaker designer, Andrew Jones, and Elac. Decent low cost hardware put together with a great…

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Secondary truth

Not everything is straightforward. Take for example brushing your teeth. Despite the minute or two of brushing recommended by dentists, it turns out not more than a few swipes of the brush and paste against your enamel is all it takes to keep them clean. The extra time is about gum health, not teeth. Just…

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A late Christmas present

Just nearing the end of my day yesterday afternoon and our president, Jim Laib walks into my office and says, “we got a problem boss”. Oh boy, just what you want at the end of a long day. Trouble. Only, there was no trouble. Jim was pulling my leg. I show up in the warehouse…

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Over-etched sound

Back in the days when movie moguls like Louis B. Mayer and Samuel Goldwyn ruled Hollywood, cinematographers used soft lenses to enhance the beauty of their starlets. The softening of the face was thought to add to the star’s beauty because we could not see skin imperfections like pores, wrinkles, and blemishes. Today, we use…

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Technocrats and artists

When a design engineer tackles a new product there are a myriad of options available to her. Take for example a preamplifier. Here the designer must choose the type of amplification topology: single ended or balanced, differential input or single gain device, direct coupled or capacitor, solid state or vacuum tube or hybrid. And once…

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Seeing what we can’t see

We can’t see a dust mite but we know they exist. And the same is true for sound and electrical waves. We cannot see them with our eyes but, through our equipment, we can generate a visual representation. That representation is not the real deal, but rather a translation or interpretation molded to fit our…

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Theory vs. execution

It’s nice to build systems and equipment with hand-wave theories of the perfect this and that but turning that hand wave into something of value is where reality sets in. Take for example loudspeakers. I constantly get notes about why there should be no such thing as the need to voice a speaker because they…

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Analytical vs. resolving

The terms we use in high-end audio are often confusing. When I listen to a pair of studio monitors like the ATCs I find them analytical, meaning they are cold, forward, in your face with about as much emotional engagement as a doctor listening through a stethoscope. When I listen to a pair of our…

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The icing on the cake

Look at the frequency response curve of any loudspeaker and you’ll immediately see it is not flat. Not even close. Deviations in loudness at specific frequencies are denoted in terms like +/- 3dB (on a good day). Some active speakers boast +/- 1dB, but even that’s hardly flat. And those measurements have little to do…

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The special person

Just because someone hears a high-end audio system—marveling at how lifelike and far from what they listen to it is—rarely does it equate to them running down to the store and buying one. It takes a special person to become inspired to the point of taking the leap that changes their life. Is it one…

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analog vs. digital

We define analog as a continuous unbroken stream, while digital means it is built from discrete bits. But, of course, our definition of analog is not accurate. Sound itself is made from bits called cycles per second. Like the discrete pixels or grains of silver that make up a photograph or the electrons and quarks…

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Magnifiers

When the fine print’s too small we put on a pair of magnifiers so we can better see the writing. I wonder if we might define what we in high-end audio strive for as being similar? Instead of magnifying lenses, we turn to better equipment. Better equipment has the power of great magnification. It allows…

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SE vs. balanced

We sometimes form incorrect conclusions based on logical leaps. For example, just because a balanced interconnect is quieter than a single-ended type doesn’t mean single-ended systems are noisy. A single-ended system using the standard RCA interconnects can be as quiet as the proverbial mouse. It’s the system many of us have for years been using…

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Genre based system

I am often asked if a particular system setup is appropriate for a genre of music. Or, put another way, would this or that amp or speaker be a good choice for Jazz? Or this one or that one for classical? Rock? Of course, the obvious answer is we want a system that does it…

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The golden ear myth

I wonder about the origin of the audiophile myth of golden ears. In my experience, the differences we hear, the quality of the music played on our systems are immediately obvious to any and all newcomers. I have never had anyone tell me they couldn’t hear “the difference” we bring to the table. So why…

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Stop by for a tour:
4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

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