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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Vinyl masters

I've often spouted off about why vinyl sounds so different than any other medium. In those gushing (isn't that what happens at the output of a spout?) I have said many times over that it's the mastering that mostly makes the difference. While that may be true for many vinyl releases it certainly isn't true...

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The bypass cap

Capacitors are interesting components. They serve as frequency dividers, energy storage units, and DC blockers (among other things). I've written before about my experience so many years ago learning about capacitor bypassing—adding a smaller capacitor in parallel with a bigger one to improve the sound quality of an amp or preamp. Why is that better...

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Here's a simple test

Whenever the subject of filling in missing low frequencies comes up I am often asked how do you know what's missing? Certainly one can perform a series of measurements at the listening seat. But how relevant are those measurements given they will never be flat? Part of the problem with frequency response graphs is reading...

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How much are we willing to miss?

There are very few systems that are truly full range. The shortcomings of rooms and speakers often preclude simple setups from delivering all there is on a disc. Take Music Room Three at PS Audio. The spot in the room where the FR30s disappear and one finds themselves totally immersed in the music happens to...

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Stereo fascination

When I was growing up my father's home-built stereo system—the envy of our neighbors and relatives—was monophonic. To fill our living room with sound there were two sets of parallel-wired speakers built into the left and right sides of the room. The lowest frequencies were handled by a subwoofer he had built into a commandeered...

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No going back

I don't know about you but for me, once I've heard a great high-end audio system there's no going back. And it's not just high-end audio systems that reset standards. New recordings and new music do it to me as well. With each exposure to a performance upgrade, I get inspired to push forward toward...

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Micro and macro

While it might feel counterintuitive, it is often helpful to zoom in for a micro view in order to perfect the macro view: focusing closely on the smallest details of microphone placement in recordings or exacting speaker placement in the playback chain are both secrets of success. But, like many endeavors, there's the threat of...

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Fix it in pre

My wife Terri is working on getting a sign made for Octave Studios that reads like today's post's headline. Fix it in pre: a takeoff on the infamous fix it in post. We will clean that mess up later. While it might work in film, it rarely applies well in high-end audio recording. I think...

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Less than obvious choices

Now that we've moved the main PS Audio reference system from Music Room Two to Music Room Three we have a new challenge at hand. Where formerly the problems in MR2 were a loss of low end (a severe suck out from 100Hz and below), now we're noticing in MR3 a kind of lackluster presentation....

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Reaching equilibrium

If I am to enjoy a morning breakfast of blueberries, yogurt, and granola there has to be a proper balance between the flavors. My preference in berries runs towards the firm and tart which means that in order to reach a perfect balance there needs to be a bit of sweetness. Too much in any...

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Are we crazy?

I have been asked so many times whether or not I am crazy that those questions not only roll off my back like water and ducks, but I have become convinced it is true. I would perhaps prefer the word obsessed to crazy but then what difference would it make? In any hobby or passionate...

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THD

Ever wonder why harmonic distortion figures include the word total? Surely we don't benefit from knowing partial harmonic distortion. Or do we? Harmonic distortion happens when higher frequencies that are not part of the music are added to the signal when passing through our equipment chain. If we take a single tone, say 1kHz, then...

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The best of two worlds

Two of the most valuable tools we have at Octave Records are a pair of Audeze headphones and the FR30 loudspeakers. Putting the headphones on while setting up a recording mix is an incredibly important tool that allows us to hear deep into the music as if looking through a magnifying glass before switching to...

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See through music

When you are watching a live show you can see the musicians and hear their individual instruments. The visuals add clarity to what you are hearing. Listening on your stereo system loses that visual element but in exchange adds a proximity advantage. You are now closer to the musicians than you could have ever been...

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Plasticity

What a great word. noun: 1. The quality of being easily shaped or moulded. 2. The adaptability of an organism to changes in its environment or differences between its various habitats. Plasticity very much describes our ever-adapting ear/brain mechanism. Unlike our test equipment which we rely upon to be solid and unchanging, our ear/brain mechanism...

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The Woody

Yeah, I know what you thought upon reading that headline... 🙂 No, this post is about materials and perceptions. When I was growing up the cool-guy-car surfers always wanted to own was called a Woody: wood-paneled vehicles from the late 1940s and early 1950s. On the positive side, they looked cool and were great for...

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Moving to the edges

It might not make much sense when we see an amplifier's frequency range specified as 10Hz to 60kHz. After all, this kind of extreme frequency range is unusable to humans. Our hearing is limited to 20Hz and 20kHz (and that's on a good day). But here's what might be missing. To be flat at the...

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Total absorption

One of my YouTube viewers writes: "Paul, love almost all your videos. but. I think TOTAL ABSORTION behind the speakers is crucial. Reflection behind the speakers is just noise. PERIOD. WORST CASE. A glass window in the imaging space. PERIOD. Sorry." This is part of the old live-end vs. dead-end debate in rooms (the actual...

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Lowering our guard

We learn from very early on to protect ourselves from pain and unpleasantness. If something is too loud we cover our ears and move away. On a more moderate scale, we do the same thing when listening to music. If something is too piercing, bright, screechy, or objectionable our ears tighten up as a form...

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Ask the right question

Sorting out recording qualities from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of choices of high-resolution DSD offerings can be a challenge. We go to a label's offerings and read the blurb, listen to the sampler, and then roll the dice. More often than not, high-resolution DSD releases were not recorded in DSD. Instead, they were "remastered". If...

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Polishing touches

It is always a conundrum whether to polish or rearrange a system. The first time I hear a new system that has yet to be dialed in I have to decide if it is close enough for a bit of polish or so far off we need to start from scratch. We just went through...

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Is analog soft?

When we think of the analog sound we're inevitably referencing a reproduction. This is because we experience analog sound through our stereo systems which, of course, are reproduction playback systems. And every analog reproduction is either captured on vinyl or magnetic tape. This of course means everything we associate with analog has passed through analog...

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Staying home

It wasn't that long ago that my purchasing decisions were made mostly in stores. I would figure out what I wanted, search for a retail outlet that carried it, hopped in the car, and hoped for the best. Today it is different. Other than food and clothing, I want to try everything I buy at...

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Too cool for comfort

Can audio components run too cool? This is an interesting question. We've all experienced how different our systems sound when we first turn them on. Cold they sound like their temperature: stiff, sluggish, perhaps a bit sterile. Warmed up for an hour or so we become much more engaged. On the other side of the...

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Classics

In 1976 Swedish recording engineer, Gert Palmcrantz recorded live to analog tape a Swedish jazz group featuring Arne Domnérus, alto sax, clarinet; Bengt Hallberg, piano; Lars Erstrand, vibes; Georg Riedel, bass; and Egil Johansen, drums. That album, Jazz at The Pawnshop was released as a two-record set by Proprius Records on 180-gram vinyl in 1977...

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Robot discrimination

<Begin non-audio related rant:> We are all familiar with websites (like our own) requiring us to prove we are human. Sometimes it's a simple checkbox certifying your humanness. Other times it's a challenge to see if you can pick out certain features from an image. All to prove you are not a robot. Robots are...

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