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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NAS vs. internal

A growing trend in media servers is to employ the use of a NAS rather than rely upon the built in HD inside of a music server. It’s probably not a bad idea. NAS is an acronym for Network Attached Storage—a hard drive accessible over a home network. For years, NAS were shunned by most…

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Laying your bedrock

At the heart of every high-end audio system lies its foundation, its bedrock upon which everything else in the system stems from. Like a home, the stronger its foundational bedrock the better the home. Your bedrock likely has multiple facets. For example, we could consider speakers as the system bedrock from which every other decision…

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The 30 second rule

My dear friend, conductor Lowell Graham has what he calls his 30-second rule. “If something does not grab me in in the first 30 seconds of listening, I do not continue.  That can be of compositional value, recording, performance and is certainly the combination of all those attributes.” Now that’s pretty sound advice though at…

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Pleasure level

Sometimes I find myself wondering whether or not what I am listening to is any good. If it only sounds marginally acceptable it might be the way the artist and recording engineer hoped it would sound. Or not. I am not going to like everything. One of my main indicators of whether a track is…

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Bliss

Yesterday’s post was about chills and that got me thinking this morning about bliss. Bliss describes a state of perfect happiness. It’s a moment where one is oblivious of everything else. I can count on one hand the consistent events that bring to me a state of bliss. The unconditional laughter of children, a knowing…

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Spine chills

Just walked out of the listening room after having auditioned two mix versions of a new song for Octave Records. Wow. Chills up my spine. I wonder what it is that connects us to music and story in such a visceral way. When it occurs I cannot control it. And in its absence, I cannot…

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McCartney and Rubin

My son, Scott is a fan of Hulu television. I haven’t spent much time exploring it because I don’t watch much television. Sometimes though, a show or two is good enough to really grab my attention. Like Apple TV’s light-hearted comedy, Ted Lasso. But then, sometimes, a show comes along that’s not just good for…

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Predators

Ok, this is nothing more than a personal rant so if you’re not in the mood let’s connect tomorrow. I cannot imagine any of us that have not gotten at least one phone call informing us our car’s extended warranty has expired and we should renew. Perhaps this is just a US thing, but I…

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Edge cases

Events that occur around the edges of normalcy are often remarkable enough to make news, like the centenarian who smoked and drank their entire life. Novel and perhaps newsworthy, hardly a model for the rest of us. Remarkable recordings made in a home studio sometimes come to our attention. I still am blown away with…

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Does gold matter?

Most high-end audio equipment uses a microscopically thin layer of gold plating on their connectors. We certainly do. It’s what’s expected. And the general consensus in the audiophile community is that this layer of precious metal makes a sonic difference. I know from personal experience that the choice of precious metals like rhodium, palladium, silver,…

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New info

When a particular piece of gear opens up the sound enough to hear something you hadn’t before, it likely did that not by digging deeper into the music, but by hiding what’s there less. And that’s an important distinction. Recordings don’t cough up new hidden information. The data is always the same, which is why…

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Pricing models

As of late, there’s been some discussion on the forums about the model we use for product pricing. From what I can ascertain, the general view seems to be companies have a complex pricing model based on a combination of what they believe the market will bear and what it takes to cover all their…

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It’s the setting that matters

If I am critically listening it’s important that the setting be right and that I am comfortable with my surroundings. That comfort level matters for me because in order to easily hear sonic differences I have to be relaxed and not on guard or self-conscious about being judged. It is part of my nature to…

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Dither

The dictionary has several meanings to the word dither. The most common is to be indecisive. The second meaning is more related to what interests us: to add white noise. Dither is the addition of randomness into low-level signals. Surprisingly, we do this to lower distortion of predictable errors. Here’s a great example from a…

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Labels

Labels are necessary for communication yet offered without thought of consequences they can be destructive. There’s no harm in labeling sodium chloride as table salt. In fact, labeling a shaker of white crystals as “salt” is extremely helpful at the dinner table. But what happens when we label audio equipment with opinions? For example, labeling…

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Zuill Bailey

Man oh man alive, have we got something amazing to delight your ears. World-famous Grammy-winning cellist, Zuill Bailey, sat down alone in the massive Mesa Arts Center’s sonic wonder-hall and played his heart out for Octave Records. Prepare to be amazed. The instrument, the performer, and this recording are musical treasures Zuill’s one-of-a-kind cello was…

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Little speakers and big rooms

There seems a common misconception that big rooms need big speakers. The truth can be very different. Aesthetically there’s no doubt a small pair of stand-mounted bookshelf speakers may not fit a large room’s vibe, but from a sonic standpoint, it really shouldn’t matter. The size of woofer and box determines the speaker’s low end,…

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Subwoofer connections

For more than three decades I have strongly advocated the high-level connection of subwoofers—where we connect the output of the power amplifier to the input of the subwoofer. What amazes me is that still to this day, that viewpoint is considered radical. The vast majority of subwoofer manufacturers would have you connecting their subwoofers through…

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All a matter of perspective

While on my morning constitutional walk I ran into my new neighbor, Jeff. As we chatted, the conversation turned to what we each do for a living. He’s a programmer. I am the builder of high-end audio equipment. “Aha!” he says. “An audiophile. I’ve heard of folks like you. Cables as big as your leg,…

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Mechanical vs. solid state

When we need to switch inputs on an analog preamplifier we use a switch. The kind of switch we use affects sound quality. For years we had only mechanical switches from which to choose. Standard switch contacts in those days were nickel or tin-plated while the more expensive and better-sounding styles were either silver or…

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Room suck

After writing The Audiophile’s Guide I get lots of questions from folks who aren’t getting all the sonic qualities they hoped for. They followed closely the steps in the Guide and while everyone that has followed those steps has gotten much better sound, it isn’t always as much as some might have hoped for. Of…

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Cultures and communities

Most of us are born into a culture. Over time, we embrace other cultures and join the communities that support them. Take our group’s choice of the culture known as high-end audio. It’s unlikely any of us were born into it (though to be fair my father might have qualified as an audiophile). And I…

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Spiral journey

For many years I got frustrated in my sonic journey because it felt like I was moving in circles. In my quest for greater dynamics and realism, I would move from speaker model to speaker model and always wound up back in the same place. Forced to add a subwoofer to augment what I had….

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Audio philosophy

My son, Scott, wrote to me. “I find that audiophiles can often get philosophical…but what I’ve never seen was a philosopher go audiophile. That’s a unique perspective. An educated outsider’s view of what it is we do.” His note was in response to an email from David Hildebrand, the president of the Society for the…

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Sonic conspiracy

When I hear the word conspiracy my mind immediately jumps to a negative pole: nasty people with evil intent conspiring to take over the world like Pinky and the Brain. But there are probably more good conspiracies than bad. Take for example Terri’s tomato garden. This year in Boulder we’ve had weather patterns conspiring in…

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Transparent images

There’s something very wrong with the idea of a transparent image. If it’s transparent it means we can’t see or hear it. And yet, the term has great meaning. Our audiophile lexicon is a wonderful tool for communicating with each other. It does seem to fall a bit short when conveying a sense of what…

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

Join the hi-fi family

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