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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Live end dead end

As we move forward building the new Octave Recording studio we’re learning a great deal from both Gus Skinas and J.I. Agnew. Most of you know Gus, the mastering engineer of some note (you name the artist and it’s likely Gus has mastered something of theirs), and Copper Magazine readers know of J.I. from his…

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Who’s on first?

Making a decision as to which model of amplifier, phono stage, or preamplifier can be daunting. There are more brands than one can count and, within those brands, many models. In the days of dealers, we relied upon their curation skills to narrow the field. The only problem with that model is that most times…

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Auditioning speakers

If you go to a big box store, or even a medium-sized store, you’re likely to encounter a switch box approach to speaker selling. Multiple pairs of speakers are lined up as if in a forest and the salesperson can play any of the many speaker models at the push of a button. This same…

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External power supplies

On the periphery of exotic upgrades is the external power supply. Sometimes this supply is bigger and more powerful than what’s standard inside products, but more often than not it’s simply the only means of powering a product. A wall wart is a great example. In my experience, the first use of an external power…

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Syrup on pancakes

In the 1990s, the idea of an AC power conditioner feeding a stereo system was about the same as adding syrup to pancakes: a nice but unnecessary sweetener. Few people thought of power conditioners, and later AC regenerators, as being essential elements in a high-end chain. In fact, even as late as the early 2000s,…

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Who’s it for?

Ok, I’ll admit it. I am a Trekkie. My current favorite Star Trek spinoff is Discovery. In second place is Picard (though it started off so slow I had to skip forward multiple episodes to get going). Still working my way through Season Two of Discovery, I ran across an episode whose “previously on Discovery”…

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Temples of sound

For a small handful, it is possible to build temples of sound—a dedicated purpose-built room. They are rare. More of us convert existing space into dedicated listening areas that we revere as our sound temples, but the vast majority simply plop down our systems in the living room or den and do what we can…

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Janszen

In yesterday’s post, I reminisced about my first experience with a subwoofer. And boy, not just any subwoofer. Lucky for me, I got a taste of the mighty Cerwin-Vega 18s, then the biggest, baddest subwoofer yet made. In fact, even today there aren’t many that can match what those beasts were capable of producing. What…

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Subwoofer history

In one of my Ask Paul video questions, I was asked how far back subwoofers go in 2-channel audio. The community member had only become aware of subs as they related to home theater. Of course, many readers of Paul’s Post know subs date back much further than home theater. From Wikipedia: In September 1964,…

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Many edged swords

Perhaps my single most asked question is what piece of equipment makes the most difference. My quick answer has always been the loudspeakers. Loudspeakers are the most flawed element in the chain and thus the most variable of the bunch. In one sense, speakers are like clothing. You choose them because they best fit your…

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Touching souls

When we listen to music we’re hoping for a connection. Does it touch our soul? We all have experienced that connection to music. Sometimes it happens at a concert, other times it’s totally random: in the car, somebody whistling a tune, or on your high-end audio system. The better my system sounds the closer I…

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Knowledge nibbles

Here are two interesting and opposing gems of wisdom: a little knowledge goes a long way and knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. In my experience, the last one more often than not is what passes on the internet for information claimed to be factual. Recently, one of our community members emailed me with a question….

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Spicy

One of the cures for bland tasting food is to liven it up with the addition of a dash of spice. In audio, it’s not so easy.  There’s really not anything we can add to the system if we want to liven up the sound. There is, however, something we can subtract. In my experience,…

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Community members

From as far back as 1974 (which to me doesn’t seem that long ago) I have felt part of a community. The community of people like you and me. Out of the ordinary folks who know what good sound is and are willing to invest their time, passion, and available funds into achieving great sound….

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Grails, holy and hopeful

One of the more famous literary motifs is the idea of the Holy Grail, a metaphorical vessel with miraculous powers providing happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance. Grails, both holy and hopeful, can apply to any number of aspirational audio goals. For me, that grail is to be found in digital audio. We’ve…

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Audibility

We often ask ourselves what’s audible and what’s not. We can say with some confidence 10% distortion is audible, but is 0.1%? And, compared to what? Can we hear the difference between 0.1% THD and 0.0001% THD? There comes a point in measurements where one must decide what matters and what does not. It probably…

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Cheats

It’s good when we can cheat death, but not so much if we cheat on our diets or cut ourselves permanently short when it comes to getting what’s best from our sound systems. When we’re in the middle of set up, short cuts, Band-Aids, and slapped together fixes are all valid temporary solutions. Once we’ve…

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Inspiring confidence

I don’t believe it comes as a surprise that at my core I am an engineering nerd. My internal fires light up when we start talking engineering-speak. One of the real downsides to CoViD has been our separation. Before the pandemic, our engineering group was together and right outside my office door. When an interesting…

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Outward appearances

Like it or not we place a lot of importance on outward appearances. Take rats for example. Most of us are repelled by the sight of these rodents, but dress them up with a bundle of soft fur and a bushy tail and now they’re adorable enough to name them differently. A squirrel. My first…

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Rituals

There are plenty of audiophile rituals. Though they might seem quirky or odd to the great unwashed they are part of what defines us as purveyors of the art. Take for example the rituals many of us have for playing a vinyl record: how we carefully remove the disc from the sleeve, cleaning the stylus,…

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A real breakthrough

To be honest, I have been working on a secret project for more than a decade and wanted to use this opportunity to tell the world—shout it out to the world. I have finally broken the barrier between HiFi and live. I have written about this before: how we can walk past an open window…

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Marrying components

When we’re building a system it can often feel like a marriage. We want our components to get along with each other but we also want to make sure their strengths and weaknesses are complementary. If we lean too hard in any one direction the result often ends in divorce: we sell off the offending…

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Finding your passion

Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm for something (or someone). Finding it isn’t always easy but, when you do, it’s great to hone in on the elements that really fan the flames. If I look at myself I quickly identify two major passions: learning how things work and building solutions. From as far back…

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Recording vs. reproducing

As Octave Records grows it’s becoming more evident to me the difference between recording and reproducing. On the former, we’re often using heavy hands to capture as best we can what happens in acoustic space: different microphones, preamps, EQ, reverb—everything we would never consider in the act of reproduction. I think of recording as building…

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The problem with evaluations

What do you call the lowest-performing student graduating medical school? A doctor. In any field, the range from good to great is all over the map. Graduation degrees, specifications, and even reviews only tell us so much. A power amplifier meeting all the basic requirements of distortion, frequency response, and power output does not—can not—sound…

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Becoming one with the machine

Ok, so the headline of today’s post is all very zen-like but I am yet again reminded of the importance of becoming one with the problem, technology, machine, or stereo system. Recently, my home’s heating system went on the Fritz. As Murphy will explain, heating systems never die in the summer: always the winter. Several…

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

Join the hi-fi family

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