July 3, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

It’s been said that obsessed is a word lazy people use to describe dedication.

I am not certain that’s right any more than I believe to be obsessed is something bad.

Maybe that’s because when it comes to High-End Audio I am admittedly obsessed.

It’s ok to point a finger at me or snicker. I take the more extreme labels as a compliment: passionate, obsessed, hyper-focused, single-minded.

In many ways, they define who I am.

And I like being me.

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40 comments on “Obsessed”

  1. The two are different as dedication is generally used in a rational or professional context, whereas obsession is usually considered irrational and unhealthy. People who are obsessive tend to waste time on things that don’t matter, except for them.

  2. Good for you Paul!
    I wear insults from the ignorant as a badge of honour instead of pitying them.
    Apart from the ‘odd’ one or two arrogant so & so’s who come here to show off their ignorance or their jealousy, I’m pretty sure that most of us who contribute here on ‘Paul’s Posts’ have a great amount of admiration for the dedicated audio obsessed pathway that you have carved out while you’ve been futzing around here on this flat ball of dirt.
    I don’t own any PS Audio gear, probably because I’m quite happy with the home audio gear that I currently listen to canned music through, however, I’m very impressed by your passion & work ethic within the home audio panacea .
    I’m not blowing smoke & I’m not trying to smooze you for any benefit; I’m just commenting from the heart.

    You…Paul McGowan…lazy?

    1. So tell me FR, is it true that Australia is becoming obsessed with mice?
      It shouldn’t be hard to keep them out of your vacuum tubes. lol

      1. Hi Longplayer,
        Yes indeed, the little bastards are everywhere in our country areas
        …another plot by the CCP I’m sure 😉
        Obsessed, no; overrun, yes.
        It’s currently winter here so the mice just want to be warm; solid state or vacuum tubes, I don’t think that they care…as long as it’s switched on 🙂

      2. The PC of my son died. Looking inside I saw that a mouse had settled in for some warmth. He (the mouse) had pissed on the motherboard tracks, creating copper whiskers and a short circuit.
        I fixed it with a toothbrush (my son’s).

    2. ‘I am I, Paul McGowen,
      The Lord of CO Boulder,
      My destiny calls and I go,’

      With apologies to Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion, and Mitch Leigh. And of course Miguel
      de Cervantes.

      And indeed, good for you, Lord McG.

  3. I like to think of the love of audio, both the sound and the equipment as a passion, rather than an obsession or dedication. A magical balance, and as we all know, an almost impossible goal to get right all the time. I admire your drive to share your thoughts and acquired knowledge, I appreciate what you have to say and add to my personal situation. If I lived even close to you I would love to come and visit. As always take care.

  4. Obsession or passion? If we could define exactly why we love someone it wouldn’t be love; rather an analysis of a strong interest.
    Paul, like the rest of us, loves music and pursues ways of making recorded works sound better at home.
    No need to analyse why we love or to redefine it in a negative sense.
    I just enjoy listening to music on my as basic-as-baked beans system.

  5. Paul, It is very obvious to anyone who has met you that you are very happy in your own skin. I envy you for that and I hope you know how fortunate you are.

    I once had a medical doctor tell me than anyone who has a Ph.D. must be obsessed in some way. He was right. Or at least when it comes to Ph.D.’s in physics he was right. You must be able to focus on one thing and only that thing until you get it understood and explainable in a way that it can withstand the rigorous scrutiny of those who have gone before you.

    The problem with this, strangely enough, is that people who can focus this way and be so dedicated this way often cannot turn it off. People with these abilities are problem solvers. They want to solve every problem that confronts them. And this is the biggest problem since every problem that confronts you in life is not solvable. I have seen very brilliant people take on problems that they could not solve and be driven to the brink of exhaustion and insanity. And in some cases it destroyed them. I have seen it destroy people’s marriages, jobs and health. Believe me, there can be a dark side to obsession.

    1. PhDs ,who seem obsessed to others ,are just following the tenants of the scientific method. Good clean research is conducted by limiting variables and investigating one item at a time.

      Those not familiar with good scientific research may apply the label “obsessed”
      To someone’s adventure. These is a very strong difference with obsessive compulsive behavior and focusing in an area of interest!

      Usually people with little comprehension of methods of discovery ,will out of ignorance, call the behavior obsessive.

      Thus, it becomes “dangerous “ to reveal
      Ones thoughts or adventures to others with the chance of being mislabeled.

      “There is one thing i truly known is that I am haunted by humans”( from “The Book Thief”)

    2. Thanks, Tony. And yes, in all endeavors, conditions, and states of being, there can be such extremes that it turns ugly.

      I think the challenge is staying close enough to the middle to be “normal” while straying far enough to the edges to be creative.

      Life seems a fine balance.

      1. . . . in a metastable gravitational field. Keeps you on your toes in irregularly but inevitably shifting conditions.

        “Close to the edge, down by the corner.”

  6. To start, the following phrase came to mind..

    I didn’t build my life around 2 channel audio, but rather, built 2 channel audio around my life.

    I guess if you’re going to obsessed with something so much, then it makes sense to make a career out of it so that it becomes a large part of everyday life.

    Like others above I like the word passion. It allows a little lesser degree of all consuming focus, and other places to channel energies into. I do suspect it’s a mighty fine line that can be easily crossed between the 2 words.

    Trying to be comfortable in one’s skin by someone else’s direction is a loosing proposition.

  7. You start with a response to Paul’s Post and before you know where you are someone else has said it for you.

    Obsessed, it’s just a word but tends to be used in a negative context, “oh, he’s nuts, he’s obsessed.” My wife calls me obsessed. Over the years I’ve slowly learnt and I’m even prepared to admit, there’s maybe a grain of truth to it, but only in certain areas. I counter with “I’m not obsessed, I’m enthusiastic.” Don’t we all have our own obsessions?

    I’m a firm believer that without obsession, and its gentler bedfellows passion and dedication, many inventions and successes would never have seen the light of day. Group them together in a handy abbreviation, OPD, and you have something that sounds like a disease.

    1. Richtea,

      I especially like your last paragraph.

      Obsessions have lead to many advances in technology and in life. By the same token, obsessions can take away many of the things valued in life.

  8. I admire people who can focus on one passion or obsession. Some enjoy golf their entire life, some fishing, some audio, some cycling, etc. But I cycle through interests almost like the seasons. For my whole life, interests, hobbies, relationships all come and go, return and fade again. I’m still not sure why. It used to be my badge of honor – that I was well rounded, diverse, unique. But as time goes by, I have found it to be more of a curse than a blessing. Especially in the realm of relationships.

  9. Well the comments are great on here and I for one back up Paul for being an incredibly healthy person for having a special interest. Most people honestly don’t have refined tastes or special interests as a welcome edition in their lives.
    I believe having some kind of obsession or dedication to figuring out all the odds and sods of what you are interested in for refinement purposes is really legit and in mosts ways, normal. 🙂

    Great post, Paul. I’ve been an audiophile for 14 years and I’ve never regretted since. In fact, being an audiophile has made me smarter in some regards, especially when it comes to concentration. 😉

  10. I think the side effects of the “obsessed type of person” many of us have in normal life, depend and can’t be generalized.

    Paul with his many fields of action and his priority on family, people and communication imo is a very healthy type of obsessed. I think that’s rather rare than common for somehow obsessed people in this form.

  11. If there were no obsessed people, we would not have light bulbs (Edison), vulcanized rubber tires (Goodyear), vaccines (Dimsdale and Jenner), AC power transmission (Tesla), personal power plants (McGowan), and on and on. Our quality of life stems from the efforts and achievements of the obsessed. Better they be obsessed about things that improve other people’s lives than about their next plastic surgery.

    1. Whom before Edison inspired him to invent and create the lightbulb? And who before Tesla inspired him to invent and create AC power transmission?

      Paul’s cleverness was looking at the AC Regeneration system incorporated into the Mark Levinson No 33 monaural power amplifier introduced in 1995 and then entered the Power Management category with a single dedicated chassis that was advanced by Richard Marsh in the early 90s with a different methodology.

      I would venture to say that some here are obsessed with the author, and i get that because he brings you inside the inner workings of an audio electronic manufacturing facility, a behind the scenes look so-to-speak.

      I respect McGowan’s work ethic and accomplishments as much as the next but placing him on the same pedestal as Tesla and Edison, really?

      I’ve always been a fan, but never bought into the 60s legend or believed in anyway that Clapton was god.

      1. Mark Levinson was and still is a very smart guy but I doubt that he would’ve taken this circuit that he incorporated it into a monoblock amp and brought it to the public as a separate component. Doesn’t matter to me whether Paul took the idea and ran with it or thought about it himself. He made power regeneration a reality for anyone who wanted this technology to substantially improve the quality of their listening experience.

        1. Fyi…

          Mark Levinson was fired from MLAS in 1984 by his investor Sandy Berlin who bankrupt the company and resurrected the remains under a new badge called Madrigal Audio Laboratories. Berlin then proceeded to file a lawsuit to prevent Mark the right to use his name as a trade name on any future audio product. At this juncture in his life, Mark began his second company, Cello. The No 33 amplifiers were designed by the engineering staff at Madrigal Audio Labs in 1994.

          This story has demonstrated a way of repeating itself in the annals of the high-end audio industry with slightly different twists and turns over the decades.

          If there’s a parallel between Paul and Mark Levinson it’s that they are both audio designers who have a gift for surrounding themselves with talented engineers and other capable folks.

          Btw -> Wendell Diller doesn’t run Magnepan, he is their Marketing Manager. Jim Winey’s son Mark is the President and Jim’s successor. Jim remains a valuable advisor in his retirement years. A gifted inventor and a true gentleman.

      2. Dr. G., I did not say all obsessed people who invent things are on pedestals of equal height. And of course, obsessed people who create things typically stand on the shoulders of other obsessed people who came before them. Before Edison, someone discovered tungsten, someone else how to create a vacuum in a glass bulb and someone else discovered how to generate an electrical current.

        1. I don’t view reverse engineering as innovation. It’s simply a skill set. The actual marketing however is evolutionary. Edison & Tesla the innovators of the recurring revenue stream.

      3. While I agree with Dr. Goodears that I am but a minor character in a crowded field, for the record, I did not look at the ML monoblocks as a model nor was I even aware of their built in regenerators. It wasn’t until years later I learned they had such a thing built in.

        My original idea was to build a motor/generator system and use a servo to regulate the output. At the time that seemed as perfect as it could get with 100% isolation. I guessed it wouldn’t be anymore obnoxious than a vacuum pump system for a turntable. It was my wife Terri that said if I built such a thing I would have to also build a small outside enclosure in which to house it as “it’s not going inside my house”.

        That’s when I went to plan B, making an electronic version of the motor generator.

        For what it’s worth, it was an original idea.

        As a side note, history tells us that all great inventions seem to happen at the same time. Tesla, Edison all were working on ideas others had at exactly the same moment. Tesla never invented the lightbulb any more than tesla didn’t invent AC. They were among a group of disconnected inventors working at about the same time on the same idea. If I remember correctly Edison’s contribution was the filament material used in a vacuum (though even the vacuum wasn’t his idea).

        We credit the person first to market with the invention. However, it’s almost always the case inventions are a result of enough factors coming together at the same time. It’s likely why so many inventions and discoveries happen simultaneously.

        1. Paul, i don’t see the need to go to the mat with you regarding the history of AC power regeneration in the Consumer Electronics industry. As previously stated, you have more knowledge and experience as it applies to AC regeneration than most.

          As you are aware, the power management category was popularized by George Tice who introduced his transformer based conditioners back in 1985. The Tice company got into financial trouble @ 2001 and went out of business.

          It was George Tice who initially influenced Richard Marsh in the late 80s and early 90s to take a deeper look at the problems associated with transformer based, series power conditioners. Richard proceeded to design a systems approach to passive power line filtering, a solution that worked in parallel with the AC line that didn’t rob your system of life or bleach out the sound as you say. Ironically, this design concept today is also embraced by Caelin Gabriel at Shunyata.

          Who was the engineer that developed the AC regenerator circuit topology for the No 33 amplifier at Madrigal in 1994? i don’t know, you would have to ask your friend Jim McCullough.

  12. Obsession is only a process that leads to dedication.

    Dedication is the state of mind that one can take after their obsession bears good fruit.

    In contrast – Fanaticism is a state of mind one can take after ones obsession bears bad fruit, and will not accept it. Fanaticism will gas light others into accepting the bad fruit of their failed obsession.

  13. They say I’m mad, but I’m not mad. You must believe me, I’M NOT MAD!

    Mr. Confused, it’s time for your medications.


    “It’s a small world after all. . .”

    1. Edison said that his first instinct was to guard his invention and to keep it secret until properly protected. He wanted it kept away from shady people.

  14. Good for you. Stay on track. Being dedicated is quite different from being obsessed. In being dedicated one’s sense of perspective is intact. In being obsessed there is loss of perspective, a loss of balance, a loss of sense of good and not so good. All that matters is what the person thinks even when it is not right. Regards.

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