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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Knob feel

Speaker designer Chris Brunhaver shared with me a funny YouTube video. Check out the Knob Feel channel. Probably worth one or two quick views for a good laugh. However, it does bring to mind the importance of feel. I doubt many of us are immune to the touchy-feely aspects of high-end audio. I know I…

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Passing trains

I have probably spent a total of 5 minutes on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Tick Tock, and whatever new connection program out there has zero interest for me. It feels like a potential blackhole vortex waiting to suck me in and chew up my time without any obvious benefit. The counter I hear to that…

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Do you like a good story?

Over the past decade, I have been writing a novel that has now morphed into a trilogy called Eemians. Book One of Eemians is getting close to being launched, and I would like to give away a couple hundred of the first copies to those that might be interested. The story is fiction based on…

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The gift of music

If you’re wondering what to get an audiophile friend for Christmas, might I suggest the gift of music? There are a number of tasty selections from Octave Records. And here’s the thing about buying a gift from Octave. It’s a safe bet that whoever you send it to will enjoy it. Each release is a…

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Shaking off the old myths

I think that by this time in our lives we no longer believe in Santa Clause, the Easter bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. Like the myths of our youth, old tropes that we might have picked up when we first started our journey down the path of high-end audio can often be difficult to shake…

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Added reverb

At Octave Records studios, as well as just about every other recording studio in the world, there is the ability to add artificial reverb. Reverb is defined as a slight delay or echo of the original sound. It is what we might naturally hear in a reverberant room or a room with reflective surfaces where…

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Accidental discoveries

Many of the products of science we take for granted were discovered by accident: penicillin, Viagra, anesthesia, the microwave oven, chewing gum, brandy, and even silly putty. The key to those discoveries lies in the inventor’s openness to observations unrelated to the original experiment. Take for example, when in 1879, chemist Constantin Fahlberg went to…

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If you can’t hear or see it

Most of us are unaware of the tiny creatures traversing our skin and body. Like this micro spider, called Demodex.   This common creature runs around in the pores of our skin. Most of us are hosts to them, and yet we are unaware of their existence. If I had told my ancestors of several…

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Bias feeding

Ever notice how the more you become convinced of something the more you feed that belief? If we believe analog is superior to digital or vice versa, we tend to gravitate toward other groups that believe the same thing. It seems true in politics, stereos, cars, and perhaps even stamp collecting. We’re looking for affirmational…

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Multi gauge cables

If you had a chance to read my post of several days ago titled The Bypass Cap you might have been thinking it was about headwear. Or, you might have gotten my analogy of using a super tweeter to augment a standard tweeter. Here’s another for you. If you were to take a thin, 22…

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Is accuracy overrated?

In response to yesterday’s post, Steven responded: “If you take a recording and transfer it (a) bit perfect digitally or (b) by cutting a groove in a bit of plastic, running a small rock through the groove and amplifying the resulting signal hundreds of times, then it is a small miracle that they actually sound…

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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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