The $35 resistor

September 10, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

I am well aware people in our HiFi Family think were nuts. And, that’s ok. Better nuts than boring.

When people ask me if parts of identical value but different construction sound unlike one another I kind of scratch my head. In my world, parts in the signal path all sound different. It’s like asking me if chocolate and vanilla taste different.

The answer seems so obvious.

But then I climb out of my cloud and plop back down into some form of reality that isn’t mine but close enough to the others in order to communicate.

When building products that people can afford it becomes a challenge to know where to spend what funds you have available. I can assure you $10 Audio Note resistors or $50 Rel Caps in every position on a circuit would place audio equipment out of reach for all but a few.

The challenge then comes down to selectivity. Where to best place your parts funds to get the performance you’re hoping for.

I remember well the tough choice I had to make when designing the Genesis Stealth integrated amplifier. The volume control in the Stealth was the heart of the device: my last all-out assault on fixing the volume control before I finally gave up and eliminated the volume control altogether through the invention of the Gain Cell.

The Stealth volume control was simple. A series resistor with variable shunt resistors. Instead of trying to use what everyone else was struggling with: a high-quality potentiometer or fancy stepped attenuator, my simple circuit depended 100% on the quality of a single resistor.

After much trial and error, I landed on a 1-watt 0.1% tolerance Vishay that in quantities of 500 pieces ran us $35 each. Ouch. That’s a lot when even a great 1% metal film costs about a dime.

The point of the story is simple. The only reason we cut into our own margins by $70 for the stereo pair was because it sounded better. A lot better.

Hopefully, this story will resonate with some and confirm with others what they always suspected. That we’re nuts.

Certainly not boring.

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80 comments on “The $35 resistor”

  1. Now I ask you, my fellow audionuts; Is it “nuts’ to spend some R&D time figuring our where
    to put the expensive parts & where to put the less expensive parts in an audio circuit to get
    the best sonic bang for your buck?

    I think not!

    I suspect that as Paul gets older he is just revelling in the notoriety of pretending to be nuts,
    when in fact he is one smart cookie.
    If PM is well & truly ‘nuts’ then I doubt that PS Audio would be in the healthy position that
    it is in (Octave Records & new products from PSA) & we’d probably see him in a straight
    jacket when he does his ‘AskPaul’ presentations 😉

    1. Hah! Thanks, Martin. I was attempting to be ok with the label assigned to me/us by the flat earth engineering people. They believe we’re delusional at best and dishonest at the worst.

      Better nuts than either of the above. Sometimes if you pre-assign blame they can more easily put their guard down long enough to maybe let a modicum of new ideas creep into the little gray cells.

      Infiltrate I say!

      1. True that.
        If you call yourself nuts then you’ve taken
        the wind out of the flat-Earther’s sails.
        Furthermore, when you know that you’re right
        then it doesn’t matter what they say 😉

      2. Paul, to this:
        “I was attempting to be ok with the label assigned to me/us by the flat earth engineering people. They believe we’re delusional at best and dishonest at the worst.”

        It is inappropriate to call them flat earth. If you replace your “beliefs” with the anti vaxers crowd, you are just the same. If you think about it, you are just as anti-science as the the crazies. Why can they suggest HCQ, IVM, UV light up your sphincter or other treatments? They use the same logic for their claims as you do for “wires” or resistors. “Trust me!”

        There is no need to use those terms. If anything, you could borrow from science and show that your concepts can be proven “scientifically”. Persuasion is not science.

        It is up to you to decide what you want to believe. Or to understand what is proven.

        1. CtA,
          In audio it’s up to what our ears tell us but you will apparently never understand this concept.
          You can come here, since January, & keep trying to ram ‘science’ down our throats but most, if not all, of us here would much rather use our ears.
          So you can keep repeating your ‘science in audio is the only thing that matters’ point of view until you’re dark blue in the face, but please know that most of us here are completely desensitised to it by now.
          You are the epitome of a broken record…but if that is what gives you joy in this world…
          I guess that you are also nuts, in your own way.

            1. CtA

              You’ll never understand.

              I can generate move UV than you’ll ever need so let me know if you need some disinfecting.

              Your words are often confrontational and condescending. Neither of which is an enduring quality.

              So keep posting and rubbing everyone the wrong way. It’s not your ideas, it’s your written attitude.

              Maybe that’s what you intend…. Is to Dump on everyone to improve your own self image.

              1. Who are you?

                I am just surprised that an engineering based company who started by providing better engineering solutions has abandoned their early roots for espousing mythology.

                We learn by using science, statistics, controlled observations. There is so much work into how we learn and progress.

                We leave faith for Sundays or whatever day of the week you select.

                To call science based people flat earth is not the best way of going about it. Paul can say what he wants about his approach, but then he has to be careful of the implications. If anything, flat earthers are the ones that don’t believe in science. One of them killed himself some time ago in California on his rocket trying to prove a flat earth. He ignored science.

                1. Just to be clear, CTA, I’ve been a part of this company since 1974 and been responsible, at least in part, for every design since our beginnings. From day one we have recognized that’s passive parts as well as active devices all have a sound to them and all sound different. That’s been true for at least 47 years.

                  True enough we have always been (and shall always remain) a science-based engineering-centric company. We hire only the best and use state of the art equipment. That doesn’t mean that we do not appreciate the fact that different components (like resistors) all have a sound to them depending on where in the circuit they are.

                    1. I hate the guy died too, and it actually made it into my feed a day or so after it happened. Still, that crowd has been responsible for some hearty belly laughs. I saw a short video where a guy poured water on a basket ball and said “see if the earth was round all the water would run off”. I almost fell off my chair.

                    2. Yes, in March 2020, near Barstow. There is a video of the whole thing. Just awful. Steam powered rocket. Not good.

                    3. Paul maybe Jeff Bezos can launch a few of the flat earth people into space to prove to them that we are not a Frisbee zipping around the sun.

                2. The better question is who are you?

                  I work With scientists , experimentalists and theorists every day of the week at some of the most prestigious universities and national labs in the world. Not one of them has ever come across as being as close minded as you present yourself.

                  Again it’s the presentation from You,not the material.

                    1. I haven’t suspended any belief in any science. I also haven’t suspended any belief in the fact that there’s some things that science hasn’t fully explained yet.

                      So that leaves room for more than one perspective. Something you seem
                      To struggle with.

                      If I didn’t think that the ‘sound of PSA’ was good I wouldn’t be wasting my time reading here or engaging.

                      So again, believe what you want and keep assuming that all others are wrong.
                      It must feel good to be the ‘last word’

                      Wait until science moves forward and all you think you know today is turned on it’s head tomorrow.

                    2. Mike,
                      I can’t seem to be able to reply to you directly. Actually, I was a patient in an “audiophilia nervosa” wing for decades. Tubes, wires, but never went to the “neurotica” stage. But it was my interest in science (this is what I do for work) that drove me to understand the process. I am a curious person at heart. I discovered there is a lot of literature on the subject. Actually, there is a lot known. Sort of like a Mythbusters of audio.
                      This is what brought my disappointment to audio.
                      Paul measures. Chris talked about distortion in woofers and how he wants to overcome it. That is measuring. Chris used a Klippel for the woofers. It means he measures.
                      I don’t understand why they want to build this mysticism about audio. If you get people not to spend stupid money in wires, for example, you will get them to invest in better speakers. We should drop the false premises and focus on what matters.

                    3. CtA,

                      So good to read this reply. We’re closer to being on the same page, hell, almost on the same sentence, then what our writings may have lead us to believe.

                      The science of anything and the development of measurements to support that science are what is critical. But there is also the interpretation of the scientific data. It can (and should be) an on going process. It’s also possible that the initial conclusions may completely change as time progresses.

                      PSA (and others?) state they believe (no reason to disbelieve) in the science and engineering. But they also factor in the human part, the intangible, the mystic, the voodoo. Their’s and Paul’s ears.

                      There must be something tangible there….

                      “I don’t understand why they want to build this mysticism about audio. If you get people not to spend stupid money in wires, for example, you will get them to invest in better speakers. We should drop the false premises and focus on what matters”

                      The above sentence is where the tracks split, in my opinion…. It reads judgmental. If people want / can tell a difference in wires then they should go for it. It’s not my (our?) place to judge how they spend and what they spend on. Nor should I (you?) be pretentious enough to tell them what to do. Unless of course someone asks….

                      Let people learn on their own. Let them fall, let ‘em be suckered. The line we’re talking about (I believe) is very close to the line of religion and or politics. (Deep core human emotion stuff)

        2. Unlike anti-vaxxers, no audiophile ever killed anyone listening to different components.

          Chew on this one. I have a First Class degree in Economics from one of the leading universities in the world, a field of study that did not include much in the way of electronic engineering. As far as I’m concerned, oscilloscopes are for people who get aroused by buttons and sine waves. Audio measurements generally mean sweet FA to me and might as well be written in Sanskrit.

          Does that mean I am completely ill-equiped to make any rational decisions about audio? Just like Eratosthenes (see below) demonstrated the earth was round, without any scientific theory needed, just a simple observation, is it not reasonable for an individual to make decisions based on personal observation?

          What I find appallingly condescending about ASR types is the presumption that you have to be engaged in science and measurements to make rational audio decisions. That is just complete bulls**t. People by audio all sorts of different ways and for all sorts of different reasons, sometimes just because a machine has a giant knob. ASR types are too narrow-minded to appreciate anything beyond their laser-focused perspective, and definitely are not lovers of giant knobs.

          1. “What I find appallingly condescending about ASR types is the presumption that you have to be engaged in science and measurements to make rational audio decisions. That is just complete bulls**t. People by audio all sorts of different ways and for all sorts of different reasons, sometimes just because a machine has a giant knob. ASR types are too narrow-minded to appreciate anything beyond their laser-focused perspective, and definitely are not lovers of giant knobs.”

            Dear Economics from a Very Important Institution. Did you realize that you statement has a few “non sequiturs”? Being British and always trying to upman anyone with some obscure story, I am sure you know what non sequitur means.
            What you call ASR’s, which I presume you mean people that attempt to follow objective criteria for purchasing music systems, have a set of values where they believe the system should not reinterpret the music delivered to it. They want the system to be transparent. You, for example, have stated that beauty to the eye is important. You have stated that loudspeakers have to be “pretty” and not ugly like the KH310s. I presume then that the esthetic aspect is very important to you. Like you said, a giant knob. If you think that buying a stereo because it has a giant knob is important for listening, then that is your choice.

            Maybe in your First Class education in your Very Important Institution they forgot to include the work of behavioral economists. Or you did not keep up to date. Humans are not rational. The downside of decisions are usually weighed more than the upsides. It is a significant cause why people don’t want to abandon subjective audiophile, they are afraid! You have to be brave to use System 2 of your thinking.

            Be brave! If you like to get closer to how they made the music, how they wanted you to hear it, then don’t focus on “pretty” or the giant knob. Focus on attempting transparency. For this, science helps.

            Or you can just accept that it is a toy, something pretty, or something to brag about.

            And yes, I don’t like giant knobs. Or giant nobs who tell me they come from a Very Important Institution.

            By the way, because science evolves, we will have better systems over time. Don’t you think that Chris did study the science of speakers before Paul hired him? Or do you think Paul hired Chris because he liked his beard?

            1. Behavioural economics considers how emotional behaviour impacts on rational economic behaviour. You can take a far broader perspective. I suggest you read a recent book, “Anthro Vision” by Dr Gillian Tett, a Cambridge Anthropologist who reviews how the analysis of human behaviour explains consumer and business behaviour, including political behaviour. A classic example, in which she was involved and explains in detail, is how Cambridge Analytica used OCEAN personality profiling to win Trump the 2016 US election.

              What ASR types don’t get is that 100% reliance on measured data is purely a consumer profile, a personality trait, that ASR types believe totally and defend violently to the exclusion of all other profiles. Whether you are right or wrong is irrelevant and probably not even a valid question. Why you are wasting you breath here is because almost no one here shares your belief system, so you are shouting at a closed door.

              It is easy to argue why the ASR approach falls down. There is little point in doing so as they don’t want to know. I argued it and was blocked from the site inside 24 hours.

              Big knobs is not a joke. It is a design feature that has been hugely successful over the years, most recently by Devialet and Naim, amongst others. Since Naim introduced products with big knobs their sales have trebled.

      3. Guys, I am confused. What are “flat earth engineering people”? I thought being “flat earth” meant you only judge gear with your ears, measurements are worthless. And I thought “engineering people” are the opposite. If two things measure the same they must sound the same. If you cannot measure it, it does not exist. What am I missing here???

        1. Electronically, you are correct. It is extremely difficult to have two speakers to measure identically.
          But you can get speakers to measure close enough that under controlled situations, you cannot tell them apart.
          Even with electronics, once you get below a certain threshold, they will “sound” the same. Paul said the threshold was 60 dBs some time ago. I thought that it would be a little higher than that. I would prefer to say that below 80 dBs is enough. This is why I am not into the last digit of measurement. In my next life, I’ll come back with bat or dog’s ears and I will be able to pick up more.

          1. CtA,
            See, this is how controlling you are in your attitude.
            IF you come back, in your next life, you will have no say as to what sort of hearing you will have; more than likely you’ll be just as aurally challenged next time around as you clearly are this time.

        2. Sorry, that’s my term and my bad. In my view, a flat earther used as a slang term in our field is someone who refuses to believe what is right in front of their face. i.e. an engineer or doctor so ensconced in their belief in their knowledge there’s no room for anything outside their box – like how things sound different despite the fact there are currently no means of measuring that with equipment other than our ears.

          How does that relate? Well, a flat earther looks at the world and it appears to him as flat. In fact, according to all his measurement equipment (levels and transits), as well as the selected reading materials he chooses that support his worldview (his scholarly articles) it is in fact flat.

          Now, take that back a few thousand years when this was hotly debated. Aristotle had travelled from Greece to Egypt and noticed the constellations in the night sky were very different than where he lived. It wasn’t long before others had accurately calculated its circumference.

          Imagine trying to convince someone the world was round when everything they have learned, every piece of literature available to them (even a few hundred years ago) said something different. From religious texts to “scholars” the flat/round debate turned into the quasi learned had their proof in literature and measurements the Earth was indeed flat.

          The actual learned (and remember this took place following the Dark Ages and into the Age of Enlightenment where the teachings of the Bible were what people studied as gospel (sorry couldn’t resist). And back then, the biblical scholars were convinced the Earth was flat. (It wouldn’t be to later when Europeans began to circumnavigate the globe that biblical scholars had to sharpen their penscils and modify the story line. Most of the maps even back then still showed a flat earth with water pouring over the edges and dragons and such waiting for the unlucky who fell of its edge).

          Thus, when I say flat earthers are those who believe only what they have been taught in books and by their fellow scholars, that’s what I am referring to.

          Sorry for the long winded answer.

          1. In 1978 I visited relatives in Olsztyn, Poland. Different years, communist rule.
            The birth place of Kopernicus. They did take me to the museum they had for him. I can’t remember much, unfortunately.
            The guys you mentioned had better measurements….

          2. I think it was Eratosthenes who observed that a stick planted in the sand in Alexandria at midday cast no shadow, but at the same time somewhere distant there was a shadow. You could call that science, it was an empirical observation that demonstrated the earth was round and could be used to measure the circumference of the earth. Pretty good for a man with a stick.

            Meanwhile, CtA and his mates at ASR seem to go on about Sinbad or Aladdin or something and it seems solely intended for some sort of sexual gratification.

          3. Not a problem with the length of stating your position if that is what you deem is needed. The generalization that brevity is a virtue is no more than that and frequently an unsupported one.

            Neil deGrasse Tyson frequently says that ‘Science is true whether you believe it or not.’ Or words to that effect. This is based on the Uniformitarian Principal that reality operates the exact same throughout time and space. This infers that science is the true nature of reality and is complete as well as consistent. This is not unreasonable. However, our knowledge of science certainly is not complete. Special and general relativity and quantum mechanics are probably the two most complete theories of reality and they work quite well in their respective domains, but not when one tries apply them outside of their domains. A law of science ceases to be an absolute law when a single discovery does not follow the script. There have been proposals for the holy grail: the Theory Of Everything (now there’s a mixed metaphor), but the evidence is still under evaluation and the the jury is out. I personally am not holding my breath; tonyplatchy is far more qualified than I to weigh in on the relative merits of these various proposals, but he probably has the wisdom to keep his council to himself.

            However, incomplete science can still be useful. NdGT also has on more than one occasion commented that Newtonian mechanics got humans to the moon and back. Cell phones and global positioning systems work quite well for their intended purposes.
            Even moderately good hi-fi systems can produce reasonable and enjoyable facsimiles of recorded music events, both from the studio and the concert venue.

            Many, probably most, of the people who read and comment to Paul’s Posts are in the subjective evaluation camp is far as the worthiness of hi-fi equipment. Members of the totally objective measurement camp are decidedly in the minority here. Relative numbers of participants are the basis of our representative democracy, but opinion does not cut it in science. Nor does incomplete data, even with multiple precise measurements. Precision is a desirable thing, but that does not indicate completeness.

            As a professional geologist emeritus and also a former employee of a state government environmental regulatory agency, I know that both subjective evaluation and quantitative analyses have their uses. I also understand that both have their limitations. Judgement calls must all too frequently be made based on incomplete and even contradictory data sets. There have been numerous instances where we could not legally pursue a probable contamination event because of the lack of ‘hard evidence’ even though a ‘taste and odor problem’ was quite obvious. Maybe the ‘taste and odor problem’ was not really a threat to human heath and the environment, but it could be also the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It could be immensely frustrating to just let something be, but we could not capriciously and arbitrarily require major expenditures by a likely responsible party for assessing a problem that may or may not reasonably exist. And many times even a responsible party was one of the unknowns. There is the federal Superfund list for some orphan sites, but again I’m not holding my breath.

            If we did have a likely responsible party and reasonable preliminary evidence that a problem exists (oh look, this old steel underground storage tank has rusted through in places and the adjacent soil smells strongly of gasoline), our protocol as established in state regulations, would require the responsible party to hire a professional environmental consultant to perform an initial site assessment to determine if a significant problem existed and submit a report for determining the next step. The selection of the consultant was up to the responsible party, but from our collective experience within the agency, we knew who the really good and the marginally competent consultants were. We were lucky enough not to have any totally incompetent firms working within our jurisdiction. There was an unspoken understanding that the consultant would spin the conclusions in their clients favor if they were close to the line, the ones that didn’t seldom stayed in business long. That was part of the game, they knew it and we knew it. But, of course, if anyone tried to pass off fraudulent data, that was the self inflicted kiss of death. Anyway, back to the protocol. If a significant problem was determined to exist, the next step was to determine the full extent of the problem and gather details of the subsurface and surface conditions. Based on this a remedial action plan would then be developed and implemented. This stepped approach generally worked pretty well, and was enduring within my tenure, but as in all things it was not perfect.


            The human central nervous system (hcns) is indeed a massively complicated biochemical kludge, the result of literally trillions, perhaps quadrillions, of trial and error experiments in God knows how many biochemical life forms over billions of years here on Earth since the original common ancestor. Evolution proceeds in fits and starts. And now, here we are, in all our [sarcasm font on] glory [sarcasm font off]. Along with vast quantities of evolutionary baggage. Our hcns is often described as the most complicated thing in known space. As two science fiction authors collectively known as James S. A, Corey have remarked the hcns follows a general template but it’s all custom grown. Not to mention that it is constantly rewiring itself. This probably explains why some people hear things others miss. I might not (okay, definitely don’t) hear all the subtleties that you hear and have different preferences for “good sound”. That doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, just different.

            As the usually most vocal proponent of precise measurements versus these wildly variable subjective evaluations, if I understand the position correctly, CtA would have us ignore our ears and go with the precision measurements as the true arbiter. However, though subjective evaluations are not precise and may (well, do) vary considerably from individual to individual, that does not render the subjective evaluations irrelevant. CtA and like minded engineers may produce reams of precise measurements (with a degree of statistically evaluated variability; technical instruments are not perfect, I’ve got experience in quantitative analysis, I am familiar with such things). But like the above example of a single valid observation not following the script rendering a scientific law not a law, we maintain that all of these precise measurements may be well and good in and of themselves, but they are not complete. Perhaps someday an expanded suite of precise measurements evaluated by a brilliant and passionless artificial intelligence may correlate to a very high degree what we mere mortals consider good sound. But that day is not today and yet again I am not holding my breath.

            I not infrequently hear people say that science does not have all the answers. I will add that science doesn’t even have all the questions. And that is what is so fun about science. 🙂

            See Paul, you’re not the only one who can run off at the keyboard,

  2. One premise is to think how to make the best equipment minimising the number of expensive components.
    Another premise is how to make the best equipment using only cheap components.
    I prefer the latter.

    The major Japanese and Chinese manufacturers have a major advantage in that they can get very good high quality components because they buy them in massive order quantities way above the amounts needed by the vast majority of hifi companies. You may be able to buy them, but with massive waste. Audio units I use got around this because the manufacturer designed components that they could manufacture in large quantities and hence order components in large quantities and use them in their lower volume production components. It was an attractive idea to me, as you get great value from a relatively small manufacturer (compared to Onkyo).

    This is not new. Quad solid state amplifiers were designed in the 1970s with cheap components, but produced incredibly good performance and resulted in massive sales for decades. It was then easy to move production to China and keep costs down, because there was no need for fancy components.

    ALPS potentiometers are widely used because they are high quality. The only pre-amp I ever owned was a Hattor passive with dual 48-step attenuators. Totally transparent and cost under $1,000. Hattor is brand set up by Arek in Poland who for years had been making stepped attenuators under the Khozmo brand, sold through trade component dealers. He was selling Hattor direct and on Amazon, there are now dealers in the USA.

    Regrettably in the UK the Gain Cell has in several reviews been blamed for a high level of noise, for example on a review of the SGCD in Hifinews: “Although PS Audio has adopted the tried-and-tested ES9018 DAC, the usual mix of low noise, low distortion and vanishingly low jitter are swamped here by PSU noise and THD from, presumably, the encapsulated ‘Gain Cell’ preamp”. I must admit this put me off buying one for my office.

      1. No so.

        I used a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC with the internal volume control, described on the PS Audio website thus: “Its zero-loss digital volume control allows it to be used as a preamplifier, directly feeding a power amp”, which is exactly what I did and I was very happy with it.

        A good argument for well designed (digital) integrated units.

      2. Yes, I think hardly anyone doubts that integrated units are always compromises sound wise. We often want to convince us of the opposite, but I never saw that happening practically.

        1. I found it amusing that Paul opined extensively about the wonderful loss-less volume control in the PSA Perfectwave DACs, with which I would agree, and then when PSA brings out a BHK pre-amp, all of a sudden you need an external pre-amp.

          1. You’re right but it wasn’t quite like that and not all that simple. I resisted the preamp addition for years until Arnie Nudell and Bascom King played for me the difference. It didn’t take but 30 minutes of blind AB testing to know what was better.

            But that was way before the BHK preamp, Steven. At that time I bought an Aesthetix Calypso and used that as my preamp for a few years until BHK agreed to design the BHK preamp.

  3. Paul, why don’t more manufacturers, who don’t want to put this kind of money in a sophisticated pot, use a (to my knowledge so called) “shunt circuit” in which a conventional pot is used out of the direct signal path (which seems to be a more or less well known EE option)? Is it because this design doesn’t fit to every overall circuit?

    1. There are a few reasons. First, if you’re going to use a pot for the variable shunt element, you’re always going to have some signal loss at the loudest part of the travel (the resistance of the pot to ground). Second, you’re always going to have the series element in the circuit. So, with a pot used in the standard topology, the louder the output the less the resistive element is in the circuit. At the pots loudest there’s the resistor at all. Lastly, not many engineers know (or care) that there’s a sound to a pot or a resistor, and it’s a lot easier to simply follow convention.

      So, there’s a trade off as in everything. Most of today’s electronic pots are CMOS shunts.

      1. Thanks much!

        It would be interesting to directly compare the different options with their trade off’s. I guess with this shunt idea, the theoretical loss at loudest volumes and the bigger resistor in signal path might be sufferable in case the advantage to not have any non-soldered contacts in the direct signal path as well as the non-influenced signal to noise by the shunt design is bigger.

        Would be interesting to read about your experiences with alternatives to the BHK attenuation concept and how you’d decide for a next design.

        1. Great suggestion. I second that request. A lot more work for Paul but it would be enlightening for someone like me to get a better understanding about the evolution of audio circuit design.

          1. Neil,
            Regarding your question about whether
            I’ll be replacing the steel lid on my
            new amp with a sheet of glass…
            not until the warranty period is over 😉

  4. I both get and understand where Paul is coming from with the $35.00 resistors.
    I guess the prices have gone up for high quality resistors in the last past 15 years.
    I built and sold quite a few tube amps back then.
    Some amps I built and sold, the most expensive components, were tubes and transformers.
    On resistors for just one amp, would cost me around $900.00 caps around $1500.00 tubes around $3000.00 transformers around $5000.00 to put together.
    I was at that time, a one man operation.
    But If I wanted to build an amp for the masses, expensive components were out of the question.
    Sure I had to cut some corners on amps that I wanted to sail cheaply, but I still couldn’t get around expensive power and output transformers.
    The cheapest amps I sold, were around $450.00 per amp.
    But 15 years ago, that was dirt cheap!

  5. It’s interesting to watch GR Research (Danny Ritchie) analysis speakers sent to him . And if parts matter and bracing and damping…how similar some speakers are on the inside. $4000/pr vs 400/pr. Even allow 1000 for a great cabinet and somethings askew. Business is business.

    1. Phil,
      (from yesterday)
      I do the ‘being frugal discipline’ too so that I can enjoy my early retirement, however after a long time of being frugal (6yrs) eventually something has to give & I ended up rewarding myself for being so good with a new big-ass amplifier 🙂

  6. A quick check on parts express before posting confirmed what I remembered. Just one of the Mills non inductive resistors I used in my crossovers is $6.99. I used non inductive resistors exclusively both in series and parallel to the drivers. One less thing to consider in circuit design. The caps and heavy gauge inductors were considerably more costly. So if Paul is nuts I guess I am too. At least I’m in good company.

  7. Was informing to read Paul’s reply to FR.

    They way I look at things is someplace away from either of the extremes. Dropping names is not necessarily indicative of sound quality. There’s always a compromise, whether it be cost or sound quality.

    That all said, finding something that fits you as a listener is the most important factor. If you believe that measurements tell the whole story then go for it. If you believe in voicing only then go for it.
    If you’re pragmatic, then compare and get what is best for you.

    I would guess from a Manufacturers standpoint that certain buzz words and topologies are required to differentiate themselves from the pack. That’s to be expected and encouraged.

    As far as the line….

    Infiltrate I say! Ok, but don’t get infuriated!

  8. Hahaha

    Coming down from my cloud and definitely not bored but totally board in many but not all cases, I must say “Bravo Paul!” – this one of your best.

    Are you saying we must actually spend countless hours actually engineering our products thoroughly for very little return to get good stuff designed?


    – a fellow nutbag and proud of it.

  9. The best “nutty” upgrade I ever did was a few years ago replacing the four original coupling capacitors in my BAT VK-60 tube amp with Dueland copper CAST caps, handmade in Denmark, considered the best caps in the world. Each cap cost me something like $140. The sound was unbelievably transformed–more clarity, body, tonal accuracy, dynamics. It was like getting a whole new and improved amplifier. Those four capacitors cost almost 14% of the original cost of the amplifier, but were well worth it.

    1. Here is what those Dueland CAST capacitors look like. Because of their size they typically require more space than the capacitor they are replacing. For a DIYer like me, going inside my expensive amp with a hot soldering iron was scary. Like playing surgeon. In my case, the patient survived, better than new.

        1. You mean priced like jewelry? They are hidden within the amplifier case. I can’t overemphasize how much improvement they made to the sound of the amp. This is a tweak of the VK-60 that was enthusiastically recommended in a forum I read years ago. These Duelund CAST caps would not physically fit in most amplifiers.

    2. Sounds like the crazy prices of VH Audio V-Caps. The owner of the company, Chris Ven Haus is a 100% perfectionist but I won’t cross the line and call him nuts because he may have something to say about that. I’ve mentioned that he is also one of the finest landscape photographers in the world. What he must through to get a particular picture would probably qualify him as nuts.

  10. OK, so what’s wrong with us being nuts? Not Joe Pesci or Gallagher insane nuts but nuts all the same. I think we should all be happy that were this kind of “nuts”. I say Don’t Worry Be Happy” Audiophile Nuts, I say lay out your designs on paper today using different color crayons. Just be happy for who you are. And if you’re really nuts, tap on the link below and sing along:

  11. Everyone is nuts in their own way. I like to say I may be crazy but I’m not insane.
    I’m just an average joe but enjoy listening to my modest rig and really do not have an understanding of the cost-benefit decisions related to audio. Your post helps me understand what a manufacturer goes through in the parts selection process.
    My mantra is quality, reliability at a reasonable price. I live relatively near to the Pennsylvania Dutch we buy their furniture and produce for many reasons but one thing you can rely on they provide excellent quality at a fair price and are as ethical as can be.It appears PSaudio shares those attributes.While on the subject of corporate values decades ago I read the book in search of excellence by Tom Peters he found in his research that the most successful companies had three attributes they took care of the community they were located in their, employees, and the consumer. that PSaudio is one of those excellent companies. I’m not just blowing smoke up pauls patoot either as sadly I do not have any PSA gear but enjoy Pauls’s folksy biased presentations.

    1. Actually, Peter’s book was a retrospective analysis. When his proposals were tested prospectively, all of them failed to identify successful companies.
      The statistical method he used was wrong.
      But he became rich.

      1. CtA how about that, statistics aside I’ll buy from a company that takes care of its community, its employees,and consumers 10 out of 10 times. Hell every company would do well to exhibit those virtues we would be a much better country for it.
        Here is a telling statistic I recently read. It would take one $15 an hour employee 506 eight-hour shifts — just under two years if working every weekday — to earn what the average US family spends in a year, according to a USAFacts analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service, Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor the way USAfacts is a very interesting website no lie.

        1. I don’t get your point. I don’t know why you got so mad, I think too many companies abuse their employees. I think corporate titans make too much money. I think that many of these cherished capitalists are just leeches.
          But this doesn’t necessarily make Tom Peters’ book any better.

          1. My point is I want companies to pay staff a living wage, make a good product while supporting their community. I am willing to pay extra for that. If I recall ( from reading this book 50 some years ago)Those three pillars are what peters saw as common threads of successful orgs. Wall street measures success as maximizing shareholder profits,I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive but just much harder to achieve.if success is measure by the wall street definition I measure success differently ethics plays a role in my world.
            Did I come off as angry did not mean to. What attributes do you believe are important for a successful company? We agree about employee exploitation and CEO pay both are obscene.

  12. I’ve built several Pass diy pieces from the diyAudio site, and it’s been a real education in parts. Vishay resistors, got to use Vishay, the fellow diyers say. OK, fine, I will. But I admit I’ve rarely opened up a functioning amp or preamp and started swapping out resistors and capacitors. I’m just thrilled when they work and I get to screw down the covers and put them in a system! Next winter I think I’ll devote some time to it. If Paul and Darren can spend hours listening closely to the differences in parts in the pursuit of sound quality, I can do it, too. But I admit I swallow hard at the idea of $50 caps.

        1. They can become expensive! When you have high values (woofers), a 1% variance can get big. And then you have to get smaller values to match the two speakers. Before you know it, you spent too much money on Mundorf…
          You do want to match the crossovers as much as possible.

  13. Using the term “nuts” is disingenuous but it contributes to building the brand. PSA can hardly be nuts when the cost of an expensive part is included in the price of the device. It would be nuts if it weren’t.

    Everything PSA does is calculated. It has the best return policy I know of. Who else pays for returns of heavy iron after a trial period? Who else gives full original cost credit for equipment traded in (up to a point)?

    It may appear nuts on the surface but rest assured we are paying for the privilege. I hardly object. There is no free lunch. It gets us to try expensive products at no risk and I love it. It is an inspired program and hardly the stuff nuts are made of.

    The irony of it all is that the policy, despite probable denials, is partly responsible for increasing the cost of PSA products. I would not have it any other way.

  14. Paul,

    RIGHT ON! As a mostly Audio DIY’er/Modifier, I use those resistors in similar critical positions… and the difference is not subtle!

    Also right on in one of your responses, as a PS Audio customer since 1980, I’ve always been impressed with your use of better-sounding parts where they made clear differences without breaking the BOM bank. That was clear in the PS-III/LCC?PS MC Stepup that were the core electronics in my 1st “audiophile-ish” setup.

    Your obsession with finding the right mix of parts versus keeping costs down has been why I’ve owned PS Audio most of the time since the 1980s and currently rock a P15 and a BHK-250 as the foundation in each of my 2 setups… yes, I DIY, but I can’t DIY’ing gear this good for any reasonable amount of $$$$$ & time. Rather spend the time listening and enjoying!

    Greg in Mississippi

  15. Parts matter a lot. Having replaced the output capacitors in my phono preamp with Mundorf Ag/Au at a premium price it is transformative. No way the manufacturer could have done that and sold it for the price it was sold for.

  16. Stan Curtis, English contract electronics designer, writes much about this “production engineering,” — putting your money where it is best spent sound-wise.

    Mark Levinson reversed this approach. Just put Milspec components everywhere. He found fame and fortune at least.

    I once bought a lawnmower, two-stroke, far less expensive than the Honda 4-stroke which seemed better.
    I told Prof Harry about my choice. He helps design Formula One engines.
    “My mate is proud of designing your mower. The skill is in making it simple, and work well too.

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