The owner's manual

July 26, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

I am pretty certain that over the past 48 years I have never gotten excited about an owner's manual. In fact, let's be honest. Owner's manuals are a pain to write and a bigger pain to read.

Now that has all changed.

With the excitement growing of the launch of our most ambitious and anticipated piece of electronics yet, the BHK600—by far the best sounding amplifier I have ever heard in my life and not by a little…I mean, the authority, the musicality! Totally off the charts—we wanted to continue lavishing as much love and care on the smallest of details.

Like the owner's manual.

Let's make the manual as extraordinary as the amplifier.

There was only one person for the challenge. Peter Rudy: over-the-top audiophile, amazing attorney (he's argued in front of the US Supreme Court), leads treks through Nepal and halfway up Mt. Everest, helped me design the original Power Plant, responsible for the Power Port, and one of the most passionate people I have ever met.

When we approached Peter he agreed to write the manual under one condition: it had to be something people want to read.

And it is. Go here and download the BHK600 manual. See for yourself and let me know.

I think it's a masterpiece.

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66 comments on “The owner's manual”

  1. Having given support for user manuals and user guidelines for medical devices for life support system I can absolutely confirm that nobody reads user manuals. Human beings are characterized by the performance and dominance of their audio-visual perception. No wonder that PowerPoint is that popular. My experience tells me: a video demonstrating the installation and all important advisories will get more acceptance than a written user manual without any helpful photos or without sketches which must be self explanatory. Today the design of a user manual is mainly dictated by regulations concerning liability.

  2. I usually read manuals. You need to for my latest purchase, the Chord Mojo2, because of the hidden menu system. A QR code takes you to a short and informative video.

    If you like the folksy fireside chat approach, I'm sure you'll love this. I don't, so I hate it. I couldn't care one flying banana about the author's mother's garage curtains. This manual is WAAAAY TOOOOO LOOOONG. If this was my product, I'd get a black marker pen, obliterate all the nonsense and highlight what actually matters.

    The most important thing is probably the image of the back panel. That's where you connect stuff. There is a photo that is far too small to identify the connections. Even the photos showing removing screws doesn't show where the screws are, and the photos are lopsided. Important things like never connect the XLR and RCA at the same time (which I used to do) are buried in the text somewhere.

    My son did a lot of the design of the literature for the products in my house. For a product that is not plug and play, you need to know what to do before it arrives (product guide) and how to install it (install guide). These were printed and in the box. When the device is fully app controlled the User Guide is pretty pointless and was not included in the box.

    If you want life histories and the fireside stuff, that goes in the Product Brochure. That's the thing you used to print in expensive quality colour and handed out in their thousands, now most people still put effort into them online as they often sell the product. It really depends how you see your business selling its products. Personally, I just want to know what the product does and why I might want to buy it.

      1. I do feel sorry for any non-English speaking owners. If they were to put this in Google Translate they might wonder what they've bought.

        It reminds me of watching the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on Chinese TV in Guangdong. The TV was not big, was dominated by the Chinese Red 5-Star flag and there was this lady tucked away in the bottom right corner of the screen jabbering away in Cantonese. Every few minutes a picture of an athlete would pop up, gone in 60 milliseconds. It was interesting, even if completely meaningless. I got the results on returning to HK.

        At least with a boat anchor it is difficult to go wrong, and you can't electrocute yourself.

          1. My gf at the time was HK-Chinese and she jabbered away in Cantonese. It's more an indictment of the listener for not understanding, rather than the jabberer. All I can say, she spoke at 500 words per minute and never drew breath. I'm sure the good folk of Guangdong were hanging on to the lady's every last word. There's something very jabbery about listening to a language of which you don't know a single word.

            1. I do mean to nit-pick, unlike 'Richtea', but they don't speak Cantonese in Guangdong province...they speak Mandarin.

              The Spanish, Italians & Greeks can rattle it off too at 500
              words per minute's almost Welsh; one long word.

              1. She spoke both, but they sounded the same to me. I look forward to the Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the BHK600 manual.

                My fridge came with 9 different language manuals, none of them English. As we had to reverse the door we chose Norwegian, not because anyone here speaks Norwegian, but because it was so well illustrated. 32 steps to reverse a door.

                1. Consumer friendly manual.

                  My wife can also speak both & I live in a
                  predominantly Chinese suburb of Sydney.
                  This has allowed me to be able to tell the
                  difference...intonation...even though I still
                  can't speak or understand either fluently.

                  1. A German product. You won't get Germans going on about their parent's home decorations. Note to self: must avoid stereotyping. Will get cancelled.

                    Actually, Leica camera manuals are a thing of beauty. Plus, if you email them, they will send a printed version for free, all the way from Germany. The only thing Leica ever gave out for free.

  3. If you ever sell your component you will get more for it if you have the original owners manual and also if you have the original box and everything that came in the box. Never throw any of it away including your receipt. Put it all in the original box and find a dry place to store it. Having the original box shows you care about the condition of your component and has been handled properly, shows you are a responsible owner, that the component has been unlikely stolen, and it's also the best way to transport it if you're moving or shipping it. Also ship it double boxed to protect the original condition of the box and for added protection.

    1. Oh and don't lose the remote if it came with one. Remotes can be costly to find or replace and if you have it when selling your component you will fetch a higher resale price. I wonder how many remotes are in couches thrown in landfills or found later in another box or closet after having been misplaced and separated after the unit has been sold without the remote? Put it up for sale on eBay if you later find it, many people search for the missing remote or just want an extra one in case theirs breaks. I also see high resale prices on eBay for boxes and packing materials even without the component in the box. You may not need the manual to know how to operate your component but it comes with specifications and other information that can be valuable to have. Also in vintage equipment it has nostalgia in hard to find literature which can be expensive to replace.

  4. A serious piece of kit deserves a serious owners/users manual for those who are unsure or unfamiliar with home-audio electronics...better to be safe than sorry.
    At this point in my home-audio journey all I need from an amplifier is on/off & gain control & I don't
    need a manual for those two functions.
    Since the BHK-600 is a power amp all that I need to know is on/idle/off & to power it off at the wall
    outlet before disconnecting any wires.

    It might be helpful to have an 'At a Glance' section for those in the know.

    1. Here's a brilliantly clear and fabulously well illustrated manual for a mono amplifier, and a Quick Start Guide (your wish is my command)

      I like three things in particular.
      - They tell you absolutely everything, such as how to plug in a speaker cable, which direction, what type, with arrows etc.
      - The warnings are ultra-clear - in the top right corner of every page where they are needed, you cannot possibly miss them.
      - The little icons draw your attention to what the point is about before you've read it.

      I had a client who wrote manuals and did graphics for the computer industry. It could take weeks or months and was well paid. It is a very skilled job. Get it written by a lawyer for free and, well, it looks like it was written by a lawyer for free, dictating without an eye on the word-count. Lawyers can't draw by the looks of it, or even take a straight photograph. Chord's photography is highly professional, as it should be. Product photography is another highly skilled job requiring proper lighting, where the lawyer seems to have used his iPhone.

      Zuma also do what some companies do, provide a "press resources" page with high quality images, so that if people review your product, you get great images, rather than iPhone stuff that looks rubbish.

      1. The Chord manual is sophisticated looking, but the light typeface is hard to read in less-than-ideal lighting situations. Branding designers frequently specify hard to read light face types because they look sleek and modern.

        1. Both PSA and Chord use the same font in black, Chord looks 2pts larger and is better spaced.

          Manuals that are likely to be read on a computer should be formatted in landscape, like Chord. In portrait (like PSA), to get a full page, you have to scale it down by a third, so everything gets smaller. You can rotate a mobile, but not a computer screen.

          1. On my computer screen the Chord manual font, though it may be the same font famlily as the PS Audio, is lightface, not as bold and legible as the PS Audio. There is a big difference between the two.

  5. A very well written manual. I think more information on the tubes is needed. There was no mention of the brand or type of tubes that come with the unit other than just 2 small signal tubes and a rectifier tube. There was also no recommendation for what tubes could be used for tube rolling.
    On another note, are you going to offer a stereo version of this amplifier?

  6. Peter did an exceptional job with this manual! I dig separating the Basics, Beyond Basics, and Reference sections. Very cool. Typo on page 11-Do no hook up interconnects
    I did laugh when he urged users to not use after market fuses-" That scares the crap out of us." I can't imagine my system without them. All in all, the most comprehensive manual I have ever seen for an amplifier. Good job!

  7. As someone who uses owners and service manuals on a daily basis it nice to see something that is a bit more in-depth and some reasons as to why recommendations are made.
    Best I can tell is I need (2) 20A lines Minimum for the amps alone. Then At least one or 2 standard 15A lines for the source end.

    I’m glad your so pleased with the sound and details it delivers.

    1. 2 x 20A is almost 5,000w in the UK, I suppose half that in the USA. I used 1 x Neotech NEP-4003, 13AWG rated at 27A, and I thought that was complete overkill for my entire audio system.

      I suppose when you go for these monsters you are in a whole new world of pain. Is the incoming cable and power in the manual?

      1. If I go with a big ass AB or A amp then I’m seriously thinking of getting 220V ones.

        Of course that tends to rule out ‘audio grade’ outlets and plugs as being standard built (at least in the US) That leads to another skill set being honed. 🙂

        not Being ‘electric’ green or adding extra AC are a small price to pay for sound quality. 😀

        1. Many power companies like PSA make kit with EU and UK receptacles. Some people in the UK use US receptacles and you can get US cables here.

          1. It’s not a major stumbling block. Just not “standard”
            I do it for work all the time.
            European manufacturers - 220v laser systems. It’s interesting to see what they think is standard in the US versus what is quite often ‘standard’.

  8. I have a lot of owners manuals as I repair vintage audio equipment, mainly amplifiers. There is one manual that is worth reading if you haven't yet. It is the original Crown DC 300 manual.

    1. I just adopted one of those (ish - Amcron DC-300A). Cleaned up nicely, zero hum, ready to find a use. I shall check out said manual!
      Traded it for soldering up a few 'botanic' lights n timers. 😉

  9. I personally prefer the Owner Manual formats of some other PS Audio products I've ordered, such as the BHK Pre. The BHK600 Manual is too chit-chatty for my taste and I find the format a little clumsy with all the paragraph indentations and unnecessary bullets. I like manuals to have no more words than neccessary and simple text justification. But that's just me.

    1. Sadly, no - you have to actually look at your amp.

      Sadly the web site doesn't give that information for any of your products either, so you actually have to look at a tube to find out what it is - that doesn't make ordering replacements easy or convenient.

  10. It's way, way, WAY too wordy. I found myself skimming it just to get the basic details I wanted to know.

    I want a manual, not a novel; perhaps you need to include a shorter manual giving the Cliff's Notes version of what is in the full manual.

    Also, the tube section is less than helpful. I want to know how many hours of use you recommend for tube change intervals; saying one or two years given a few hours of use per day is just dart board levels of fuzzy.

    You also list the specs for the fuses but you don't list what the tubes ARE anywhere. Now users will be required to go look at their amp to see what they are before ordering replacements, that's the kind of information a manual SHOULD have in it rather than a paragraph on what a rectifier tube does or whether to use aftermarket feet.

  11. Hey I just finished reading the whole owner’s manual, and I know I’ll never buy a BHK600. Hard to believe it offended so many folks. These are some of the biggest issues in the world these days!!

  12. Your right about most owners manuals just being tossed in with little or no thought.

    Back when dinosaurs still ruled I remember the manuals that HP and Tektronix supplied with new gear. They were jam packed with information and very well written. After age of dinosaurs had faded away we had software manuals, I bought licensed versions of Lotus 123, Wordperfect 5 and dBase-III. Each of those came with detailed manuals (two were loose leafed books) that were well enough written you could use the software pretty much to it's limits just by reading the manual. Software was not cheap back then but the manuals alone were worth the increased cost.

    I've always thought PS Audio did a good job with their manuals, they are better than most.

  13. I thought the manual was way too long, more info than just for the amp, and I think after a while, the user will skip reading this because of the lengthy h and content.
    This is an amp and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to hook up a few cables and flip some switches to make it work.
    I did find a couple of useful tips like hooking up a Rel sub and the fuse requirements.

  14. A better than average manual, but as mentioned above it is rather long. My guess is most people will not read it , if at all. I always appreciate it when I buy new gear if it comes with a separate quick start guide. Usually it is two to five pages long an has six to maybe twelve steps that you follow to get the gear up and running.

    I mostly think of the manual as a reference document that should have a good index so you can quickly get to what you need more detail on. What I hate most is online manuals ( the trend for most TV's ). If I spend more than a couple of thousand on a piece of gear I expect a decent manual to come with the gear and I do not want to hear about how many trees were saved by not including a manual. ( End of rant. ) 😀

  15. I'm not getting the "extraordinary" vibe from this. It does read well but, other than that, it is pretty unexciting. Since we mainly interact with an owners manual using our eyes, to make our experience "extraordinary", it should at least be visually stimulating.

    And, visually speaking, this document is utterly unimpressive: some of the photos are not properly cropped and need retouched, the PS Audio logo in the header looks low res, and it gives the impression it was laid out in Microsoft Word... Frankly, it looks like you hired a lawyer to create your owners manual.

    If you are serious about creating a document—any document, owners manual or otherwise—that makes a real impact, you need a good graphic designer. Yes, having the right copy is definitely important. But, if you want people to arrive at the "extraordinary" conclusion on their own, the owners manual should be, in itself, an experience.

    For example, when one unboxes basically anything from Apple—even something relatively inexpensive like AirPods—the customer already knows that every aspect of the unpacking is going to be completely thought-out and interlaced with small creative surprises. This is because their lawyers / engineers hand off a pile of words and dimensions to a team of creatives that turn it into something polished, elegant, and obviously innovative.

    This kind of reminds me of that post from years ago (or maybe it was a video) when your family had an intervention with you about how ugly the speaker prototype was. And, after you let that news wash over you, you hired a top-tier industrial design firm to clean up that mess. I am basically giving you similar advice here.

    If you decide to come to Jesus, I can give you a referral on a designer.

  16. I’m a bit late in commenting and was surprised by most of the rather negative comments so far 🙁

    Basically, I found the BHK600 Reference Guide to be a delight to read in full…
    … if I hadn’t seen anything before it arrived the basic info section is just a minute or so read and I’d be listening to music without delay. It’s not exactly a technical product from a users point of view. Anyone buying these will already have seen the specifications to match to speakers and preamp - and I’d guess had already auditioned. As for tube/valve rollers, I’m sure they would be clued up already.

    Being me, and since it’s sent to folk well before arrival there’s time to read through the whole guide. It really didn’t take long to go through each section in turn - the introduction explained why it had been written this way and what was to come. It has a table of contents for those that are in a rush, get into issues and for revisiting when needing to look something up.

    For me, as written, it’s a fitting tribute to its creator followed by brief but entertaining prose describing how to connect up and use this power amp.

    Note: I am one of those folk that always read and sometimes send feedback for any manual and guide. Comes from my professional life working technically on computers since the late 1970’s, having to read (and sometimes help write) 1,000s of pages which change every few years… Audio products are light relief…

  17. Although my command of the English language is far from exemplary, it appears that there may be a typo in one of the sentences of the manual.
    Under the subtitle "Power Requirements" there appears to be a word missing in the second sentence.
    "That said, we believe
    a pair of BHK 600 amplifiers “can” be powered a 15-amp circuit for your equipment,
    but that “can” depends on a lot of variables."
    Shouldn't the word "by" be inserted after the word "powered", ie: powered by a 15-amp circuit.
    Just saying. 🙂

  18. A perfect example of forced familiarity. Rather than simply being approachable, the writing leaves the impression that the author is trying too hard to be our friend. It is quite possible to be both affable and authoritative (see the manuals written by Nelson Pass), but what we have here is too much like a prototypical glad hander at a business get together.

    On the technical side, I question the suggestion to use separate circuits from adjacent rooms. This doesn’t bode well for proper grounding.

  19. Paul a lot of criticisms here but I had no issues
    I thought the Manual was finely Written and short stories about designers very interesting.
    Most important feature of a users manual are specifications. A curtain made out of fiberglass? Interesting but everyone knows that speakers sound better with no covers at all. I am surprised the tubes are expected to last only one to 3 years. Audio Research has a built in tube meter that lets the user know how exactly how many hours have passed on the tubes. A good feature.

  20. Tis indeed a good reading manual! Nicely done! I am a chronic manual reader, (and subsequent re-reader, seeing as my rate of cranial data retention seems to be somehow related the ebbing timeline of my cranial hair receding)... and I especially like the fact you can now pre-read a manual prior to purchase. This also allows me to keep the OEM manual unopened for pristine potential re-sell/upgrade. Sorry for the redundancy - selling DOTH most certainly implicate an upgrade... ;-).

    And I'm pretty certain the cost of the piece of gear is directionally proportional to the likelihood of reading the entire manual.

    Lets face it, the audio geek's new purchase process goes somewhat like this:
    Research, research, review, review, research, review, research, review forums reviews, review video reviews, review the reviewers, review the reviewer's comments section, verbally cuss out the usual mom's-basement Bose owning trolls, narrow down different brands, decide, second guess decision, repeat all previous research, 'final answer' decide, locate, price shop, purchase, check tracking number, second guess purchase, justify your way out of any buyer's remorse, (this step is SURPRISINGLY effortless), FINALLY sit back into chair and assume satisfied relaxed position, re-check tracking, download manual, read manual, save to folder with the other 1297 manuals, return to rigid forward inclined pose in chair, put glasses back on, check tracking again, get agitated that there is no update, re-review most of your previous research and reviews, hesitantly exit PC environment, realize what time/day it is, re-check tracking number on your phone, select location for new item, pre-arrange new item area, prepare new item location, lustily envision new item in its future location, check tracking, pre-lay cables to new item's pre-arranged location, pre-label upcoming input names on existing equipment, prepare location for OEM empty packaging, check tracking, research and review all the items you DIDN'T choose, research and review all the similar competitive items that are WAY out of your budget, rationalize that the one you bought was indeed THE best one, check tracking and then impatiently and eagerly await item delivery like an anxious kid on or around December 20th. Because at this point you are no longer a mature rational adult.
    Disagree? Then explain how can now rattle off every model number of all the other piece of gear that you rejected AND a 17 digit tracking number off the top of your head, but you can't recall name of the movie you watched last night...?

    C'mon - it's NOT just me...

    And for many of you exclusively pair bonded folk:
    insert the spousal fabrication/justification 'but honey...' story somewhere within the chain, perhaps several times, realize that the new piece of gear is ultimately going to result in another purchase of fine reciprocal jewelry, revert to the coveted "(claimed) purchase price of man-toy to cost of pacification bling ratio guide" calculator, repeat most the previous steps but replacing the word 'gear' or 'item' with 'necklace', 'ring' or 'bracelet'.

  21. Also, tube specs are not mentioned - in case someone wants to stock up while the beast in in transit.

    Also, never,never, ever say "Standby" 😉

    This is illegal and can viod your warranty!

  22. There are always things fresh eyes can criticize. In just reading the first few pages I find humor in the following:

    "Unplug this apparatus during lightning storms." Why not unplug it in advance of the storm, at first signs of lightning in the distance, to minimize the chances of being electrocuted while unplugging the apparatus.

    "Make sure all cable terminations are of the highest quality." What does "highest quality" mean? Isn't "high quality" good enough?

    "Bascom was stealing radios from the dump..." Is it a crime to take radios from a dump?

    "first taste of audio engineering in junior high." Do young people or foreigners know what "junior high" means?

    "took a class that was half electricity and half radio." There's a joke in there somewhere.

    "at a home laboratory his wife built for him." She designed and equipped it herself, or just paid for it?

    I could go on, but not for free. LOL

    There is always room for professional editing. At least the manual is written in readable English and not a bad translation from Chinese. 🙂

    1. In my last sentence, edit to read: "and not a bad English translation from Chinese, as I have seen in the manuals of many Chinese companies."

      1. What about all the times people are at work. They better check the weather forecast and unplug before they go to work.

        I used to live in Central Florida and there were lightning storms almost every day during the summer. Here in Southern California I see or hear lightning only a few times per year.

  23. Fun thread here…

    When I was 13, I got into cars at the wrecking yard and removed many old radios and made a parts bin.
    I also was studying the “Radio Amateurs Handbook when I was 6 or 7.
    I learned a ton about tubes and the supportIng circuits.
    Anyone remember what a vibrator in a car radio did?

      1. FR,

        A mobile “vibrator” (dirty minds), took the low voltage DC and alternates it between two primary windings on a transformer, when then upped the voltage high enough to feed the B+ in the radio. Then it was rectified to a high-voltage DC and filtered in the normal way.

        Man, we have come a long way.

        1. My grandfather had a different version on his farm. It was about the size of 2 loaves of bread and took 6 VDC in and occasionally, when it worked, spit out 120 VAC. It was quite cantankerous. Mostly it just sounded like a nest of hornets. Life got easier when small generators got light enough to be portable.

  24. Do you get one manual with each BHK-600 or do you get one manual per pair of BHK-600's?
    Since most audiophiles will buy these devices in pairs I suspect that purchasers will end up
    with two manuals.
    What a great gift for your life partner! 😀

  25. revA states: "its not usual to have -foot ?39 interconnects which perform flawlessly. I doubt that could ever work with single ended RCA"
    UNusual seems more likely, perhaps "it is standard practice at PS Audio to have long XLRs.."

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