Tag Archives: musicians

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Ringside seating

On most recordings, there is a combination of close and distant miking. The close miking gets us a closer-than-natural intimate view of the instrument or performer, while the distant microphones add the missing ambiance and space close-miking cannot capture.

What’s odd about this miking technique is that it works despite the fact we are never as close to the instruments as the microphones.

One way to think about this is to visualize actual musicians in the room. Let’s use a single cello in our example. Mentally place the cellist a few feet behind the loudspeakers. Now, close your eyes and imagine how that would sound from your listening seat.

What you are hearing is a combination of the direct sound from the bow and string coupled with the room’s interactions.

Now, mentally replace our imagined performer with the close-miked cello. It sounds “the same” because the distance between the loudspeakers rendition of the close-miked sound and the listener mirrors the distance between our imagined performer and where we’re sitting.

It may seem counter intuitive to place microphones closer than our ears ever go, but that’s how we get musicians in our rooms.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

PS Audio is having a sale. I’m no longer a dealer as they have gone direct,  but here it is and if you buy, they donate money to musicians!

Power the Performers

There are very few add ons to our stereo systems that aren’t double-edged swords—they help and hurt at the same time. I remember the first time I played around with an inline vacuum tube “warming device”.  Placed between either the input to the preamp or its output, the box did as advertised but it wasn’t a free lunch. The warmed music had also gotten blurred and lost specificity.

One technological add on that offers benefits without losing something in the bargain is a proper power regenerator. Placed inline with the incoming AC power, waveform distortion is reduced by a factor of 10 or more, voltage variations become so low as to be inconsequential, and most importantly, the impedance of the AC power source drops by magnitudes. It’s as if your stereo system were next door to the city power supply, unmolested by neighbors and miles of wires and transformers.

One of the best uses of a regenerator is for our sources and preamplifiers. These ultra-sensitive devices are not appreciative of the noises and unwanted emissions generated by their fellow system companions and vice versa. The noise and hash that comes out of the AC inlet of a DAC or CD transport are easily injected right into your sensitive preamp or phono stage. The ultra-low impedance AC source of a regenerator, like our Power Plant, stops those emissions dead in their tracks. Their pollution is unable to pass between sources, DACs, and preamps.

If your sources, DACS, and preamps aren’t benefitting from a dedicated Power Plant, you’re missing out on what just might be one of the bigger improvements possible.

This month, we’ve got the Stellar P3 Power Plant available to US residents at a remarkably low price. It’s the perfect Power Plant for your sources, or even to power a smaller system. Our program is entitled Power the Performers. You’ve no doubt caught on to the first idea of powering your source performers, but there’s more power yet available.

For every US P3 purchased in the month of May, we’ll cut a check for $100 cash and send it to the Grammy’s MusicCares program where Spotify will match those funds, getting $200 into the hands of musicians in need.

Now’s your chance to make a difference to your system and those in need. Head here and grab one before the end of the month.

Your ears and our musicians will thank you.

*Not in the US? Check with your country’s dealer/distributor to find out if they too are offering similar price reductions in May.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.


There’s not much original in this world. In fact, one might go so far as to suggest nothing is original except the Big Bang.

We all build upon what has come before us.

Sure, there was nothing like the iPhone before its launch in 2007, or the CD player when it debuted in 1982. Yet, these seminal products were all compilations of prior art put together in novel ways. Unique not original.

When PS Audio launched the world’s first external audiophile DAC in 1983, the product category was new yet the offering was repurposing that which already existed in another form. We flatter ourselves to think it was an original product or idea.

Here’s another example. There has never been a Paul McGowan just like me in all of the world’s history. We know that because each human being is separated by 6.4 million base pairs.  This means that the chance that two people are genetically identical is 1/(2^6,400,000), such a small number that it is essentially zero. But even if that would happen, my clone wouldn’t have the identical experiences as did I.

We can say with accuracy me and you are unique. But, we are not original.

Which is why we should be aware and grateful to all of the audiophiles, engineers, technologists, musicians, and theorists that over time have built what we enjoy music on today, brick by brick, layer by layer.

What we treasure in our home music systems may be unique but it certainly isn’t original. It’s the result of countless millions of hours of hard work and vision from those that have come before us.

To this day, I am in constant awe of how cool what we have and what we do is.

Seems like magic.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Music’s what it’s all about

A high-performance audio system doesn’t matter much without music to play on it. Sure, we have scads of music in our library but if you’re like me, new music is always of interest. Especially new well recorded music.

It’s no secret that the musicians of today are struggling in the post Napster economy. Heck, they were struggling before Napster too. Pouring your heart out for the cause of music is an often thankless task, yet musicians do it time and again because they want to share what is in those hearts. They express it best through notes, harmonies, and melodies.

My son Sean has been a musician for most of his life. And a gifted one at that. And his heart is as big as the moon, filled with a generous spirit to help others. He and his friend, Russell, are doing what they can for aspiring musicians: collecting instruments, audio equipment, sheet music, and educational supplies which they then place in the hands of struggling musicians in an effort to better their lives and enrich the art. More than that, they teach classes, give of themselves, and do their best to scratch out a living while helping others. What a great cause.

Is there a chance you might have something of value to donate? An old violin the kids no longer practice on, some speakers hanging out in the garage, a drum kit, trumpet, sheet music. Anything and everything helps. Including money. If you can contribute, here’s their address for donations:

Audiophile Societies Donations
1841-B Slack St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

Sean’s website for donations can be accessed by clicking on the link in the address I just posted. If you want to help with a monthly donation, like I did, you can go here to see their bigger plans.

Without music and a new generation of musicians to write and play it our hobby loses meaning. Thanks for doing what you can.

It all matters.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Weaverville, Waynesville, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Noble experiment

I’ve been noodling a lot lately on my “live” experience at the airport. I’ve even awakened in the middle of the night with an aha! but then fallen back to sleep with a no, can’t be that.

But it’s something.

Several of you have suggested it is the recording process where the damage happens. This is a noble thought because it’s somewhat obvious. Like Occam’s Razor, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.

I wanted to share with you an interesting test I performed some years ago. Working, as I did in recording studios with fine analog tape decks I had the ability to easily switch between the tape recorder input and output. Here’s what I found. On simple single feeds, like a bass guitar or a microphone, it was very difficult to tell one from the other. If I listened closely I could hear a slight roll off of the highs—normal for those days of analog tape.

In later years I performed a similar experiment with our A/D converter the NPC. Feeding the analog output of a phono preamplifier into the preamp on one input and then the gain matched digital version on another, the differences were even smaller—essentially non-existent—as long as the source was a single voice or instrument.

In both cases (analog tape and A/D) when the music’s complexity increased to multiple voices or instruments the differences became clearer.

So, for me, the mystery continues. What I heard was only a few musicians and though they weren’t recorded I’d bet good money that if they had been I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

Which leaves the system…or something else…


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

This is Paul talking about listening to music and the purpose of a high end audio system. It happens here and I love it.

I often will tell customers that when we watch movies on a TV, in our Home Theaters, or even public theaters, other than occasionally a 3D picture, there is no getting around the fact that we aren’t watching real life. The images we see just don’t look like real life. Sometimes a lot smaller, sometimes bigger and things are just flat.

The dialog and music, however, can sound close to real and is often the thing that draws us into films, without us even realizing this.

Suspension of belief

A well-crafted movie or book lowers our guard; suspends belief; sells the illusion.

A stereo setup can do the same thing. We eagerly suspend believe and are transported to another place and time.

Close your eyes and you’re in the venue. The musicians are playing just for you.

The best experiences allow us to let down our guard and be somewhere else. It’s why we obsess over getting better performance.

The better your system gets, the easier it is to suspend belief.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Painting pictures

Authors paint pictures with words, composers with notes, musicians with sound.

Watching the terrific PBS series Soundbreaking last night I was inspired by the late George Martin’s words as he described how once, producers made every effort to perfectly photograph sound. Thanks to his own ground breaking innovations with the Beatles, first heard on their album Revolver in Lennon’s Tomorrow never knows, all that changed.

Tape loops, backwards playing concoctions, sped up, sped down, the Fab Four and Martin started painting with sound, as he describes it. Less photo realistic, more impressionistic.

What was fascinating to me was his depiction of working a lifetime at perfecting an exacting replica of sound—a practice near and dear to the hearts of Audiophiles—and moving towards sonic brush strokes without reference to reality.

We’ve come to accept the tricks and manipulations of the recording studio as part of recorded music and we ask our systems to deliver a “photographically perfect” reproduction of it, even if it isn’t itself real.

As Audiophiles we demand clear and unobstructed views of the recorded arts, regardless of the creator’s intent on realism.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Inc.


Yesterday I posted about vintage audio. One of the first questions asked, “what’s vintage mean?” That’s a great question. Vintage to me is likely different than vintage to someone a lot younger.
I had replied that anything in the 1990’s and older was vintage. I think that’s inaccurate. With the benefit of further thought, I would suggest anything in the 1970’s is vintage to me. But that’s because I am bordering on vintage myself.

What might a 30’s-something consider vintage? If I do the math, products half my age are vintage. By that same logic, a 30 year old would consider anything from the year 2,000 as vintage–a 30 year gap.

Definitions are, for the most part, relative. What is old to me is ancient to others. What sounds great to some might sound like crap to me. It is truly hard to define what’s high end, what’s this, or what’s that.

Most of us can tell, when pressed, if something sounds live or canned. I’ll give you an example. In my home we have only background music available in the living room (an equity trade for my downstairs home theater). It’s great background music, but nothing approaching high end. Most guests comment how great the music sounds in that room (I did add a sub and used decent speakers). I smile and ask them, “does it sound like there are musicians playing in the room?” I am always given a curious look. “Well, no, how could it?” Yet the same question posed to guests in Music Room One gives the opposite answer.

Defining common ground for language has always been a challenge. It’s all so relative.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Inc.

What’s in a name?

I mentioned in yesterday’s post I had been thinking about a new way to give back to the community. To produce a publication that spoke not of new products and how they relate to others of the past, but one that provided original content you don’t normally read elsewhere. Interviews with industry people, tours of factories, personal stories from musicians, recordists, movers and shakers.

How-To articles that interest our community. A place where each of us can write a story about our system, show pictures and share with others what we’ve accomplished. Interesting opinions. News of what’s happening.

If we manage to do this it will be a weekly online publication. There are tools today that allow a small staff to publish magazines and send them to people’s phones, tablets and computers. It would be an investment on our part to fund the thing, pay the writers, create the content, deliver it. But from our perspective, there’s no better investment we can make than community. Deep within our hearts we believe a strong, educated, invested community is good for everyone. It’s why I invest my time each and every day writing these words.

But we need a name for this publication. My son Scott suggested Audio Pulse. Good name. Maybe great. Best I’ve yet heard.
So I figured we’d have a naming contest. Come up with the best name for the new magazine and I’ll send you a $500 Sprout. We’ll be the final judges. Submissions should be made to me directly, then the staff will decide. You simply click on my signature at the beginning of this post and it emails me.

This is all very early on and still in the formative stages, subject to change. We’re planning on several regular weekly columns, opinions, commentary, music articles, how to, show off your system, lifestyle, and so forth. We’ll talk of equipment, but only in the most general of terms, unless we think readers would benefit from knowing about them. Like an article on how to use Sonos in a high end system, or perhaps leveraging Squeezebox. Maybe a new must-have accessory comes along–and we’d want people to know about it. The point is, the publication’s purpose would not be to promote products just for the sake of doing that.

We’d like to have tours of factories–maybe we start here–visit some other local guys like Ayre, Rowland or Boulder Audio. If we can afford to travel, there are other opportunities for tours too. I don’t know – I really don’t. It just seems like if we step outside our comfort zone and go for it – something good for the community will happen.
And it can morph. And it will morph. And you will make suggestions and we will listen.

But I don’t want it to be about selling product.

It should give to the community. It should be generous.

It should be missed if it were to go away.

Let me know if you think of a good name. And then check to see if it’s been taken before you send it.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Capturing emotions

We catch many things easily: colds, butterflies, memories, glimpses, and photographs. Harder to capture are hearts, minds, and emotions.

Artists capture snapshots of feelings memorialized on canvas or film. Composers and musicians can do the same with notes and sounds. And every now and then recording engineers snag true essence from performance – snaring music’s soul with microphones – trapped forever in digital bits or vinyl scribbles.

And oh, how we treasure these captured emotions, listening with lights low, on perfected stereo systems, in the quiet of our homes. We can be transported to Carnegie Hall, Red Rocks Amphitheater, or the best recording studios in the world with the push of a button, the flick of a switch.

How magical our craft.