Tag Archives: PS Audio

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.

I’ve owed the PS Audio PW DAC back when I was a dealer for them and it was a very good sounding DAC. It had a couple of interesting things on the digital side that Paul gets into here, especilly as relates to the original DAC’s soon to be released replacement, but one of the most interesting things about that DAC to me was its analog output stage, which primarily consisted of just transformer coupled outputs. I dont know anyone else doing this and now with the PWDAC Mk2, they seem to have carried this part over from the original. Very simple and elegant, by its simplicity!

It’s about time

It’s been 8 years since we introduced the groundbreaking DirectStream DAC.

8+ years since designer Ted Smith blew me away with the sound of his prototype and we began the process of turning it into a product.

It’s been an amazing journey and now we’re about to release the MK2 version of this stunning product.

As we enter the beta phase of its release (click here if you’re interested), I wanted to bring to your attention one of the coolest and most sought-after features of this new DAC.

The ability to add multiple mountaintop firmware versions.

As most of you know, DirectStream has always been unique in many respects. One of the most popular of its many features was our free mountaintop upgrades. Every so often Ted Smith would emerge from his lair announcing he had come up with a significantly new rewrite of this FPGA-based DAC. This was exciting as all get out as each new upgrade he produced was like getting a brand new DAC.

And these upgrades were all free to our HiFi Family members.

Once the upgrade was loaded, DirectStream was all new. But how to do A/B comparisons? We began getting requests to have the ability to load multiple mountaintop versions. A great idea, indeed, but because DirectStream was maxed out in terms of hardware, processing power, and memory we couldn’t accommodate those requests.

With the introduction of MK2, that’s all changed.

MK2 is overbuilt and future-proofed with respect to its FPGA and memory space. This allows us enough room to load as many as 10 mountaintop versions (when they become available) into memory. Without bothering with SD cards or USB sticks, now at the push of a button you can load in new (or old) mountaintops and hear the difference.

There are tons more to talk about when it comes to learning about this groundbreaking new DAC.

Stay tuned.


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.

Two forms of simplicity

The word simple means easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty. It is simple for me to push a button on the elevator and be whisked up or down to my desired floor.

It was anything but simple to design the elevator.

If I wanted to go back to basics and design and sell a simple power amplifier I could affix a power module to a piece of particle board and let the user figure out how best to attach the ins and outs.

That would be simple for me but difficult for the user.

In the same vein imagine how complex and difficult it must be for a computer programmer to design a simple and intuitive interface: a one-button path that any user immediately grasps and interacts with.

When you look at a PS Audio M1200 power amplifier with its simple logo button to turn the unit on or off or an aspen FR30 loudspeaker’s simple pair of binding posts, it’s easy to forget the complexity behind the design.

Simple, clean, and perfect.

It’s often not simple to achieve.

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.

Congratulations to PS Audio. The fellow who reviewed the new PS Audio loudspeakers in Tony Cordesman, who is one of my favorite reviewers and he bought a pair as one of his reference speakers.

Golden Ear award

The day loudspeaker designer Chris Brunhaver joined the PS Audio team marked the 2nd to the last step on a lifetime journey (Octave Records would be the final step in closing the loop of our vision of an end-to-end audio ecosystem).

Before Chris we could only dream about the day we could say with confidence “these speakers are the final step in making audio magic”.

It took nearly three years of work, 4 iterations of design, and the cost of designing and tooling from scratch every component from the drivers to the box itself to create the aspen FR30 loudspeaker.

It takes only one listen to these beautiful creations to know without question the success of the design.

It sure doesn’t hurt when the FR30s appeared on the cover of HiFi News heralding a glowing review that you can read here.

Closer to home was the latest The Absolute Sound magazine’s cover photo of the aspens.

Inside, a wonderful review from Anthony Cordesman coupled with the magazine’s prestigious Golden Ear Award.

We couldn’t be prouder of our Chris Brunhaver.

If you’d like to send Chris a note of congratulations his email address is chrisb@psaudio.com

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 will be replacing their DirectStream DAC, which is a good, but no longer a great DAC, with its relacement. I’ll bet its pretty good!!

Delivering the goods

When you download onto your local hard drive an Octave Records release the copy you store is bit-for-bit identical to the one sitting on the master hard drive at Octave Records.

It doesn’t matter that data traveled through millions of switches, miles of cable, fiber, satellite, coaxial, WiFi, and so on. Once downloaded what sits on your hard drive is absolutely identical to what sits on the master hard drive.

Yet, when I playback that file in Octave’s state-of-the-art mix room it will not sound the same as when you play it back on your system.

It couldn’t.

The files are identical but the systems are not.

But now imagine how close the two could sound if your system were the same as Octave’s mixroom: FR30 loudspeakers, BHK300 monoblocks, BHK preamp, DirectStream MK1 DAC.

If we imagine this setup then the biggest factors determining sound quality are narrowed down to room, setup, cables, and how the data gets into the DAC.

In my experience, it’s that last one that really matters. Most of us can adjust to differences in the room and set up to hear what’s on the recording. Getting data into the DAC turns out to be a very big differentiator—something one of our newest products will soon solve.

The AirLens.

Like the Digital Lens, its ground-breaking predecessor, the soon-to-be-released AirLens gathers all the digital data sent to it by our computers either via Ethernet or WiFi, stores that data in a buffer, then outputs it in perfect order via a fixed low jitter clock.

This is exactly what the original Digital Lens did but the AirLens adds the finishing touch: galvanic isolation between the AirLens and the receiving DAC. This separation of grounds, power supplies, or any physical/electrical connection between the noisy incoming digital data and the sensitive DAC is the key to perfecting the magic wrought by the Digital Lens.

Once connected via the AirLens, your DAC will think it is in noise-free heaven.

We’ll have more information about this exciting new product in late October to early November.

Stay tuned.

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.

Thought I would take a minute to write about Paul McGowan, who owns and operates PS Audio, as well as writing a blog, that I copy, with his permission, almost every day and have for the past severral years.

Besides writing his blog every day, PS Audio also publishes a monthly magazine, only available digitally, that talks about all sorts of things related to audio. It’s called Copper magazine and is accessible here, through their website, www.psaudio.com/copper-magazine.com/

PS Audio is making very good sounding and well built electronics at several different price points, from entry level, to expensive, although in todays high end stereo market, their high end products are damn reasonable and could almost be considered bargains. Their product line  includes Power Protection and AC regeneration products, DAC’s, preamplifiers and power amplifiers. Lately and after several delays spanning several years, now loudspeaker systems.

Besides all this,  PS Audio also has a recording division, called Octave Records, where they make excellent sounding DSD digital releases. While some of the music isn’t that interesting to me, they sound great and I support them because when it comes to an audio hobbyist, Paul is the poster boy for our hobby.

A Monday treat

I had previously written about the great pipe organ project we were involved in for Octave Records.

I still tingle with goosebumps every time I hear the playback of that amazing DSD recording session at Temple Emanuel in downtown Denver.

I thought it might be fun to share with you this Sunday morning a sneak peek at the setup process for the recording and then an actual performance from that recording.

Go here on YouTube and enjoy trumpeter Gabriel Mervine’s father, Ken Mervine (a master of the instrument), at the keyboard of one of the great instruments of all time.

Just watching his feet dance on the pedals is reason enough to watch.

Have fun this Sunday morning.

(This release on Octave Records will be part of a new series we’re preparing: The Art of HiFi. The first release of the new series will be all about ‘dat bass!)

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.

Practical matters

A few years ago when we were researching the PS Audio PowerBase product I spent a few weeks digging into the sonic impacts of vibration control.

What I discovered is how much of a difference a solid rack or other means of damping and controlling vibrations in our electronics makes. It’s a big deal.

It’s also a potential rabbit hole.

The more I listened and experimented the more important it seemed to me to place footers and Sorbothane dampers under each and every piece of equipment until it looked like some sort of nightmare.

Why stop there?

How do you decide to stop if everything you do matters?

Where I wound up was a compromise. I bought an excellent and sturdy shelf for the equipment, closed my eyes, turned off the OCD voices, and called it good.

Good enough.

There’s a point in every stereo system and in everyone’s lives where practical matters supersede the temptation to go further and further.

I don’t compromise on equipment and cable upgrades but I do draw the line on just about everything else from room treatments, seating, vibration control, and even lighting enhancements.

Yes, it all matters.

But then the practical side of life gets in the way.

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.

I’ve heard MP3’s that sound better than some high resolution files, so the old addage that you can’t polish a turd is appropriate here. If the original recording isn’t good, no amount of upsampling is going to make it sound better.

PS Audio’s efforts are excellent sounding and avaialble from their website.

DSD256 downloads

A few weeks ago we had announced that our entire Octave Record’s catalog was now available in DSD256. Many of you got excited (me too!) and purchased them…..

…..only to discover there was no music on those downloads.

Doh! This was 100% my fault and I apologize.

Now, the files are repaired and available again for download. If you previously purchased them your old download code still works. If you lost it or whatever, reach out to the sales team and they’ll get you fixed right up.

Again, mea culpa and apologies.

For those who didn’t know about this, you can go here and find (hopefully to your delight) the following formats now available for download:


  • DSD64
  • DSD128
  • DSD256


  • 44.1kHz
  • 96kHz
  • 192kHz
  • 352kHz

This is pretty exciting for us. In the future, we will likely lose 192kHz and go instead to a more native format of 176kHz (a true multiple of 44.1).

All new Octave recordings are natively recorded in DSD256, but the older classics were in DSD64. How did we get to these new sample rates? With a great deal of sweat and time.

As many of you know, the process of mixing and mastering DSD requires conversion to either analog or DXD. The older catalog was first converted to analog, then reconverted back to DSD64. For remastering, we did basically the same thing only instead of converting the final mix to DSD64 we instead selected DSD128 and DSD256.

Why a lot of time and sweat? The entire remastering process is done in real-time. Meaning each track is converted at a painstaking 1:1. So an hour-long album takes an hour to remaster in each new DSD rate (so two hours for each album to get DSD128 and DSD256).

You do the math.

The results are spectacular and worth grabbing.


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.

Using your own products

One of the delights of Apple products is their packaging. Easy to open, clean, simple, and elegant with a promise of more joy to come with the product itself. If the packaging is a joy think how nice what’s inside must be.

What’s worth talking about is just how far removed they are from everyone else. For the vast majority of consumer products, packaging is an afterthought designed to look expensive or slick but rarely a joy to open. How many times have you had to fight to remove the little clear sticker holding the top and bottom of the package together? Or worse, find a knife or scissors to hack open a blister pack?

I often wonder how many people involved in the design of a product ever try it themselves as end users. My guess is not many. I’ll bet that as the size of a company grows the chance of a single end-user having a say over product design or packaging diminishes proportionally.

This is what makes Apple so unusual. A giant company that uses its own products.

But this isn’t a rant about Apple. No, this is about how products from smaller companies like PS Audio are, in the end, used and approved by a small handful of caring people with the power to send it back for a redo. It is about how we make products we would want to take home and use for ourselves. How we send back to engineering a design that does not better the performance in every respect from the product it is replacing or the others in the field.

Isn’t this what you expect from companies that make high-end audio? Loudspeakers that have been listened to death and labored over until every last detail is the best it can be. Amplifiers that have been measured and listened to until their performance is beyond expectations.

I have no doubt this is exactly what happens in our small community of like-minded companies. It is what you expect.

It is what you deserve.

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.

The MOFI dilemma

For those of you that are into controversies here’s a juicy one for you. The fine folks at MoFi, the wonderful company that makes remastered audiophile vinyl of classic music, like that of Santana and others, seem embroiled in a bit of controversy. (Wait! Audiophiles and controversy?)

I would normally not even think of getting anywhere near this hornet’s nest but it’s been on the PS Audio forums and a number of you have asked me to offer an opinion on the matter.

Briefly, a YouTube video on the “in” Groove channel interviews the engineers at MoFi. In that interview they let folks know that in the process of copying the original master analog tape they use DSD as the recording and capture medium.

I guess the controversy on our forums surrounding all this concerns the use of DSD/digital in what most people thought was always an all analog chain.

I am not going to comment at all on what people thought or why, but I will chime in and offer my opinion on this practice of theirs using DSD256 to capture the original analog master.

Bravo! Well done and if it were me I’d do exactly the same thing. DSD256 is the perfect capture medium to accurately and without affectation save these classic analog recordings.

Though, to some it’s heresy.

Certainly, the ideal situation would be for the MoFi engineers to have days of access to those masters and cut the vinyl stampers directly from the analog master. That’d be nice but apparently not practical. In many cases they have but a few hours of access to those masters and they must make a copy.

And, that’s really it. The last thing you’d want to do is lose a generation by copying the analog master to yet another analog tape. That to me is criminal IF you have access to DSD256 recording technology.

Hats off to the folks at MoFi for being brave enough to do it right.

As to all the fur and feathers flying over this “reveal”, I leave that to others.

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.

Would love to hear, or at least read a review of these new loudspeakers from PS Audio!

Have speakers. Will travel.

It took me literally years before the proverbial lightbulb in my head went aha! as to the meaning of actor Richard Boone’s character, Paladin’s calling card.

Have gun. Will travel.

Talk about dense. I mean, it was the title of the show after all. Just one of those things where you register something as a thing rather than words with meaning.

All that to get in position to share with you how the actual packaging of a complete pair of FR30s looks as they leave PS Audio on their journey to anxious customers.

Designer, Chris Brunhaver stands next to his life’s work.

Note the cool cardboard pyramids atop each of the pallets. Turns out shipping companies are fond of stacking one pallet on top of another.

Our shipping company manager, Suzie with Aeronet has made the FR30’s white glove delivery service her personal mission to exceed customer expectations. Though I doubt any of the movers will have actual white gloves on, her pro team will unbox the FR30s and set them up where you tell them to.

One set of the two you see pictured here are on their way to Kansas, the other set to Illinois. For those in the UK, a set of FR30s are winging their way over to Signature Sounds where Kevin Akam is going to set them up for audition by appointment.

We’ve still got a few opening for August reservations left if you’re interested.

Sure feels good to be shipping speakers.