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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.

Ravaged or rebuilt?

Just when we think a tradition has been ravaged it’s often time to look at what might come from its rebuilding: Landlines to cell phones. Trains to airplanes. Horses to cars.

In May of 2011, my son, Lon, sent me an email. “Your friend Seth Godin’s speaking in Seattle. Wanna go?” in 2011 I had never seen Seth speak and knew him only as an email friend. Sure. Why not.

His speech changed my life and the direction of our company, PS Audio, forever. I cannot remember his exact words, but I certainly retain their message. He spoke of the internet and the massive changes that it brought to the world not as a disruptive threat, but as an amazing opportunity for those willing to take another viewpoint. This was completely new to me and I hungrily consumed his every word. Instead of running away from the changes in retail distribution brought on by the internet—perceived by most in the industry as a pure disaster unfolding before our very eyes—Seth put forth the idea the internet was the single biggest opportunity of all time—on par with the advent of the printing press. The World Wide Web was a democratized opportunity for a small voice to be heard over the din of millions.

At the end of his talk he looked the crowd in the eye and asked a haunting question. “What are you doing with this golden opportunity?” As I flew back to Boulder his question haunted me. What was I doing with the opportunity the web brought? The answer frightened me. I was running away from it. Terrified of a world I didn’t understand and a marketplace that looked to be collapsing, what else could I do? Seth’s talk showed the way. The ideas he expressed on that day in 2011 shone a light on a darkening problem and proved to me it was not an oncoming train.

One week later I launched what you’re reading now. Paul’s Post. But we didn’t stop there. Last year we launched our online magazine Copper, then our daily podcasts, and our YouTube channel. All means of connecting a growing community with something they love. High end audio.

Change is tough, but there’s little in life worth doing that’s more satisfying than reaching out to community with generosity and kindness, growing with people who enjoy what you do.

 

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.

Small matters

Little things add up to bigger things. And often, we pay so much attention to the big items like loudspeakers, power amplifiers, and power regenerators, that we ignore the little things.

Yet, it is the little things that often matter most. Audio system setup; phono cartridge tweaking; turntable leveling; anchoring racks; proper grounding; dedicated lines; musical selections. Setting the perfect volume levels.

For me, it often depends on my mood. If I am in my critical zone—where everything has to be just so—I’ll use CleanWave, I’ll dial the level to match the number of people, I’ll make sure the lighting is just right.

The next time you want perfection, remember it’s often the little things that matter.

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.

Measuring what matters

We’re so used to measurements that matter: teaspoons for cooking, CCs for medicine, gallons for gas, square footage for rooms.

It then boggles us when the difference in audio percentages of distortion, dips and bumps in frequency, or phase accuracy, can’t reliably and adequately describe what our ears tell us matter.

Maddening to the point of denial for many.

But then someone discovers new labels for quantification, like toe tapping or noise levels or harmonic accuracy (whatever that is) or the word of a reviewer and then we can all relax.

It’s hard for us to trust our senses.

Not many do.

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.

Paul is writing a book!!

The one that got away

From my upcoming novel, Ninety-Nine Percent True. Just a little background. I am recalling in this passage the last days of the British Rock Festival in 1972 when I had my mobile recording studio at the ready.

“The last day of the festival was to be the most exciting. No bands played the entire day, as crews dismantled the two stages, then erected a single, bigger stage—and rewired the sound system for what would later become known as Quadraphonic sound, an early version of what today we call surround sound. The act everyone had waited for was on tap for 8 p.m., just as it was getting dark: Pink Floyd.

I was keyed up as well, cleaning the tape-recorder heads, making sure everything was in place for that evening, the most important recording I had ever made. Pink Floyd was, by far, the biggest act in the show, and was already an ascending phenomena. Today they can boast of 16 gold albums, 13 platinum, and 10 multi-platinum. Their seminal works, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon, are two of the best-selling albums in the history of music. Dark Side, the album they were about to debut at the concert in Germany, would be on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart for a record 736 weeks. (It finally dropped off the charts 14 years later, in 1988.)

As night fell, I could feel the crowd’s excitement. Roadies and stagehands scurried over the newly constructed wooden platform that would soon host Pink Floyd. I was ready, as was my crew. Then the concert’s two promoters, Marcel and Marek, accompanied by a silent, heavyweight guy, meekly approached the van to let me know that I would not be recording the Floyd, despite the fact we had a written contract to the contrary. All my angry outbursts, and my jumping up and down in frustration were to no avail. Pink Floyd wanted nothing to do with the recording and that was that. To make sure I didn’t attempt to make a pirate recording, they posted a muscular roadie just outside the van.

Terri and I were crushed. Recording Pink Floyd had been one of the primary motivations for agreeing to the job in the first place. Depressed and upset, we dragged our tails out into the crowd, where the promoters had set up a reserved area for us to enjoy the show, just slightly above the noisy, muddy throngs.

The lights dimmed, and all went surprisingly quiet—only an anxious buzz rippled through the crowd. Then Pink Floyd walked onstage. It was May 22, 1972, and they played a precursor of the music that would soon become their newest album—Dark Side of the Moon—for concert goers in full surround sound. To this day, it remains one of the more remarkable concerts I have ever seen or heard. Unlike any other concert, the band didn’t speak a word. They just played the entire album without breaks—one long, linked song, with both rehearsed and spontaneous riffs blowing through the audience as if we were all traveling together through space. During the music, not one member of the crowd acted poorly. The music, the surround sound, the warm May summer night, the slight breeze fluttering the many flags—all combined to make magic happen, as only music can do.

To this day, I am thankful that Pink Floyd’s management stopped me from recording the concert. Had I been stuck inside that cramped van, listening through monitor speakers to a pale facsimile of the music, I’d have missed one of the greatest musical events in the history of rock.”

 

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.

Pulling back the covers

The James Webb Telescope is set to replace the Hubble deep space telescope in 2020. This five billion dollar marvel is three times the scope of Hubble and has a chance at looking back in time to the Big Bang, the beginnings of our universe. As a science nerd, I am thrilled.

The new telescope will pull back the covers cloaking the truth. It won’t change what’s there, but its discoveries may fundamentally change our views on life and its origins—a potentially frightening thought since sometimes the truth doesn’t fit our belief system.

To bring this thought back down to Earth, pun intended, the better a stereo system gets the closer we get to musical truth.

A proper audio or video system doesn’t change the music or watching experience. Like the deep space telescope, it pulls back the covers obscuring what’s on our recordings.

What I am describing is very different than optimizing system synergy; fattening thin sound; taming top ends. These actions get the music more enjoyable at the expense of ultimate truth.

I think it’s important to consider the difference between adjusting sound to your expectations as opposed to revealing musical truth.

The first is the easier path.

The second where only brave ears go.

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.

PS Audio is growing and will have a new location with new listening rooms soon. With their reference speakers, this is a great thing, as the room they are currently in works well, but a larger space will truly allow them to shine.

Exciting mistakes

Music Room One is on its last legs, but it’s had a good run. Five years ago we started its construction. If you’ve not yet watched the video series of the step-by-step construction you can start here.

As we prepare to move the company across the street we’ll be building a new MR1 as well as two more. I’ll do my best to video the entire process of all three as best I am able. I know they’re fun to watch and we can learn from the process too.

Starting fresh is always exciting. We take the lessons learned from MR1 and apply them to the new rooms. We’ll add things we didn’t in the first place. For example, we’ll make sure there are no parallel walls, something not true in our existing music room. We’ll also get rid of the equipment alcove and move to a more standard floor rack like we use at shows. And last, but certainly not least, we’ll take advantage of the building’s increased ceiling height by constructing a pitched roof outside and a cathedral ceiling inside.

Will they be perfect new rooms? Oh, hell no. I don’t think there is such a thing. But, they will be upgrades from what we have now and a chance to make new mistakes.

Yup. Making mistakes gets me excited. Without mistakes there’s no progress.

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.

As long as PS Audio competes with their dealers, it will be hard for them to keep dealers interested in representing their audio products.  This is especially true of dealers like me, who love and use the products, but have trouble selling it, in large part due to the inherent conflict in internet sales.

Some people follow their moral compass and buy from the dealer that demonstrates the product to them, but many do not and when a dealer is competing with a manufacturer who is offering returns,  I see no good answer for how to deal with this problem.

As an example, a couple years ago I had local guy, who is a Psychologist that lives 30 minutes from here ,call me wanting to compare the PS Audio DAC with one he bought from another manufacturer that had a 10 day return policy. I told him I would do this, but stipulated that if he liked the PS Audio DAC better, he would agree to purchase it from me and I offered him a 10% discount. His reply was he could get a better price elsewhere, but he would really appreciate me driving my DAC over to him to compare. Obnoxious behavior and I said nope!!

So, we all must do what we must do.

Doing the right thing

We wouldn’t need laws if everyone did the right thing. Unfortunately, people justify all kinds of behavior that’s socially unacceptable: greed, selfishness, every-man-for-himself, self-aggrandizing at the expense of others.

We make laws and rules to even the playing field—then those same people spend their days figuring out how to work around them. An endless circular battle that benefits politicians and lawyers but not many others.

When companies conspired to fix prices of essential products governments used restraint of trade laws to even the playing field. Which loosely led to MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing), and MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) rules being enacted in the consumer’s best interest.

Which then brings us to the essence of this post. PS Audio dealers. A longtime complaint is when customers go to a dealer to audition products then buy online at a lower price. The dealer spends their time and energy yet don’t get the sale. There are, of course, numerous times when the dealer doesn’t deserve the sale. I’ve gone to places that didn’t earn my business and, in fact, did their utmost to be butts to me. But, that’s rare. Most dealers are honest hard working folk.

We all want to do the right thing. Most of us believe that is what we’re doing. Always. We don’t take pleasure in doing the wrong thing.

This dynamic is a tough one. At PS we handle direct sales by freely shipping products to customers so they can try it in their homes at their leisure. We then pay to have it shipped back if it’s not working out. There are no hard feelings on our part if they are returned. And, that’s one solution to a thorny problem—one not practical for most dealers.

I wish I had a magic wand solution. The only advice I can offer is to appeal to people’s inner compass. Does what you’re doing feel right? Honest? If so, fine. Follow your moral compass.

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.

The other side

There are two sides to many things: stories, paper, music listening rooms. On one side are speakers and on the other, you.

Where you sit in relation to the system: nearness to walls and speakers, height relative to the tweeters, in or out of bass nulls, can often make more difference than the components themselves.

Yes, of course, walking into a room with bad sound is immediately offensive regardless of where you are in the room. But, given good sound and attention to essentials, where you stand, sit or experience the music matters.

I have seen great audio systems rendered mediocre by nothing more than the quality of the seating.

Take care to get both sides of the equation right so you don’t wind up on the wrong side of great.

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.

Approachable

One of the PS Audio Rooms at Axpona has their more inexpensive lines of Stellar audio electronics., showing with a moderately expensive Golden Ear loudspeaker, which aren’t much to look at, but sound pretty good. Guessing the system sounds pretty darn good.

Note the lack of our best efforts. No BHK. No DirectStream. No Wilson speakers or Focal speakers.

What’s going on? Why a Stellar Stack? Why approachable speakers like the Tritons?

Sometimes it’s worth showing what can be done with approachable. That we don’t always have to bring out the finest china and silver. That it’s ok to proudly share with people what can be done with $12K all in.

For me this is fun. I think the system sounds great and exemplifies all that is great with going the opposite of pedal to the metal.

After all, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to shine.

 

 

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.

Axpona show starts today and wish I was there. Too  much keeping me here this year, but next year should be much different.

The day before

I often write today’s post yesterday, then schedule its release early in the morning. This prompts concerned emails from readers wondering if I ever sleep. And yes, I do. Eight good ones a night. But, thank you for your concern.

Today, which will be yesterday when you read this, is set up day at Axpona. It’s a day most of you never get to see or experience. And, that’s both good and bad. Good, because it’s a lot of work you don’t have to do. Bad, because many of you might enjoy the setup process. We have one day to convert a hotel room into a display area and listening room.

We’re more fortunate than many smaller companies. My wife Terri has spent weeks laying out the room and designing its look—a task I once did poorly. When she’s finished the place looks amazing. My only job is the stereo set up.

We’re more fortunate than many smaller companies. My wife Terri has spent weeks laying out the room and designing its look—a task I once did poorly. When she’s finished the place looks amazing. My only job is the stereo set up.

This year we have what looks like a decent room for audiophile sound. It’s not a square and it’s not shaped too oddly, as hotel rooms often are. We’ll set the Golden Ear Tritons 1/3 the way from the front wall, slightly off center, and then line the audio equipment up on racks.

The first few notes of music tell me instantly what level of trouble I am in: dialing it in or rearranging everything.

If you’re in Schaumburg Illinois this weekend, please do stop by and have a snack or drink on us.

We’re right outside the big convention area to the left of registration. Journey Creation rooms.

 

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