A Visit To PS Audio: Part I

I had the great pleasure of spending a couple of hours yesterday morning at PS Audio in Boulder, Colorado. Knowing that I would be in Boulder (my sister lives in Four Mile Canyon), I reached out to Paul McGowan (I’ve met him several times), the head of the company, and let him know that I would be in Boulder and that I would love to come by to chat, listen, and share our experiences in high-end audio. He responded right away and made room in his very busy schedule for a 10 am visit. Paul was very gracious and generous to make time for me, especially as I have written some critical posts about his company’s approach to digital audio and his preference for DSD coding.

My plan was to share some of my recordings with Paul in his new very well equipped music room. I always carry my trusty 32 Gig music loaded USB stick with me, so I wrote to Paul and asked whether this would work in his system. It turned out that the gear needed to play files from my USB stick was in transit from the Montreal Show (I missed it this year) so that ruled out that option. Option B was to locate one of my Blu-ray samplers and find out whether the system in his demo room could handle that format…again, that plan was not feasible. The PS Audio PerfectWave Memory Player that is used to play discs can handle CD-Audio/CD-ROM/DVD-ROM formats but not Blu-ray discs or DVD-Audio/Video discs. Strike two. OK, I thought as I was driving to Boulder that morning, I’d just have to burn some files from my laptop onto a CD-R and play those. I arrived a little early and tried to burn a few of my favorite files as I only had a single CD-R (capacity 700 Megs), I couldn’t get more than a couple tunes on it. We’re talking about high-resolution audio files…and they can be very large.

Frustrated, I packed up my briefcase and headed to the door at exactly 10 am. Just inside the door are shelves of PS Audio products past and present. I recognized the Ultralink DAC that powered my mastering business back in 1989. Pretty cool. As I walked in, the entire company staff was assembled in the lobby. Paul was close by, turned around and immediately welcomed me in. He introduced me to the group just prior to a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday”. I’m not sure whose birthday is was but I knew I was in the midst of a friendly group.

Paul gave me the royal tour of the entire facility. I met his son Scott, who handles marketing and promotion and I learned about Paul’s other son who has a company in Denver that designs and fabricates exquisite furniture. There were several exquisite pieces around the office…it resurrected memories of my years as a woodworker and furniture geek. I’d be hard pressed to recall the names of all of the people that I met, but everyone was more than happy to chat briefly. I spent more than a few moments with one of the operations/financial guys. It turns out he’s a fellow marathoner…although a serious and good one…and is in the midst of running a different marathon in every state of the union. He’s got a map on his wall that’s tracking his progress. I’m always impressed with individuals that include running a marathon on their bucket list but this guy accepted a challenge way beyond that. And what’s his plan after the 50 marathons? He plans on climbing Mt. Everest. Wow.

PS Audio builds very high-end equipment…and they build it in Boulder, Colorado. Kudos to them for keeping their manufacturing in the U.S. They have other specialized companies build the circuit boards, mill the metal housings, and supply other parts but the final assembly and testing is done right there in their shop. The hardware and software is done right there, too. I met most of the team of die-hard audio geeks and am completely convinced that the employees of Paul’s company are there because they love music and sound.

As we toured and talked, I mentioned the format dilemma that I was confronting regarding my AIX Records tracks. I asked Paul if he had any DVD-Rs. Maybe I could burn some tracks onto a DVD-R disc as WAV files that would be compatible with the PerfectWave Memory Player. The solution presented itself. I pulled out my aging Mac Laptop and began to copy about 10 tracks from hard disc to DVD-R. As the progress bar traversed the screen of my computer, Paul and I chatted.

To be continued…


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

13 thoughts on “A Visit To PS Audio: Part I

  • Donald Scarinci

    Excellent, Mark. I am so glad that you and Paul got together. I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s post to hear what you thought of the PS Audio DSD. So much of high end audio defies science or logic. The Direct Stream DAC is one of those things.

    This week I replaced the stock headphone cable on my Audeze LCD-XC with a Black Dragon from Moon Audio and the difference is night and day. Why? It’s a $100 headphone cable on a $1700 headphone so who would ever have thought it could make any difference. There might be a scientific or logical explanation for a subtle change in the sound of the headphones, but I can’t think of any explanation that makes sense for this.

    Just like with the PS Audio DSD, I just accept that whatever the science, it is what it is. People can debate it and study it, but they can’t argue with their ears!

    • It was a great couple of hours at PS Audio with Paul. I trust my ears too…but I believe its critically important that the fidelity is backed up with science and rationality.

  • Read in yesterday’s post of the snow skiing you were able to do. Glad to hear you’ve recovered well from you pulmonary issues and are once again able to enjoy demanding sport such as this.

    • Thanks Sal, I haven’t recovered yet but couldn’t resist skiing. In fact, I have an appointment today with the pulmonary specialist again.

  • Y. G. Bae

    I saw Paul’s post titled, “Dr. AIX” yesterday, and I was really pleasantly surprised because I learning a lot from both of you. I am looking forward to reading the second part of your post. Like I said on Paul’s post, thank both of you for these wonderful posts, and please keep up the good work! 🙂

    • I haven’t been to Paul’s blog since my return. I’ll try to catch up today.

      • Holy Schomly, did a simple polite post by Paul stir up a bee’s nest of comments over there. And I thought things got a bit rough here at times. LOL
        Mark, Where the Infinity IRS Vs showing in the picture there the ones used to demo your recordings? How’d they sound? Would love to have had the chance to hear them in back in their day.

        • I’ll be talking about the sound of the room and my tracks in another installment.

          • That’s the one we’re waiting for! 🙂

        • Y. G. Bae

          Sal, you are right. I just got back reading the responses over there. I guess audiophiles are passionate people. 🙂

  • Russ Stratton

    Mark, you might consider getting a hi-rez digital audio player (DAP) like an Astell & Kern or Calyx. They are not cheap but think of them as a hi-rez music server that fits in your shirt pocket. My AK120 will play hi-rez files up to 24/192 through the analog outputs. It will also stream 24/96 digital to a DAC via toslink.

    • I’ve heard the A&K and liked it very much. I just couldn’t swing the cost. The new Sony NWZ-A17 is pretty amazing and costs a lot less.

  • Joseph Marietta

    Wow Mark

    Are those IRS from the 70’s? Man I wanted them at the time but I was in my early 20’s/


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