A Visit To PS Audio: Part IV

Yesterday, I talked about the listening session Paul McGowan and I had in his demo room in Boulder, Colorado. The sound and fidelity of his system was very impressive and I enjoyed auditioning AIX Records tracks from John Gorka, The Latin Jazz Trio, and Jennifer Warnes. The difference in sound between his room and equipment and what I experience in my studio back in Los Angeles can largely be attributed to the differences between the rooms and the acoustics associated with each space.

Paul’s room is probably a little small for the Infinity speakers that he uses. At 15 feet wide it’s pretty narrow. My studio is 30 feet long, 25 feet wide and 12 feet tall…there’s lots of volume for any speaker arrangement you want. I have a THX film system in there along with my B&W 801 Matrix IIIs in a full ITU 5.1 arrangement. In the PS Audio room, I heard only stereo…and I must admit it was reduced music experience compared to the immersive surround listening I routinely do in LA. I know 2-channel stereo reigns supreme but it can’t be because of the better fidelity and experience.

After listening to some of my favorite AIX Records high-resolution recordings, our attention turned to an artist collaboration that Paul is working on. They are collaborating with Gus Skinas of the Super Audio Center and Immersive Studios to release an artist compilation where 80% of the profits go to the studio and musicians that created it. PS Records is being formed so that the artists AND studios will receive more of the revenue generated by the project. I applaud Paul, Gus and Immersive for the effort and hope their first project is very successful. Welcome to the record business.

The project will contain 10-12 tracks selected from recordings/artists that have already recorded their tracks at Immersive Studios, a facility located very close to the PS Audio building in Boulder. The partners have listened and selected the tracks that will be remixed in some cases and mastered by Gus at the Super Audio Center.

I was very grateful to be able to listen to a number of the tracks in Paul’s demo room before our visit ended. The first tune was acoustic with a male vocal. The instrumental opening was panned across the space and very well recorded. There was lots of detail and the dynamics were very realistic. Then the vocal entered and my ears had to make room for a sound that didn’t ideally blend with the rest of the track. The vocal had lots of reverberation added to it. Now I have nothing against reverberation but this was over the top. It’s one thing if an entire track is smothered in reverb but this track came across as an odd blend of dry instruments and wet (the engineer’s term for something with heavy reverb) vocal.

I mentioned this to Paul and he agreed. This is one of the tracks that will be remixed with less reverb. There was another track by two female bluegrass/Americana artist that also sounded great but needs to have the vocals pulled up front in my opinion. I was listening to the raw tracks and it was clear that additional work was needed. Apparently, Gus and the engineers at Immersive are hard at work bringing all of the selected tunes into the same sonic space.

The PS Records initial release will be a compilation, which makes it particularly challenging to maintain consistency of recording quality, fidelity, recording philosophy, and mixing approach across all tracks. I used to master compilations for Oglio Records and I can tell you it’s tough to get disparate recordings into a single package.

My visit ended about noon as Paul walked me to the door. I expressed my sincere thanks to him for taking the time to share some music and for escorting me through the company. It was a great experience and I assured him that I would be back during my next visit to Boulder.

Dr. AIX

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.

4 thoughts on “A Visit To PS Audio: Part IV

  • April 6, 2015 at 11:28 am
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    Wow, nice of them to spend time with you. I still am skeptical of the high end DAC’s, I would be interested in seeing some of your opinions on cheaper DAC’s playing PC files (maybe hosted on a linux PC) Here is a list — http://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/best-dacs-2015 .

    Reply
  • April 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm
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    Great that you decided to visit Paul McGowan!
    Wouter

    Reply
  • April 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm
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    Mark,
    Could you learned if those tracks were recorded on tape, or if any effort was made to achieve high resolution?

    Reply
  • April 8, 2015 at 5:21 am
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    Hi Mark

    so, did you see any benefit in DSD mastering?
    Using DSD DAC for DSD content? Using DSD DAC for PCM content?

    — Michael

    Reply

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