PS Audio Makes Risk Taking Easy

An audiophile since the age of 8, I have owned quite a number of high end components over the years, all in an effort to achieve the “more of everything” that audiophiles lust for, including the elimination of thinness and brightness that many audiophiles hear in digital sound.

If you already have a system that provides satisfying imaging, depth, height, horizontal spacing, tonal accuracy and instrument separation, and does not distort at reasonably high sound levels, then you need read no further. If you don’t, you might find what follows instructive.

In my quest to tame the digital beast I came close to raising the white flag of surrender. That is, until I happened upon one of Paul McGowan’s videos. Besides having the rare ability to soothe audiophile panic with his persona, Paul is entertaining, informative and manages to introduce PS Audio products in the lowest of keys.

Liking Paul’s gift of information and marketing savvy was not enough to make me risk thousands of dollars on products from a company I knew little about firsthand. It was PS Audio’s return, trial and trade-in policies that got me to jump into the water rather than simply dip my toes in.

It also helped that the first person I talked to was Chris, a salesman whose genuine and consistent good cheer breaks down shopping awkwardness in a hurry. High Fidelity is a complicated industry. Chris did not always have answers but he never failed to go out of his way to find them. Others in the company I’ve talked to on occasion were similarly helpful.

The combination of Paul as a front man, company policies and helpful staff got me to take an uncharacteristic risk. Instead of trying one component at a time I went for all the components I needed sans speakers. It turned out to be a fortuitous approach. Trialing one component at a time is time consuming and seldom yields definitive results.

After about three weeks of patient and continuous listening the thin and bright sound I associated with digital left my listening room. It was a gradual departure but one that unmistakably took place as the gear aged. Paul insists break-in is real. I can confirm that for the doubters.

My Martin Logan Expression 13A speakers are unforgivably resolving but can also be a pain in the rear end. Maintaining that elusive sweet spot can put you at risk for diabetes, lest you keep making slight placement changes to go along with maturing audio components.

My components coming out party coincided with my discovery of Primephonic, a high resolution classical music streaming service. My now grown up gear presented Tidal and Qobuz in a much better light than my old components. The Primephonic presentation, however, was a revelation. Unexpectedly, playing the same tracks from all three services turned out to be a contest with an easy winner.

I did not expect my new PS Audio components to reveal differences in streaming services, but they did. Life is full of surprises. The combination of the DirectStream DAC with the BHK250 amp and the P15 power plant from PS Audio added punch, attack and openness to Primephonic’s streaming presentations.

As I write this memoir of my journey, I am listening to the ending of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I am transported to my 2nd row center, first balcony seat at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. I sat practically on top of the orchestra for ten years. I can no longer do that. Fortunately, I have a system that gets me pretty close to my memories.

I close my eyes and feel the satisfaction that Paul describes in his videos when he sits in front of his Infinity speakers. As the current coronavirus pandemic rages on I entered into a voluntary period of self-isolation. A quarantine is so much easier when the whole world of music is but a mouse click away.


Really? I was more interested in playing in the dirt and kicking the footy at that age.

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I did that too :slight_smile: Born a multi-tasker.

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Think most of us ended here because they stumbled on one of Paul’s Videos over time or were looking for features only PS Audio provides.

He sold the Stellar Gain Cell DAC to me that way.

This is absolutely a good forum too.

So I am grateful to what PS Audio does and make no move on purchasing any product without checking PS Audio options.

Paul is (luckily) just human and PS Audio a company that has to deal with equally technical and sometimes more QA challenges than other companies. That combined with the complicated sales channels and cost of products in overseas areas however does not confirm the low risk you refer to.


Hi, Rudolf. I meant looking into PS Audio components is low risk for customers, so long as you have some money. I was not referring to risks for the company which are I’m sure substantial. Let me know if I misunderstood your comments. Thanks!

Well, PS Audio sales channels in Europe do not offer the benefits PS Audio provides in the US, also the prices over here are very much (nearly unreasonably) higher than in the states.

So the risk is very much on the customers side over here.

Ah, I see your point. Definitely a disadvantage. Thanks for letting me know.

I don’t know for sure, but I think perhaps one reason it can be done in the U.S. is that PS Audio is no longer sold through stores so PS Audio does not have to share revenue. Just a hunch on my part.

They are a very good bunch to deal with on any level. A human will always answer the phone and emails are returned usually within a couple of hours. I spent a lot of back and forth time with the sales staff and they genuinely make you feel at home. It is a great business model as personal attention is what gets repeat business.

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I think Paul does many things right, even many of those of which some (me included) occasionally have a hard time with.

It’s interesting for me that it seems not only his way is successful (which I think is the most promising way). I always wonder that some smaller companies with no big online or marketing initiatives still more than survive greatly and others make quite some money producing low numbers of exceptionally expensive stuff selling it to China or elsewhere. I’d be very interested in more insight in the different options the high end sales market offers than I have.

I knew of PS Audio from magazine Ad’s in the 1990’s, Then one night while on work travel at the Hotel, I started YouTubing Audio stuff coincidentally right around the time he started the channel. Not having the means at the time for a Stellar S300/SGCD (all I would have need at the time), I still watched his daily videos. That led me to getting a Marantz SR5011 Demo model at Best Buy (Baby steps remember). This thing sounded fine and had a DoP DAC that played back 5.6MHz files. Having Audyssey room corrections was cool toy but not very flexible like MiniDSP is (haven’t tried REW though). Anyway those Marantz AVR’s are egg fryers and I don’t to add fans to my rig. Fast forward to March of last year and I placed an order for 2x M700’s and a SGCD fromHi Def Lifestyles in Harrisburg, PA (I live in Phoenix, AZ). The price was cheaper than PS Audio’s website until a day after I placed the order and the “Stack” was born on PS Audio’s website. I couldn’t take advantage of PS Audio’s trade-in program but HiDef gave me a $300 voucher (I have yet to use it though - should have bought a Sprout with it and pay the difference for my Son’s setup - Oh Well).

Everything arrived a month later and it was worth the wait. I had a small issue with a GND loop on on of Headphone channels and it was quickly repaired and returned to me.

Now fast forward to Jan.of this year. PS Audio gave me retail trade in of the SGCD. That and they’d already discounted the DSD Sr. (not gonna say how much). I was almost going to trade in my 3 M700’s for two M1200’s Beta’s while I was at it but it wasn’t feasible including the price difference between the M700 & M1200. Anyway, they had one in stock and it arrived a day before The Tucson DIY Speakerbuilder Event where I was given a room to setup my 5.0 Bose Sealed Box 901’s. The Saturday of the show was the 1st time I plugged in the DSD Sr. I forgot to connect the XLR outs of the DAC to my L & R amps. I’d direct wired the fixed level XLR’s of my AVR Preamp into the M700’s and wondered for over an hour why is the Volume “full tilt Boogie”. Between the Anxiety of not having my new Toy running properly and Folks curious as to WTF was I doing. I had the mad scientist with gobs of XLR cables going everywhere but at the outputs of the DSD Sr. DAC.

Once I’d figured out what was missing, I was so happy. Even a “Cold” DSD Sr. sounded great in that room.

I’m glad I didn’t go for the M1200’s cause what everyone says about the DSD Sr. is true. A very “Analog” sounding output makes me no longer miss the “sound” of Vinyl or my sold LP’s.

I’d thought about buying the ICE Amps from Parts Express and “rolling my own” but the cost of the M700’s and building a Nelson Pass B1 preamp (which I’m now doing anyways) just didn’t make sense.

That’s my Risk Taking Story - Visiting the Factory further gives me confidence that I’ll be buying more PS Audio stuff in the future once all this is paid off :slightly_smiling_face:.