Thanks to YouTube algorithms, subscriptions and recommended videos, it’s simple to fall down video rabbit holes. Recently I discovered the channel of PS Audio co-founder/CEO & designer Paul McGowan, who provides a wealth of audiophile system information and opinions in response to viewer emails via easily digestible 5-10 minute videos.
I clicked on his channel’s subscribe button about a month back and have been steadily making my way through his many years’ worth of “Ask Paul” videos. The channel (launched well before the pandemic led to a skyrocketing amount of YouTube content providers) has amassed 200K subscribers and over 60 million views from hundreds of videos created since 2008.
It only takes watching a few videos to see why the PS Audio channel has resonated and become a popular one for learning about all things audio. The statistics remind me of the old TV commercial for financial institution E.F. Hutton (watch here if you’re not a Boomer or older Gen Xer)… when Paul McGowan talks, people listen.
I can’t recall meeting McGowan, though it’s certainly possible we have at a tradeshow long ago, but it feels like he’s someone you could talk to for hours about music, Hi-Fi components or numerous other topics while sitting in one of PS Audio’s killer demo rooms. Usually McGowan is on camera (holding a card with the question du jour) in a demo room, or engineering room when not in his office.
From PS Audio’s base in Colorado, the avuncular McGowan covers, in layman’s terms for everyone from budding to expert audiophile, areas that run the gamut in the audio industry. Even if you’re not a PS Audio dealer, integrators can learn a great deal by finding a few minutes here and there to check out his videos (they have an audiophile record label, too) and educate themselves or their own customers. Here is a sampling of titles just from the past few months among the hundreds available to watch:
“Hearing higher sample rate”; “Analog vs digital EQ”; “Do expensive CD players color the sound?”; “Why audiophiles hate electronic music”; “Achieving soundstage depth”; “How speakers image height”; “CD transport vs DAC”; “Acoustic panel placement”; “Understanding current and voltage in audio”; “Building a DSD system”; “Getting bass in the sweet spot”; “CD or stream?”; and much more. Those don’t even count the PS Audio-specific topics.
Which Audiophile Step to Take Next? Ask Paul
In one of the latest videos, whose SEO-friendly title “How to become an Audiophile” got my attention, Andrew from St. Petersburg, Fla., shares an audio story and question that HiFi dealers and integrators likely hear often in this version or another:
“I’m an audiophile at heart, but to this point a novice. I have what I and most listeners would consider a very good Hi-Fi and CD setup as well as a decent quality receiver. What would be the best, difference-making next step forward – a set of [better] speakers, a DAC to start breaking into separates, a new moving coil cartridge, etc.? There are a million ways to go, but this is going to be a one-step upgrade at a time for me.”
He added that he wanted to start with the biggest-bang-for-your-buck category. If you put a dozen self-proclaimed audiophiles in a room, representing the consumer and manufacturing communities, you can probably receive close to a dozen answers… and all likely valid and justifiable. Here’s what McGowan had to say:
“My recommendation is always going to be loudspeakers,” replied McGowan, standing among some impressive floorstanding models including the recently released aspen FR20s. “Put your best foot forward with what you can afford for a loudspeaker. Let’s say you’re going to get a pair of FR20s [or similarly large speaker], I would rather listen to these driven by a cheap receiver than I would a cheap pair of speaker driven by a beautiful piece of electronics.
“Speakers are the single-most personal aspects in all of audio, and in my experience make the biggest difference,” he adds. “Whatever you do, go for your speakers first, because the right speaker can make beautiful music with not-so-great electronics and the opposite isn’t true. So put your money into that, then over time upgrade your electronics, and each step along the way will be a real joy for you to experience.”
As someone who is deciding between loudspeakers, turntable, CD player or DAC for the next step on my own audiophile path, at least I know now what EF McGowan suggests. I’d “Ask Paul” why he continues to be such a prolific content provider, but he answered that before digging into Andrew from St. Petersburg’s question.
“I figure if I can be generous, kind and helpful to people, and do things that make others happy I’ll leave the world in a better place. And clearly I’ve been on a journey my whole life, and the journey continues on.”
If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our digital newsletters!