PS AUDIO: The first 90% of designing a product goes into its design. The second 90% of a product is in the finishing touches.

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Paul McGowan: The new power amp I’ve written about is finished and it’s everything I ever hoped for in an amp.  Unfortunately there’s only one in the world at the moment and more won’t appear until this summer.  The process of going from the one to the many is tedious, laborious and so completely necessary that I – the consumate tinkering, meddling, changing person – am purposefully excluded from this process by both engineering and production.

We’ve polished every aspect of this design to a bright gleam; the finishing touches are done – but there is only one physical sample that embodies these designs and polished finishes.  Now we need to make more.

The next steps in the process are the assembly and build instructions – the boring but necessary – the documentation required to make sure every cable is done the same way, every connector, screw, fastener, harness, tie wrap, are all the same.  Why so important?

I’ll give you a quick example. The dual sets of output binding posts are connected to the power amplifier’s output through a cable of course – the wire type, the gauge, the materials, the soldering, the connectors, all have been listen tested to be the best we can during the polishing phase.  Bob (our chief engineer) and I argued for several days over the merits of using one heavy wire vs. three medium gauge in parallel – we resolved it by listening – and wound up with the three in parallel. What would happen when it gets the handoff from engineering to production if engineering didn’t supply specific instructions of what we decided upon?  It surely would be easier to use one wire instead of 3.

Communicating all these insanely small details is a real challenge yet …. our entire operation is housed in only 12,000 square feet, all under one roof. The distance between engineering and production is short enough that it takes under 1 minute to walk it – yet sometimes it’s like they live on different planets or speak different languages. Written documentation and communication between departments, sign offs and all the rigamarole it takes to make a product come out the way we want it drives me crazy; but it’s so necessary I just move out of the way.

The first 90% of designing a product goes into its design.  The second 90% of a product is in the finishing touches.  The third 90% is writing everything down so you can make it again, and again.