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 Bill333's System

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Michael Green
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Dec 17, 2016 4:49 pm

Looks like you guys are having fun study

I was recently asked about 192 Question My answer after looking around his room was "mp3 in a room tuned will out perform 192 in a room un-tuned".

I heard this first ear (hand) at Herns' place of course.

I've had the opportunity to visit a couple of local high enders lately. Very nice people so I won't mention names in-case someday they end up tuning. However when folks ask me questions while I'm standing in a dead room with speakers lining the walls, most of the room being used as a rec-room and cables laying directly on the very heavy padded carpet, I don't find it fair for me to answer the question of 192 vs anything else.

Not with us, the Tunees, but often times when reading an article we might make some type of conclusions only to then see their system, which in all truth kinda wipes out their findings. It would be interesting to see articles written from a pre and post tuned perspective to see how the findings change. I bet it would be dramatic, in fact I know it would be.

study

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Dec 18, 2016 7:59 pm

SDTrans384



I was going to wait a while before posting my results with this device, but things are promising enough that I want to go ahead and tell Tuneland about this radically simplified digital transport now.  The SDTrans is an SD card reader that feeds an S/PDIF or I2S signal to a DAC.  The SDTrans is the project of two Japanese gentlemen named Chiaki and Bunpei.  The idea was to create a minimalist transport which avoided the pitfalls of CD and computer based players and delivered the highest fidelity output signal possible.  To this end, the SDTrans contains only the SD card reader, an 8 bit MCU, an FPGA chip and an ultra low jitter clock.  There is no operating system, no CPU, no computer network and no attached drives.  Just the simplest possible path from digital data to music signal that still allows you to control your music playback.

So how does it sound?  Good, and getting better.  After just 24 hours of break in, I sat down to do a quick sound check this morning and ended up listening to the entire Abbey Road album.  Not just that, but I spent most of the album in an ecstatic meditative state.  It's been a while since that happened.  Shocked

This is the rave review that initially got me interested:
http://devialetchat.com/showthread.php?tid=935

The truth is that I would have been interested in the SDTrans even if I had never seen any reviews from its users.  I've been following developments in computer audio for several years now and it seems that any time someone uses an SD card reader instead of an internal drive or a USB attachment, it blows the sound quality of these drives away.  There is something very simple and direct about the way data is read off these cards.  The reason why everyone isn't using them is that SD card readers are a very rare thing to find on a computer motherboard.  So a  card transport or a transport/DAC combnation has the potential to be a very high quality source.  I'd been looking around for something suitable for years before I lucked into the SDTrans.

What's really interesting is that I'm listening to the lowest level of performance this thing can give.  I'm powering the entire board with an untuned 5V wall wart power supply.  The board was designed with optional power connections for each buss, and is said to sound much better when run with separate regulated supplies.  This is especially true of the 3.3V buss that powers the clocks.  So I'll be experimenting with supplies in the near future.  In the meantime, I have an Uptone Audio Ultracap power supply coming in a couple of days.  This is a low voltage DC power supply that draws clean power from alternating banks of capacitors.  One bank supplies power while the other bank recharges, and they switch seamlessly to provide clean, uninterrupted power.  So we'll see what that brings to the table.

One of the most fascinating things about the card reader as a transport is the sound of the cards themselves and the effect on sound of the way the files were recorded to the card.  It's long been reported that the way CDs are ripped to digital files affects the sound on playback, even though the files are bit perfect and identical.  What this means is that a so-so sounding digital file has the potential to sound spectacularly good if it can be copied to a new storage medium in a way that maximizes the quality of the underlying carrier signal.  This is one of the beautiful things about digital, and something which analog can't do.  

I've been corresponding with a member of the DIYAudio forum named rickmcinnis.  Rick has done a lot of work optimizing computer systems for ripping CDs and burning files to SD cards.  He's been kind enough to put together and send me a card with some evaluation music so that I can hear the effects of his system.  I'll be directly comparing Abbey Road as recorded with my USB card reader on my office computer against a card recorded with Rick's specially tuned hardware and operating systems.  I'll post my listening results once I've had a chance to do the compare.

Here's a picture:


These are the threads over at diyaudio that have tracked the development of this device over the last 7 years:
http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-source/142562-microsd-memory-card-transport-project.html
http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/group-buys/260565-gb-sdtrans384-micro-sd-card-digital-transport.html

This is the product page that explains what the SDTrans is, and how to order one.  Note - you'll need to view this in a web browser that can translate from Japanese.  Chrome works fine.  I should also point out that the SDTrans isn't really a commercial product, more of a gift to the DIY community:
http://www.tachyon.co.jp/~sichoya/SDTrans/SDTrans6.html
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:49 am


Fascinating idea this one is, Bill333!

No operating system....?

The SD card -- does it go into what looks like a slot under the LCD display -- is the blue edging the SD card?

How much music in 16bit/44 khz FLAC will such a card be able to carry? What's the storage solution for people with thousands of files in high and CD resolutions?

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Dec 19, 2016 5:24 pm

Hi Sonic,

You're right, the SD card goes under the LCD display and the blue edge you see is the plugged in card. It handles card sizes up to 32G. In practice, that means either 16 or 32G cards. A sixteen gigabyte card will handle 22 to 30 or so albums of 16/44.1 material, depending on how full the original CD was. A 32G card would store from 45 to 60 or so. The SDTrans won't handle anything larger than 32G, but I think that's a good thing because the user interface would make navigating through a larger collection than that a real chore.

For a large collection, you would just have a collection of SD cards with various subgroupings of music on particular cards. If I fully commit to going down this road I would look for a music library program for my computer that can track ancillary information like the card number that an album is stored on. That way I would be able to search my music collection like I do with a good player program, then find the correct card and put it in.

As for high resolution files, it handles them, and DSD up to 264 as well. Of course you can fit proportionately less on each card.

Best regards,
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 20, 2016 9:52 am


Hi Bill333

Forgot the interface -- no screen to or mouse/touchpad to scroll down a thousand or more recordings Shocked

How's Abbey Road? What are the most distinctive improvements or drawbacks you hear?

BTW, any comments on Sonic's latest experiment of moving my Magneplanars towards the front wall a few inches at a time and Sonic's observations on the adequacy (more the INadequacy) of my 85W Rega amp in driving the MGs?

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 20, 2016 11:38 am


Hi Bill333

Sonic read some of the DIYaudio thread on this device and the last posting was some 6 months ago this year giving the price of the SDTrans384 as "$1100 without delivery."

Very pricey for a circuit board mounted with experimental bits and things. Do you really want to get serious with this thing?

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 20, 2016 8:59 pm

Hi Sonic,

The SDTrans doesn't cost $1100, it's less than half that.  Here are the prices as I received them in a recent email:

SDTrans384 JPY 49,800
Remote control kit JPY 9,800 (optional)
Shipping cost is additional.

At current exchange rates, that's $423 USD for the SDTrans and another $83 for the remote control (which I recommend).  I don't remember what they charged for shipping, but it wasn't much.  For the level of engineering and the sound quality I'm getting I think the price is very reasonable.  

Every tunee will have to decide how much convenience they are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of great sound.  There is a screen that displays the current folder and track title on one line and the digital file type on the second line.  You navigate it with 4 push buttons on the front of the board, or the nifty Apple remote if you got the remote control.  There is a mode button that lets you jump between albums so you're not just going song by song through fifty albums.  While we're talking about its shortcomings, playback is not gapless.  It pauses for about a second between tracks that should be run together, like side two of Abbey Road. I should also mention that it doesn't have a pause button. The Play/Stop button will stop playback, but when you press play you start again at the beginning of the track you were on. And the forward and back buttons take you forward and back a track, there is no way to fast-forward or fast-reverse within a track.

I do want to get serious with this thing.  I think the sound I'm getting is about as good as I've ever heard in most ways.  Especially with the LPS-1 power supply, I'm hearing a level of clarity, bass power and dynamics that I've only rarely ever gotten to.  The system I've got going is

SDTrans384 -> Altmann DAC -> Topping TP21 -> Klipsch Speakers

Compared to the system I was using just before

Asus laptop -> Sonicweld Diverter 24/96 -> Altmann DAC -> Topping TP21 -> Klipsch Speakers

the SDTrans has far better bass - clearer, better defined and more powerful.  Abbey Road sounds phenomenally good.  Things that sounded fuzzy and indistinct before - the bass guitar in the left channel of Come Together, the bubbly chorus in Octopus's Garden, the big cymbal in the background of Sun King - sound much clearer and more present.  Is there room for improvement?  I think I could be hearing more air and larger halos around images.  On the other hand, this is the carpeted loft area, not my tunable room.  I'll try some tuning and see where I can get things to go.

So I am serious about the SDTrans, but at the same time there are still some other things I'd like to explore.  The DSD512 is next up.


Last edited by Bill333 on Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:35 am

The SDTrans384 UNLEASHED!



Up until yesterday evening I had been enjoying some very good sound.  Very clear and very dynamic, with good soundstaging.  Not necessarily the last word in air and harmonic envelopes around instruments, but good.  Yet I felt that something was missing.  I hate to use the word in reference to my own systems, but the word 'sterile' was coming to mind.  

So when I got home from work I turned the volume up and started thinking about tuning moves.  After a little experimentation, I ended up doing three things: pulled the little rubber feet off the bottom of the legs, completely loosened the screws that hold the legs onto the board, and removed the fifth leg from the middle of the board.  Put the top tune back on and...

wow.  Wow!  WOW!!   affraid

What a transformation!  First, the bass.  I have never, ever, at any time in my life had a system that did bass like this.  Come to it, I've never heard any system, anywhere, at any price that did bass like this.  Not just deep, but with power that rolls off of the instrumental image and energizes the entire room.  Not just clear and detailed, but with gorgeous tone that makes you glad the electric bass was invented.  I would not have believed that the missing link for my system having stronger bass was the S/PDIF signal feeding the DAC, but there it is.

Voices are transformed with a level of tonal resolution that makes voice sound much more real.  Sometimes startlingly so.  I could (and did) listen to Donovan for hours, just enjoying the sound of his voice and the rich beauty of his guitar.  Acoustic instruments are detailed enough that their sound becomes fascinating in and of itself.  Soundstaging is stable and exact; even in complicated passages every instrument is clearly heard in its contribution to the mix.  Songs that I've heard hundred of times revealed nuances I'd never noticed before.

I asked my wife to sit down and listen to a favorite track from one of my British Invasion compilations - 'Trains And Boats And Planes' by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.  Her comment was, "That was really beautiful!!".

How does it compare to the Magnavox?  Properly stripped down and top tuned, the Magnavox is a formidable source, but the SDTrans/Altmann DAC combination is better.  In another league better.  SDTrans/Altmann, you're starting for the New York Yankees.  Magnavox, you'll be playing out the rest of your contract for the Kane County Cougars. Laughing

This is so good I have to do some real thinking about whether or not I want to do the rest of the experiments I had lined up.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:52 am


Congratulations cheers Bill333 Exclamation

Looks like we are both making progress with our systems -- you with the SDTrans384 and Sonic with my revised loudspeaker positioning.

Cool
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Dec 26, 2016 8:58 am


Hi Bill333

How's the SDTrans384 doing in your Christmas listening Question

What are those experiments you might be deferring Question

Sonic been listening today to a number of 78 rpm records played on Audio Technica AT120LP with my broad-groove Stanton 500E Very Happy

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:34 pm

Hi Sonic,

As quickly as things came together, they have all fallen apart.  For two days I had some of the best sound I have heard.  I don't want to call it magic as that doesn't leave any room for improvement, but near-magic and very captivating.  Then my wife took a shortcut through my stereo system while getting a book and tripped over the power wires.  She ripped several wires out of their stripped down plugs and scattered the power strip on the floor.  It took me a day to reconnect everything and figure out why I wasn't getting any sound.  It turns out the Altmann DAC was damaged in some way, although it wasn't directly part of the accident.

When the sound was good, it was so good that I was reconsidering all the things I had been planning.  What do I need with the problems and expense of analog when digital sounds so great?  Why mess around with computers and DSD512 when I'm enjoying the sound I'm getting from this ladder DAC so much?  Why start a new tuning journey when this one is practically at the finish line?  But that was then and this is now.  Everything is thrown into flux and I don't know what to do.  I could explore these other avenues, but all I really want is to get the Altmann working again.  

Unfortunately, unless it spontaneously starts functioning again I probably cannot get it repaired.  This DAC has the Hynes modifications and Charles Altmann wants 5000 Euros to repair a modified Attraction DAC.  And he'll rip the modifications out.  Crying or Very sad I can email him to see if he'll be more reasonable, but if he won't, I have no recourse.  The good news is that I have two Attraction DACs; the other one has been at Paul Hynes to be modified since late October.  The bad news is that Paul hasn't answered my emails in a month and I don't know what's going on.

In the meantime, I have been listening to my Yamamoto YDA-01 DAC.  I'm not getting the same level of performance that I was from the Altmann, but it shows promise some times.  Unfortunately, my attempts at tuning up its power cord have not gone well.  I've gained detail but lost musicality somehow.  And at not time have I heard the kind of harmonic vibration I was getting from the Altmann.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:45 pm


Hi Bill333

That's unfortunate Crying or Very sad

So close to the finish line and this happens.

Hope your wife is OK -- no electric shocks or a fall, I hope?

This vulnerability of the gordian knot of fine cables that are loosely connected to mains and signal sockets is a risk that Sonic has concerns about from tripping over. It is the reason for my moving to a simpler system with less cabling.

I have to say that this light and loose connection works well in terms of sound. What Michael says is right. In implementing the system we have to address the unique system-risks we face.

The Altmann -- was it damaged by a voltage surge?

Is it silent or playing distorted/funny?

Charles asking for EU 5,000 to fix is punitive!

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:34 am

My wife was fine.  Me, in a state of mourning.  Razz

I'm not sure what's going on with the Altmann DAC.  It has a circuit and an LED light that indicates when it has a signal lock to the incoming S/PDIF signal.  When the transport is disconnected or is producing no signal, the light comes on.  But since the accident, the light remains off all the time whether there is a signal or not.  This indicates that there is a lock, but even when it has a good signal playing no sound comes out.  I can tell that the DAC is getting power from a different LED on the board.

I don't know if it was caused by a voltage surge.  The DAC was separately powered by a battery, so there is no way the DAC's power circuits could have been affected.  It's possible it received a surge through its S/PDIF inputs, but this seems unlikely since the SDTrans was stopped at the time, thus sending no signal.

I've had this happen before, several years ago.  I sent the DAC to Germany to be repaired and Charles told me he couldn't find anything wrong with it.  When I got it back, it worked.  scratch

Charles asking the same price for a new DAC to repair (and unmodify) a modified DAC is definitely punitive.  I'm sure that was the intention.  It's his baby and he never did want to believe that it had any shortcomings.  That, and the Hynes modifications are undoubtedly inconvenient if you need to work on the board.  I think you'd probably have to disconnect all of the external power regulators.  Sad
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 27, 2016 1:29 pm


Hang in there, fellow Student of the Tune....

What about using the Aune x1s?
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Dec 27, 2016 3:28 pm

Unfortunately, I burned out the Aune X1S a couple weeks ago while trying to tune up the power supply.  There were some things I like about the X1S and I wouldn't mind listening to it again, but if I have to spend money for new equipment I'll probably go in a new direction.

My current thinking is that if I can't get the Altmann DAC working in the next several days, I'll get an iFi iDSD Micro and see what DSD512 sounds like.  I'm corresponding with Charles Altmann to try to figure out what may be wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:07 am


Hi Bill333

Yes, Sonic remembers now what happened with your Aune x1s -- though I thought it was just the power supply going kaput, the DAC itself being preserved intact. Understand now that this is not the case.

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:16 am

I'm very happy to see you using the loft sunny

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:52 pm

Hi Michael,

Things have been up and down, but mostly up.  After the accident and the problems with the Altmann DAC, I put my Yamamoto YDA-01 DAC in just to have something to listen to until I could sort things out.  Initially not too good, but with a few tuning moves and some settling time, I was surprised to hear performance that rivaled the Altmann DAC.  Same astounding bass, good soundstage, good tone.  Not that the Yamamoto isn't a good DAC, but I just didn't think I had a handle on how to tune it.  I ended up doing better than I thought I could.  Of course, neither of these DACs ever sounded anywhere near this good before the SDTrans.

The upshot of it is that I'm spending more time listening to music lately than I have in a long time.  Very Happy  I'm definitely getting a lesson on settling.  Day before yesterday, the system had taken on a very low tonality.  Lower than I've ever heard from any system of mine.  Then a day later, the treble is back with a vengeance.  Not a bad sound, but just a lot more treble.  All of this from settling, I didn't touch anything.  I'll do a sound check later on today and see where we've gone.  Basketball

I should also thank you for the loft setup.  What I did up there is as exact a copy of the setup you put together last time you were here as I could manage.  Seems to be working nicely.  Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:03 am

Last night I did some experimental work positioning the caps on the Ultracap LPS-1 power supply powering the SDTrans.  As shown in the picture, the supply comes with the caps in a horizontal position, laid into a bed of silicone caulk.



I removed the caulk several days ago using X-acto blades and solvent and left the caps in a haphazard position between horizontal and vertical.  I thought that positioning the caps vertically would be a good tuning move, but it degraded the sound significantly.  I gave the system two days to settle, but this helped only marginally.  So last night I moved them again and with some experimentation, settled on a 30 degree angle for both banks of caps.  What was surprising is that, not only did I gain back the powerful, room energizing bass I had been enjoying, but I now had huge harmonics.  Every instrument and voice has a halo around it that reveals more about the tone and the original recording venue than what I had been hearing before.  

These harmonics are not fully organized, but I feel I'm very close to getting some real magic.  I mean the kind of magic that makes random houseguests so enthralled with the sound of the system that they want to listen to one song after another.  Like Michael says, "I thought I was going to have to get the Jaws Of Life to cut this guy out of my listening seat!".  Laughing  That good.

The sound I'm getting is promising enough that I've decided to focus my efforts on the SDTrans384/DAC/Topping TP21 system.  The reel to reel tape and DSD512 based systems are on hold permanently while I see just how good I can make this.  The really encouraging thing is that I've only just started my tuning experiments with this system.  There's a lot of upside left to explore.  drunken
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:22 pm

Hi Bill

I wrote a long reply the other night, but the forum timed me out when I went to post No

It's CES so my focus is elsewhere, but needed to at least come by and say Wink

Your latest work has got me smiling bigtime Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:36 am


Greetings Bill333

Good that you are back to getting music. On the tune being reported this is a perplexing post to Sonic.

I would have expected the removal of the silicone caulking to have made a huge improvement in the sound -- did you try the device with the silicone caulking removed but with the caps in their usual setting?

Sonic wonders why the making the caps vertical would made any difference to the sound once they are freed from the silicone caulking.

What perplexes me even more is the difference the 30 degree angling makes. Do you or Michael have an theory why the angling makes any difference at all?

Sonic has understood the Tune for being anchored in conventional physics and acoustics -- it is the interpretation and emphasis being different as Michael shows up how the industry has been trapped in misguided theories. The Tune does not "invent any new science" unlike things like Intelligent Chips.

So unless there is something I am not getting, this Tune is perplexing to Sonic. It will indeed be a strange world where two amps came off the production line and when the small caps on one amp's PCB were set at different angles from those in the other amp the two amps both sounded different Shocked

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:02 pm

Hi Sonic,

I think the tune involved makes more sense when you're familiar with the details, most of which I left out of my post on the subject.  The leads on the power capacitors are vertical and the caps are bent over at a right angle (stock) so that the leads are pressing against the rim of the metal can and the thin plastic covering over the can.  The colorful writing on the side of the caps isn't paint, it's a plastic sleeve.  Exclamation   Another major detail that I left out of my post is that the sound was quite good in a range from about 20 to 45 degrees.  I couldn't hear much difference anywhere in that range.  I think the position of the capacitor body vis a vis the leads explains why I got good results at 30 degrees.

Of course, none of this explains why the sound wasn't as good in the vertical position.  I don't really have an explanation for that, except to say that the difference wasn't subtle at all.  Maybe the leads like being bent over because that's the position they were in when the PS was breaking in and the electrical pathways were formed?  Back when I was experimenting with the position of resistors and caps on the old Pioneer amp, I was often surprised by how much the sound would change when I pushed a resistor over to a different angle.  Even when there was nothing near it for it to have an interaction with.  And even more surprised when I pushed it back and restored the original sound.  Perhaps these leads just get used to carrying electricity in a particular position and changing that disrupts something in the metal?
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:55 am


Hello Bill333

This makes more sense now. An odd design this is given that you observed "The leads on the power capacitors are vertical and the caps are bent over at a right angle (stock) so that the leads are pressing against the rim of the metal can and the thin plastic covering over the can."

If the leads were pressing against the rim of the can, was it the plastic covering that was preventing a short? That's cutting it fine....

Is the sound getting better?

Sonic a bit sad that you are putting your reel to reel project on hold permanently given the effort and dough you invested.

Sonic



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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:55 pm

The affect of fields!

Hi Sonic, you should go back and get refreshed on the affect of fields here on TuneLand. Or even begin a thread in chat that talks specifically about audiophile theories and myths. It looks like the practical application part of your comments recently have gotten a little rusty.

I don't say this in a negative way, but more as a guide to what you may not have read before on TuneLand about how placement, mass and fields work. No need for perplexities study

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:45 am


Good point Michael!

Sonic was thinking about the damping effect of the caulking and grounding the system. The ideas of damping/free resonance and mechanical grounding is something I am more familiar with. Forgot that fields are critical too.

Must revise study
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