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 Bill333's System

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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:34 pm

Hi Sonic,

I'm not sad about how things are going at all.  When I began this journey, I did a survey of my equipment and decided that I had many good amplifiers to choose from, but not enough good sources.  So I've been exploring with different sources trying to find things that will perform at a high level but at the same time very musical.  I didn't expect to be so successful as I have so early in the search.  The SDTrans has brought every DAC I own that can take an S/PDIF input up to a new level.  So pretty happy about it.  Very Happy

I don't know that I'll ever be able to take the tape deck as far as I'm currently getting with digital.  I see it more as a 'guest system' component.  Maybe pair it with a nice 300B amp and listen to an all analog, all tube system for a month, then swap the digital back in.

Working on the Yamamoto has been a real adventure.  Jubilation one day, despair and perplexity the next.  I don't know that I've ever worked with a component that changes so drastically with modest tuning moves.  The smallest changes will take the sound of this thing so far that it's hard to believe.  No one can accuse this DAC of being untuneable.   Rolling Eyes

Here are some of my tuning notes so you can see what I'm talking about:

YAMAMOTO YDA-01 TUNING


Top and bottom panels have been removed, screws loosened both above and below.  Transformer coupling has been loosened, but not removed.  Transformer still has thin rubber pads both above and below it.

  • Moved transformer forward a small fraction of an inch.  Greater detail in bass, more powerfully energizes the room on bass notes.  A little better detail overall.  Moved forward another fraction of an inch – less room energizing with the bass, but greater bass detail and overall improvement in the music's organization.  Moved forward another fraction of an inch – total room energizing bass is back, better detail and organization are retained.  
  • Removed nut holding down the transformer (top wooden plate and rubber mat are still in place). The nut had been on only very loosely, but this proves to have been transformative.  It sounds like the volume has been turned up, the bass is energizing the room at a level I have never heard before and the overall detail, organization and naturalness have increased.
  • Removed wooden top plate from transformer.  Coupling bolt has fallen down through the metal plate (as far as it can go) to rest on the wooden platform beneath the DAC.  After 15 minutes of settling between the previous move, the bass had settled down some but this move has it resurgent.  No harm to the rest of the frequency spectrum either.  Very clear, very powerful.  I'm still hearing some disorganization in the high frequencies, but this was there all along.  Just more obvious now as there is less covering it up.
  • Removed rubber mat sitting on top of transformer.  This was an interesting move.  Over the course of a couple minutes, the music became cloudier and less dynamically incisive.  Are the halos bigger?  Not sure, but would be worth trying to remove it again when I have other methods of tightening up and refining the sound to compensate.  Put the mat back as it sounds better with it at this point.
  • Removed transformer coupling bolt by lifting up the chassis and letting it drop through.  No noticeable change.
  • Lifted up transformer and centered the bottom rubber mat underneath the transformer. (It had been off to the side.)  This brings an improvement similar to putting the top rubber mat back on. More dynamically incisive, more bouncy.  Bass sounds like it's reverberating with a harder, more 'boingy' character.
  • Dropped a top tune on one of the little raised voltage regulation platforms on the DAC.  This isn't where I would have liked to put it, but the top tune platform is too large and only barely fits on the equipment platform.  Immediate, shocking sonic transformation- no waiting.  The sound is now tilted much more towards the treble, but at the same time is now revealing resonance and tone in the treble region that hadn't been there before.  In some ways much more appealing to listen to.  Listening to 'Come Together' again, it sounds like a different song.  The bass is still powerful, but the treble now draws much more attention to itself.  Not a bad thing as the beauty of the tone has greatly increased.
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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:14 am


Greetings Bill333

Intriguing indeed. I googled a picture of the innards of the YDA-01 and followed your tunes while referring to the picture.

Sonic
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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:14 am

It's been a while since I've posted, so I thought I'd give an update.  I've been working on my audio projects and listening more lately.  I'm working again on my Elekit 300B kit, and off and on attempts at repairing the Altmann DAC.  Mostly, I've been trying to get a handle on tuning the SDTrans->Yamamoto->Topping TP21->Klipsch Synergy system.  

I left the system volume turned up while I was at work yesterday, so when I got home I was ready to roll up my sleeves and tune the system.  This is always a challenge - the system consistently settles into an untuned state when it's left at low volume overnight or longer.  Getting it to a high state of performance is a matter of picking up power supplies and putting them down again, dressing wires, and selectively unsettling components.  Pick the right ones and the system comes alive with clarity, dynamics, and rich detail that makes instruments sound beautiful and voices come alive.  Make a wrong move, and it's go directly to treble harshness jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  Razz

On first listen the sound isn't bad, but compared to what it can be it's undynamic, smeared in the fine details, and images are smaller and more in the speakers. The first thing I did was to pick up and put down the power supply for the Topping, which brought a large improvement to dynamics, clarity and focus, but also some treble harshness. Picking up and putting down the Uptone LPS-1's energizer brought a smaller change in the same direction. At this point, the sound is dynamic and very clear, but with an unrefined edge to the treble that keeps the sound from being completely enjoyable. Listening to 'You Never Give Me Your Money' from Abbey Road, the opening piano is noticeably harsh. Looking for a solution, I pick up and put down the plastic power strip that powers the entire system. Wow! That did something! I listen to the track from the start again and the harshness has been converted to airiness; harmonic envelopes have expanded to something like twice what they had been. The sound is beautiful now, but at the same time it sounds like the volume has been turned down. I listened for five minutes, enjoying the beautifully smooth sound, but I soon start to feel that the smoothness is covering a lack of dynamics and that the music isn't as exciting or involving as it could be. I make another tuning move, by picking up the SDTrans an inch and setting it back down on its loosely attached feet. Oh no! The harshness is back with a vengeance! I try performing the reset again, but no luck. I'm stuck with the harshness until the system settles again.

Sometimes I wonder if it's just me. No
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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:58 pm

My long running adventure with trying to fix the Altmann DAC is still ongoing.  

I bought a new soldering station with a couple of specialized tips for doing SMD work, and removed the broken chip.  Unfortunately, the crude and clumsy technique I used for the removal resulted in one of the solder pads being torn off the printed circuit board.  The good news was that the pad's only connection was to the pad right next to it, meaning that I could repair the problem after the new chip was in place by creating a solder bridge across the two pins.  This was much easier said than done, but with some practice and a change of tips I managed to create the bridge.  Finally, the big day had arrived - the repair was finished and it was time to see if my DAC was working.  

It wasn't.  I asked Charles about it and he wants me to get an oscilloscope and test some parts of the circuit related to the receiver chip to make sure the problem isn't occurring earlier than we thought.  He also volunteered to try to fix it, or to build me a new one for a reasonable (not the website) price.  

I'm not sure what direction I want to go.  Mostly I wish I could get my first Altmann DAC back from Paul Hynes.  I haven't heard from him in a month, and he hasn't posted in his own audio forum on AudioCircle in four months.  When I did last receive an email from him, he said he was busy with a day job, but that he would get to it soon.  I think Paul is a very reliable and honest person, but I just don't know when I'm going to get my DAC back.  

All of this raises real questions about how much I'm willing to spend fixing my second Altmann DAC.  I'd probably just let the whole thing go if I had the first one upgraded and back in my possession.  I could get a new one, or the current one fixed, but that will almost certainly mean getting the DAC back without the Hynes upgrade.  The upgrade is such a huge improvement, I don't think I'd be happy listening to the Altmann without it.  

I could just use the Yamamoto, but as good as it sounds it doesn't take me the same places that the Altmann did.  The other day, I had the system sounding very nice and invited my wife to listen to 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' with me.  It sounded lovely, but I know that if I had been listening to the Altmann it would have given me goosebumps.  It's not the difference in 'sound', it's the difference in the sound's effect on me that raises the Altmann above DACs like the Magnavox and the Yamamoto.  Is the Altmann singular among DACs for this reason, or will any NOS R2R DAC have this effect?  I don't know, but I would love to do some experiments to find out.


Last edited by Bill333 on Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:24 pm

I'm still fascinated with the idea of analog sound.  The latest thing that caught my eye is this review of the J-Corder reel to reel tape deck:

https://www.wired.com/2015/11/review-j-corder/

The innovation here is that the Technics RS-1500 has been reworked and specially calibrated to create high intensity (+9dB) recordings with modern tape.  The effect is said to make copies that sound better than the original source.   Jeff Jacobs, the owner and chief technician, makes most of his own tapes from his CD collection with an old Panasonic DVD player.  He enjoys listening to these tapes more than to the CDs and, as the story goes, so do other people.

Is this true?  I don't know, but it's an intriguing idea. I like the concept of being able to leverage my existing music collection instead of trying to put together a tape collection from pricey recording houses with tiny selections and hair-raising auctions on eBay.  There are a couple of different rooms at the upcoming AXPONA audio show that use these tape decks as a source, so I will make sure to spend some time there when I go to the show next month.

On a related note, I picked up my tape deck from the repair shop yesterday.  It turns out that the tech hadn' had time to do anything with it during the four months that he had had it.  I decided I was better off being able to use it at home.  Exclamation
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:19 am



Hi Bill333

What a baffling situation you in.....Sonic is fascinated by your observations of how you unsettle things in the system a bit at a time to get the sound you want. How do you know which item to lift? Sounds a bit hit and miss....nasty R2R tech who took your machine for months and did nothing!

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:34 am


Greetings Bill333

Sonic's got a few questions if I may relating to your observation and tuning process. You said:

"I left the system volume turned up while I was at work yesterday, so when I got home I was ready to roll up my sleeves and tune the system. This is always a challenge - the system consistently settles into an untuned state when it's left at low volume overnight or longer."

Q: You leave all your equipment powered up 247 including tube gear?

Q: It appears you run your system at normal listening level for settling even through the night? How loud is this in estimated average dBs?

Q: What music do you play during these overnight and all day listening sessions -- is it what you will be listening to seriously later? Does the type of music and the frequency range it has make a difference? For Sonic, I find the best musick for settling should have a broad range character, not something like solo harpsichord works.

Q: Left to itself, what is the sound characteristic your system settles towards?

"Getting it to a high state of performance is a matter of picking up power supplies and putting them down again, dressing wires, and selectively unsettling components. Pick the right ones and the system comes alive with clarity, dynamics, and rich detail that makes instruments sound beautiful and voices come alive."

Q: Have you over time developed a process of which components to lift and what effect unsettling them create? Or are you saying that what works changes from day to day? What drives this difference?

I would like to hear your thoughts on these Qs if you please.

Sonic
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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:11 pm

Hi Sonic,
Quote :
Q: You leave all your equipment powered up 247 including tube gear?
Yes, I do.  I'm not currently running any tube gear, but when I do I usually just turn it way down.  That actually seemed to work as well as turning it off - in terms of having it come back to full voice quickly when I turn it up again.  But these results will vary depending on the equipment, of course.
Quote :
Q: It appears you run your system at normal listening level for settling even through the night? How loud is this in estimated average dBs?
Very low, just barely audible if you're in the room.  Inaudible in most other parts of the house.  In my current system, the volume control is on the amplifier so everything before that is running at full power.
Quote :
Q: What music do you play during these overnight and all day listening sessions -- is it what you will be listening to seriously later? Does the type of music and the frequency range it has make a difference?
Usually Abbey Road.  It's just convenient in terms of being able to turn the sound up and make a quick assessment with my go-to reference recording.  I don't know if the music makes a difference to the state of the system when I turn it up again - I'd have to test that.
Quote :
Q: Left to itself, what is the sound characteristic your system settles towards?
I think Michael's term would be 'low and fuzzy', but in my less charitable moments I would probably call it smeared, unclear and undynamic.  I'm not a fan of that sound, which is why I start making moves as soon as I'm confident the system has warmed up.
Quote :
Q: Have you over time developed a process of which components to lift and what effect unsettling them create? Or are you saying that what works changes from day to day? What drives this difference?
I would say I have, although it's nothing very formal.  The power supply on the Topping goes first because it always has a large positive effect.  After that, it's a matter of skill, intuition, and knowing when to leave well enough alone.  Usually the things I listed are reliable in their effects, but lifting the power strip and the SDTrans can be dicey.  Lifting the Uptone LPS-1 seems to be reliably bad.  So the answer is that it's mostly, but not entirely predictable.  That's where the intuition comes in.  Cool

Regarding your earlier post, I don't hold any ill will towards the tape technician. He's just too busy, mostly because he insists on charging very reasonable rates.  Really, it's a case straight out of a business school textbook - a service business charges too little for their work, and attracts so many customers that they start losing business because they can't do all the work in a timely fashion.  Raise rates and solve all your problems.  In any case, I don't know that I would have had the tape deck in the system this whole time.  I don't have a preamp, so I can only have one source attached at a time.  And wherever my interest in tape may eventually take me, most of my music collection is digital right now.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Mar 26, 2017 9:09 am


Thank you for the answers Bill333 cheers

The good thing through all this is you have music rather than a system that has gone silent.

I would like to hear of your adventures with the tape machine, as tape is something Sonic is contemplating. Is the Technics that didn't get fixed working optimally? Ahead for Sonic's might just be something with the number 77 on it....Cool

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Apr 01, 2017 4:18 am

Hi Guys

I enjoyed reading your reports and conversation tonight (well morning now). I look forward to the day my work load allows me to jump into forum mode.

study

Amazing reading Bill now verses years ago Exclamation

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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Apr 01, 2017 12:39 pm

Hi Sonic,

Working optimally?  Probably not, but it does work.  Optimal in a tape deck is a hard place to get to.  To really have optimal, I think you need to calibrate to a particular tape, and do it for both recording and playback.  Do that, and you're going to really hear what the deck is capable of.  Playing back commercially recorded tapes with bias and EQ that may be different than what your deck is set to, with different tape formulations than what your deck is calibrated to, and possibly recorded at a slightly different speed than what your deck is set to may still sound quite good.  But optimal?  No, it'll be something short of that.

That's the beauty of making your own tapes with something like the J-Corder.  You use the right tape, make the recording yourself, and play it back on the same machine and you've got real fidelity.  Of course, the source for the recording is CDs or needle drops, not the master tape.  I guess there are no perfect solutions in audio.  Rolling Eyes

It sounds like you're interested in the Revox B77 or A77?  I don't know enough about these machines to recommend for or against them, but I'd like to go over my own thinking about reel to reel tape in the hope that you may find something useful in it.

At this time, there are really only three reasonably priced options in tape decks.  The United Home Audio Phase 1 ($6500), the J-Corder ($5000 and up), and the used market ($50 to $3000).  The UHA and the J-Corder have warranties and are backed by manufacturers who will repair and recalibrate as necessary.  There are many nice used decks out there, but you really need access to a technician who can work on that particular model.  And you're subject to the availability of parts, which means there's a big advantage to buying a model which was popular where you live.  I chose a used Technics RS-1500 for a few reasons: the price was low, it could be fitted with an external preamp as recommended by the Tape Project, it's capable of playing practically all commercial prerecorded tapes from the 60's and 70's as well as Tape Project style master tapes (with preamp), and there was a local technician who knows how to repair them.

Which brings us to tapes.  Again, I see three options:  commercial prerecorded tapes, Tape Project 'master tapes', and making your own tapes from your CD and vinyl collection.  Commercial prerecorded tapes are really only available in 3 3/4 and 7 1/2 ips NAB, with exceptions to that being pretty rare.  Most of it is 4 track.  The good news is that there is a wide variety of music available at mostly reasonable prices ($5 to $100).  The bad news is that the 3 3/4 ips stuff is of uniformly poor quality and the 7 1/2 ips tapes are variable.  But it's a rare commercially recorded 7 1/2 ips tape that challenges the fidelity of the CD version of that music.  At least in areas like noise floor, lack of distortion and clarity.  If you take into account analog qualities like naturalness, flow and lack of digital hardness, it may tip the balance more toward tape.

15 ips, 2 track IEC master tape copies are another matter.  If the master was in decent shape at the time the copy was made, it will blow the doors off both vinyl and CD.  There's a richness and depth to fine detail combined with a relaxing naturalness that I've never heard from digital, no matter how well tuned I've gotten the system.  I'm not in a position to tell you how it compares to LP, but the reputation is that a good tape deck with these tapes will better the best analog rigs in the world.  The downside is that these tapes are horribly expensive ($300 to $600) and there are very, very few titles available.  I've combed through the online catalogs of every outfit selling these copies and I can count the number of tapes I'm really interested in owning on the fingers of both hands.  The rumor is that there are collectors who have much broader selections of music than what is commercially available and are willing to make copies.  But you need to know such persons.  Right now, I don't.

Make your own tapes from your CDs and vinyl.  Why would anyone want to do that?   Copying them to tape can only degrade the sound, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  There have been tapeheads on the forums for years who transfer all of the digital and vinyl music they acquire to tape because they like the sound better.  Lately, Jeff Jacobs of J-Corder has made a selling point of his machines ability to make recording from digital that sound better than the digital and there are reviewers who agree with him. Is it true?  I don't know, but I'd like to find out.

The AXPONA audio show in Chicago is three weeks from now.  For me, this is a make or break decision point for reel to reel tape.  United Home Audio has a room there, and J-Corder does not, but there are two different exhibitors who are using J-Corder decks to demo their equipment.  I am planning to spend the whole weekend in these rooms, in the hope that I will come out with enough information to make a clear decision.  The UHA deck is out of the question if I can't find enough interesting tapes to play on it.  I'm going to meet as many people as I can there.  If I come out of the show with a contact willing to make me a copy of Abbey Road, then I will feel confident that I can put together a satisfying collection of 'master tapes'.  I will also be spending time listening to the J-Corders, and I know that at least one of the rooms will be playing tapes that were sourced from digital.  If I find these demos musically satisfying, then the J-Corder path looks very appealing.  If neither of these things are the case, then I'm done with tape.  The quality of the commercially recorded tapes and the RS-1500 in its current condition are not enough to keep me in the game.  If I still want to do analog, I'd have to figure a path forward with vinyl.

Hi Michael,

It's good to hear from you! If your phone is working, I'll give you a call so we can catch up.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:37 am


Greetings Bill333 cheers

Some thoughts on what you said if Sonic may:

"Optimal in a tape deck is a hard place to get to. To really have optimal, I think you need to calibrate to a particular tape, and do it for both recording and playback. Do that, and you're going to really hear what the deck is capable of. Playing back commercially recorded tapes with bias and EQ that may be different than what your deck is set to, with different tape formulations than what your deck is calibrated to, and possibly recorded at a slightly different speed than what your deck is set to may still sound quite good."

In my saner moments, I feel tape machines might be wonderful sounding but there are 101 things to "optimise" -- everything from the tape bias, head alignment, test tapes, motor function and tape tension, improvements to the circuitry, even (what Michael pointed out) the angle which you mount the machine. This can suck owners into a pocket universe of Eternal Tape Deck Tweaking.

Then pre-recorded tapes can be very expensive or the stuff on the 7 inch reels at 7.5 ips as you pointed out are not good, possibly stretched with wow and flutter and edges not in best contact with the heads. And even with the best pre-recorded tapes any misalignment will compromise the sound.


"That's the beauty of making your own tapes with something like the J-Corder. You use the right tape, make the recording yourself, and play it back on the same machine and you've got real fidelity."

This is something that troubles Sonic mentally.


"It sounds like you're interested in the Revox B77 or A77?"

A77 possibly -- the tube G36 might be fun Shocked did I say "fun"? Sonic has to say I like the look of the A77 better than the fussy looking B77 although that machine has reportedly better sound.


"I chose a used Technics RS-1500 for a few reasons: the price was low, it could be fitted with an external preamp as recommended by the Tape Project, it's capable of playing practically all commercial prerecorded tapes from the 60's and 70's as well as Tape Project style master tapes (with preamp), and there was a local technician who knows how to repair them."


You made a good choice, my friend Exclamation


"If the master was in decent shape at the time the copy was made, it will blow the doors off both vinyl and CD. There's a richness and depth to fine detail combined with a relaxing naturalness that I've never heard from digital, no matter how well tuned I've gotten the system. I'm not in a position to tell you how it compares to LP, but the reputation is that a good tape deck with these tapes will better the best analog rigs in the world. The downside is that these tapes are horribly expensive ($300 to $600) and there are very, very few titles available."

Agree.


"Make your own tapes from your CDs and vinyl. Why would anyone want to do that?"

Yes why? I wonder if this is just people liking some form of colouration/distortion being added....copying something can never improve anything. It is either a perfect 100% true copy in which case it will sound identical or some things have been removed or added which were not there in the first place -- the frequency response could have changed, noise added, more 2nd harmonic distortion, treble boosted or rolled off. The results might be nice but identical it is not. So this mentally troubles Sonic. Then there is the cost of the tape and the time taken to do the copy when we could be just listening.

I know some say that digital cannot fool the brain into believing that this is real musick. Even if this is true, what Sonic wonders how copying to tape is going to undo this and create the illusion for our brains.


Question: any comments on what Sonic been posting on replacing the 15 to 20 year old caps in my Magneplanar MG1.5QRs?

Sonic
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Bill333

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:22 am

Hi Sonic,

Thanks for your post on this subject, I'm glad we're having this conversation.  My thoughts are below.

"In my saner moments, I feel tape machines might be wonderful sounding but there are 101 things to "optimise" -- everything from the tape bias, head alignment, test tapes, motor function and tape tension, improvements to the circuitry, even (what Michael pointed out) the angle which you mount the machine. This can suck owners into a pocket universe of Eternal Tape Deck Tweaking."

I have to say I see this as completely opposite the reality.  In my experience, tape decks are by far the less fussy of the two high quality analog mediums.  Most of the things you mention are generally only done by a service technician.  With my own tape deck, I never really did more than take the back panel off, loosen some screws and cut the wire ties - things we do with every component that comes through our doors.  Compare this with vinyl with its seemingly endless constellation of tweaks, enhancements and gadgets: turntable mats, digital cartridge scales that weigh to the hundredth of a gram, ultrasonic record cleaning machines, devices designed to flatten records by heating them up and gradually cooling them, sophisticated jigs for aligning cartridges and arms, special records and computer software for adjusting turntable speed and cartridge alignment, brushes for removing dust from the record surface...

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  Please understand that this is not meant to be critical of vinyl.  I bring these things up because if I commit to going down the road with vinyl, I am myself planning to purchase them.  Even though my forays into vinyl have been brief, I already actually do own some of these items.  Exclamation

The vast majority of these devices have no analog in the world of tape.  Tape cleaning?  There really is no such thing.  I saw a Youtube video once where someone had a 60 year old tape that they cleaned by running the tape from one reel to another while pinching it with a rag before making a recording with it, but that's about it.  And you would never need to do that with a new tape.  Compare that to vinyl where there are dozens of different record cleaning machines running the gamut from cheap to ultra-expensive, and it seems that every audiophile has developed their own protocol for cleaning and drying records.

Tape decks are indeed very sophisticated electro-mechanical devices, but that complexity is hidden from the end user in much the same way that a smart phone is electronically complex but easy and intuitive to use.  More importantly, what happens when your smart phone breaks?  There really isn't anything you can do to fix it yourself.  You take it to a repair shop and they are either able to fix it or you throw the phone out.  For the user, there just isn't anything to fuss with, even if they were so inclined.   With a tape deck, you choose your machine, have the technician align the record and playback to your tape of choice, and you're pretty much done.  

As someone who is interested in both vinyl and tape, but not yet committed to either, I find tape very appealing for a couple of reasons: cost and simplicity.  The simplicity I already covered above.  Cost is something that's been at the back of my mind ever since I started considering tape as an option.  Even if I were to buy the most expensive deck I can reasonably afford - the UHA Phase 1 - this is still far less than I would need to spend on vinyl to get fidelity roughly comparable to what I currently have with digital.  Here is how I'm breaking it down: $3000 for a Minus K vibration isolation platform (the second floor loft where I currently have my system has ruined the sound of the turntable I've tried there), $2000 for a Teres Verus motor for the Trans-Fi Salvation, $2200 for a Koetsu black cartridge, $500 to $2000 for a step up transformer, $1000 to $4000 for a good phono preamp, another $500 to $4000 for a preamp, $200 to $800 for a tuner (because a record cannot be left to play on repeat, I need a source which I can use to warm up the preamp, amp and speakers), $1000 and up on miscellaneous tools for turntable and cartridge setup, record cleaning, cables, etc.  And this is leveraging a turntable I already own.  Compared to this, tape is looking inexpensive.  And moreover, a one time purchase rather than an array of purchases each of which has its own upgrade path.

From my point of view, the big advantage that vinyl has over tape is that cartridges can be chosen to editorialize the sound.  If a Koetsu or a Miyajima cartridge makes music sound more beautiful than it really is - that's a place I think I'd like to go.  And if I got tired of it, I could always change to a different cartridge.

I've got to go to work now, but will continue my thoughts on the other subjects you've brought up when I get home.  Arrow
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:07 am


Greetings Bill333 cheers

Good points all you made. Your counting up the cost of a vinyl rig that can get you a level of fidelity roughly comparable to your digital set up is enlightening -- I didn't see it this way. A good tape playback machine might not be that costly after all.

Speaking of vinyl this weekend I had a chance to get close up to the Kronos Pro turntable with its counter-rotating platters. That is some machine.

I would really like to hear your thoughts on the other points I ventured yesterday.

Let's chat more then Very Happy

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:04 am

"Make your own tapes from your CDs and vinyl. Why would anyone want to do that?" - Bill333

"Yes why? I wonder if this is just people liking some form of colouration/distortion being added....copying something can never improve anything. It is either a perfect 100% true copy in which case it will sound identical or some things have been removed or added which were not there in the first place -- the frequency response could have changed, noise added, more 2nd harmonic distortion, treble boosted or rolled off. The results might be nice but identical it is not. So this mentally troubles Sonic. Then there is the cost of the tape and the time taken to do the copy when we could be just listening.

I know some say that digital cannot fool the brain into believing that this is real musick. Even if this is true, what Sonic wonders how copying to tape is going to undo this and create the illusion for our brains." - Sonic


One of the great things about our hobby is that everyone sets their own goals within it.  It's clear that your goal is to reproduce the original musical event as closely as possible.  And you're right that no copy is ever going to be closer to the original event than its source.  But I'm really focused on a completely different endeavor, which is to increase enjoyment of music.  To the casual reader, this may sound like a problem that solves itself - if you like a song, just turn up the volume and enjoy it!  scratch  

But in fact, this is a really difficult problem to solve.  I'll quote from my own post of 9/12/2015 on the 'God is in the Nuances' article: 

"In summary, the research evaluated a large group of people's visceral and emotional reactions to three different stereo systems: an analog system composed of a turntable and tube amplification, a digital system composed of a CD player and solid state amplification, and a mixed system with the CD player and the tube amplification.  Each person filled out a series of questionnaires designed to evaluate their emotional balance and relaxation level before, and then after, listening to a selection of music on each system.  The tests were performed blind so that the listeners had no idea what they were listening to.  The results were consistent: the analog system made people more relaxed, less nervous and more involved in the music they were listening to.  The digital system less so.  On the analog system, more people said they liked the music that was played for them; on the digital system the same selections were liked by fewer people.  The unexpected thing is that the experienced listeners among the group thought the digital system sounded better.  But the surveys they filled out indicated that they were more relaxed and more involved with the music when they listened to the analog system." - Bill333

It would be convenient to say that equipment doesn't matter, but the research shows that is clearly does matter.  It also shows that consciously trying to improve the audiophile parameters of a system is unhelpful at best or even self defeating in terms of musical enjoyment.  I bring this up to point out that we really don't know what enhances musical enjoyment.  It's entirely possible that 'tapifying' a digital recording does something to the sound of it which enhances the ability of the human nervous system to relax and enjoy that music.  The only way to know for sure is to test it.  

Which brings me to my own misgivings about copying digital to tape.  The only existing research we have on the subject was conducted with vinyl records.  It's probably safe to extrapolate those results to tape, but tape sourced from digital?  That's an unknown.  In many situations, I'd be happy to 'take one for the team' and report my findings, but the money involved is enough that I am hesitant to gamble on an unknown outcome.  All I can really do is listen to these systems at AXPONA and try to make a judgment about how relaxing and involving these tapes are.

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:31 am

Hello Bill333

That’s a fascinating idea – that experienced listeners under blind test conditions indicated digital to sound better and yet found analog sound more relaxing. This tells Sonic that our hobby is many things and can be many things at the same time. Me, I will put up my hand for the sound that is the more relaxing, more emotionally satisfying.

I think we are on the same page when you say “One of the great things about our hobby is that everyone sets their own goals within it…..But I'm really focused on a completely different endeavor, which is to increase enjoyment of music.” Well put!

"Tapifying" digital sound might make the human nervous system relax -- do write about your discoveries at AXPONA.

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:51 am



Greetings Bill333 Very Happy

Sonic got to more thinking round “tapifying”.

That a tape recorder has some influence on the sound is a given. At the very least this device changes frequency response with level – we can see in test reports how the response looks at 0dB VU (a bit rolled off at both ends) and at -10dB VU (much flatter). Moreover some machines do bump up the bass a bit – in fact some of the response shapes Sonic has seen hold resemblance to the tube amps of the great designers like Nobu Shishido (Wavac) when driving simulated loudspeaker loads. So I can understand why transferring anything to tape including CDs may result in a sound that is pleasing.

Now transfer digital disks and files to analog tape might improve things too. If some low-res forms of digital sound especially early recordings sound harsh and edgy, an analog transfer might be the thing that smoothes the spikiness over. I wonder if the effect of transfer to analog tape will offer different sound signatures on 16/44 CDs, 24/192 files and DSD files?

You might be on to a good thing

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:42 am


Greetings Bill333

This is interesting stuff on tape decks:


http://www.monoandstereo.com/2017/04/poor-electronics-in-tape-recorders.html#more

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:17 am

Hi Sonic,

Interesting indeed.  On the other hand, reel to reel tape has had a reputation for musicality since forever so there can't be anything horribly wrong.  My thinking is that it isn't necessarily important to have 'high' fidelity, what you really need is the right fidelity.  If I were looking for a tape deck (and I am), I don't think I'd worry about it.

I do worry about the musicality of some of the choices modifiers are making, but there's nothing to do about it except listen and try to make a judgement.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:18 pm

ROAD TRIP!

HOW I DROPPED OUT AND TUNED IN WITH SHINDO ELECTRONICS

Yesterday I took the day off of work and drove to Cleveland so that I could hear a complete Shindo system at Don Better Audio.  I've been hearing about Shindo for years and have always been curious about it.  So what brought this on now?  Thinking more about the 'God Is In The Nuances' article, the proven system is based on tubes and vinyl.  If you look around the landscape of high end audio, it's hard to find a company who has been more faithful to tube electronics and vinyl records than Shindo Labs.  And not because it's what their customers want, but because these are the components and sources which sounded most like music to Ken Shindo.  That, and reviewers' descriptions of their components sounded like something I might like.  So I decided I needed to hear this equipment before I made any major decisions about where I go with analog.

The Shindo equipment at it's best - playing a high quality recording and matched with synergistic source, speakers and cables - was beautiful, tonally rich, relaxing and captivating. When any part of the system wasn't a good match the sound went downhill rapidly.  I had noticed from reading the Shindo forum on audioaficionado.org that nobody uses Koetsu cartridges on Shindo systems.  I mean nobody.  When I had a chance to hear Koetsu on the Shindo system at Don's, I found out why.  The sound lacked detail, dynamics, PRAT, you name it.  Disappointing and uninvolving.  But play that same record with an EMT TSD 15 cartridge and it's a whole different ballgame.  The EMT cartridge is a synergistic match and the Koetsu is not.  It's worth noting that the TSD 15 costs less than the cheapest Koetsu cartridge and far less than the Urushi Vermilion I'd been listening to.

Similarly with speakers.  I first heard the system with Devore O/96 speakers.  These have no trouble being driven by low powered tube amps, but they just didn't sound very alive to me.  I couldn't hear any of the harmonics around the notes and I definitely wasn't hearing the beauty Shindo systems are known for.  I asked Don to put on his personal favorite speakers, and he hooked up the Auditorium 23 Hommage 755s, a single drive speaker built around the Altec 755.  The difference was staggering.  Here was the inner detail, the aliveness, and the beauty.  It's not that the 755s are more sensitive than the Devores - they're actually 4 db less sensitive.  It's just that the Shindo equipment works well with some speakers and not well at all with others.

So the trick to building a successful Shindo system is to stick to the program.  There is a community of users built up around this equipment who have developed a knowledge base of what works and what does not with these components.  From what I can tell in the forums, they are extremely happy with their systems.  The people who end up dissatisfied are usually the ones who try to mix and match with existing gear.  In a way, I think this is very valuable - if you know you like this sound, you have an exact formula for achieving it.

Perhaps the most valuable thing about going down the Shindo path is not the Shindo gear itself, but Don Better.  Don understands my dissatisfaction with digital, and where I'm trying to go with analog, but more importantly we share similar tastes in reproduced music.  If he thinks a component does great things for the sound, I will most likely agree.  His favorite speaker was the one that appealed most to me.  His go-to cartridge is the one that sounded best to me also.  It also helps that he is more interested in helping me down the path to musical nirvana than he is in selling equipment.  He recommended I use the Well Tempered Simplex turntable that I already own, and one of the least expensive cartridges he sells, because he knows that it's a combination that will work well with the Shindo equipment and that it will get me started without spending a lot of money.  When I told him about a pair of used Altec Valencia speakers that I had found locally, he recommended that I run out and buy them right away - even though he sells speakers himself.  It's all about helping me put together the best system possible.  

I haven't yet decided whether to take this path or not, but I'm seriously thinking about it.  I'll know more after AXPONA.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:24 am


Congratulations Bill333!

Looks like you are on to something transformational by considering Shindo and associated equipment.

The EMT TSD-15 has a conical stylus and yet it beats the Koetsu Shocked

What is the cartridge that Don Better is recommending to go with your Well-Tempered Simplex?

The Altec Valencias Sonic has heard them and they are musical. The sort of sound that could be listened to an enjoyed for days on end. In the system I heard them, the Valencias threw an image that was detailed but rather low to the ground, no higher than the middle of the horn behind the speaker grille. This might change in a properly tuned room and equipment though the "lowness" is something I can tune out mentally. What do you think?

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:49 pm

Hi Sonic,

The cartridge Don was recommending is the Well Tempered TLC. I didn't have a chance to hear it, but he enthusiastically recommended it.  I don't think he likes it as much as the EMT TSD 15, but it's a quarter of the price and doesn't need a step up transformer.  So a great way to get started.   Smile

"Looks like you are on to something transformational by considering Shindo and associated equipment."

Maybe, maybe not.  As I said, I still haven't decided to go that route.  There's a few things holding me back - first, I never really had that 'aha!' moment where I recognize the sound I've always wanted and am suddenly enthused about a new way forward.  With the right speakers, cartridge, and a good record ('Dream With Dean' on the Acoustic Sounds label), I was favorably impressed.  But I wasn't swept off my feet and I didn't beg my host to keep playing just one more song.  Mostly I sat there thinking, "If could get all these other speakers out of the room and get those speaker cables up off the floor, I bet we'd really have something.  If I had this system at home and tuned it up properly..."  

Later, after I left, I asked myself the question 'Is what I heard better than what I've achieved at home?'.  The answer is no.  I've gotten similarly detailed and beautiful sound through tuning, but not often and not two days in a row.  Would I be farther ahead with a Shindo system that is only tuned to a basic level, rather than my current stripped down, ultra-tweakable system?  I'm not sure.  The stability of it is certainly appealing.  But the only thing the Shindo system really did that my own system doesn't is the relaxing thing.  And I think I'd have that too if I had an analog front end.

Second, I'm also having a hard time feeling enthused about vinyl.  Why is a little bit hard to pin down. Somehow I just can't shake the feeling that getting in to vinyl feels like a step backward.  Kind of like being held back in school and having to take the same classes all over again.  

Maybe it's that I'm having a hard time finding decent copies of the albums that are most important to me?  When I set up the audition at Don Better Audio, I asked him if he had a copy of Abbey Road.  He said he did, and in fact, he had two different pressings.  When I listened to them I was shocked at how bad they sounded.  Compared to my digital file, the bass on 'Come Together' was so diminished as to be nearly absent.  And the sound overall was congested and undynamic.  This makes three copies of Abbey Road in a row that are drastically inferior to the CD.  Is there such a thing as a good copy of this on vinyl?  If I move to a new format, I'd like to think that I'm not leaving behind my most loved music.

Third, I'm unenthused about the financial prospect of going down this road.  Don has been at pains to come up with ways to get me started as inexpensively as possible, but I know I'm not going to rest until I have a complete Shindo system.  This involves three different purchases of over $5000 each and several more purchases of over $2000.  I don't have equipment to sell that's going to cover this - it has to be saved up out of my current income.  I have enough disposable income so that I will get there eventually, but it means not months, but years of never having spare money for anything else.  I've been saving money for a few months to buy a tape deck and it already feels like a hardship.  Years of this are going to feel like a real burden.   Neutral

It would be one thing if I was really happy with the sound at each step of the way so that I could relax for some periods before starting to save up for the next purchase.  But my experience at Don's suggests that isn't going to be the case.  Getting a vinyl system up to the level of fidelity that I'm accustomed to from digital is a very expensive undertaking.  My experience with tape, on the other hand, is that I have genuine high fidelity even from a stock Technics deck as long as the recording is good.

I don't want to make it sound as if there's nothing positive about going down the Shindo path.  I outlined some of the upside in my previous post.  But, as I said, I have a lot to think about and this decision is far from made.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:00 am

Greetings Bill333

Sonic gets what you are trying to say from this good description of your thought process.  In the end, it has to make musical and financial sense to you.  

Two points if I may offer:

1.          Equipment from the houses of Shindo, Kondo, Wavac and such create sound experiences.  Their fans use words like “vitality”, “calmness”, “immediate”, "emotion" to describe the sound while their critics say that these devices create theirn own sound that is applied on everything that is played through them.  A long time ago Robert E Greene of Abso!ute Sound made this criticism of the Ongaku – he also mentioned how the Ongaku was unable to even drive his wife’s bookshelf speakers or something common.  So for this type of gear, you need to be looking for something specific in musical experience and matching to the right speakers and front end will create magic, one mismatch and you get horrid results.  Often with the old Western Electric gear and exotic Japanese tube amps with front ends of Ortofon SPUs in 12 inch arms, the description is very often “this is not what you expect in terms of conventional high fidelity but oh, the [insert word or phrases like “vitality”, “touch of life” ].”

Sonic hopes your search is fruitful.

2.          My Abbey Road LP (Apple original pressing from 1970, not a reissue) has excellent bass, in fact slightly more bass in the “tape/vinyl bump” compared to the FLAC file.

Question: why does going to vinyl make you feel like you are held back in school?

Sonic    
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:21 am

What a difference a day makes.

I thought I was going to have to spend the entire weekend at AXPONA listening to rooms, trying to meet people, and agonizing over the direction I want to take with my system.  Instead, most of these issues were settled in the first 10 minutes.  I ran into Greg Beron of United Home Audio just after I arrived, and reminded him that I was interested in the Phase 1 tape deck.  He told me he wasn't taking orders for the Phase 1 anymore and was thinking of discontinuing it because he already had more orders for the higher end machines than he knew what to do with.  Well, that certainly simplifies the UHA Phase 1 versus J-Corder issue. pale

I also mentioned that I was looking for a source for tapes.  If you'll recall, I wasn't going to go down the tape road unless I could get a copy of Abbey Road on 15 ips tape.  Greg offered to put me in touch with some individuals who have a large collection of master tape copies that they're willing to duplicate for people.  Well, that problem is solved too.  At this rate I'll have solved world hunger by lunchtime.  Shocked

The last major decision is whether to simply add a tape deck to my current system, or go down the Shindo/vinyl path.  A few hours of listening settled that one, too.  There were more than a few rooms that had tape decks, and I got to listen to decks from four different manufacturers: United Home Audio, J-Corder, Mara, and Studer.  Most of the decks were placed in systems that were flawed enough to prevent enjoyable listening.  I did get a chance to listen to the Mara deck with a nice jazz sampler tape on a pair of good headphones.  The level of fidelity was very high, but the sound was really detailed in such a way that it tended towards clinical.  Not surprising given that the deck is a refurbished MCI done by a recording studio that specializes in archival services.  The sound would be great for mastering recordings, but not really what I'd like for relaxing and involving listening.

With all of the decks, it was very clear that these are an incredibly high fidelity source when playing a master quality tape.  But the only really enjoyable listening I did all day was on vinyl systems.  (For some reason, both of the really involving systems I listened to were using Kronos turntables.  Maybe it's watching those platters spinning in opposite directions that makes the whole thing even more mesmerizing?)   In any case, the conclusion I have come to is that presentation is more important than fidelity.  What really makes the music worth listening to is the overall character of the sound, not whether it's delivering the nth degree of detail and bass extension.  The tape decks deliver a potent combination of inner detail and power, but if it doesn't have the right voicing it isn't going to really be enjoyable to listen to.

So the decision is made - I'm going with the Shindo system and I'm starting a vinyl collection.  In fact I already bought some nice Acoustic Sounds 45 rpm pressings at the show, including the 'Dream With Dean' album.  

flower

Hi Sonic,

"Question: why does going to vinyl make you feel like you are held back in school?"

After thinking about this for a bit,  I think these feelings are really just the result of some lingering bitterness about my previous failed attempts with vinyl.  Most people who have been collecting and playing vinyl for years have built up a strong reservoir of positive experiences in listening to records, and positive regard for the equipment they've used.  I don't have any of that yet.  Perhaps someday I will also refer to my 'beloved vinyl records' as you do.
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PostSubject: Re: Bill333's System   Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:05 am



Hi Billl333

Good to hear of your learnings at AXPONA. Nothing like finding a good path to tread.

May Sonic mention something I found? I meet people on my Saturday hi-fi/record digging explorations and some are rather sad individuals: Sonic hears “I paid $xx,xxxx for my turntable and it is sounds the same as my Thorens 160”, “my MC cartridge is xxxxxxxx (expletive), it cannot track Dark Side of the Moon, I hear more distortion the closer the arm gets to the centre”, “I sent my [brand] TT to [name] for set up and now my soundstage is very wide but I don’t get enough bass”. Sonic also heard of the poor fellow who had a new >$10,000 cartridge on a TT costing about the same as a BMW, played a record to applause by his guests then later after drinks he was adjusting something, called by a friend, moved his hand the wrong way and broke the cantilever….

For Sonic, vinyl is much a “solved problem” after I applied three simple principles:

a. aligned my cartridge properly for my turntables, arms and records using a good protractor like the Dr Feikert or equivalent -- NEVER those little pieces of card with two hash marks on them. For LPs Sonic uses Baerwald (Rega P5/Ortofon 2M Blue) and for SP, EPs and 78s (Audio Technica AT 120LP/Audio Technica AT91E/Stanton 500) it is Stevenson. Perfect inner groove tracing

b. clean the records. I use a two-step cleaning device and for really dirty records use Ultrasonic Cleaning (outsourced). 78 rpm shellac and non-vinyl records are hand cleaned using Vinyl Doctor 78 Formulation. Alcohol-based fluids will ruin these records. Danger! (or as it is said in Sonic’s part of the world “AWAS!”)

c. be conservative in equipment choices, avoid fads and fringe things, go for proven devices. Things like Rega, EMT, Thorens, Technics, SME, Shure, Ortofon, Audio Technica, Denon…YES.

I would be cautious about the Deccas, unipivots, parallel trackers with air pumps and moving coils of a thousand expensive varieties… those things may give 98% of perfection on 3 LPs out of a collection of 3,000 and mistracking, distortion and dissatisfaction on the remaining 2,997 records.

Sonic aims for something like a consistent 75% of perfect performance over all 3,000 records with no damage (Remark: this is an illustrative number following on from my earlier paragraph. I don’t think I have 3,000 records yet but Sonic is getting there or have I exceeded it?). I think Sonic got the consistent 75% over all records I play which is why I am so happy with my beloved vinyl. Sonic spins about three LPs per day for the music. It’s for the musick, not for the audio quality. And Sonic is enjoying the music and finding no faults Very Happy

Sonic

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