Jeff

Jul 212017
 

If you saw my post on June 11, 2017, you know I’m really excited about a very special Thorens TD124 restoration and ‘hot-rod’ project I commissioned with Christopher Thornton of Artisan Fidelity.

Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124

We’re doing a “long-base” version of Christopher’s Thorens TD124 Statement turntable, which means that the plinth is about 3-inches wider so I can use my usual 12-inch tonearm on it.

I asked Christopher if he could shoot some photographs of his progress on the project along the way that I could share with you. Now I’ve got a few photos to share with you, with more to come.

A TD124 stock Swiss chassis plate with original factory finish.

Above you can see the stock Swiss TD124 chassis that Christopher starts with as part of his restoration / refinishing process.

TD124 base with primer application.

After the original finish has been removed, the TD124 chassis is then prepped with a primer.

TD124 base first paint color coating (view one).

Then the first paint color coating is applied (above and below).

TD124 first paint color coating (view two).

While the Thorens TD124 chassis is going through the refinishing and restoration process, Christopher has been picking out the wood for the plinth.

Central American Cocobolo Lumber Shop Photograph.

Christopher told me, “Enclosed are several photographs taken at the wood shop this week showing the actual hand selected Cocobolo lumber which will be carefully wrapped around the sides and top of your Thorens TD124 Statement LB plinth.”

Central American Cocobolo Lumber Shop Photograph

Many thanks to Christopher for keeping the excitement level up with his great photos!

The Thorens TD124 is one of my all time favorite classic turntables, and I’m really excited about this project!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 7:14 am
Jul 162017
 

Today’s essay on the Art of Tone is intended to be both a practical and a thought adventure about what it means to optimize musicality in a high-fidelity music system, as opposed to the usual audiophile emphasis of optimizing the non-musical artifacts of the recording process, like imaging and sound-staging information, for example.

I’ve realized I made a little bit of a mistake in the way I presented what I was trying to say in In Pursuit of the Art of Tone! Part 2. which caused confusion among my beloved readers about what I was trying to say, which I’m hoping I can patch up here in Part 3.

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Let me first briefly recap Part 1, where I discussed pursuing a style of musicality for your hifi that lights up your heart & mind to transport you into a state of musical bliss during listening.

I also discussed the rather unnatural reductionist approach I use for evaluating musical & sonic performance of hifi gear that comes in for review, and what I listen for in that process so I can tell you something meaningful about its performance, and how that is different from listening to music for pleasure.

Then I discussed common traits in high-fidelity music systems that ‘push my pleasure buttons’ when listening to music for enjoyment, like being able to play realistically loud, realistically producing timbral textures of instruments & voices, and being able to realistically portray tempo, beat, and rhythm, for example.

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In Part 2 I discussed having fun with your audio adventure by getting the most pleasure you can out of the music you listen to and love.

I mentioned how important (and fun) it is to get out and listen to live music, and how being familiar with what real instruments and music sounds & feels like is an important benchmark for discovering ultimate musicality in your home high-fidelity music system.

I also mentioned how rewarding I’ve found learning about understanding the fundamentals of music to be, how having a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music is important in understanding the music you are listening to, and it also gives the listener a greater awareness of how well their hifi reproduces those fundamentals of music.

I then mentioned how moving your audio equipment and listening seat around in a room can influence the musicality and sonics of your music listening experience, and I foolishly mentioned the rule of thirds.

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Mentioning the rule of thirds was my mistake that diverted attention away from what I was trying to say about ‘the art of tone’ and sent the wrong message, which I am now trying to patch up in Part 3.

When I think about the rule of thirds it stimulates me to think more about audiophile-style sonics than it does optimizing musicality, because that’s largely how we’ve been conditioned to respond from reading about audio, and which I believe is largely counterproductive in my own life and listening.

While having a dedicated listening room can be a really nice approach, I’m also a great fan of integrating the music gear into one’s normal living environment, in an effort to make the music a part of the moment-by-moment fabric of our lives rather than just as a dedicated focused listening experience.

It’s not a bad thing to setup a solo room like that, but I think it’s important to realize that’s not the only way to do things to get intense musicality.

When I mentioned the positioning of equipment and listening seats within rooms, it was mostly to get across the idea that moving speakers and listening seats around changes the musicality and sonics of what you hear, but those ‘rule of x/y’ voicing strategies are traditionally used to dial in audiophile-style sonics to the greatest extent possible, rather than dialing in musicality to the greatest extent possible.

A Practical and Thought Adventure In Musicality

Now I want to drop in on a practical and thought adventure about what it means to optimize musicality in a high-fidelity music system.

A lot of people have had the experience of hearing music from a distance and recognizing it as live music, and sometimes we are fooled when what we thought was live music turns out to be recorded music.

This is what happened to Yazaki-san when hearing a pair of Altec’s playing jazz in a Tokyo jazz cafe from the street-side as a young college student. As Yazaki-san followed the sound inside to the jazz cafe he found out to his surprise that it was recorded music playing instead of live music, and that experience was partly responsible for his life-long adventure in ‘real sound’ in high-fidelity home music systems.

What magic trick is working when we mistake recorded music for live music from a distance, or another room?

Jim Smith’s stealth comment about that important triad of tone, dynamics, and presence is a peek behind that hugely important curtain of setting up a system for maximum musicality and emotional connection to the music.

An ‘Out of Room Experience’ Setup Strategy

Let me use a somewhat extreme ‘setup’ example, that I’ll refer to as ‘an out of room experience’ setup strategy, which is a play on words on an ‘out of body experience’.

At the moment I’m listening to my Altec A7 Voice of The Theatre loudspeakers and SPEC RSA-M3 EX amp (above) using a very non-traditional room setup strategy, called ‘an out of room experience’ setup strategy, where my listening seat is in another room, my living room (below), and the A7’s and SPEC amp are in a small office/bedroom you see down the hall to the right.

In the photo above you can see the green recliner listening position I’m referring to in my living room, and down the hall you can see a doorway to the right where my Altec A7’s live.

In the photo below you can see the view from the green recliner in my living room, my Westminster based music system.

In this listening position there is no visuospatial listening information like imaging, soundstage, or the like, from the Altec A7’s in the room down the hall, and yet you could be forgiven, if like Yazaki-san, you thought some live music was playing in that other room.

In fact, I’ll go on to say that ‘out of room experience’ setup strategy I’m listening to at the moment provides more musicality and emotional engagement – and sounds more like live music – than many audio systems I have listened to when seated in the same room with them, even though there is no visuospatial listening information present in an ‘out of room experience’ setup strategy.

The Tone, Dynamics, and Presence of Musicality

Why does that Altec A7 system sound a lot like live music from another room?

Well, as Jim aptly put it, because there’s tone, dynamics, and presence (TDP) in abundance in that system, enough so that it triggers all those ‘live music’ buttons of musicality that make live music so emotionally engaging, and that’s even with a seating position in another room.

So my ‘out of room experience’ setup strategy example is quite literally an ‘out of the box’ (the room) method that provides a remarkably natural and live-like musical experience in spite of it having no visuospatial listening information present when listening from another room, and that is because it emphasizes tone, dynamics, and presence (TDP), which are particularly important from a musicality perspective.

My ‘out of room experience’ setup strategy example is probably the clearest way to demonstrate the difference between what makes for live-like musicality and how it differs from audiophile-like sonics.

Okay, now with that practical and thought adventure complete, I hope you’re with me on the differences between musicality and audiophile-style sonics, and that it’s possible to optimize traits that emphasize musicality, just like it’s possible to optimize recording artifacts to emphasize audiophile-style sonics.

There are certain traits of live music, that when one becomes aware of them and what they are about, and are able to work those traits of tone, dynamics, and presence (TDP) into any listening environment, whether a ‘good’ dedicated listening room in the traditional audiophile sense, or a ‘terrible’ room, or from a seat in another room, one can achieve a rather remarkable level of live-like musicality that can be very emotionally engrossing.

Interestingly enough, some of the most musically enjoyable systems I have heard over the years have been setup in non-dedicated domestic rooms, so there is reason to be encouraged for both those with dedicated listening rooms, and those without.

So this of course begs the question of “How do you emphasize tone, dynamics, and presence (TDP) in a system to optimize musicality?”

Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer at least part of that question, or at least point you in the right direction, in future essays of In Pursuit of the Art of Tone.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
Jul 152017
 

It is always a pleasure to bring you posts from Yazaki-san for his article “My Adventure With My Old Marantz Model 7”.

Yazaki-san’s vintage Marantz 7k preamplifier.

Thank you, Yazaki-san, for taking time to write this article and share your substantial audio wisdom with us, it is very much appreciated by me, as well as all of us here at Jeff’s Place!

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In Part 1 Yazaki-san told us about his near forty year passion of pursuing ‘real sound’ with his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier, and the resulting enjoyment & satisfaction that pursuit has brought to his life.

Yazaki-san shared with us his thoughts about several brilliant design aspects of the Marantz Model 7, and how its design allows it to still hold its own against, or even surpass, anything made today in musical ‘real sound’ terms.

Yazaki-san also told us about his approach for fine-tuning the Model 7’s performance for ‘real sound’ through a careful selection of internal parts like capacitors and resistors, and finally, hinted at the modifications he was going to tell us about in Part 2 of his article that would take the Model 7’s performance to an even higher level.

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In Part 2 Yazaki-san told us about his way of modification with his Marantz Model 7, and how important the quality of the power supply is to the overall performance, because the current from the power supply turns into the signal current.

Yazaki-san described for us how the switch to the Ultra-Fast & Soft Recovery STTH6112TV2 for +B rectification improved the speed of the current from the power supply, and lowered the noise.

Yazaki-san also described for us how he likes to install a hermetically sealed oil-filled capacitor into the subsequent stage of the rectifier tube or diode, connected in parallel with the main electrolytic capacitor for rectification, and how that its addition provides a more responsive and organic sound.

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In Part 3 Yazaki-san told us about his discovery of how the addition of a decoupling capacitor for the +B voltage line (280 VDC for V3 and V6) of the cathode follower in the Marantz Model 7, brought about such an important improvement to the sound quality.

Yazaki-san also described how he brought out the full potential of π filters in his system by using Ohmite Brown Devil resistors in place of the original Allen Bradley resistors used in the Model 7, and shared with us his perceptions of how the inductance of various wattage ratings affected the overall tonality and voicing.

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In Part 4 Yazaki-san told us how he learned about the use of mica capacitors in tube amplification circuits, more than 35 years ago now, in the MJ special edition book (1971) of Isamu Asano-san, “The Fascinating Tube Amplifier, Its History, Design and Assembly”.

Yazaki-san was impressed with the clarity and high-resolution of the high-frequencies with the NOS mica capacitors he tried, and how their mid-range had beautiful tone that was full of information, and how their overall sonic performance was full of exactness and elegance.

Yazaki-san attributed much of the excellent performance of these NOS mica capacitors them being fully free from inductance compared to any of the tubular style of capacitors.

Yazaki-san told us about when he installed NOS mica capacitors into his DA30 SET amplifier as coupling capacitors, the improvement in performance that resulted, and recommended we also try a mica coupling capacitor adventure of our own in our tube amplifiers to get a sense of what he experienced.

Yazaki-san told us about how his passion for the transparent performance of mica capacitors led him to develop and produce the Spec Corporation MC-DA series of ruby mica capacitors specifically for high-performance audio use in his own Spec products, and how Spec now also makes them available to the DIY community.

Yazaki-san went on to tell us about his use of the Spec ruby mica capacitors in his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier as coupling capacitors, and they dramatically improved the sound quality, and brought out “an information rich sound” from his Model 7.

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In Part 5 Yazaki-san continued to tell us about his adventure of working closely with Arizona Capacitors to develop the Red, Blue, Green Cactus capacitors, which he has developed over the last 7 years so that they are voiced to bring about optimum tone in several ‘flavors’.

Yazaki-san shared with us valuable insights about how to distinguish the outside foil of any capacitor so it can be connected to ground for the lowest noise, and how he has marked each of the Red, Blue, and Green Arizona Capacitors so the outer foil is readily apparent.

Yazaki-san also shared with us a fascinating discussion about how Banno-san could very clearly hear how the choice of a capacitor’s raw materials affected the mechanical vibration and sound character of the dielectric or electrode of each capacitor, and how important the materials choice was to the overall tone of a capacitor.

Yazaki-san described how oil filled or impregnated capacitors tend to dampen vibration, giving superior tonal qualities, and that by combining various ratios of Kraft paper and film the the tonal qualities can be fine tuned to get the exact tone you want.

Yazaki-san then told us about upgrading the coupling capacitors in his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier, and how he used the NASA developed wet tantalum capacitor as a cathode bypass capacitor.

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Now let’s read what Yazaki-san has to say in Part 6 of his article!

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My Adventure with My Old Marantz Model 7K

Part 6: My Marantz Model 7K Resistor Adventure

Dedicated to Saul B Marantz and Sidney Smith for their true masterpiece!

By

Shirokazu Yazaki

The Ohmite WH Resistors I Met Recently

In Japanese, there is the word, Ne-Iro, that means tone or timbre in English. Ne means ‘sound’ and “Iro” means ‘color’. By analogy Ne-Iro – or ‘sound-color’ – would be the color contrast character of lenses or films, as expressed in photographs or films. Richer contrast could bring us some kind of excitement when we see these pictures. A sharp and clear focus for the subject of is an important factor for creating impressive photographs, just as a clear-cut sound image is for creating Real-Sound, I suppose.

When I think  of the sound of the Ohmite WH/WN resistor series, which came out just about 6 months ago, I am reminded of the very rich color contrast and sharp focus of my very old lens, a Contax Sonnar T* 85mm/f 2.8 made in West Germany by Zeiss.

The Ohmite WH/WN resistor was developed for industrial use, and is a newly developed molded wirewound resistor, with a very affordable price.

Surely, the usual wire wound resistor is not a resistor specialized for audio use, but in Ohmite’s quest to develop an extreme characteristic resistor they have achieved an incredible quality resistor in the WH/WN that can also be used in audio products.

Basically, I have experienced that a wire wound resistor with a lower watt rating is the more desirable sounding than one with a higher watt rating.

I have felt that the 8W Ohmite Brown Devil was the one goal of my resistor adventure because of its most desirable rich and clear tonal character of the mid and mid-low range. Its color contrast is so clear and deep, so it could bring us so impressive feelings.

The Ohmite WH 5W 10-Ohm resistor has that desirable character of the 8W Brown Devil 10-Ohm. The Ohmite WH 5W resistor has a very information rich sound throughout its entire range, and the energy balance might be perfect for my hearing, and it has that preferable character of the wire-wound resistor in being lively feeling.

The Ohmite WN is a non-inductive type, but I prefer the usual wire-wound type, the Ohmite WH, as the WN can sound unnatural because it has too high of resolution in the high-end.

I have experienced a lot of times when modifying my tube power amplifiers that how a cathode resister’s quality and character have an enormous effect on the final quality of sound, as the signal current itself flows from the cathode to the ground through this resistor.

Actually, I was strongly impressed by the improvement in sound quality after changing the cathode resistor of my Western Electric 310A mesh tube, which is the driver tube for the DA30 in my SET amp, to this WH 1K Ohm.

When I put in the WH 1K Ohm resistor in my SET it was just like the dynamic range and the sound stage were extended. In a word, the sound changed to being closer to Real-Sound. I was so encouraged with the results, and so I started to think and study seriously how to apply the WH resistor to the modification of my old Model 7K.

This was a most recent development, of only a few months ago.

How To Use the Ohmite WH Modification of the Marantz Model 7

So, I looked anew at the parts list of the service manual for the Marantz Model 7, and I found out that different types of resistors were specified for each cathode resistor for the first stage tube and the second stage tube of preamp (phono EQ V1-A&B, V2-A&B), and also for the tone amp (for the high level input, V4-A&B, V5-A&B).

For the cathode resistors of the first stage tube, R63 A&B and R81 A&B, 2% deposited carbon resistors were specified, and for the cathode resistor of the second stage tube, R68 A&B and R84 A&B, 10% carbon composition resistors were specified.

One more thing I noticed was that the plate load resistors for the first stage, R65 A&B and R82 A&B, were 5% deposited carbon resistors, and also the resistors for the second stage, R69 A&B and R85 A&B, were specified as 10% carbon composition resistors.

With intention, the engineers at Marantz selected deposited carbon resistors for the cathode resistor and the plate load resistor of the first stage tube.

The first stage cathode resistor would mainly decide the gain, so the 2% accuracy resistor might have been selected for that reason, but the transmitted signal information through the first stage tube is surely very critical, so the deposited carbon resistor might have been selected not only for the accuracy, but also for its sound character or quality, I guess.

Once something is lost from the signal information at the first stage, it should be impossible to recover it in the latter stages, but the sound character could be compensated.

Compared to the numbers of pieces used of Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors, the number of deposited carbon resistors is small, up to only five pieces for one channel, but it would be true that the combination of Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors with deposited carbon resistors could have surely achieved the famed Model 7’s sound quality.

There are different views about the Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors, I understand, but the most negative point of the Allen Bradley resistor might be the dull or not so clear sound, which by analogy is like an out-of-focus picture, especially at the lower value resistances, up to around 10K Ohm, in my experience.

The Allen Bradley resistor has a lot of good attributes, such as a non-inductive structure, absolute reliability, not cutting down the resistive element, and also it is available in a wide range of resistance values.

Furthermore, the Allen Bradley’s deep and rich mid-to-low range could bring us comfortable and old familiar feelings, but in my opinion, it has a warm sound but is kind of dull, which might come from the higher noise level of its characteristic.

Anyways, the deposited carbon resistors of the first stage tube, for both the cathode and the plate load, might have added another type of preferable sound character to Allen Bradley resistors, I suppose.

One more thing, is that for the Allen Bradley resistors the resistance value can drift to higher values over its 10% tolerance rating over a long time in use in some environments, and actually, I experienced that when I restored and modified Hondoko-san’s original Model 7. The higher value would decrease the current for that circuitry, and it might be safer way, but the frequency response of the filter circuitry would lead to inaccuracy compared to the originally specified response.

With that as background, we could assume that the innovative Ohmite WH resistor could improve the sound quality of the preamp phono EQ, and the tone amp, of the Model 7.

Only a few months ago, I wanted to realize the true potential of the Ohmite WH resistor, and tried changing the resistors in my Model 7 to WH 5W 5K Ohm and 1K Ohm for the cathode resistors of the first stage, and also the second stage, R63; 4.64K Ohm, R68; 6.2K Ohm, R81; 4.64K Ohm and R84; 1K Ohm.

The value of  the WH 5K Ohm is surely different from specified value in the circuit diagram of Model 7, so I asked for Kato-san’s advice. Kato-san is an old friend of mine, and is an authority about the circuit technology of tube amplifiers.

Kato-san said that changing to the WH 5K ohm for R63 A&B and R64 A&B would essentially be no problem, because the differences are within an acceptable 10%, but about R68; 6.2K Ohm, in Morikawa-san’s MJ article “How to Build Up the Model 7K Kit”, he had checked five sets of original Model 7 with varied serial numbers, and he found out early Model 7 production serial numbers had adopted 4.7K Ohm resistors instead of 6.2K Ohm resistors for R68.

Actually, according to “Service Manual 7C”, the 4.7K Ohm resistor is described in the attached circuit diagram, but curiously enough, the 6.2K Ohm resistor is listed in the parts list.

Morikawa-san thought that since R68 is only a self-bias resistor, whether it was a 4.7K Ohm or a 6.2K Ohm resistor would not matter, but he supposed that the sound of a 4.7K Ohm resistor would be more vivid, so he decided to use a 4.7K Ohm resistor for his Model 7K, as he described.

So, given that, I decided to install the Ohmite WH 5W 5K Ohm resistor also R68, as it was close to the value of Morikawa-san’s choice of the 4.7K Ohm resistor for his Model 7K.

The results of this modification surely brought me very intense impressions, and that generally the resistors’ contribution as a percentage of the parts reaches to quite a higher level, even compared to the capacitors’, I suppose.

With the rapid pace of technological development, thankfully I met the outstanding Ohmite WH resistor in the literature, and the Ohmite WH resistor could have the ability to change our past common sense of audio resistors, and it could bring us true “Real-Sound” with perfect musicality, I simply believe now.

About the plate load resistor, I’m now trying now, and so I could report on it in near future.

The Tepro Type RA as Phono Input Resistor

Just like the cathode resistor for the first stage tube, the phono input resistor has enormous effects on the signal voltage transmitted to latter stages, and of course to the final sound quality of the phono EQ, because the very slight signal current from the cartridge is changed to the signal voltage when connected to the grid of the first stage tube.

For the Model 7, R1 A&B or R2 A&B, are the input resistors, and the specified values for each are 47K Ohm is specified. I strongly recommend you change R2 (phono input two) to a Tepro RA 1W 47K Ohm resistor so you could make a hearing comparison between phono input one with the original Allen Bradley carbon composition 1W resistor.

The Tepro RA was developed for audio use a few years ago, and is the latest type of metal film resistor. The noise level is exceptionally low, so the sound is so fine and clear for my hearing, and the energy balance from the high-end to the bottom-low-range is almost flat, with beautiful timbre.

In a word, the sound character of Tepro RA would be quite modern, with highest resolution, and the sound image could be brought to good focus. If I could tell my taste, I love the sound of Tepro RA’s as phono input resistors, and I feel the resistor could bring out well the full musicality and sound potential of my very old Shure V15 type 3 + VN35MR (Micro Ridge stylus), with the phono EQ of my Model 7K.

If you find a splendid sounding 47K Ohm for your hearing, you could easily do a resistor adventure by changing the Allen Bradley R2 installed at the RCA jack on the rear panel and comparing them.

The Change of Output Level Potentiometer to Fixed Resistors

In the Marantz Model 7 an output level potentiometer R54 A&B is installed in the rear panel. It works to tailor the output level of the Model 7 to match the power amplifier’s gain, and once we adjust the pot, we don’t need to use it often.

So my recommendation is to change the R54 potentiometer to fixed resistor. If we change the potentiometer to a usual fixed resistor, the long-term reliability could improve, the accuracy of channel balance could be improved, but furthermore, we could select the most desirable sounding fixed resistor, so we could surely get an improvement to the sound quality.

In the case of the Marantz 7 output level potentiometer, the total gain of my tone amp is 12.5 dB, according to Kato-san’s recent accurate measurement, and this gain level has been fitted to my system, consisting of two power amplifiers and my high sensitivity Altec 414A plus Onken 500MT (mid) plus Onken 5000T Esprit (tweeter) speaker system.

The maximum gain of the tone amp is 24.5 dB, and just 12 dB turns the level down from the max output gain.

So I changed the R54 A&B 500K Ohm potentiometer to a 500K Ohm Caddock thick metal film resistor for each channel. It’s my opinion that thick film resistors are basically well-balanced and pliable sounding, and they could be promising for audio use in the future.

For the original Model 7’s tone amp the maximum output gain is specified at about 22 dB, which is 2.5 dB lower than Model 7K. The difference is due to the type of channel balance volume control on the front panel.

The type MN volume control was adopted for the Model 7K, and the type AC volume was used in the original Model 7. The benefit of the MN volume control is that there is no loss at the center position of the balance volume, but the AC volume control at the center loses around 2.5 dB, so the MN volume control would be a desirable factor for the sound quality of Model 7K compared to the original Model 7.

Anyways, changing the R54 A&B output level potentiometer for an original Model 7 has to be adjusted for that difference, so for example, going from 300K Ohm pot to a fixed resistor with same resistance, and so an original R53 A&B 180K Ohm fixed resistor should be changed to 380K Ohm (180 K ohm + 500 K ohm – 300 K ohm ) fixed resistor.

Changing to these fixed resistors could realize around 15 dB gain for the original Model 7’s tone amp.

The changing to fixed resistors, as I mentioned, would be very preferable both for being fully free from noise, for long term reliability compared to using a potentiometer, the accuracy of channel balance, and furthermore an improvement to sound quality.

A high quality resistor like the Tepro RA metal film resistor, with its accurate sound, would be desirable, I suppose.

Well, I have traveled so long, but I’m still on my way in a ‘resistor adventure’, and I am thankful I came across the finest quality resistors for signal circuit use, such as the innovative Ohmite WH and Tepro RA, that I can share with the readers of Jeff’s Place.

Well, thank you very much for your going along with me to this point, Part 6!

To be continued.

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Another big thank you to Yazaki-san for his fascinating discussion about his resistor adventure with his vintage Marantz Model 7k preamplifier, it is both intriguing and enlightening!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 7:58 pm
Jul 092017
 

This weekend I’ve been hard at work on the Positive Feedback article about the impressive Murasakino Musique Analogue ‘Sumile’ MC phonograph cartridge.

Over the last few weeks I’ve got a lot of the writing done for the article, and I’m hoping to wrap it up today, but if not, in the next few days, if I can devote some time in the evenings to writing.

Until the finished review is published at Positive Feedback, I thought I’d give you a little preview with part of the introduction from the article.

Enjoy!

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The Murasakino Musique Analogue ‘Sumile’ MC Phonograph Cartridge from Japan!

By Jeff Day

Ever since the first moving-coil phonograph cartridge was developed in 1948 by Holger Christian Arenstein (the Ortofon Mono-A), phono cartridge designers have been working at maximizing & refining the performance of moving-coil cartridges by trying various topologies & materials combinations for the stylus, cantilever, coil wire, suspension, magnets, pole pieces, internal wiring, cartridge housings, cartridge pins, and so forth.

Diagram courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

The idea of a moving-coil cartridge as an electro-mechanical device seems simple enough. As it traces the record groove, the stylus/cantilever is moved by the tiny modulations of the record grooves’ mechanically encoded waveform, which moves the coil connected to it in a magnetic field, resulting in a weak electrical signal reproducing the waveform, which can then be amplified and played through loudspeakers as music.

However, when you consider that each part of the moving-coil cartridge can be made of different materials, have different shapes, have different internal topology, etc., the amount of potential combinations is staggeringly large.

For example, just a few of the questions a phono cartridge designer might ask are, “What material do I choose for a stylus? What shape of stylus do I choose? What material do I choose for a cantilever? What dimensions do I choose for a cantilever? What material do I choose for the suspension? How many turns of wire for the coil should I choose? What material should I make the coil out of? What dimensions of wire should I use in the coil? What magnet material should I use? What magnet field strength should I use? What kind of wire do I wire it with internally? What pins should I use for connections? What material should I make the base out of? What material should I make the body out of?”

You get the idea, there’s an almost endless list of questions and permutations one could entertain when designing a moving coil cartridge, and each designer will make certain choices to achieve what they want musically & sonically from a cartridge.

Mr. Daisuke Asai and Murasakino, Ltd.

Mr. Daisuke Asai is the designer of the state-of-art Murasakino Musique Analogue Sumile moving-coil phonograph cartridge featured in this article.

Mr. Daisuke Asai told me that he has been interested in audio since his university days, and has enjoyed listening to analogue discs with tube amplifiers that he has built himself.

Asai-san told me, “The first tube amp I built was a single-ended amp with 46 tubes in a triode connection. I was well satisfied with the sound of this amp even though the power was very small.”

“Back then I was employed by Denon Lab, mainly handling DALI and Infinity loudspeakers, which were imported and distributed by Denon Lab for the domestic market.”

“However, when Denon Lab was integrated into D&M Holding (Denon & Marantz), I left and went to work for A&M Limited (Air Tight), so I could utilize my knowledge of tube amplifiers at Air Tight.”

“At A&M, I was managing tests and inspections of Air Tight products, as well as inspections and sales of Transrotor products, which A&M was importing. I was very thankful that I had a chance to work with the designer of Air Tight, Mr. Ishiguro, who I learned a great deal from.”

“It was difficult for me to develop my own products while working as a staff person for a manufacturer, so I decided to go out on my own and I established my own company, Murasakino, Ltd., in Kyoto, Japan.”

Kyoto montage courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

The Murasakino Musique Analogue ‘Sumile’ Moving-Coil Phonograph Cartridge

The Murasakino Musique Analogue ‘Sumile’ moving-coil phonograph cartridge is a state-of-art phonograph cartridge that is meticulously hand-crafted down to the finest details.

Asai-san told me, “I did a lot of tests in the development of the Sumile so I would not get only the best sound, but I also wanted to make the Sumile a beautiful MC cartridge whose design would please many people.”

“I think the selection of the materials used in the design are a most important consideration. Just choosing expensive materials is not always the best choice, but rather choosing materials that combine complementary eigentones to give a good overall reverberation is most important. Many tests are necessary to discover the best combination of eigentones for a particular phono cartridge design.” (An eigentone is a characteristic resonance frequency of a material – Jeff)

Asai-san says he has achieved what he considers an optimum relationship between output voltage and impedance in the Sumile’s design, of 1.2 Ohm and 0.35mV, respectively.

Asai-san has achieved this very low impedance of 1.2 Ohms by using fewer turns in the moving coil (the fewer the turns in the coil the lower the resistance).

Generally speaking, having fewer turns in a coil is associated with the coil being more responsive to subtle stylus movements, having less signal loss due to the fewer coils, but with fewer coil turns the output voltage is generally decreased.

However, in the Sumile’s case, the output voltage is 0.35mV, which is a bit higher than my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII’s 0.2mV, slightly higher than my Denon DL-103’s 0.3mV, albeit quite a lot lower than my EMT TSD-15N’s robust output of 1.05mV.

Asai-san chose neodymium for the magnet, solid boron for the cantilever, and diamond for the stylus, in a semi line-contact shape.

Asai-san chose a base of stainless steel for the Sumile, “The cartridge’s base to which the power-generation system, including the coil, are attached is made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is renowned for its stable sound quality and has been incorporated into products such as tonearms (and some cartridges) by many manufacturers. Compared to aluminum, stainless steel is more rigid and harder to process, but the high-quality result makes the difficulty worthwhile. The creates a sound for the Sumile that is just not possible from aluminum.”

“But not stopping there, we bring the Sumile to perfection by gold plating the processed stainless steel. Gold plating not only coats and protects the stainless steel, but also improves the overall sound quality. Gold plating the Sumile base was inspired by how various platings on wind instruments transform and improve their sound.”

Asai-san plays the oboe for pleasure, and one of his benchmarks for a phono cartridge is how well it can reproduce the sound of an oboe, which is a double-reed woodwind instrument that generally plays in the treble or soprano range. Notably, gold plating is used strategically on the keys of the oboe to soften and beautify the tone, and was the inspiration for gold plating the Sumile’s stainless steel base.

The Sumile’s body is constructed of an A5056 aluminum alloy, finished in an attractive violet finish (Sumile means “violet” in Japanese).

The Sumile’s body is highlighted with gold script, originally developed by the chief priest of a temple in Kyoto 1000 years ago, and the three letters say ‘Sumile’ in Japanese: (Su)(mi) (le).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

There is also a gold logo design on the front of the Sumile, comprised of two vertically stacked circles.

Asai-san said, “The circle at the top figuratively represents a phonograph record, and the one at the bottom represents the platter of a turntable. By making these two circles contact each other, we attempted to figuratively represent the moment when the disk is placed onto the platter, as this is a most exciting moment for analog-music enthusiasts when they play a record!”

The Sumile came beautifully packaged in an artful craft-paper box with a violet-hued finish.

Upon opening the Sumile’s exterior box, within I found another protective box covered in a burgundy & cream patterned fabric.

Upon opening the inner box, I found a nice art paper & fabric cover, and the warranty & specifications cards.

And under those – Voilà! – was the Sumile cartridge along with some mounting tools & screws.

Normally I wouldn’t say much about packaging, but the Sumile’s was done so artfully, and with such care & attention to detail, that I thought it was worth mentioning, because that same artful attention to detail is what sets the Sumile apart not only in packaging, but in its design & construction as well.

As I held the Sumile in my hand and inspected its ultra-quality of materials, hand-crafted nature, and impeccable fit & finish, I certainly got a sense of the luxury and quality evoked by this exotic gem of a cartridge, which I’m sure is the impression that Mr. Daisuke Asai of Murasakino Ltd., who designed the Sumile, desired for his “ultimate analog product”.

When I look at the Sumile, touch it, and read through Mr. Daisuke Asai’s messages, it is obvious to me that he has put a great deal of planning, insight, careful choice of materials, and listening into the design of the Sumile, and along with the attention to detail to its beautiful finish and packaging, it is clear that the Sumile embodies Asai-san’s vision for the ultimate moving-coil phono cartridge.

As printed on the technical data card included with the Sumile, the specifications are as follows:

Frequency Response: 10 to ~50,000Hz

Output Voltage: 0.35mV/1kHz

Internal Impedance: 1.2 Ohms

Tracking Force: 1.9 to 2.1 grams

Cantilever Material: Boron

Weight: 14.5 grams

As I mentioned earlier, the Sumile moving-coil cartridge has a low internal impedance of 1.2 Ohm.

In comparison, my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII has an internal impedance of 2 Ohms, my EMT TSD-15N has an internal impedance of 24 Ohms, and my Denon DL-103 has an internal impedance of 40 Ohms.

So, the 1.2 Ohms of the Sumile is very low indeed, which should be taken into account when matching it with a step-up transformer (SUT), as it’s more toward the lowish SPU internal impedance end of the spectrum (2 Ohms) – but even lower at 1.2 Ohms – than at the higher internal impedance end of the spectrum, like the venerable Denon DL-103’s 40 Ohms.

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Ok, that’s it for now, and I hope you enjoyed that little glimpse into the coming Positive Feedback article about the Sumile phono cartridge.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 9:41 am
Jul 022017
 

In Pursuit of the Art of Tone, Part 1, I discussed learning how to pursue a style of musicality for your hifi that lights up your heart & mind to transport you into a state of musical bliss during listening.

I mentioned that I believe that there is no absolute sound that is best for every person, but that there very well might be one that is best for you, and I recommended you pursue your own unique path of adventure in discovering the music you enjoy and the style of hifi musicality that best brings out what is important to you during your listening experiences.

In hopes that it might give you some ideas for your own adventures in music and hifi, I told you briefly about about my personal journey in searching out my own vision of ultimate musicality, how that adventure in hifi and musicality has been evolving over the decades, will likely continue to evolve over the rest of my life, and how I’ve gone about discovering what is important to me in musicality.

I discussed how as a hifi writer I’ve practiced Listening Unnaturally to Get an Understanding of the Nature of Things, so I could tell you about what I hear and feel while listening to music, and how during that process I began to discover the sorts of specific things in the reproduction of music that brought me the most pleasure in my listening.

I talked about how it is important to discover what you like, why you like it, and how that will empower you to explore greater depths in pleasure when listening to music as you pursue ‘the art of tone’ in achieving the sort of musicality that is most meaningful to you.

I love pursuing the ‘art of tone’ in my hifi’s, fooling around with hifi gear with my friends, and telling you about it all!

In closing, I promised that in the next part of this discussion I would continue to tell you more about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why, and about some of the milestones of illuminating moments along the way, and realizations about certain underlying principles that are helping me to get there.

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What I will describe applies uniquely to my personal tastes, the aspects of music reproduction that gets me excited, and that I find pleasure in for the music I love to listen to the most.

By sharing my thoughts & feelings about the discoveries of my music and audio journey with you, I hope that I can relay to you some ideas that might apply to your own adventure in music and audio, so that you might find a few things out that will help you enjoy your music & audio even more than you do now.

It’s About the Music You Love

We all enjoy certain types of music more than others, and that is part of what makes us uniquely us. The music we love depends upon what music we are exposed to over our lives, why it is meaningful to us, and how it makes us feel.

We might favor jazz, classical, rock & roll, heavy metal, blues, gospel, opera, hip hop, rap, grunge, folk, reggae, rhythm & blues, soul, country, dance music, easy listening, electronic or acoustic music, new age, popular music, or particular musical styles associated with our culture, or we might enjoy a broad cross section of musical styles, or still be exploring the world of music to discover what we enjoy.

Anyways, as you pursue this hobby of audio, it’s about having fun with your adventure and getting the most pleasure you can out of the music you listen to and love.

One of the most important things a music lover and audio enthusiast can do is get out and listen to live music. Besides just being fun and a wonderful experience, getting out and listening to live music will teach you a lot about what real instruments & music sounds & feels like, and it will greatly help you along the road of achieving your ultimate musicality for your hifi in your own life by serving as the benchmark for musicality.

I have also found it to be very rewarding in my pursuits of musicality to gain more of an understanding about the fundamentals of music, and I would like to recommend to you Dr. Robert Greenberg’s Understanding the Fundamentals of Music DVD course that is available from The Great Courses

In this highly valuable and entertaining course Dr. Greenberg will teach you about the music fundamentals that you see me refer to, like timbre, beat & tempo, meter, pitch & mode, intervals & tuning, tonality, melody, and texture & harmony.

Having a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music when you listen to recorded music is very helpful, as it allows you to have a much greater understanding of the music you are listening to, and a greater awareness of how well your hifi reproduces those fundamentals of music when you are listening.

Getting a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music, and listening to live music, are important benchmarks and milestones of illumination along my path in pursuing the ‘art of tone’ in achieving my vision for ultimate musicality from my hifi’s, and I believe that would be of great assistance to you as well.

Start Now With What You Have

As you begin to discover for yourself what is most important to you in your music listening, you don’t need to do anything but listen to music, begin to understand how it makes you feel, and why.

You don’t need to go out and buy new hifi gear to gain understanding, unless of course you don’t have any hifi gear yet!

We all live in different sorts of spaces, small or large, private or not so private, have limitations on our resources, deal with constraints of one sort or another, like how loud we can play music, or when, and so we each have uniquely different needs for a hifi to fulfill for what we enjoy about listening to music.

Start with the hifi gear you have now, listen to the music you love, and practice a little mindfulness in listening to understand what is most important for your enjoyment of the music, but don’t get so wrapped up in trying to figure things out that you don’t take time to listen to music just for the sheer visceral pleasure of it.

Your Listening Room and Equipment Setup

The room that you listen to music in, and how your equipment is setup in that room, has an enormous influence on what you hear and feel as you listen to music.

Small rooms, medium sized rooms, and large rooms all have a relatively large and different influence on what you hear from your hifi when playing music. How ‘live’ or ‘dead’ sounding the particular room is has a significant influence too.

Where I live, I have one medium-large room that is a combination of living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance hall, in a sort of nuevo bungalow style, that serves as my primary music listening space.

It is far from an ideal space with its irregular features and reflective surfaces, but I have learned how to make it work for me.

I also have one medium sized bedroom, one small bedroom, and one small office/bedroom that I have audio or audio/visual systems setup in as well.

I am in various stages of optimizing each of those rooms for my tastes, and I have to live with the constraints that each of those rooms impose upon my listening and setup of equipment.

Sometimes we have a choice of where to position our audio equipment in a room, and sometimes we don’t.

If you do have a choice on where you can position your audio equipment in a room, I recommend you experiment with it a bit to find out how much of a difference it can make, and which sort of positioning you prefer.

Loudspeaker positioning in a room makes a big difference in what you hear musically & sonically, and depending on your tastes, you will likely prefer one positioning over another.

If you move your speakers closer together they tend to sound warmer, and if you move them further apart they tend to sound less warm.

If your speakers are sitting up flush against the front wall, they will sound vastly different than if they are sitting out into the room a bit.

If you move your loudspeakers out into your room you will tend to hear a more spacious presentation.

If you sit close to your loudspeakers in what is called a ‘near field listening’ position, you will hear more directly the sound of your loudspeakers, and lessen the influence of the room on your loudspeakers’ performance.

Try varying how far apart you place your loudspeakers, how far out into the room you place them, and how close you sit to them, and see what sort of arrangement you enjoy the most for a given room.

If you enjoy photography, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the ‘rule of thirds’ for composing the visual elements in photographs, and it turns out that there is a similar idea in audio for arranging loudspeakers and the listening position to get a nice ‘composition’ from the music you hear from your hifi.

For the rule of thirds in audio, the loudspeakers are placed one third of the distance of the rooms depth out into the room from the front wall (the wall you look at when listening to music), your listening position is placed one third of the distance out into the depth of the room from the rear wall (the wall behind you when listening), and the loudspeakers are centered on the one thirds points of the width of the room.

Then once you have everything positioned at the one third points, you move your speakers and listening position around until you achieve the tonal balance you like the best.

In practice, very few people have a listening room with dimensions that will allow you to utilize the rule of thirds in the way I described it (I don’t have a single room like that in my home), but it is still a useful idea generally, and you still can move your speakers and listening position around in any fashion that strikes your fancy until you find what positioning you like best within the constraints imposed by your room.

Don’t be afraid to try things that are far outside the rule of thirds, or normal conventions generally, as you may find that you prefer a non-traditional arrangement in your room, with speakers positioned across the corner of a room, for example, or a seating position that doesn’t form an equilateral triangle with your loudspeakers.

Try thinking a little non-linearly in your positioning of loudspeakers and listening position in you room, and see what happens.

Finding out how how positioning your loudspeakers and your listening position in your room will help you understand what you like and don’t like in the way your hifi presents the music.

You can get a lot of guidance on how to set up your equipment in your room from Jim Smith, who quite literally wrote the book on that subject, and if you don’t already have them, I encourage you to order Jim’s book and DVD set, as they will be important resources for you over the years. You can order Jim’s books & DVDs from Amazon, or directly from Jim’s Get Better Sound website.

Getting a basic understanding of how my rooms, and of the positioning of equipment and my listening seat within them, was affecting the overall musical & sonic performance of my hifi was another major milestone of illumination along my path in pursuing my vision for ultimate musicality from my hifi’s, and I believe it will be of great assistance to you as well.

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I didn’t get nearly as far as I wanted in my discussion about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why, but I was able to share with you a couple of important preliminary milestones of illumination for me along the path of my musical and audio journey.

The first milestones I mentioned were about the importance of getting a basic understanding of the fundamentals of music, and listening to live music, as important benchmarks of comparison for achieving one’s vision of a personal ultimate musicality from home audio.

The other illuminating milestone I mentioned was about getting a basic understanding of how rooms, and the positioning of equipment and listening seats within them, affects the overall musical & sonic performance you experience while listening, and how by moving things around within a room you can find positions that extract the maximum amount of musical performance from your hifi in the way that best fits your personal tastes.

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In Part 3, I will continue to describe some of my more illuminating milestones in music and audio, and I’ll go deeper into my discussion about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 1:37 pm
Jul 012017
 

This post is not about the vintage-style 22-gauge Gavitt tinned-copper pushback wire from The Art of Tone electric guitar store that I used to build some very musical sounding headshell leads and a USB interconnect from.

Art of Tone DIY headshell wires.

Rather, it is about the pursuit of a style of musicality for your hifi that lights up your heart & mind to transport you into a state of musical bliss during listening.

For Yazaki-san, his pursuit of ‘Real Sound’ as a life-long adventure has brought tremendous long-term satisfaction to his life both as a music lover and a hifi enthusiast.

You might say that Yazaki-san is a master of practicing ‘the art of tone’ in both his personal and professional hifi adventures to achieve his quest for ‘Real Sound’.

Ishimi-san, Jeff, and Yazaki-san.

I have learned an immense amount from Yazaki-san, and I truly appreciate Yazaki-san sharing his deep insights with us here at Jeff’s Place, and he has helped me understand some very important underlying principles in voicing a system so that it matches my tastes in musicality.

There is a deeply knowledgable technical approach, and a great deal of patience over the long term, in Yazaki-san’s methods, that move him ever closer to his ideal of ‘Real Sound’.

While only a few have a level of technical knowledge that approaches Yazaki-san’s, you don’t have to have that deep of a technical knowledge to get started applying the underlying principles that Yazaki-san uses in his pursuit of ‘Real Sound’.

In fact, you can join in the fun with any hifi system you have at the moment, and start your adventure in pursuing ‘the art of tone’ in your own life right now.

I’d like to recommend that while we’re all pursuing our own personal vision of ultimate musicality, to remember to savor every step of the adventure along the way, and to be patient in letting it come to you.

What is your personal vision for ultimate musicality?

I suppose that “What is your personal vision for ultimate musicality?” is the key underlying question, and that the answer will be a little bit different for everybody based on their personal tastes.

That’s as it should be, as there is no absolute sound in music or hifi that is best for everybody, but there may be one that is best for you.

In fact, I also posit, that for me, my ultimate musicality has been an ever evolving personal understanding of what is most important to me when listening to music, with milestones of illumination along the way.

Let me share with you a little about how I’ve pursued discovering the answer to that ultimate musicality question in my own life, and at times tripping over it.

I’d like to say that it takes time to figure out what is really important to you in both music and hifi, in the same way that it takes time to understand what’s important to you with people and relationships, as there’s a lot of influences and feelings involved that make things work for you or not.

I’ve been listening to live and recorded music all my life, nearly six decades now, and I’m still figuring things out, and I suspect I always will be until that final bell tolls.

Listening Unnaturally to Get an Understanding of the Nature of Things

As a hifi writer I tend to listen to music unnaturally in the process of reviewing different audio equipment or modifications to my systems, so I can say something meaningful to you about it, but there is something about the process I go through that I can offer to you that I think will help you understand what’s important to you.

Essentially, when I write about hifi, I employ a certain mindfulness practice that helps me evaluate what I’m hearing and how it affects me as a listener.

As a person, my interaction with the world around me involves the six senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and the sixth sense of everything else that I experience in my mind.

As a listener of music my senses are all engaged, just as they are with life in general, but with a particular awareness of the senses of seeing, hearing, touching, and the sixth sense of everything else that occurs in my mind and emotions.

As I listen,  moment by moment, what I experience while listening gets organized into various perceptions, where I categorize what I’m hearing, with an emotional impression that gets added in, that I feel as a pleasant or unpleasant or neutral sensation.

I try to maintain a bit of a detached perspective on it all while reviewing, so I can describe it all to you in a meaningful way that can help you too experience what I’m hearing, and how it makes me feel.

When I listen, I tend to organize my perceptions into categories both related to the fabric of the music itself, and to the recording artifacts that we hifi nuts generally refer to as sonics.

For example, musically I tend to categorize my perceptions into timbral realism (a band’s signature ‘sound’ & the unique ‘voices’ of particular instruments), melody (the tune you ‘whistle while you work’), harmony (treble & bass accompaniments to the melody), rhythm (the steady beat that determines the tempo), dynamics (variations in loudness), loudness (ability to play at live-like levels for a particular kind of music), tempo (conveys speed and mood of the music), and the resolution of tone color (the chordal variations resulting from adding additional pitches to three tone triads, such as major & minor 6ths, major & minor 7ths, dominant 7ths with flat or sharp fives or nines, major & minor & dominant 9ths, 11th, augmented 11th, 13th, etc., that give different styles of music their ‘sound’ and the emotional feel), and how close what I’m hearing comes to what I hear with live music.

Sonically, I categorize my perceptions of the non-musical artifacts of the recording process into transparency (being able to ‘see’ into the recording), soundstage (the three dimensions of the recorded space in width, height and depth), soundspace (the acoustic ‘space’ of the soundstage), imaging (the feeling of solidity and localization of instruments & musicians on the soundstage), and resolution (the amount of information recovered from a recording).

Broadly, all of those categories refer to my senses of seeing, hearing, touching (tactile sensations), and that sixth sense of everything else that occurs in my mind and emotions as I listen to the music, and feel it as it flows over me, and I’m immersed in it.

Discovering Pleasure In Listening

In my listening, over time, I have discovered a moment by moment awareness of certain things that I find pleasurable, like a reproduction of instruments that approaches the sound of ‘real’ in terms of tone color resolution, timbral texture, and presence; where the recorded music approaches the sound of ‘real’ in terms of beat, dynamics, tempo, and loudness; and a reproduction of the music that conveys the sense of ‘touch’ and nuance that musicians bring to melodies, harmonies, and rhythm.

The reproduction of music can also go beyond the sound of ‘real’ due to the presence of recording artifacts. Certain types of recording artifacts in complementary amounts can actually increase the brain’s emotional response and our pleasure when listening to music.

The auditory cortex in our brain’s temporal lobe processes auditory information, and is a part of the auditory system that allows us to hear.

The intraparietal sulcus in the right parietal lobe of the brain is outside of the auditory system, and is involved in visuospatial processing, but is also the part of the brain involved in recognizing transposed melodies.

This brain connection in the intraparietal sulcus that does processing for both visuospatial processing and transposing melodies, which is outside of the auditory system, can be stimulated by recording artifacts like imaging, soundstage, and the sense of space, in a way that increases the level of emotion experienced from recorded music.

This indicates that brain networks involved in the emotional response to musicality extend outside of the auditory system, and may help explain why we can get additional pleasure when that brain region is stimulated by processing recording artifacts containing visuospatial information.

Gaining a little understanding about how the underlying neurobiology of how music stimulates emotional responses in the brain have helped me recognize a number of things that I value in my own music listening.

For example, I’ve found that when my home music systems are able to more realistically reproduce tempos, acoustic roughness (timbral textures), and sudden percussive events (loudness & dynamics), that I tend to find them to be more emotionally stimulating, and more pleasurable to listen to.

I’ve also found that when my home music systems can play realistically loud at a live-like volume levels, realistically produce timbral textures of instruments & voices, and are able to communicate musical tempos realistically, that I find them more stimulating emotionally, and more pleasurable to listen to.

Additionally, I’ve found that when my home music systems can more realistically convey beat & rhythm, they more strongly stimulate the instinctive brain mechanism of rhythmic entrainment, allowing my body to respond more rhythmically naturally to the beat in music, as evidenced by tapping my foot to the music, or being stimulated to clap or dance.

Responding to beat is something that is hardwired into our neurobiology, and our brains perceive beat as pleasurable, and I’ve found that when my home music systems more realistically portray beat they engage me more than home music systems that can’t.

Understanding What You Like

When I’m listening to recorded music during the reviewing process, and I’m feeling the music flowing over me moment by moment in real time, I’m trying to experience and process all those musical & sonic attributes in such a way as to be able to write something about them for you.

That has caused me to think deeply about what I like, and what I value when listening to and experiencing recorded music, and I tend to sort those categories of perception into pleasurable, unpleasant, or neutral, as  I experience them, and then try to relate that to you when I tell you about them.

As individuals, when listening to music, I think we all weight the musical & sonic attributes of recorded music a little differently, and the style of musicality for your hifi that lights up your heart & mind to transport you into a state of musical bliss during listening will vary from person to person.

Listening for Enjoyment

I hope that by describing all of what I go through in reviewing, that I’ve given you some ideas that will help you understand better what you value and find pleasure in when listening to recorded music.

I also want to tell you that when I’m listening to music purely for the pleasure it provides, that essentially all of that ultra-focused mindfulness of the reviewing process gets turned off, and I just let myself drift into the artistic expression of the music as it unfolds, experiencing the emotional pleasure that listening to music brings into my life.

In Pursuit of the Art of Tone!

Audio is such a wonderful hobby, and it is so wonderful listening to the music I love, exploring music that is new to me, and building a music library.

I love pursuing the ‘art of tone’ in my hifi’s, fooling around with hifi gear with my friends, and telling you about it all!

In Part 2 of this discussion I want to tell you more about some of the choices I have made in pursuing my own personal vision for ultimate musicality, and why, and about some of the milestones along the way, and realizations of certain underlying principles that are helping me to get there.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 11:44 pm
Jun 302017
 

As most of you know who have been reading this blog for a while, quite a lot of the most admired vintage audio gear (like my vintage McIntosh), and desired vintage electric guitars & their amps, used tinned-copper internal wiring, and it was at least partly responsible for that desirable ‘vintage tone’ that so many of us enjoy about them.

My vintage MC30 monaural amplifiers with their original tinned-copper internal wiring.

Back in 1950’s America, tinned-copper wire was used in commercial applications because electroplating copper wires with tin prevented corrosion and improved stripability, which made for an altogether more durable & reliable wire for commercial use.

Corrosion was an issue back in the 1950’s because the common insulators of the day released sulfur peroxide over time, which would then react with the copper conductors to form copper sulfide, which degraded the wires’ performance. However, if you tinned the copper wire, the sulfur peroxide released from the insulators couldn’t degrade the copper by forming copper sulfide, thus protecting the performance characteristics of the cables.

When the wire manufacturers figured out how to make insulators that didn’t degrade over time, the need for tinned-copper wire diminished in commercial applications, and accountants with a watchful eye on companies’ bottom lines quickly vetoed the more expensive tinned-copper cabling for the cheaper standard copper cabling.

Eric Clapton playing Blackie in 1978. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

When the audio and electric guitar industries made the change from tinned-copper to regular copper, at first no one said anything.

Then musicians began to realize that the regular copper wiring was a big step backwards musically from the tinned-copper wiring they were used to in their guitars and guitar amplifiers, word got out, and the musicians began stripping the standard copper wiring out and putting back in the tinned-copper wiring to restore musicality.

A cottage industry soon arose in the guitar world providing the tinned-copper wiring, capacitors like Bumblebees and Black Beauties, and Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors to restore guitars to their ‘vintage tone’ musicality.

Now even guitar companies have recognized this trend, and are offering tinned-copper cabling in select higher end models and special editions.

Spool of vintage Western Electric WE16GA tinned-copper wire on its way to becoming speaker cables.

It took a little longer for us audio guys to figure out what had happened to the music, and why things were sounding less musically engaging for us, but it essentially boils down to the same sort of thing as with the guitar world.

With a shift away in electronics from tinned-copper wiring, from capacitors & resistors with good tone, like Bumblebee’s and Allen Bradley’s, the musicality of much of the modern hifi gear diminished.

A lot of us audio nuts and music lovers didn’t like what we were hearing from most of modern hifi, but we really weren’t fully sure about the why of it.

For me, there was a bit of serendipity in play when Yazaki-san turned me onto using vintage Western Electric WE16GA wire for my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers’ internal & crossover wiring, and as speaker cables, and using the old studio standby Belden 8402 microphone cable as interconnects, both of which share in common tinned-copper conductors.

The WE16GA / Belden 8402 adventure was a significant milestone for me, as it marked my entering a whole new world of mindfulness in recognizing the contribution that ‘vintage tone’ made to my music listening.

Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects.

I began to experience unprecedented levels of ‘realness’ in musicality, in terms of timbral realism, accuracy & resolution of tone color, compelling portrayals of dynamics, tempos, beats, melodies, rhythms, and perhaps most importantly, a big improvement in being able to connect with the artists musical intentions, which resulted in a significantly improved emotional connection to the music.

Then, while doing adventures with my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers with Yazaki-san and Ron-san, I realized all my vintage McIntosh gear was wired up with vintage Western Electric tinned-copper cabling internally.

In short, thanks to Yazaki-san’s influence, I discovered for myself what the electric guitar guys realized about tinned-copper ‘tone-wire’ before me, that it brings the music to life in incredibly musically meaningful ‘real’ ways, and restores part of what was lost to the sands of time as technology marched forward.

Vintage Western Electric WE24GA wire as headshell leads.

Finally, when Yazaki-san sent me some headshell leads made of Western Electric 24-gauge solid-core wire, and I experienced what a dramatic difference tinned-copper headshell leads could make to overall musicality, I was rather stunned, because it turned out those short little tinned-copper headshell wires made as much difference (or maybe more) as do speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords.

The Duelund DCA26GA Tinned-Copper Solid-Core Wire

That brings me to the topic of this post, the headshell leads I just made from the new Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper solid-core wire, which Frederik just released a few days ago.

A coil of the new Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper solid-core wire.

Headshell wires are probably the easiest DIY wire project there is, as all you do is solder the wires into the ends of the clips and you’re done.

I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on making headshell leads, or having the last word on how to do it, but I can share a few tips I’ve learned along the way with you, as well as some things I still need to figure out.

I’m learning each time I make a set of headshell leads, and I’ll continue to share with you what I learn as I go.

Denon DL103 stereo phono cartridge mounted to Thomas Schick headshell. Notice the skinny, looping stock headshell leads.

When you look at the normal skinny headshell leads that come stock with most headshells, you’ll notice they’re skinny and flexible things that bend around easily as you attach them to the cartridge & headshell pins, as in the photo above with the Thomas Schick graphite headshell that I enjoy so much.

The typical length of a headshell wire from clip-to-clip is smidgen over one and three-quarter inches, or about 45 mm.

A set of four DCA26GA headshell leads shown next to a Cardas headshell clip.

Tip # 1: The closer you stay to that 1¾ inch (45mm) length, the easier your life will be when trying to install your new DIY headshell leads on your headshell and cartridge pins.

If you look closely at the photo above you’ll notice that the Cardas headshell clip is approximately half an inch long (~13mm). That means the clips on each end of the wire take up more than half (~26mm) the total length (~45mm) of the headshell lead.

So the actual tinned-copper conductor is only a smidgen over three-quarters of an inch (~19mm) in length, with just enough wire exposed to solder into the barrel of the cartridge clip.

Tip # 2: I found the easiest way to solder up the clip/wire interface was to use a helping hand tool to hold the clip, then insert the solder wire into the clip barrel, then heat the clip until the solder melts and fills the clip barrel.

After I removed a bit of cotton dielectric on the ends to expose a bit of the tinned-copper wire, I held the DCA26GA wire in my hand while heating heating the clip with the soldering iron in my other hand, and as soon as the solder in the clip barrel became molten I inserted the wire tip into the barrel with the molten solder, and then let it cool.

One clip soldered in place.

Repeat for each clip/wire interface a total of eight times, and you’ve got a set of four DCA26GA headshell leads!

Tip # 3: The conductor in the Duelund DCA26GA is fine and can be rather fragile. I broke the headshell wires I made trying to install them four different times. I snapped them off at the clip once, and more towards the middle of the lead three times.

In the photos you see the headshell leads as a linear wires, but I found I had much better results when I “pre-looped” the headshell lead wires before soldering, as it removed the need to do that during installation on the headshell & cartridge pins, which put too much stress on them.

That made it much easier to install the leads on the pins without breaking them, by building in a little ‘give’ thanks to the loop.

Looping the DCA26GA before soldering helps prevent breakage when installing on cartridge/headshell pins.

Tip # 4: Once you get the new leads in place don’t touch them! Remember these are fragile bits of wire, and the more you handle them the more often you will break them. That’s an unavoidable hazard for me as an audio writer who has to swap things in and out all the time for comparisons, but you’d be best to avoid it if you can.

One thing I haven’t yet figured out is a good solution for wrapping the ends of the headshell leads to cover the frayed cotton edges of the dielectric.

As you can see in the photos, I used small bits of Peavey microphone tape to wrap the ends in the two sets of headshell leads I’ve made, but it doesn’t work well for that purpose, and it tends to come undone.

I think I should probably take a page from Mr. Steen Duelund’s playbook, and wrap the ends with a natural material rather than something made of a synthetic material like the Peavey tape or shrink-fit tubing.

I’m thinking that natural brown kraft paper about the same thickness as normal printer paper (28/70#) could work pretty well, with its natural pulp fibers, could be a pretty good choice.

I’d have to cut thin strips to glue in place, probably with wood glue of some sort. Sounds tedious.

I suppose an easier alternative would be trim the frayed cotton ends off evenly, then carefully seal the ends with a bit of wood glue.

If you have any good ideas on this front be sure to let me know!

First Listening Impressions of the Duelund DCA26GA Tinned-Copper Single-Core Headshell Leads

Prior to listening to the Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads I just made, I wanted to establish baseline listening impressions with the Art of Tone 22 gauge tinned-copper solid-core headshell leads I made just a few days ago.

Close-up of the DIY Art of Tone headshell wires – they make music fun!

At first my DIY Art of Tone headshell leads had a bit of that pre-run-in roughness that I have come to expect from tinned-copper, but now with a few days of time on them they have really settled in very nicely, and I really like what I’m hearing from them.

My Art of Tone headshell leads have in spades the relaxed musicality, beautifully rendered timbral realism, accuracy & resolution of tone color, compelling portrayals of dynamics, tempos, beats, melodies, and rhythms, that I’ve come to expect from tinned-copper wires, and those traits combined with a rich and naturally warm presentation makes them absolutely captivating to listen to, and they sound ravishingly good from an emotional standpoint.

The way the Art of Tone headshell leads have allowed me to relax into and connect with the artists’ musical intentions is an unparalleled emotional experience for me, outdoing even the impressive Western Electric WE24GA headshell leads in that regard.

Given how good the Art of Tone headshell leads play music, I really wanted to give my brand new DIY Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads a listen.

Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper headshell leads with the Sumile phono cartridge and Schick headshell.

Given these are first impressions, with no run-in time on my new DIY Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads at all, I expected that they would sound a little rough at times, just as my Art of Tone DIY headshell leads did at first (and Western Electric WE24GA did before them), and they did sound a bit rough at times, but overall I was very impressed with what I heard.

Compared to my Art of Tone headshell leads, the Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads were more transparent sounding, with more details & nuance being apparent, a more spacious & obvious soundstage, and with images that were more vividly portrayed in space.

Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads.

On well recorded & produced albums, the Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads were stunning with their immense sense of space, their presentation of musical nuance in timbral textures, and their vivid imagery.

The Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads don’t (yet?) have the warmth or relaxed musicality of my run-in Art of Tone headshell leads, and they are more neutral, forward, and direct sounding in comparison.

Three data points are enough for statistics, but not necessarily enough for conclusions, but I did notice one trend when comparing the 22 gauge Art of Tone, the 24 gauge Western Electric, and the 26 gauge Duelund tinned-copper solid-core wire as headshell leads.

The obvious trend was that as the gauge got fatter, the overall presentation became warmer sounding, with the Art of Tone being the warmest, the Western Electric being slightly less warm, and with the Duelund being the least warm of the three. The Duelund DCA26GA was closer to being neutral sounding than the other two, but still had a touch of natural warmth.  

The 22 gauge Art of Tone headshell leads are more information rich than the WE24GA headshell leads, and have an intoxicating silkiness, naturalness, and sense of nuance to them that I find very satisfying and emotionally stimulating. The WE24GA sounds a bit muted & veiled compared to the Art of Tone headshell leads, with the Duelund DCA26GA easily being the most transparent and detailed of the three.

Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper headshell leads with the Sumile phono cartridge and Schick headshell.

All of these tinned-copper headshell leads do a beautiful job of presenting a sense of believable timbral realism, accuracy & resolution of tone color, compelling portrayals of dynamics, tempos, beats, melodies, and rhythms, that I’ve come to expect from tinned-copper wires.

In this group of three there are no losers, and the traits of each could make it a best choice for a particular voicing situation.

I’ll have more to say about the Duelund DCA26GA headshell leads after I get some more run-in time on them.

I suspect the Duelund DCA26GA will smooth out and get more natural sounding with some run-in time on them, as is common with tinned-copper wires, and if that happens to the degree that I think it might, then they will be truly profound as headshell leads.

One thing I can say, is that if you’re still using regular ol’ stock headshell leads you really need to build up some tinned-copper headshell leads and give them a listen.

Tinned-copper headshell leads are certainly the lowest cost, and one of the biggest single improvements you can make to your vinyl front end.

Highly recommended!

I’m also thinking about other applications for the Duelund DCA26GA, like replacing the internal wireing of my SPU phono cartridges with it, as tonearm leads, or perhaps even internal tonearm wiring. I also think it would be interesting to build a set of regular RCA interconnects out of DCA26GA and see how that sounds. Maybe even shielded DCA26GA interconnects for use with a SUT?

Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper wire is available now from hifi collective in the UK here.

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I really want to thank Frederik Carøe for the all the effort and expense he’s gone to in manufacturing a full line of Duelund Coherent Audio tinned-copper cables, the DCA12GA, the DCA16GA, the DCA20GA, and now the DCA26GA solid-core.

I truly appreciate Frederik for being so daring in re-introducing music lovers and hifi nuts to the wonders of tinned-copper cabling in contemporary audio, which I think is a very big deal if you want to experience the very substantial best that audio has to offer to the music lover.

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As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 4:27 pm
Jun 272017
 

Frederik has just released the new Duelund DCA26GA solid-core tinned-copper cable, that utilizes the same oil-soaked & baked cotton style of dielectric as the DCA12GA, DCA16GA, and DCA20GA, and it is my understanding that it should be available from hificollective within a few days.

Update: In stock now here.

A coil of the new Duelund DCA26GA tinned-copper solid-core wire is here!

The Duelund DCA26GA just arrived here at Jeff’s Place, and in the photo above you can see three short sections of Duelund DCA wire, with the DCA16GA on top, DCA20GA in the middle, and DCA26GA on the bottom, in the middle of the DCA26GA coil.

Closeup, left to right: DCA16GA, DCA20GA, and DCA26GA.

Upon opening the bag with the coil of the solid-core DCA26GA tinned-copper wire, I was greeted with that familiar and pleasant aroma of the Duelund oil-soaked and baked cotton dielectric, which is as pleasant an aroma to yours truly as freshly ground coffee!

I’m really looking forward to building a set of headshell leads out of the Duelund solid-core DCA26GA tinned-copper wire, which could be an even better choice than the vintage WE24GA for headshell leads, as the WE24GA is kind of bulky for headshell wires, and the 22GA Art Of Tone headshell leads I made were even more unwieldy, making it hard to accommodate them in the space available between the cartridge and headshell connections. The DCA26GA should make for an easier fit.

Duelund solid-core DCA26GA tinned-copper wire.

Life has been a lot busier than normal lately, so I’m falling a bit behind on everything, but I’m hoping to be able to build up some DCA26GA headshell leads this weekend, so stay tuned for more news soon!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 7:18 pm
Jun 252017
 

It has been my great pleasure to bring you posts from Yazaki-san for his article “My Adventure With My Old Marantz Model 7”.

Yazaki-san’s vintage Marantz 7k preamplifier.

Thank you, Yazaki-san, for taking time to write this article and share your substantial audio wisdom with us, it is very much appreciated by me, as well as all of us here at Jeff’s Place!

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In Part 1 Yazaki-san told us about his near forty year passion of pursuing ‘real sound’ with his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier, and the resulting enjoyment & satisfaction that pursuit has brought to his life.

Yazaki-san shared with us his thoughts about several brilliant design aspects of the Marantz Model 7, and how its design allows it to still hold its own against, or even surpass, anything made today in musical ‘real sound’ terms.

Yazaki-san also told us about his approach for fine-tuning the Model 7’s performance for ‘real sound’ through a careful selection of internal parts like capacitors and resistors, and finally, hinted at the modifications he was going to tell us about in Part 2 of his article that would take the Model 7’s performance to an even higher level.

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In Part 2 Yazaki-san told us about his way of modification with his Marantz Model 7, and how important the quality of the power supply is to the overall performance, because the current from the power supply turns into the signal current.

Yazaki-san described for us how the switch to the Ultra-Fast & Soft Recovery STTH6112TV2 for +B rectification improved the speed of the current from the power supply, and lowered the noise.

Yazaki-san also described for us how he likes to install a hermetically sealed oil-filled capacitor into the subsequent stage of the rectifier tube or diode, connected in parallel with the main electrolytic capacitor for rectification, and how that its addition provides a more responsive and organic sound.

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In Part 3 Yazaki-san told us about his discovery of how the addition of a decoupling capacitor for the +B voltage line (280 VDC for V3 and V6) of the cathode follower in the Marantz Model 7, brought about such an important improvement to the sound quality.

Yazaki-san also described how he brought out the full potential of π filters in his system by using Ohmite Brown Devil resistors in place of the original Allen Bradley resistors used in the Model 7, and shared with us his perceptions of how the inductance of various wattage ratings affected the overall tonality and voicing.

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In Part 4 Yazaki-san told us how he learned about the use of mica capacitors in tube amplification circuits, more than 35 years ago now, in the MJ special edition book (1971) of Isamu Asano-san, “The Fascinating Tube Amplifier, Its History, Design and Assembly”.

Yazaki-san was impressed with the clarity and high-resolution of the high-frequencies with the NOS mica capacitors he tried, and how their mid-range had beautiful tone that was full of information, and how their overall sonic performance was full of exactness and elegance.

Yazaki-san attributed much of the excellent performance of these NOS mica capacitors them being fully free from inductance compared to any of the tubular style of capacitors.

Yazaki-san told us about when he installed NOS mica capacitors into his DA30 SET amplifier as coupling capacitors, the improvement in performance that resulted, and recommended we also try a mica coupling capacitor adventure of our own in our tube amplifiers to get a sense of what he experienced.

Yazaki-san told us about how his passion for the transparent performance of mica capacitors led him to develop and produce the Spec Corporation MC-DA series of ruby mica capacitors specifically for high-performance audio use in his own Spec products, and how Spec now also makes them available to the DIY community.

Yazaki-san went on to tell us about his use of the Spec ruby mica capacitors in his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier as coupling capacitors, and they dramatically improved the sound quality, and brought out “an information rich sound” from his Model 7.

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Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to Yazaki-san’s Part 5 of his article, where he continues to discuss his method of modifications to his vintage Marantz Model 7 preamplifier!

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My Adventure with My Old Marantz Model 7k

Part 5: My Way of Modification – Upgrading the Coupling Capacitors

Dedicated to Saul B Marantz and Sidney Smith for their true masterpiece!

By

Shirokazu Yazaki

Upgrading of the coupling capacitor: The Red, Blue, and Green Cactus Capacitors, True Fame of Made In USA

(Note: In Part 4 Yazaki-san mentioned briefly how he worked closely with Arizona Capacitors, Inc., in Tucson, Arizona, to develop the Red, Blue, Green Cactus capacitors over the last seven years, to achieve specific tonal characteristics that he has been searching for for many years. Now in Part 5 Yazaki-san is telling us about the rest of that Arizona Capacitors story as well as some other very intriguing ideas. – Jeff)

Simply stated, I have felt the sound and the tone of the Red, Blue and Green Cactus hermetic sealed oil-filled capacitors by Arizona Capacitors, Inc., to be so desirable, and I have loved them for their tone that is full of warmth, depth, and sweetness.

The unique very rich and organic mid-low range of these capacitors brings out the healing and the comfort of my favorite music.

I would like to dedicate this chapter to Mr. Daryl Stahler (former general manager) and Ms. Cindy Hilton (Inside Sales & Office Manager) of Arizona Capacitors, Inc., for their help and support in realizing my dreams with the Red, Blue and Green Cactus hermetic seal oil-filled capacitors.

Encounter with Arizona Capacitors, Inc.

I would like to describe my lucky encounter with Arizona Capacitors, Inc., in early June of 2010.

I had just started to study how to bring out the full potential of Honda-san’s (now at Infineon Technologies) reference Class-D amplifier design, in early 2007, as I have mentioned before.

At this early stage, I had reached the conclusion that the quality of the capacitors for the low-pass filter had major effects on the final sound quality of the Class-D amplifier.

The low-pass filter is made of a pair of one inductor and one capacitor, and it works effectively in providing the analog signal current for driving the loudspeaker at the final stage of the Class-D amplifier.

It needs a particular specified inductor and a signal use capacitor, 0.47μF, and so it would be just like low-pass filter of speaker network, with the only difference being the crossover frequency is around 400 kHz.

I suppose you could imagine the importance of the capacitor used in the low-pass filter for getting the most desirable sound.

Thanks to the passion of the forerunner of tube amplifier enthusiasts in Japan, I was able to get easily a lot of types and brands of NOS vintage hermetic seal capacitors, like Sprague Vitamin Q, also Sprague HYREL, Dearbone, Aerovox, West Cap, and others, like the NOS Black Beauty and Black Cat, because of their favor in the consumer market.

Searching for nice sounding capacitors has been very interesting work for me, and I found out about the enormous sound potential of NOS hermetic seal oil-filled capacitors that were made for defense use in the USA.

By the end of 2009, I had reached the conclusion that my favorite capacitor for use in this filter was a vintage oil-filled capacitors by West-Cap, 0.47/600, that made for the US military in 1967.

As a coupling capacitor it also remarkably improved the sound of my old WE310A driven DA30 non-feedback SET, with its sound gaining in musicality and with a fascinating and beautiful mid-low range. It’s a NOS vintage capacitor, but it did not have too much heavy bass or old fashioned tone like the famous Sprague Vitamin Q.

Well, Banno-san (my fellow engineer, who is not only a skillful  engineer of analog and digital circuitry even now, but also he plays the piano very much, and has been playing the cello now for more than five years) and I, decided we had to find a currently produced capacitor just like the West-Cap for our Class-D amplifier, when we started Spec Corporation.

Thankfully, I was blessed to come across Arizona Capacitors, Inc., at that time, and succeeded in contacting them, the day after founding our new Spec Corporation company on January 7th of 2010.

Arizona Capacitors, Inc., had just updated their home page at that time, and so I found them by an internet search.

I knew that Arizona Capacitors, Inc., who took over from West-Cap their huge production facilities and their endless engineering drawings, maintained the glory of West-Cap in Tucson, Arizona, with only a change to the company name.  How lucky we were to find them, don’t you think?

Type C 85805, Red Cactus

At first we ordered a custom capacitor made of only Kraft paper and aluminum foil that was our prototype of the Red Cactus. Yes, the Red Cactus is a genuine paper in oil (PIO) hermetic sealed capacitor.

On March 15th of 2010 we received the first samples from Arizona Capacitors. With these samples, we were able select several oils to try for impregnation, to hear which best fit the sound we desired.

The first Red Cactus’ tone was very impressive for us, and the mid-high range was simply fascinatingly beautiful, so pure, and sophisticated.

The tone might fit best for chamber music, especially for violin and female vocals, I believe. That’s why I called it Red Cactus, as the attractive tone reminded me of a certain beautiful Hollywood movie star from the old days.

Even now, we use this Red Cactus as the main capacitor in our top of the line amplifier, the RSA-F33EX, and the Red Cactus is Banno-san’s personal choice for its pure tone.

Type C50309, Blue Cactus

The type C50309, which I called the Blue Cactus, was developed to compensate for some of the weakness in the low range of the Red Cactus.

The dielectric materials of the Blue Cactus are made of the combination of Kraft paper and Mylar film. Accordingly the construction of the Blue Cactus was just the same as the vintage NOS West-Cap, which I so loved.

The greatest virtue of the Blue Cactus is its recreation of the rich and powerful sound of the vintage hermetic seal capacitors made in USA, and so the sound has a gorgeous and strong mid-low range.

Of course, the sound of this Blue Cactus surpassed the vintage West-Cap with the transmitted signal information, especially in the mid-high range. In other words, we could say the dynamic S/N ratio and frequency range, were much improved to our hearing, I felt.

We released the Blue Cactus in seven values from 0.01~0.47μF /600 VDC in our domestic market for the enthusiastic tube audio fans in Japan early in the summer of 2011.

We have also mainly used Blue Cactus capacitors in ourRSA-M3EX amplifier, and I suppose the rich timbre and the massive sound of M3EX owes much to the Blue Cactus capacitor.

I named the Blue Cactus capacitor after the vast clear blue skies of Tucson, Arizona, that I experienced at the Pima Air & Space museum, when I visited on October 3rd in 2015.

Type C50313, Green Cactus

The type C50313, Green Cactus capacitor, was released in the summer of 2014, as our latest Arizona Capacitor.

I wanted to achieve a brand-new sound for a hermetic seal capacitor, and Daryl-san’s (the former general manager of Arizona Capacitors, Inc.) idea was to increase the thickness ratio of Kraft paper to Mylar film.

Our goal was that the tonal character, from mid to high end, would be close to the sound of the Red Cactus capacitor, a genuine paper in oil (PIO) capacitor, but with the added benefit of a mid-low range that would be like the Blue Cactus capacitor.

It turned out the sound of the Green Cactus capacitor was nothing like a vintage capacitor’s sound, and the Green Cactus capacitor has a clarity through its entire exceptionally wide range.

I feel somewhat like the Green Cactus capacitor has the sound of the best polypropylene film capacitor, but is still very organic and natural sounding, which is something polypropylene film could never achieve at that level.

And so I believe, this Green Cactus capacitor could easily fit in well for a high-resolution music source in the present day.

We have not yet brought out the latent potential of Green Cactus in our amplifier, but you could already hear and experience the sound of the Green Cactus capacitor with our Real-Sound Processor, RSP-901EX.

When I named the Green Cactus, I was thinking of the majestic scenery of Yosemite National Park in California, filled with granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, and its beautiful giant green sequoia groves.

Cactus marking and Outside Foil

I would like you to know the true meaning of Cactus marking, printed on the Red, Blue and Green Cactus capacitors.

This Cactus marking is the old logo of Arizona Capacitors, Inc., and the marking side shows the outer foil of the capacitor.

The outer circumference of a tubular capacitor’s body must inevitably be one side of its electrode, and this is called the outer foil.

The outside foil is connected to one lead wire of the capacitor, and of course the inner side foil is connect to the other lead wire.

Sometimes inductive noise can be induced on the outside foil by some kind of external electrical condition, but when the lead of outside foil is connected to ground, the inductive noise flows into the ground.

I suppose you have seen the white or yellow lines printed on vintage capacitors like the Black Beauty or Black Cat, and these lines point out the end of outside foil.

At present, almost all capacitors don’t have such and indicator for the outside foil that should be connected to ground. While there is not any polar character in such a signal circuit use capacitor, the directional character from inner foil to the outer foil surely exists in the tubular type capacitor.

Usually, we install these capacitors into L/R circuits for stereophonic use, and it is very important to align the direction of the capacitor for L/R.

People with very sensitive hearing can hear the phase fluctuation if the capacitor is not aligned correctly in both channels, which leads to a wobble or blurring of the sound image.

If you had an oscilloscope or a noise meter, you can easily check the direction, so I would like to recommend that you at first to check the capacitor before you solder it in, and make sure to align the direction for L/R channel.

Also, it is better to install the lead wire of the outside foil into the lower voltage side, or closer to ground. When you use Red, Blue and Green Cactus, Arizona Capacitors, let me remind you that each Cactus marking points out the end of outside foil, and these capacitors have been produced and managed under the quality control of Arizona Capacitors, Inc. to be labeled in such a way.

Physicality of Raw material and Tone Characteristic of Capacitor

I remember well, when Banno-san said to me in early January 2010, after his hearing comparison test of a lot of types of capacitors, including the latest high quality polypropylene capacitors, that “It is just like I heard the sound of the mechanical vibration, or some kind of resonance, of the raw materials of each type of dielectric or electrode itself.”

Banno-san could very clearly hear how the capacitor’s raw materials have much affect on the mechanical and sound character of each capacitor, I think.

Well, the capacitor for signal use works like this: The signal voltage is superimposed on the DC that flows into one side of the capacitor’s electrode, and the capacitor blocks the DC so that only the signal current is at the other side of electrode.

In this filtering process, the fluctuation of the electric charge produces mechanical vibration on the dielectric and the electrode. This kind of vibration leads to a modulation of the signal as it flows through the capacitor, I understand.

For this reason, the raw material of the dielectric and electrode will be be very influential for the tone characteristic of the capacitor.

I fully agree what Daryl-san once said to me, that “Capacitors manufactured with exclusively film, such as polyester, polypropylene, Teflon, are described as fast responding, often associated with harsh tonal quality. Additionally, these (typically) dry units also exhibit sonic resonant tendencies that can also yield unwanted effects on the sound quality. Oil filled or impregnated capacitors tend to dampen this effect, giving superior tonal qualities. In addition, by combining various ratios of Kraft paper and film, the tonal qualities can be manipulated to a desired effect.”

In the sound of the Red, Blue, and Green Cactus capacitors, I recognize the common desirable and comfortable tone character in these capacitors, which partly comes from the from the character of the Kraft paper.

I suppose you know very well that high quality Kraft paper is made of genuine pulp, and the main raw material of the pulp is from a conifer tree.

When I think about the conifer, I recall the memory of visiting Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco, and Yosemite National Park, and having the chance to see the woods of these gigantic conifers.

When I think of such a conifer, I’m also reminded of the simply natural and comfortable low range of my Altec 414A, which I have loved so long a time. The fabric the woofer was made of is the highest quality pulp from conifers with a long fiber length.

I regard Kraft paper as exactly the same sort of natural material, and so it comes as no surprise that the tone of the Kraft paper is organic enough that it warms my heart.

Summing up the fascinating tone of the Red, Blue and Green Cactus, Arizona Capacitors, it must be in part due to the blessing of the great forest resources in North America.

On the contrary, the film, Mylar, polypropylene, Teflon, and the like, has the nature of an elastic body. An elastic body of some thickness, width, and length, inevitably has a characteristic vibration or sonic resonance frequency according its Young’s modulus under the condition of some tensile force.

You can easily imagine the same phenomenon with the string of a guitar.

At present, undoubtedly metalized polypropylene capacitors are the mainstream capacitor for signal use in speaker networks.

I fully agree that metalized polypropylene capacitors have a modern and very neat tone, with fine details and resolution, and I know very well that this sort of sound might be accepted and highly appreciated by a lot of music lovers around the world.

But I have felt the tone of metalized polypropylene capacitors don’t have the natural warmth of human touch, and lacks the true naturalness of the hermetic seal oil-filled capacitor that is made of mainly Kraft paper as the dielectric.

I suppose it might come from the fact that the frequency also has a level of characteristic vibration, and with polypropylene it would be higher because of the high Young’s modulus (hardness) and the small value of internal loss. I think the metalized electrode might emphasize the tendency.

Woods National Monument

About the foil of an electrode, Banno-san and I, had experienced the tone of aluminum, tin and copper under the condition of the same dielectric material and oil. Tin foil’s tone, we felt was insensitive and cloudy. The tone of copper foil was too rich for timbre for our hearing. We selected aluminum foil because of its natural and organic tone for the Red, Blue and Green Cactus capacitors.

Once again, we found out the importance of balance between hardness and internal loss. Well, I would like to point out again that while our hearing senses can easily recognize these differences in tonality, there is not any measuring method or tools that can describe why this is so.

There is much that is unknown about the world of physical properties and the mysteries of natural materials, and so listening must be one of our truths for analog technology, I understand.

How to use Red, Blue and Green Cactus for the Modifications

I have already recommended to you to use a pair of type C50313-334K, 0.33μF / 600VDC, Green Cactus  capacitors for C049, and three pairs of MZ-103DA, 0.01μF / 500VDC, mica capacitors for C063, C062 and C091.

Now about the four pairs of coupling capacitor that remain, the C065 (0.1μF) and C066 (0.47μF) for the pre-amp (phono EQ), and the C083 (0.22μF) and C092 (0.22μF) for tone amp.

If you selected these capacitors for each part number from the Red, Blue and Green Cactus capacitor choices, there could be 81 varieties of combinations, and so, it seems like it is too hard to come across the best combination because of all the choices.

Above all there must be considerations for your favorite music, your taste in sound, and the nature of your system.

Consider that the Red, Blue, and Green Cactus capacitors each have their own unique and desirable character, but that they share their main dielectric as Kraft Paper, that their electrode is aluminum, and the impregnated oil are exactly the same, so those provide tonal character similarities with each other.

If I could make the analogy about the tone of the Red, Blue, and Green Cactus capacitors, it would be like the taste of single malt whiskies. An excellent single malt would be so nice, but the tasteful blended whiskey could be also worth drinking.

The Red, Blue, and Green Cactus are each outstanding sounding capacitors, but when blended they can bring out another different world of musicality, the one you have searched for.

I strongly believe that you could be the best blender, because you already know well your personal tastes for the sound, and every detail of your systems. So you could find the most favorable musicality through repeating the process of trial and error in such a blending.

Also, please keep in mind that the sound and tone of the Red, Blue, and Green Cactus capacitors will become more desirable as time passes, becoming much more natural, smoother, and sweeter, even six months or a year later.

I would like to tell you that these capacitors have a sufficient amount of transmitted information, so after installing the capacitors, please wait patiently for their full tonal development, and you will surely be rewarded with fruitful results after a long time aging, I swear.

Wet tantalum Capacitor as the best Cathode Bypass Capacitor

I have heard that the wet tantalum capacitor was developed at NASA’s request, and it is well known for its high reliability. Some enthusiasts with long experience with tube amplifiers say that wet tantalum capacitors far surpass any electrolytic capacitors.

Surely, early on the wet tantalum capacitor was so expensive that it wasn’t easy to use in a usual audio amplifier, but fortunately I have found that NOS wet tantalum capacitors have now become very affordable.

At first, I tried and installed the wet tantalum capacitor as the bypass capacitor at the cathode of WE310A, the driver tube, in my DA30 SET.

The results with the wet tantalum capacitor brought me a breathtaking surprise, as I could now easily and clearly distinguish the sound differences between WE310A mesh sealed and WE310A small punch.

The sound of WE310A mesh was so natural and full of fine details, and I felt the sound was so attractive that I did not want to substitute anything else.

With this modification with the wet tantalum capacitor, the sound image was clear and stereophonic, and I felt a very transparent sound stage spreading from the front to back, and to the left and right. Also, the timbre was so rich and beautiful, like I had never heard before.

I was so encouraged by this experience that I changed the electrolytic capacitors for the vacuum tubes’ cathode of the first stage (C062), and the second stage (C064), in the phono EQ of my old Model 7k to wet tantalum capacitors, and I got same types of improvements.

Of course, I made same modification to Ookubo-san’s Model 7 Replica, which was released in Japan in the middle of the 1990’s, and to Handoko-san’s original Model 7, both with successful results.

So I will strongly recommend to you to change to wet tantalum capacitors in these positions for bringing out the full potential of the famous Marantz 7’s phono EQ. Surely, the wet tantalum capacitor is a unique one, and does not require any help from a mica capacitor connected in parallel.

Thank you for reading about my life-long quest for “Real-Sound”, I have experienced many wonders along the way.

To be continued.

¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

A big thank you to Yazaki-san for his fascinating discussion about capacitors, and sharing with us the modifications he has made to his vintage Marantz Model 7k preamplifier, it is both intriguing and enlightening!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 2:13 pm