Jan 072017
 

It’s bright and early on Saturday morning and I’m up drinking espresso, as my custom is lately, starting my mornings with two café allongés to get the morning rolling. It works!

Jeff’s Place, primary music system, January 2017.

My primary music system has achieved such a nice overall balance musically & sonically of late that I’m just sitting back, settling in, and enjoying the fruits of my labors for a while.

When my friend George stopped by recently, I showed him all the changes to my hi-fi over the past few years while he was working & living in China. It kinds of surprised me how much has changed in my system since George’s last visit, and it sure is great to have George back home for good! Welcome home, George!

George’s visit also gave me the idea that I should do a brief ‘state-of-the-system’ update for you, just like I did for George, to kick off the New Year of 2017!

Tannoy Westminster Royal Special Edition loudspeakers.

I’ll start with my pair of Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers, which have had the stock Tannoy crossovers bypassed & replaced by a pair of external crossovers built up from the world-class and hand-crafted Duelund CAST components, in an ambitious crossover project I did with Frederik Carøe that showcased what is possible with his fantastic Duelund Coherent Audio components.

The improvement to my Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers using Duelund CAST components for the crossovers is astonishing, and the sky is the limit!

I started writing about the project back in 2013 for Positive Feedback, which you can read about here and here, and now in 2017, I still am amazed every day by my West’s performance with their Duelund CAST crossovers.

Duelund CAST crossovers built from scratch for the Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

I have continued to modify & refine, and just generally have fun, with the Duelund CAST crossover project since I first started writing about it for Positive Feedback back in 2013.

I amuse myself by variously swapping in & out capacitors in the 6.8uF C1 positions of the high-frequency circuit of the crossovers, with either pure silver, pure copper, or hybrid silver-copper Duelund CAST capacitors.

They’re all awesome capacitors!

Hmm, I wonder if tinned-copper 6.8’s will appear one day for their turn in C1?

It’s amazing how much changing just the C1 capacitors can affect the overall sound & musicality of the crossovers. I think it’s a rather wonderful learning experience, as well as jolly-good entertainment, to change the C1 caps, then fiddle around with the crossovers’ treble energy & roll-off controls to see how it affects the overall sonics & musicality.

My work on the crossover project for my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers has given me some additional ideas for ‘hot-rodding’ the Duelund-Westminster crossovers that I have been musing about, and if the ideas turn out to have merit, then I’ll tell you more about them in the future.

Spool of Western Electric WE16GA tinned-copper wire.

In 2015 I rewired my Westminster Royal SE’s internally with the now unavailable vintage Western Electric WE16GA tinned-copper wire, as well as their external Duelund CAST crossovers.

I was introduced to the considerable & unique musical & sonic charms of using tinned-copper signal conductors by Yazaki-san, which he referred to as having a ‘Real Sound’ tonal balance.

Duelund CAST crossovers right side view.

Duelund CAST crossovers left side view.

In another refinement, you can see the Duelund DCA16GA tinned-copper wire that was inspired by, and has replaced, the Western Electric WE15GA wire I was using as speaker cables.

You can see the DCA16GA in the photos above where it is routed through Acoustic Revive cable lifts from crossovers to amplifiers.

Duelund DCA16GA tinned-copper wire.

Fortunately for you and me, a little serendipity played out nicely when Frederik Carøe took an interest in making a contemporary Duelund version of the famed and now extinct Western Electric WE16GA.

I reverse engineered the Western Electric tinned-copper conductors for Frederik, and Frederik improved upon the Western Electric design by replacing its combination fabric-plastic dielectric with an all natural oil-soaked and baked cotton dielectric, which improved upon the venerable Western Electric’s already wonderful tonal qualities.

Closeup: Duelund DCA16GA wire on the right (black), and Western Electric WE16GA on the left (red).

You can read more about the remarkable & affordable Duelund DCA16GA here.

I am very pleased to say that the Duelund DCA16GA tinned-copper ‘vintage tone’ wire has been a huge success for Frederik, and it continues to sell out as fast as he can make it!

‘Real Sound’ hot-rodded vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers.

The Duelund DCA16GA tinned-copper speaker cables connect my Duelund CAST crossovers to my ‘Real Sound’ hot-rodded vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers.

You can read more about the vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers here, and about the Yazaki-san inspired ‘Real Sound’ hot-rod project we did for them here.

As with the Duelund CAST crossover project for my Westminster Royal SE’s, I’ve continued to modify & refine my ‘Real Sound’ modified vintage MC30’s through the addition of vintage NOS Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors to replace the metal film resistors we used in the project, which resulted in an even more ‘real’ presentation of the musical tone from those vintage wonders.

My modified vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers remain my favorite amplifiers of all time!

Prototype 0.22uF Duelund CAST Sn-Cu capacitor.

Incidentally, the experimentation I have been doing with the innovative prototype Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors, and its extremely positive results, has led me to wonder about adding a couple of their production cousins of appropriate values into my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers in key positions.

I have a hunch that a couple of Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors in the MC30’s would be a home run both musically & sonically!

Definitely something to think about for the New Year of 2017!

Duelund DCA16GA interconnects.

My vintage MC30 monaural amplifiers are connected to my vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier with Duelund DCA16GA interconnects.

Building Duelund DCA16GA interconnects.

I built a pair of Duelund DCA16GA tinned-copper interconnects to compare to my reference Belden 8402 microphone cable tinned-copper interconnects (which were also introduced to me for their ‘Real Sound’ quality by Yazaki-san), and the results were so spectacular that they ended up replacing the very enjoyable Belden 8402 interconnects I was using in the amp-to-preamp position.

The presentation of the Duelund DCA16GA interconnects is extremely vivid from a tone color & physical presence perspective. They also provide unmatched naturalness of timbral textures, incredible dynamic realism, and a lot of musical nuance and ‘touch’ of the musicians upon their instruments. They have a way of making the music come alive like no other interconnects in my experience, and as such they have quickly become my favorite interconnects for their superb combination of sonics & musicality.

There is a couple of caveats to keep in mind, however, as the Duelund DCA16GA will need to be shielded for some interconnect applications, and it may very well be too vivid in some systems that are already forward sounding (the Belden 8402 is a great alternative if your system is too forward for the DCA16GA).

To get the best from the Duelund DCA16GA you need to let it go through its run-in cycle of about 100 hours, where it can initially sound ragged & forward, and then after it smooths out and gets on song, leave it alone!

My beloved vintage McIntosh MX110Z.

On the other end of of my Duelund DCA16GA interconnects is my beloved vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier, which I hugely enjoy.

I tried modifying my vintage MX110Z in a similar ‘Real Sound’ fashion as I did with my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers, but the results were largely disappointing, as the improvements I gained in one aspect of its performance I lost in another, and ultimately I thought my stock MX110Z had a better overall balance of musicality & sonics.

I remember chatting with mastering engineer, hi-fi nut & music lover, Steve Hoffman, on Facebook about his experiences with his MX110Z tuner-preamplifier. Steve told me the MX110Z is also a favorite of his, and he made the comment that he’d never heard a modification to an MX110Z that actually improved it over a stock version.

I was beginning to think Steve was right, that you might not be able to improve on a stock vintage MX110Z, but I thought I would persevere for a while and see what resulted.

NOS Allen Bradley 56K Ohm 2W Carbon Comp Resistors.

The first thing I did was strip out all the metal film resistors that we put into the MX110Z and replace them with vintage NOS Allen Bradley carbon composition resistors.

That helped in terms of more natural tonality, but it was not enough.

Modification B for the MX110.

One of the modifications that I kept experimenting with was to the first stage cathode follower of the high level input, where I replaced two key pairs of 0.1uF capacitors at C93 & C95 and C94 & C96 with various highly-regarded new and vintage 0.22uF capacitors in an attempt to improve upon the sound of the stock MX110Z.

A pair of prototype 0.22uF Duelund CAST Sn-Cu capacitors that I’ve soldered into my vintage MX110Z McIntosh tuner-preamplifier.

I was not entirely happy with my capacitor swapping results until I tried installing a pair of the prototype 0.22uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors that Frederik had sent me. The Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors completely transformed my MX110Z!

The hand-crafted prototype 0.22uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors were so much better than the other 0.22uF capacitors I tried you couldn’t even see second place in the rear-view mirror, the Duelund’s are simply in a class by themselves.

The downsides of the Duelund’s are that they’re expensive, and they’re also big, meaning they won’t fit everywhere you’d like to put them.

But if it is the very best performance you’re after, the Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors are it, and Parts ConneXion has some values in stock now here, but no 0.22uF’s yet, so you’ll have to be patient if you want those.

After hearing what is possible with the Duelund’s, and given their extraordinary tonality, it made me think it might be possible to use them to do a variation of the MX110Z hot-rod power supply modifications Yazaki-san, Ron-san, and I had tried earlier that didn’t work out.

It conveniently turns out that I could use a pair of prototype 0.22uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors if they will fit, and it is quite literally a big if as the Duelund’s jumbo size may make them too large to fit into the available space inside the MX110Z.

I had planned on putting the rest of the 0.22uF Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors I had on hand into the crossovers of my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, but I decided to hold off to see if they might fit in the MX110z.

Stay tuned on this one, it way turn into a 2017 adventure!

Intact Audio monaural SUTs with shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnects from Chris at Parts ConneXion.

My MX110Z is connected to pair of superbly musical monaural Intact Audio step-up transformers via a pair of shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnects (shield attached at source end only) that Chris at Parts ConneXion made for me, and he’ll make some for you too if you ask him nicely.

Garrard Project player system.

As we continue to move upstream in the system the next thing we encounter is my Garrard Project turntable, which you can read more about here.

Like everything else in my main music system, the Garrard Project I wrote about for Positive Feedback in 2015 has continued to evolve.

I replaced the Schick tonearm I used for stereo playback with the Pete Riggle Audio Engineering 12.5-inch Woody SPU tonearm that I wrote about in Positive Feedback Issue 88, which was brought about because the bespoke Woody SPU outperformed my Schick tonearm to an astonishing degree when using my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge.

The 12.5-inch Woody SPU tonearm from Pete Riggle Audio Engineering.

Somewhat perplexingly, when used with my Ortofon SPU Mono CG 25 Di MkII mono phono cartridge, the Woody SPU couldn’t perform the same magic trick, and the Schick tonearm slightly outperformed it in that application, so my second Schick stayed put for mono cartridge use.

Not everyone will cotton to the 12.5-inch Woody SPU’s rustic and rough-hewn appearance, but if it is the best sound out of stereo SPU cartridge you’re after, the Woody SPU is the way to get it.

Incidentally, one project I am thinking about for 2017 is a rewire of the Schick tonearm with Frederik’s new Duelund DCA20GA tinned-copper wire when it becomes available.

After hearing the nice difference Western Electric tinned-copper headshell wires from Yazaki-san made with my Schick it gives me hope for a good outcome, although my previous rewire of the Schick tonearm during the Woody SPU review suggests the Schick may be somewhat wire insensitive. We’ll see what happens!

I have Acoustic Revive RR-77 and RR-888 Schumann wave generators in the alcove above the fireplace in my living/listening room.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the accessories I use in my main listening system, as they make for a really nice improvement.

I use two Acoustic Revive Schumann wave generators, an RR-77 and RR-888, that sit stealthily in the alcove above my fireplace, which provides just the perfect amount of Schumann conditioning effect in my main listening room.

Acoustic Revive RWL-3 acoustic panel.

If you look closely in all the photos, you’ll notice that I have three Acoustic Revive RWL-3 acoustic panels in my room, one behind each Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker, and one on the right side-wall (above).

Acoustic Revive RCI-3H cable lifts.

If you look closely at the accompanying photos, you’ll also see a bunch of the Acoustic Revive RCI-3H cable lifts under my wires wherever possible. I like ’em!

Acoustic Revive RPT-4 outlet box.

Intact Audio monaural SUT’s sitting atop an Acoustic Revive isolation underboard.

I have all my equipment plugged into an Acoustic Revive RPT-4 outlet box sitting atop an Acoustic Revive Underboard isolation device (my monaural Intact Audio SUT’s also sit atop an AR Underboard), and the vital connection to AC power is via a superb Sablon Audio Gran Corona power cable.

Oyaide and Acoustic Revive AC outlets.

I use Oyaide R-0 AC outlets mounted into Acoustic Revive CB-1DB Receptacle Base Plates with CFRP-1F Carbon Fiber Outlet Plates for the in-wall AC connections of my system, which makes for a really stable and good sounding AC connection.

Oyaide outlets & Acoustic Revive outlet hardware make for a stable and great sounding connection.

I also use an Acoustic Revive CS-F2 Outlet Stabilizer in one outlet (not pictured).

RIQ-5010 / RIQ-5010W quartz discs.

I use the Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010 / RIQ-5010W quartz discs underneath my turntable & vintage McIntosh MX110Z preamplifier.

Acoustic Revive RL-30MKⅢ record demagnetizer.

I also use the absolutely gorgeous Acoustic Revive RL-30MKⅢ to demagnetize my records, and incidentally you can use it to demagnetize cables or anything else you can fit inside it, including CD’s and DVD’s.

Acoustic Review RPC-1 Power Supply Conditioner side view.

Acoustic Revive RPC-1 AC Power Supply Conditioner.

Finally, I also use the impressive Acoustic Revive RPC-1 Power Supply Conditioner that filters the in-wall AC before it gets into your system, about which a full review will be forthcoming in due time.

System photo as of January 7th, 2017.

That’s my state-of-the-system update for January 2017. I hope you enjoyed the update, and I hope it gives you some ideas for some new audio adventures of your own in 2017!

Update from Frederik on the production Duelund CAST 0.22uF tinned-copper capacitors & the upcoming Duelund DCA20GA tinned-copper wire:

After Frederik saw this post he told me that “For the record, the production version will be smaller. I had to use the foil we had for the prototypes. It is actually too large for a 0.22uF,  so we should save a little space on the production items.”

Frederik also told me that the DCA20GA should begin its oil impregnation process this week, so we should be hearing more about that in the near future as well.

The new Duelund DCA20GA going through the oil impregnation process.

Update x 2: Frederik sent me the photo above of the oil-impregnation process for the DCA20GA, and told me that DCA20GA will be shipping my this week with a little luck. Woo hoo!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and from my home to yours, may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 5:45 pm

  12 Responses to “State-of-the-System Report for January 2017. Update x 2.”

  1. Jeff; you were a most gracious host for my visit on that cold and snowy day last week. It had been much too long; but sure made for a full and eventful afternoon catching up with all you have accomplished over the past couple years. And the accomplishments are incredible for moving ahead musical enjoyment. Not enough flowery words to provide justice to what I was hearing. The best way I can describe it is that I forgot I was listening to a “sound system” and got completely lost in the performers. I am also still shaking my head after the little experiment we did with the Acoustic Revive RPC1 Power Conditioner!

    • Thanks for the kind words, George, appreciated!

      It’s great to have you back, and I anticipate that more audio adventures are in our future!

      The Acoustic Revive RPC-1 power conditioner is really something, I’m going to start on the review for it today. Ken-san really has a talent for coming up with unique audio devices that really work well!

      It’s cold out there today with winter weather advisories flying back & forth, or in other words, a perfect day for hi-fi!

      Stay warm and have fun!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  2. HI Jeff, good morning. Nice report on the state of your system!
    How are you making the your allonges?
    Best,
    Dan

    • Howdy Dan,

      I’m a bit new to the allongés scene so if you have any tips for me I’m all ears.

      I was using my Jura to pull long shots, but it conked out on me, so I’m looking for a replacement. I’ve been looking at a Breville Barista Express that allows for programable volumetrics, or possibly the Rocket Espresso Appartamento machine, but I haven’t quite figured out if it really allows for the volumetrics I’m looking for.

      While I’ve been looking for a good machine I bought an inexpensive Keurig Rivo espresso machine, which has a built in allongé setting, making life easy. The allongés aren’t as good as with a really good machine, however, which has me yearning for a good machine again.

      Let me know if you have some good recommendations!

      Cheers,

      Jeff

  3. Jeff,

    You have assembled an incredible system, and I trust that it sounds as fantastic as it looks. With developing DIY electronics skills, you, Ron and Pete along with wisdom and guidance from Yazaki-san have taken outstanding components and tailored them to work optimally to something far better than the sum of all the parts. I truly believe that having DIY skills really allows one to explore the heavenly limits of a given design. I have always relied on inviting audio friends as you have to gauge DIY upgrades and modifications to arrive at great sound. Couple that with proper listening room set-up following Jim Smith’s advice, reaching state of the art sound is an achievable adventure. Thanks again for sharing your adventure’s chronicles.

    Rich

  4. That is quite a beautiful system. And I appreciate all of your detailed tuning. I was fortunate to have a musician father, who had McIntosh MC60 mono amps and JBL speakers. Now days, I love to experiment with parts, wires, tuning tweeks from all over the world. I have some tin plated vintage wire that I will try after reading about your findings.
    I find that certain Russian oil filled capacitors, and some American made ones from the 70s and 80s sound very real. And some alloy wire I had to purchase by troy ounce. All of it is great fun and a learning experience.
    Something to try for your outboard crossovers is the Synergistic Tranquility Base. They seem to work well on just about any electric devise. Good luck and thanks again.

    • Howdy Bill,

      Thanks for your kind words, appreciated.

      Sounds like we’re on similar musical paths with hi-fi gear and electronics, and it sure is a fun adventure!

      Keep me posted on how the vintage tinned-copper wire works for you, I’ve had great success with it in all my projects here and have really enjoyed its unique tonal signature.

      I haven’t had a chance to try the Russian oil filled capacitors, but Pete Riggle tells me he is very fond of them as well.

      I’ve been experimenting with some current production American oil-filled capacitors in my Altec crossovers, with some mixed results.

      For big values I’ve been using the oil-filled capacitors in the crossover because I didn’t have an alternative for the large values needed, but for the smaller values I’ve had better results with more conventional capacitors like the Arizona Capacitors Red, Blue, or Green Cactus capacitors, and I’ve had particularly good results with the new Duelund CAST tinned-copper capacitors, which so far have shown themselves to be in a class by themselves.

      I haven’t tried the ST Bases, but I do have a couple of air-isolation platforms I could try when using my Altec’s in my larger listening room, but the room my A5’s are in now is too small for that approach.

      Speaking of my Altec A5’s I may have some more interesting crossover news to share about them in the near future.

      Thanks for stopping by Bill, and keep me posted on developments!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  5. Hi Jeff,

    I’m trying to find your comment about using DCA16GA for power cords. Would there be an issue heat shrinking each of the individual wires and then using them as the wires in the IEC? I can’t remember what you said…

    • Hi Tysen

      My comment, at Frederik’s recommendation, was *not* to use them in high-voltage applications like power cords. The DCA16GA is intended to be used as signal wire only, as it lacks the inner plastic sleeve that allows it to be used in higher voltage applications like the WE16GA, for example.

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

      • Gotcha. I wonder if using heat shrink on the outside of the cotton works the same as the inner plastic. Hmm.

        • Hi Tysen,

          No it doesn’t. The oil-soaked & baked dielectric is still next to the tinned-copper wire and could catch on fire when used as an AC power cord, potentially burning down your house and killing you.

          The Duelund DCA16GA wire is intended to be used as signal cable only, to use it in a power cord is to flirt with disaster.

          Stay safe and don’t do it, I want you to be around for a while! 😉

          Kind regards,

          Jeff

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