May 042016
 

The Vintage Beat

It sure has been a wonderful experience dipping my toe into the waters of vintage hi-fi gear, like with my original Garrard Project (1, 2, 3) articles:

My first Garrard 301 Project that I wrote about for 6Moons.

My first Garrard 301 Project that I wrote about for 6Moons.

Or with my restored vintage McIntosh kit like the MX110Z tuner-preamplifier, stereo MC240 amplifier, stereo MC225 amplifier, and MC30 monaural amplifiers:

Vintage McIntosh MX110Z Tuner-Preamplifier

Vintage McIntosh MX110Z Tuner-Preamplifier

Vintage McIntosh MC240 Stereo Amplifier

Vintage McIntosh MC240 Stereo Amplifier

Vintage McIntosh MC225

Vintage McIntosh MC225

McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers.

McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers.

Or the world of vintage loudspeakers like my vintage Altec-Lansing A7 Voice of the Theatre’s custom built for conductor Leopold Stokowski:

Leopold Stokowski VOTTs

Vintage A7 VOTTs custom built for conductor Leopold Stokowski.

Vintage Stokowski A7 VOTTs.

Vintage Stokowski A7 VOTTs.

Gary Fischer, who restored my A5 VOTTs, told me this about my Stokowski A7 VOTTs:

“Your Stokowski A-7 pair came out of the Altec factory some time before 1964. The 803B woofers, 804A 16 ohm compression drivers, 511B horns, and N-500-D dividing network crossovers, are the same components as standard A-7’s, but obviously the cabinets are custom built by Altec. Altec changed the name of their 803B woofer to 416A sometime in 1964. This is exactly the same 16 ohm woofer as the 416A, but they changed the name because Altec also had an 803 horn (8 cells, 300Hz), and it was confusing to have two different components with the same number.”

There’s something that is incredibly satisfying about owning vintage gear like the Stokowski A7 VOTTs due to their place in audio history, the way they sound & play music, and the fact that they once graced the late Maestro’s home listening sessions. That’s just cool!

Or, speaking of Gary Fischer, and my Altec-Lansing A5 Voice of the Theatre project:

Jeff's A5 VOTTs as restored by Gary Fischer.

Jeff’s A5 VOTTs as restored by Gary Fischer.

Jeff's vintage A5 VOTTs.

Jeff’s vintage A5 VOTTs.

Or, for example, the vintage Western Electric WE16GA wire used as speaker cables & internal loudspeaker wiring, as recommended by the beloved and kindly Yazaki-san.

Western Electric WE16GA

Western Electric WE16GA

WE16GA from the WRSE DC driver to the Duelund XO.

WE16GA from the WRSE DC driver to the Duelund XO.

WE16GA as speaker cables.

WE16GA as speaker cables.

You can expect my vintage adventures to continue, as there’s lots of wonderful vintage hi-fi gear out there to report on. Vintage hi-fi provides a huge dose of owner satisfaction, as there’s just something special about owning a historic audio classic from the Golden Age of audio engineering. Not only that, but vintage audio gear is often much more affordable than new ‘high-end’ audio gear, holds its value much better, and I think that for many listeners its richer balance, adjustability, and overall brilliance of design provides a much more musically involving listening experience.

The Do It Yourself Experience

My do-it-yourself experiences are continuing to grow in scope and level of adventuresomeness, and my DIY journey has been wonderful and illuminating.

My first DIY project was the aforementioned vintage inspired Garrard Project I wrote about for Six Moons. It was an incredibly illuminating experience to take a vintage Garrard 301 and build something musical and enchanting.

My first Garrard 301 DIY Project that I wrote about for 6Moons.

My first Garrard 301 DIY Project that I wrote about for 6Moons.

I also enjoyed my foray into the DIY cable world when I made the White Lightening Moonshine interconnects & speaker cables that I wrote about for Six Moons back in 2007.

DIY White Lightening Moonshine cables.

DIY White Lightening Moonshine cables.

DIY White Lightening Moonshine speaker cables.

DIY White Lightening Moonshine speaker cables.

Then I did another DIY cable project that turned out really well, the Dark Matter interconnects.

Dark Matter IC

Dark Matter IC

Then came the astonishing DIY Tannoy Westminster Royal SE crossover project utilizing the Duelund CAST components, which completely rewrote the book for me on what’s possible with a DIY project.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

The Duelund Coherent Audio Components Arrive from Denmark! Shock and Awe!

In my opinion, the Duelund Coherent Audio CAST components from Denmark are the finest capacitors, inductors, and resistors in the world. Shock and Awe!

It is my opinion that the Duelund Coherent Audio CAST capacitors, inductors, and resistors are the finest in the world by a large margin, and I felt immensely fortunate to be able to team with DCA founder Frederik Carøe on this project, which I described for the readers of Positive Feedback in Issue 70 and Issue 74.

WRSE & Duelund CAST crossover.

WRSE & Duelund CAST crossover.

Every single day that I look at the Duelund CAST crossovers on my Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers I marvel at the wonderful CAST capacitors, inductors, and resistors Frederik Carøe handcrafts in Denmark. They are the stuff dreams are made of!

DIY Duelund CAST crossover for my Westminster Royal SEs.

DIY Duelund CAST crossover for my Westminster Royal SEs.

Then I began to embark upon exciting DIY Adventures In Real Sound with Yazaki-san & Ron-san, where we modified the circuitry of my vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers with fantastic results!

Ron-san working on our Capacitor Adventure.

Ron-san working on our Capacitor Adventure.

MC30 Capacitor Adventure before (top) and after (bottom)

MC30 Capacitor Adventure before (top) and after (bottom)

Mullard & Haltron 'Britsih fineness of tone' in the vintage McIntosh MC30 Monaural Amplifier

Mullard & Haltron ‘British fineness of tone’ in the vintage McIntosh MC30 Monaural Amplifier

As part of our Adventure in Real Sound we also explored the nuevo-vintage Belden 8402 microphone cables as RCA interconnects, vintage Western Electric WE16GA wire as speaker cables, crossover wiring, and even internal loudspeaker wiring. We also tried some Western Electric WE24GA wire as headshell wires.

Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects

Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects.

WRSE with WE16GA internal wiring.

WRSE with WE16GA internal wiring.

Western Electric WE24GA headshell leads.

Western Electric WE24GA headshell leads.

Vintage WE24GA headshell wire with vintage Shure V15 III.

Vintage WE24GA headshell wire with vintage Shure V15 III.

After our wildly successful MC30 Real Sound Adventure we boldly started a vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier Real Sound Adventure using many of the same ideas & techniques & components.

Vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier.

Vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier.

The MX110Z threw us a curve ball though and didn’t respond in the way we had anticipated, and most of what we tried just didn’t work to improve its performance.

Red Cactus plus Blue Cactus in the power supply of my MX110.

Red Cactus plus Blue Cactus in the power supply of my MX110.

Eventually we ended going back to stock for nearly everything we tried, save for a pair of 56K Ohm Tepro RA resistors on phono input #1 on Leo’s MX110 for the sake of experimentation, and a pair of Arizona Capacitors on the first stage cathode follower of the high level input of each of the three MX110s (we replaced two key pairs of 0.1uF capacitors at C93 & C95 and C94 & C96 with a pair of 0.22 uF Arizona Capacitors).

While the MX110 Real Sound Adventure didn’t go as we planned, I learned about making simple circuit modifications at the DNA level of electronics, how to solder in & out capacitors & resistors and such, I got better at reading circuit diagrams, and I learned a lot about how those modifications affect the overall voicing of a component. From that standpoint this has been one of the most educational and illuminating audio DIY experiences I have ever embarked upon, so I want to thank Yazaki-san & Ron-san for all their teaching, mentoring, guiding, and advising as we navigated this adventure.

So the MX110 adventure is now officially concluded, and while I didn’t end up with enough material to write a feature article about it for Positive Feedback, I shall continue tinkering with my MX110 in the background and providing you occasional updates. I have some more ideas, and even some more resistors (and perhaps capacitors) coming to try, so who knows, maybe we’ll get there yet!

Jeff's A5 VOTTs as restored by Gary Fischer.

Jeff’s A5 VOTTs as restored by Gary Fischer.

Now it’s time to move on to our next exciting DIY Real Sound Adventure with my Gary Fischer restored vintage Altec-Lansing A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers.

Somewhat in the spirit of the Duelund-WRSE crossover project, we’ll be constructing some Hiraga-san inspired and Yazaki-san modified external crossovers. I’ll be describing our crossover adventure in real time for you here at Jeff’s Place as we proceed, and eventually I’ll be writing it up as a feature article for Positive Feedback.

There’s no doubt about it, with the Duelund-WRSE project it was a cost-is-no-object sort of DIY project, and the results were amazing, but with A5 VOTT project we’re going to see how well we can do at a modest price, so more of you are able to join in the fun.

Altec-Lansing A5 & A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers are relatively affordable vintage super speakers, and our goal is to develop relatively affordable super crossovers for them.

A5 VOTT crossover adventure with Yazaki-san & Ron-san.

A5 VOTT crossover adventure with Yazaki-san & Ron-san.

Yazaki-san has sent a wonderful crossover kit to get us going, and I’ve got the six 6.6mH inductors we’ll need for the crossovers ordered from the good folks at Solen Electronique, so I’ll have inductors in-hand shortly. I’ve also got some plywood breadboards left over from the Duelund-WRSE crossover project to use for laying out the crossovers. After I get the crossovers laid out, we’ll figure out what to use for wiring, perhaps Western Electric, or possibly Duelund pure silver wire that uses silk and various oils for isolation. When I know how many I’ll need to mount everything, I’ll order up the McMaster-Carr setscrew lugs for all the connections. As we found in the Duelund-WRSE crossover project, the use of setscrew lugs from McMaster-Carr for mechanical connections of wires on the crossover boards not only sounded better than solder connections, they made it a breeze to swap out components, something we may be doing quite a bit of as we optimize the crossovers.

The World of Bespoke Audio

Sometimes your audio project or adventure is out of reach of your DIY skills, not to mention that not everyone wants to, or can do, DIY projects. Sometimes you need help in doing something custom to get the best personally-tailored performance for your project idea. Sometimes the very best work for your needs is done by the bespoke artisans of the audio world, with a level of performance that would be difficult or impossible to attain on your own as a DIY project.

So what does ‘bespoke’ mean? Simply it means to make an individual, personalized order of a custom-made product from an artisan having extreme levels of skill and knowledge. For example, if you want a custom silk dinner jacket that fits you perfectly, you order it from a bespoke tailor.

Sablon Audio Panatela internal wiring for Tannoy WRSE loudspeakers.

Sablon Audio Panatela internal wiring for Tannoy WRSE loudspeakers.

My first encounter with fine bespoke audio was when Mark Coles (Sablon Audio) provided bespoke internal cabling and speaker cables for the Duelund-WRSE project.

Sablon Audio bespoke cabling for the Duelund-WRSE project.

Sablon Audio bespoke cabling for the Duelund-WRSE project.

Mark’s design skills, along with Dr. Paul Mills’ (Tannoy) advice for best matching of the cabling to the Tannoy Dual Concentric driver of the Westminster, and my feedback on voicing from the field, resulted in bespoke cabling for the Duelund-WRSE project that was incredibly good.

I have been experimenting with and enjoying the vintage Western Electric wiring & Belden 8402 ICs that Yazaki-san has suggested, but that doesn’t mean I have changed my mind about Mark’s Sablon Audio power cords, interconnects, and speaker cables, which are simply the finest bespoke products of their kind I have encountered.

In fact my buddy Leo, who is also a big fan of Mark Coles’ bespoke work, has a full complement of Mark’s latest Sablon Audio products at home to listen to right now (below).

Bespoke Sablon Audio cabling.

Bespoke Sablon Audio cabling.

In the not too distant future, I’ll be traveling to England, and I’ll have an opportunity to visit with Mark, and I’ll talk to him about his latest thoughts on high-performance cabling, as well as discuss his latest power cord, interconnect, and loudspeaker cable creations.

Sablon Audio bespoke loudspeaker cables.

Sablon Audio bespoke loudspeaker cables.

It should be fun and illuminating!

Another example from the bespoke audio world is the Garrard Project 2015 that I wrote about in Positive Feedback Issue 79.

Garrard Project 2015

Garrard Project 2015

My vision for an ultimate Garrard 301 transcription turntable was a Garrard 301 updated with a 401 motor, with a new non-flexible chassis, an oversized & perfectly balanced platter, spinning on a precision spindle assembly uprated for the heavier platter, all of which would be improvements in the spirit of Mr. E. W. Mortimer’s upgrades when he attempted to improve the 301 by making the 401.

I have heard a lot of Garrards over the years, and that informed my vision for a plinth that best complements them.  My favorite Garrard plinths have been those that are built up in wood layers and fit the Garrard like a glove, as I thought that provided the best balance of realistic timbral textures, deep tone colors, explosive drive, and rich musicality that I crave from the Garrard 301. I also wanted my plinth to accommodate two tonearms: one tonearm for a monaural cartridge, and one tonearm for a stereo cartridge.

Gibson Advanced Jumbo

Gibson Advanced Jumbo

I wanted my plinth to be veneered beautifully, with a finish that rivaled my Adirondack Spruce & Brazilian Rosewood Gibson Advanced Jumbo guitar, so that the Garrard Project 2015 would look more like the curvaceous, beautifully finished, musical instrument I wanted it to be, rather than the more rustic look of my first Garrard project.

When I investigated the world of bespoke Garrards & plinths two names rose to the top of my list: Ray Clark of Classic Turntable Company, and Christopher Thornton of Artisan Fidelity.

Ray Clark made me a bespoke turntable at his Classic Turntable Company in the village of Midgley, West Yorkshire, that is his (and my) vision of the ultimate ‘hot-rodded’ Garrard turntable .

CNC'd Classic 301 chassis.

CNC’d Classic 301 chassis.

It included a very rigid custom CNC’d chassis with my favorite Hammertone finish, and a 401 motor.

Bespoke CTC Classic 301.

Bespoke CTC Classic 301.

It also included an oversized, massive, brass platter and an uprated spindle & bearing assembly.

Oversized brass platter.

Oversized brass platter.

CTC Classic 301 with brass platter

CTC Classic 301 with brass platter

Christopher Thornton created one of his stunning reference 2-tonearm plinths that was eye-poppingly gorgeous, with an even nicer finish than my Gibson Advanced Jumbo guitar!

Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301 Statement Plinth in Macassar Ebony

Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301 Statement Plinth in Macassar Ebony

Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301 Statement Plinth Macassar Ebony.

Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301 Statement Plinth Macassar Ebony.

The result has been spectacular to listen to music with, as well as a beautiful work of art in its own right!

The Garrard Project 2015.

The Garrard Project 2015.

My pal Leo liked my Garrard Project so much he bought one too, and he went for the even more deluxe version with the brass chassis, the latest precision spindle/bearing assembly, and the outboard power supply – it’s a beauty!

Leo's Garrard Project 2016.

Leo’s Garrard Project 2016.

Dave Slagle of Intact Audio will make bespoke step-up transformers tailored to your phono cartridge needs. Dave offers bespoke step-up transformers (SUTs) out of copper or silver with delicious nickel cores that are tailored specifically to bring out the best in your phono cartridge, and while not cheap, they don’t cost an arm & a leg like some of the ‘name’ SUTs do. Dave recommended a dual mono SUT to me for my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII phono cartridge, and I couldn’t be happier!

Intact Audio SUT for Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge (rear view)

Intact Audio SUT for Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge (rear view)

High-Performance Mainstream Audio

I’ve covered some eclectic audio realms so far, extolling the virtues and satisfaction associated with vintage gear, the excitement of pursuing DIY adventures, and the artistic & visionary world of bespoke audio.

Some of you, and certainly me at times, just want to go out and buy something that is musical & reliable to enjoy listening to music with, and be done with it.

There are high-performance audio products that you can go out and buy today that can fulfill your musical satisfaction endgame.

If you’ve got a smaller room for listening, Harbeth loudspeakers can be uncommonly musical.

Harbeth Super HL5.

Harbeth Super HL5.

In larger rooms Tannoy loudspeakers can be viscerally wonderful.

Tannoy Kingdom Royal & Westminster Royal SE.

Tannoy Kingdom Royal & Westminster Royal SE.

If you need superbly musical solid-state electronics with a lot of power my favorite is the ASR Emitter II Exclusive Version Blue amplifier.

ASR Emitter II Exclusive Version Blue Amplifier.

ASR Emitter II Exclusive Version Blue Amplifier.

If you’re looking for a truly inspiring turntable, you’d be hard pressed to find one more appealing than the SPEC GMP-8000 turntable. For me it was love at first listen when I heard the SPEC GMP-8000 turntable at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. If I could afford to purchase another turntable, the SPEC GMP-8000 would be it.

SPEC GMP-8000 turntable.

SPEC GMP-8000 turntable.

If you’re after an astonishingly musical solid state amplifier of lower power, then the SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier is my first choice.

SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier

SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier

For a low-powered vacuum tube integrated amplifier the Leben CS600 is my first choice. Combined with it’s partner Leben phono stage, the RS30EQ, it is a formidable duo that has impressed many with its show winning performances. The Leben combo has been one of my personal hi-fi treasures, and it has now been in my home longer than any other hi-fi gear I have.

Leben CS600 integrated amplifier.

Leben CS600 integrated amplifier.

Leben RS-30EQ

Leben RS-30EQ phono equalizer. Shown next to my now departed Leica MP film camera & 35mm Summicron lens. If I would have been smart, I would have kept the Leica combo along with the Leben combo! My M9 & 35mm ‘Lux is back at Leica getting a tuneup at the moment.

A Little Help From My Friends

I need your help with recommendations.

One thing I want to look into this year is extremely musical ‘CD’ players. I want something that can play all kinds of discs, but most importantly, I want to start renewing my friendship with my 1000+ RedBook CD collection. I also want it to have an input so I can run my computer into it. It should be able to play any current hi-rez digital file format. It should be analog-like in its musicality. Let me know your thoughts for review ideas!

I also want to investigate single ended triode (SET) amplifiers that would be a good match for my A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers. It seems almost unimaginable, but I don’t have a single SET in the house any more. Review ideas?

It is my hope that I can continue to bring you exciting reports from the world of vintage gear, DIY projects, bespoke gems, and contemporary high-performance audio gear with an uncommonly musical heart.

Thanks for stopping by!

 Posted by at 4:28 pm

  17 Responses to “Jeff checking in … a look into the crystal ball: the past, present, and future!”

  1. I have a nicely upgraded pair of Altec Flamencos- which I love – where I am using Belden 9497 speaker wire to my DIY crossovers and from the crossovers to the Altec LF and HF drivers. On the crossover board I am using Duelund 1.0 and 2.0. Just out of curiosities sake how hard is the WE16GA to find? Is it super expensive? I figure I’d need about 25 ft. total. Thank you for any suggestions Jeff.

    • Nm… I found a post where you considered it very hard to find. Thanks!

    • Hi Josh,

      I like the looks of those Altec Flamencos, I’ll bet they’re great speakers!

      It sounds like you’ve really gone the deluxe route with the Duelund. I haven’t heard it, but I’d like to, and just recently had a conversation with Frederik on the very topic.

      The Western Electric wire is becoming harder to come by every day, unfortunately. I have proposed to a number of wire venders that they reverse engineer it, make a few upgrades, and see what happens. No takers yet. The WE is incredibly musical, but it is also a standard ‘industrial’ sort of wire, nothing fancy at all. Much of the magic comes from the tinned copper conductors, I believe.

      Here’s something worth trying: Pick up some tinned copper pushback wire with cotton insulation. The electric guitar guys have been rewiring their guitars with it for quite a while to get what they call ‘vintage tone’. ‘Vintage tone’ is really the sonic signature of tinned copper with cloth insulation, and a lot of people like it. Here’s a post I wrote about making a DIY ‘vintage tone’ USB interconnect for my DAC. It takes a while to settle in to get the best sound, but when it does you are rewarded with a very ‘live music’ type of musicality.

      Now that I’m thinking about that topic, it strikes me as a really good idea to wire my upcoming A5 VOTT crossover project with pushback wire for ‘vintage tone’!

      Thanks for your comments and questions!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff
    Hope all is well . I can see you are enjoying yourself with projects happening left , right and centre .If you are looking for a server check out the antipodes DX model , as I have one and can say I do not need to look any further. I am in the middle of building some Duelund crossovers for my Westies and also bought the Duelund 1.0 and 2.0 wire ,but work keeps getting in the way to finish them .
    cheers Lance

    • Howdy Lance,

      Thanks for the recommendation, appreciated. You’re going to love the Duelund crossovers on the West’s! Let me know how it all works out.

      Best,

      Jeff

  3. HI Jeff,

    I do not have the Cambridge Audio Azur 851C CD player, but I have heard it in audio salons and came away very impressed with its analog-like presentation. This player has dual Analog Devices DACs that can process digital audio through a multitude of digital audio inputs as well from its own built-in transport.

    I opted to go with a Sony ES DVP-NS999ES DVD-A/SACD/CD player as I have quite a few SACD discs and Red Book discs, and I felt that the Sony was voiced very similarly to the PlayStation 1 Model SCPH-1001, which I credit you with exposing me to this budget wonder CD player. The Sony ES player trumps the PlayStation with more solid bass, a larger, deeper soundstage and greater dynamic range while offering that magical, analog-like midrange and smooth highs. The Sony ES single-disc players have separate power supplies for th analog and digital sections and the chassis are quite robust. People like Dan Wright of Modright even modify their analog output stages with tube output stages for high performance. I would recommend the Sony ES line; however, they do not have digital inputs like the Cambridge player.

    • Hi Rich,

      Thanks for the recommendations for digital players, I’ll check them out.

      I enjoy my PS1, but I definitely want a disc player with the ability link with my computer, so I can stream music through it as well as listen to any disc I might throw at it.

      Best,

      jeff

  4. Hola Jeff.

    When it comes to digital players I have to ask for more information. Do you need to play (i.e. already own) SACD’s? DVD-A’s? Or do you currently only have CD’s? If you already own SACD’s or DVD-A’s, how many (as a percentage of total discs owned)?

    If you currently only have CD’s, DON’T buy a multi-format player in the anticipation of buying other formats – it’s a waste of money. Buy a CD transport, and a good quality multi-input DAC. Use a computer for High-Def audio.

    If you currently only have a few SACD/DVD-A discs (<10% of the collection), see above. Spend some time learning to rip SACD/DVD-A to computer.

    Only buy a multi-format player if you already own enough discs to be able to justify the extra expense, or intend to play movies through the same system. (If that's the case, I'd suggest looking at an Oppo BD player.)

    No matter what your situation is when it comes to physical media, I'd strongly suggest getting an outboard DAC. In fact, I'd strongly suggest getting a Chord Electronics HUGO-TT DAC. It's not a cheap option (£2995 in the UK, don't know the US price), but it is astonishingly good with CDA, and jaw dropping with High-Def audio. Should the HUGO-TT be too spendy for your tastes, the standard HUGO portable is less than half the price (in the UK), and gets pretty darn close to the TT version soundwise, but it's a lot less convenient to use in the home (no remote, fiddly controls & connections). You'd have to spend a lot more than either of the HUGO's cost to get any meaningful improvement in sound quality, and as both versions are pretty much the most "analogue" sounding DAC's I've ever heard, I don't think you could go wrong with either of them…

    Hope this helps (or doesn't hinder too much 😉 )…

    G…

    • Hi Gareth,

      I’m not so much interested in a stand alone DAC (I’ve got 3 of them already), rather I want an analogue-like ‘CD player’ that can accept a digital input from my computer, and the flexibility to play a variety of file formats from simple streaming to high-rez. The AMR CD-777 that Rick mentions is just the sort of thing I’m interested in, but I’m open to ideas.

      I heard a ton of fancy high-end digital gear at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest that my esteemed colleagues really liked, but I didn’t hear any of the cutting edge stuff that I thought played music well at all. Most of it seemed focused on producing a synthetic audiophile-style ‘sonic fireworks’ sound that left me wondering where the music went.

      I want a digital front end that plays music as well my turntable. I want to be able to take one of my thousand + CDs, stick it in the player and get music out that sounds like an Analogue Productions 45rpm remaster played over my Garrard. Or at least as close to that as possible.

      Thanks for your comment, Gareth!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

      • Hola Jeff…

        Well, for a single box solution I’d suggest trying to get a listen to an Audiolab 8300CD, mainly due to the user selectable digital filtering setup they use. I think some of the “slow” filters they use could be just what you’re looking for, as they do seem to remove the digital “hash” from the sound.

        Review – http://www.whathifi.com/audiolab/8300cd/review

        HTH… G

  5. Hi Jeff-san,

    I’m not sure about your budget, but the most musically satisfying digital for me has always been true Multibit DACS (in cdp’s or standalone dacs..) So that true Multibit restriction in itself won’t give you “native” high-res DSD, only high-res PCM in some cases.. At the exteme end of the non-budget priced, you may want to audition the Aqua Audio from Italy, their cd transport and their very recent discrete R2R dac combo (has USB input for computer audio) looks interesting.. I haven’t listened to any of their wares, but their design choices kinda jives with my prejudices. Another one is AMR Audio’s CDP with usb input.. Again, no Native DSD with these.

    Well, for SET amps.. There are a lot of off the shelf and bespoke SET amps out there that are capable.. The question is, are you open in doing kits? I mean since you already dipped your toes into DIY waters (or rabbit hole?), why not try kits next?

    From Japan there are the Audioprofessor monoblocks:

    http://www.audiopro.co.jp/pro1_91.html

    http://www.audiopro.co.jp/kairozu/pro1k_91.jpg

    A WE91 variant that could be tweaked to your heart’s content (maybe with Real Sound recommendations from Yazaki-san..) So you may have an idea on why Yazaki-san is quite enamored with the WE91 pentode driver scheme.. You have Ron-san to help out in case you face some roadblocks in the build, lucky you.

    Another is Sun Audio, which the late Doc Gizmo liked a lot (their PP triode amps, apart from his own Westminster Royals..) Be sure to choose the SE monoblock models with the 6V6 triode-strapped driver with IT (interstage transformer) coupling to the DHT finals…

    Both Japanese firms seem to mainly use high quality Tamura/Tamradio iron.

    Good luck!

    Regards,
    Rick

    • Howdy Rick,

      Thanks for those digital recommendations, they both look very interesting, and the AMR in particularly, is exactly the sort of player I was envisioning, so I’ll have to take a close look at that one!

      The DIY kit SET amp is an absolutely ‘home run’ idea! I’m still very much a novice with a soldering iron, but a straight-forward SET amp would be an awesome choice for going to the next level in my DIY hi-fi education.

      Thank you so much for the ideas, Rick!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  6. Jeff,
    Try and borrow a Boulder 1021 cd player.
    It technically meets your requiremements albeit at a price!
    I have used some top end dacs, the best Acuphase SACD / CD player and the Boulder is a way ahead.
    Hope you will be able to hear mine when you visit – but you can’t beat trying one in your own system.
    Best Wishes
    Howard

  7. Hi Jeff,
    I have the 47 Labs 4735 Midnight Blue CD player and I love it. Played through Triode Wire Labs cables into the Audion 2A3 amp and crossover-less Rethm speakers the sound of redbook cd is nothing short of wonderful. As a simple stand alone player/DAC I could not recommend it more highly.
    You’re post above traveling back through you’re hifi process is full of Deja vu for me as I have been here watching for quite a while. Thank you for sharing your discoveries and making our hobby more fun.

    • Howdy Mike,

      Thanks for telling me about the 47 Labs 4735 Midnight Blue CD player, I’ve always admired the 47 Labs way of doing things. Can it take a USB input from a computer for streaming music?

      Also, thanks for your kind words about my audio time travel. 🙂 This hobby can be such fun, and I’m really enjoying the vintage & DIY part of our audio culture right now. When I first wrote about the Garrard 301 project way back when for Six Moons, it never really occurred to me that there was a ‘Garrard 301’ equivalent for every component in a system, including wire, capacitors, resistors and the like.

      It’s wonderful we have so many good options at every price point in this hobby, and so much access to tremendous music.

      Cheers,

      jeff

      • Alas no. In my excitement to share my love for the 47 Labs player I forgot the criteria that you needed to be able to plug in your computer. The 47 Labs 4735 has no input jacks at all. Just two analog and one digital output. Very simple. The price point I hit defined by my budget gave me a system that is way past any previous experience of hifi. Even more so my friends. For 99% of us there has to be some reconciliation with the concept “good enough” or we are doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and longing. The Buddhist realm of the hungry ghost. Not that I won’t continually seek incremental improvement. The Cable Company has rental access to Synergistic Research acoustic treatments. That’s the next phase. But today I’m very happy with it as it is until the WAF has reset.

        • Howdy Mike,

          Ah, ok, I get it. Yeah, for what I’m thinking about doing it has to have a USB input for streaming digital from the computer, as well as being able to play RedBook discs.

          The good news, as you’ve pointed out, is that it’s possible to put together a truly musically satisfying system without mortgaging the house.

          Price really isn’t a good indicator of how good something plays music or sounds.

          Case in point: Today I heard one of the most musically satisfying systems I’ve ever listened to. All used/vintage gear with some DIY cables & crossovers. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing the investment in the system from source to cables by the owner is in about the same price range as a Collings OM acoustic guitar. It was ridiculously good.

          Anyways, enjoy your system, I’ll bet it sounds great!

          Kind regards,

          Jeff

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