Jeff

Dec 022018
 

Dear readers, I am happy to inform you that the new Jeff’s Place website will be coming soon.

Editors Dave and David over at Positive Feedback have offered to host my Jeff’s Place site on their Positive Feedback servers as a separate site, but accessible independently or by link from Positive Feedback. This will help me a lot, as they will cover all the costs of hosting, IT services, security, SSL, etc.

The color scheme of Jeff’s Place will change from my dark “late night listening” look to match that of Positive Feedback, and Positive Feedback advertising will appear in a sidebar as it does on their own site, but other than that it will remain the same.

All the past content will be preserved, which is really great, and of course if something happened to me the site and its knowledge would be preserved at Positive Feedback for posterity, which is great too.

They’re testing the new Jeff’s Place site now, but it is not yet available for public view. It’ll probably be available in another week unless they come across some challenges, but so far it is looking like relatively smooth sailing.

As soon as everything is done and it becomes available to read, I’ll post a follow-up on how to access it.

Many thanks to Positive Feedback Editors Dave and David for helping out so significantly – I really appreciate you guys! 🙂

More soon!

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

 Posted by at 4:10 pm
Nov 262018
 

The current Jeff’s Place website will cease to exist in the near future, but I am happy to inform you that the content at Jeff’s Place will be preserved and accessible.

What I don’t know yet is the details about where and when, but as soon as I know more I’ll be sure to let you know all the details.

As you might imagine, I’ve been sweating bullets about all the recent IT issues here at Jeff’s Place and what the future might hold for the site.

I’m taking a deep breath, and am very relieved that the content will be preserved and I’ll be able to continue writing for you.

Jeff’s Place  has been a real labor of love for me, and I’ve really enjoyed writing for you about my audio & music life over the last ten years.

Today I spent some time on the phone with my provider, GoDaddy, and was helped considerably by a very nice tech who was able to restore functionality to a large extent.

Now photos and links are working correctly as far as I can tell.

Some comments were lost when restoring the site to an earlier backup, so sorry to those who lost comments from the last few days or so, but I’m relieved that the losses were limited to that.

The writing is on the wall that the current WordPress “theme” that I use will have to be replaced as it is becoming outdated and is no longer supported (the “theme” is what makes the pages you read here at Jeff’s Place look the way the do).

Until all of this gets figured out I will not be writing new posts here on “the old site”, so figure on a week, or maybe two, before you’ll see any hifi related posts.

As soon as I have more news I will share it with you!

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

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Nov 082018
 

If you don’t yet know about Chris Harban’s artisanal audio works at Woodsong Audio, where Chris restores & hot-rods Linn Sondek LP12, Garrard 301/401, Thorens TD-124, and Technics SP10 turntables, and builds stunning wood plinths for them – the “wood” in “Woodsong Audio” – you should really check out Chris’ web page (HERE). 

I saw a photo on Facebook of Chris’ beautiful Woodsong Audio Thorens TD-124 that was fitted with a Tenuto gun-metal platter mat, and I was really impressed.

Then after one of my Facebook posts where I was saying that while I love my Artisan Fidelity Statement Thorens TD-124, it didn’t think it was up to the same über level of musical and sonic performance as my hot-rodded Classic Turntable Company 301 with it’s Artisan Fidelity plinth.

Classic Turntable Company 301 & Artisan Fidelity plinth.

I have been speculating about plinths, the mat, and so forth, as to why there was such a difference in the musical & sonic performance between the two turntables. 

Artisan Fidelity Statement Thorens TD-124 turntable.

Chris mentioned to me that he didn’t think it was so much the difference in plinths, as when he compared his high-mass plinth Garrard 301 and his compact plinth Thorens TD-124 that their musical & sonic performance were almost indistinguishable. 

Chris suggested I try one of his platter adapters on my Thorens TD-124 so I could try a different mat and see what it did for the Thorens’ musical & sonic performance, so he dropped one in the mail to me, and it arrived today.

In order to remove the mat from a Thorens TD-124, you have to twist and pop up the 45RPM adapter so you can remove the screws that hold it and the mat in place (above), then you can remove the mat. 

In the photo below you can see Chris’ adapter on the left, next to the Thorens 45RPM adapter, on the right.

Chris’ adapter is beautifully made, and it is machined from clear anodized aluminum, with a bronze bushing in the center that slides over the Thorens’ spindle.

Once the 3 screws that hold the 45RPM adapter to the platter are removed the mat and adapter just lifts off (above), leaving the outer platter of the Thorens TD-124 exposed.

After removing the stock Thorens TD-124 45RPM adapter and mat I installed Chris’ adapter (above), which comes with three Allen machine screws and an Allen wrench to make life easy. Classy!

I’ve been using the SPEC AP-UD1 Analog Disc Sheet mat on my Classic 301 (you can read more about it HERE).

The SPEC is the best mat I’ve tried so far, so I put it on the Thorens with Chris’ new adapter and gave it a listen with some of the records I was playing earlier today.

The transformation wrought by Chris’ adapter and the SPEC mat was huge, and that simple change put my Thorens TD-124’s musical & sonic performance at a level that is similar to my Classic 301. 

It never ceases to amaze me what small tweaks and improvements can do, and Chris’ adapter is a must have for the Thorens TD-124. I was expecting an improvement, but I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic improvement in musical & sonic performance, and it’s put me back on my heels a bit.

Everything, and I mean everything of musical & sonic performance, was improved, and not subtly, but dramatically. I’m still marveling as I’m playing a variety of records while writing this.

Since I’ve robbed my CTC 301 of its SPEC mat, I’ll have to figure out something else for a mat for my Thorens when my CTC 301 returns from Ray for it’s maintenance visit, so I’ll be thinking about ideas in the meantime. Once having heard my TD-124 with Chris’ adapter and the SPEC mat there’s no going back to the stock mat!

You definitely want one of these for your Thorens TD-124 – highly recommended!

A big “Thank you!” to Chris Harban at Woodsong for sending me this adapter, it’s been a revelation!

You can reach Chris at Woodsong Audio HERE to find out more.

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

 Posted by at 6:45 pm
Nov 082018
 

Firs let me start by repeating a few excerpts from my introductory post (HERE) about the new Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires to give you an idea about what these exotic and ultra expensive cartridge leads are all about ($1075 USD for a set).

The new PC-Triple C/EX conductor is a unique affair, and in very simplistic terms it is 5N purity grade silver tubing with a 5N purity grade copper conductor running through its center. These silver/copper conductors are then forged via the compressive forces of being drawn through a die to form a single-wire conductor.

Ken-san says about the forging process, “The PC-Triple C/EX conductor was developed by FCM and Promotion Works, and is a breakthrough in which the current flows in both the silver and copper crystal structures while firmly integrating 5N grade silver and 5N grade copper by a forging manufacturing method into a single conductor. Its conduction rate is 105% IACS of copper alone, and it is no exaggeration to say that it has already reached superconductivity. At Acoustic Revive, this PC-Triple C/EX is adopted as a single wire with the maximum manufacturing diameter, which makes it possible to reproduce ultra-wide range with unprecedented transmission speed.”

A quick note from me about “superconductivity” to those who have might not have experience with the topic: Being involved with projects using superconducting wires and materials at the US national scientific laboratory I worked at as a physical scientist before I retired, I can tell you that Ken-san is not saying that the PC-Triple C/EX conductor is a “superconductor” in the scientific sense of the word (i.e. in a superconductor the resistance drops to zero when the material is cooled below its critical temperature), as at this point in time a room-temperature superconducting material does not exist.

Rather, Ken-san is saying that the PC-Triple C/EX forged silver-copper hybrid conductor is a “super” conductor in terms that it exceeds the IACS rating of pure copper, which is defined as 100%, and matches the IACS rating of pure silver at 105%. I mention this to clarify as I didn’t want what Ken-san is saying to be misunderstood as a scientific claim of room temperature superconductivity.

If you’ve never had a chance to try high-performance headshell leads yet, you’re in for a treat one of these days, as they can make a remarkable difference, and at least as much of a difference as high-performance power cords, speaker cables, or interconnects can!

The new Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires leads use the same PC-TripleC /EX forged hybrid silver-copper conductors in the Acoustic Revive RCA Absolute FM Interconnects (review to come), but in a Teflon insulation in a 1mm gauge that is more appropriate to headshell leads. The cartridge clips are made by the Matsukin Company in Tomioka City.

About the lead wires, Ken-san says, “The Absolute PC-Triple C/EX lead wires are manufactured by Mr. Shingo Tadasawa of KS-REMASTA who is a lead wire artisan.”

Suffice it to say that Mr. Shingo Tadasawa has turned building headshell lead wires using exotic wire – like the PC-Triple C/EX – into an art form, and he has created quite a sensation in Japan with audio enthusiasts and music lovers for his lead wires’ high-performance musical & sonic attributes. I wish that my photo did them justice – they are beautifully made.

Having built quite a number of tinned-copper lead wires myself, I can attest how difficult it can be to get the sort of beautiful result that Mr. Shingo Tadasawa of KS-REMASTA has achieved with his lead wires.

If you search on “Mr. Shingo Tadasawa of KS-REMASTA” you’ll find mini-reviews on various Japanese web sites of his lead wires – they are works of musical art!

Installation of the Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires

First of all, these are the most finely crafted headshell leads I’ve ever encountered, and the fit and finish is impeccable.

I was a little anxious about mounting these ultra expensive headshell leads to my Schick graphite headshell pins and Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridge pins as I’ve broke a number of headshell leads during the mounting process, and I would have dreaded telling Ken-san and Yoshi-san that I broke their expensive headshell leads.

The leads come pre-formed with a loop in them to relieve stress on the clips to lessen the chance of breaking them during installation, which I really appreciated, and I do something similar with my own DIY Art of Tone headshell leads to lessen the chance of breaking them during installation.

The clips were a little too tight to mount directly, so I very carefully spread the clips with the point of a very sharp and fine pair of scissors. 

One by one, I spread the clips and then mounted them to the headshell / cartridge pins with a hemostat.

Whew! I got them installed and I didn’t break a one – woo hoo!

Next I mounted the completed headshell / cartridge / leads assembly on my Schick tonearm and got all the adjustments dialed in.

First Listening Impressions

My reference for headshell leads is my DIY Art of Tone leads made from 22GA Gavitt cloth-covered tinned-copper vintage-style guitar pushback wire from Art Of Tone ($7.10 USD for 12-feet from Amazon). 

This wire is used by guitarists to rewire their guitars to get a “vintage tone” that the best of the vintage electric guitars had, and it sounds fantastic as headshell leads (and digital USB interconnects), even besting the superb Western Electric 24GA silk / tinned-copper headshell leads I have.

The Art of Tone leads are extremely musical, vivid, natural sounding, rich, and somewhat warm – traits that I adore – and they are so much better than generic lead wires that you’ll fall out of your chair in shock the first time you hear them.

The Art of Tone headshell leads are the Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires’ competition here at Jeff’s Place. 

First I listened to the album I mentioned in my last post that I was listening to this morning, Peter Frampton’s Acoustic Classics,

When the stylus touched down into the groove and the music started to play I was completely appalled at what I was hearing. Bright, forward, harsh, and edgy, all of the things that put me off. 

Oh man, I thought, “I don’t want to tell Ken-san & Yoshi-san that these exotic and expensive leads weren’t a good match for my system and tastes.”

I was a little puzzled too, because the Acoustic Revive RCA Absolute FM Interconnects which I’ve been listening to for quite a while now don’t sound like that at all, they’re really good sounding, which I’ll tell you all about in their upcoming review.

While I was listening to Acoustic Classics was rather astonished at how transparent and resolving the Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires were. I actually had to get up and fine tune my Altec’s positioning a little, as one loudspeaker was off a couple of inches in positioning as compared to the other, and it was immediately obvious.

Then something rather remarkable happened while I was listening to albums this morning. The resolution and transparency remained but the bright, forward, harsh, and edgy stuff I was hearing at first  mostly disappeared. The transformation was huge!

So why did I bother to tell you about my initial not-so-positive impressions?

Because I don’t want you to freak out if you buy a set of these and they sound unpleasant at first, just wait for a few albums and they’ll smooth out a bunch, and the nasties will disappear, leaving a very good sounding pair of headshell leads.

Remember that this post is called “First Listen”. My intent isn’t to cut to the chase and tell you what something sounds like after it is fully run-in like a lot of reviews do, but rather to share with you the whole experience as I go from beginning to end, as the point of a lot of what I write here for Jeff’s Place is to give you a behind the scenes glimpse into what happens along the way to a full review.

I’m really curious as to what these Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires sound like when they get a proper amount of run-in time on them, say around a 100 hours or so.

I should point out that tinned-copper wire also goes through an initial period where it sounds rough before it settles down to its musical best, so it’s worth being patient when you’re listening to a new wire product to make sure you get it completely run-in before making any judgements.

Will the Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires attain that same ultra-musical and comfortable “old sweatshirt” or “well-worn jeans” feel to them that my ragamuffin Art of Tone DIY headshell leads have in abundance? Time will tell, and I’ll tell you all about it.

Stay tuned as I get more time on these exotic and expensive Acoustic Revive Absolute PC-Triple C/EX Lead Wires, and I’ll report back on how they’re evolving musically & sonically after they get some more music listening time on them, so stay tuned for much more!

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

 Posted by at 2:16 pm
Nov 082018
 

It’s time for some system maintenance, with my Classic 301 turntable off to visit Ray Clark in the UK for a little tune-up, and my vintage McIntosh MX110Z’s volume pot finally died, so it’s getting a new volume pot installed.

So in the interim I’ve put together a really sweet combination of hifi gear for a little early-morning listening.

The system is composed of the vintage “Stokowski” Altec loudspeakers, Duelund DCA12GA 600V speaker cables, SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier, Duelund DCA16GA interconnects, Soundsmith MMP3 phono preamplifier, Artisan Fidelity Statement Thorens TD124 turntable with a Schick tonearm and Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phono cartridge, with Acoustic Revive “Absolute” power cords.

The musical attributes of this system are so good it is mind boggling.

This is the kind of system that could lead one to say “adios” to the equipment merry-go-round and just settle in for the long haul with a nice LP collection.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier with my vintage Altec 832A Corona loudspeakers and I was equally pleased with the result.

The idea occurred to me that I should do a “long term report” on the SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier, and report on its performance over the long haul since my Positive Feedback review in Issue 78, over three years ago now!

The SPEC has been completely reliable, sounds utterly natural in the “live” music sense, is eminently musical, and is just a lot of fun to listen to music with.

My respect for the SPEC RSA-M3 EX Real Sound Amplifier just continues to grow, year after year.

Acoustic Revive Absolute Power Cords

Acoustic Revive RCA Absolute FM Interconnects

Acoustic Revive PC-TripleC/EX Headshell Leads

In fact, I think I’m going to use this system in my upcoming Positive Feedback review of the exotic new Acoustic Revive Absolute Power Cords, RCA Absolute FM Interconnects, and PC-TripleC/EX Headshell Leads (above) that I previewed HERE.

I’m hoping to get some more done on the Duelund-Altec Project this weekend, but it’s shaping up to be a busy weekend, so I’ll have to see how things pan out.

The new 600VDC Duelund DCA12GA tinned-copper tone wire!

I’ve been trying the new 600V DCA12GA as speaker cables until I get a chance to try building some power cords with it.

I doubt if the DCA12GA 600V is fully settled in yet, but it is sounding really nice. Very similar to the signal version of the DCA12GA, but with perhaps a slightly more laid back performance, and maybe a little less air. I could easily live with either as speaker cables for their sheer live-like musicality.

I’ve listening to a couple of nice double-album sets this morning while catching up on my coffee drinking.

Tommy Emmanuel’s Accomplice One is a blast, featuring a host of great musicians. It kind of reminds me of Jorma Kaukonen’s Blue Country Heart (I wish they’d release BCH on vinyl too!).

Accomplice One is a must have for guitar players!

My buddy Doc Leo recommended Peter Frampton’s Acoustic Classics to me a while back, and it is another fun album. I haven’t listened to Frampton in years, but I liked his music when I was a youngster in high school.

This is an utterly natural sounding album that I really enjoy listening to, and Frampton does an excellent job all around, vocals and guitar playing.

Ok, that’s it for now. As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 8:21 am
Nov 032018
 

With pleasure I offer Yazaki-san’s Alan-san’s GEC PX25A Monaural SET’s Part 2 for your reading enjoyment!

A huge thank you to Yazaki-san and Alan-san for sharing their Adventures In Real Sound with us!

¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

About “Anzai-san’s” GEC PX25A single-ended tube amplifier, I expressed it in my last article that I was strongly impressed with its very beautiful circuit with simplest design. It comes exactly from the textbook of tube amplifier design, on how to use a pentode tube.

In such a simple circuit, the goodness of material or the quality of parts one by one, output transformer, rectifier tube, driver tube, and of course capacitor or resistor, reflects or decides the sound quality.

In short, it can be said for a matter of course that any attempt at improving the characteristic with negative feedback technology is ineffective for the non-feedback SET design by Anzai-san.

One must taste the freshness and goodness of the material as it is, just as is true of traditional Japanese cuisine, I have felt.

Well, I’d like to share my very personal experiences about output transformer, rectifier tube and driver tube, WE310A in this article.

An 5K Ohm Primary Impedance Output Transformer for a Single-ended Amplifier

In the early 1970’s in Japan, we first saw the full-fledged transformers with big size cores for single ended amplifiers as a standard product to be listed in the catalogs, and it was exactly the same time as when Jean Hiraga-san started importing business of dealing with mainly European tubes.

It would also be true that that era was just the opening of the first vacuum tube boom in Japan. At the time, the appearance of the FW-50 series of Tango output transformer for both push-pull and single-ended amplifiers, were greeted with applause from mainly amateur tube enthusiasts not only for its high quality, with especially low-loss or high efficiency, but also its reasonable price.

FW-50 series were made with an exceptionally big size EI core, and so it would be the reason why the series boasts low-loss. But also using bigger size core could be very advantageous particularly for single ended output transformer, because an alternating current corresponding to the signal waveform superimposed on the direct current flows into the transformer, and with such a direct current component it becomes easy to evoke DC magnetization and magnetic saturation, and so a bigger size iron core is required to prevent it.

Well, Anzai-san introduced us to the FW-50-5S with confidence in the July issue of “MJ” in 1972. I also have long used this FW-50-5S and enjoyed the sound more than 45 years. Throughout my long days, I have never felt any dissatisfaction or frustration with this output transformer. Furthermore, even any minor component changes expressed quite clearly the differences in sound quality caused by it. The FW-50-5-S has been proud of its beautiful timbre, its high sensitivity, and exceptionally wide-range sounding. So for me the sound quality of the transformer has been pure exactly like fresh air or water.

When Ookubo-san, my friend, eagerly asked me to build up a DA30 SET in early 2012, I had just come across a pair of huge EI core output transformers, 5K ohm for SET on a vintage parts web-site. It was apparently a made in the USA transformer because I hadn’t seen such a transformer of that shape that was made in Japan. I had wanted to experience the sound of an American output transformer, which might offer another type of sound from the TANGO FW-50-5S, and it must be the true reason of my accepting Ookubo-san’s offer to build up a DA30 SET.

On August 26th of 2012 Okubo-san’s pair of GEC DA30 monaural SETs were completed, and we were so amazed and fully impressed with that powerful and engaging sound. Every kind of timbre from the low-end to the high-end were so rich and gorgeous, I remember well.

Most surprisingly, this was when we were listening to a speaker of only 90 dB efficiency. Now I understand well that the forceful sound we heard might be supported or realized by the sound character of Ookubo-san’s Marantz Model 7 Replica, which already had been lightly modified. Unfortunately, I was never able to identify the manufacturer of this significant output transformer made in USA, but Ookubo-san’s adventure of searching for musical sounding rectifier tubes started in that point, as I will share with you later.

First of all I came up with the idea of looking for such an output transformer made in USA, when Alan-san asked me to build up his SETs, just like with Ookubo-san in early 2016. ISO-Tango had closed their business two years previously, so we had to find new transformers to use for Alan-san’s SETs.

Alan-san contacted the famous transformer maker, MagneQuest to inquire whether such a transformer exists or not. We could easily find a transformer that was well suited to the WE300B, with a primary impedance of around 3.5 K Ohm, but we didn’t come across a transformer with a primary impedance of 5 K Ohm for the DA30 during a one month search.

Fortunately enough, when I turned to eyes towards Japanese manufacturers, I found the H-30-5S transformer in Hashimoto’s brochure. Also I got very good news for Alan-san that Hashimoto was willing accept an order for a custom power transformer in a 120V version (AC voltage in Japan is 100V) of their PT-220, which fitted very well what was needed for the WE310A to drive the DA30 / PX25A SET.

It was said by Hashimoto in their technical description that “Hashimoto engineers intentionally avoid the use of Permalloy or Amorphous cores. This is because they have determined that the Oriental Core Hi-B would yield better and more balanced sound quality if other important factors; such as the core windings, the isolation and filling material, and the overall case design, are designed correctly.”

I fully agree with Hashimoto’s engineers’ philosophy, so I decided to trust in the potential of the Hashimoto H-30-5S output transformer with its modern cut-core design, and of course, Alan-san agreed.

Well, the sound of H-30-5S was full of remarkably high contrast with many shades of feeling in its rich mid-range, and so I felt deep emotion through the sound and the timbre. Also, this time I installed a feature that allowed the selection of no feedback, or -3 dB of feedback, a very slight P-K feedback into Alan-san’s SET. This P-K feedback (from the plate of PX25A to the cathode of WE310A) brought out more subtlety and the feeling of air in the high-range, I felt. The H-30-5S is surely a very good output transformer that can draw out the full splendor of DA30 / PX25A vacuum tube.

I think I am a lucky hobbyist and craftsman because I had the very rare chances to experience the sound of three types of such outstanding output transformers. I owe so much to Ookubo-san and Alan-san, thanks again Ookubo-san and Alan-san!

The Marconi U52 Is The Best Rectifier I’ve Ever Heard

It might be a truly luxurious thing, but I was able to experience a lot of rectifier tubes of all ages and countries. Firstly, I’d like to share with you the name of tubes as I remember them.

The first rectifier tube I experienced was the Telefunken GZ34, which I bought from “Sansei Enterprise” by Jean Hiraga-san in Kobe, and the Mullard GZ37, the Philips GZ34 metal base, the Mullard GZ37 big bottle, and the WE422A, which are indirect-heated rectifier tubes.

For direct-heated rectifier tubes, I had experienced the RCA 5R4GY, the RCA 5U4G (the original and made in England version), the STC 5R4GY, and the WE274B engraved.

I had enjoyed so much the truly rich sound of this oldest WE274B for two years, and I considered the WE274B engraved to be the “Holy Grail” of rectifier tubes that I had long searched for.

But sometimes I also wanted to hear the exceptionally fine and beautiful high-range of STC5R4GY rectifier, so I have come to appreciate that the WE274B rectifier represents the best of the United States sound quality, while the STC5R4GY is a vacuum tube that has the traditional lofty British sound.

About 3 years ago Ookubo-san asked me how he might install Osram U18/20 UK rectifier tube into his DA30 mono SET. He was already fascinated by the UK direct heated rectifiers and was beginning to collect them, and so I managed to build up an adapter for the octal plug to B4 socket, including voltage drop resistors from 5V to 4V for using the Osram U18/20.

Ookubo-san was so amazed at the sound of the U18/20, and because I highly believed in his hearing sense that it came naturally in my mind that I should look for GEC, OSRAM, or Marconi U52 rectifiers with an octal plug as my next step.

Yes, the U18/20 and U52 have just same figure and electrical specifications. When I actually listened to it, my soul was healed by a natural and organic sound quality that was so comfortable. When I first heard the music through the U52 from then on I didn’t want to change the rectifier tube to another one.

Curiously, it was a very similar feeling to when I first heard the WE16GA speaker cable or the Belden 8402 interconnect cables. I wanted Alan-san to experience that sound and I had looked for the very rare rectifiers over half a year and more. Fortunately enough, we found a pair of really nice NOS Marconi U52 and Brimer (STC) 5R4GY for Alan-san at the end of 2016.

Generally speaking, though I don’t know well the reason why, when compared to indirect-heated rectifiers, I have felt something more nuanced about the sound of direct-heated rectifiers, and also the UK rectifier’s high-range provided a more clear and gentle presence to my feelings.

Well, the rectifier tube just produces the current flowing through the tubes, for the driver tube and power tube of the amplifier circuit. The music signals are superimposed on this current and are amplified at each stage. Luckily, I have experienced this too, with the obvious importance for the basic principle of how these rectifier tubes work with my hearing.

The WE310A Driver Tube

In order to taste the true value of the WE310A driver tube, and to make a true evaluation, it is necessary to replace the cathode resistor and its bypass capacitor with the following parts.

Also, it could be one of the major improvement methods of sound quality for the first tube or driver tube, I believe. I hope you will try using the Ohmite WH for a cathode resistor and the wet-tantalum capacitor for a bypass capacitor. The sound quality is completely changed to be more real with the Ohmite WH, which was made clear on Jeff’s Place HERE, and about the wet-tantalum capacitor, please refer to Part 5 HERE.

I said before in Part 5, “At first, I tried and installed the wet-tantalum 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 easily and clearly distinguish the sound differences between WE310A mesh shield and WE310A small punch. The sound of mesh was so natural and full of fine details, and I felt the sound was so attractive that I did not 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. Surely, the wet-tantalum capacitor is a unique one, and does not need any help from a mica capacitor connected in parallel.”

I’m sorry to report that the WE310A mesh shield is now too rare to find, but it is a true gem or “Holy Grail”. As an option for the unavailable WE310A mesh shield are the WE310B, the WE337A, and the WE328A (the heater voltage is 7.5V). It might be a little easier to find the WE337A mesh or WE328A mesh compared to WE310A mesh shield at present.

Well, at the end of Part 2, let me share with you what Alan-san said about the Marconi U52 rectifier tube and WE310A mesh shield driver tube:

I remember bringing Paula home from the hospital last year. Later that evening, she was walking through the family room and she stopped and said, “what is that, it sounds as if Lyle Lovett is right here…where is he 🙂 ?” 

I said that we were all wired up with NOS WE16GA from the spool Yazaki-san sent, and with the magical Marantz Model 7 and the monaural WE310A/PX25 SET amplifiers that Yazaki-san so kindly built up for us.

Paula-san said ,”Wonderful!” She later mentioned that it will even sound better when you turn the speakers around 😉 , as at the time I had the fronts of the Altec 832A Coronas facing towards the wall because we were in the danger zone, as their woven grills looked to have been designed as a world-class attraction for kitties looking for scratching posts!

I must say that I have the pleasure and good luck to have been able to listen to many fine SET amplifiers in our home over the last few years, like the Lamm ML2.1 and ML3 SET amplifiers, with various NOS tubes, along with both of the Shindo 300B amplifiers, including the Shindo Limited 300B SET with the full set of the Shindo selected NOS tubes sets, and these are all wonderful products designed by very talented artisans and engineers.   

When building up these WE310A/PX25 monaural SET amplifiers, Yazaki-san suggested we try the Marconi U52 rectifier tubes, and that we were also be lucky in that he found the WE310A mesh shield tubes, about which I was very excited and happy to get the news. I was familiar with the WE310A, but had not the pleasure of hearing the Marconi U52.

Yazaki-san shared with me about his feelings and thoughts regarding the Marconi U52, and I immediately said to myself, ”ummmmmm, sweet!”

This combination of the delicious Marconi U52 and the WE310A mesh shield tubes effected a presentation of the musical flow that is the most emotional, natural, and satisfying listening experience that I have experienced with recorded music. For me, I must say that the emotional component is at the leading edge of the above-mentioned equipment.”    

Paula-san says, “Hello and many Happy Wishes to you all!!”

Warmest Regards,

Alan

Amazingly, WE310A mesh shield was born when “Golden Gate Bridge” opened and “Gone with the Wind” was first screened, and the new dome type of DA30 was first developed during the “World War II”. I think the Marconi, Osram or GEC U52 are also from this time.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to pay my heartfelt tribute to the many unnamed engineers who created these vacuum tube “Art Objects” of real sound!

In Part 3 I’d like to share with you the new features of Alan-san’s PX25A mono SET – please wait for it!

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Many thanks to Yazaki-san and Alan-san for sharing their Adventure In Real Sound with us, Alan-san’s GEC PX25 monaural SET amplifiers are very intriguing and beautiful designs!

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

 Posted by at 8:53 am
Nov 022018
 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the personal side of things, but I thought I’d report on what’s going on at chez Jeff on the audio side of things at the moment, and what’s coming up in the near term.

Turntable Musical Chairs

My Classic Turntable Company 301 (above) is on it’s way back to Ray Clark in the UK to get some maintenance and trouble shooting done.

Normally I do my own maintenance, but Ray offered to give it a good going through, first to address an issue with the power on/off mechanism not engaging properly, and also to track down a mechanical noise issue that had become audible when the motor was engaged (and which I couldn’t figure out), as well as anything else that might need a little extra TLC to get back into tip-top shape.

A big “Thank you!” to Ray Clark for offering to help me get things sorted out with my beloved CTC 301!

It left here for the UK yesterday via FedEx, and should be back here in a couple of weeks.

The Classic Turntable Company “hot-rodded” 301 is such a fantastic sounding turntable, I miss it already! 

In the interim I’ve pressed my Artisan Fidelity Statement “Long Base” Thorens TD124 turntable into service in my main music system. The Thorens TD124 isn’t at the same level musically or sonically that the Classic Turntable Company 301 is, but it is still a gorgeous and amazing turntable.

I suspect much of the performance difference is due to the plinth. The Artisan Fidelity “Long Base” plinth isn’t nearly as massive as the Artisan Fidelity plinth for my Classic Turntable Company 301, and I think it is the primary culprit in the performance difference.

I may have to investigate a more massive plinth for it one of these days, and I’ve got some interesting ideas about a plinth design that I may share with you when/if the time comes.

I also became aware of a replacement stainless steel (or maybe it was aluminum?) CNC’d outer platter that has become available for the Thorens TD124, and I think that would be an improvement over the stock pressed aluminum outer platter.

A better record mat would also help out the Thorens’ performance, I think, and I saw a brass one that Chris Harban at Woodsong Audio had on his Thorens TD124 to experiment with that looked intriguing, so I may have to investigate that.

I really like the Spec Analog Disc Sheet (a mat) that I use on my Classic 301, but there isn’t a version available for the Thorens TD124 (that I am aware of).

SPEC GMP-8000 turntable.

A number of you have asked me what “non-vintage” style of turntable I would recommend. While I have no plans to move away from my Classic 301 or Thorens TD124 as references, if I was shopping for a current production turntable the Spec GMP-8000 (above) or the La Platine Verdier (the Auditorium 23 version) would be at the top of my list of current production ‘tables to seriously check out. I’ve seen and heard both of these ‘tables, and they are really superb.

The Duelund-Altec Project

Stokowski Altec’s in the listening room.

I have finished breadboarding the Duelund CAST tinned-copper crossovers for the Stokowski Altec’s, and I’ll fill you in on all the details in a follow-up post before too long.

The Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components in the Altec HF horn cabinet.

The photo above is of the Duelund CAST components sitting in the Altec HF horn cabinet, before I wired them together. They are all wired together now, but not connected to the drivers yet, which will be the next step.

I have been having mixed feelings about installing the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers into the Altec HF horn cabinets, simply for the reason that it doesn’t show off the impressive nature of the Duelund CAST crossovers to the extent that I would like.

The good part about mounting them in the HF horn enclosure is that you can still easily see the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu crossovers and easily access them to do voicing and what-not, but I’d like to figure out something to “showcase” them a little more.

To really appreciate the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components you have to see them in person, they are beautiful and deeply impressive, and I’d like to figure out a way to display them in order to highlight them a little more. I’ll keep mulling on this topic while I finish wiring them up, voicing them with the various Duelund DCA wires, etc.

When I get everything voiced the way I want it then I’ll revisit the topic of crossover enclosures (?) that are as artful as the Duelund CAST Sn-Cu components are themselves.

There’s much more to come on the Duelund-Altec Project, so stay tuned!

Acoustic Revive Review for Positive Feedback

Next up for review at Positive Feedback are the impressive and exotic new Acoustic Revive Absolute Power Cords, RCA Absolute FM Interconnects, and PC-TripleC/EX Headshell Leads.

Like I said in my introductory Today’s Fresh Catch post about them, “I always get excited when new Acoustic Revive products arrive from Mr. Ken Ishiguro (Acoustic Revive) via Mr. Yoshi Hontani (Muson Project, Exporter), as Acoustic Revive products always have an extreme level of quality materials, technical ingenuity, a  beautiful fit & finish, and with performance to match!”

Those of you who have been following my writing know that the Acoustic Revive products have been a mainstay in my audio systems over the years, and I couldn’t imagine being without them. Ken-san continues his goal of surpassing the cutting-edge of performance with these latest offerings, and I’m looking forward to telling you all about them in my Positive Feedback review. 

The Acoustic Revive products are both crazy good and crazy expensive, and I sure do like them!

I’ve been getting plenty of run-in time on the Absolute Power Cords and the RCA Absolute FM Interconnects, but I haven’t yet had a chance to try the PC-TripleC/EX Headshell Leads, which I am really looking forward to.

Part 2 of “Adventures in Real Sound with Yazaki-san: Alan-san’s GEC PX25 monaural SET’s!”

Yazaki-san has sent me Part 2 of the “Adventures in Real Sound with Yazaki-san: Alan-san’s GEC PX25 monaural SET’s!” article, and I am working it up now to post. 

Many thanks to Yazaki-san for taking time to tell us about his Adventures In Real Sound. I always enjoy reading his articles, and I know you do as well!

Like always, Yazaki-san’s article is very enjoyable to read and full of fascinating insights. I hope to have it ready for you for the weekend, so stay tuned.

Ok, that’s it for now.

Thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 8:14 am
Nov 012018
 

My Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II Phono Preamplifier review is now live at Positive Feedback! You can read it HERE.

It has been a real pleasure writing this three part series about the Soundsmith Carmen Mk II (HERE), Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III (HERE), and the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II Phono Preamplifier.

Seldom do I run across such high-performance audio products at such an affordable price, and I must say it is very refreshing. 

Hint: I sent Peter Ledermann an email inquiring about purchasing the review samples, and if that isn’t the ultimate praise and recommendation I don’t know what is.

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

 Posted by at 5:02 pm
Oct 282018
 

I enjoy giving you a “sneak peek” into my Positive Feedback reviews before the full review gets published by ye ol’ editors Dave and David. 

I am in the process of writing up the final listening impressions of the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier review now, and I hope to have the full article done by next weekend and up and published at Positive Feedback.

Below is my “sneak peek” into the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono review for you, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Peter Ledermann is the Artisan Smithy of Sound, Part 3: The Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II Phono Preamplifier!

If you read Parts 1 and 2 of my Soundsmith review series in Positive Feedback Issue 98, where I wrote about the new Carmen Mk II (HERE) and new Zephyr Mk III (HERE) phonograph cartridges, you know that I found Peter Ledermann’s designs to be among the most musically satisfying phonograph cartridges I have ever listened to.

The new Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridge demonstrated desirable qualities in abundance by being relatively affordable ($1000 USD), having a naturally warm, dimensional, and musical balance, and with the added bonus of having a relatively high output so you don’t have to use an expensive step-up transformer with it to play music.

In fact, the Carmen Mk II was every bit as good both musically and sonically as my reference Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge combined with my Intact Audio custom step-up transformer at about one-fifth their combined cost.

The Carmen Mk II has become my go-to recommendation for those who want to enrich their musical life with a new high-performance phonograph cartridge that possesses both superb musical and sonic prowess without breaking the bank.

I was caught by surprise when the new Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III ($1500 USD) significantly humbled my favored Ortofon & Intact Audio SUT combo both musically & sonically, and at only about one-third their combined price, to deliver the most alluring live-like musical presentation I’ve ever heard from my Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

The new Zephyr Mk III is a truly remarkable cartridge, and let me encourage you to give a Zephyr Mk III a listen even if you’re thinking about spending $5000 to $10000 on a new phonograph cartridge. The new Zephyr Mk II is that good, and just think about how many new records you can get for your music library with the money you have left over.

The focus of this article is Peter Ledermann’s Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier. If you have been following the posts at my blog, you know I have been impressed with the MMP3 Mk II’s musical and sonic performance, that even when compared to the very musical vacuum tube phono preamplifiers that I use as references, the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier easily held its own.

Considering the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier’s excellent performance, its innovative and high-quality solid-state design, it’s a bargain at the budget friendly price of $800 USD.

Before I delve into the details of this excellent and affordable phono stage let me tell about the artisan smithy of sound who designed it, Peter Ledermann.

Peter Ledermann is the Soundsmith

I’d like to start by telling you about the fascinating smithy of sound, Peter Ledermann.

Peter opened Soundsmith as a repair center in 1969, at Audio Experts in White Plains, NY, and Peter has now been smithing sound for 47 years!

Since 1969, Peter has taught audio engineering and audio electronics service to students, has worked at RAM Audio in Danbury, CT (1973), was Director of Engineering for the Bozak Corporation in Norwalk, CT (1976), has worked at the IBM T.J. Watson research center think-tank (1980), and then in 1991 Peter left IBM to pursue Soundsmith full time.

After Peter established Soundsmith in 1969, Soundsmith evolved into a specialty repair and restoration center with a stellar reputation, servicing audio equipment from all over the world.

Peter has also been designing and building his own phonograph cartridges, and rebuilding all brands of cartridges, for more than 45 years now. Peter currently offers eighteen different Soundsmith phonograph cartridge models that are specifically designed to complement various audio enthusiasts’ tastes and system needs. If you have a specific or unique application in mind, I recommend you contact Peter and ask for advice, just as I did.

In addition to Peter’s Soundsmith line of phonograph cartridges, Soundsmith is also the world center of expertise related to B&O phonograph cartridges, and is licensed by B&O to manufacture their cartridge designs. Shown above is a photo of the Soundsmith SMMC2 (B&O) plugged into the Soundsmith 1/2” adapter, which allows its use on non-B&O tables as well as B&O tables. If you are a B&O aficionado, or just want to learn more about Soundsmith’s B&O phonograph cartridges and services, you can read more about them HERE.

Peter also offers phono preamplifiers (like the MMP3 Mk II which I’ll be telling you much more about in a few moments), various useful accessories, loudspeakers, Strain Gauge cartridge/preamplifier systems, and audio amplifiers, all which you can read more about at the links HERE.

The Soundsmith MMP4 Mk II, MMP3 Mk II, and MCP2 Mk II Phono Preamplifiers

Peter offers three Soundsmith phono preamplifiers to satisfy different audio system needs, the MMP4 Mk II ($600 USD) and MMP3 Mk II ($800 USD) that are for high and medium output phono cartridges (e.g. moving magnet or Soundsmith medium or high output cartridges), and the MCP2 Mk II ($1200) for low output phonograph cartridges (moving coil or Soundsmith low output phonograph cartridges).

The standard input loading for both the MMP4 Mk II and the MMP3 Mk II is 47k 100pF, but for those who would like to specify different loading options they are available upon request for a $100 up-charge.

The standard gain for the MMP4 Mk II and MMP3 Mk II is 43dB, but they can also be special ordered as a low gain version (34dB) for use with very high output phono cartridges (greater than 4.5mV).

The MMP4 Mk II is a low noise (-92dB) phono preamplifier suitable for most systems, and the MMP3 Mk II is an ultra-low noise (-93dB) phono preamplifier built with “high end audio grade components” for systems where ultra-low noise is desirable, as with my collection of very sensitive vintage Altec horn loudspeakers, for example.

The MCP2 Mk II phono preamplifier for moving coil (or other low output phonograph cartridges) features fully shielded internal step-up transformers for ultra-low noise and the lowest possible distortion, along with “ultra-grade audio grade components used throughout”.

The MCP2 Mk II phono preamplifier’s input loading is continuously variable between 10 Ohms to 5K Ohms via a variable resistance control knob on the top of the chassis, with a 220pF capacitive load, and a gain of 62dB.

For those who want to drive very long interconnects, there are an optional 50 Ohm versions of the MMP4 Mk II, MMP3 Mk II, and MCP2 Mk II available for an additional $300 USD.

Peter’s handmade preamp circuits for the MMP4 Mk II, MMP3 Mk II, and MCP2 Mk II are housed in aluminum chassis that are seven inches deep, one and half inches high, and four and a quarter inches wide, and are powered by an external DC “wall-wart” power supply.

I asked Peter if there was anything he would like to share about his phono preamplifier designs, and he told me the following:

“The MCP2 Mk II and MMP3 Mk II employ the finest circuitry available at very reasonable pricing. This includes our ultra-low distortion, high gain circuitry, featuring extremely low noise.”

“Passive circuit components are comprised of selected high-tolerance low-noise devices, as well as selected high-grade polystyrene capacitors for the critical RIAA filter components. We employ proper impedance driving circuitry and passive RIAA stages for a state-of-the-art result.”

“Low noise, low distortion, and excellent RIAA compliance, along with Soundsmith’s unique built-in rumble filter system that does not degrade signal integrity or performance in any way.”

“The MCP2 Mk II also employs Soundsmith’s designed and built fully-shielded step-up transformers as well as a top mounted user control for continuously variable loading from 10 Ohms to 5K Ohms. This allows the user “on the fly” perfect loading choices for use with any low output cartridge.”

If you are unsure which Soundsmith phono preamplifier would best suit your phono cartridge and overall system needs, I recommend that you ask Peter for advice, just as I did.

For example, in my various audio systems for this Soundsmith review series, I was going to be using the high output Soundsmith Carmen Mk II (2.12 mV) and Zephyr Mk III (2.4 mV) phonograph cartridges, and additionally, all four of the audio systems that I use for reviews are based on high-sensitivity loudspeaker systems which are more susceptible to noise than the usual lower sensitivity loudspeakers that abound in the market.

So, for this particular hifi equipment context, where I would be using high-output phonograph cartridges along with various high-sensitivity loudspeaker systems, Peter recommended the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II that is designed for medium to high output phono cartridges, and which also has ultra-low noise to complement the high-sensitivity loudspeakers systems I favor.

Review Systems

I did preliminary listening sessions with the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier in a several different systems to get broader insights into its musical & sonic performance, my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker-based audio system, as well as my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeaker-based audio-visual system.

In my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeaker-based audio system the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II compared very favorably with my classic vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier’s all vacuum tube phono preamplifier, where it sounded musically natural, emotionally engaging, and sonically excellent.

In my vintage Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeaker-based audio-visual system the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II also compared very favorably with my vacuum tube Leben RS30-EQ phono preamplifier, where it again sounded compellingly musically, emotionally engaging, and sonically excellent.

However, for this review my focus will be providing detailed impressions of the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier in a very special vintage system that is currently taking shape in my primary music listening room in preparation for the upcoming Duelund-Altec Project article for Positive Feedback.

The Duelund-Altec Project will be showcasing the new state-of-art Duelund Coherent Audio CAST tinned-copper capacitors, inductors, and resistors in custom crossovers for a very special pair of vintage Altec loudspeakers, which have now have been moved into my primary music listening room in place of my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.

Altec made these custom loudspeakers for conductor Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) for him to listen to music at home with while he lived in New York. The Stokowski Altec’s individual components suggest early Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, with 803B 16-Ohm bass drivers housed in modified 825 style bass horn cabinets, Altec 804A 16-Ohm compression drivers on Altec 511B horns, and Altec N-500-D crossovers.

The primary difference between Altec A7’s and the Stokowski Altec’s are the massive wooden cabinets the speakers were enclosed in to make them domestic-friendly from an appearance standpoint.

Eagle-eyed reader, Grant, also pointed out to me that the cabinets that enclose the Stokowski Altec’s provide substantial reinforcement for the 825 style bass horns. “For example, the Stokowski’s divider shelf between the two horn sections, which would be an 825’s top panel, acts as a massive cross-brace to the cabinet’s sidewalls. The rear of the cabinet is broken into three segmented panels with further cross-bracing for the sidewalls, whereas the 825 is a large single screw-mounted panel with no cross-bracing. And because the front panels are inset on the oversized sidewalls, they too are acting as bracing. The mounting panel for the 511B may also be acting as yet another cross-brace, but I can’t tell for sure from the photos (they do – Jeff). The rigidity of the Stokowski cabinet is probably off the charts compared to the 825.”

The production of Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers commenced in 1966, so these custom Altec speakers that were built for Dr. Stokowski would have preceded the commercial release of the Altec A7’s by at least a couple of years, as they were probably made during the period when their drivers were produced, 1961 to 1964.

Visitors to my listening room have been wowed by the sublime performance of these vintage Stokowski Altec’s, and about half of them have even preferred them to my hot-rodded Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers, which is sort of amazing, given the Westminster’s are very formidable loudspeakers in their own right.

The Stokowski Altec’s were placed into my primary music system where the West’s normally reside, using exactly the same mix of components that I’ve been listening to with the West’s.

Stokowski Altec’s in the listening room.

As a source in this system I use a Classic Turntable Company hot-rodded Garrard 301 in an Artisan Fidelity plinth, with an Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge mounted on a Woody SPU tonearm, stepped up with a bespoke Intact Audio dual mono SUT, and a Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III stereo phono cartridge mounted on a Thomas Schick tonearm.

The Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII / Woody SPU tonearm / Intact Audio dual mono SUT combination and Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III / Schick tonearm / Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II were connected with Duelund DCA20GA and DCA16GA interconnects, respectively, to a vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier (with Duelund CAST Sn-Cu caps in the cathode follower position), and Duelund DCA20GA interconnects connect the preamp to my hot-rodded vintage McIntosh MC30 monaural amplifiers. Duelund DCA12GA speaker cables connect the amplifiers to the Stokowski Altec loudspeakers.

Just a quick note about interconnects: I tried 3 different pairs of my favorite DIY-style interconnects that I use for reviews with the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier during the review period, the first being my DIY shielded Duelund DCA20GA interconnects with Switchcraft RCA’s, the second being Belden 8402 microphone cable interconnects with Switchcraft RCA’s, and the third a pair of shielded Duelund DCA16GA interconnects with Duelund RCA’s made for me by Chris at Parts ConneXion.

The Duelund DCA16GA interconnects with Duelund RCA’s made for me by Chris at Parts ConneXion turned out to be my favorites with the Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III cartridge and Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier, providing a naturally warm presentation, a high degree of transparency, an enchantingly vivid presence of instruments and vocals, a timbrally realistic presentation, and with superb overall balance of musicality & sonics.

Other system components include an Acoustic Revive RTP-6 Absolute NCF power distributor, connected to wall AC by the exotic new Acoustic Revive Absolute Power Cords (in for review), an Acoustic Revive RAS-14-TripleC NCF Power Conditioner (on the turntable), a pair of Acoustic Revive acoustic panels behind the Altec’s, and an Acoustic Revive RR-777 and RR-888 providing Schumann conditioning.

Listening Impressions

I’ll do my best to give you some useful impressions of the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier’s performance both musically and sonically, in the context of the Soundsmith Zephyr Mk III / Schick tonearm III / Soundsmith MMP3 phono preamplifier as compared to my reference SPU Classic GM MkII / Woody SPU tonearm / Intact Audio dual mono SUT / internal MX110Z vacuum tube phono preamplifier combination.

Musically speaking, I listened for how close the MMP3 phono preamplifier came to presenting recorded music realistically compared to live music, in terms of timbral realism (the unique ‘voices’ of instruments), the resolution of tone color (the ability to distinctly hear the chordal variations resulting from adding additional pitches to three tone triads), melody (the tune you ‘whistle while you work’), harmony (treble & bass accompaniments to the melody), rhythm (the steady beat that determines the tempo), tempo (speed), dynamics (variations in loudness), and loudness (the ability to play naturally at live-like levels appropriate to a piece of music).

In terms of audiophile-style sonics, I listened to how well the MMP3 Mk II performed in reproducing the non-musical artifacts of the recording process, like transparency (the ability to ‘see’ into the recording), resolution (the amount of perceived fine detail), soundstage (the ability to discern the three dimensions of the recorded space in width, height and depth), the soundspace (the ability to convey the acoustic sense of ‘space’ of the recording venue), and imaging (the ability to localize instruments & musicians on the soundstage).

Overall, the Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II phono preamplifier going through the Aux input of my MX110Z sounded very musically & sonically compelling.

Compared to the vintage vacuum tube phono stage of the McIntosh MX110Z, the solid-state Soundsmith MMP3 Mk II fared well, having a naturally warm & rich presentation that was superbly musical.

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Ok that’s it for now, and I’ll let you know when the full review goes live at Positive Feedback.

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

 Posted by at 8:15 am
Oct 202018
 

It’s always fun to hear from Yazaki-san, and he is staying as busy as ever with audio adventures!

Yazaki-san (center) visiting with friends.

In an email I just received from Yazaki-san he told me about how nicely a hot-rodded version of the Marantz Model 7 Replica turned out for Roy-san, and to complement his series “A Guest Article from Mr. Shirokazu Yazaki: “My Adventure With My Old Marantz Model 7” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) he is going to tell us all about it in another guest article – that’s great news!

Roy-san’s Marantz Model 7 Replica that was modified by Yazaki-san.

It might be a little while before we see Yazaki-san’s article about Roy-san’s modified Marantz Model 7 Replica, as Yazaki-san says he wants to finish up writing about Alan-san’s PX25 SETs and vintage Altec Corona 832A system first (introduced HERE) – all of which are something I look forward to reading!

In the mean time I thought I you would enjoy seeing a few photos of the Yazaki-san’s modifications to Roy-san’s Marantz Model 7 Replica – enjoy!

I see lots of premium components inside with Arizona Capacitors and SPEC ruby mica capacitors!

Is that Belden 8402 cabling I see? And lots of nice SPEC ruby mica capacitors!

More SPEC ruby mica capacitors and Arizona Capacitors!

In due time Yazaki-san will be telling us about the specifics of his modifications to Roy-san’s Marantz Model 7 Replica, and as Yazaki-san likes to say, “Please wait for it!”

I’m really looking forward to read what Yazaki-san has to say about Alan-san’s system and Roy-san’s Marantz Model 7 Replica, and I want to thank you Yazaki-san for telling us all about these exciting audio adventures!

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Update: Listening impressions from Roy-san on his Yazaki-san modified Marantz Model 7 Replica

“Dear Jeff,

First of all I want to thank you for introducing your readers to Yazaki-san! What a treasure! He is part of a small group of Japanese artisans such as Kondo, Yamada, Shindo and Sugano. Men whose passion for their work set new standards of performance.
 
The best way to convey my impressions is to simply describe the ‘Yazaki-san sound’ – the modified Marantz sounds remarkably similar to the SPEC equipment I use to drive my Quad 57 ESL.
 
The easy description is to say that the Yazaki-san sound combines the best attributes of both tube and solid state, but thats a little too simple. To me, the attributes are:
 
– the beauty of SET style tonality, harmonics and musicality without the overly warm, fuzzy glow that most SET have (a glow I find rather addicting but one that obfuscates a certain amount of both musical and phase nuance). In comparison, good SET and other tube equipment  tend to homogenize the sound slightly compared to Yazaki-san sound.
 
– lovely tonal coloration
 
– low inherent distortion. More SS like in presenting a clear view into the music. This often manifests itself as making the music more enjoyable regardless of the source. Like a SET it is highly ‘listenable’, but cleaner. Unlike SS the Yazaki-san sound has more palpable, round images. SS often tends to flatten individual performers while still maintaining reasonable depth(kind of like having rows of photographs of performers rather than the real thing.
 
–  Perhaps a bit ‘laid back’. Not so much ‘in your face’ as the latest/greatest from the big audio dreadnoughts (remember when Krell, ARC and Levinson were leaders in innovative sound?) I would venture to say that if you loved the sound of Levinson ML-2  or Kondo you would be quite pleased with SPEC/Yazaki-san sound.
 
– enormous, open and transparent sound stage. This is perhaps the first thing I noticed; I strive to optimize the quality of imaging in my system and all of Yazaki-san’ equipment produce a deep, exceptionally well delineated sound stage where one can easily detect the effects of multi-track/microphone recording effects. Unlike most equipment the soundstage depth does not truncate at the outer edges but goes as deep at the edges as in the middle.There is excellent transparency all the way to the back of the soundstage..better than i have ever heard. I think this speaks to very accurate phase response.
 
– a lovely flow to the music and excellent micro-dynamics. Again very SET like but minus the fuzzy warm bias. Frequency extremes are clear and pure relative to SET or other tube devices. 
 
I apologize if this is more of an overall impression on the Yazaki-san sound. Its just that the modified Marantz7 carries the same sonic signature as the marvelous SPEC amplifiers and RSP devices. It is a signature that i find very attractive and which leaves me content with the sound of my system. This is pretty rare in my 35 yrs in the audio hobby.
 
Just as many people love the Shindo sound or Kondo sound I love the Yazaki sound. Yazaki-san is a true student of musical reproduction and his love of music shows clearly in all of his products and modifications. 
 
I will add to these impressions soon – my tonearm wiring needs repair and the quality of my phono playback has been intermittent for awhile. I only discovered the wiring issue this past week. When my phono is back to full health I will try to add further impressions as heard from vinyl.
 
Thank you again Jeff for introducing Yazaki-san. He is a wonderful man with a good heart and musical soul.
 
Sincerely,
 
Roy” 

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Many thanks to Roy-san for sharing his listening impressions with us!

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

 Posted by at 6:43 am