Increasing the Sum of Communciable Knowledge
Amongst Audio Enthusiasts

Thanks a lot guys!!! If anyone else would like to contribute please do so.... but no "XXXX sucks" please, cos' I don't want to get sued :) And when this gets big enough, I'll break it into different sections...

OK, I admit its getting very big (thanks to wonderful contributions from fellow audio enthusiasts -- I'll organise it into proper sections soon...)

Dennis Goh's Passive Pre-amp Project
The Passive Preamp Project ----------------------------
I was itching to upgrade my Melos SHA1 preamp but couldn't decide what I should get so I decided to fool around with a passive preamp (PP) just to see if I can get an upgrade based on my usual criteria of "cheap & good". Was I in for a shocker! I didn't want to waste time building an elaborate PP only to find out it did not improve my sound so I..

1) Purchased a TKD conductive plastic pot ($70) and 4 gold plated, teflon insulated female RCAs
2) Connected up the pot and the RCAs with Kimber Kable hookup wires
3) Connected the dangling mess which I call the quadopus (4-legged octopus - that's what it looked like without a chassis) to my CD player and power amp and after 10 mins.. WOW!

The PP sounded better than my Melos SHA-1 preamp. The transparency was improved substantially. The biggest and most obvious improvements were the more natural timbres of instruments, airier highs and tighter bass but maybe less deep in the lowest octaves. Dynamics were comparable.

In the meantime my audio dealer buddy gave me a "dead" preamp to use as chassis but since it came with an ALPS Black Beauty pot that the highend magazines always rave about, I decided to do an A/B of 2 PPs, one with the ALPS and the other with the TKD. By the way, the ALPS pot cost about $35 compared to the TKD at $70 at local stores. No, you don't always get "cheap & good". The ALPS was obviously inferior sounding - veiled, rolled off highs and less dynamic.

So my conclusion was that pots make a BIG sonic difference and if they were out of the signal path I should get better results. So I rewired the TKD such that it is used only as a shunt to ground: I used a semi-good resistor (holco - sonic frontiers uses them in the volume control of their best preamps) to connect between the hot portion of the input RCAs and output RCA directly with no wires, the TKD pot was wired to the output RCA (hot) and shunted to ground. With this design, the signal now bypasses the pot (and its inferior conductive plastic rail) and only through the holco resistor and the pot controlled volume by controlling how much current was shunted to ground.

The sound? More of the sonic goodies that I heard earlier but the PP was now performing at a higher level on all fronts. I decided to do the same for the ALPS pot only to find that although it improved on its previous self, it still lagged behind the TKD pot using the same shunt design. SO, different pots still make a difference even when it is not in the direct signal path. My guess is that the pot still affects the signal because any variations in resistance from vibrations on the contact in the pot would change the signal passing to the power amp. The only improvement a shunt design had over the "traditional" connection method was lower distortion as the signal did not have to flow through the conductive plastic and the contact point in the pot.

I set out to eliminate that problem once and for all so I got rid of the pot altogether. I made some calculations on resistors to be used based on the specs of my CD player and power amp and connected a resistor between the input and output RCAs (hot only) and connected another resistor (different value) from the output RCA to ground (to bring the volume down to listening levels). I had created a "single level volume control" with the signal passing through only one semi-good resistor and no hookup wires.

I was not ready for the improvement it made over the shunt design (which was better than the 1st wdesign hich was better than the Melos). It was HUGE, BIG, AWESOME. It sounded like I had a new super high end CD player connected. The difference between this single level design over the shunt design was greater than the shunt design over the Melos (which was already significant). As I have used my Melos to A/B other pres in shops during my initial search for a better preamp, I can quite safely say that the improvement of the fixed level passive over the Melos was only MATCHED (not exceeded) by the best of the best preamps that I A/Bed - the CJ Premier 16 (mini-ART). I even had deep bass now. The extreme highs at first sounded bright to me but after listening closely, there was no grain, cymbals actually sounded like they did in real life! - bright and shimmering but with no grain, not smooth and pleasing (read veiled and rolled off) like most audiophiles like it.

The drawback - I have a volume control device with only one volume setting, which was fine with me because I'm the consistent type and listen mostly at the same volume, in any case I could use the CD player's volume control to make small adjustments which didn't seem to affect the sound quality as long as the adjustments were small.

In order to make the "potless" PP more usable in other setups I am planning on making another PP with switchable volumes and using Vishay resistors which cost 12 times more than the holcos. I will be using a very high quality, gold contact switcher to change the values which hopefully will not degrade the sound noticeably.

With the final method of using discrete resistors, I think I can overcome the single biggest problem with passive devices - impedance and level matching of the source and amplifier components ie. I can select the best combination of resistors to suit anybody's setup. They just need to tell me the output impedance and output voltage of their source, and the input impedance and sensitivity of their power amps - just 4 numbers. I will verify that my setup is not just a fluke by making one based on my friend's tube based setup and test that out in the weeks to come. Cheers

 


Robert talks about protecting your power outlets
If you have unused US 3-pin sockets in your power conditioner, you can protect them from dust by using the COVER of Konica flim casing plastic container. This round plastic cover fits the sockets perfectly and protects the openings against dust.

(YC: and you do know why you should try and keep your electrical connections dust free and clean as possible right? Not only to improve conductivity but because a large layer of dust could result in the dust becoming itself a conductor, albeit one of extremely high impedance/resistance [ok, i'm not sure whether its impedance or resistance])

Steven comments on the Audioprism line conditioner & Shakti Stone

I think I have to warn you about the Audioprism Foundation conditioners as it may not be suitable for use in Singapore. The detachable power cord supplied is only 1 m and horrendously thick.

Early this month (after several months of long wait) my friend and I were told by (claimed to be offical agent for Audioprism products) that the Audioprism Foundation 1 & Foundation 2 were available in . When we went to , the boss insisted that we could not test both the units. However, we strongly insisted and managed to test one of the sockets in the conditioners and fortunately both were OK. Nevertheless, we paid, though not exactly happy with the service, for both items. I bought the Foundation 2 (F2) and my friend bought the Foundation 1(F1). When my friend tried his F1 at home, he had a nasty electric shock when his components were plugged into his F1. He used a test pen on the conditioner and was shocked that it glowed brilliantly. He brought the unit to his office and again it behaved the same. He returned the F1 to the shop and exchanged for another unit and the same thing happened. He subsequently exchanged the F1 for other products after several unpleasant arguments with .

As for my Foundation 2, I was not exactly comforable to use the unit after hearing what my friend experience. When I used the F2 I get a slight static feel whenever I switched on the last unit of my components (ie after all components are powered on). The F2 cannot be used on a multisocket which is used for other power cord extension.This is because with the main switch still on and the F2 switch off, I had a temporary electcic shock when I touched my audio components, which are not powered on.This is very strange as the F2 was off. I off the main switch and on again and this phenomena disappeared. The dealer could not explain.

Now, I FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE LEAVING MY F2 ON ROUND-THE-CLOCK as I am worried for the safety of my family members.

I wrote to Audioprism and todate they could not give me a reply ON THE ELECTIC SHOCK. However, they advised that the dealer in Singapore should be Musicbox (Note: the above xxx was not Musicbox but another dealer).

Otherwise, the F2 is an excellent product: you will hear more solid bass, better soundstaging and more focus.

SHAKTI STONE
You'll hear more bass: that's all. My friends who auditioned it hear the same thing on the same system. I paid $180 (2nd hand)for it and still find it VERY EXPENSIVE.

YCs note: Company name deleted to protect them. Please note that the shop that sold him the Audioprism was not Musicbox. Musicbox are the authorised dealers so they should be OK (though they are also sticky about letting you test). Anyway, I think that for power conditioners, I'm going to mail order a Van Evers power conditioner. Mike Vans Evers will sell you a 230v version directly and absorb the postage cost to Singapore.

Mike Chua, a Singaporean studying in UK, reports from Liverpool : A Singaporean's perspective on the UK Hi-Fi scene

Just to give you some idea what it is like here in UK (Hi-Fi stuff that is) Well it might not be so accurate as i am staying in Liverpool, not exactly the richest region.

    UK HI-FI SCENE

Like most Hi-Fi enthusiasts i started this wonderfully addictive hobby by buying What Hi*Fi when i was in secondary school. Reading each article with the thought that it was written by real 'experts' whose opinion was an end to all opinions.

Gone are those days though. Now it is Stereophile, Hi Fi News & Record Review etc. Although it is good to read these articles from 'renowned' reviewers, ultimately the most important and vital reviewing equipments is YOUR EARS.

Anyway i can sum up the Hi Fi scene here in UK in just a few words: "What Hi*Fi" & "Richer Sounds".

Richer Sounds sells mass market and entry level components that are well rated in What Hi*Fi. The prices are quite reasonable too. But the thing is when they give a certain product so called 5 stars, people would go buy them WITHOUT auditioning! So the UK market is very What Hi*Fi influenced (i think it is the same back home right?).

The sales staff in UK are all very friendly and helpful. They would not mind us demoing their products. Once i demoed a few floor standers and Chord amplifiers and this guy just carried them to and from the demo room and even refused to let me help. Anyway i did not purchase any of the auditioned components in the end, that's after about 3 Hrs and he just said "No problem mate, just take all the time you need to think it over and please come again". Now if you did this little trick back home you would be getting something else! A few months later i recommended his shop to an english friend of mine and in the end he bought a pair of Proacs. So There.

As i have been to the 96 and 97 Midland Hi Fi Fair held in Manchester, i found that not much effort is being put into drawing the American manufacturers. So its quite an all British event. Still if you looked carefully one could see many of the exhibitors using Krells, Audioquest etc to partner their source and drive their speakers. That says a lot doesn't it?

This year i'm hoping to check out the Tag Mclarens (seen it but not heard it) Though i don't think they are going to be better than the original Audiolabs in terms of performance to price ratio.

As American products cost twice the price here, there is not many places which import them let alone display and demo them. So most of the Hi Fi stuff sold here are British. Most of the British made stuff are expensive in my opinion and you can get much better and cheaper alternatives. For example the highly awarded 5 star interconnect Cambridge Audio, Pacific, costing about 30 here sounds TERRIBLE and you can get a much superior Tara Labs Prism 22(in s'pore) for less. Have not compared it with Audioquest equivalents like Jade or Turquoise 2 but i'm very sure they will perform better.

Don't get me wrong, there are some very good British/Euro stuff that i have personally auditioned during my two years here like the Meridian 508.24, Linn Sondek LP12/Lingo, Michell Gyrodec & Orbe, Musical Fidelity X-A1, B&W CDM1 SE & Silver Signature, Proac Response 2.5, Audio Synthesis DAX2 etc.

ps opinions: Marantz's SEs' & KI sig.s' are way way over rated!
Most of UK cables are like 'Snake Oils' (refer to my cables article for an concurring opinion)
What Hi*Fi Star ratings are full of S**T


Note: Belden Cables section moved here.

 

New Capacitors by Tsung-Yang

  My system is a rather rojak combination. It consists of a Denon PMA-2000R amplifier, an old Technics tuner, Infinity Reference 40 (3-way) speakers(lousy I know), and a Sunfire Subwoofer. The Infinitys used to sound very horrible, i.e. too bright and sibilant and the bass was muddy. But I have been able to live with it after I modified them myself to my liking. I 'threw out' the original EMIT-R polycell tweeters and replaced them with tweeters from SEAS. I then changed the high pass capacitors in the crossovers to Solen capacitors. As for the bass, I took out the ferrite core inductor(which due to its laminated iron core, looks like a transformer!) and replaced it with an air core inductor. The result: the sibilance was gone(making my pop recordings more bearable), and the bass tightened up!


75 Ohm Resistor by Thomas Lin

Anyways, here's an inexpensive tweek you may want your readers to try out. If your CD player has an unused digital output, try installing a 75 ohm resistor in place. My Cambridge Audio CD6 has one with a BNC connector so I went to the local electronics supply store and bought a 75 ohm "F" type terminator and a F-to-BNC adapter for under $7.00 US. Not expecting much difference, my girlfriend and I sat down one late evening for a listening session. We both found the sound to be less grainy, smoother overall and with a darker background. Overall, it sounded more effortless and relaxed. All quite cliche but they were the best terms for describing our findings. If it doesn't work for your player, you're only out chump change.

Comments on the Chang Lightspeed 6400 by Foo H.Y.:

I found the Chang Lightspeed 6400 to be better the similar products from API if you intend to use it with your power amplifier. Isolation transformers on API and others are usually not large enough for power amplifier. They are not capable of supplying enough current during the peak demand of high power consuming devices. So usually you will need a separate power conditioner for the power amplifier (and that is costly).

Chang Lightspeed do not use isolation transformers. They use MOVs and some power stabilize circuits (I am not sure what's the working theory...probably commercial secrets). So it does not suffer the inherent defect of under-rated isolation transformers.

OK, here's my first impression. At first I thought there was no changes in sound when I first get the system plugged in. But after a few CDs only did I realize there is a darker and blacker background. I start to notice more ambient info. on the recordings, the sound stage seems to be bigger and wider, and every notes comes through cleaner and clearer then before. I believe the above effect is due to the lower of noise floor in the power supply. I will not say it's day and night that kind of difference but the difference (in my system) is large enough to justify the price tag.

On another way, I noticed the Chang didn't get in the way of supplying large current to the system, like the API powerwedge and MIT Z-center. The above two conditioner is good for source components but I believe their internal isolation transformers are too small for regular power amplifier.

Some comments by Hansen on his system compared to others he auditioned:

Some comments about other cd players:

Classe' CDP-1 (somewhat brash sounding, poor focus)
Classe' CDP-0.5 (smooth and sweet, but too slow and boring)
Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 (very good and subtle, but very expensive)
Theta Miles (smooth and warm but no power in the bass)
Krell KAV300cd (lean sounding, cold)

The DNA 1 deluxe is very musical. Yes it is also laidback sounding, or at least more laidback than the MPD, but less laidback than the 0.5. It is warmer and sweeter than the DNA 0.5 deluxe (better listen for yourself though, because I know some DNA 0.5 deluxe owners whose opinions are the exact opposite!) but the 0.5 deluxe has slightly better focus. (an advantage for more laidback sounding electronics) But all McMk amps sound the same to a degree.

This laidback sound is however a desirable factor in my case. Like you, I have a small room. I listen to the Concerto 6.5-7' away only, so any forwardness will dump the music right into my face! The laidback sound according to some people will detract from the overall pace n rhythm (the Malaysian reviewer in Audiofile & A/V seems to think this way, but the guy owns Thiel 22s w/c are poor in rhythm in my opinion! ) but I don't find this to be so in my case; in fact all the McMk amps are excellent when it comes to timing nuances.

Midrange is warm, (but not as creamy as Classe) and has excellent palpability & presence. Its is edge free, rounded and very very smooth.

Soundstaging is tops as SS amps go - though not particulary wide nor deep when compared to tubes. At least instruments are layered in 3D space - and not stacked on each other unlike many ss amps in the same price range.

Like all McCormacks - including the little MPD, bass is superb, it is a bit warm but very tight, fast, punchy and visceral. The 0.5 has more powerful bass than the MPD, the DNA 1 has more powerful bass than the 0.5; and the DNA 2, though I haven't heard it yet is said to significantly better the DNA 1 in this dept.

The combination of the McCormack MLD (passive) + DNA 1 deluxe when connected by a good interconnect like the WW Eclipse far surpasses the Krell KAV300i when it comes to musicality, transparency and soundstaging. The Krell is good but over-rated.

In another contrast, the Pass Aleph 3 is extremely gentle, sweet and even more transparent than any of the McCormacks, it has a purity and directness that sounds akin to SETs ... but it is anemic in the bass, lightweght, no power, no slam ... and ultimately boring for someone like me who listen to all kinds of music, including rock.

Classe' & Conrad Johnson SS amps are even sweeter, smoother and easy sounding than McCormacks but they are downbeat, and are poor choices for rock n roll.

I highly recommend McCormack if you listen to a wide range of music. They are not like other amps that excel on classical then flunk on rock, or vice versa. They are very well balanced, they do not prefer one type of music to another, they don't really excel in anything either but sounds very good all across the board with all types of music.

The DNA 1 was reviewed by RH on Stereophile 3/92, the DNA 1 deluxe again by RH on Stereophile 3/95, and DNA 0.5 by TJN 2/95, and DNA 0.5 deluxe by ST, 12/95. These reviews are very accurate and speaks the truth about McCormacks. The interview of RH w/ Steve McCormack is most insightful about his product philosophy and objectives, and highly recommended reading - if you are interested, you can send me your snail mail address and I'll happily mail a photocopies of these literature to you.

Note: He has since converted to tubes :)

Hi! Noticed that you have bought a pair of Nordost Blue Heavens. Being a Nordost user myself, I just wanted to e-mail my 2 cents about how they sound. I started out with Black Knight and I'm now using a pair of SPMs. As you move upwards within the range you will get a more natural and coherent sound. I discovered that 'true transperencey' is starts only with the Blue Heavens and above. All the cables below it tend to sweeten things a little, being more euphonic than transparent. However, contrary to popular opinion, upgrading to a better cable will not make your system 'overly-analytical' instead it will only make things better-Better timbres, transparency, detail, frequency response, timing and reduced grain. This extends to all your recordings not just to Audiophile Approved Labels. To cut things short, here's my round-up: Flatline Magic (Auditioned at Margil in 1995 apologies if my memory fails me) Compared this to an Audioquest Ruby 2. Sounded leaner, but with a wider soundstage. Black Knight (owned for 3 months) Throws a wider soundstage and opens up the sound. Smooth sound with quick transients for its price. Blue Angel Cooler sounding than the Black Knight (more neutral?) better detail resolution. Vocals sound lighter and less thick. Maybe slightly lean for solid state electronics. Solar Wind (5 min comparision in my friend's system) Designed to replace the Blue Angels. Sounds richer and warmer and more coherent. Better than the Blue Angels.IMO Blue Heaven (Entry level reference) A big jump in transparencey. Fast attack and good delineation of transients. Macrodynamics better resolved. Better/More natural sense of width and depth. Timbres are significantly more natural with greater fine detail. A slight sense of mid treble emphasis with some speakers. More powerful bass. Red Dawn Smooth! Grainless Presentation. Better transients and speed. Better sense of rhytm and pace. Leaner more resolving bass presentation, seems to go lower then the Blue Heavens. More natural timbres. High frequencies are lighter and airier with no sense of emphasis or glare. SPM Reference (Still running in) Even smoother than the Red Dawns, totally grainless mids and highs. Amazing transient attack. All harmonics emerge fully intact resulting in perfectly natural timbres. Bass is lithe and rhythmic with excellent detail. No flaws that I can think of. Things to note: Nordost should improve on their documentation/product literature. There is simply no sense in publishing cable specs when basic hook-up instructions are omitted! I feel that for the entire range below the SPM the cables should be connected with the directional arrows pointing TOWARDS the SOURCE. This results in a smoother sound with less grain in the highs. This is stated only on the boxes of the Blue Heaven and Red Dawn. I discovered this after using my Blue Angels for 2 years connected the wrong way. However the instructions for the SPM state that they should be connected conventionally and I haven't experimented with the contrary. Yours Truly, Chia Ti Yan BTW: Here's my updated system list. CAL Delta connected via Illuminati D-60 to Classe DAC-1 via Red Dawn NAD 402 Tuner via Blue Heaven to Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 via SPM Reference to VTL MB-225/MB300(when I get them back from servicing) via Symo LS5X to Apogee Centaurus Slant 6. Note: All other items have been traded in for the VTL MB-225 and MB-300.

Tubes

From Jonathan

I think anybody who is really serious about music, or play an instrument will choose valve gear over solid state. They are inherently more musical and can be the closest way reproduced music can approximate the 'live' experience. The only problem is that there is too much really bad valve gear around even name stuff - and these are often lauded in the press. Valve sound has come to be synonymous with warm, rolled-off, gentle sound, not raucous or uncouth - just smooth and friendly. This is not the case. Really well made amps will scare the pants off you, bring chills down your spine, completely amaze you, bother you with precise transparency and detail and teach you that 99% of hifi is useful for landfill.

There are several things to note about valve gear, and are of importance:

1. the topology ie single-ended (SE) vs pushpull (PP). Note we are now talking only Class A - by default, SE amps are Class A, but PP are not necessarily so.

SE is the closest recorded music is to the 'live' experience. Only SE amps are able to capture the fast low level detail and linearity that is in sound and music. SE amps have the ability to convey true harmonic space, capture the essence of the music. This is often difficult to listen for - perhaps the naturalness of the music is what is the best description. You will know after you have had an SE amp for a while and you are unable to listen to PP or solid state. Many people have tried to analyse this ('96 - good scientific articles in Sterophile about SE vs PP) - it may the euharmonic distortions, it may just be the very simple amplification steps without phase splitters etc. - whatever the reason, I am not sure that we can measure accurately the 'musical ability' of hifi gear and that what measures well is often not what is musical. The proof of any hifi is in the listening and SE amps just sound the best.

2. the types of tubes you use and the brand.

There is a reason why the Japanese pay thousands of dollars for NOS tubes like the Western Electric 300B. (NOS=New Old Stock ie unused tubes made in the olden days) You will find that every man and his dog has a favourite tube because each tube imparts their own sound. Personally, a really well designed SE amp will have no sound - that is be transparent and have no colourations inherent in the amp that gives a particular sound. However, there are particular attributes that certain valves have.

Basically, triodes have far less distortions than pentodes and tetrodes and if you are serious, is the only consideration. These are the common triodes-

The 300B is my favourite. It is very musical, gives a fantastic tonal colour to vocals and has the sole ability of all the triodes that I have heard to delineate tonal and harmonic space - that is that each instrument/vocalist has their own sound and space that influences the other instruments and sounds in that space. Mind boggling. Drawbacks - in single tube SE mode the max power is probably 7-9W per channel.

The 845 is probably the most transparent tube imparting little of its sound to the music. It however is a big valve (27-35W) and needs very expensive gear to drive them - ie 1200volts - All 845 amps are expensive because of this. If it is cheap, it is done badly.

The 211 is bright and glarey.

The 2A3 is reportedly the most linear and musical. It can only produce 2-3W so it can really only be used with horns.

Other tubes I like include the EL34 (this is used as a pentode in all Marshall guitar amps etc - nice rich melliflous sound). I currently have an push pull EL34 in triode mode at my place and is very nice. In fact, so nice, I may lay off building my 300B amp for a long time. It is PP but the distortions are such that I can more than happily live with them.

3. The build of the amp. This is probably the most important factor in good valve amps. I have heard crappy tubes in good amps that have sounded magical. I have also heard very expensive tubes in amps that sound boring. (eg KT66s in original QuadIIs that sound rich and warm but really nothing like the 'live' sound in transparency and distortions).

This factor alone is what makes choosing valve gear so interesting. Generally, good amps have good designs (note that a valve amp is so simple that everything matters - the way capacitors sit, the way cables run in the chassis - everything!)

Go to the Audio Note dealer and ask to listen to the Oto SE - IMHO the best budget amp money can buy. This is an pentode SE amp. (Even the press note that this is special - Sterophile in '97). Compare it even with your favourite amps, better still, compare it to amps like the much vaunted Myriads, Audiolab. Yet AudioNote's slightly more expensive Soro and Meishu (with 300Bs) sound like crap.

I haven't heard the Jadis - I'm not sure what it sounds like. But before you spend $$$ listen to the Oto. Do not be concerned about the power output. As long as your speakers are relatively easy to drive (ie not Aerius' like the idiots at Star Online used it with), you will be staggered. I have old Kefs rated at 86dB at 8ohms. I used the EL34 amp (rated at max 30W) with some Apogee Centaurs - these are actually horribly difficult speakers to drive - and they sounded much more dynamic and faster than a 275W Bryston 4B solid state.

This sounds like a plug for AudioNote. I am actually not a fan of any of their cheap gear apart from the Oto - but of all the affordable valve amps that I've heard, only the Oto has been good enough for me to actually want to buy it. It's got to the stage where I am actually building my own - the level of amps that I can achieve that way will be equivalent to several tens of thousands of dollars.

To summarise and answer your quesions:

    1. Only consider Class A amps (in fact even as solid state). They are much more musical and the power output is not directly comparable (ie I'd rate 30W valve Class A = 50W solid state Class A = 150W Class AB solid state in terms of dynamics, speed, ability to capture transients not to mention musicality etc)

    2. Well designed valve amps need little care. I just turn on my amp and leave it playing sometimes for 10-12 hours. The way the tubes have been biased have been for longevity at the expense of power rating. I should get 5 years life before I should start thinking about getting replacements. All tubes run hot - biasing involves the amount of current needed to heat the filaments. More current = hotter, less life but more available electrons to amplify the signal. Any tube in a well designed circuit should last 18-24 months before really needing replacement. Note that the brand matters. I've had chinese EL34s that have lasted only 9 months. But I've currently got Svetlana EL34s that have been in there for close to 36 months and are still sounding fast, tight and musical. Note that solid state stuff also have a life. Big expensive solid state monster amps that run hot (eg the Bryston) have caps that are massively loaded and these are probably more prone to death than good tubes in a good circuit.

    3. There is little time needed for maintenance if you have a good circuit with good tubes. You will however find that you won't have enough time to do stuff because you can't stop listening ;-)

In short, make the leap. Stop playing with toys and start getting into real hifi.

Albert speaks on the DIY hi-fi scene in Singapore:

There are also a few other DIYers in Singapore who are in the net. And as for the monoblocks, I spent about S$5000 on them. The high cost is mainly due to the good audio quality component used (not all, only a few). In fact, one can built that 300B monoblock with about S$1000 or less or he can easily spent up to S$100,000 depending on the quality of the components used. But always keep in mind that there is the theory of diminishing returns.

Generally, tube amps are not that difficult to make especially Direct Heated, No negative Feedback, Single Ended tube amps (some the terms used to classify tube amps). The circuitry is simple and requires very little components. However, unlike solid state amp, tube amps requires quality components as every component on the amp effect the sound. Once, I changed a resistor in my amp to another non audio brand. I was shock to discover the effect that resistor had on the amp!

The web is a good place to start DIYing. There are a lot of informative websites and very knowledgeable people with full of experience. And not forgetting all the audio 'gurus'.

While reading your article on cable recommendations, I've already fixed my mind on those AQ cables that Pertama offer with that "special price". I might even replace all the cables on my system with AQ cables. Frankly speaking, I have some power cables that are bigger than the garden hose cables. I would call them firehose cables (made from submarine cables). The sound quality..... horrible.

The Nordost Super Flatline cable is good for the highs but compromises the lows and lower mids. Their speaker cables can also be used as power cable.

Presently, I'm looking for a sub-woofer. I'm considering either the Rel-Strata II or a DIY one. What do you think?

And just to add on... , the configuration of the wire (braided or non braided, stranded or solid core, shielded or non shielded), directional and the list goes.

A tip for home cable brewers. The best metal for cable is still the silver wire (very expensive). Get three lengths of pure silver wire of various cross sectional area (eg. 20awg, 24awg and 28awg) from a goldsmith store or any shop. Thicker wires are better for bass and thinner wires for highs. Clean them, insulate them and braid those wires like those PBJ Kimber cables. Use good connectors. Result... wonderful cable. I haven't try it out yet, but from others experience, this cable would not dissapoint you.

If you know any source of pure silver wire in Singapore, please drop me an e-mail. Thanks :)

Power Cord Experiments by "The Very Excellent Chap :)" KH

I recently bought a used Denon PMA-880R integrated amp - 75 watts, true Class A, with remote control (!). The mistake I made was not auditioning it before buying it. Frankly, come to think of it, I am not even sure why the heck I picked it up........ oh well, anyway. Brought home the amp, plugged it in and blah! What a pathetic sound. I mean, it was totally bad! I can't quite remember having heard an amp that sounds so ludicrously bass heavy, and with a weirdly obscured vocal range. I was using a pair of Cardas Quadlink 5C interconnect at that time, which sounded reasonably bright when used to connect my Cambridge Audio CD-6 player and A3i amp.

Read somewhere on the web that using speaker cables as powercords sometimes make a dramatic diff in the sound. So I whipped out my soldering iron, removed the hardwired AC cord in the Denon, and replaced it with a short run of my old disused, cheap Sam Motion speaker cable (multistrand, 99.975% oxygen free copper, bought a roll at a home DIY store), and plugged the power back in.

Result?: The overwhelming bass went away, and the highs/mids/lows became much more 'normally' balanced and I suddenly could hear good details from my CD player (which as reviews go, is supposed to be a very detailed player at its price point). This is a dramatic difference due to a powercord switch. I have done A/B/A/B tests with the old cord (the back of the Denon allows for a convenient switch) and the difference is NOT subtle here.

The recessed vocals though was still there and could not be fixed without disabling the pure direct switch and fiddling with the treble control. This was fixed by replacing the Cardas interconnects with a pair of DH Labs Silver Sonics. Now I don't have use the treble control anymore. Vocals now occupy their properly pronounced position in the soundstage.

I figured, why not go built a similar powercord for the CD player and see what that will do. So I did. Result?: Well, the hiss that was noticeable in the previous set up disappeared completely with the 'new' powercord in place. Perceived detail increased a fair amount. The BIG 'BUT' is that the music now came across with fair less conviction and bite than with the OEM supplied powercord since the bass was killed quite a lot. Works good though for late night listening at low volumes with vocal pieces that have uncomplicated instrumental accompaniments - like Diana Krall songs. With pop stuff, the music is just too flat and liveless. Back goes the orig power cord. The change in the Denon powercord stays though.

Just thought I would share the results of this tweak with you ;-)

YC: This is so cool! I think I want to rewire my TV power cord too (its cheaper than my hi-fi components so it'll be good practice first :))

EQUIPMENT COMMENTS: READERS TALK ABOUT THEIR SYSTEM

Evan's Comments on the Marantz 63 KI-S vs Arcam 8:

Comparing between the arcam and them KI, staring from it's shell aesthetics wise and built quality i think both are really nothing to sream about. the ki does give you the added convenience of having buttons on the player for choosing the tracks and the remote control comes with volume control but coming to the crux of the matter i think the essential difference between the ki and the arcam is that the the KI is a fair bit brighter and faster. i generally listen to vocals more than anything else so i appreciated the warmer, richer sound that the Arcam produces. another thing to consider is that arcam players are designed to allow easy upgrading, ie the difference between arcam 8 and 8se is the dac and one can upgrade to the higher model simply by changing the dac. that's in theory cos i don't know if this can be done in singapore. well i've just started out in this audiophilia thing so this is from one beginner to another.

 

Pian's Comments. Cheap system (his own words), but very intelligent comments:

What i can say that my system is acceptable,for now!in fact even though Mine is the cheapest compare to many of my friends, this rig can still Kick ass.

The amp is very neutral, but one thing is its has good facilities such As a loop for an external processor and twin mains power out for two Other components(talk about savings on power cords).

The cd player is a budget cd player so you can expect a budget quality Sonic extract.but the transport is rather noisy though! The gales are good being awarded best buy by what hi-fi.but sadly, after Testing it with a test cd from stereophile, i found out it has a limited Dynamic range of 50-18k hz.but now i have a pair of bose model 100 to Compensate for lack of treble and guess what i found out.the bose has The most detail mid range compare to other budget floorstanders.serious, I am aint bullshitting.another reason i got the bose is because i need Two pair of speakers because of bad room accoustic.in the uk i live in a Student hall ,so you should understand my problem.one thing i learn from The bose is, if treble and mid range turns you on, go for a full range Driver.for refference to mid and treble i usually use `raiders of the Storm` by the doors.

Well some may `kutuk` me for using eq, but i realy need it to boost/cut Certain bad thrash recording.anyway, i can live with 0.02% thd.

The gale speaker cable is also neutral but the c.a interconnect is Quite limiting the treble.the tandy inter are good after i compare it With the the c,a and also with others such as qed and ixos.what i look For in cabling is neutrality. I dont really count on them for Manipulating sounds.that why i use the eq.

Recently i got a tuner, a sony st-s261. Which i got it cheap even though It got the what hi-fi 96 award.one thing i notice about malaysian is That they dont buy tuners.i say it is a good investment considering the Radio broadcast in malaysia is better than britain.i tell you, the Broadcast in the uk boring gila.

Right now i am thinking of getting a turn table.what would you recommend For a budget tt.but still i will have to consider this or getting a Better cd player.this is another story.

What prompt me to write to you is about your tweek section.regarding the Ferrite rings,the common misconception is that they are like Interconnect,they alter sound.this not true because what they do is That they keep the signal clean.the cable is an antenna and when it is Expose to r.f it will resonate to produce noise and the noise will Effect sound quite significantly.compare it to car stereo.if there is no Vibration supressor to guard it againts engine vibration,what you will Get is music+noise that mirror the engine vibration frequency.so that is The secret behind ferrite rings.but to me , there is no difference Between branded ferrite rings and the ones you can buy for $1 in a Electronic component shop.but beware , using ferrite rings take Intensive experiment.placement should be tried on power cords and Interconnect.speaker cables does not show any significant effect but Still you can try.also remember that there is an equilibrium.to little And you would not get a clean signal,to much and you will induce Distortion.

Ok thats all for now.any way ,i really like your site,betul, tak tipu,it Is really interesting and gave me alot of insight in to hifi because i Am just begun to appreciate good hi fi.

By the way, i listen to all kind of music except modern r+b.should Really check out the sountrack to bladerunner if you are into new Age,vangelist is good as always and the recording is just perfect.

But one sad thing is, now days more audiophile are deviating from music Appreciation towards equipment performance , dont you think?

Thanks for contributing guys! If any readers want to contact them, I'll forward any queries you have to them.