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Catman's Analog Musings

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Phono stages based on discrete circuitry.

 

G'day all, this is an interesting one as tonight I'm listening with my Ortofon Super OM 10 (for a change), mated with my Rothwell Simplex phono stage, and to be honest, that combination sounds superb, totally uncompressed, free and fresh.  No it's not the Super OM 10 responsible for the sound quality, it is the Rothwell Simplex phono stage! 

 

The 'Simplex' is a circuit fully based on discrete transistors with not an op amp to be seen anywhere!  So are discrete transistor preamps inherently superior to op amp based ones?  Not necessarily as I have heard one or two lackluster sounding transistor based phono stages over the years, but for whatever reason the Rothwell Simplex sounds amazing!  I'd like to have a look at the circuit sometime if only it was available!  Regards, Felix.     

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2SK170 FETs can make a very nice sounding phono stage.

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1 hour ago, Batty said:

2SK170 FETs can make a very nice sounding phono stage.

Indeed!  :thumb:  I use them in my 'Muse' phono stage.

 

Andy

 

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1 hour ago, aussievintage said:

Little solid state valves.  Maybe you should try Nuvistors  170px-6DS4NuvistorVacuumTube.jpg

Why bother?

 

Andy

 

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5 hours ago, andyr said:

Indeed!  :thumb:  I use them in my 'Muse' phono stage.

 

Andy

 

I believe they are used in my Boozehound Labs Pre Pre. 2SK170 not Nuvistors.

 

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3 hours ago, aussievintage said:

Yeah just use opamps

Noooo, "just use JFETs"!   :P  (Opamps don't belong in the signal path of analogue components, IMO.  :) )

 

Andy

 

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Agreed.  Except for expediency, if you want good sound, a good phono preamp only needs a few of discrete components per channel.  I prefer to challenge myself to do it with valves though :)

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Phono stages that you can actually live with (long term).

 

G'day all, of all the many phono stages that I have I think that it is true to say that only one or two or three of them I can actually live with in the long term.  That will also depend on the cartridge of course but it is interesting how one's perception of any phono stage will change (often in a negative way), with passing time. 

 

The Rothwell Simplex that I've been listening too of late sounds great particularly with some material however comparing with other phono stages and others observations too, the RIAA equalisation may have a peak of sorts in the treble range somewhere and long term listening can start to grate a little. 

 

As it stands only my DIY ESP P06, Schiit Mani, ANT Kora 3T SE, and Bruce Heran design seem to get the long term listening balance close to right.  Curious isn't it?  Regards, Felix. 

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Audio prejudices.

 

G'day all, I have a feeling that I might have raised this subject before somewhere, but briefly mentioning my NAD PP1 in another thread recently prompted me to give it a listen today.  With the simple modifications that I've done to it to remove the high value input capacitors and optimise the input capacitance, it is actually a pretty pleasant sounding phono stage, yes a simple circuit complete with its full feedback design and its solitary NE5532, and whilst it may be as quite the excellent standard of the discrete component phono stages of the 70's and 80's before op amps 'took over', it is not too bad! 

 

So why the subject of 'audio prejudices'?  Simply because I'll admit to having some audio prejudices over the years without any real justification.

 

Whether it be appearance, build quality, past reputation or whatever, all these things can subtly bring on audio prejudices of various kinds!  I guess the 'proof of the pudding', should be in the listening!  Regards, Felix.     

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On 17/02/2018 at 7:33 PM, catman said:

Audio prejudices.

 

Whether it be appearance, build quality, past reputation or whatever, all these things can subtly bring on audio prejudices of various kinds!  I guess the 'proof of the pudding', should be in the listening!  Regards, Felix.     

Yes.....and don't "blind" yourself with the technology thats used either....

 

Tase.

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Organic/musical sounding phono stages.

 

G'day all, I know that this is an endless source of fascination for me....phono stages that in a sense 'sound like music'.  I have a few that mostly meet that definition, but the best of those is a phono stage that I've had now for quite a few years, my ANT Kora 3T SE all FET MM phono stage. 

 

It is a fascinating and very special design based entirely around field effect transistors using FET's not really designated as 'audio FET's', yet work so beautifully in this design!  Its sound has a dark/beguiling quality that just sounds incredibly organic and musical. 

 

Perhaps its design was mostly a 'fortunate accident', actually admitted to by its designer, but sometimes in life these things happen!  Listening to this phono stage invariably brings to mind the 'Concert Hall' experience.  Listening to it one realises how so many other fine sounding phono stages have a somewhat 'hard' sonic edge.  Curious but interesting.  Regards, Felix.       

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7 hours ago, catman said:

Organic/musical sounding phono stages.

 

G'day all, I know that this is an endless source of fascination for me....phono stages that in a sense 'sound like music'.  I have a few that mostly meet that definition, but the best of those is a phono stage that I've had now for quite a few years, my ANT Kora 3T SE all FET MM phono stage. 

 

It is a fascinating and very special design based entirely around field effect transistors using FET's not really designated as 'audio FET's', yet work so beautifully in this design!  Its sound has a dark/beguiling quality that just sounds incredibly organic and musical. 

 

Perhaps its design was mostly a 'fortunate accident', actually admitted to by its designer, but sometimes in life these things happen!  Listening to this phono stage invariably brings to mind the 'Concert Hall' experience.  Listening to it one realises how so many other fine sounding phono stages have a somewhat 'hard' sonic edge.  Curious but interesting.  Regards, Felix.       

 

I have 3 questions, Felix  :):

  1. What JFETs does it use?
  2. How much different (better?) is the "incredibly organic and musical" presentation with SLAs vs. the standard PSU?
  3. And yet you constantly sing the praises of your Rod Elliott phono stage (P06?)?

 

Andy

 

 

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G'day mate, please have a read of this article.  http://www.ant-audio.co.uk/Theory/Kora3T_Phono_Stage_circuits.pdf  The supplied (linear) DC plugpack sounds fine to me, but fully battery supply is good too.  The DIY ESP P06 is likewise superb but slightly less organic sounding.  Regards, Felix.     

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1 hour ago, catman said:

G'day mate, please have a read of this article.  http://www.ant-audio.co.uk/Theory/Kora3T_Phono_Stage_circuits.pdf  The supplied (linear) DC plugpack sounds fine to me, but fully battery supply is good too.  The DIY ESP P06 is likewise superb but slightly less organic sounding.  Regards, Felix.     

 

Thanks, Felix.  :thumb:  Alex's circuits:

  • certainly do use weird devices!
  • and are waaay more complicated than my 'Muse'.  :)

But when you say "The supplied (linear) DC plugpack" - shirley it is a switched mode DC plugpack?  (Because "plugpacks" are too small to contain a linear PS.)

 

Andy

 

Edited by andyr

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G'day mate, the supplied DC plugpack is 'not' switch mode!  It is transformer based along with filter capacitors and such.  Yes it is physically quite large!  Regards, Felix.

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8 minutes ago, catman said:

G'day mate, the supplied DC plugpack is 'not' switch mode!  It is transformer based along with filter capacitors and such.  Yes it is physically quite large!  Regards, Felix.

 

Aah, OK.  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

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Great sounding phono set ups for peanuts (well, almost). 

 

G'day all, just thinking about low cost phono set ups that sound great and it is interesting that in absolute terms these can sound every bit as satisfying as much more expensive components, especially the phono preamps.  I guess that it is almost assumed that DIY is the way to go here.

 

Two simple and easy to construct DIY phono stages that I can wholeheartedly recommend are the Elliott Sound Products P06 and the Bruce Heran one op amp design.  PC boards are available from ESP but not the case with the Bruce Heran design, but someone with even moderate building experience should have little trouble building either phono stage (for use with moving magnet phono cartridges).  Interestingly enough these two phono stages do sound subtly different with the Heran design having a 'hint' of lower bass warmth that actually sounds quite endearing.  The ESP P06 sounds more 'neutral' in a sense, but no less endearing.  Both are superb actually! 

 

Cartridge wise this is interesting as my present cartridge of choice is the Shure M97xE (body) with the N92E stylus, a combination that I think actually sounds much better than the OEM Shure N97xE stylus, in my opinion.  Yes I really think so, and believe that!  The turntable is your own choice, however these component recommendations work really well and sound great!  Regards, Felix. 

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My Schiit Mani.

 

G'day all, I've been giving this remarkable phono stage a bit of use over the last day or so, and it is in a word, 'remarkable'.  I can't believe how they do it for the price....MM and MC with such extraordinary sonic performance! 

 

It's 'sound' is practically the opposite of my nicer/gentler phono stages, with an sense of immediacy that makes even the most boring record sound fantastic.  It is hard not to be impressed by it!  It is apparently designed by Mike Moffat, a man who obviously knows what he is doing when it comes to top notch audio gear, yet I believe that he is more at home with digital audio, yet the Schiit Mani sounds so good.  I guess that there should be some mysteries in this world!  Regards, Felix.        

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Phono stage 'upgradititis'.  Just a waste of time and money?

 

G'day all, the other night in trying to clean out this Ham Radio shack, I gathered a few of my unused commercially made phono stages and stacked them in above the other.  It was quite a tall stack, six of them!  I then quickly calculated just how much money they all cost me in purchasing them.  Quite a bit actually! 

 

I then played a record using my beloved DIY ESP P06 phono stage, which sounds superb and I asked myself just why I had spend so much money on commercially made phono stages?!  There are a few other lurking around the place too.  So why have I bought so many?  Mmmmm.  Regards, Felix.        

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Guest Muon N'

Maybe It's better to spend the lot on one higher level product rather than 6 more budget type ones?

 

Just how my thinking works, Felix.......and i understand the difficulty in saving on a limited fixed income.

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Guest Muon N'

Felix, maybe sell off the stages you don't use and invest that elsewhere in the system?

 

Just a thought.

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I'm not sure that all these phono stages have been "a waste of time and money" for you Felix.  I have noted that you have gained much pleasure (and knowledge) of exploring different phono stage designs and the implications of those designs for the resultant sound quality, and compatibility with different cart's, etc.  They have contributed to your expertise, and helped confirm the sound you appreciate in a phono stage (eg.  the Elliot or Heran designs).  In this regard, they appear to have been good investments for you (and for us with the sharing of your insights).

 

Having served this purpose, they may not be of much use to you now.  You might be ready to pass them on, but it's up to you if you want to keep them.  But I'm sure if someone told you that they had a few "quality" phono stages they didn't want and you were welcome to have them - to evaluate, modify or whatever - I would be guessing that you would be quite excited to be able to do more comparisons. 

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G'day mate, it seems that I've had a bit of an epiphany with phono stages of late.  Perhaps this has followed on from recent changes in my life that have profoundly affected me emotionally, and probably permanently.  I certainly do have some truly sonically excellent phono stages in my possession now, bit in all honestly my old beloved DIY ESP P06 is still up there with the best of them.  At the very least all this has been quite educational and I guess that has been a good thing.  Regards, Felix.   

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