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catman

Catman's Analog Musings

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G'day all, yep I really think so!  In recent times I've tried using my favourite sounding RIAA  EQ network as used in the Bruce Heran/ Mimic single op amp design into a number of my DIY phono stages, and they are sound the same and wonderful, despite using different op amps! 

 

It is perhaps interesting that apparently the RIAA response of that network whilst quite accurate does have 'some' slight ripples, and despite these ripples, sounds truly wonderful.  In contrast, phono stages with truly accurate RIAA curves I've heard do not seem to sound anywhere as good and musically satisfying as this one, and that is truly interesting!  Regards, Felix.   

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G'day all, more phono stage 'musing'.  Today I was in here doing a bit of record listening whilst rotating phono stages and I noticed something a little interesting about my DIY ESP P06.  The ESP P06 was my first really top notch DIY phono stage, and it remains a personal favourite and whilst other phono stages may sound more euphonically pleasant, the P06 has 'something' about it quite special and today that quality was quite apparent and this may indeed may show up a possible limitation with simple op amp feedback designs. 

 

Listening to the P06 I became aware of how 'open' and uncompressed it sounded compared to op amp feedback circuit approaches.  It is a quite subtle effect, but noticeable and it certainly adds to the listening experience with a sense of 'openness' and sonic effortlessness.  In comparison, op amp feedback designs although 'good sounding', tend to have a subtle sense of 'compression', if that makes any sense! 

 

The P06 does use part passive/part active RIAA equalisation with passive treble RIAA which I suspect is the reason for this sound quality.  To be honest I have heard a similar kind of sound quality with phono stages using full passive RIAA equalisation.  My ANT Kora 3T SE has full passive RIAA  equalisation, and sounds very similar.  Interesting.  Regards, Felix.     

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Hi Felix,

I've noticed (and enjoyed) your passion for exploring phono stages in the search for vinyl perfection, and I've also noticed that your knowledge and technical ability is respected and admired here and on some other audio sites. 

So I'm curious - after hearing and looking at the insides more phono stages than most people know exist, have you ever tried to design your own phono stage to create the best that can be?

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G'day mate, thanks for your kind comments.  As for design, well no, as calculating the RIAA equalisation network accurately is heavy stuff involving heaps of mathematics and I simply don't have the ability! 

 

However in terms of general concept, I like the idea of either full passive equalisation or hybrid RIAA equalisation as used in the ESP P06, for optimum dynamic and transient performance.  Due attention to optimum cartridge loading is also of critical importance, and at least with moving magnet cartridges, capacitance loading. 

 

Op amps are fine, if used appropriately, but discrete devices have their merits, sometimes using devices not often though of as being suitable for high quality audio work, the ANT Kora 3T SE being a fine example. 

 

Power supply should be high general quality and low noise along with attention to signal 'headroom' and supply voltage.  The use of 9 v battery supply rails, either single ended or bipolar, although 'clean', are frequently insufficient for optimum signal headroom capability.  Phono preamp design is indeed a demanding application.  Regards, Felix. 

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Can you ignore record scratches and just enjoy the music?

 

G'day all, I've just been listening to an old pressing of John Williams guitar and whilst it is a good recording and pressing in general terms, it does have a 'few' scratches. 

 

I will freely admit that in the early days, any record scratch would drive me crazy, but these days not so much.  I guess that I have learned to effectively ignore the scratches, and just enjoy the music.  It would be nice to not have 'any' scratches but I guess that in the real world...  Regards, Felix. 

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1 hour ago, catman said:

Can you ignore record scratches and just enjoy the music?

 

 

Simply, no! Well I can't anyway:D. I can handle the occasional crackle and pop, in fact on some 'mintish' LP's I welcome the crackle that reminds me, while I drift away with the sonic brilliance, that what I'm hearing is vinyl and it makes me smile:).......but in the case of a scratch that ticks like a dripping tap every 1.8 seconds, no. Drives me crazy......:wacko::P

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I'm with Stevoz on that one. Pops and clicks distract from the music

Sent from my Redmi Pro using Tapatalk

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4 minutes ago, MattyW said:

clicks distract from the music

  Unless you're a DJ.

 

:D

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Different phono stages:  do they mostly sound 'very similar'?

 

G'day all, borrowing from a thread on another audio forum, this is actually a very interesting subject, as having 'more than a few' high quality phono stages myself, all operational, I find myself mostly in agreement with the thread title/question....with caveats. 

 

It is a fact that phono stages all nominally do the same job and 'should' sound very similar all things being equal, however I will admit that I do have my 'favourites' for reasons that may be slightly difficult to qualify/quantify.  Even slight variation from the standard RIAA curve may actually sound quite 'agreeable'. 

 

One very interesting point that I completely agree with on the other forum thread is the effect of 'suboptimum loading', especially capacitance loading with moving magnet cartridges.  This is a fact, and a very recent incident has once again proven the truth of that to me! 

 

Of the phono stages that I regard my best, other sonic factors apart from the precise RIAA equalisation predominate, but things do get very blurry here.  I think the word 'subtle' best describes these sonic differences.  Regards, Felix.     

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G'day all, my apparently insatiable desire for different phono preamps has kind of burnt me out of late and I'm thinking of a 'single' desert island type of system that I would be happy with without any further changes.  With my unfortunate track record, at least when it comes to phono stages, that wouldn't be an easy task I guess. 

 

However after all this time and evaluating different phono stages, my favourite DIY ESP P06 of many years still ranks very highly along with my beloved Shure M97xE, so at least those two components have probably been decided!  Is my elusive search for record playback perfection on a reasonable budget all in vain?  Probably! :) Regards, Felix.            

Edited by catman
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Felix,

 

I am wondering how I might determine the capacitance loading of the built-in MM phono stage in my NAD C388? I can't seem to find any info about it, and am interested to know if this is something I can look at in improving the performance of a Rega cartridge?

 

Thanks

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G'day mate, I'm slightly guessing, but based on current day standard NAD practice, I'd say, very likely a value of around 200 picofarads at 47 k.  Regards, Felix.   

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Thanks. In your experience of all things Phono pre amplification, what would be a good DIY option to look at, hopefully able to compete with manufactured stages in the ~700-1000 range? or better.

 

And what does it take to build one effectively?

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6 hours ago, Gijo1977 said:

Thanks. In your experience of all things Phono pre amplification, what would be a good DIY option to look at, hopefully able to compete with manufactured stages in the ~700-1000 range? or better.

 

And what does it take to build one effectively?

Taking bets on the Akitika! 2 to 1 ;)........sorry Felix.:D:thumb:

Edited by stevoz

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G'day all, actually I had completely forgotten about the Akitika, to my complete shame!  Yes that one, and the ESP P06 and the Bruce Heran simple one  op amp design.  All three are superb!  Regards, Felix.   

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+1 for the Akitika, great phono stage.

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11 hours ago, catman said:

G'day all, actually I had completely forgotten about the Akitika, to my complete shame!  Yes that one, and the ESP P06 and the Bruce Heran simple one  op amp design.  All three are superb!  Regards, Felix.   

Just checked out their website and it looks way above my amateur skill level. Great value for someone with the right skill level. @rx7rotary one for you to have a look at. 

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G'day all, I have probably done this before but I thought it was time for another 'ranking' of my various phono stages in the light of recent purchases.  At the top and equal, are my DIY ESP P06 (superb dynamics and transient response and spacious soundstage), DIY Akitita 'Phono Z', various DIY versions of my Bruce Heran single op amp phono stage, and my Rothwell Audio Products 'Simplex' phono stage, (particularly good with electric guitar for some reason), ANT Kora 3T SE all FET phono stage, (very 'organic' sounding) and finally the rather excellent Lucid Labs 'Catalyst' phono stage....very ESP P06 like sound signature, and generally very high quality and build quality in absolute terms.  All of these phono stages are subtly different sound wise and low noise, but all excellent!  They are all for 'typical' MM cartridges of normal/'high' output. 

 

At number two and 'almost' with the others is the very inexpensive TCC TC-750, all up pretty good as 'stock', but 'improvable' with a few relatively simple circuit modifications.  For the low price, it is actually recommended for Audiophiles on a restricted budget!  Lastly lowest on my list, my most recent purchase is the NAD PP2e MM/MC phono stage.  This is a 'curious' phono stage as it definitely sounds 'voiced' to me, possibly designed to make records sound 'warm'.  Apparently it is a very popular phono stage and one well regarded audio store tells me it is a very popular sale item.  Maybe so, but to my ears it was a slight disappointment overall mainly because of the way it sounds voiced to me, but others may love it!  Regards, Felix.      

Edited by catman
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On 18/03/2017 at 5:53 PM, catman said:

At the top and equal, are my DIY ESP P06 (superb dynamics and transient response and spacious soundstage)

 

I agree with all of your comments regarding the ESP P06. I cannot fault it in any way. I also very much like how it has extremeley low noise levels (doesnt make any noise at all). I think it reproduces the signal from the phono cartridge in a very accurate and transparent way. It does not colour the sound in any way. I now understand why you have been so enthusiastic about it all these years. It just gets out of the way and lets me hear the music.

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G'day all, playing Dire Straits 'Love Over Gold' tonight and initially I was using my Shure M97xE and DIY Bruce Heran single op amp phono stage, a combination that sounds 'nice' with many of my records but tonight it almost sounded too laid back with 'Love Over Gold', so I plugged my DIY ESP P06 back in line and....yes, that's more like it.  Is there any phono cartridge/phono stage combination that sounds great with 'every' record?  Probably not! :unsure:  Regards, Felix. 

Edited by catman
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G'day all, just thinking out loud in a sense, (yes I'm frequently guilty of that....I know).  Playing a bit of Hendrix this arvo (Are You Experienced), and swapping phono stages along the way, it is apparent that apart from anything else, some phono stages do seem to convey a sense of 'excitement' in a very inherent sort of way which seems to be not related to for example, cartridge loading or the accuracy of the RIAA curve. 

 

Out of all my large collection of phono stages, some do convey this sense of excitement very well and others don't, and compared to those that sound exciting the others sound dull/boring, relatively speaking.  Well at least with Rock music, 'exciting' is definitely preferable!  Trying to relate this quality to real/live music, I'm not really sure what reflects the 'real world'....maybe neither, but 'exciting' is probably closer to reality!  I have to think about that one!  Regards, Felix.     

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Is there any phono cartridge/phono stage combination that sounds great with 'every' record?


The P06 sounds great to me!

Expecting every record to sound great is an unrealistic expectation.
A compilation record with 15 tracks per side won't sound good with any combination of equipment.

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Lies, Damned Lies and Specifications....Grrr!

 

G'day all, yes this is a bit of a hobby horse of mine but why can't manufacturers please tell us the real technical truth about their products?  This really gives me the pips!    Listening to my NAD PP2e this afternoon, and even mated with my Ortofon Super OM 10 (with no absence of highs with that phono cartridge), the PP2e sounds 'warm' and very likely rolled off in the treble.  I pretty well proved this by substituting it with several other phono stages that 'all' sounded brighter and restored the lost treble. 

 

I can see how some might 'enjoy' the 'warm' NAD PP2e 'sound' yet the official specs for the PP2e say 'RIAA accuracy is within .3 db'.  I doubt it!  My ears tell me that it is 'voiced' (apparently deliberately to reproduce the 'vinyl' sound), so why can't NAD please tell us the technical truth?  I know that NAD aren't the only audio equipment manufacturer guilty of being 'careless with the truth', but why please?  As John Lennon would say, 'all I want is the truth....just gimme some truth'.  Grrrrr.  Regards, Felix. 

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Power supplies, noise filtering and all that stuff. 

 

G'day all, as I mentioned in another thread yesterday, I was somewhat shocked by how effective a rudimentary low pass filter on a DC power supply could be at significantly reducing mains borne 'crud'.  My eyes have been 'opened' as it were. 

 

Yes in the past I have seen  the value in the battery powering of phono preamps, for example, however my most recent experience has proved to me that the mains supply is not necessary perfectly 'clean', and even basic filtering can improve the subjective quality of audio gear as a result. 

 

This is not that hard to believe as in the end any preamp or power amp is merely 'modulating' its power supply at an audio rate, and any uncorrected issues with the power supply will be evident on the output of the audio device.

 

Maybe a true and pure DC supply (batteries), is the only 'way to go'.  Interesting indeed!  Regards, Felix.       

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1 hour ago, catman said:

Power supplies, noise filtering and all that stuff. 

 

Maybe a true and pure DC supply (batteries), is the only 'way to go'.  Interesting indeed!  Regards, Felix.       

 

Even batteries have internal resistance etc, and can benefit from some capacitive bypassing at least.

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