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2019 StereoCoffee LDR Pre/Attenuator Kit

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This is tricky review because it is actually a product but it is a product for DIYers.

 

The newest 2019 StereoCoffee has reached the point where it has opened up the sound of my system with separation, life like reproduction of voices and instruments, venue ambience, dynamics and instrument/voice separation to a point that I didn’t think possible… simply, it sound’s pretty good!

 

Over the past 18 months I, plus a few others have had the opportunity to audition most of the SC upgrades during that time and a/b test them directly with the previous version. I'm other customers will agree that the improvements are NOT in their imagination as some seem to suggest.

 

The first version I tried had 3 boards and appeared to be a work in progress because of all the upgrades I tested over 18 months.

 

The latest version only had two boards which are much simpler to connect. The brand new custom made boards are all hand wired to order by Chris and it takes almost a full day to solder, calibrate and test the boards. I reckon $250 is a bargain.

 

The original boards had what I thought exemplary performance but Chris kept producing upgrades, all of which improved performance noticeably and in the last 3 cases, dramatically.

 

I’m not capable of putting the experience into words, but a couple of knowledgable people have said. “If I listened in a dark room, I could believe their were ghostly voices around me.” Another was impressed by the "giant sound stage which envelopes the whole room with instruments".

 

Based on my experiences, listening to high end gear at audio club meets, I thought the performance of StereoCoffee had reached a point where it brought my modest system a level which sounded just as good to me or even better in my own listening space. I didn’t think it could be improved.

 

But no! I was wrong (again). My expectations were way too low which has been proven to me with the release of the latest and (perhaps) final board.

 

Some how, this new power/control board is able to dig so much deeper into my music than I have ever heard to the point where my logic tells me this is not possible.

 

In photographic terms it is like enlarging a super high resolution image that remains super sharp and shows even more detail as the size increases. In other words there is now audible detail within detail without resorting to digital enhancement.

 

The purity of sound and absence of any audible distortion is very noticeable on my DIY hybrid ESL Mini Panels and Hypex nCore amp.

 

There have been several USA nameless vocal detractors and one Aussie on DIY Audio Forum who have joined forces deliberately trying to discredit and humiliate Chris. It has recently been closed by DIY Forum Moderator. 

 

These unidentified ‘qualified’ engineers who have never seen or heard a StereoCoffee are calling performance improvements in the new one ‘snake oil’ and accusing Chris of ’ripping off customers’.

 

All they have proven to me is that Chris has achieved something they are incapable of understanding through lack of research into how the performance of LDR’s change under various operating conditions. and StereoCoffee customers are reaping the benefits.

 

Electronic development is changing fast and any LDR preamp manufacturer who claims performance of the original design can’t be improved or can't see the effect new D Class amps will have on the audio industry, must have their head buried in the sand.

 

DISCLAIMER: I don't work for Chris, I am a happy customer who keeps getting happier.

 

shelter3.jpg.cd9e499b3bedc78767c792597814c3ee.jpg

Hammond enclosure with waxed Mango front panel held in place by pot and switch to hide panel bolts

2018stereo-coffee-kit.jpg.ac7854c36262a7ec9ad9a8617c35010e.jpg

Late 2018/2019 kit comes with two boards and newly designed power/control board can be powered by 12v AC or 15-18v DC wall packs.

 

medium2018-SC-diagram.jpg.7d6af7d04d65caf337f26a16202489e3.jpg

 

1672713689_SC2018SCInsideFront.jpg.c2d8e720ff66ad6ec318a9ee74c34671.jpg

Small board at front is to isolate LED indicator from the main power supply.

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definitely a lot neater than the “2016” board i got from him.



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Hello Friends,

I recently acquired stereo coffee ldr, mine is an older version than the current one. i like the sound but found out the loudness is too low. I have a low 3.5 set amp. And i am thinking to adding some gain to the preamp to compensate... Any ideas for a tube buffer or such? Will they mate well with this LDR?  

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I haven't heard the earlier versions, but I am extremely happy with the latest version. Also would say Chris is very helpful and patient, answering all my questions very promptly, making the build very comfortable.

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On 22/01/2019 at 12:40 PM, rockymystic said:

Hello Friends,

I recently acquired stereo coffee ldr, mine is an older version than the current one. i like the sound but found out the loudness is too low. I have a low 3.5 set amp. And i am thinking to adding some gain to the preamp to compensate... Any ideas for a tube buffer or such? Will they mate well with this LDR?  

I would just contact Chris as he has a number of customers all with different systems and he tests them on a couple of different rigs.

The only time I had a problem with insufficient output was when I tried to use a lowish output cartridge with a phone preamp. Level was ok but I would have liked to have more gain instead have being almost full on.

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I have had Chris's LDR pre amp for well over 2 years and I have had 2 board chages in that time and every time I think it cannot get any better he proves me wrong

Chris is a genius and a true gentleman in every sense

I exchanged emails with him last week and he has confirmed that again there are improvments and im shipping my pre next week to him for the new modifications

To those who try and discredit chris, unless you have heard his LDR then dont comment

I have had over the last 20years nearly all the top pre amps from manufacturers including Mark Levinson, Esoteric, McIntosh etc etc and dont get me wrong they are all phenomenal pre amps but no of them has had everything perfectly right, some excell with timing, timbre, soundstage etc

Chris LDR pre on the other hand has everything, zero colour, perfect imaging, spot on timbre and timing and it just sounds so natural

For those that doubt this, try it!

The price of Chris LDR is extremely cheap compared to other manufacturers pre amps

Oh and a side note if you are not happy then you can most probably sell it on for the price you paid anyways, as there is gereally a waiting list for Chris to build one,

bear that in mind because someone will snap it up if you don't like it, some people that just cannot wait lol

I know people are thinking maybe Im just judging by my own ears!

I am very lucky have many audiophile friends with great systems that are astounded by the clarity and dynamics of Chris's LDR

Guys if your on the fence trying to decide whether its that good, it is [emoji16]

Give it a go, what do you have to lose, buy a preamp that will seriously end your journey of trying to find that golden elusive pre amplifier that has everything

Well done Chris and dont worry what the sceptics say, there are many of us out here that know the truth

Cheers

A very happy LDR pe amp owner

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I've had my StereoCoffee built for a few months now, but I've been trying out different internal cables (cat5, 26g & 24g headphone cable, Klotz MY206.  I've settled on the Klotz MY206 microphone cable.  Very nice :)

 

The pre sounds very natural & well balanced across the audio spectrum.  Clear, punchy bass,  great midrange and treble.  Great dynamics, sound staging and headroom.  You can now hear all the subtle nuances in the music.  I love hearing the detail within the reverb in certain songs.  A great sounding pre.

 

IMG_20190527_101042821.jpg.d373cedd05f10b528b6031ea57da6e89.jpgIMG_20190527_101052325.jpg.ce2fb1d790dfb4ad7edab29f95455964.jpgIMG_20190527_101111957.jpg.b402f379458045a3115021b846403010.jpg

 

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Stereo Coffee Aug 2019 (2 x PCB, 12VAC) Version – Review 

There is only one word that accurately describes the August 2019 version of the Stereo Coffee and that is SUPERB.
 
It’s not good, it’s not very good, it’s not excellent, it is SUPERB.

There is no doubt about it, the Stereo Coffee is a break-through product based on deep technical and innovative knowledge and thinking outside the box.

In the middle of 2018 I built the April 2018 Stereo Coffee (3 x PCB, 15VDC) version. I found it to be very significantly better than my PS Audio 4.6 preamp and another LDR preamp. Another significant advantage for me is that the Stereo Coffee is flexible and convenient because it offers three separate switchable inputs eg. CD, Turntable, FM Tuner etc.. 

In early August 2019 I built the August 2018 Stereo Coffee (2 x PCB, 12VAC) version because I was building a separate stereo system and I want to use a Remote Volume Control which Chris had implemented for this version and I was interested to see the outcome of Chris’s implementation of timing techniques, and new techniques to further reduce interference before it reaches the amplifier/s and new techniques to regulate and monitor current. And I also wanted to see the effects of switching the power supply from 15VDCto 12VAC.

Upon finishing the August 2019 build I found it to be very significantly better than my April 2018 version. I was quite surprised by this because the April 2018 version is very good and I found it hard to believe that it could be improved upon, let alone improved upon so significantly.
  
My review of the August 2019 Stereo Coffee is based on listening to a wide range of musical styles ranging from orchestra, jazz, rock and alternative etc. My favourite CD for comparing components is the excellent  “La Revancha del Tango” (an XL Recording) by the French/International group Gotan Project. This CD is an excellent recording with a wide range of vocals and instruments which demand good bass, midrange  and treble reproduction. https://gotanproject.bandcamp.com/album/la-revancha-del-tango.

The August 2019 Stereo Coffee has a really excellent wide sound stage, stereo imaging, height, depth, separation between instruments and between vocals and instruments, realism, dynamics, rhythm. And it seems to have more bass than the April 2018 Version. But it’s good tight, fast, and realistic bass, not dominating nor flabby which is great. But that’s not all. What stands out are two things. Firstly is that it has a BIG sound. It’s hard to describe, but the closest analogy I can think of is that it sounds like you are in a small picture theatre with a very good stereo sound system! It’s a bit unnerving that such a BIG sound can come from two small printed circuit boards! The second stand out is again something I have not experienced before in that I can choose to tune in my ears and brain to the vocals and let the instruments be in the background or I can just as easily tune into the instruments and let the vocals be the background. It’s an amazing experience.

Every sound system responds differently to a change in a component of course due to a host of factors such as the source eg. CD player, turntable etc.. The type of cable between a CD a DAC eg. the type of digital coax, the type of optical cable, the type of DAC, the type of cable between the DAC and the Preamp, the cable between the Preamp and the amplifier/s, the type of amplifier/s, the cable between the amplifier/s and the speakers, the size, shape and furnishings of the room, the location of the speakers, the design of the speaker cross-overs, the quality of the cross-over components, the location of the listener, the volume the music is played at etc. etc. so the effect of the Stereo Coffee will vary from system to system to some degree. But in my system the 2019 Stereo Coffee is SUPERB. 

 

 

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On 27/05/2019 at 1:40 PM, BRM said:

I've had my StereoCoffee built for a few months now, but I've been trying out different internal cables (cat5, 26g & 24g headphone cable, Klotz MY206.  I've settled on the Klotz MY206 microphone cable.  Very nice :)

 

The pre sounds very natural & well balanced across the audio spectrum.  Clear, punchy bass,  great midrange and treble.  Great dynamics, sound staging and headroom.  You can now hear all the subtle nuances in the music.  I love hearing the detail within the reverb in certain songs.  A great sounding pre.

 

IMG_20190527_101042821.jpg.d373cedd05f10b528b6031ea57da6e89.jpgIMG_20190527_101052325.jpg.ce2fb1d790dfb4ad7edab29f95455964.jpgIMG_20190527_101111957.jpg.b402f379458045a3115021b846403010.jpg

 

Thats a great build! Much neater than mine in the same case.

Where did you manage to find that classy volume knob?

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Thanks Rob.  I purchased the volume knob off eBay (see link below).  The RCA input sockets are Rean NYS367 from x-on.  RCA output sockets are ETI Research FR-T07.  If I had the cash though, I'd make them all WBT-0210 Cu RCA sockets.

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/35x16x6mm-Silver-Tone-Solid-Aluminum-Hifi-Speaker-Radio-Volume-Knobs-CT/302098938227?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

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Hi,

 

I am one of the recent owners of the StereoCoffee LRD Preamplifier. I learned about this product from a colleague and friend, Anton, who is also into the audio hobby.

 

In the beginning I was not sure if about purchasing the kit from Chris, until I heard my friend's system.  It sounded really good! It was a good thing I was in search for a good preamp so I requested my friend to purchase for me and even assemble it.

 

Upon connecting it to my setup, the change was quite apparent and I was very, very happy. I wrote an email to Chris describing the music as alive and gave me goosebumps. The sound was so real the instruments were clearly defined, and the singer, oh my gosh, it was so real I can feel the texture of the voice. The only time I experienced this realism was when I listened to my long gone Mastersound Duventi SET amp and Cayin CDT-17a tube CDP combo.

 

Unlike the all-tube setup though, the noise floor with the LRD preamp was zero, totally black background. Which is probably why the music presentation is so present and alive. Considering it, the cost of my entire setup now including speakers and source is just a little bit within the combined cost of just the two items, the Duventi and the Cayin CDP, and I am getting the same performance. Imagine that!

 

I told myself this will be the last preamp that I will own and will not look for anything else. I am getting old in this hobby and I feel it is time to settle down and find the products that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  The StereoCoffee LRD Preamplifier is one of the chosen products for me. The other one is the pair MarkAudio floorstanders made by Anton.

 

Thank you Chris for always being helpful, never failing to answer emails and for the patience in accompanying me all the way. You're actually one of the big reasons why people love you preamp.

 

Cheers mate!

  

 

 

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I’ve really gotta get around to one of these.  Few other projects to knock off., then I’ll get into it.

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Hi Nolan.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris for the first time at Brisbane airport two weeks ago. We had a chance to chat for a couple of hours two weeks ago and I am now waiting for my new 2019 board to arrive.

 

My brain is still spinning from the amount of LDR development detail Chris generously shared with me. Interestingly, none of the upgrades have involved the signal side of the LDRs but are confined to the power/control board.

 

I believe he is supplying Prebuilt 3 Input StereoCoffees for non DIYers and also a remote volume control model. I'm sticking with my DIY version but if they are under $600 that sounds like a bargain to me, especially when you take into account a Hammond case, interconnects and power pack.

 

This will be my 10th upgrade so I will let you know how it sounds with my ER Audio hybrid ESLs and biamped Hypex nCores. This system reveals everything ...good and bad.

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I am one of many LDR attenuator fanatics who don't quite get how Chris has managed to take the sound of SC to such a high level without upgrading the LDR board.

 

His recent post in the DIY forum has helped me understand the basics of his approach and I'm looking forward to the follow ups. This is a MUST for owners and DIYers to read!

 

 

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I am not a technical person but managed put Chris’s marvelous creation in a box. I am enjoying the music from my system now as if I am listening to live music. The separation of instruments, vocal clarity and sound stage have been immensely improved. Thanks Chris. You patiently educated me during this journey. My next upgrade is the power supply. Here are a few photos. 

 

5465D76C-0BA0-435B-BB5C-559FBD65F901.jpeg

EE28F573-0C20-4877-958B-A2DE6A5021D2.jpeg

5393B454-E6BA-4BC8-8C38-D35F80D53BC5.jpeg

Edited by singleendedamp

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Great job!

 

You must have spent an enormous amount of time building  your case.

 

Looks like you have a couple of highly customised LDR boards  working away there.

 

I have great difficulty describing the sound I am experiencing because it seems to have reached a stage where the LDR attenuator takes no part and the sound comes directly from the source. Now I'm addicted to exploring different types of music after zillions of years listening to my favourite tracks. 

 

We are lucky to have Chris to educate us with our projects so willingly.

 

Cheers,

Rob

 

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Hi, I have a DAC with a lossless digital volume control. I can connect this directly to a power amplifier. Would I gain anything by placing an LDR preamplifier in the signal path? Would it somehow isolate my power amplifier from any nasties emanating from my DAC? Essentially, would I gain anything and if so, why? Many thanks. 

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12 hours ago, Peter350 said:

Hi, I have a DAC with a lossless digital volume control. I can connect this directly to a power amplifier. Would I gain anything by placing an LDR preamplifier in the signal path? Would it somehow isolate my power amplifier from any nasties emanating from my DAC? Essentially, would I gain anything and if so, why? Many thanks. 

Hi Hordur.

 

I have built several versions of an LDR attenuator designed in NZ and will admit I am totally biased and obsessed with LDR sound quality.

 

I had a similar query and asked Chris Daly whether using the integrated digital volume control in my Aries music server or my MacBook Pro would provide superior quality to the LDR I was in the process of building. I don't know why he didn't suggest I do a comparison for myself as I already had the equipment.

 

Chris, as I recall, explained that the DAC had a digitally controlled analog volume control, and that due to the conversion of digital to analog involving sampling the signal continuously in many volume steps, it couldn't approach the purity of the simple variable resistor within the LDR.

 

You really need to compare an LDR with your DAC and decide for yourself.  The thing I enjoy with my LDR is the smooth, detailed analog quality of the sound.

 

I notice you are in Wellington so Chris would probably be happy to provide a free loaner unit of his LDR, so you can make your own assessment without wasting any money.

 

Hope this helps. Good luck!

 

Cheers,

Rob
 

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3 minutes ago, robmid said:
Chris, as I recall, explained that the DAC had a digitally controlled analog volume control, and that due to the conversion of digital to analog involving sampling the signal continuously in many volume steps, it couldn't approach the purity of the simple variable resistor within the LDR.

That's really unusual and would have to be the exception today. The vast majority of DACs with volume control do the volume control in 32 bit space (192dB range) digitally before converting it to an analogue signal. There'd be no loss at all with such an approach compared to putting anything else in the signal path.

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Hi, I have a DAC with a lossless digital volume control. I can connect this directly to a power amplifier. Would I gain anything by placing an LDR preamplifier in the signal path? Would it somehow isolate my power amplifier from any nasties emanating from my DAC? Essentially, would I gain anything and if so, why? Many thanks. 


no.

unless you have a analogue source (tuner, turntable) an LDr would be good for that.

computer software such as audirvana has digital volume control at 64bit. 64BIT!!!!!!

onkyo app on iphone can also do 64bit volume control.

32bit volume control is pretty good perfect channel balance, low noise, less cables, less boxes, etc
i’m using the topping D50 and i can’t tell if there is loss of quality even at -40dB.

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Many thanks for your replies. An audio buddy will be lending me an LDR preamp so I can have listen myself. I have heard it in his system and I found it to be amazing, clearly better than other preamps tested at the time.

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With respect to digital volume control, have a read, this is great material:

 

http://www.esstech.com/files/3014/4095/4308/digital-vs-analog-volume-control.pdf

 

"Exquisitely well designed analog volume controls can still beat even the very best internal digital volume controls if they have a lower noise floor than the DAC itself."

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On 31/10/2019 at 4:42 AM, Peter350 said:

Would I gain anything by placing an LDR preamplifier in the signal path?

In my previous reply I forgot to mention that Aries Lightning DS control settings and Aries user group recommend controlling volume externally for better quality by using the likes of a preamp rather than Lightning DS. 

 

Experimenting with the digital attenuation on my gear, I noticed a big tonal change while listening with the digital volume controls compared to LDR attenuation which I found more musical. The difference was most obvious when the firmware attenuation was disabled in Lightning DS.

 

I realise digital attenuation sports impressive figures, but to my ears, listening on an ESL/Hypex system the digital attenuation seemed to be lacking the essence of music that make LDRs so enjoyable and addictive.

 

In my opinion, you would gain something by replacing digital attenuation with LDR attenuation but results it will obviously differ depending on other equipment in the chain.

 

The only way to decide is to try the alternatives for yourself if you are able.

 

Cheers,

Rob

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Thanks for your thoughts, Rob, much appreciated. I had the chance to try an LDR preamp today. It was DIY with no labeling. I connected it this way and that way, moved the selector switch back and forth but always silence. I sadly took it back to the owner in who's system it fortunately worked. What was the problem? Turned out there was a headphone adapter stuck into a headphone socket and this muted the sound from my source, argh....

 

I will attempt this again tomorrow, fingers crossed. 

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Listening to the LDR preamp now. My first impressions are very favorable. It has a lovely presentation, very detailed yet relaxed and not in your face at all. It sounds very natural. Compared to connecting my dac directly to a power amp there seems to be an electronic haze that is somehow lifted. You would not notice that haze the way I have my system set up usually, but once the LDR is inserted in the chain it is clear to me that this haze was there, for whatever reason. Any downsides? My initial impression is that there is slightly less slam and definition in the bass, but I am not sure. 

This is kind of the holy grail of audio, more detail while at the same time sounding less fatiguing. Not perfect of course, nothing is but it is quite remarkable.

Edited by Peter350

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