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Winno

Steve's hi-fi adventures.

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Just out of curiosity, did you ever try keeping just the one system and using the Whise / Nakamichi's for HT as well?

The thought did occur to me but I really don't watch much tv or movie material. I prefer music.

Plus, this lets different family members enjoy different things at the same time.

Before this place, it was all combined and I was restricted to late night listening after everyone else had gone to bed.

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On the performance front, the CDQ has changed dramatically since new.

The system had a splashy and thin sound that I thought might have been a Nordost/Audiolab issue which lead me to advertise my Blue Heaven I/C for sale/swap.

After a couple of weeks though, the splash disappeared and things really became much more refined and musical to the point I don't miss my valve amplification any more.

I purchased an Audioquest Forest 0.7m optical cable to replace my Monster M350i analogue I/Cs. Big improvement in every respect even though the Forest is AQs cheapest optical.

I settled on running the analogue preamp section and use the Optimal Transient digital filtering.

The sound is sweet, neutral, detailed, and dynamic. I also run the bass drivers in the Dragons a little hotter than "flat" via their filter adjustment because I like to feel the bass.

I did wonder if I should have gone for an M-DAC and CDT instead because of the M-DAC's discrete output stage and my lessening use of cd but hey, I'm supposed to be simplifying right?

Anyway, I'm very happy with what I'm hearing and seeing so I may only upgrade my cables moving forward from here.

Here's more pics ('scuse the iPhone quality);

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I suffered a hit on my home theatre system y'day - my Canton sub has died and gone to subwoofer heaven.

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Over a few months, I found myself having to add more and more gain to the sub channel from my receiver. A couple of weeks ago, the sub just finally peetered out.

The receiver has been tested by a tech on his bench and i tested the sub on the end of my CDQ in the music room.

So, I'm now on the hunt for a sub. That $50 Focal in the classified this week would have been perfect.

I'll look around locally but a tight budget will be guiding me unfortunately.

Might step up to a 10" or 12" this time if I can. I'd prefer sealed but it seems most readily available (new and used) seem to be ported.

Has anyone played with putting a bung in a port to tame things?

Edited by Winno

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A little while ago, my father picked up an old Theta DSPre Gen II preamp from a mutual friend of ours. I knew this but didn't give it another thought really as I was very happy with my Audiolab 8200CDQ.

Anyway, I was down there visiting him in Maldon Vic. over Christmas and had plenty of time to read. What little is on the internet about this DAC/Pre spoke very highly of it (most info was on the Schiit blog by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat) so we came to an arrangement: I bring the Theta back to Brisbane to trial against the Audiolab, I sell which ever one loses, and Dad gets the cash.

He couldn't use this as he has a nice two-box valve pre and he is solidly analogue.

I would give it a go as I only use two digital sources (cd and streaming) and this unit has two digital inputs.

We wrapped it up and I brought it home as hand luggage (I was very lucky to get this on as such as it is 13.5kg and hand luggage limit is 7kg).

 

Some pics:

 

I looooove those toggle switches.

 

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Boards - Motorola and what looks like Texas Instruments chip-sets, and Mogami wiring which I want to rip out and redo with something much nicer. Each section is in its own Faraday cage too.

 

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You can tell these things were hand-made.

 

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Pots - the stepped volume pot is the highly desirable TKD carbon apparently

 

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And demo

 

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I warmed up the system with the Audiolab and it is sounding very nice - detailed, good stage width and depth, smooth, engaging, and detailed. It's easy to see why this unit received the awards and praise it did.

 

Switching to the Theta (feed was coax out of the Audiolab) and the differences were at first only subtle.

Over the next two hours though, this thing really opened up.

Transients have incredible attack with bass being full, deep, and very solid. The leading edge of hat and cymbal strikes was so delicate.

Violins showed real texture and were neutral yet sweet and very easy to listen to.

I have never found it so easy to follow any instrument of my choosing in complex passages of music.

The centre performer was cast in greater relief and the stage is now out beyond the placement of my speakers.

 

Now, the Audiolab is certainly no slouch by any means but the Theta, despite being 27 years old, positively lifted a veil and the performance of my Whise ESL's to the point where this will go down as the second listening epiphany of my audio years.

 

So, yes, the Audiolab is now in the Classifieds, and the wall shelf will be soon too as the Theta is a bit of a beast (size and mass).

 

 

 

 

Edited by Winno

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Great stuff.  Vintage gear is so cool. Its hilarious a DAC made in 1989 sounds so good in this era of tech marvels. The Theta DAC might sound even better with a few more hours plugged in.  I cant see what the DAC chips are? Any idea? They might be labelled AD18xx or PCMxx.

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5 minutes ago, Nada said:

Great stuff.  Vintage gear is so cool. Its hilarious a DAC made in 1989 sounds so good in this era of tech marvels. The Theta DAC might sound even better with a few more hours plugged in.  I cant see what the DAC chips are? Any idea? They might be labelled AD18xx or PCMxx.

 

I know, right!

I was a sceptic until I listened.

I sat there listening and shaking my head in disbelief on some tracks.

 

I can't tell from the pics which DAC chips they are but I may have read (and subsequently forgotten) somewhere what they use.

 

 

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The sound you describe with the Theta is the classic R2R signature. Looks like it has the AD1860 R2R:
 

Quote


 DS Pre Generation II and DS Pro Generation II, released in 1990. These products incorporated all-new digital and analog boards. The digital board utilized two 24 bit Motorola 56001 microprocessors running at 24 MHz which was a two-fold increase in computing power over the DS Pre. The analog board was upgraded to 18 bit Analog Devices AD 1860 DACs.

 

 

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A few days ago, I ordered some new digital signal cables - an Oyaide AS-808R V2 75 Ohm coaxial and an Oyaide d+ Neo Class S V2 USB cable.

I'm looking to buy a Singxer SU-1 USB-SPDIF converter in coming weeks to connect my coming laptop with my Theta DSPre Gen II preamp.

These cables will fulfill connection duties.

Y'day, I switched out my old Monster M550i analogue interconnect currently between my Audiolab CD player's coax digital out and the Theta for the new Oyaide coaxial and what a difference!

The Monster is good but the Oyaide is much cleaner up top and the space around performers and instruments is dramatically improved. The rear of the stage has also been pushed further away but I can hear more of what's going on there too.

I had no idea what to expect and switching back and forth yielded the same result each time.

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53 minutes ago, Winno said:

Y'day, I switched out my old Monster M550i analogue interconnect currently between my Audiolab CD player's coax digital out and the Theta for the new Oyaide coaxial and what a difference!

 

 

To be expected.  Cables designed for analogue audio will work for digital, but  probably not very well.

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2 hours ago, davewantsmoore said:

 

 

To be expected.  Cables designed for analogue audio will work for digital, but  probably not very well.

 

Cables designed for analog video can be excellent for digital audio....I'm using Audioquest VSD-1 (which is a slightly above entry level analog video cable) as a digital coax cable between the stereo digital source and DAC.

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12 hours ago, WhakPak said:

Cables designed for analog video can be excellent for digital audio.

 

No, this is terrible advice.

 

The VSD-1 is specifically designed for digital audio.

 

On the other hand....   If the cable is only designed for analog audio (and not digital), then you should not it expect it work work well (or perhaps at all).

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To quench my curiosity, because I bought it as an analog video cable, according to AQ it's designed for video and digital audio. Here it is, found in the composite video cable archive at AQ website:

 

http://www.audioquest.com/archives/interconnects/composite_video/vsd1.html

 

So the proof is in the pudding. I was happy with it for analog video, tried it for digital audio and found it to be also good for that. And all the time it was designed for both. So there must be some truth in the marketing. Proof of what I said above that cables designed for analog video can be good for digital audio (despite also being designed for digital audio, as it turns out).

 

People shooting at me from the hip again....lucky I'm not an easy target.

Edited by WhakPak

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13 minutes ago, davewantsmoore said:

 

No, this is terrible advice.

 

 

Well, the cable manufacturer agrees with me it seems....

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Just now, WhakPak said:

Well, the cable manufacturer agrees with me it seems....

 

Their cable is "designed for digital audio".

 

 

If it were not designed for digital audio (but only for analog audio) .... then it would have the right connector .... it would probably even "work" ... but not necessarily well (or at all).

 

The point is that not all cables with RCA connectors on them, are suitable for digital audio  (unless they are specifically designed for digital audio).

 

 

The reverse case is different.  All cables designed for digital audio, will be suitable for analog audio.

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And my point is, what I said at the outset is true, but you've had a crack at me for saying it. The thing is, I knew it to be true because I've owned this cable for years, and my advice was based on my experience with this cable.

 

So no point continuing to have cheap shots at me, saying I'm giving out terrible advice, when the advice I give is supported by a wealth of user experience, and as it now turns out, supported by the manufacturer.

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