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04-19-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 1
Post ID: 25362
Reply to: 25362
Valve Preamplifier for Macondo/DSET
Hi Romy,

Just thinking out loud here, but I have been listening to my mono DSET/Macondo for quite a while now and recently changed back to my old acoustic system so that I could poke around in the DSET innards for a little while.  The old system (in stereo) seems incompetent in comparison to the mono DSET/Melquiades.  In particular I've really been appreciating the YO186 tube in the midrange horn, and although I have had a 45 in there for a little while the Stalin era Russian tube is really something special.  I remember reading on this site about your thoughts of getting some of the YO186 tubes traits as low in frequency as the Upperbass Channel, and from what I have heard I would tend to agree, or at least I think it may be worth trying. 

Also on my agenda is to build a valve based LCR phono and for the past few days I have been thinking about possibly going the whole hog and incorporating a valve preamplifier as well.  My current sources do not have the voltage output to directly drive my DSET/Macondo to satisfying volume so I am going to need some kind of preamplification, preferably with about x3 or maybe x4 amplification...the Placette will not work as a linestage alone.  Although not yet measured, the DSET will probably prove a complex and relatively low impedance load for a preamplifier so the pre will need a low output impedance, preferably 20R or less.  Difficult with valves but not impossible, especially if using an output transformer.

Which brings me to my current thought bubble...a low gain pre-amp with perhaps a YO186 as output tube, or even an interchangeable arrangement with both 2.5V and 4V tubes as is currently in the DSET, which would allow using perhaps a 45 in the pre and the YO186 in the DSET or vice versa.  There are certainly concerns about having too much of a good thing and messing with what the DSET is able to achieve in combination with Macondo,  but perhaps this may be a way of getting the YO186 traits into the entire frequency range, not just the upper mids.

I also have some memory about reading on here about you experimenting with valve preamplification in the early or pre-Melquiades days but being unable to find satisfaction.  Technically, I like the idea of good SS circuitry to handle the pre-amplification duties, and it seems as though Guy Hammels recent introduction of gain to your Placette Linestage has been successful, so that is an option also for my unit.  Shortly I will have a very good Class A SS Pre finished that has some gain and will use a high quality volume control, so perhaps it will make the Placette redundant.  But it would be nice to do it all with valves..


Regards,

Anthony 


04-20-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 25363
Reply to: 25362
Good luck with that ....:-)
Anthony, I know what you feel but I am no sure that I might be too useful for you quest. Let me to explain first the points you made. 
 
I do not know why Placette does not work in your situation. You do not have enough volume? If it is the case then you might have too low gains in your front end. All my front ends have very high gain: Bidat, Lavry, my phonostage, Passific use have it. The only in Video mode what I drive the things from Oppo then I have no volume and that brought me to new high gain active Placette modules. I do not know what frond end you have; it might be easy to add some gain you your current front end. If it is not discreet circuit in you front-end and has some kind of chip then my lowering a feedback you can always get 6-12db more. If it is not volume but you do not like the Placette sound then I would like to hear more details: what specific you do not like in it. I think I know very well this unit and I might be able to debug the problems. 
 
Now about the bigger fish to fry: to make another pream. Here is I feel a bit out of depth. I spent a LOT of time to look for great preamp and what I found Placette I did not try anything else. There is absolutely no reasons to say that Placette was the only one good preamp during my “active” period of my looking. I just reported among what I experienced but it was understandably limited. During the last 15 year that I had not been looking for any preams there was zillion other preams made and I have no idea what they are. Still for the configuration of a pram driving passive filters you need a current source with as low output impedance as possible. There is not a lot preamps out there that drive a lot of current with sub 20R impedance. Many contemporary oops preams will do but they not necessary sound acceptable. So, here we go… the game is open… 
 
If I do play the game of looking for an alternative to Placette preamps then I would look still for discreet SS units like Blowtorch and alike. The active Placette with gain is a controversial inot in my estimation. It is very good but I do feel a difference between the no gain Placette and the gain Placette. It is hard to explain the difference as it is not in realm of sound but rather is a realm of “efforts”.  I have not happy with any tube preams I have heard. 
 
Now we enter the realm of DIY: the idea of making you own preamp. I know absolutely nothing bout SS designs. I made one that was designed for me by a very strong person and it was an honorable nightmare sonically. My tube line stages also were not good but it means nothing, you can me luckier. I would certainly not consider YO186. It is a spectacular tube but very colored, particular in the under-power mode as it is being used in Milq. In the Milq specific application, driving S2 and operating in a very limited range I feel I get the best from YO186 and use the YO186 colorations creatively. I however feel that it is no way a wide range tube and any type 45 tube is WAY more accurate sounding. 
 
How to get low output impedance of out tubes. Yes, the OPT might help. Paralleling tube and trying the OTL mode might help. To use some low R rube like 6C33C as preamp out tube might be a very interesting direction to go. Another alternative would be to have a voltage gain with tube and to have output no gain SS buffer. There is many options out there but too little time to try all of it… I am not sure why I feel you need a tube preamp. It sounds to me that you need gain not a tube preamp. If you formulate your objective that you need a tube preamp then try to formulate for your why you feel you need tube preamp. The point I make is that any progression in audio navigation should start with formulating a proper question to yourself: 
 
http://www.goodsoundclub.com/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=432 
 
That is in my view helps to focus on what you need instead of what is possible out there. 
 
This is very interesting thread I  would like to see where it take you.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
04-20-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 3
Post ID: 25364
Reply to: 25363
Yes, it is about my sources
 Romy the Cat wrote:

 
I do not know why Placette does not work in your situation. You do not have enough volume? If it is the case then you might have too low gains in your front end. All my front ends have very high gain: Bidat, Lavry, my phonostage, Passific use have it. The only in Video mode what I drive the things from Oppo then I have no volume and that brought me to new high gain active Placette modules. I do not know what frond end you have; it might be easy to add some gain you your current front end. If it is not discreet circuit in you front-end and has some kind of chip then my lowering a feedback you can always get 6-12db more. If it is not volume but you do not like the Placette sound then I would like to hear more details: what specific you do not like in it. I think I know very well this unit and I might be able to debug the problems. 
 
 


Exactly that, my sources do not play loud enough through the Melquiades or DSET.  Like your OPPO, they only put out about 2V RMS which seems to be the modern standard and I need more.  Can you remember what input voltage DSET needs for maximum volume?  I can measure this, but just need some time.  Some sources these days have less than the nominal 2VRMS output, and my favourite source (which is my dac) I believe will only give a little over 1VRMS (which I need to measure).

The desire for a valve preamp comes solely from one direction:  I am going to build one or two valve phonos to see how they compare to my SS phonos, and if successful it would be nice to box up the phono and preamp into the one chassis (separate power supply of course)...so one box on the shelf rather than one phono box and one preamplifier box.  Of course the valve preamp has to earn its place and in general I am happy with the Placette but it does not have any gain.  It is unlikely that any future sources that I end up with will have high voltage output so it makes sense to me to add a little voltage gain in the preamp rather than fiddling with my sources.  The SS pre that I almost have finished may or may not have enough gain and it may or may not be a successful challenger to the Placette, but only time will tell.  Of course slapping a SS pre in the same box as a valve or SS phono is not a real issue...it can be done.


 Romy the Cat wrote:

  
Still for the configuration of a pram driving passive filters you need a current source with as low output impedance as possible. There is not a lot preamps out there that drive a lot of current with sub 20R impedance. Many contemporary oops preams will do but they not necessary sound acceptable. So, here we go… the game is open… 
  


The SS pre that I am building fits these parameters...and sounds very good in other systems...but the DSET is a very specific load to master and it will be interesting to see how it performs against the Placette.  Like all my audio projects, it has taken a long time to finish and at the time all I wanted was a unity gain linestage and I almost did not start the project because of the 4x (from memory) gain but thought if it did not work out that I could task it as a headphone amplifier.

 Romy the Cat wrote:

If I do play the game of looking for an alternative to Placette preamps then I would look still for discreet SS units like Blowtorch and alike. The active Placette with gain is a controversial inot in my estimation. It is very good but I do feel a difference between the no gain Placette and the gain Placette. It is hard to explain the difference as it is not in realm of sound but rather is a realm of “efforts”.  I have not happy with any tube preams I have heard. 
  
Now we enter the realm of DIY: the idea of making you own preamp. I know absolutely nothing bout SS designs. I made one that was designed for me by a very strong person and it was an honorable nightmare sonically. My tube line stages also were not good but it means nothing, you can me luckier. I would certainly not consider YO186. It is a spectacular tube but very colored, particular in the under-power mode as it is being used in Milq. In the Milq specific application, driving S2 and operating in a very limited range I feel I get the best from YO186 and use the YO186 colorations creatively. I however feel that it is no way a wide range tube and any type 45 tube is WAY more accurate sounding. 
  


Point taken about the YO186 colourations, but I still would like to be able to try it.  The twin output socket arrangement on the DSET is great and can be easily duplicated.

 Romy the Cat wrote:

  
How to get low output impedance of out tubes. Yes, the OPT might help. Paralleling tube and trying the OTL mode might help. To use some low R rube like 6C33C as preamp out tube might be a very interesting direction to go. Another alternative would be to have a voltage gain with tube and to have output no gain SS buffer. There is many options out there but too little time to try all of it…  
   

The 6C33C could certainly drive current, and I have spare OPT's here that I could use to experiment.  If I went with tubes I would like to go DHT in this situation for a few reasons which I will outline in the next paragraph.

 Romy the Cat wrote:
I am not sure why I feel you need a tube preamp. It sounds to me that you need gain not a tube preamp. If you formulate your objective that you need a tube preamp then try to formulate for your why you feel you need tube preamp. The point I make is that any progression in audio navigation should start with formulating a proper question to yourself: 
  
http://www.goodsoundclub.com/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=432 
  
That is in my view helps to focus on what you need instead of what is possible out there. 
  
This is very interesting thread I  would like to see where it take you.


Motivations!  Yes, the murky world of why we do what we do.  The further I have progressed in this DSET/Macondo project the more personal meaning it has accumulated.  Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy a Porsche or a yacht, some guys quit their high paying desk job to go and build a house in the scrub or the beach or use their hands on some large and introspective projects that bring an ongoing associated sense of relief or calm or achievement.  Well, I have the satisfying professional work plus I am still lucky enough to be hands-on at the farm so I am not suffering so much the urge to quit either nor do I need a tree change to balance my life's ambitions...everything is calm and plain sailing at the moment and has been for some time.  

What started out as a project to "get good sound" and "learn new stuff" has morphed into a little of a meaningless semi-philosophical tangent.  To me, DSET/Macondo is about many things including shunning the modern axioms of convenience and instant gratification and taking the path well trodden.  I am very proud of myself that the first DSET was powered up and is in operation without electrocuting myself or letting out any smoke (other than one potentiometer that went off the end of its track and stuck) and that I got the grounding scheme right first time.  The gear is huge and heavy and imposing and much of it is older than I am and it all uses amplifier topology that went out of fashion before my father was born but at the same time it is also relatively unique and of course "I made it".  To say that "I made it" is not some small factor influencing my thoughts about the valve preamp would be an untruth.

Plus, the valve pre would fit into the general vintage styling of the entire system and of course would be heavy, hot, large, difficult and all the things I have come to love about this project.

But, the sonic reasons remain the same as when I started this project, I want good sound.  At the moment I have a partially finished acoustic system and I am trying to pick the best path forward.  I definitely need more gain but am resolved not to alter the output of my sources but instead to put some gain into the preamplifier.  That is the first hurdle:  loudness.  I would love to build it myself and if possible do it with tubes but if SS is necessary then SS will be used.  If I end up sending my Placette over to Guy to get beefed up like yours Romy then that is what it will be.  At the moment, however, I will need more volume to make meaningful judgments about what I hear.  And of course I need to finish building the horns!
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,181
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 4
Post ID: 25365
Reply to: 25364
Gain vs. Output Impedance vs. Z
Anthony
Do I remember that a big part of Romy's choice for a pre-amp was based on the specific needs of his DSET Milq, with it's inter-stage X/Os?  And do I remember the Placette Active Pre-amp has consistent, fully buffered 10R out? The phono stage might be tubes or SS (or hybrid...), but surely you want it well isolated from the DSET? Anyway, it sounds like a  situation where a SS  (or discreet) buffer would have some electrical advantages, at least if you want to keep the combined size and weight less than an upright grand piano. How much net phono gain (excluding RIAA losses) do you want?  If you need greater than typical MM gain, good luck doing that with all tubes and then running it straight into that DSET.


Best regards,
Paul S
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
rowuk


Germany
Posts 268
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 5
Post ID: 25366
Reply to: 25364
Gain management
How many sources do you currently have? If you are building a phono corrector, make it for 4 volts output. If you have a PC for digital playback, there are good DACs with more than 2V output. That would leave a tuner to pimp - certainly less risky than a new preamp.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 6
Post ID: 25367
Reply to: 25364
It is simple and not.

 anthony wrote:
Exactly that, my sources do not play loud enough through the Melquiades or DSET.  Like your OPPO, they only put out about 2V RMS which seems to be the modern standard and I need more.  Can you remember what input voltage DSET needs for maximum volume?  I can measure this, but just need some time.  Some sources these days have less than the nominal 2VRMS output, and my favourite source (which is my dac) I believe will only give a little over 1VRMS

 
Oh, good, why did not you tall it before. How the hell can you listen if it you DAC outputs 1V?! No wonder you have no volume. Also if you have no voluble you do not “get” one of the most advanced feature of multi-amp topology multiplied with one of the most advanced feature of Milq design: an ability to absolutely effortlessly to walk over dynamic contracts, particularly at high volumes. Most of the amps out there change sound as volume rise, not multy-amped Milq. This is all together a big subject that requires a separate explanation. Anyhow, with 1V from your front end you are nowhere. My front ends have 3.1V at 0dB digital. Many of Milq’s ideas were very much formed around the input Milq tube that ruin with 4.5V bias and that can naturally (with no feedback injected into cathode as Lamm does for instance running 12AX7) can handle the whole input voltage swing. My phonostage pushed over 4.5V and it will drive the Mil on A2 but it will be at the volume where the wind will be flying out on my listening room. With 3-4V at input we still at the perfect window where the driver tube not stressed by input voltage and the output tube is still not clipped by power:
 
http://www.GoodSoundClub.com/TreeItem.aspx?PostID=6057
 
I do not know what your fav DAC is but if it is operational amplifier basedDAC then you can easily get more gains out of it by lowering the op-amp feedback.



 anthony wrote:
The SS pre that I am building fits these parameters...and sounds very good in other systems...but the DSET is a very specific load to master and it will be interesting to see how it performs against the Placette.  Like all my audio projects, it has taken a long time to finish and at the time all I wanted was a unity gain linestage and I almost did not start the project because of the 4x (from memory) gain but thought if it did not work out that I could task it as a headphone amplifier.

DSET has no specific load demands the input passive filters are. All that you do in the preamp you make, from the Milq perspective, make sure that it has as low output impedance as possible but to be stable at the same time.


 anthony wrote:
Motivations!  Yes, the murky world of why we do what we do.  The further I have progressed in this DSET/Macondo project the more personal meaning it has accumulated.  Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy a Porsche or a yacht, some guys quit their high paying desk job to go and build a house in the scrub or the beach or use their hands on some large and introspective projects that bring an ongoing associated sense of relief or calm or achievement.  Well, I have the satisfying professional work plus I am still lucky enough to be hands-on at the farm so I am not suffering so much the urge to quit either nor do I need a tree change to balance my life's ambitions...everything is calm and plain sailing at the moment and has been for some time. 

What started out as a project to "get good sound" and "learn new stuff" has morphed into a little of a meaningless semi-philosophical tangent.  To me, DSET/Macondo is about many things including shunning the modern axioms of convenience and instant gratification and taking the path well trodden.  I am very proud of myself that the first DSET was powered up and is in operation without electrocuting myself or letting out any smoke (other than one potentiometer that went off the end of its track and stuck) and that I got the grounding scheme right first time.  The gear is huge and heavy and imposing and much of it is older than I am and it all uses amplifier topology that went out of fashion before my father was born but at the same time it is also relatively unique and of course "I made it".  To say that "I made it" is not some small factor influencing my thoughts about the valve preamp would be an untruth.

Plus, the valve pre would fit into the general vintage styling of the entire system and of course would be heavy, hot, large, difficult and all the things I have come to love about this project.

But, the sonic reasons remain the same as when I started this project, I want good sound.  At the moment I have a partially finished acoustic system and I am trying to pick the best path forward.  I definitely need more gain but am resolved not to alter the output of my sources but instead to put some gain into the preamplifier.  That is the first hurdle:  loudness.  I would love to build it myself and if possible do it with tubes but if SS is necessary then SS will be used.  If I end up sending my Placette over to Guy to get beefed up like yours Romy then that is what it will be.  At the moment, however, I will need more volume to make meaningful judgments about what I hear.  And of course I need to finish building the horns!

Anthony, I do understand all of it but the sentient you expressed has, in my view, a self-defeating and self-limiting fallacy. A desire to have “good sound” is abstract and never fulfilling. It is not different from the famous emperor’s comment that Mozart’s music has too many notes. Your parley in audio as a substitution for mid-life crisis is not something that I have problem with. I do have a problem that very frequently in audio people get taken by ability render differences (by building or buying)   and do not recognize that they keep moving irrelatively- latitudinal or lateral. A true progress in audio and better audio come with observation of system owner longitudinal or amplitude progress. I do not see in anything you say, at least publicly, any factoring of any listening objective and this is a bit concern you. Not that I worry about you too much, you do not need  my worry, but I also know a lot about machine- humans interaction, in this case machine are audio methods.  I do not want to bother you with all of it but I juts share you with my presupposition that you might take under consideration or might discard it as a stupid nuisance. If after a period of time listening you playback you detect that you move in your listening preference from whatever you are listening to Bach, Beethoven and perhaps Brahms then your playback “works” probably and you are getting “good sound”. If during you practicing audio your listening inclination do not move altimetry toward to Bach then you need to start changing tubes, voltages, cartridges, cable elevators etc….


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 7
Post ID: 25375
Reply to: 25366
Oh, low voltage sources...
 rowuk wrote:
How many sources do you currently have? If you are building a phono corrector, make it for 4 volts output. If you have a PC for digital playback, there are good DACs with more than 2V output. That would leave a tuner to pimp - certainly less risky than a new preamp.


Yes, Rowuk, it is important to specify this:

Dac:  My dac outputs about 2VRMS but it never sounds its best unless attenuated slightly.  I always run it at -6dB into the Placette and use the Placettes volume control, which is why I said the dac outputs 1WRMS.  At the moment I do not listen to this dac and have just been streaming from my computer through a soundcard which only outputs 2VRMS, and if I want loads of volume I add a SUT.  I can talk with the manufacturer about increasing the output of this dac.  It has zero feedback in the IV stage but I think the stages can be "stacked" to give more voltage.

Tuner:  TU-X1 which puts out plenty of voltage from memory, certainly it was a lot louder than all my other sources.  Unfortunately the cockatoos have ruined the cable on the FM antenna and I need to get on the roof to rewire and better protect it from birds.  I am reasonably sure this source will put out 4VRMS.

TT:  One of the valves I am looking at using in a valve phono is a cascoded 6S3P which should give about 56dB of gain from two stages after RC RIAA filter losses.  30pF-50pF input capacitance.  Add a SUT before and I may have as much as 32dB more gain which would give a total of 88dB which should squeak 4V from my 0.2mV MC cartridge.  The SS phonos that I have here will give 76dB (1.3VRMS output including 32dB SUT) and 63dB (0.25VRMS without SUT - not sure if I can run a SUT before this phonostage, but if I can that is 95dB gain).  One complication here is that I would like to run balanced from cartridge to phono which would reduce those total gains by 16dB at the SUT:  72dB for the valve phono; 60dB for the first SS; 79dB from the second SS).   86dB total gain is 4VRMS.  Then if I go for an LCR RIAA filter I may lose more gain...not sure how much.

Bluray/DVD:  I've been hoarding some DVD's of various orchestral performances with intention of adding visual capability to my listening room after everything else is up and running.  Every decent disc player with modern video these days only outputs 2VRMS and I do not know of any that output more.

Computer:  Streaming youTube or Tidal from my PC via a sound card such as Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 or RTX-6001 Audio Analyser only gives the equivalent volume of about 2VRMS output.  Note that my computer streaming is different to using my Dac (above).  The Dac has its own dedicated and optimised computer whereas streaming, as we are talking about here, happens from my work PC through a random soundcard.


Hence my case for a pre-amp with some gain, ideally about 12dB or 4x.
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 8
Post ID: 25376
Reply to: 25365
Only with a preamp
 Paul S wrote:
Anthony
Do I remember that a big part of Romy's choice for a pre-amp was based on the specific needs of his DSET Milq, with it's inter-stage X/Os?  And do I remember the Placette Active Pre-amp has consistent, fully buffered 10R out? The phono stage might be tubes or SS (or hybrid...), but surely you want it well isolated from the DSET? Anyway, it sounds like a  situation where a SS  (or discreet) buffer would have some electrical advantages, at least if you want to keep the combined size and weight less than an upright grand piano. How much net phono gain (excluding RIAA losses) do you want?  If you need greater than typical MM gain, good luck doing that with all tubes and then running it straight into that DSET.


Best regards,
Paul S


Yes, I would only consider running a preamp into the DSET.  The convenience of remote source and volume control is just too hard to give up once you have it...at least for me it is.
04-21-2019 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 9
Post ID: 25377
Reply to: 25367
It was all in there, somewhere
 Romy the Cat wrote:
   
Oh, good, why did not you tall it before. How the hell can you listen if it you DAC outputs 1V?! No wonder you have no volume. Also if you have no voluble you do not “get” one of the most advanced feature of multi-amp topology multiplied with one of the most advanced feature of Milq design: an ability to absolutely effortlessly to walk over dynamic contracts, particularly at high volumes. Most of the amps out there change sound as volume rise, not multy-amped Milq. This is all together a big subject that requires a separate explanation. Anyhow, with 1V from your front end you are nowhere. My front ends have 3.1V at 0dB digital. Many of Milq’s ideas were very much formed around the input Milq tube that ruin with 4.5V bias and that can naturally (with no feedback injected into cathode as Lamm does for instance running 12AX7) can handle the whole input voltage swing. My phonostage pushed over 4.5V and it will drive the Mil on A2 but it will be at the volume where the wind will be flying out on my listening room. With 3-4V at input we still at the perfect window where the driver tube not stressed by input voltage and the output tube is still not clipped by power:
 
http://www.GoodSoundClub.com/TreeItem.aspx?PostID=6057
 
I do not know what your fav DAC is but if it is operational amplifier basedDAC then you can easily get more gains out of it by lowering the op-amp feedback.



With DSET, I do not bother to listen with that dac and I stream approximately 2VRMS from a soundcard (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2) attached to my work computer.  It is better.  When I really want some volume I add a SUT but of course this is not an optimal solution.  As I mentioned in my earlier post to Rowuk, my main dac has has zero feedback at output but the IV stage can be "stacked" for more output:  I am tempted to try this.  The output stage will drive loads of current and the manufacturer thinks I am mad running it through a preamp.

Thanks for this information Romy.  3V-4V output is what I need:  I'll aim for 4V.  

Oh, and believe me that in my Macondo's current state I hear the Milq absolutely walking over dynamic contrasts even at the volume I am able to muster with the SUT, it is extraordinary, and will only improve with the UB horn.

 Romy the Cat wrote:
   
Anthony, I do understand all of it but the sentient you expressed has, in my view, a self-defeating and self-limiting fallacy. A desire to have “good sound” is abstract and never fulfilling. It is not different from the famous emperor’s comment that Mozart’s music has too many notes. Your parley in audio as a substitution for mid-life crisis is not something that I have problem with. I do have a problem that very frequently in audio people get taken by ability render differences (by building or buying)   and do not recognize that they keep moving irrelatively- latitudinal or lateral. A true progress in audio and better audio come with observation of system owner longitudinal or amplitude progress. I do not see in anything you say, at least publicly, any factoring of any listening objective and this is a bit concern you. Not that I worry about you too much, you do not need  my worry, but I also know a lot about machine- humans interaction, in this case machine are audio methods.  I do not want to bother you with all of it but I juts share you with my presupposition that you might take under consideration or might discard it as a stupid nuisance. If after a period of time listening you playback you detect that you move in your listening preference from whatever you are listening to Bach, Beethoven and perhaps Brahms then your playback “works” probably and you are getting “good sound”. If during you practicing audio your listening inclination do not move altimetry toward to Bach then you need to start changing tubes, voltages, cartridges, cable elevators etc….


I've not explored Bach too much yet.  Am still exploring several others whose works have piqued my interest when heard on the radio and elsewhere.  Not having any classical music in the house during my childhood has limited my field of view in this regard but interest is ever expanding...I am sure Bach is not going anywhere and I will get to him when the time is right.  Hearing something I enjoy and then finding the individual performances that tickle my sensibilities and then realising that some performances of the same work (from the group of performances that I admire) are more suitable depending on my particular state of mind is so much more rigorous and complicated than blindly sticking on some rock or pop that still sounds exactly the same from the day it was released because it is only ever really performed by the one group.  I find that with classical music that due to numerous interpretations of any given piece there is more work to be done by the listener and more to be learned and gained thinking and exploring what interests you.  I'm certainly still learning...
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 10
Post ID: 25380
Reply to: 25377
A preliminary valve list
So, I have been looking into suitable valves to base a preamplifer around that are suitable for driving the DSET's.  The pre must have a broad bandwidth, low output impedance, some current drive, and not be prone too easily to microphony.  Oh, and preferably DHT...but that one is not set in stone.  I have also decided that I would like to chase 6x or more gain in the preamp.  Simple!

Ale Bartolas site has been particularly useful.  He has spent an inordinate amount of time refining designs over time and openly shares his experience.  Initially I was attracted by the 71a and 45 because of their relatively low plate resistance but at 3x and 3.5x gain I would need two stages and I don't want two stages.  DHT's such as 26, 01a, 10y are around that 8x gain or a little more so are suitable from the gain perspective, but they vary a lot in plate resistance and therefore output impedance.  Driven with Ale's "Hybrid Mu-Follower" aka gyrator load, these DHT's should have the following output impedances:
  • 71a  Zo = 13R
  • 45  Zo = 14R
  • 26  Zo = 503R
  • 01a  Zo = 270R
  • 10Y/801a/VT25  Zo = 42R *26R with more anode current
  • 2P29L  Zo = 29R  *pentode connected in triode



So, if I knock out those valves with insufficient gain and unsuitable output impedance the only DHT that I am left is 10Y/VTA25/801a.  Or the excellent Russian pentode.  Apparently the 2P29L is just not microphonic at all and the 10Y is manageable, similar again.  Both tubes have high transconductance and can push more current than usual for triodes;  both have a bandwidth out to near MHz range;  both use a similar B+.  7.5V filament vs 2.2V heater.

So there are two.  Nothing in between them regarding my initial design brief.  One is DHT though...the other is just not microphonic. 
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Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 11
Post ID: 25381
Reply to: 25380
Sometime less is more...
Anthony, I am not so thrill that you are unlashing your into this direction. Not that it is my business and you can do whatever you want. Still, I feel that methodologically it is not right way to build a playback. What I mean is that to evaluate a quality of preamp is very hard job if you do not have a well performing playback to the sound of which you well accustomed. If I was you I would make $5 op-based gain stage, of buy/borrow a cheap preamp driving it into Placette and then I would finish the entire sound in my room. As everything is done and calibrated THEN, ONLY THEN, I would go for good gain stage. 
 
As everything is done you will have a few options. Again, I do not know what frond end you use. Some of the frond-ends have powerful output stages and can drive line level transformer against Placette. Some of the frond-ends have output stages that might be easily tweaked to get extra dozen dBs. I you do insist to have a separate gain stage then you need to decide if you will be driving it into Placette or you will substitute the Placette. If you will be driving the gain stage into Placette then you do not have any concern with output impedance and the array of the available topologies is wide open, this is the direction that I would go. If you are willing to make a preamp that will replace Placette then I feel it will be VERY hard to. Regarding the tubes if you insist to do it on tubes. I love the 10Y but I have no idea how it doe as preamp and with the transformer that you will be using (wish in my view will be the definitive element of you preamp). The tripod strapped 2P29L might be interesting, you can even drop the impedance with cross screen feedback. I never heard 2P29L, they are from the family of tube that Germans made for Russians after WW2 and the tubes were mostly military targeted. There was many of them with odd voltage, the 4P1L might be the one that you also might consider. There is a cult in Russia of those tube follower but those people do not impress me with other then audio- soldering skill, so I have no ideas what to think about those type of tubes. 
 
Anthony, I am serious, do not west you energy on fighting the gain stage war. Make you playback to sound well as is. Buy for $50 on eBay a CD played that can swing 3.5V and focus on the rest of you system. You will return to your gain problems after you finished. I wonder why you demonstrate so much loyalty to your frond-end. You know, it is much ease to find a good front-end then to fine a good line level buffer.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 12
Post ID: 25383
Reply to: 25381
Still only a thought bubble
 Romy the Cat wrote:
Still, I feel that methodologically it is not right way to build a playback.   


No disagreement from me on this point.  This is all just a thought bubble for now.  Even if I wanted to press go on this project based on past experience it would be about a year before the parts were wound and assembled...at least a year.  There are DSET's and horns to finish, a room to treat, other fish to fry.  

I like to try and think several steps ahead and incorporate those ideas into current actions.  Instead of getting Macondo tuned and then going "time to build a valve preamp to improve xxx or yyy", I will have researched the subject and will be able to say time to build a 10Y or 2P29L preamp starting with this particular circuit that I like.  And because this is potentially on the horizon I will leave enough room on the equipment rack to fit the boxes.  Anyhow, I should make it clear that a valve pre is not an imminent project until I start to build my LCR phonostage, which is not going to happen until I get Macondo up and running in full. 

So please think of this thread as trying to investigate which direction I could go regarding valve preamplification.  To date I have identified 6x gain, low output impedance, broad bandwidth, some current capability, manageable microphonics.  Let's see what can be found. 

 Romy the Cat wrote:

Again, I do not know what frond end you use.


My preferred source is a Phasure NOS1a G3 dac.  The thing has no discernible sound of it's own.  It outputs 1.25VRMS SE and I run it at -6dB because it needs a little attenuation to sound its best which means 0.625VRMS.  I don't know if it is the IV stage of the dac or if it is the software that affects SQ...I suspect the software.  It can push a lot of current.  The Placette dims the NOS1a a bit....whitens some of its colours...cramps a little dynamics.  I can live with this because the Placette also brings remote source switching and volume control.  

 Romy the Cat wrote:
 Some of the frond-ends have output stages that might be easily tweaked to get extra dozen dBs. I you do insist to have a separate gain stage then you need to decide if you will be driving it into Placette or you will substitute the Placette. If you will be driving the gain stage into Placette then you do not have any concern with output impedance and the array of the available topologies is wide open, this is the direction that I would go. If you are willing to make a preamp that will replace Placette then I feel it will be VERY hard to.


I was thinking about replacing the Placette, but to be honest had not considered a separate gain stage just for the dac...perhaps that is doable.  


 Romy the Cat wrote:
 I love the 10Y but I have no idea how it doe as preamp and with the transformer that you will be using (wish in my view will be the definitive element of you preamp).


Ale Bartolas Hybrid Mu Follower eliminates the output transformer.  The output impedances I quoted earlier in this thread were using that topology, so a 10Y without output transformer has 8x gain and circa 30R output impedance. 




The first SS pre with 3x or 4x gain (that I started two or three years ago for another project) will be in operation soon.  I will play with tweaking it a bit and compare it to the Placette to see what I have got.  It should be enough gain for all of my sources apart from my dac.  Yes I am loyal to that dac.  I did the hard yards comparing it to several other contenders and it came up trumps so I would need convincing to seriously consider moving it along.

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Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 13
Post ID: 25384
Reply to: 25383
Very interesting...
 anthony wrote:
My preferred source is a Phasure NOS1a G3 dac.  The thing has no discernible sound of it's own.  It outputs 1.25VRMS SE and I run it at -6dB because it needs a little attenuation to sound its best which means 0.625VRMS.  I don't know if it is the IV stage of the dac or if it is the software that affects SQ...I suspect the software.  It can push a lot of current.  The Placette dims the NOS1a a bit....whitens some of its colours...cramps a little dynamics.  I can live with this because the Placette also brings remote source switching and volume control.  
Anthony, thank. This is very interesting reply and we have a lot of talk about it. First thing first: if your Placette clips dynamic and whitens some of its colors then you should get rid this preamp because it does because it does not do its duty. I never experienced this behavior before and my initial sentiment suggested that you were wrong in your assessment.  
 
I am not familiar with Phasure NOS1a G3, so naturally I was looking what it is. I found an article that give me some point of reference. It was Phasure NOS1 vs. Pacific Microsonics Model Two 
 
https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/6287-phasure-nos1-vs-pacific-microsonics-model-two/ 
 
“The NOS1 is like taking an x-ray of the music. It’s so crystal clear and pure. And yet it’s so easy to listen to. It’s exciting and yet relaxing at the same time. ….In contrast, the Model Two is more full-bodied. It gives the impression of richer harmonic content. It retains some of the NOS1’s detail but loses its super clarity – it’s simply no match for the NOS1 in this respect. The bottom end is more pronounced and weightier – but then perhaps a little less tuneful for it. It is an incredibly musically engaging DAC though”  
 
I know Pacific very well so, what I am reading here? It sounds like Phasure has what I call “expedited” sound. I can testify that Pacific has absolutely perfect what they call harmonic content or in other language a balance between transients and decay.  The “expedited” sound shorten a bit the decay time/volume and makes transients more prevailing. This is what very commonly audio people feel as “quality” but I degree with it. You will be able to experiment with it 
 
 By changing the transformer ration at you SETs. The more idle an output tube is running the “faster”, more details, higher contrast and more “x-ray” sound become. It will also hale via striping of some harmonics. People frequently go in audio for that “expedited”, high resolution sound and I can give you many examples of it. I feel that this direction is not fruitful. I was there and I very much rolled myself back from that quantitative perception of quality. Playing with that OPT load change you will eventually find a golden middle that will be not the most “x-ray” setting. I am NOT insisting that what people comment positive regarding the Phasure DAC is what I described above but it might play some role.
As I said above it was my INITIAL sentiment that you wrong in your assessment and rather felt that Placette juts do not do that “expedited”, “less-harmonics” pushing that makes you to feel that it “cramps a little dynamics”. The initial part is gone as there is absolutely nothing that might explain your comment: “whitens some colours”. if your preamp does it then it is not a good preams. Since I do not feel it is possible I preams there are 3 factors that might be in pay. 
 
1)      Your Placette is misfunctioning
2)      Your admiration with “expedited” sound somehow find a pass in your mind to this decolorization
3)      I am clueless with my assessment and somehow Phasure found a new “golden middle” at the level I am not familiar. 
 
All of the options above sound reasonable to me. 
 
With 0.6V you get out of your Phasure you are nowhere. The guys online say the Phasure is being supported very well. Why don’t you ask the Phasure designer to help you with higher output for Phasure. He can experiment on you and you will be acting like a beta-tester for him.  If his DAC pushed 0.6V at it’s best then the Phasure owner know that it is the problem. I think it might be a good collaboration between him and you to and in the end you both will be benefited.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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rowuk


Germany
Posts 268
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 14
Post ID: 25385
Reply to: 25383
Phasure is a very experimental company
There seems to be a standard 2.7V option for you:http://www.phasure.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=rdq01o6tv8ed20nii15hjqnjb0&topic=1560.0

"Output level for Single Ended Mode (RCA) is 1.5VRMS (-3dBFS relative to normal Full Scale). Output level for Differential Mode (XLR) is 2.7VRMS (+3dBFS relative to normal Full Scale)."

The differential mode would require a transformer to make it single ended - or you need a balanced input on the Placette. Both should be an option. In any case, I am sure that Peter from Phasure could accomodate you also with more gain if you need it.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 15
Post ID: 25386
Reply to: 25384
A long story about Phasure and the Placette
Romy, I will attempt to fill you in on some backstory.

My Placette was purchased from a guy in France.  My dac is made in the Netherlands.  To an Australian that is just like next door.  I have a good and strong relationship with Peter Stordiau who makes the Phasure stuff and at the time he was looking at releasing a SS preamplifer himself.  Maybe.  Peter has a strong set against preamps because they "ruin the sound" and I thought that this would be a good opportunity for Peter to play with the Placette so I had the Frenchman send it to Phasure instead of to me.  The first thing that Peter did before listening was measure the linestage and its volume control in various positions and it does measure very, very well.  But as we all know THD does not count for much of the listening experience and he put it in his system and really did not like it..."just like all preamps the Placette also ruins the sound" and then "you should send it back".  Peter is a busy guy and I did not want him to lose too much time with this project but I did ask him to pull off the lid and see if there was anything obviously wrong and perhaps to give his opinion on how to modify the buffer.  Well, everything is glued down inside and it is difficult to get a look underneath the circuit boards but all the caps and wires looked fine, the unit measured well and operated properly in its own idiosyncratic way.  

When I received the unit in Australia I put it straight into play and was immediately disappointed.  Of course I had more time to experiment than Peter so I raised the mains voltage to 120V which helped things a little and then eventually I tried -6dB attenuation through the dac (Peter and I had been running zero attenuation...why attenuate at both in software and the linestage?) which for some reason improved things a lot.  And so it has been running ever since.  I have not experimented with different attenuations but on my previous system I have experimented with putting the Placette between the NOS1a G3 and without, and there was still an audible but subtle degradation.

Since getting Macondo hobbling along I have not repeated the experiments but I should.  After listening to Macondo my old system sounds compressed and incompetent and it may be possible that the effect of the Phasure/Placette on Macondo could be amplified, but alas that is something that I will try down the track when I have Macondo up and running in full.

Peter never released a Phasure preamp.  I don't think he ever strongly felt the need for one in the Phasure community and perhaps he was never really satisfied with his attempts.

I have recently talked to Peter about beefing up the output stage of the NOS1a and I know that during development of the latest IV stage (the G3 in NOS1a G3) that Peter was experimenting with stacking the modules for more voltage output but Peters seems to think that I would be best off getting a preamp with some amplification so that it can push 4V from modern low output sources.  He has no suggestions...does not like preamps, haha.

So the modern standard is 2VRMS output which pretty much everything these days adheres to.  Peter chose less output (1.25VRMS) for a number of reasons including "it sounds better" (was able to eliminate one regulation stage in the dac) and because most modern amps have too much gain and thus less source output equals better overall gain structure.  It harms me especially because I run at -6dB into the Placette which is half the rated output (0.6VRMS).

Hopefully that explains which I run things as I do right now.

  
 Romy the Cat wrote:

Since I do not feel it is possible I preams there are 3 factors that might be in pay. 
 
1)      Your Placette is misfunctioning
2)      Your admiration with “expedited” sound somehow find a pass in your mind to this decolorization
3)      I am clueless with my assessment and somehow Phasure found a new “golden middle” at the level I am not familiar. 
 
All of the options above sound reasonable to me. 


I am pretty sure my Placette is functioning correctly.  At least there were no THD remnants when Peter looked at the unit in the Netherlands.  It did come halfway around the world to me afterwards, but I am currently operating on the premise that it is fully functioning.

So, Mani's comments of the NOS1/PM2 in 2011 are before my time:  I purchased my NOS1a (notice the "a") in 2013.  Phasure's business model is not really a business model per se, more an enthusiasts model.  Peter is forever experimenting in software, connections or hardware and when he finds something with sonic merit he releases it to the group as an upgrade rather than as a new dac.  So that NOS1 of Mani's in 2011 has had three major upgrades since then for it to become the NOS1a G3, the G3 being the new current amplification output stage (1.25VRMS), the "a" was new power supplies and somewhere along the way there was a new improved USB interface.  Along with changes in the software that drives the dac, the current NOS1a G3 is a higher functioning, better sounding dac than the early model that Mani had to compare to the PM2.  I've never seen a PM2 so cannot comment on its harmonic content et cetera, but I have directly head-to-headed it in my home system with some very good dacs (MSB/Playback Designs/Killerdac/AMR/Weiss) to name a few, so I can comment on what the Phasure dac brings when compared to those dacs and what it gives away.

The biggest surprise to me as far as performance goes was a dac produced by the local cult of the Killerdac.  It is a simple redbook only, TDA1741a dac with a valve output stage.  In its home environment, listening to simple music (girl and guitar, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald) this dac slays everything, even the Phasure dac with its harmonic content and pure engagement.  It is beautiful to listen to.  But as soon as there is any sort of complexity to the music, think rock or heavens forbid orchestral, it just falls in a congealed heap and is beaten by pretty much every dac out there.  A one trick pony.

I had a top level MSB Analog dac here for several weeks and I can say that this is a good example of "expedited sound", or should I say what I think you mean by that phrase.  Some would call it clinical, but I would call it bleach white and dry.  By contrast the NOS1a (it was 2013, so not the modern incarnation of the Phasure dac) had more body and flesh, definitely more sustain and more engagement.    

One dac that I listened to that I liked was the Playback Designs MDP-8 (not the MPD-5, that was ordinary).  In direct comparison in a better system than mine both the Phasure NOS1a (not current version) and MPD-8 were reasonably similar in many ways with similar dynamic swings and harmonic tails.  They were more similar than dissimilar.  Where the Phasure stood out was not at the beginning or end of the strokes, the attack and release, but in the middle of the note, the decay and sustain.  This is I think where the "clarity" as Mani's calls it really comes from with the Phasure...the in-between.  There is a resolution here, particularly noticeable with male voice and with piano, where the Phasure just has more texture.  I love it.  As soon as I realised that extra resolution is there I listen more carefully to it in other sources.  


Other dacs that I have compared to the Phasure dac have all been different in various ways, but I seem to notice a few "constants" of the Phasure dac that other dacs I have tried have not been able to replicate.
  • the Phasure seems to sort out the rubble of complex music better than anything else I have tried.  At loud and soft volumes, with a large orchestral piece with voice (some Mahler for example) the Phasure dac retains composure and "individual sounds" better than anything else I have compared it to.  It stays composed, moves nicely between phrases and does not seem stressed.  It took me a while to realise this as an important trait for me.  Interestingly, this seems to be a tradeoff with a lot of the modified dacs that I have heard, they tend to fail at complex music.
  • it is really difficult to pick a signature sound of the Phasure dac.  It sounds different on all material.  I can detect in my Placette, even on the old system, that there are some elements of "sameness" from different sources.
  • as mentioned by Mani in 2011 and by me earlier, the "clarity", "resolution" or "unclutterdness" of the Phasure is tough to live without.

I can see how some people may be underwhelmed by the Phasure dac when they listen to it for the first time.  There are no "oh wow" sound effects and everything just seems normal and balanced and capable.  There is the obvious "clarity" that Mani talks about, but I would call that something else..."uncluttered".  The harmonic decay is all there, the resolution is all there, tone is probably a little darker than most dacs because of its uncommon resolution in the bass frequencies.  After using it for a while many get to appreciate what it does not do:  stumble, exaggerate, clutter, colour.  I think that it is a great source for a SET amp...apart from the dismal voltage output.


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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 16
Post ID: 25387
Reply to: 25384
Expedited sound
 Romy the Cat wrote:
 The “expedited” sound shorten a bit the decay time/volume and makes transients more prevailing. This is what very commonly audio people feel as “quality” but I degree with it.  
 


Romy, in my previous response I did not address this ^^^ head-on, rather from all other directions in terms of experiences with other dacs.

Thinking more about "expedited" sound and how you describe it, I think that I do understand what you are trying to convey.  At the other end of the spectrum there is also "lazy" sound, which to me is a SET amp being used fullrange into completely inappropriate loudspeakers.  Wet, slow, transients lacking especially in the lower frequencies...all colour and no content.  Not even the right type of colour, the wrong type, audible distortion.  The worst of this I have heard is some diy open baffle speakers powered by SET amps...wow that sounded horrible but the diyer LOVED it...

The "expedited" sound is just as abhorrent to me as the "lazy" sound and for more or less the same reasons.  Just as "lazy" is all colour and no content, "expedited" is no colour and no content.  Both lack suitable texture, or resolution or what we individually call it in our own minds.  

I would not characterise the Phasure dac as "expedited" sound, quite far from it...although that diyer I mentioned with the SET powered open baffles may call it cold and colourless...haha. 
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Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 17
Post ID: 25388
Reply to: 25387
Very interesting.
Ok, thanks for explaining. I few things I would like to note. 
 
If your preamp, being incorporated between you front-end and you power amps degrades sound in any way or does not make sound better then it is not a good preamp. Period, there is no way look at the things differently.  I personally did not experience the situation when Placette failed in term of transparency but it does not mean it might happen out there. I feel in a way challenged and a bit stumbled and I have no idea why Placette would not be transparent.  If Phasure has some kind of new definition of transients then Placette is so fast that it runs video signal (!), it should be able to accommodate whatever is pushed to it at audio level. So, I minorly doubt your and Peter conclusions but I also live a room for me being wrong. I might live some room to challenge your judgments about the “details” you feel Phasure outputs. I have seen it before and was tripped a few times myself. However, you comment about decolorization of sound by Placette and whitening out what Phasure outputs is very serious charge that has no room for any interpretation or challenge. Hypothetically I would like to try your Phasure to confirm that it can stress Placette. I do not need a DAC and I will not make efforts to try it but if Phasure will be walking next to me then I might. 
 
My experience with finding a transparent preamp, very much as Phasure’s Peter experience as you can see are very alike: most of the preamps ruin sound. So, entering your idea to build you own you will have a very difficult challenge. I am not kidding but I am estimate that it will be more difficult then to build Milq/Macondo as you will be walking to unexplored territory. If I were in your shoe and if I have no confidence in the Placette performance then I would most certainly work with your Peter asking his with a solution make his DAC output at least 3 Volts. Peter should be consistent and reasonable in his hate. If he hates preamps so much then he should not advocate DACs that outputs 0.6V. No power amps will be happy with 0.6V! 
 
I need to say that I am not exactly understand the Phasure ecosystems. It is DAC that works only from software player and if it so then why no one talk about the sources of the material that is being played. There is a huge difference between ripped CD and raw digital files, how the files were ripped and many other subjects. I do not understand the notion of volume control at software and DAC level and many other things. Not that I need to but I would certainly would like any attention at digital level to be wide open. It sounds to me that Phasure has SS chip in the output and this is where you can experiment. There are new op amps out there that reportedly good you can play with them; I so feel that the absolute transparency you will find at SS level not at tube level.  
 
Rgs,
Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,181
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 18
Post ID: 25389
Reply to: 25388
Streaming Sound as Pivot
While I've hardly gone out of my way to learn more about streaming digital, the reason for that is the consistently mediocre results in my experience. Really, how does one rate and build on streaming digital in musical terms?  So far, results I've heard are a "second system" level, at best. Of course, this means I am altogether unqualified to talk about the fine points and differences of streaming sound delivery, apart from what I hear, and I certainly do not have a "corresponding" understanding of the hardware and software effects here.

All the above said and considered, isn't Burson in Australia?  They are quite the darling in small studios now, and for streaming/headphone enthusiasts.


Best regards,
Paul S
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 19
Post ID: 25390
Reply to: 25389
Streaming is a second class source
 Paul S wrote:
While I've hardly gone out of my way to learn more about streaming digital, the reason for that is the consistently mediocre results in my experience. Really, how does one rate and build on streaming digital in musical terms?  So far, results I've heard are a "second system" level, at best. Of course, this means I am altogether unqualified to talk about the fine points and differences of streaming sound delivery, apart from what I hear, and I certainly do not have a "corresponding" understanding of the hardware and software effects here.

All the above said and considered, isn't Burson in Australia?  They are quite the darling in small studios now, and for streaming/headphone enthusiasts.


Best regards,
Paul S


Yes, streaming is a step backwards in terms of sound quality, no question.  But that is how I get enough volume at the moment...it has to change.  In the Phasure ecosystem, streaming is a little different.  The albums are downloaded first, stored on the local drive, and then played as if it is a local file.  In this way the streamed music sounds just like the rest of your digital music collection, but it is not really streaming most people would recognise it, given the download stage.

Yes, Burson are Aus, but knowing Peter everything will be SMD or SMT so the Burson stuff will not fit.

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Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 20
Post ID: 25391
Reply to: 25390
Streaming vs. Streaming.
Again, I have advocated this subject again and again. Streaming is not a second-class source. It is all depends of what you are streaming. If you stream a source of unknown origin (which is 99.9% of the files that you do now own) then it is wild west and you deal with absolutely unpredictable quality. A single and simple rate conversion, volume change or any other DSP processing on the side of the file owner will lead sonic degradation much greater then use of a few shifty line-level preamps sequentially connected. So, when I am taking about streaming and if we presume a conversation have any sense then we are talking about streaming our own files, known to use quality from our own drives. “the albums are downloaded first” in most of case are very bad. The houses that sell music files has no sound quality working culture; this has been proven zillion times. You basically have mp3 leave crap that being unsampled to the format of your choice. 
 
Even if you have a production CD that might act as a common reference of some kind of quality then there is a great variation how the CD was pressed, who did it and what vintage of the pressing. Not the last factor is how the CD was ripped. There are great differences and have seen some stanning examples that quality of ripped made huge difference. So, streaming might mean absolutely different things. The best streaming that I have seen were raw digital master-copies sold to me non-commercially with an assurance that there was no processing on the files performed or my own digital files made from my own conversion of some of my LPs.

Again, most of the crap out there is garbage on term of sound quality  unless you know (trust) the source personally and can control the whole chain.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 21
Post ID: 25392
Reply to: 25388
You may well be right...
...especially about the difficulty of making a transparent preamp.  It seems to be a general concensus.  

But I need gain for most of my sources apart from perhaps the FM Tuner.  The dac, pc streaming, future cd/bluray/dvd player all will have 2VRMS output or less and there is no way to change this.  Perhaps the phonostage will have enough gain, I am not 100% sure, but even in the best case 3 out of 5 sources will require more gain.  I just had a look at the thread about your new Placette gain stage and it looks like x4 is possible.  This is certainly enough for all sources but the Phasure dac as I run it now.  Perhaps I should do some experiments with less attenuation that -6dB as I am running now:  -3dB will give me 0.94V output, -1.5dB will give me 1.1V output.  Multiply those by 4 and we have enough gain.  Actually, I should run a sine wave through the dac and measure the output myself rather than relying on specifications.

I do really like the idea of just getting more output from the dac, but Peter seems reluctant.


 Romy the Cat wrote:
Ok, thanks for explaining. I few things I would like to note. 
  
I need to say that I am not exactly understand the Phasure ecosystems. It is DAC that works only from software player and if it so then why no one talk about the sources of the material that is being played. There is a huge difference between ripped CD and raw digital files, how the files were ripped and many other subjects. I do not understand the notion of volume control at software and DAC level and many other things. Not that I need to but I would certainly would like any attention at digital level to be wide open. It sounds to me that Phasure has SS chip in the output and this is where you can experiment. There are new op amps out there that reportedly good you can play with them; I so feel that the absolute transparency you will find at SS level not at tube level.  
 
Rgs,
Romy the Cat


The software that Peter has written, XXHighEnd, is very successful with minimising the effects of computer hardware on sound quality.  He has been doing it a long time and in my opinion is THE pioneer in the field...two steps ahead of the next guy and five steps ahead of most.  Much of this is because he not only writes the software but he designs the hardware (dac) as well, and he has set up an ecosystem that either sidesteps the cause of the problem in the first place or the software attempt to minimise the damage.

So the Phasure NOS1a G3 is a non oversampling dac using I think eight PCM1704K chips.  It is DC coupled, PCM only, has zero digital filtering onboard, and zero sound processing, upsampling, oversampling or anything like that, and no volume control.  It is also a single input dac...USB only from a computer.  The onboard FIFO buffering and galvanic isolation on the USB input is current state of the art...but the computer hardware and software still affects sound.  It is a one trick pony because it takes whatever the computer sends and does not mess with it...it just plays it, whatever it is.

The software on the computer, XXHE, does the upsampling and digital volume control.  Redbook is generally upsampled x16 (this is configurable) to 705k and digital attenuation applied to a 32bit upsampled file.  Also, the digital filters are applied during upsampling and there are a number of filters available including one called ArcPrediction which has zero pre or post ringing.  As far as I am aware this is the only zero ringing digital filter in existence and Keith Johnson of PM2 fame did not believe that such a filter was possible, but it is possible if the filter is applied in software before it is sent to the dac.

So the general workflow in XXHE is as follows:
  1. Create your playlist or select your albums in the XXHE library.
  2. Press play.  XXHE then upsamples your music, applies the digital filter, loads it all into RAM (sounds better), then shuts down the operating system so that only a handful of process remain running, slows down the cpu so that it is almost stalled, sends the music files to the dac, shuts down the computer screen and displays a wallpaper of what is playing.
  3. Then the music starts (and sounds great)
  4. You can change volume with keyboard commands, or if you are running the whole thing from a tablet (which I do) you just press a button on the tablet and the volume is changed.
  5. At the end of play, or when you cancel play, the screen comes back on, the operating system comes back to life, the cpu is sped up so things go faster and you are returned to the library in XXHE.


It is a different workflow to all other software, but it works and the sound quality is definitely improved.  It is a bit slow though.  Romy, you should hear the difference between various operating systems, even different versions of the same operating system.


So yes, as Rowuk mentioned above, Peter is definitely "experimental".  He is the bleeding edge of digital (just need 3V output from the dac).

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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 22
Post ID: 25393
Reply to: 25391
We have different definitions of streaming
Romy, I like many, would define streaming as the "live" playback of files (that you do not own) as they are streamed from the internet.  Youtube is streaming, the Tidal app is streaming.

I would call playback from files stored on a computer as simply "computer playback".

As yes, mastering is THE big thing thing for quality of sound.  It is the very reason that I am going back to the technically inferior LP's.    
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rowuk


Germany
Posts 268
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 23
Post ID: 25394
Reply to: 25392
Experimental is not bleeding edge.
Alrhough the phasure stuff does sound very good, I do not consider it to be “the bleeding edge”. I consider a preamp allergy to be very typical of those “making a point” for instance! Declaring that only 0.6V sounds good on the DAC demonstrates yet more DIY mentality. Please do not forget that Peters 2 way speakers are open back, use DSP correction and “modified” BMS coaxial compression drivers. With those “references”, he is describing a “different” Sound than is possible with the Melquiades/Macondo.
Phasure is more of an exclusive club to me than a playground for bleeding edge technology.

You made some system decisions and this requires some thoughts and actions about gain management. Peters stand - no preamp means that you are stuck with “other” amplifiers and speakers. It sounds to me like you need a different DAC (of which there are enough to select from). On the other hand, if you have the balanced output, more gain could be as easy as a transformer.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
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anthony
Posts 235
Joined on 08-18-2014

Post #: 24
Post ID: 25395
Reply to: 25394
It's 1.25VRMS output
Rowuk, a couple of corrections, but I am certainly not arguing.  First, the dac outputs 1.25VRMS, or thereabouts...I am going to measure it.  The 0.6VRMS is because I run it at -6dB into the Placette because for some strange reason it sounds better.  Other than full blast, -6dB is the only attenuation I have tried.  With my SS amp and 86dB speakers this is well loud enough in my room.

Secondly, the speakers Peter has are three-way, and as far as I know Peter only designed the crossovers and the DSP in the bass.  I don't know how they sound.  I would think that they can sound very good, but I have never really been fan of open baffle bass/anything.

Yes, Phasure are sort of an exclusive club.  Peter seems to make a lot of personal connections to people on the forum and I think he prefers to operate that way.  It is not a trivial digital ecosystem to get into, it can be quite complex, and the personal connection certainly helps Peter get things running for his clients.  But I also look back at the things that Peter has done first in digital and wonder how he could not be at the bleeding edge.

No balanced output on my NOS1a.  I had it removed and replaced with BNC, so my dac is singled ended output only.  
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Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,616
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 25
Post ID: 25396
Reply to: 25392
Sometime a cigar is not a just a cigar..
Anthony , having a room slightly bigger than your and the rest the same I feel that 3V I get from my frond end is just barely enough. I have some CD recordings that are have very low compression and recorded with wide dynamic range (Pop Music’s Gogol Suite for instance) that I run at full volume and wish I had a few DBs more. Granted that I have a tendency to hear much louder if I want it. Try the Gogol Suite’s Ferdinand coda and tell me if it is possible to hear it at low volume. Get only Mark Gorenstein’s version. I think if you get your 3V you should be fine. Ironically you tuner outs somewhere the same, you should have a point of reference. BTW, in you tuner is very easy to adjust the output gain by changing one resistor.

I am not familiar with the whole XXHighEnd ecosystem and I am not so savvy in digital topologies to be able to associate or another DAC design decision with predictable results. I might repeat what others say but I never had my own experimentation with digital other than listening ready to go commercial units. The minimization of sound processing in Phasure DACs certainly very appealing part but many people do it or claim to do it with very different outcomes. I am a bit concerned that you guys stay purist refusing DSP in DAC but at the same time tolerate digital volume controls (typically horribly implemented) on you playback software.

There is another concern of mine that I would like to voice, primary that I pick up from you explanation of streaming. I call streaming a process of playing files stored on a computer or what you call “simply computer playback". The process of streaming from Youtube or from any other public providers I would not call streaming in contest of high-end audio objectives. I stream concerts from zillion sources, I love your Australian Broadcast Corporation Classic FM BTW, but I would never consider to make any audio session base upon that streaming. In fact I very rarely use main system to play THAT time pf the streaming, this is what pilot playback is for. Here is where I would like to propose a suggestion and I am not convinced that I am right. It is possible that in some cases playing those bad streaming sources some digital processing can “improve” a perceived sound but the same digital processing will not be beneficial with better digital sources.  So, what I would sagest you to do is download some kind of very good digital files of know quality (there are plenty of them around) and use THAT for sound check, not some kind of Youtube streaming.

Sure, there is another concern. :-) I am not sure how to explain it. Try do not feel that I am trying to make an effort to compromise you judgment. I am trying to identify the differences between your and my methodological approaches. From what I hear from you it seems to me that have more tendency to practice “delta listening”, where one component is evaluated against another. This is certainly a legitimate way to go and it is widely practicing by audio people. I do it sometimes but also I frequently practice different assessment paradigm. What I do I discard the given performance of a component A and component B in comparative terms and I evaluate the sound of component A and component B against an abstract model of sound that I have in my head. I just listed the music, a specific interpretation, I know what I need to get out of this or that interpretation, and I impersonate myself as I am a conductor who want to stress this or that aspects of a given reading. Then I can see how the component A and component B help or prevent me to do it. The irony is that using this evaluation techniques many surrogate criteria of common audio evaluation juts stay outside of prentices and not in play anymore. For uninformed person it sounds like capitalized subjectivism but the really is that this is the only objective method of audio expletives know to me. If you hear a sequence of notes properly done and you know with very high level precision the amplitude of let say patriotism in that phrase then the component A witch does it properly will automatically have all pure audio tricks done. The complexity come when component B delivers higher amplitude of that patriotism then you expect. Does it make the component B “better”? Not necessary and it take some time to understand it within yourself.  You need to work with yourself, your undersetting of the work, learning about the performer and circumstances of the play, the recording techniques, listen many other interpretations, listen your own objectives and interests…. then the answer of “interpretation properness” will come to you. A component that “helps” you and that create less ambiguity of your own confusions should be recognized as better. A component that will push you for more polar or radical interpretations should be recognized as better but it has to be viewed in context of other this as well. A component that pushes you listening preferences away from bad music or weak interpretations should be recognized as better.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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