Overcoming USB Streaming Issues

There’s a lot of discussion on the web about why the USB interface is not suitable for streaming music.

Much of the discussion promotes solutions that require the use of additional components that strip the music related data from the data stream, reassembles it with new clocking data and presents a squeaky clean version to the DAC.

Some even converts the data stream to a format supported by either the S/PDIF or Toslink interface.

The bottom line is, that you end up spending lots of money on a new component, related power cables/adapters and the various interconnects required, when in fact your own personal listening requirements may be satisfied with a less complicated solution

So let’s look at some of the issues...

Three issues I consider the most serious with respect to the degradation of the digital stream when using the USB interface are...
  1. EMI between the power and signal conductors inside the USB Cable - i.e. noise in the data stream resulting in jitter and noise in the power conductors effecting DAC performance.
  2. the unstable and noisy USB power supply - can effect DAC Performance
  3. the quality of the USB interface in the DAC you are using - unable to handle noise in the data stream effectively

Addressing #3 is not covered here since it is manufacturer specific and dependent on the DAC you are using.


Issue #2 may also related to the DAC you are using because some DAC’s utilize the USB power supply to power their own internal USB circuitry. Those that use their own internal power supply are much better equipped to handle a USB Data Stream.

Issue #1 boils down to the USB cable you select - not all cables are equal!
  • The most effective solution is to separate the data and the power conductors by using a cable like the one below...

The Power supply and USB with cable separate audio signal cable from Doukmall on eBay
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Now, you can still insert both USB cables into the computer, but for the best solution a separate power supply should be used.

Once again there are a myriad of solutions out there, but after trying several different power adapters I have opted to use...

The ENERCELL AC to USB Power Adapter 5VDC 1000mA 2730414
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I have found that using this adapter is as effective as using a battery power supply, which is perhaps the most stable 5 volts you can get.

Now, this IS NOT the be-all and end-all of solutions for USB interface issues, but for those of you looking for a cost effective solution that will address many of the most severe problems without adding even more components and cables to your rig and more importantly, without breaking your bank - then give it a try.

I hope you found this useful Happy



KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug - Turtable Review

If you’ve read the reviews of the KLE Innovations products on this site, it should be no surprise that I would at some point in time get around to installing the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug onto the one-piece silver litz loom installed in my Audiomods tone-arm that supports a Denon DL-103 moving coil cartridge.

Pure Harmony RGB
Turntable Background:

My Turntable started its life 32 years ago as a Rega Planar II, but over the years, after applying a series of modifications and upgrades (please see Turntable Mod's and Denon DL 103 Tweak for details) it has been transformed into a device with outstanding performance characteristics.

The only things left over from the old Rega turntable is the lid and the on/off switch.

Call me sentimental. Happy

Installation:

The installation of the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was very simple; the most difficult part of the operation was removing the stock RCA plugs, which had a crimped cable strain relief, but soldering the extremely light gauge wires was a doddle, thanks to its redesigned signal and neutral tabs.

Once installed, all that was left to do is burn them in - for 200 hours –
c’mon KL, really?

That’s an awful lot of exercise, finding an album, changing sides, putting them back on the shelf. No wonder audio streaming is getting popular. Gasp

But in reality…

Well, 200 hours may be the optimal burn-in time recommended by KLE Innovations for ultimate playback quality to prevail.

However, for this particular application, it appears you don’t have to wait that long for some really mind blowing improvements to be heard from your treasured analogue rig.

Initially, the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug has a tendency to be a little bright and more than a little edgy, at least on my system. It took around 20 hours for that to settle down and transform into a very smooth and incredibly detailed performance. Which was nice, because with 180 hours left on the clock, I was giving some serious thought to installing the RCA’s onto an interconnect and letting my streamer and DAC complete the burn-in process – a much less time consuming approach.

At around 30 hours I became very impressed with the performance improvements.
  • Dynamics were very fast and extremely crisp.
  • The image is deeper than before, but there is more spacing between the instruments both left to right and front to back, e.g. each “section” in the orchestra (i.e. violins, violas, cellos etc.) have significantly more width to them.
  • The timbre of instruments having more details sounded even more natural
  • The venue acoustics are outstanding and really immerse you into the performance
  • The improved clarity in complex orchestral tracks allowed them to be played louder without distortion – 1812 with digital cannons anyone?

But the one outstanding quality of the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was their transmission of incredibly fine micro-details that seemed to bring a “new reality” to my vinyl collection, especially some older live recordings.

It was apparent on the very first track I played,
Baby Please Don’t Go from the 1973 album Better Days by Paul Butterfield, featuring Ronnie Barron, Amos Garret, Geoff Muldaur, Christopher Parker and Billy Rich.
  • I dropped the arm and was returning to my chair, but I never made it. As soon as the track started playing I spun around to listen more intently, standing, the sound so totally different from any previous plays.
  • The extremely fine details of the bottleneck sliding on the strings was just downright eerie, like a ghost from the past. Many tracks sounded as though they were recorded in a gospel hall with two mikes and a stereo reel-to-reel. The natural reverberations are melded superbly with the musicians and their vocals and then reproduced in my system with a haunting reality.

For me, this was a complete jaw-dropper. I’d heard some very expensive systems that may have approached this level of reproduction, but I never expected my current configuration would be capable of such a refined and detailed presentation.

And all this was due to the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug? - You got it!


Some other albums that grabbed my attention, mainly because of the amazing reproduction of those extremely fine details include…

  • The Doctor, by Doc Powel - with his beautifully mellow jazz guitar, piano, drums and bass. But the outstanding instrument for me was the superb reproduction of the drums, especially the cymbals. Again, the reproduction of the natural reverberations from within the venue is a significant contribution to the reality portrayed.
  • Songs From The Wood by Jethro Tull (1977) – I’ve mentioned this album in previous reviews, where I found the vocal harmonies to be the most profound of Tull’s “signature sounds”, but after installing these RCA’s the reproduction of those vocals to this level of detail is astounding.
  • Boomers Story, by Ry Cooder (1972) – again, I ‘ve mentioned this album in previous reviews and again I mention the superb reproduction of his use of the bottleneck.

What’s a Bottleneck?...
  • A “bottleneck” is a tube of glass or metal that the musician slides on the strings over the fretboard.
  • Why am I so enamoured by this particular sound?
  • Having played guitar for over 40 years, many of which were spent dabbling in the art of Delta Blues, provides one with first hand experience of the very distinctive sounds the bottleneck makes,
  • e.g. just the vibration of the strings against the bottleneck when simply sliding it up the strings is a detail seldom reproduced in a believable manner.
  • But when it is - goosebumps! Happy

Moving forward a few years …
  • LEGEND: The Best Of, by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1984) – whilst not really in the same league as those above for it’s natural venue acoustics, the studio tracks are extremely well engineered and yields the widest image of my entire collection) – which now exceed the width of the speakers by a couple of feet.
  • Down to the Moon by Andreas Vollenweider (1986) – again – not a really natural sounding album, but exceptionally well-engineered. The outstanding feature of this album is it’s micro details and associated dynamics, i.e. those little details you hear when strings are plucked, like the fingernail catching the plucked string – as with a Harp. This album brought Harp music to the mainstream back then, but it has never lost it’s appeal and now with the vastly improved reproduction it can be enjoyed all over again, like a new album.
  • Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (2007) – for me, this was one of those albums you regret buying. You know, you get it home and it just doesn’t do anything for you. But it stayed on my shelf, seldom played. Well, that was until I started to audition the KLE Innovations product line, after which the album perked up and things started to gel. It seems that before installing KLEI products I was missing so many details in many of my recordings. In this case the album sounded lackluster and had no excitement – not any more, it reproduces extremely fine details and vocal textures from these two exceptional artists are outstanding.

One last artist that really presents a challenge to any system, particularly where clarity is concerned, is Mike Oldfield, remember
Tubular bells? There’s also Omadawn, and Five Miles Out among others. But the one thing they all share is big sound, lots of multi-tracking instruments and incredible details, a lot of which can be lost. Well not any more – with the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs in the system those details shine through with scintillating glockenspiels, astounding tubular bells, crisp distorted guitar licks and airy background woodwinds – absolutely stunning.

I haven’t mentioned any classical recording, mainly because it would lengthen this review considerably. However, it is worth mentioning that the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs conveys a reproduction where the venue in many orchestral tracks appears as cavernous as the actual space it was recorded in, with a precise placement of musicians in the overall image and a clarity that completely exceeded my expectations from such a simple RCA upgrade.

And the Pricing?

A set of the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs cost around US$120 for a set of four, but the improvements made in my system on this one component was as significant as replacing the cartridge costing substantially more than that, making it an extremely attractive investment.

What do you do with the two remaining plugs? – you find an analogue buddy and you blow his mind as well.

KLE Innovations actually sell a six pack for AUD$185 – so you could convert your turntable and upgrade the RCA’s on the interconnect from the phono stage to the amp

I’m not really sure why they don’t offer two packs just for this purpose, particularly on this model – perhaps they will reconsider after reading this review

CONCLUSIONS…

The most significant improvement the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs made for me was the reality that is now conveyed, which is one of those ethereal qualities that is so hard to measure and even more difficult to describe. It is also subject to our own experiences.
  • The greatly improved reproduction of venue acoustics from my system following this particular upgrade, often triggers memories of my own experience of playing in bands in many different locations, from small village halls, to nightclubs, to medium sized venues, each with their own very unique acoustic signature.

The Denon DL103 moving coil cartridge has been around for a very long time and at $229 it is a steal. There are a couple of minor warts and there are a few outfits than can modify this cartridge to get it to perform much much better. But before you opt to have the cantilever replaced, or have the cartridge “nuded” or have it mounted into an alloy or wooden head-shell, try this modification first. You will be amazed by the improvement in detail and you don’t have to wait the 6-9 weeks that the other options will take.

The 200 hours burn-in time appeared to me to be substantially shorter and I have not heard any improvements in performance since around the 60 hour mark. That may be due in part to the WBT high content (4%) silver solder I used, which I have found to perform extremely well when installing the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs onto my interconnects also.

If you consider implementing this tweak, I would also strongly recommend for the phono stage to amp connection, either the
KLEI Zero3 Interconnect , or better still the KLEI ®gZero6 Interconnect to compliment this change, since together, they will provide the best possible pathway from cartridge to amp you could possibly have.

My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable + KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (has a passive pre-section)

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers

  • the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect and Speaker Cable products


page6_blog_entry55-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2This is definitely a “MUST HAVE” for turntable arms having a one piece continuous loom!


"Cable Science" - Some Basics

Will better quality cables improve the sound of my system?

The short answer is YES! But the caveats are many.

This year I’ve had a chance to investigate the world of conductor materials used in cables and connectors and have combined this with my prior discoveries to come up with hopefully a single post that will provide insight into my own journey of “Cable Enlightenment”.

However, the following is just the tip of the iceberg, since I do not venture into the world of exotic cables that contain metals like gold, tungsten, or platinum, since I believe Silver to be the best possible choice for the conduction of electrical signals.

Let’s talk generally about the various materials available...

First - let’s get the easiest one out of the way
  • SILVER is the best conductor
  • COPPER is the next best
  • The high quality OFC and OCC copper is marginally better than plain pure copper, but still does not match silver for conductivity
  • the performance of other metals will fall far behind these two.

What about tarnishing?
  • Tarnishing on copper severely impedes its ability to conduct electrical signals
  • Tarnished silver on the other hand is still very conductive and barely affects its ability to conduct electrical current
  • So why aren’t there more silver plated products - I really do not know — but it appears more are coming

One “standard” used to gauge conductivity is the International Annealed Copper Standard (IACS) conductivity index — which uses tough pitch copper as it,s benchmark and rated at 100%

Here are the metals most commonly used in hi-fi and their conductivity ratings
  • Silver - 105%-108% depending on purity
  • Copper - 100% - 102% depending on differing types e.g. Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) and Ohno Continuos Cast (OCC)
  • Gold - 76%
  • Rhodium - 39%
  • Brass 0 27%
  • Platinum - 16%

The trouble with pure copper is it is very soft and difficult to machine — so very often a copper alloy is used

Now, you may have heard that silver cables are “bright or harsh sounding” and copper cables are “warmer sounding”
  • this may actually be due to other materials and constructions techniques used in the actual design of the cable, such as the insulation materials used, which can seriously effect a cables capacitance.
  • High capacitance cables can cause a variety of effects, even the electrical operation of the components it is attached too, ultimately affecting the sound
  • Also, if you do experience brightness, it might just be one of your components, so don’t automatically attribute it to the cable.

Personally, I found my low capacitance Stager Silver Solids Interconnects to be excellent performers — detailed? EXTREMELY - bright? NO!

Now, if you prefer to use copper (many do), then high quality OFC copper and OCC copper are an excellent choice.

A word about connectors:

Connectors (i.e., RCA, IEC and Mains) are generally more of an issue than people realize. To start with, most are made of some kind of brass and then gold plated. Better quality connectors can be a high copper content alloy and often come with gold or rhodium plating. This combination is better than brass, but still far below the abilities of pure copper. Pure copper is seldom used since it is quite soft and difficult to machine, but they can be found and are generally more expensive.

Silver Connectors are the best, but for anything larger than an RCA, XLR or DIN connector, solid silver gets very expensive.

For all connectors pure copper is very good and a more cost effective alternative to silver, however…
  • you may find that over a period of time they will tarnish and require cleaning
  • the time period between cleaning depends on the humidity of your location

In order to prevent tarnish, a protective plating may be applied…
  • if you can find silver plated copper, they will perform almost as well as solid silver.
  • less effective plating metals are Gold or Rhodium, since they often require an intermediate plating material which is generally less conductive than either gold or rhodium
  • Having said that, gold and rhodium plated products from companies like Oyaide and Furutech perform extremely well due to the excellent design and copper quality used in their construction.

What about Silver Coated/Plated cables?
  • the verdict is still out on this one, but they are widely used
  • I have them in my system and their performance is excellent,
  • but I cannot offer an opinion as to their effectiveness since I have never compared them to plain copper of a similar quality
  • the cables I have, are just very well made, which I believe is the main reason for their excellent performance.

So that covers the material selection for good cables and connectors.

Let’s talk about cable choice and construction approaches…


For My Interconnect cables...
  • I use a non-conventional DIY cable where the neutral cable is wrapped around a teflon tube in a helix, the teflon tube houses a 24 gauge solid silver signal conductor. Pretty simple, but extremely effective. See DIY Interconnect Cables - The “Helix Mark VI”
  • I also use KLE Innovations gZero20 Interconnects, which offer superb performance.

For My Speaker Cables

  • I currently use a cable geometry similar to my DIY interconnect, where the neutral conductor is wound in a helix around the SIGNAL Conductor
  • This architecture provides the fastest dynamic response of any power cable I have tried to date and is extremely “black” i.e. no noise.
• See The HELIX Speaker

For My Power Cables
  • I currently use a cable geometry similar to my DIY interconnect, where the ground and neutral conductors are wound in a helix around the Live Conductor
  • This architecture provides the fastest dynamic response of any power cable I have tried to date and is extremely “black” i.e. no noise.
  • see DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"


Making the Connection: Which is best - Crimp, Screw or solder connections?

For Interconnect cable the choice is very limited — solder is the de facto standard, but there are some cable manufacturers that provide crimped terminations
  • If you are constructing the cable then you will probably solder, be sure to select one of the hi-fi grade solders — see IACS Conductivity Ratings PDF
For IEC and Mains connectors, the de facto standard is a screw clamp connection.

However a recent endeavour to create a mains cable from Furutech 10 gauge cable led me to crimp copper spades to the cable prior to clamping the cable in place. The resulting performance led me to adopt this technique for all power cables. I can only attribute their superior performance to the fact that the crimping created a very good cold weld, with the spade increasing the surface area in the final screw clamp connection.

For speaker cable I prefer banana plugs.

The reason for my preference of Banana plugs over spade connectors is because they provide the largest contact area for the style of binding post I have on my speakers and I only have banana connectors on my amp.

It’s not just the cables — my “special connectors” are a key component:

What do I mean by special connectors?

They are special due to either their design and/or use of high quality copper or Silver and the ones I currently have in use include:

KLE Innovations Pure®Harmony RCA and Absolute®Harmony RCA Connectors…
  • These RCA connectors that take a different design approach
  • basically, instead of a large metal collar to make the neutral connection, the collar is made of a polymer with a small metal pin to make the contact
  • having high quality copper/silver contacts also contribute greatly to their superior performance.
  • After installing these on my Stager Silver Solids interconnects the improvements in the spatial image, details and dynamics, were very apparent.
  • seems their design approach works very well, resulting in significant improvements to micro details, instrument isolation and depth of the 3D image.
  • see my reviews of the entire KLEI Harmony RCA plug range in the menu on the left side of this page for details


Sonar Quest Silver Plated Copper IEC and Mains connectors
  • I discovered these while searching for a silver plated copper connector and for the price I ordered a set for evaluation
  • They provide appreciable improvements in details, dynamics and space and the price was right
  • They are outstanding performers compared to many others on the market, even name brands and now have replaced all of the mains connectors throughout my system.

KLE Innovations Classic Banana Connectors
  • By far the most precise fitting and detailed banana plug on the market today
  • They convey the most subtle details with recision

All of these connectors have made a significant contribution to the improvement of my system performance and I consider them a very important “component”.

A word about quality

Here’s my favourite question I’ve been asked a few times
“I found this brand name cable on the web — it’s a steal — what do you think?”

Bottom Line: If it’s a steal, YOU are probably not the one benefitting out of the deal!
  • We live in a world of counterfeit product — the general rule is “if it sounds too good to be true — it generally is”
  • I have seen cable that revealed extreme corrosion once I stripped the insulation away from the middle of a 20ft length
  • The type of corrosion (including rust) also indicated the quality of the copper was of a very poor quality
  • Even “established brands” cannot always be trusted - I’ve had brand name cable where the insulation degraded over time, leaving a sticky residue — the insulation was transparent and you could easily see the entire cable was tarnished
  • But, I also have cables where after 16 years of use, stripping the insulation reveals a bright shiny new conductor with no sign of tarnish.
  • So it’s not just the quality of the conductor but the insulation also.

So, how do cables and connectors contribute to better sound in a nutshell?

For interconnects: it’s all about the transfer of delicate low voltage signals, which is impacted by the conductivity of the materials used in the cable and the connector and the design of the cable and connector also appears to contribute immensely.
  • Low capacitance cable is essential to avoid any “alterations” to the delicate signals — e.g. it is well known that high capacitance phono cables can seriously degrade cartridge performance
  • Silver, followed by OFC and OCC copper should be the material of choice for the conductor.
  • Solid Silver, silver plated copper, or plain copper should only be used for the connector
  • For RCA connectors, I prefer the KLE Innovations Harmony Plug RCA products, as they contribute significantly to a very detailed and dynamic performance
  • Cable architecture is a key to reducing the amount of noise that is created within the cable itself
  • - see DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark Vi”

For speaker cables: the quality of the conductor and connectors is always paramount.
  • low capacitance cable can be essential for some amplifiers, as a high capacitance cable can cause the amplifier to oscillate, which will severely degrade the sound. But the converse is also thought to be true for other amps, so you have to know the impedance loading requirements of your amp
  • A silver cable is an option these days, but I’ve found the ones I have auditioned (consisting of a very small gauge conductor) lack bass, but are very detailed
  • Larger gauge silver cables are available but are of course very expensive
  • At present my personal preference is my own DIY Speaker Cables - The HELIX Speaker

For power cables: based on what have tried, the quality of the connectors and cable geometry appears to be paramount and the cable quality a little less so, but there is a definite correlation between the gauge of the conductor and the component the conductor is connected too.
  • For amplifiers a larger gauge cable is required, but for components a lighter gauge can be used.
  • What about cable quality? - I have tried making braided power cables from 10 and 12 gauge Romex (i.e. standard house wiring cable) and to my surprise they performed extremely well, but they were a little stiff and not recommended
  • Did they perform better than my Furutech or DH Labs power cables — well, not quite, but they did perform so much better than any stock cable provided with a component I have ever purchased.
  • My latest design DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX" using a helix wrapped architecture which appears to outperform most other power cable designs.
  • The improvements include much faster dynamic presentation, a significantly wider image and improved clarity.
  • What about connectors? - I found that the Sonar Quest silver plated IEC and mains connectors to perform better than any gold or rhodium plated copper connectors I have used so far.
  • What about termination? I found that crimping small copper spades to the cable instead of just clamping down on the bare wire within the connector provided significantly better dynamics, bass and details
What about the mains power outlets? — For these I currently use Pass and Seymour MRI power outlets, which are good quality outlets that are reasonably priced, but their advantage over the standard household outlet is their ability to clamp the mains plug like a vice and the MRI rating ensures a higher level of materials quality.

I also installed a dedicated 15 amp Outlet just for my audio system — this helps eliminate any noise created by other household appliances that might otherwise be on the same circuit

Why do Power Cables make a difference? please read
Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference for a detailed explanation

So, back to the original question: Will upgrading cables improve system performance?

The biggest impact to my system performance was due to upgrades I made to my entire “POWER CORRIDOR” - what is that?
  • Starts with a dedicated 15 amp power line from the breaker panel with good quality wall outlet, but standard 15 amp Romex house wire
  • My amp is connected directly to the wall outlet, but my source components are plugged into a Power Distribution Centre
  • My Power Distribution Centre is a DIY project that contains three quality dual outlets and quality internal wiring - no filters, no surge suppressors
  • All my power cables are Custom DIY projects, with Sonar Quest silver plated copper IEC/Mains connectors and an unconventional architecture where the Ground and Neutral conductors are wound around the live conductor in a helix, which results in extremely clean power delivery.
  • Without these, all other improvements realized by upgrading any other cables would have been far less noticeable.

Why upgrade the “power corridor”? - if an active component (i.e. one that requires power to function) cannot get sufficient clean power in an instant the internal voltages fluctuate. This in turn introduces distortion or smearing into the audio signal which finally gets amplified to audible levels.

The helix geometry also reduces/eliminates noise induced into the neutral conductor, which ultimately effects component performance.

The caveat here is — use a good speaker cable to start with, like the KLEI gZero2. Then you will be more able to hear differences that other cables choices may bring


FINALLY:

Most of the products I have used were constructed or installed by myself, so finding similar components in ready made products is highly unlikely, but not impossible.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this page is just the “tip of the ice-burg”. More “high end” audio systems may well require some of the more “exotic products” currently available to achieve improvements, but the basics still apply.

Research products first to ensure they use the best quality materials and construction techniques before you buy. Don’t blindly believe the company blurb or sales guy.

If purchasing ready made product, ensure the store will refund all your money if you are not satisfied, or better still, find a store that will support in-home auditions. Many stores selling high-end systems will be more than happy to demo product at home because they are confident in their product.


Well - that’s about the sum of my findings - I hope you found it useful

And be sure to checkout the following related topics on this blog…

You Need a Good Power Supply (1)
Aren't all cables the same?
Cable Construction (2)
*Product Links (1)

Denon DL 103 Tweak

The venerable DL103 moving coil cartridge has been around for a very long while and it still garners a lot of attention.

Mainly because
it’s damn good and very affordable!

Over the years a few third party companies have made some very good upgrades to this cartridge like
  • “nuding” i.e. removing the outer plastic casing
  • Replacing the outer shell with an machined aluminum casing
  • Re tipping the cartridge with a finer styli and better cantilever for improved details
  • Replacing the outer shell with a wood casing and brass mounting plate

Trouble is, all of these mods starts to get a little expensive for a cartridge that costs only $229.

I started reading up on the modifications available from a company called
Soundsmith and one of their modifications included mounting the “nude” cadrtridge on a brass plate and then putting a wooden shell over it.

So I thought,
what about if I just mounted the existing cartridge onto a brass plate?

Would this prove to be beneficial?

  1. I fashioned a plate 21mm x 22.5 mm out of a piece of brass that is 1.3 mm thick. This allowed me to drill 2 mounting holes without breaking through the side of the plate
  2. Next, I fastened the two mounting screws to the plate with two knurled mounting nuts that happened to fit into the space provided in the cartridge casing - this allowed for a preliminary alignment of the cartridge before fixing in place with epoxy.
  3. Then I applied a thin coat of epoxy resin to the plate, ensuring the knurled nuts also had a small amount of epoxy touching them (but not the threads)
  4. Finally, I coated the top of cartridge with epoxy and placed it on top of the plate, over the mounting screws, aligned the cartridge and left to set.


Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 6.32.38 PMDL103

You have about 5 minutes before the epoxy sets, to align the cartridge on the plate.

After about 15 minutes I gently loosened the screws one at a time to ensure the epoxy had not touched the threads.

Leave the cartridge for 24 hours for the epoxy to really harden up before mounting the cartridge back on the arm.

Warning:
  • the net effect of doing this will change the weight of the cartridge and consequently the effective mass of the arm, which in turn effects the resonant frequency.
  • So before proceeding, ensure all of these factors are within the limits of the arm/cartridge compatibility you are using.

The outcome of these modifications in combination with my arm ( a Rega RB250) was stunning.

The cartridge was transformed to a whole new level of performance, with a very detailed and well rounded sound. The bass may be a little too lean for some tastes. Personally, I like to hear the details in a bass line rather than that low plodding muffled beat. The biggest improvement was in the dynamics that this cartridge now conveys.

Adjusting the cartridge VTA to track a little
tail-down will recover some of the bass, but that’s to your taste and depends on the angle you choose - I have read some people run this cartridge at 15 degrees instead of the recommended 20 degrees - as I said - to your taste Happy

Orchestral is one genre where this cartridge shines with impeccable details conveyed for all instruments.

Voice is another, with sibilance control that is smooth and detailed without being shrill.

Unfortunately, precise cartridge alignment now requires you to be somewhat of a perfectionist but rewards you with a very deep image.

For me, it is by far the best $12.50 I’ve ever spent + a little of my time.




Two Thumbs-up

Turntable Mod's

Not so much a "tweak" - more a complete rebuild Happy

NEF_0833

My turntable started life 30 years ago as a Rega Planar II

Rega's approach back then was to utilize a simple plinth design that was low in density with a bonded aluminum top that would shed vibrations before they reached the arm and platter. Alas, this design was prone to larger "floor vibrations" and required a substantial stand to effectively isolate it.

Rega's solution was to bolt a metal frame to the wall, which worked well with "brick walls", but with timber-frame construction it failed to provide a complete solution.

Since that design, Rega and other manufacturers have adopted the original simplistic Rega design format, but using materials like MDF to build plinths that are acoustically inert.

Taking a queue from these designs I decided to build a new plinth made of 3 sheets of bonded MDF giving it considerably more mass and superior isolation qualities. The design point of increasing the mass is that any vibrations in the component shelf will not be able to move a high mass plinth, especially when combined with an isolation foot with extremely good absorption properties like Sorbothane, as detailed in the section Component Isolation Foot in this blog

The plinth is supported by three of these feet with a modification to imbed them into the underside of the plinth. The feet have been located such that the points at which the arm and platter bearing are attached to the plinth sits in the "null point" of any residual vibrations.

The Arm
The original "S shaped" arm was originally replaced by a Rega RB250 tonearm with the addition of a Cardas Incognito one piece loom, but the latest addition is an Audiomods Series 3 tonearm pictured here (also see Audiomods "Classic" Tonearm Review). This arm uses the RB250 arm tube and that’s where all similarity to the Rega arm ends!

This shows the micrometer VTA adjustment which allows for repeatable adjustments and more importantly, resetting back to the original state.

The counterweight is “drilled out: to lower it’s centre of gravity and has an additional fine tuning adjustment weight for very accurate setup.

STRATFORD_007_NEF_0837



Setting VTA

VTA is “generally” correct if the top of the cartridge is parallel to the playing surface

If your arm has VTA adjustment the process is relative easy, otherwise shims need to be applied

Getting the top of the head-shell parallel requires a device something like this one

VTA Gizmo

You can make one very cheaply

  • a couple of washers,
  • a screw and a couple of nuts,
  • a felt pad for the bottom
  • a piece of foam
  • and a dressmaking pin

Place an album on the turntable (do not start the motor)
Lower the cartridge onto the album
Set the pin touching the front of the front of the cartridge.
Fine adjustment can be accomplished by turning the screw running through the grey foam
Move the device to the rear of the cartridge and adjust the VTA so the pin touches the top of the cartridge at the rear
You may need to re-check the front again after the adjustment and repeat the process

Voila - the cartridge is pretty darn close to parallel - better than eyeballing Happy

You can then adjust VTA so the cartridge is in either a tail-up or tail-down position - as desired


The Sub-Platter
The original Sub-platter has been replaced by the
ISOsub GT 2 S UPGRADE SUB PLATTER and ceramic bearing from Isokinetic. Note: the three brass spacers in the photo are required to elevate the platter above the central spigot so the platter can be used without a turntable mat.


NEF_0834
The original glass platter has been replaced with an SRM/TECH Deluxe Acrylic Platter for the Rega

To round out the tweaks the motor has been replaced with the
Rega II Motor Upgrade kit

Installed on the arm is an all time classic - the
Denon DL-103 Phono MC Cartridge (with brass mounting plate)

The only original parts left from the Rega Planar II is the switch and the cover!

These "tweaks" have elevated this turntable to a performance level that rivals many higher-end models.

I could have purchased a new turntable for the price I have paid out on these upgrades Laugh - but the outcome of this exercise has been very enlightening and increased my knowledge pertaining to the important elements of good turntable design and I feel the turntable performance exceeds any turntable of that price by a considerable margin.

So, what improvements did each tweak make?

  • Plinth re-build - provided a much improved soundstage, lower background noise and better details in instruments, together with the near elimination of vibrations to the arm and platter
  • Audiomods Series 3 tonearm - huge improvements in fine details of recording venue such as concert hall reverberations and soundstage
  • ISOKINETIK Sub Platter - significant improvements in the hi-frequency details and silent bearing operation
  • SRM/TECH Deluxe Acrylic Platter - in combination with the Sub-platter the Acrylic Platter has made huge improvements to the details and 3D image to a level I had only heard on turntables costing substantially more.
  • Rega II Motor Upgrade kit - near elimination of wow and flutter and much quieter operation

Isolation Plinth


Isolation Plinth

UPDATE: in place of the 3/4” MDF isolation plinth I now use an 3/8” granite tile. It provides superior isolation when used with the Component Isolation Foot


PHOTO OF NON_SLIP DRAWER LINER USED
ProGripShelfLinerBlack_x

Component Isolation Foot

Here is a very effective way of isolating components from vibrations that are present in the component rack and shelves

I currently have this implemented on my turntable using a 1.25" ball and under my amplifier using a 1/2" ball.
The washer should be slightly larger than the component foot

Only a single layer of 1/8" or 1/10" thick sorbothane is required

I found any thicker than this actually made my turntable sound a little "muddy" - i.e. not as crisp and dynamic

NOTE: you can remove the component foot altogether and apply the sorbothane directly to the chassis, provided it is flat

ISOLATION FOOT

NOTE: This design is very similar to very successful methods employed in Japan, where they use huge rubber blocks or springs to isolate buildings from the surrounding terrain in the event of earthquakes - it's just on a very much smaller scaleHappy