Post your turntable setup...can't get enough of those spinners!

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by shaizada, Sep 28, 2015.

  1. Thundervikings

    Thundervikings Rando

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    Trying out a new cart (VM540ML) on my Denon DP-45f (Schiit Mani on the right). I want to try playing around with azimuth next week, and I'm already thinking about restoring some of the internal electronics on the table (new caps, inspecting everything, etc). I forgot how much fun it is to run through a stack of records.
    [​IMG]
     
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  2. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    [​IMG]

    My analog rig has finally come back together and has stabilized, so it's time for a photo op.

    It's a Zephyr MIMC ✰ ES -> stock Technics 1210GR -> DIY Pearl II

    It took a while to liquidate past mistakes, cleanse my palate for about a year or so, and then come back into analog. This is definitely my goldilocks zone, a level of price and performance I can live with (some items bought used), and it sounds fucking good.

    The Pearl II isn't situated properly yet. It's a very quiet preamp, but it needs distance from nearby transformers, including its own power supply, to reach its blackness potential.

    I'm also posting this because I have a couple of interrelated analog updates for the forum, but they don't fit into any one thread, so it's easier to post in this general thread.

    We did a masked shootout recently and the results should be helpful to many of you.

    Phono shootout - iFi iPhono 3, Soundsmith MCP2 MKII, Pearl II
    The guys I mention below and myself have been on the hunt for extremely high performance-to-price ratio pres to go along with our performance-to-price focused 1210GRs for most of this year. We've been chatting often, and in the end, everybody went in a different direction. We were able to get together last week to compare on the same rig. The rest of the system was reliable, being one we've done many shootouts on in the past: a Zephyr MIMC ✰ -> VPI Classic Signature with 3D arm -> (phono) -> Phil 3-based system.

    The short version of this is that the iFi iPhono 3, while good and flexible, was a bit overshadowed by the other two. The MCP2 MKII is the most clear, detail retrieving, deep digging, malparido, hijo de puta pre I've ever heard. Most of my records need therapy after the MCP2 had its way with them. The Pearl II was capable of the same levels of digging, but its presentation differs considerably. It provides a sense of 3D space on almost all records. Where the MCP2 will serve you all images, clearly dilineated on a massive wall-like wavefront, the Pearl II will put those images in a foreground, middleground, background type arrangement. So far I've preferred the Pearl II on most records, where the sense of space enhances my immersion. But on some tracks, where lets say there's an outstanding musician in the background, and some comparatively less interesting vocalist yelping for attention in the foreground, I would much rather be listening on the MCP2, where everyone is equal and I can just mentally focus on what I want, instead of having the Pearl II "decide for me" (so to speak), and having to try to "hear past" to the drummer or whoever's killing it in the back.

    Engagement is about the same on both as well. I was a little disappointed in the iFi iPhono 3 on the engagement front, but apart from that it didn't strike me as a pre that did anything wrong. Its reputation for quietness is well deserved, but it was matched on that front by the other two so in this case that wasn't really a plus. I've had all three running this week at home and I can't say I've heard any meaningful or consistent tonal differences between the three.

    VPI Classic Signature and 3D arm vs. Technics 1210GR and stock arm
    This is the 2nd reason we got together. @Dr. Higgs and I now both own the Zephyr MIMC ✰, but I have the ES version (basically just a newer body). And having the same cart meant we could do back-to-back turntable comparisons on the same phono too. The short version of this is that the VPI Classic Signature is better, but not by much. To me, the difference came down to the heft of details presented. The Classic Signature's images seemed hewn from stock, like a deep relief, or the carved image on a block used for Japanese prints. The Technics images seemed liked the print itself. The same image, but on paper. This difference made the VPI more engaging for me. I couldn't hear much else that was meaningfully different. The resolution seemed about the same, tonality about the same.

    Quick comparison of a stock DL103R vs. Zephyr MIMC ✰ on the Technics using detachable headshells
    I think this wasn't as close for me as it was for the others. The stock DL103R was good, but the MIMC ✰ was better all around, more extended, smoother, and just generally made its presence less obvious to me. Retip and repotting/body makes it much more competitive probably.

    Note on the ease of use and cases of the iPhono 3 and MCP-2 MKII
    Both are small footprint, which I appreciate. The weight of the MCP-2 MKII is better, it's heavy metal. The ground lug on the iPhono 3 is a special bitch to use. The unit is so light you can't unscrew it with one hand and insert the ground spade with the other, you need a third hand to hold the unit down. The lug is also too close to the bottom of the unit and too close to the RCAs. I call these features GroundFail™. On the MCP-2 side, I don't like the variable wiper pot for loading. It's good for demonstrative purposes. You can hear the effect of loading while music is playing, but for a company whose LOMC carts all recommend >470R, a few discrete options like 470R, 1K, etc. would be better. I guess this is just a preference thing on my part so I wouldn't really call it a fail.

    Kudos to @Gaspasser for sending up the iPhono 3, @Hooncake for bringing and then letting me borrow MCP2 MKII, and @Dr. Higgs for hosting.
     
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  3. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    I forgot to mention one thing about the VPI vs. Technics comparison: pitch was noticeably different. The VPI almost sounded too slow on some tracks. Classic belt vs. DD differences we've all read about. A few years ago I had the chance to hear the same record on an idler vs. belt back-to-back at @shaizada's house. With these experiences imprinted on me, I think DD is the sweet spot. Idler kind of sounds like it's on adderall. Belt has a tendency to sound like it's smoked a blunt. DD's sober.
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    One tweak on the Classic is to get a HRX pulley with the multiple ribs and run three or so bands. This of course comes with the downside of more 60Hz and multiples, but on a heavyweight table, the noise will still be much lower than on a lightweight table.

    The older TNT series with the external pods is even more in the vector of the belt sound. I have found that using nylon or silk string results in a much tighter and focused presentation, but at the expense of screetching mechanical resonances.

    The problem is that these belts vary in elasticity throughout. There's no way getting around this unless there is some milspec part. I am guessing that more belts average out the variances and reduce slippage.

    I'm curious about the MMP as a entry level phonostage. Do you know if the MMP shares anything with the MCP?
     
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  5. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    MCP2 is a MMP3 with a SUT inside and a pot for loading, otherwise identical.
     
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  6. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    @famish99's got you. But to add to the idea of MMP as entry level -- if MCP is any indication, MMP could be schlong worthy. I personally feel MCP2 is already.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Isn't Soundsmith on here? Maybe we can get a review unit and loaner?
     
  8. sphinxvc

    sphinxvc Gear Master (retired)

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    Yep, I was just thinking the same thing and shot off a message. Sounds like it should be possible, will go to a few guys and then through SBAF. I'll connect with @ChaChaRealSmooth.
     
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  9. Dr. Higgs

    Dr. Higgs Boson - Member

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    The VPI Classic Signature we used for the comparison @sphinxvc mentioned has the HRX pulley with dual belts and is controlled with the older digital version of the SDS (also has a 3D tonearm, HRX weight, counter-intuitive, and periphery ring). Last time I calibrated the speed I used a test record and the Feickert platterspeed app, but that was over a year ago so things might have drifted a bit since.

    Not sure how much of the "slow" sound was related to pitch, but it seems like the Technics does sound more forward/immediate in comparison.There's probably a more audiophile-compliant way to explain it, but I have no idea what it is.

    Only things that weren't stock on the 1210GR were the headshell (Jelco HS-25) and weight (MasterSounds 400g aluminum).

    1m Blue Jeans LC-1 interconnects were used for both setups. Ground wires were different though, which I’m sure had an enormous impact on the perceived differences ;)

    I think my biggest revelations from the shootout were:
    1. The differences between the 1210GR and Classic Signature were pretty small after trying to control all other variables
      • I think the Classic had a slightly more expansive soundstage, but resolution and tonality seemed similar
      • I knew the Technics was good as I've been listening to it a lot for the past few months, but I didn't think it was going to be that close
      • I've spent countless hours fiddling with the Classic's adjustments to get it perfect, so the fact that the Technics can be so close after an eyeballed alignment and minute of VTF/anti-skate adjustment makes it even more impressive
    2. All of the phono preamps we listened to were quite good, but the MCP2 was the most impressive to me. As a longtime Soundsmith fan, I feel like an idiot for ignoring their preamps for this long.
      • Manley Chinook w/ Amperex 7308 - This is my long term reference with the Classic setup, and although it still sounded good it couldn't match the others in overall resolution. The stage depth and width is easily its biggest strength, and was only matched by the Pearl II in that regard.
      • Pearl II - Shockingly similar tonality and staging to the Chinook, with slightly better resolution. I probably would have assumed there were tubes in there somewhere if I was listening blind.
      • MCP2 - The resolution monster of the bunch, but without any hint of added harshness. Bass seemed a bit lean compared to the Chinook and Pearl, but was easily the most defined. Unlike @sphinxvc I actually loved the adjustable resistance since you can immediately hear the difference as you adjust on the fly.
      • iPhono 3 - Sounds like a competent preamp, but considering the competition it didn't really stand out in any particular way. The adjustability is great but also tedious with all of the dip switches. The ground lug is made for ants. I think I'd take it over the RSA Nighthawk (which I used to own) so seems appropriately priced, but IDK if I'd place it in giant killer territory based on our admittedly short listen without much warmup.
    Don't think I'm ready to part with my Classic yet, but I'm definitely on the lookout for a used MCP2...
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Good to hear. I've been considering the GR1210 as a DD table just for less hassle (and different sound).

    BTW, what voltage are you running the SDS at? I found that going into the secret menu options and having it settle at 85-95V sounded better, more stable than 70V.
     
  11. Dr. Higgs

    Dr. Higgs Boson - Member

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    Looks like the voltage starts at 115 and dips to 102 once it settles. I cant remember messing around with the deeper settings before, so might be worth a shot. Thanks for the tip!
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    102 should be good. Lower voltage is quieter, but depending upon cart drag enough juice.
     
  13. JK47

    JK47 Guest

    Tried a 3D tonearm in my VPI setup and thought it sounded dead and dull (not even worth mentioning when I briefly had it), vastly prefer the standard arm for it's more lively sound.
     
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  14. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Different sound. I bitched to the dealer about the sound of the 3D arm. My heart dropped because the Classic 4 came with that 3D arm. It was like two steps forward with the table, and two steps back with the arm. Dealer said "You know what I like about you? You don't do what everyone else is doing and saying sounds good. I'm sending you a metal arm for free. Keep the 3D arm."
     
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  15. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Glad to hear the 1210GR performed so close to the VPI. I liked my VPI a lot but there's no denying the Technics won't be as fiddly, and personally I love well implemented direct drive designs. When I inevitably begin climbing the analog mountain again, the 1210 will be on my shortlist.
     
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  16. je2a3

    je2a3 Almost "Made"

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    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  17. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Beautiful turntable and tonearms. You have done it right! Clearly, you'e been around the block :) Can you expand on the exact tonearms and cartridges you are using, specifically which SPU model etc. I spot a SPU Classic II I think. Also, if you are using step up transformers, which ones exactly going into what phono stage?

    I haven't posted here or anywhere much at all. Busy with life, kids, work, health...new challenges that took me away from things for a while. I see that the vinyl and speaker community on this forum has grown so much! Good job @purr1n !! The forum is so "analogally" healthy.

    I've augmented a few changes to my downstairs single driver system. Namely classic Air Tight electronics and a Thorens TD 124 as well! I rotate electronics and right now am enjoying the full Air Tight setup.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. RKML0007

    RKML0007 Friend

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    Can’t wait to hear the Airtight-ness
     
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  19. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Very soon! I have a new integrated amplifier on order as well. Just ordered it this week. Depending on mood, I can switch them in and out.

    I've owned this amplifier in my system before, but a friend of mine had to have it...so I let it go. Well, now I have ordered a brand new one and this now comes with a remote for volume control, which it didn't last time. I also spec'd in Chrome knobs instead of gold ones.

    The Air Tight ATM-1 is EL-34 based with dual 5AR4 power tube rectification. This EAR V12 is EL-84 based, solid state power rectification.

    http://www.earyoshino.com/V12/

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  20. je2a3

    je2a3 Almost "Made"

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    Thanks for the kind words @shaizada! That's a very nice set up.

    The 301 is fitted with the original Ortofon RMG309 + an early SME 3012 MkII. Usually the SPU GMEII is to be found in the RMG309 and a Denon DL103 in the SME 3012. This set up has remained pretty much constant for over 20 years.

    On the 401 is an Alfred Bokrand AB309 tonearm fitted with an SPU #1S. Depending on my mood, sometimes I'll install a Supex SD900 IV, FR 1 MKII or another DL103 variety. My TD124 is currently fitted with an Ortofon RMG309i + SPU#1s > Hashimoto HM7. The RMG309i Japanese reissue + HM7 MC step up are on loan from a friend.

    Many years ago I wrote about mic transformers repurposed as MC step up devices. I've slimmed down that collection to an Altec 4722 + the Tamura TKS83.

    My two phono preamps are both DIY: 5691/6SL7 octals based on the RCA phono circuit + Loctal 7F7s + 7N7 based on the EAR 834P

    Cheers!

    JE
     
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