The Next Level: An afternoon of improvement

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by abernardi, Jan 28, 2018.

  1. abernardi

    abernardi Friend

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    Hey everybody,
    It's been a dog's age since I've posted here, it's nice to see you guys are still around! I had a pretty special Saturday afternoon with my good friend shaizada tweaking my system. Right off the bat I have to say this man has a rare talent.

    I probably should tell you something about my setup, I'm not a rich, old, white successful retired male living in Orange County (well, white and getting old, but I doubt I'll end up rich or in Orange county...), so I don't have a lot of new brand gear, it's mostly stuff I bought used on Audiocircle and here and from friends, a lot of home made stuff, etc. It's a mish-mosh. I'll just stick to the pertinent analogue gear:

    Micro-Seiki B21 TT (NOS 70's consumer table)
    Graham Robin tone arm
    Audio Technica AT-OC09ML/II moving coil cartridge
    Furutech AG-12 tone arm cable
    EAR 834p phono preamp with 3 NOS 12AX7 tubes, including a Mullard in the V1 (gain) position
    Magnetic wire interconnects from Sonny over at Audio Circle
    Luminous Audio Axiom Passive Preamp
    NuForce MCP-18 Preamp
    Marchand XM126 Tube active crossover
    1 BEL (Brown Electronics Labs) 1001 MkII Amp (for the highs)
    1 BEL 1001 MkIV Amp (for the lows)
    PCOOC homemade speaker cable (from an internet recipe)
    Avlar Prodigy speakers (prototypes from a company that never got off the ground. 3 1/2' two way towers with one 8" SEAS woofer and an original version of a Heil AMT folded ribbon tweeter, 4th order crossover at 500Hz, designed by Jack Smiley and Jerry Axelrod)

    OK, so I warm up the system, shaizada shows up around 2pm and I put on the first record and DISASTER!, hardly any sound is coming from the right speaker. How can that be? It never happened before! We start to trouble shoot and our first suspect is a bad tube. To make a long story short, it turned out to be the NuForce SOLID STATE preamp. Murphy is very active in the audiophile world. Luckily the phono preamp has a volume pot on it so we just bypassed the preamp altogether.
    Now, I've been building this system for 5 or 6 years, piece by piece and it has never been just right. I went through many pieces of gear, tubes, cables, power conditioners, etc. One persistent problem has been a peakiness at certain frequencies, I think I've posted here before about the frustration. My last round of changes came with room treatment, acoustic panels, a rug, curtains, I even found that putting a pillow behind my back on my leather couch to distance my head from the back improves the sound. Everything helped, but it was still slightly there. I was learning to ignore it because I just didn't know what else to do.
    So shaizada starts listening carefully and hears the problem pretty quickly. My attitude was that I knew how good his system sounded and he struck me as pretty knowledgable about setting up a room, so I was going to let him take the lead and I'd follow. Glad I did!
    First thing we did was put a Fidelity Research FRT-4 step up transformer, that shaizada just happened to bring along, in the chain and set the EAR for MM instead of MC. I knew the 834p step up transformer wasn't great, but this made a huge difference. Where there was a slightly harsh edge, now it was just smooth, big improvement. We played a little with the settings until we agreed on what was best.
    Then he says, move that speaker to right a tad, toe in that speaker slightly... I'm looking at the speakers, it looked like one speaker was toed in more than the other, but it was an improvement. We did some adjustments on the acoustic panels, it's getting better. There's a fire place between and behind the speakers and a big screen TV above that. I usually cover the TV with a throw, but didn't that day. I had covered the opening of the fire place with an acoustic panel because I thought that might help. He had me raise it about a foot to cover the brick above it and not worry about the opening. Then we stacked a cheap foam dispersion panel on top to cover about half of the TV. WOW, did that make a difference! Now we're loving what we're hearing. It's more organic and in the room and the imaging is rock solid.
    Shaizada is sitting in the sweet spot and his brow furls... something's not right. He says... what wire are you using? There's something wrong with the wire. I said, oh yeah, my interconnects were made my this guy over at Audiocircle... and before I could finish he said, "Oh, Sunny? Yeah, magnetic wire." I thought that was fairly obscure! He said, yeah, it's good, but I think it may be contributing to that peakiness, what else do you have?" I had several pairs of, like 20 year old Straight Wire interconnects but I had taken them out a long time ago because they seemed to flatten and dull the sound compared to Sunny's wire. "Let's try them"
    Well, they did flatten and dull the sound. But here's the advantage of an electronic crossover: we could adjust the high and low levels. With a little very careful tweaking... BOOM! The sound came so alive and vibrant and real! It demanded your attention and sucked you in. We locked it in there for now. We spent the rest of the time listening to music and marveled how these adjustments made such a huge improvement. It also became more three dimensional and it seemed that the vocals were coming more forward into the room, almost as if it were riding on a bubble, I'm not sure how to describe it. Diana Krall is so close mic'd that she always comes in the room, but now she's IN the room, it's eerie.

    Anyway, I want to acknowledge shaizada's amazing talent and knowledge and generosity in helping me with my system. I hope someone finds this inspiring and if you have any questions let me know. NOW GO CHASE THE DREAM!!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
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  2. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Hey Abernardi! That was a fantastic listening session and I enjoyed every moment of it.

    That is a really good listening space that you have, so its really only a matter of trying to make the best of it. The system throws a huge soundstage. I really like the clarity and scale of the setup. Good thing is that one doesn't have to spend a lot of money to get really great sound, so I wouldn't worry about that aspect.

    I've heard systems costing more than a house that don't sound as good as what you have going there.

    About the EAR 834p transformers, they are 1:10 step up ratio. They work well with most cartridges, but obviously not all carts. The Audio Technica OC-9 cartridges are a different kind of beast and really require careful matching up with an associated step up transformer. That's generally true of all cartridges and step up's. They go hand in hand. One size just doesn't fit all.

    Anyhow, I had a great time and even though it took me forever to get to your place, I'm glad I did.

    Enjoy the tunes!
     
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  3. bazelio

    bazelio Friend

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    @abernardi that was a great read, and it sounds like a very fun and productive day with @shaizada was had! You're lucky to have someone like the G Man within driving distance. I have no doubt that he could help you achieve any sound you want, and I do know for sure that the LAAS 2017 EAR suite was the pits without his help!! The vast majority of us do not have ideal listening rooms, or even rooms that can be dedicated solely to 2 channel listening. And there is just no replacement for knowledge and experience when it comes to getting the most out of what you have!
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
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  4. abernardi

    abernardi Friend

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    Actually I just broke down and made my living room the listening room. My friends now just accept that it looks weird and they have to watch their step when they come over.
     

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