I have been experimenting with hifi equipment for over 45 years trying to get my jazz LPs to sound their very best.I started out making a lot of equipment myself, mostly out of economic necessity, but I have returned to DIY simply to get the sound that I want. It's also more satisfying to design and build something than it is to be on the audio merry-go-round where nothing is ultimately satisfying. In general, I like a warm, detailed, dynamic sound with good rhythmic pacing. I also want my speakers to sound like a single driver, not a collection of several drivers all sounding a little different. That sounds simple enough but it can be hard to come by in today's high-end world.
One thing that has remained constant over the years is my love for straight-ahead jazz especially from the late '40s through the '80s. I particularly enjoy jazz guitarists. Some favorites include George Barnes, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini, Emily Remler, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Charlie Christian, Barry Galbraith, Jim Hall, Barney Kessell, Oscar Moore, Sal Salvador, Chuck Wayne, Django Reinhardt, Carl Kress, and Johnny Smith. What talent! Jazz probably accounts for 90% of my listening, but I also occasionally listen to folk, rock and classical.
I generally prefer the sound of the original issues of LPs or early reissues, in contrast to the reissues sold today by "audiophile" labels. For whatever reason, the modern reissues just don't have the natural sound that records pressed in the 1950's and 1960's have. I would rather put up with a few ticks and pops and even some occasional distortion when listening to a used record from that era than listen to a modern reissue which may sound clean and pristine but also processed and less natural.
Deja Vu Audio speaker with all vintage components--Jensen P15LL woofers in open baffle, Western electric 32A horns with YL Acoustic 5500 compression drivers, and Electro-Voice T-350 tweeter. Internal wiring is Audio Note Lexus and Audio Note SPx..
with Gavia platter (32 lbs). Dynamic, detailed and musical. The table has the updated Galibier high-torque motor and new controller circuitry.
Analog Instruments Siggwan 12
A 12" unipivot arm made by James Grant in New Zealand from a single piece of cocobolo. I replaced the standard Cardas wiring with a Discovery wiring harness.
Triplanar VII.2 Ultimate
The Triplanar is a great match with the Benz LP.
I have been a loyal Benz customer for over 20 years, progressing from a Glider M2 to L2 Woodbody to the LP. I have enjoyed each one.
A classic. Recently upgraded with boron cantilever and MR stylus by Andy Kim. Sounds really nice on the Siggwan tonearm.
EMIA Intact Audio MC Stepup Transformers
Copper 1:10 stepups
DIY D3a/5687 Phono
My main phono preamp is a 2-stage tube phono circuit with passive RIAA equalization. The first stage is a Siemens D3a (in triode) and the second is one-half of a 5687. Each tube is biased with LEDs. The outboard power supply uses a 5R4GY rectifier, several chokes, and Blackgate WKZ filter caps. The audio circuit uses a number of Audio Note Silver tantalum resistors. Interstage coupling caps are .1uf CuTF V-Caps. Intact Audio output transformers.
I experimented with a number of audio circuit topologies and power supply designs, as well as component types, before settling on this particular setup, so it's no surprise that I like its sound very much. It replaced an Artemis PH-1 as well as a number of previous DIY efforts. Aside from sound quality, it is also very quiet, more so than any of the 4 or 5 solid-state phonos I've tried.
Emotive Audio Epifania Custom
This is a one-of-a-kind version of the Epifania. It uses the Epifania 12B4A audio circuitry but with solid state regulators. This unit has V-Cap coupling capacitors and Black Gate WKZ power supply caps.
Slagle Autoformer passive attenuator
Western Electric WE 124 amplifiers
DIY version of the WE 124 amplifier with Acrosound TO-330 output transformers. RCA 6L6-G output tubes. Copper V-Caps and Audio Note Silver Tantalum resistors.
Emotive Audio Vita monoblocks
These are a custom pair of Vita amps built by Fred Volz at Emotive. The Vitas are a push-pull design that can use KT-120s, KT-88s, 6550s, EL-34s, KT-77s and 6L6s. My favorites are Genalex (reissue) KT-77s and Tung Sol KT-120s. These amps are, without a doubt, the best sounding high-powered amps I have had in my system. They are also the best looking with matching tiger maple bases. The amps have 3/4" thick aluminum slabs around the perimeter which act like a sink for vibrations. They have copper V-Cap (CuTF) coupling capacitors, Teflon tube sockets and WBT connectors.
DIY 6L6GC Monoblocks
Push-pull amps with GE 6L6GC Blackplate outputs and vintage Chicago output transformers. They use a floating paraphase inverter circuit. Coupling caps are Copper V-Cap (CuTF).
DIY 46 SE Monoblocks
Single-ended 2-stage amps with Electra-Print output transformers. A Western Electric 417a driver feeds a RCA 46 output tube via an interstage transformer made by Dave Slagle of Intact Audio. The driver stage has voltage and current regulation with a CCS feeding an OD3 gas tube. Choke-input power supply with 5R4GY rectifier and BlackGate WKZ filter caps.
Audio Note Sogon and Vx
Silver litz wire interconnect.
Audio Note ISIS interconnects
Audio Note SPx speaker cables
Silver litz speaker cable.
Audio Note ISIS speaker cables
Ocellia Reference power cord
used on phono preamp.
Audio Note ISIS power cords
with Furutech FI-50 NCF connectors. Used for all components except phono preamp.
Furutech GTX-D (R) NCF
Sound Anchors Stands
Dedicated stands for turntable and monoblock amps.
New speakers! For the past week I have been listening to my new YL Acoustic/Jensen speakers that were designed and built by Deja Vu Audio in McLean Virginia. They are built around a midrange horn and compression driver made by YL Acoustic (Yoshimura Labs) which was a Japanese firm that supplied movie theater sound systems in the 1960s. YL Acoustic was inspired by Western Electric designs and made some replica WE compression drivers for the Japanese market. The firm is perhaps best known today for some of its employees who went on form Kondo, Ale and Goto. My speakers use a YL horn from 700 Hz on up and are supplemented by a Electro-Voice horn above 10K. The bass is handled by a Jensen P15LL in an open baffle. The crossover components use vintage paper in oil capacitors. The internal wiring is all Audio Note Lexus.
Preconceptions can be dangerous. In the past, I have preferred the sound of AC heating for preamp and power amp tubes instead of DC heating. Therefore, when I revised my phono preamp to use a pair of Type 56 tubes instead of 5687, I used AC for the 2.5 volt heater supply. To my surprise, changing the heater supply to 2.5 volts DC not only lowered the noise levels but also sounds better. That's a first for me.
My next surprise came after running the 56 tubes for a few days and then switching back to the 5687. Yes, the 56 has some appealing qualities, but overall the 5687 has a more neutral tonal balance and more detail, at least in this application. So I have come full circle and ended up back where I started.
Time for a new project! I am thinking veneer for my speaker cabinets......
I made an interesting change to my phono preamp, changing the second stage tube from a 5687 to either a 27 or 56. I have a lot of 27 tubes left over from my Emotive Erato days, and it's been fun hearing these again. My favorite 27 continues to be a National Union with ST glass. The 56 is a very similar tube to the 27 and I have now tried a couple brands. So far my favorite 56 is also a National Union. There is something about these really old triodes that communicates music in a more direct, more fundamental way than modern tubes like the 5687 or 6DJ8 etc.
As an experiment, I am running the 27 and 56 tubes with an AC heater supply. Tube phono preamps nearly always use DC on the heaters to minimize noise pickup in a sensitive application like a phono stage. However, running my second gain stage on AC doesn't seem to cause any problems. The residual noise in my present setup is higher than the ultra-quiet background I have with the 5687, but I suspect that is due to the difference in gain between the tubes and not the heater supply. Anyway, eventually I will try a DC heater supply to find out if that lowers the noise at all, and if it does whether it is worth the sacrifice in sound quality. In past experiments with other tubes, I have always preferred the sound with AC on the heaters.
I have been experimenting with the new Audio Note Silver Tantalum resistors in a few critical places. So far they have been a distinct improvement over the resistors used previously which include regular Audio Note tantalums and some other brands. They have exquisite detail and microdynamics that result in a lively and very natural sound. It's too bad the Silvers are so expensive (close to $90 per pair) or I would use them everywhere.
It turns out the Ocellia power cord is better than I thought it was. A while back Charles1dad asked me about it and I posted that it sounded good but it didn't impress me as much as the Ocellia interconnect. Since then I found out that the Furutech IEC plug used on the Ocellia power cord is quite sensitive to the type of IEC inlet on equipment it is used with. In my case, I had the Ocellia plugged into an ordinary tin-plated IEC inlet on my phono preamp, the same type of IEC inlet used on virtually all commercial equipment and unfortunately not a good sounding match with the Furutech IEC plug on the Ocellia. I don't claim to be any expert on IEC inlets since I have only tried two after-market inlets, but I can say that the Oyaide R inlet is a far better match sonically to the Ocellia than the tin-plated inlet. (I also tried a gold-plated Furutech inlet but did not directly compare it to the Oyaide.). The Oyaide inlet preserves all of the positive qualities of the Ocellia power cord while pretty much eliminating my reservations about it. Previously its midrange was a bit withdrawn and lacking in body and the midbass was on the lean side. With the Oyaide R inlet, the Ocellia power cord is well balanced from the deepest bass to the highest highs and the midrange is no longer recessed. Dynamics and detail are also improved. Based on this experience, I highly recommend the Oyaide R IEC inlet. Also kudos to Chris at VH Audio for his helpful advice.
Granny, I should probably have withheld comment on the WE 16g wire since my WE wires have so few hours use. I hope to get around to trying them again soon.
Charles, I have Ocellia interconnect between my phono preamp and linestage. I would love to have an Ocellia from linestage to power amps but unfortunately I need a long 4M cable. I haven't seen any Ocellias longer than 2M. I use a 4M Wireworld Eclipse II that sounds very good in my system.
All of my power cords are Virtual Dynamics David except for the phono preamp which has an Ocellia. The Ocellia power cord is very good but I don't like it as much as the Ocellia interconnects.
I tried the WE 16g briefly, maybe 4 or 5 hours, and didn't like the tonal balance---too bright and too lean. It was certainly lively sounding and had pretty decent detail but the tonal balance was not to my liking. I am hoping that it will improve with more hours. So far, however, I haven't had the time or interest to try it again. I also bought some more WE 16g so I can try it with doubled up wiring next time. A pair of 16g wires is equivalent to something in between 12g and 13g, so I am hoping that improves the LF weight.
I did spend a lot of time working with the Belden 8402 interconnect recommended by Jeff Day. I started out with KLE Absolute RCA plugs, ran it for over 200 hours to break in the plugs and cable, tried it with and without shielding, and tried it in both directions. Then I changed the KLE plugs to WBT 0102 Ag plugs and went through the whole breakin routine again for another 200 hours. The bottom line after all that was I still prefer my old Wireworld Eclipse II to the Belden.
I don't disagree that the WE 16g and the Belden are great values, but so far I haven't head anything that suggests they deserve all the hype.
In any case, comparing cables is not my idea of fun!
No, I haven't tried the Clarity TC caps. I am still very pleased with the power supply caps I am using which are BlackGate WKZ and Jensen radial electrolytics. In concert with the other capacitor, resistor and wiring choices, these power supply caps give me the sound I am seeking.
I added a photo of the new armboard for the Siggwan arm. This is a massive hunk of aluminum that is attached to the Galibier turntable with two 3/8" bolts. Very solid.
The Siggwan is now my preferred tonearm. While I do occasionally switch back to the Triplanar, I always end up putting the Siggwan back pretty quickly. I don't know whether it is due to the cocobolo or the 12" length or something else, but the Siggwan has a natural tonality and a sense of ease and composure that I like very much.
I recently sold the Schick tonearm so it is no longer listed.
The Siggwan 12" cocobolo is attached right now. I used it for a couple months to break in the wiring, went back to the Triplanar briefly as a reference point, and am now back to the Siggwan. Both the Triplanar and Siggwan sound very good but I haven't compared them yet with the same cartridge. The Schick also sounds nice but I prefer the other two arms.
I will be trying some different wiring on the Siggwan shortly.
I added a photo of the Siggwan cocobolo tonearm. After listening to it for the past two months, I am still very happy with the sound of the Siggwan. I have only used the Denon 103R so far but will try other cartridges soon.
John, I don't see the bike photo on your virtual system. Maybe a delay with it appearing?
My Waterford was a 2200 with custom geometry (very minor tweaks to make the fit more similar to the Trek 1200 aluminum I had ridden for 7 years before the Waterford). The frame was a deep burgundy, absolutely beautiful with the intricate lug work. I had my local bike store install the components which were Dura Ace with Mavic Open Pro wheels. I used the Waterford for two seasons (a little over 7000 miles) before moving all the components to a Litespeed aluminum frame. The Waterford tended to give me a backache on long rides, no matter what I did to tweak the fit, so I eventually decided we were just not made for each other. I ran the Litespeed pretty hard for a couple years and it became too flexy so I bought my current bike which is a Trek 5200 Madone. Nothing fancy. It looks just like everyone else's bike whereas the Waterford always attracted attention. Despite the generic appearance, I have to admit I love the ride of the Trek. I hope it will be with me for a long time.
Thanks for visiting Reynolds853 and for the nice comments. I like your moniker as well. For a few years I had a Waterford road bike made of Reynolds 853 so seeing your moniker brings back lots of great memories. Alas, that beautiful bike is long gone. I gave in and now have a carbon fiber frame.
Charles1dad, my experience with the Serious Stereo 2A3 amps is limited to hearing them in 3 settings at RMAF, twice in the Serious Stereo room on the Serious Stereo 604 speakers (2007 and 2011) and once in the Galibier room on Daedalus Ulysses speakers (2011). I spent several hours listening in the Galibier room spread over several days.
It's always hard to triangulate the sound of a particular component when you are hearing it in the context of someone else's system, but with that caveat my impressions of the Serious Stereo amps are: excellent detail, surprisngly good dynamics, and full range extension in the bass and treble. I have a suspicion that the SS amps are also a bit lean in the midbass range but I can't say that for sure given the show listening conditions. The Ulysses speakers supposedly have a 96db sensitivity so they should be reasonably well suited to a low power amp. Nevertheless I was surprised by how much power and control the amps had at relatively loud volumes in a fairly large room. Yes, I could hear some compression on peaks but that hardly detracted from their fine performance. That said, when I returned home and listened to my 46 amps on my high-efficiency speakers, I thought my setup sounded even better at least for my tastes. (Of course, there were a lot more differences than just the amps.) My 46 amps are more limited in power output, however, so speaker matching becomes even more important than with a "powerful" 2A3 amp. A tad over 1 watt will only go so far.
Grannyring, I just noticed that Parts Connexion has a RIFA 4700uf, 400v electrolytic on sale. I don't know how they sound since I haven't tried them, but that would give you a lot of capacitance in a small can.
Jet, the ASC caps always sound, to my ears, very colored. The midbass is too warm and rich, the midrange is projected forward, and the treble is rolled off. There is also a consistent softness on the leading edge of transients and the bass is too loose and bloomy. The ASC does have very nice dynamics though. All in all, it's a sound that people either love or hate.
The GE 97F has some of the same qualities but the colorations are much reduced in magnitude. For me it hits the sweet spot: it is just as dynamic as the ASC, it is warm sounding but the bass is not too rich or overblown like the ASC, the treble is sweet and natural but more extended than the ASC, and the 97F is not as soft on transients.
Howver, I only use the 97F as the first cap after the rectifier, which is just the spot you have in mind. A 97F cap in this spot is a great complement to the BlackGate WKZ caps that I use for the caps after that. The BG has colorations too but they are pretty much the exact inverse of a good oil cap.
Let us know what you think after you try your 97F. I am pretty sure you will like it!
No I haven't tried the Clarity TC caps. My power supply caps are mostly BlackGate WKZ caps which of course are no longer available. I also use GE 97F series oil caps which look similar to ASC but I think sound much better. For larger values, I use Jensen electrolytics. Recently I tried the new Wima flat pack caps which combine pretty good sound with a compact size, high 700v rating and low price. Dennis Fraker uses the Wimas in his Serious Stereo 2A3 amps. In my 46 SE amps, I preferred my BG WKZ caps to the Wima but most people don't have that option.
Thank you NoRo! Tonal color is something that is very important to me. The Spendor speakers do a very good job of differentiating tonal colors of different instruments, for example tenor sax versus alto, and getting the timbre of an oboe and clarinet just right, in my opinion. That was actually something that took longer than I expected to get right with the high-efficiency Jensen/Altec system, but I believe it now exceeds the Spendors in that respect.
I have read about the new Jupiter Copper Foils but haven't tried them. At this point, I think my capacitor needs are fully met in both my crossover and electronics, but if my needs change I will definitely check them out.
New photos added. The new, larger speaker cabinets are shown in the system photo as well as under the Jensen/Altec speaker listing. I also included a photo of the outboard crossover board.
Eventually I plan to veneer the speaker cabinets to improve the appearance, but that is down the road. Long before then, I will build a new housing for the outboard crossover. The one shown in the photo was just a quick throw-together experiment.
Update: I finished a pair of larger cabinets for the Western Electric/Jensen/Altec speakers. They are 5 cu ft bass reflex cabinets and are now floor standing so they no longer need a support stand. I will take some new photos.
Bifwynne and Sebrof, I appreciate your kind comments. Thanks for looking. Bifwynne, I hope you continue your jazz exploration. There is a lot of great music out there. And I can't imagine there will ever be a better time to buy jazz on vinyl than right now. Old records are still available in pretty good condition at used record stores and on Ebay, and new pressings are available if one prefers shopping by catalog. So life is good!
A speaker update: The high-pass crossover in the Jensen/Altec/Western Electric speakers now uses a Duelund 7.5uf CAST capacitor. The new Duelund is going to take a long time to break in fully but even with 20 hours it is sounding very nice! Prior to this, I was using a 1uf Duelund as a bypass across a 6.8uf Mundorf Supreme; this combination sounded very good but the single Duelund already sounds better. When first hooked up, the Duelunds sound dark and lifeless. They start to open up after a few hours and then just get better and better.
An update: I added a new phono preamp I built a few weeks ago which I like very much. It is very simple 2-stage design with 12AX7 tubes. No cathode followers; no regulation; no solid state devices of any kind except for the heater rectifiers; in fact, it could have been built back in the 1950s just as easily as today except that I used high-quality modern components.
The 12AX7 phono stage doesn't replace my D3a/5687 preamp. They both sound very good, but they provide different flavors.
Zenkai1950, Thanks for the nice comments on my system. After looking at your blog, I see that we do share a love for jazz. I have bookmarked your blog and will be following it. Keep up the good work! And for the record (so to speak), I voted for Roy DuNann.
New photos are posted. I usually listen to the Jensen speakers while they are sitting in front of the Spendors, and then I remove them when I want to go back to the Spendors. It's not ideal but it only takes a few minutes to go back and forth. The Spendors are too heavy to move around quite as easily.
Add me to the chorus of mono fans. I tried out my new Miyajima BE mono last night in the Schick 12" arm, and right out of the box it sounded great! There is a "right there" presence that suits the music to a T. The first record I played was an old favorite---Milt Jackson's "Ballads and Blues." Simply wonderful!
Thank you for the kind words Charles1dad. Much appreciated! To return the compliment, I am impressed with your system as well. I haven't had the privilege of hearing any of the Coincident products but I am especially interested in the phono and linestages. I am sure the combination of all that gear from the same designer sounds very nice. And I know a 300B SE amp can sound wonderful with acoustic jazz since I used a similar amp on my Spendors a few years ago.