I've been adding a few pieces to the audio puzzle lately trying to attain the best SQ I can. Added a 2 level hard maple amp stand for the preamp and amp. Supratek Cortese LCR Gen 3 preamp on top - the David Berning ZH-270 sits on the bottom level.

12/16/19 - Added a Powerware 9120-1500 UPS - power is fully regulated, conditioned and protected with a true sine wave output.

A new Grado Aeon 3 moving iron (MI) cartridge was just installed for Christmas 2019. John Grado himself called me the other day to finish up the paper work so we had a nice chat about the technical aspects behind the model change. Super nice guy and obviously a gifted engineer to make some of the finest cartridges in the world. The apple didn't fall far from the tree here in the Grado family!

After I hung up I sat in my chair thinking about our conversation and some of the amazing people that are in this audio business and by life's serendipity I've had a chance to meet and learn from. It's really what makes this hobby of audio so interesting and allows us to learn - standing on the shoulders of giants no doubt!

12/21/19 Finished aligning the Grado Aeon 3 early this afternoon - spent the rest of the afternoon spinning vinyl. It's hard to put into words how great the system sounds now - easily never better!

Playing through the Gallo Nucleus speakers the freshly aligned Grado Aeon 3 just blew me away right out of the box. The sound stage is now huge - it's way outside the speakers. Almost corner to corner wide on the front wall. The sound is so good I'm not sure I've ever heard better anywhere. Stunning seems a poor choice of words. Amazing!

The Aeon 3 housed inside a Cocobolo wood body mounted on the end of 12" Pernambuco arm wand of the Reed 3P looks just so right! The Certus DD440 is a solid platform to mount these on - wonderful synergy among them.

In September I added the fabulous Supratek Cortese LCR Gen 3 preamp.  Stunning in sound quality. Depth, width, body that is fully fleshed out, images painted in solid form upon the front wall. Just fabulous!

It's pretty much audio nirvana over here.....

12/28/2019 - swapped Supratek Cortese power supply Vrec - took out Sovtek 5AR4 and replaced with Amperex 5AR4/GZ34 - Sittard, Holland - Philips factory - October, 1957. Bugle Boy with double D getters.

1/20/2020 - Pulled my pretty Amperex BB 5AR4 - system had become dull sounding. Decided to swap back the Sovtek 5AR4 that was factory original. SQ improved right away. I was crushed...

1/25/2020 - added the Degritter ultra-sonic RCM. Works as advertised and does a wonderful job. LP's come out pristine and sound just fine - very quiet vinyl when played. Using distilled H2O from grocery store but I did buy some Record Research Labs (MoFi) Pure Record Rinse to try.

2/8/2020 - Recently it seems I've been experiencing more groove noise/ticks from seemingly very clean LPs. I just added the Degritter RCM which does an excellent job - using the heavy wash cycle. Vinyl looks pristine - well worth it even at it's price. Yet, my nice clean new vinyl seemed just a little bit to noisy for me.

On a hunch with roughly 2 months on the new Grado Aeon cartridge I thought its worth a check. Broke out my mint LP protractor and took a look. Not way off but was outside the scribed line on the tool. Spent some quality time stooped over looking at a very small object through a small piece of glass till I was satisfied. That's the worst thing in all of audio.....

After a new re-alignment it sounds much better - a quieter background with few ticks. Solid improvement - interesting I thought too. The alignment wasn't that far off yet it seems that was enough to cause what I was hearing. I guess I'll see how it sounds over the next few days.

3/5/2020  Noticed some tube noise coming through the speakers while listening, tapped on Supratek tubes, V6 - 6H8C responded when tapped. Removed CCCP 6H8C tubes from
V5/V6 locations and installed NOS Philco branded Sylvania 6SN7-GT from 1950 that I got from Andy at VTS. Sounded great after a little warm up, tube noise floor cleaned up nicely.

System is really sounding great these days - especially on a clean well recorded LP. Pretty much all components have settled in and so far happy with my choices...

Ordered a Miyajima Zero B mono cartridge. I needed a low compliance cartridge to mate with the heavy GrooveMaster II tonearm. Looking forward to hearing this combination.

3/7/2020 - Decided to swap the Supratek preamps phono input tubes V1 & V2. From the factory it came with Phillips branded Mullard (Mitcham) 6688/E180F tubes.
Installed Amperex 6688/E180F PQ made in Holland - 1962.

What a nice choice that was. Sound stage depth is deeper, width wider and air around the performers is noticeable. Rock solid images painted on the front wall. Almost an aura or halo of glowing sound - the weight of instruments and tone is really amazing. Boy I love this Supratek preamp! The Grado Aeon cartridge really shines too - just a tremendous reproducer! Holographic pictorial sound that tracks wonderfully getting everything the groove has in it out!

Have to give a big thumbs up on the Degritter ultra-sonic RCM. This RCM is the cats meow! Works flawlessly and presents an ultra clean LP for playing. Really cut down on ticks/pops on even brand new vinyl. Well worth the price of admission!

3/15/2020 - With the addition of the V1 & V2 Amperex E180F phono input tubes I noticed the highs were just a little tipped up. Not awful but noticeable. Swapped out the Philco branded Sylvania 6SN7-GT in positions V5 & V6 and installed RCA 6SN7-GT from the late 1940's.

Tone, timber and weight seem better, the tipped up highs are gone now and overall sense of balance that seems more correct. Will run this setup for awhile but so far seems really nice.

5/6/2020 - Lately I've been disappointed with the SQ of system, just didn't seem "right" so I dug around and came up with a book that others have thought highly of - Jim Smith, Get Better Sound. After reading most of it I got to work with the speaker setup. Implemented his X-Y speaker-chair relationship. This made a huge difference and seems like a much better sound field.

I also swapped a couple tube pairs in the Supratek preamp. I had pulled not long after installing the RCA 6SN7's - they didn't do it for me and went back to stock factory Russian 6H8C tubes. The V6 - 6H8C Russian output tubes (which sound really great) was getting micro-phonic. I swapped out V5 & V6 and installed Philco branded Sylvania 6SN7GT tubes (Bad Boy's) from 1950. These are very nice with a top end sparkle. Since these seem a touch tipped up and sparkly for my taste I also swapped out V1 & V2 - phono input - Amperex/Philips made in Holland with the factory stock Philips branded Mullard - Mitcham, Great Britain. The Mullard's seem a touch more "balanced" - not quite as tipped up highs of the Amperex tubes. The Amperex are very good but the combo of Amperex and Sylvania was pushed to far in the treble region. Sylvania and Mullard seems like a very nice combo.

The SQ was improved significantly after adjusting speaker/chair placement and with tube swaps in the Supratek. I have to say I'm loving the Supratek preamp overall. Wonderful preamp in every sense!

5/11/2020 - Installed some NOS Russian Reflektor factory 6H8C tubes made in 1973. SQ not as tipped up as the Sylvania tubes. More bass and more balance across the frequencies. So far this tube seems the best that I've tried. This is what came stock from Mick and he likes the best too. Overall, a very nice weight and balanced tube. 

6/10/2020 - Mounted a Miyajima Zero B mono cartridge to the GrooveMaster II tonearm. 100 ohm loading, 3.5g VTF. After playing several LP's and adjusting the VTA the sound became more balanced and natural sounding. Probably take 10 hours or more to break in.

Room Details

Dimensions: 14’ × 16’  Medium
Ceiling: 8’

Components Toggle details

    • Convergent Audio Technology CAT SL1 Signature Mk III
    March/April  2018
    New tubes in all 10 positions. Andy at Vintage Tube Services provided tubes using mostly Amperex - Holland tubes. Sounds pretty sweet now.

    The CAT pre-amp started it's life as a Mk II. Updated to Mk III in 2015 but never spent enough time to get it to sound right till now. The MK II to MK III change removes 12AU7 tubes in V6 and V7 positions in the line stage and replaces them with 6922 type.

    The performers seem to come from a inky black background. Maybe not as magical as the Mk II but definitely much quieter. The noise floor is extremely low with new tubes.

    The setup is in a new room - acoustically treated with Real Traps which make a huge difference in sound quality. Overall, a really nice intimate presentation.
    • Supratek Audio Cortese LCR - Gen 3
    Newest Gen 3 Cortese LCR - added 2 phono inputs so both tonearms are in play.

    Sound is magnificent! Stage is deep and wide with solid imaging. Air and space around each performer. Just a fabulous product!
    • The David Berning Co. ZH270
    Berning ZH-270 amp
    ZH-270 amp
    Feedback - Low
    Feedback - Med
    Feedback - Normal
    3dB feedback @ 8ohms
    7dB feedback @ 8ohms
    12dB feedback @ 8ohms
    Level control
    12:45 position
    2 o'clock
    full CW
    Output Impedance - measured @ 1amp / 60Hz
    Speaker Damping
    Sensitivity - 70 watts @ 8ohms
    Signal to Noise - 20kHz bandwidth
    Distortion - 4 & 8ohm loads @ 70watts
    Distortion - 8ohms @ 5watts
    Frequency Response - 1Watt @ 8ohms
    +0dB, -1dB / 1.5Hz - 21kHz
    +0dB, -1dB / 1.5Hz - 35kHz
    +0dB, -1dB / 1.5Hz - 60kHz
    Full Power Bandwidth - -3dB @ 8 ohms
    2Hz - 35kHz
    2Hz - 50kHz
    2Hz - 80kHz
    Typical Crosstalk @ 1kHz
    Typical Crosstalk @ 10kHz
    Input Impedance - 25Kohm
    The level control settings are backed off from full CW position for the different feedback settings to equal the full CW position of the Normal feedback settings.
    Speaker damping relates to the control that the amp has over the position of the speaker diaphragm. High damping has the effect of causing the speaker
    diaphragm to start and stop quickly. Its sonic attributes also show up most dramatically in the bass. High damping is likely to give a tighter, dryer and
    more analytical sound. Low damping is likely to give a more open and resonant sound.
    • Anthony Gallo Acoustics Gallo Nucleus Reference Ultimates Speakers

    Specs: 26-20KHz  +/- 3 dB, 90-dB/watt/meter sensitivity

    CDT tweeter:

    330-degree Cylindrical Diaphragm Transducer (CDT)

    Kynar plastic with silver metal film (ink) coated over it. No voice coil or magnet is used.


    Dynaudio drivers, 17W75XL04, made in Denmark, 4-ohm nominal impedance.

    Original spheres (bass-balls) are 12” in diameter made out of polyethylene with later production models using spun aluminum. 5-way Tiffany binding posts are gold plated.


    • Avalon Acoustics Eidolon
    Cherry wood Eidolon speakers. Obviously, you could do better - or worse but overall a very nice acoustical presentation. A refined & relaxed sonic picture might be a good way to describe them. Jazz, classical and vocals are presented realistically with good weight and tone. For my rather small room they fit comfortably while looking pretty good too.
    • Teres Audio Certus DD440
    Direct Drive, 55 lb platter made of solid brass and a paper resin phenolic. Demo model made personally by Chris Brady of Teres Audio.
    • Reed Tonearms 3P
     3P - 12" Pernambuco arm. Made by a ex-USSR rocket scientist. Really wonderful, easy to use and adjust.
    • Audio Creative GrooveMaster II
    12" titanium armwand, 4x34 Cardas Clear tonearm wire, Ebony headshell with Miyajima Zero B mono mounted, VTF 3.5g - cartridge loading 100 ohms.

    • Turntable stand British Columbia, Canada
    Beautiful maple wood used to make the table for the front end.
    • Grado Labs Aeon 3 – Lineage Series

    Grado Aeon specs

    ·         Output = 1mV @ 5 CMV

    ·         Controlled frequency response = 5 Hz - 75 KHz

    ·         Channel separation: avg. 33dB - 10 Hz - 30 KHz

    ·         Loading: 47,000 ohms

    ·         Inductance: 30 mH 

    ·         Resistance: 72 ohms

    ·         Non-sensitive to capacitive load

    ·         Chassis mass: 12 grams

    ·         Tracking force: 1.6 - 1.8 grams

    ·         Static Compliance: 20cu

    • Miyajima Labs Zero B mono


    Body type : African blackwood - also known as mpingo

    Frequency response : 20Hz - 20KHz
    Output level : 0.4mV
    Impedance : 6 ohm
    Recommended load : 100 ohm
    Tracking force : 2.0 - 4.5g  3.5g recommended
    A version Stylus type : 1.0 mil conical for pre 1967 mono recordings
    B version Stylus type : 0.7 mil conical for most post 1967 mono recordings
    Compliance 100Hz : 8×10-6cm/dyne
    Weight : 11.8g

    Noriyuki Miyajima designed the Zero to be the finest mono cartridge in the world.

    What Makes Miyajima Cartridges Special?
    There is nothing unique about using African Blackwood for cartridge bodies, but Miyajima cartridges have a unique, patented design that really is different to any other moving coil cartridge available.  Miyajima understood that traditional moving coil cartridges suffer from resonances and distortion, firstly due to the tie-wire that typically holds the cantilever and coil assembly against the magnet pole piece with a compliant insert between to allow some movement.  The tie wire has to be very precisely tightened so that the coil assembly is correctly aligned, but its disadvantage is that it resonates, introducing distortion.  The second source of distortion is the typical iron coil former of a moving coil cartridge, which actually distorts the lines of magnetic flux between the pole pieces, as it moves through those lines.  Miyajima have a patented cross ring coil structure that has a non-magnetic core, neatly side-stepping this problem.  The next innovation was to eliminate the tie-wire altogether.  Instead, Miyajima use a pointed slide bar that  locates the coil assembly very precisely from behind at its pivot point, which is also the center point of the magnet, while gently pushing the coil assembly against a compliant insert.  This means that the coil assembly can pivot unimpeded by a tensioning wire.

    Miyajima mono cartridges are true mono designs, which means they have only one coil that operates in the lateral plane only.  They have no vertical compliance and cannot therefore be used to play stereo records (to do so will cause damage to a stereo groove).   Asking the stylus to do only one thing, eg wiggle from side to side, means that it is totally insensitive to vertical movement in the groove, and that manifests as very low groove noise, as well as very faithful tracking of the groove modulations.
    • Bent Audio MU
    Bent Audio-MU SUT. Uses Stevens and Billington TX-103 transformers potted in dual mono cylinders. This is the copper version, 1:10 ratio which produces a 20dB gain.
    • Tandberg Tuner - 3001A
    The Tandberg engineers were given orders at the time to build the best tuner they could so they did - and went a little overboard with this model. Once the accountants in the front office found out how much it was going to cost it was too late. This was big money back in the late 1970's when this first came out.

    Plenty of info on this model. Just a beautiful example from the height of analog tuners.
    • Nakamichi CR-7a
    One of NAk's best deck. Had it serviced by Willy Hermann in April 2016. Cleaned and calibrated. Runs like a champ!
    • Luminous Audio Technology Synchestra Reference

    1M - connection between Supratek preamp and Berning ZH-270 amp


    21 AWG twisted twin conductor
    Continuous-cast 6-nines OFHC copper
    Fine-mesh fiberglass 3/8" diameter jacket, air-core insulation
    Eichmann Bullet Plug® RCAs
    Unshielded. Shielded available
    Inductance: 1.95 mH/m
    Capacitance: 92 pF/m
    Resistance: .035 ohm/m
    • Audience AU-24 SX
    Au24-SX interconnect and speaker cables - added December 2019
    • Harmonic Technology Pro-9 speaker cables
    8' of HT Pro-9 speaker cables. Seem very balanced from top to bottom frequencies. For the price an excellent cable.

    Currently sitting on the bench.
    • Real Traps Bass trap
    These bass traps are the real deal - it makes a huge difference in acoustics, sound quality and musical enjoyment.
    • PratherMade Bedford design
    Double Forward Facing Bedford Unit.
    Hard maple. Added heavy duty casters to the bottom.
    • Art of Sound Art
    • Telefunken U47
    Since its original development in 1946, the TELEFUNKEN U47 has been the microphone of choice for generations of recording professionals.
    • Eaton Powerware UPS 9120-1500
    Power is fully regulated and conditioned - true sine wave output.
    • TimberNation 2-level amp stand
    Hard maple - preamp at finger reach when spinning LP's
    • Degritter Ultra-sonic RCM
    Ultra-sonic RCM - works like a champ! LP's come out the high frequency bath in beautiful pristine condition. SQ does not seem hurt from the high frequency scrubbing while the vinyl is very quiet when played. Expensive - but you could make the argument its a good value when balanced against the time and mess of manual cleaning.

Comments 4

Hi James,

I have used a SUT before and still have them - Bent Audi MU pictured but that was when I was tracking a Benz Micro Lo4 cartridge with the CAT preamp and needed the gain. Even though the CAT has a high gain phono stage I had to crank up the gain so much the tube noise floor was fairly apparent. Adding the SUT helped very much in that case. When using the SUT there was a subtle decrease in resolution - like a very slight veil was imposed - not enough to make me dislike it since it solved the gain problem. It was definitely a choice of pick your poison.

The Supratek has such a high gain phono/line stage it doesn't need the SUT - in fact I'm running with the high/low gain switched to low gain.

I'm not familiar with the Allnic H7000 (V?) but it looks like your stuck - the Aeon is looking for 47K ohm loading which is only available on your MM input. :-(

Grado tech help has been excellent - easily the best I've ever had from any manufacturer. If they recommend no SUT I'd have to place my bet with them.

Of course that doesn't help you - sorry.....



Hello. That is a wonderful collection of equipment.
 I am curious as I want to get the grado aeon. But talking w grado they are dead set against the use of a SUT. My allnic h7000 has only 40dB gain in mm where the aeon needs to be. 
  Are you using active step up gain?  Have you tried an SUT w any luck. 
  Thanks much - james 


Hi there Cytocycle!

Thanks for stopping by and a good question on Audience cables - one I haven't fully answered for myself yet - at least with the speaker cables.

The Harmonic Technology cables I have (1.5m Truthlink interconnect and 8' speaker cables) have been in my system since around 2003. I would say they have been a very solid copper cable (which I prefer) and give an honest representation.

I used a pair of the first generation Audience Au-24 2m interconnect which ran from my CAT preamp to Berning ZH-270 amp and seemed just fine. No real complaints with them at the time.

Over the years with Audience coming out with the new SX interconnect model and reading good things from many mags/people decided to try it. I got a 2m interconnect and installed it between the CAT preamp and Berning amp. I would say it was a "noticeable" upgrade for the better. It just seemed like a clearer representation of the music. Sort of like peering through a window that had been cleaned. Since the SX 2m interconnect seemed like a solid move I decided this past fall to try the speaker cables which is what is in place now.

Here is where the story takes a turn - I also added at roughly the same time a new Supratek preamp and just days ago a new Grado Aeon 3 cartridge.

Basically I have a whole different system and the change in sound quality (SQ) is leagues different for the better and on so many levels it's really hard to say what effect the Audience Au-24 SX speaker cables have made.

I have wondered exactly your question - and have the HT speaker cables hanging in my closet to run an A/B/A test to answer it for myself. Since the new additions are still "burning in" I'm content to travel down the road for another 100 hours or so before getting my wrench out and doing the experiment.

That was a long winded answer of "I'm not sure yet" to your simple question. But, I do plan on getting that answer and probably within the next month or so.

My gut reaction and a pure guess at this time is that the SX speaker cables were similar to my experience with the SX interconnect.  A solid move allowing a clearer view into the music.

Finally - just a little clarification with the location of where the Audience SX - 2m interconnect is being used. With the new layout of my system I had to swap the Audience SX  out the preamp to amp connection. It's now between the Tandberg tuner and Supratek preamp. I'm using a 1m of Luminous Audio Technology Synchestra Reference between the preamp and amp.

I've always thought this was an excellent cable and it's doing a great job connecting 2 highly resolving components.

Hope that helps for the time being....



Well thought out system!  Curious on what you thoughts on upgrading from Harmonic Technology Pro 9 to the Audience AU24 SX?  I'm considering that myself now.


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