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.
4/22/2022 - Removed Eaton Powerware UPS. Installed Puritan Audio Labs - PSM-156 power block. 6-outlets all rated at 15A. Came with a Puritan Classic 2M power cord. So far seemed like a solid move.
Next decision is AC power cords for some components. That's going to be a much tougher decision....
5/18/2022 - Added a VeraStarr Grand Illusion II high current power cord. Plugged into the Berning ZH-270 amp to Puritan PSM-156 power block.
This was a used power cord so likely it was already burned in. It didn't take long for me to hear the difference in sound quality change. The Berning amp had a home made PC I had made from a recipe other guys have used. With the new VeraStarr GI2 HC plugged in the music seemed more fleshed out. Not any more clear or articulate - those attributes have always been there but a fuller, more robust sound. I was listening to my local classical station at first. They were playing a orchestral trumpet concerto. Since I grew up playing a coronet I was very familiar with the sound of a trumpet. It should have some bite or edge to it along with the brassy sound - and there it was - it actually sort of shocked me.
I then put on some vinyl - a SAM record (which are just fabulous by the way) The Ronnell Bright Trio - drums, upright bass and piano. Piano is a tough instrument to get right, both in recording and replay. I was pretty amazed at how good this LP sounded - all 3 instruments not only sounded like I think they should they sounded like they were 10 feet in front of me in the room. So verdict is a very positive noteworthy change in SQ and money well spent! High five to Mike Powell the builder of these power cords!
Rearranged some equipment in the rack in preparation for a new amp. Went 300B parallel SET.
Changed some tubes in the Supratek Cortese pre-amp. Removed Sovtek 5AR4 in rectifier position in power supply. Installed Bendix 6106. Also, changed the output tubes,
Sovtek 6H8C with a fresh set of 6H8C. I believe these are made in the Reflektor plant in Russia. I've tried other 6SN7 - Sylvania/RCA - but the Russian 6H8C really does a nice job and their cheap.