Random thoughts about our hobby

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by k4rstar, May 19, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    @k4rstar named output transformer brands of which many I have not been particularly fond of, although some people do like them. These were Lundahl, Hammond, Cinemag, Hashimoto, Tamura, Tango. Of these, I liked one Tango, but this was an expensive high-end model with amorphous cores, and this was before they went bankrupt / kaput and resurrected. Hammond is run of the mill. Cinemag makes better small signal transformers than output transformers. Lundahl are somewhat overpriced and never found an OPT that I really loved from them - besides their expensive chokes don't do any better than cheap chokes from China or anything from MCI. The Tamura and Hashimoto I found unimpressive, particularly the one of latter which was in a Leben, but that could have been the Leben amp.

    The output transformers I liked have been from ElectraPrint ($$), Monolith ($$$), Audio Note ($$$$), the vintage Fischer PP amp kit, and a Chinese "Advanced 300B" deal ($$) which appears to be a successful reverse engineer of a vintage American transformer.

    I'm not sure OTL is much better because it's dependent upon the coupling capacitor, and we all know how stupid esoteric that can go too, even moreso than output transformers. The downsides with OTL are varying levels of veil and murkiness in the lows. Also OTL has a big technical downside: high source impedance.
     
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    Last edited: May 24, 2022
  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    sorry I missed this next to your other (great) post. So far the preference is just with headphones. I have tried a microZOTL amps with speakers and found it yucky. Not a conventional OTL amp, but it was a case of the cure being worse than the disease, their output stage does not sound right to me.

    Very few firms have found commercial success with OTL amplifiers for speakers as best performance for this design requires high impedance voice coils, not present in the market and difficult to manufacture. In the late 40s to early 60s, Philips had resources to lead the way and had a serious catalog of OTL amps and matching 800 ohm speaker units. I have some of these amps now and plan to experiment later this year. A few Japanese companies copied this concept in the 60s but nothing caught on.

    Modern examples like the Atmasphere amps I have not tried, but these are simply not practical. For realistic power output into low impedances they rely on paralleling many more tubes than the average person wants to deal with.

    For reasons I still cannot fully explain, it seems that the sonic compromises of output transformers are more easily detected or even amplified when listening with headphones. You cannot get over the impression that you are 'monitoring' the music rather than indulging in its aesthetic qualities. There is an odd sense of detachment.

    Planar headphones are best suited to transistor or hybrid amps I think.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    The ZOTL stuff was laughable. It shouldn't even be called OTL. More like let's put a ton of active shit (think FM radio transmission) in between that's worse than any cap or any transformer. https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/microzotl-2-0-review.1750/
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2022
  4. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE MOT: NITSCH

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    @k4rstar Thanks for the reply. So, output transformer amps with headphones have not been great? I have not yet done OTL vs. Output Transformer amps on speakers so I can't speak to that.

    My primary headphones are dynamic and have paired well for me with both OTL and Output Transformer types of amps. I enjoyed my time(s) with OG Zana Deux OTL and still have a Crack with Speedball that I made (and @Bill-P hotrodded further). I could see myself settling with an OTL ZDS or the Output Transformer Stellaris if I didn't have my stable of amps, which includes the hot-rodded Crack/Speedball.

    Yeah, it's not easy to find what you need (ready-made, obj/subj quality, or someone to custom make) in Trafo-land.
    And then...you have to get them into a circuit and you still might not like the sound.
    So- great transformers/circuits/headphones and preferences may need to be aligned to grab you.

    Here's a running transformer MFR list I have been compiling:
    • Hirata > Tango > now ISO
    • Hashimoto
    • Someya Denshi (mcintosh unity-coupled type trafos) http://www.someyadenshi.co.jp/HP/audio
    • Tamura Seisakusho, Inc.
    • Audio Note
    • Lundahl – Sweden
    • Jensen USA/L.A.
    • O-Netics (Bud Purvine) USA Pacific NW
    • Swan
    • Electraprint (Jack Elliano) Still making??
    • James – China
    • Edcor – USA
    • Silk – Thailand
    • Magnequest
    • Hammond
    • BMI
    • Tim DiParavicini - ? custom, not sure who made them
    • Audioroehrentechnik
    • Sowter - parafeed transformers
    • Mercury Magnetics
    • MCI
    • Tribute
    • Monolith
    Bud Purvine mentioned: Peerless, Triad, UTC, Midwest, Dagnell, Drake
    Deyoung, Pacific, Heyboer

    Hope this helps somebody...let's give them some audio business and keep them around!


    Side-note on synergies:
    Over the past couple of days, I have been loving the warm, bassy, slamming Sooped-Up 7 (output transformers) with HD600. (Listen to the Peruvian band "Dengue Dengue Dengue" to hear what I was enjoying.)

    I just got my Marv-modded HD-650 back and was doing some A/B testing with S7. Ended up preferring HD600 as it was more forward and slamming (really!) but on different amps it can be a tie, which is weird to me. Sometimes you just gotta plug things in and see what happens. A good Doug-quoting-someone-else quote is: "In theory, theory and practice are the same."
    Time to plug the Cracken OTL back in and spend some time with it tomorrow. |\/|
     
  5. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    I think I'm kinda going through something similar to what others have described here with my 2-ch rig. Over the pandemic, it got... ornate. Lots of boxes, subs, multiple TTs and carts. Turns out, I use some of it a lot, some of it not at all, and there are friggin' cables everywhere. And now I'm facing a move, a probable downsize, a bunch of choices to make, and maybe a realization that all of this maximalism may need to be followed by a much simpler one-box, two-speakers system.

    And I'm sort of fine with that. I like all of the stuff I've gathered, but it's a little hard to take regular pleasure in it all. Lately, I've been into the idea of a minimalist, really well-chosen system in which everything sounds and *looks* good together. There's an aesthetic pleasure to all of this that isn't just about sound. And not so much about ultimate performance and waiting for all the tubes to warm up as something that can just stay on and play all day.

    Lately, the candidates have been...

    --Quad ESL and Quad amps (or tube integrated)
    --some kind of Tannoy and First Watt something (or tube integrated)
    --Fyne something, First Watt or tube integrated (really liking the looks of their Vintage/aka Tannoy copy line)
    --KEF LS60, their new actives, which look interesting and would be, well, no box

    All with the aim of nailing tonality over frequency extremes, ease of use, simplicity, and something that looks good in the room. Sort of the equivalent of trading the mansion for the pied a terre, but really getting that pied a terre dialed in. And/or settling for the HD6X0 out of a simple amp, and just digging the hell out of that.
     
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  6. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    +1 on preferring the HD600 to HD650.
     
  7. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE MOT: NITSCH

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    ^I feel you @wbass . It's not bad to go through this process to figure out what you think you can let go of and what brings you joy. And to try other stuff you think may do it for you.

    And, if it is speaker stuff sold in higher volumes, it is also okay to sell it/regret it/re-purchase it.

    I'm more careful though now as more unique headphone amp stuff may be very hard to re-purchase later if I sell it.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Have @zerodeefex send you the JAR600, unless he won't give it up.
     
  9. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Yeah, what I might part with is not hard to re-find.

    And, also, as much time and thought as I put into building this Magnepan system, one realizes that not every speaker can do everything.
     
  10. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I find I’m leaning toward this idea of most direct audio path for portable audio. I’m much more inclined to be happy with good enough sound when we’re talking about $200 IEMs playing out of a phone when I’m out of doors and the environment isn’t going to be silent anyway, or my AirPods Pro which consistently impress me because intellectually I know they shouldn’t sound as good as they do, especially because the Bluetooth codec they use is AAC.

    For at home dedicated listening, I’m more inclined to go for the multiple boxes and find gear that I think really excels. That doesn’t mean gear that is super expensive. I’ll always be a sucker for “great for the money” gear over “great and costs a shit ton of money” gear. To me it feels like cheating, to get sound I really love out of components that don’t cost as much as I feel they should for the sound they create.

    Ultimately there is the hobby aspect of this…hobby, which to me is about evaluating gear and seeing how components interact and what topologies really click with you and which don’t, etc. To me that’s part of the enjoyment of being an audiophile. I get a little thrill each time I turn on a tube amp and see the tubes come to life. I like turning the knobs on volume pots, and I love turning the knobs on stepped attenuators and feeling each click. There is a tactile and aesthetic aspect to this hobby that increases my overall enjoyment of the music without affecting the sound in any way.
     
  11. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Whatever turns you on! Really. It's a harmless pleasure, except perhaps for the cost and hey, it's your money!
    :pirate07:
     
  12. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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  13. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    I knew a girl like that once. I miss her.
     
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  14. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Ribbed knobs for finer control.
     
  15. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Knew, past tense? What happened, input impedance too high?
     
  16. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    Equipment wasn't up to snuff, and reviewed poorly.
     
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  17. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    If you forget to lubricate and warm up, it often leads to scratchy unpleasant behaviour.
     
  18. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    ...[digging around in the kitchen junk drawer] "There's gotta be an amirbits/sinad/gonad joke in here somewhere... where did i put that fucking thing... dammit, i'd lose my dick if i didn't have my hand on it all day"
     
  19. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    I wondered about this same things as k4rstar when I got into the hobby back in college. My hearing was better back then I could hear so many random details more easily and inadvertently which led to me thinking about this. There also wasn't as much good cheap gear back then and I think you really did have to pay a lot more attention to random quirks. It was a bit overwhelming to take in all at once for me back then and eventually I got busy and buried it for later. Today, I really only think about this when it's brought up and this is what I sort of arrived at:

    Theoretically, we should come in and endorse some sort of organized and mathematically, statistically, or otherwise logically thought out approach to developing and testing all of the little differences between gear. We should optimize a BOM based on various aspects of semi-conductor physics and electrical engineering principles. Conduct proper A/B testing based on rigorous Design of Experiments when we pick components. blah blah blah. Ultimately I guess conduct lots of good science due to FOMO of the last 1% of performance or to reassure self that "hue hue hue my seestem is superiors!!"

    In reality, I've found that
    1) I and bluntly put probably everyone I've met in the audio world probably don't know enough about all aspects of all of the above to actually do all aspects of the "science" 100% theoretically "correct" across the board. *No disrespect intended to many of the brilliant people I have met.*
    2) Even if we could do the above, what sounds good to me often isn't correlated enough to any sort of solid science or logic that we've been able to characterize to date, even if little bits of the "science" do seem to correlate to "good sound" regardless of our personal preferences
    3) Subjectively, even if we could correlate everything and characterize more aspects of sound, there is still too much subjective preference, even if once again there does seem to be a rough sort of consensus of what is generally good/bad subjectively (see: product longevity).
    4) Different rabbit holes yield different levels of enjoyment and results for different people. I've experienced the same with different OS sounding different as well, but ultimately, I have the gear I have now because it's the best I can do for my own preferences within constraints of my time / budget / patience / interest level.
    5) Although the 4 constraints above are different for everyone, everyone hits their own point of diminishing returns where the additional enjoyment << constraints and makes it not worth it to move on.

    Lastly, I have other hobbies where I would say none of the above apply.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2022
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Here's my version of "I am right and everything you guys are doing is wrong", or my personal advice for your consideration so you too can get that magick.

    Thought #1

    Solid state sucks. Always has and always will. Single Ended Triode is where it is at. One driver / gain stage and one output stage with little or no global negative feedback. If you need more power, then Single Ended Pentode in Ultralinear. Avoid PP unless you really need the powah because a tube Jedi once told me that PP subtracts musical information.

    Thought #2

    As such, use moderately to super-duperly efficient speakers. You will have no choice with flea powered amps. Think of such speakers as offering you free power. Also, don't use crossovers. Crossovers parts, especially big caps, are like a carpet over the musical signal. Inductors have resistance and wastes power into heat. If you must use a crossover or frequency response shaping network, minimize the parts used. Speakers that have 58 parts in the crossover network sound like shit even though they may have near perfect frequency response. Don't chase measurements you can't hear at the detriment of sounds that you can hear. Don't be like Amir's cult. Don't be like IEM dweebs who think frequency response is 90% of everything. Finally, high-efficiency speakers tend to have less stiff surrounds, so they are more responsive to the signal. Think Mitsubishi Evo or BMW steering, at least the old days.

    Thought #3

    Don't use headphones. No piece of music that you listen to was approved by the band, the music company executives, or the sound engineers on headphones. Headphones don't do soundstage, they do headstage, which means the stage is few inches outward from your pituitary gland; or if you are lucky and can stand the face tweeter of the HD800, maybe a foot or two in front of you.

    Thought #4

    Get a turntable and learn how to tweak it. Most people who have bad sounding tables or are missing this or that with vinyl probably don't have the table setup optimally or to their taste. Don't be afraid to experiment. Tweaks to turntables are physical, will affect the sound in not insignificant ways, and are usually free. In time with practice, you will learn what does what to get a desired result. There's no rolling the dice with fairly expensive bets as with digital add-ons. If you are a serious audiophile, one who seeks to reproduce a performance that sounds real, then turntables with vinyl (recorded, mixed, and mastered through a fully analog chain) are a must.

    Thought #5

    Oh, but new music doesn't come out on vinyl!

    It doesn't matter. Almost all new music is recorded like shit and goes through an analog to digital conversion so some idiot can F with it in ProTools. Digital conversions inflict permanent damage to the musical signal. There's a wealth of old music that exists on vinyl, one that I'm not anywhere near exhausting. For new music, get a decently affordable DAC that does the job because it really doesn't matter. A decent $200 DAC sounds much much closer to a $10,000 DAC than the $10,000 DAC to any well set up turntable. Don't go down the deep end with DACs with a chain of USB deF'ifiers, specific optimal firmwares, specific USB ports on specific vintage Mac Minis on specific OSs, NOS "purity", ancient R2R chips, or weirdo software with shit UIs to tweak your custom digital filters and upsampling algorithms. You are wasting your time if you are doing this shit and not listening to music because ultimately digital is broken.

    The vast majority of the time, more expensive DACs are different sounding than better sounding. Heck, even "better" DACs are more often than not different sounding than better sounding. Here's the problem: we can't control the analog to digital conversion, and that's 50% of the equation.

    Thought #6

    Time can be traded for money. Sucks to be you if you have no money. Only spend time to DIY, put together kits, build shit, create new things to experience and understand, etc.

    Thought #7

    Listen to music; don't listen to gear. Don't listen to tubes. Don't build tube trees with adapters. Don't listen to USB solutions. Don't listen to formats such as hires, MQA, DSD, HDCD, etc. (Remember when DSD was the rage?) If you aren't focusing on content, then you are doing something wrong. If you already are focusing on content, stop there - do not F with your system.

    Heck, I'll even listen to jazz on a magikal system, and I fricking hate jazz.

    --

    The reason I am writing this is because I finally dug out all of my crap from storage (since my move from California), put it back together, and realized how I was once there but stopped listening to music for well over a year. There are some new additions, but these are more replacing what was already there with something similar.

    PXL_20220529_051517785.jpg
    Turnable, PP tube amp (when I want to crank it), SET amp, widebanders in a horn enclosure, and cat in doctor evil chair. No need for room or mental treatments. Just normal furniture (although I do have cathedral ceilings which helps immensely).
     
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    Last edited: May 30, 2022

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