Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nordost Odin cables

German hifi magazine Stereoplay missed the boat ;) In June 2007 issue they gave Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker cables co-reference status (along Kimber Kable KS1036), yet Nordost had already raised the bar by announcing new Odin Reference cable range. Extract from Nordost material:

"1.Dual Mono-Filament Construction

The World-renowned performance of Nordost's Valhalla is based on the combination of Mono-Filament spiral spacing and extruded Teflon insulation, a unique construction that creates a virtual air dielectric. For Odin, Nordost's engineers have taken this process a stage further, first twisting two FEP Mono-Filaments together, before winding them in an open spiral around each solid-core conductor. It sounds simple, but demands dramatically higher production tolerances if such complex, multiple cable constructions are to be successfully manufactured. However, the results are a significant reduction in conductor contact area and far greater geometrical consistency, especially when cables are bent. First used in the Valhalla power cord and Tyr interconnect, Odin employs Dual Mono-Filaments in conductor's in optimized arrays throughout the range.

2.Total Signal Control (TSC) Shielding

Odin interconnects also employ a revolutionary new shielding technique, developed to match the theoretical performance of solid copper pipes without the resultant problems of inflexibility that such rigid structures impose. Each of the eight conductors in an Odin interconnect is individually shielded using this Nordost developed technology which minimizes both signal leakage and external interference in today's increasingly electronically polluted environment. Conductor materials remain silver plated copper, with silver plated WBT NextGen RCA or Furutech XLR terminations on the interconnects, rhodium plated low mass Z-plugs or spades on the speaker cables."

Odin doesn't come cheap, with prices starting at $14,000/pr for interconnects, $20,000/pr for speaker cables.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

High-end gear for sale

I've various high-end gear for sale.

To start with, Mark Levinson 334 power amplifier. Requires no introduction, the last line of ML amplifiers which is built like a tank - and drives any speaker. The amp in question was purchased in 2001, has one little scratch on top, price very competitive 2.900 euros. A steal.

The second gear needs some explanation. It's a combo, comprising of Perpetual Technologies P-1A digital prosessor and P-3A 24/96 DAC. The P-3A has ModWright Signature II mods, as has external Monothlic power supply. Icing the cake are silver, cryo treated Revelation Audio power cables between Monolithic power supply and PT boxes, and Revelation Audio silver, cryo-treated I2S cable to connect PT units.

Idea is that you set P-1A set to output 44.1kHz, which will leave it to the P-3A's circuitry to upsample the data to 96kHz. However, you have to set P-1A's Output Bit Density to 24 bits. Connection between the units is the best digital connection in terms of eliminating jitter, i.e. I2S.

Cracking digital re-production, 550 euros. I've Mark Levinson 390S cd-player, so I do know something about good digital sound. See Stereophile review, and then check ModWright and Revelation Audio.

The third item is a pair of Kimber Kable's top KS 9038 jumpers for loudspeakers. I used them when I owned Revel Studios, don't need them now with my pair of JMLab Micro Bes. Trust me on this, if you have jumpers in your high-end speakers, you have not heard what your tweeters can achieve before you use these jumpers. Price 400 euros.

SMS / call at +358 40 7000 482, or leave a note to this blog entry.

Musical Fidelity 1st June 10:10 announcement

During the last couple of months MF has generated buzz about important announcement at 1st June, exact 10:10 AM GMT. See their Web-site tomorrow what the buzz is all about...

Meanwhile, MF has announced new "super integrated amplifier", model A1008. The accompanied CD-player is model A1000.

The A1008 is descendant of the kW550 and has the same physical layout and circuit block componentry. The kW550, however, has an extra 3dB of dynamic range and higher power ratings.

The A1008 has 250 watts per channel, external power supply and like Naim SUPERNAIT integrated amplifier, on-board DAC. According to MF, internal 24/192 DAC is exactly the same as the X-DACV8. Digital inputs include USB.

Inner World Audio hifi publication

In May a new hifi magazine was launced primarily for Finnish market. Most articles are written in Finnish, although selected articles are written in English for a broader audience. I contribute as a reviewer, in the first issue my review subject was McIntosh MC275 amplifier.

About the magazine. The innerWORLD/AUDIO is a broad, modern, professional web/paper magazine of sound, music and visual effect. The issues are available as a free download (PDF-files), the readers can also subscribe actual paper copy. Sample the first issue, we hope you like it. We feel it is an indispensable addition to Finnish hifi magazine landscape.

Krell KID

High-end audio giant Krell Industries is acknowledging the popularity of Apple iPod as it announced Krell IPOD Dock (KID) at the Home Entertainment Show 2007. KID's retails $1200, and offers balanced outputs (+ 2 RCA and S Video outputs) and bass and treble adjustments.

Some months ago I wrote about MSB's audiophile docking solution, which requires modification to iPod. The KID has no just limitation, hence a welcome addition to iPod space.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

YouTube must-view video about compression

As an audiophile you must view this YouTube video about what compression does for recording. Even with small computer speakers you can easily here the consequences of dynamic range compression.

The TAS blog - Red Book CD history

The Absolute Sound's editor Robert Harley has his own blog. I copy hereby pretty fascinating blog entry about history of Red Book CD-format.

"April 17 - The World’s Most Expensive Book—the CD “Red Book”

Audiophiles correctly use the term “Red Book” to describe the CD format, but incorrectly to refer to any 44.1kHz/16-bit digital audio, or even to pulse-code modulation (PCM, the CD’s encoding format) in general.

So, what exactly is the “Red Book,” and why would we describe an audio format with such a name?

When Sony and Philips jointly developed the CD format in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Philips contributed the optical system, Sony the electronics and error correction, broadly speaking), they needed a specification that described the format in detail for CD factories. When a CD replicator bought a license to manufacturer CDs (for $5000), it received a copy of this 8.5″ by 11″ document, which happened to have a red cover. (Each CD format has its own book and colored cover. The book that described the CD-ROM format, for example, has a yellow cover and is called the “Yellow Book.”)

I had a copy of the “Red Book” on my desk when I worked in CD mastering. It describes the disc’s physical parameters, encoding and decoding scheme, optical system, and types of data errors and maximum allowable error rates, among other things. The reference to 44.1kHz/16-bit linear PCM encoding occupies a miniscule fraction of the book’s contents, yet the term “Red Book” is now firmly entrenched as meaning 44.1kHz/ 16-bit digital audio.

The Red Book contains some interesting provisions that aren’t widely known. For example, the CD was designed to carry 4-channel audio as an option, but at a slower sampling frequency and shorter word length. This option was, obviously, never used. Another unused option is the provision for graphics, text, or other data in the disc’s “subcode.” The CD has eight subcode channels, designated P–W, with each having a data rate of a relatively slow 7.35 kilobits per second. The “P” channel simply “goes high” (binary 1) for two seconds before the start of each track to allow cheap CD players to find track starts; the Q channel contains all the timing and track information that you see on your player’s display; the R–W channels are reserved for other use, such as graphics or text. No CD players that I know of have ever been able to access the R–W subcode. I’ve seen R–W subcode graphics displayed experimentally and can tell you why they never caught on—it takes an agonizingly long time (because of the slow data rate) to “paint” a single still graphic on a video display.

It was widely reported that the CD’s specifications were influenced by conductor Herbert von Karajan, who told Sony’s president that this new format would need to hold Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its entirety. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that the Red Book doesn’t specify the CD’s maximum playing time. Rather, it specifies the disc’s rotational speed (linear velocity), track pitch (the space between tracks) inner starting radius, and outer ending radius. (CD’s are read from the inside out, with the disc speed varying from about 500 rpm on the inner radius to about 200 rpm at the outer radius, which maintains a constant linear velocity as seen by the playback laser.) From these parameters one can infer the maximum playing time. For many years after CD’s introduction, 74 minutes was considered the upper limit of the CD format’s capacity. But by mastering a CD at the edges of the allowable parameters (slowest possible linear velocity, soonest starting radius, latest ending radius, narrowest track pitch), one can make a CD with more than 80 minutes of playing time that still conforms to the Red Book specification."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

McIntosh 275 Mk V and NOS tubes

Evidently McIntosh has introduced a new version of its renowed Mc275 model, the Mk V variant. The mark V is the EU RoHS directive compliant product, i.e. lead and other "hazardous substances" free. In addition, Mk V finally eliminates strip speaker connections and has proper speaker connections, so you don't have to re-terminate your speaker cables. Also gone is adjustable sensitivity on unbalanced input.

I started saying that "evidently" because I have not yet seen any mention about mark V on McIntosh Web-site. However, I do know it exists as I've been happy owner more than 2 months. I reviewed Mc275 for one hifi-publication and was so impressed that I replaced my previous power amp Mark Levinson 334 by review sample.

Mc275 is everything than other reviewers have said and then some. I found Mc275 in my gear to be more transparent and more silent than ML334, ideally suited for kind of music I listen predominantly, i.e. acoustic jazz. The Mc275 is the quietest tube power amp I've heard, bar one. What Mc275 left me wanting vis-a-vis ML334 was that feeling of absolute authority and control. Guess I have to upgrade next to Audio Research Reference 110 in order to get Mc275's life-like performance and ML334's majesty.

I my review I stated that Mc275 did not responded much to NOS tube rolling, ie. my experimentation with NOS 12AX7A tubes did not demonstrate that much difference. I tested Philips Holland Pope 12AX7 1959 (Upscale Audio Platinium Grade, exactly same tube as Amperex Bugle Boy Holland 12AX7) and Sylvania 1961 Vintage 12AX7 1961 (Upscale Audio Platinium Grade).

Now I have to re-state my findings, reason is that I replaced stock KT88 tubes by original Svetlana, cryo treated KTR88s, purchased from Watford Valves. To cut the long story short, if you want to know what your Mc275 is capable for, try cryo treated Svetlana winged-C KT88s. Combined with Sylvania 12AX7s they produce truly breath-taking music. Moreover, I installed Herbie's Audio Lab's nickel alloy tube dampers for all small12xxx tubes and KT88 power tubes, which further tightened low registers and took care of tiny amount of microphonic haze and fuzziness. Additonal upgrade I found beneficial was Kimber Kable's top-of-the-line power cable Palladian PK10 (in my tests much better choice than Nordost Shiva or Siltech SPX20/30) and a proper platform (my Mc275 floats on Aurios Pro bearings, which reside on top of Symposium Svelte platform.

I ordered from Wafford Valves cryo treated NOS Mullard 12AT7 to replace stock tubes, but even without them I can honestly say that Mc275 with upgarded tubes causes long, long listening sessions. Phenomenal "breath-of-life", holographic imaging and transparency.

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