LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour

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tortugaranger

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #60 on: 10 Dec 2020, 04:23 pm »
Hi Emiel,

Thank you for participating in the tour and for your thoughtful review below.

A few thoughts on measurements. Much gets made by some of measurements - the classic objectivist outlook - which distilled down says if it doesn't measure good how can it possibly sound good, or at least sound authentic. As an engineer I'm big on measurement but have learned that measurement is generally a poor proxy for human hearing and the human listening experience. I'm reasonably certain that the Tortuga LDR300x does not measure as well as your Schitt Saga. If measurements were a definitive metric for audio quality we'd simply compare measurements and buy the best equipment with the best measurements we can afford. But people don't do that...for good reasons. People don't buy wine based on chromatography results and few buy audio gear based on measurements.

As I'd posted earlier in this tour thread, the tour unit has a firmware bug that can cause control lock-ups. From your write-up that is what you ran into. That bug has already been fixed (but not in the tour unit) and we've not observed nor received further reports of this behavior.

Since sending out the tour unit, we've changed the way the screensaver works (the swimming turtle). It now no longer swims continuously. We also changed the communications settings eliminating any noise artifacts when updating the OLED display. Keep in mind that the firmware already has a display timeout feature that is turned off by default. The user can both adjust the display brightness as well as the display timeout setting such that when the timer runs out the display goes totally dark until the user uses the remote or control knob again. When the display timeout feature is enabled the screensaver turtle doesn't show up at all.

Thanks again for your participation and feedback.

Cheers,
Morten

Ok, here’s my review of the LDR300x.V3! Quick disclaimer, I was an idiot and forgot about the included hex wrench, so I only ran it in active mode. I wanted to open it up to change up the settings but realized none of my metric hex wrenches fit and I didn’t have time to go to the hardware store to pick up another set that would work. Only when I packed it up to ship it out again, I realized you included the correct hex wrench. So for anybody receiving it next, keep that in mind!

I’ll preface this by being honest, I was very sceptical this would do anything positive for my system. The current preamp I am using is a Schiit Saga which tested incredibly well in terms of distortion figures on audio science review:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-schiit-saga-tube-pre-amp.6520/


The only issue that it has is that the impedance changes quite a bit throughout the volume range, but it is very low from about 75-100% volume. In tube mode, on the lower volume section, this impedance issue changes the frequency of the sound a lot, predominantly by rolling off the low end. This causes the sound to be very bright and unbalanced in my system which is why I only run it in passive mode where this should not be an issue. Bass is very important to me as my partner is an upright bass player, so I often have the opportunity to compare live upright bass playing and great recordings of upright bass players in my system and in the same room. The upright bass is such a fascinating instrument because it produces very low and visceral bass without ever being boomy. This led me down the path of chasing down the best bass possible in my room which led me to an open baffle 21 inch subwoofer. This produces a very realistic sounding bass response in my regular system with the Schiit saga.

The moment I hooked up the LDR300x.v3 though, I immediately noticed that the bass became more full yet with more control. This was a very pleasant surprise and totally not expected, so for the first day or two, I listened to a bunch of electronic music. Some albums I listened to were Aphex Twin - Ambient Selected works 85-92, Haruomi Hosono - Medicine Compilation From the Quiet Lodge and Surgeon - Europa Code. They all sounded much more controlled, fuller and smoother than with my Schiit saga. Strangely enough, I was turning up the volume to very loud levels without realizing it because everything sounded so smooth. I would try to talk to my partner, thinking the volume was low enough to do so, but then realized we couldn’t understand each other because the volume was up quite high. Switching back to my Schiit saga this week, the opposite happens, I have the feeling that the music is a lot louder but then when I try to talk to my partner, I realize the volume is not up very loud because we can easily hold a short conversation. My thoughts are that with the LDR300x.v3, content below 500 hz is being beefed up a little bit more in comparison to the Schiit saga. On the audio science review analysis, amirm found that the Schiit Saga in tube mode with a low impedance load of 600 ohm, started to droop at 500 hz. In passive mode he did not find this, however, we have to remember that the analysis is only slightly representative of a real-world listening situation. Perhaps even in passive mode, the Schiit saga is taking out some content below 500 hz in my system. This would explain to a certain degree why the LDR300x.v3 sounded fuller, smoother and more balanced, likely because it has better linearity.

Now in terms of the harder to quantify stuff like soundstage and imaging, I felt like the LDR300x.v3 produced a slightly larger soundstage that made the music sound more engaging but at the expense of imaging. I use my system for both movies and music, and I feel like movies are a great way to test imagining as I should be able to clearly correlate somebody's mouth moving with speech. This is where the LDR300x.V3 fell a bit short when compared to the Schiit Saga. The Schiit Saga produces pinpoint imaging, making it really easy to correlate a mouth moving with speech, but the LDR300x.V3 felt a bit more “diffuse” making it harder to pinpoint where sounds are coming from. Switching back to music, I noticed the same, the LDR300x.V3 sounds much more diffuse and I noticed less instrument separation. I believe this is another reason why the LDR300x.V3 sounds smoother, the overall presentation of music sounded more “gelled together” at the expense of some detail and imaging. There are two ways to look at this, and in my opinion pinpoint imaging is not exactly the most natural sounding presentation of music. I thought the sound of the LDR300x.V3 was more natural and pleasant sounding. As Delta77 mentioned, this results in very little listening fatigue. I wanted to listen to music for hours and hours on the LDR300x.V3 whereas with the Schiit saga I can get some listening fatigue at some points, especially when listening to more complex music.

After my first day with electronic music, I switched over to some acoustic music (Ketama - Songhai, Joe Pass - Virtuoso) again everything sounded natural and smooth albeit a bit diffuse. I think for more critical listening, the Schiit saga does a better job with acoustic music, especially with something like Ketama - Songhai because it does a better job at separating the instruments from each other. However, for more enjoyable listening and a more natural presentation, the LDR300x.V3 does a much better job.

Next up was some Jazz and I went through this playlist:

https://www.whathifi.com/us/features/12-great-jazz-recordings-to-test-your-hi-fi-system

All fantastic albums and good recordings. This really put the LDR300x.V3 to the test. We turned off all the lights and settled in for a serious listening session. Overall it was very enjoyable, albeit maybe slightly too laid back for my tastes. The Schiit Saga has a bit more bite which especially for the highly dynamic jazz recordings like those from Rahsaan Roland Kirk, makes things sound a bit more exciting. This however does come at the trade-off of faster listening fatigue.

Alright, now some more practical stuff. The volume control is super smooth and I loved the added flexibility in volume adjustment over the Schiit saga. The preamp looks fine, just a simple black box and it feels nice too. That being said, I prefer the visual appearance of the Schiit saga, but who the hell cares about visuals, sound is what matters here! One of the things I really did not like about the LDR300x.V3 is the apple remote. At first, everything worked fine for an hour but then I started having issues with the LDR300x.V3 locking up every time I used the remote to turn the volume up or down. I quickly realized it was because the remote was also interacting with my apple TV which I use for watching movies. This basically rendered the remote useless for me, so for the rest of my time with the preamp, I just manually turned the volume up and down, which is totally ok, although a remote is nice. Especially when it is pitch black and I’m on my second beer, making the mistake not to check the ABV (13%...ouch!). Stumbling around to turn the volume down in the dark is not a whole lot of fun, and I love having a remote for this purpose. At first, I thought this was just a minor issue for me, but switching back to the Schiit saga, with its custom remote I realized that for me at least, the apple remote is not ideal, at least not when it produces locking up issues. When the apple remote did work, however, it was very nice to use.

One more issue I was having was that the LDR300x.V3 was putting out a very low level but audible bleep sound every two minutes or so. This was super annoying when my system was on but with no music playing. Probably just a firmware thing, but annoying nonetheless. Now if I have to be super nitpicky, I also am not a huge fan of the turtle swimming around on the screen which drew a lot of attention to itself in the dark. It would be nice if there is an option to turn this off.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the LDR300x.V3 and to me, it is a worthy upgrade over the Schiit saga!
« Last Edit: 10 Dec 2020, 08:21 pm by tortugaranger »

Emiel

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #61 on: 11 Dec 2020, 12:09 am »
Hey Morten,

Thanks for letting me be a part of the tour, it was great being able to try out the preamp!

I work in a job where I deal with a lot of analytical chemistry and analysis, particularly concerning botanical extracts so my stance on measurements is a little bit different. I think everything has to be explainable by analysis, otherwise, we are dealing in the realm of fairy dust and magic, and that does not sit well with me. That being said, low distortion values is clearly not what it is all about, it is a lot more complex. Some distortion may even be slightly desirable, or perhaps a bit of compression from a buffer stage. Then we also start getting into the realm of very minor pre-set tone controls basically, helping to enhance the sound. Perfection in distortion and engineering may just be boring for most music listening. However, I still believe we can quantify this with measurements, we may just need to expand that scope and factor in psychoacoustics and even room acoustics, something a standard analysis rig is obviously not taking into account for electronics like amps, DACS and preamps.

That all being said, we all have our own little measurement rig, and those are our ears and when it comes to enjoying music, I agree that's the measurement rig we should rely on most. Still, I would like to see these preferences be explained by science and analysis because liking the way something sounds, corresponds to something physical in the world that is quantifiable yet subjective. The subjectivity part, differences in ear shapes, processing of audio signals in our brains, the frequency response of our ears and just simply personal preference, is where things obviously start to get incredibly difficult.

I like your example of buying wine according to a chromatogram, and to be honest if that were possible that is how I would be buying my wine haha. I could over time identify for example that out of the different acids that can exist in wine such as lactic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid and phosphoric acid that I may prefer the acidity of wines high in phosphoric acid while not liking wines that derive most of their acidity from citric acid. If a chromatogram was available on each wine bottle, that would then allow me to pick the wine that best suits my palate. Currently, it's more of a guessing game (and so is the majority of audio to be honest) I think the reason people don't buy wine according to chromatograms is because it is not available and would require a fair amount of education. However, I think if it was available it would be very popular. I hope that one-day analytical chemistry becomes cheap and fast enough where these sort of things are more available to consumers. It's already being used on the production side of things, just look at all the work Anton Paar is doing, a good deal of their analytical equipment these days is catered towards beer brewing and wine production. I think what they are doing on Audio Science Review is fantastic because it gives consumers access to analytical data that most of the manufacturers already have access to anyways and often lie about to their customers too when they do make results available. That being said, they are playing a dangerous game sometimes by only going for low distortion stuff and not taking into account all of the other intricacies of good audio engineering.

Anyways, long story short, I really enjoyed listening to the pre-amp, it sounded very fun and pleasant and I would not at all mind having one in my system! Especially taking into account that the minor bugs have been fixed in the production models!

Randy

Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #62 on: 11 Dec 2020, 12:25 am »
I like the swimming turtle!

MttBsh

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #63 on: 11 Dec 2020, 01:45 am »
My wife loved the swimming turtle too.

I wanted to comment on Emiel's observation that the LDR300x.V3 provided less instrument separation than the Schitt Saga, resulting in music being more "gelled together". Although I've not listened to a Saga, I found the exact opposite effect from putting the Tortuga in my system - I immediately noticed crystal clear channel separation, with superb stereo imaging and soundstage, so I was pretty surprised to read that in Emiel's review. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that in.

rajacat

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #64 on: 12 Dec 2020, 10:00 pm »
My wife loved the swimming turtle too.

I wanted to comment on Emiel's observation that the LDR300x.V3 provided less instrument separation than the Schitt Saga, resulting in music being more "gelled together". Although I've not listened to a Saga, I found the exact opposite effect from putting the Tortuga in my system - I immediately noticed crystal clear channel separation, with superb stereo imaging and soundstage, so I was pretty surprised to read that in Emiel's review. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that in.

I had the same reaction.

kernelbob

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #65 on: 13 Dec 2020, 12:37 am »
Excuse me for chiming in, I'm not on the preamp tour list, but my experience with both the Tortuga LDR1B and the LDRxB has been their uncanny & unequaled ability to isolate individual instruments in a very wide and deep soundstage, even in the most complex orchestral music.

Best,
Robert

Emiel

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #66 on: 13 Dec 2020, 02:13 am »
Just to be clear, I never said the LDR300x.V3 was bad at imaging and producing instrument separation. What I did say is that in comparison to the Schiit Saga, it is not AS good. The Schiit Saga is an extraordinary preamp for the fact that it doesn't really add anything, nor take away anything. As you can see in the Audio Science Review, for the price the Schiit Saga is a very well engineered pre-amp that based on the measurements will likely be very transparent and not change the sound from our source components much or at all. From actually listening to it, the Schiit Saga is very transparent and doesn't add anything to my music. On one hand this is good and on the other hand this does make things perhaps a touch boring. The LDR300x.V3 on the other hand certainly adds a bit of "audio MSG" to the mix, smoothing things out and increasing fullness a bit. Overall a very natural and enjoyable presentation, and with that said, with great imaging and soundstage too. Better soundstage than the Saga, and imaging that is not as good as the Saga. Again, this is just my opinion and I'm not saying the LDR300x.V3 is bad by any means, in fact, I would love to have one in my system, but I'd also be keeping my Saga. They are both unique, and both produce a fairly different sound, both of which are enjoyable and could be utilized depending on what kind of mood I'm in.

LarryD56

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #67 on: 13 Dec 2020, 02:34 am »
    I'm hearing very good instrument & singer separation in my system. The music is very coherent (in timing) and natural sounding. The soundstage has expanded out beyond the previous preamp's soundstage. It's bigger & wider, but still stays cohesive. That's what I'm hearing. I'm using a Cherry Megaschino and a Cherry King STM Mk2 for amplification. My speakers are upgraded/modified Infinity RS2.5's. The CD player is a Cambridge 840C. I hate it that I'm limited to using the CDP since 99% of the time I play music digitally through my computer. I have a (nearly full) 8TB hard drive that I play, but mainly use online sources to listen. If this preamp had two sets of XLR inputs on it I would be wanting one right away. Maybe adapters would work. I'll have to look into that.
    I immediately noticed a little deeper bass once I hooked the Tortuga into the system (compared to my W4S preamp). I don't know what that's attributable to. The bass is still well controlled, just a little more noticeable. I can't say that the Tortuga adds bass or that the W4S preamp left some out, it's just slightly more noticeable in comparison. Not hearing any smoothing here. I do like the small size of the 300 since that blends well with the small size of the Cherry products (STM & DAC DAC 2) and my HP micro computer & LaCie 8TB hard drive.
    With 3 days into it I guess I can sum up my experience thus far as being a pleasant one, me likey. I should have a couple more sets of ears coming over to hear the preamp by Monday. I'll post their reactions.

     Larry D.

MttBsh

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #68 on: 13 Dec 2020, 02:48 am »
Just to be clear, I never said the LDR300x.V3 was bad at imaging and producing instrument separation. What I did say is that in comparison to the Schiit Saga, it is not AS good. The Schiit Saga is an extraordinary preamp for the fact that it doesn't really add anything, nor take away anything. As you can see in the Audio Science Review, for the price the Schiit Saga is a very well engineered pre-amp that based on the measurements will likely be very transparent and not change the sound from our source components much or at all. From actually listening to it, the Schiit Saga is very transparent and doesn't add anything to my music. On one hand this is good and on the other hand this does make things perhaps a touch boring. The LDR300x.V3 on the other hand certainly adds a bit of "audio MSG" to the mix, smoothing things out and increasing fullness a bit. Overall a very natural and enjoyable presentation, and with that said, with great imaging and soundstage too. Better soundstage than the Saga, and imaging that is not as good as the Saga. Again, this is just my opinion and I'm not saying the LDR300x.V3 is bad by any means, in fact, I would love to have one in my system, but I'd also be keeping my Saga. They are both unique, and both produce a fairly different sound, both of which are enjoyable and could be utilized depending on what kind of mood I'm in.

Thank you Emiel for the clarification. Just curious - are you using the original Saga or the Saga+?

tortugaranger

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #69 on: 13 Dec 2020, 07:30 pm »
If this preamp had two sets of XLR inputs on it I would be wanting one right away. Maybe adapters would work. I'll have to look into that.
     Larry D.

Something we've been putting a lot of thought into is an updated flexible enclosure design/approach that doesn't lock us into any one source for a particular size of extruded box or enclosure component. Also looking to raise the bar to arrive at a more distinctive and aesthetically pleasing look than just another black box. And all the while keeping costs down - no milling out enclosures from solid billets of metal etc.

The reason I mention this is as part of that initiative we are working towards an updated version of our existing LDR3000T (tube)  & P (passive) including a new "S" variant (solid state). The LDR3000 series accommodates 3 RCA inputs and 3 XLR inputs and is a balanced preamp at heart. The updated version will have dual outputs of both signal types.

I short, the updated LDR3000 model will essentially be a balanced version of LDR300x with 3 XLR inputs and will be built around the ePot.V3 series stepped attenuator/controller same as the LDR300x currently on tour.

Cheers,
Morten

Hikmer

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #70 on: 16 Dec 2020, 04:19 pm »
My wife loved the swimming turtle too.

I wanted to comment on Emiel's observation that the LDR300x.V3 provided less instrument separation than the Schitt Saga, resulting in music being more "gelled together". Although I've not listened to a Saga, I found the exact opposite effect from putting the Tortuga in my system - I immediately noticed crystal clear channel separation, with superb stereo imaging and soundstage, so I was pretty surprised to read that in Emiel's review. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that in.

I am also curious what other equipment Emiel is using.  I purchased the preamp without trial and while I did run into the issues identified, Morten worked overtime to help me figure it out and get the firmware update.  I recently had a major home renovation and still setting things back up to do a proper review but suffice it to say I plan to keep the LDR300v3 as it provides excellent volume control and a solid presentation of the music over the complete spectrum. 

LarryD56

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #71 on: 17 Dec 2020, 04:13 am »
    Well I have the LDR300x.V3 on it's way to jriggy in Indiana. Shipped it out this evening.

    I do wish I had more time to spend with the preamp and do some extensive listening, but I did figure out rather quickly that it bested my Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE in sound reproduction. I cannot explain 'what' made it better, but there was just a bigger presentation of whatever I played. The soundstage was bigger/wider and slightly clearer than the W4S. I could pick out the different players in different places on the soundstage when a recording was a well produced one (I listen for that). As I said in an earlier post I immediately heard more bass on the first track I played. After listening for a while it seems that everything is more 'there'. It seems like more information is getting through the LDR 'connection' than is getting through a wiper type connection or one using contacts and resistors. I don't really know what the reason is, but I like the result. The first album I played was a bit more realistic sounding, very natural, but not smoothed over at all. Later I played some Dire Straits tracks that I knew were bright and edgey and the LDR300x.V3 played them the same as the STP-SE, it didn't mask over the brightness. Very detailed and complicated tracks were not missing anything when they were played through the 300. The Wyred 4 Sound preamp is no slouch and I still like it a lot, but I think there's a Tortuga in the lineup to go into my 2nd system.
    I had a friend (former president of the Boise Audio Club) come over last night to take a listen to the Tortuga. He'd been wanting to hear one for years after reading about them shortly after Morten started making the LDR preamps. I played some albums that he knew very well. He really liked what he heard. The tour is a great way to make this excellent product known. Thank you Morten for making it available to us. Otherwise we would not know what we're missing.

       Larry D.
« Last Edit: 17 Dec 2020, 01:17 pm by LarryD56 »

LarryD56

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #72 on: 17 Dec 2020, 01:15 pm »
   Oops! Tis the season to be distracted. Looks like I'd been sent the wrong address and the preamp is on it's way to Indiana instead of Michigan. Jriggy had contacted me about it and said he would work something out with Morten. So, Bob2, there will be a slight delay in getting the LDR300x.V3 next.

     Larry D.

tortugaranger

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #73 on: 17 Dec 2020, 01:42 pm »
   Oops! Tis the season to be distracted. Looks like I'd been sent the wrong address and the preamp is on it's way to Indiana instead of Michigan. Jriggy had contacted me about it and said he would work something out with Morten. So, Bob2, there will be a slight delay in getting the LDR300x.V3 next.

     Larry D.

Yep. My bad. Despite updating the list, I managed to send the wrong address. My excuse is we moved our operations across town this past week and well, if you've ever moved, you know how that show goes. 

1) uncola - HI
2) MttBsh - WA
3) Delta77 - CA
4) Emiel - AZ
5) LarryD56 - ID (has shipped)

6) Bob2 - MI (up next)
7) sruffle - NJ
8') krustykat - NC
9) GentleBender - FL
10) Mollydog

Standby List
1) ** open **

jriggy

Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #74 on: 17 Dec 2020, 02:20 pm »
Hey guys,

[Edit: I hadn’t yet seen a personal message from Morten]

I totally understand what moving can do to things...
Maybe Larry can have the unit rerouted? Or maybe Morten can have it picked up and shipped to the next person once it’s here?

Again, sorry I’ve had to bow-out.

Jason

Bob2

Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #75 on: 17 Dec 2020, 03:18 pm »
   Oops! Tis the season to be distracted. Looks like I'd been sent the wrong address and the preamp is on it's way to Indiana instead of Michigan. Jriggy had contacted me about it and said he would work something out with Morten. So, Bob2, there will be a slight delay in getting the LDR300x.V3 next.

     Larry D.

Thanks for the heads up! Where in Indiana? If it's close I could pick it up.

tortugaranger

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #76 on: 17 Dec 2020, 04:04 pm »
Thanks for the heads up! Where in Indiana? If it's close I could pick it up.

Indianapolis. I'm going to ask to have the unit forwarded to you. No worries.

Best,
Morten

Bob2

Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #77 on: 17 Dec 2020, 04:46 pm »
Thanks Morten!
Looking forward t giving it a try.
Bob

LarryD56

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #78 on: 20 Dec 2020, 11:57 pm »
   I contacted FedEx and they're supposed to have the preamp re-directed to Bob2. Looks like all should work out.

       Larry D.

tortugaranger

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Re: LDR300x.V3 Preamp Tour
« Reply #79 on: 21 Dec 2020, 02:13 pm »
   I contacted FedEx and they're supposed to have the preamp re-directed to Bob2. Looks like all should work out.

       Larry D.

Hi Larry,

Much thanks and appreciation for re-directing the preamp to Bob2. Wishing you and your family the best over the Christmas holidays.

Cheers,
Morten