My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~

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-Richard-

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I have not written in our esteemed AudioCircle forums for quite some time. I had to give up writing in the Open Baffle Forum. It seems that low-watt high-efficiency speaker open-baffle designs are not as welcome there, as they used to be. Indeed, low watt amplifiers have been relegated to the rarest of niches as strange ornaments of times past by the audio community generally. There are exceptions of course, like Nelson Pass's highly praised First Watt, low watt offerings, and excruciatingly expensive Japanese low watt tube designs.

My interest in low watt amplifiers, like my Yamamoto A-O8S 45 Single Ended Triode, began I think, out of a perverse curiosity to find out why, when I was avidly reading about audio several years ago, so many older audio enthusiasts were so vocal that low watt amplifiers can potentially deliver magic to recorded music. The idea being that a simple circuit has less chance of messing things up. In the case of a Single Ended Triode design, letting the output tubes and transformers create their magic without unnecessary interference.

About 13 years ago I began living with 45 SET tube amplifier designs to drive my DIY open baffle speakers. I owned the Korneff and Modjesky versions and also heard in my home Garber's 2A3 SET amplifier. The Korneff could not drive my then wide-range speakers adequately. The Modjesky was designed to deliver 4 watts from the 45 tube, and was quite adequate but I was concerned that the 45 tubes were driven outside their optimally comfortable parameters. The Garber 2A3 sounded slightly soft if beguiling in other respects. Then I looked elsewhere for amplification. The idea of tubes began to feel like a burden, like when I used to collect classic American cars from the late 40's and early 50's.

But eventually I went back to my interest in the 45 SET amplifier. There was something about the sound that would not leave me alone. I purchased the A-08S 45 SET Yamamoto directly from Shigeki in Japan. His U.S. dealer had retired and as far as I know no one since then has come forward to be a dealer here for this marvelous and extremely original designer.

I remembered that the Korneff 45 SET amplifier did not have enough power to drive my previous choice of OB speakers, even though they were around 92 db sensitive. So I thought why not purchase the most sensitive wide-range speaker I could find that was not shockingly expensive. I first purchased the French 8" wide-range Supravox field coil speakers. I found fussing with field coils too much trouble for me and the sound was not optimal for what I was looking for, in spite of their being well received in some areas of the OB community.

Then I turned my attention to the Lowther PM5 Alnicos, that the then American dealer claimed was 97 to 98db sensitive, although the Lowther website gives them a lower rating. They are 16 ohm speakers, so I had Shigeki install 16 ohm output transformers in the A-O8S following Don Garber's personal recommendation. The Lowthers have since lost their US dealer, due to some conflict of interests, which is unfortunate. What drew me to the Lowther was their design first, then their sensitivity.

I was using NOS 45 tubes that I frankly loved for several years. Then this year I ordered EML Mesh Plate 45's from Jac in Germany. It was Jac who recommended the Mesh Plates over the Solid Plates for refinement and transparency.

Although I enjoyed what the Mesh Plates were doing for the music I felt that something was missing compared to my best pair of RCA NOS 45 tubes. Then about 2 months ago I re-discovered an old pair of Nordost flat speaker cables. I was a little concerned about their revealing nature, the Lowther's could spotlight the upper frequency region with components that lacked synergy with it. But after listening for a few days I was quite stunned realizing that the EML Mesh Plate 45 tubes had come fully alive.

So now I am hearing what I have been looking for since I began a 13 year journey into low watt, actually 2 watt, SET tube amplification and high sensitivity speakers. The music sounds alive, incredibly present, transparent, dynamic and realistic. Deborah and I are very happy with this set up. I am using the LightSpeed Attenuator, designed by George Stantscheff in Australia, as a passive preamplifier, so there is no preamplifier gain. What is entirely unexpected is that the A-O8S Yamamoto without any preamplifier gain plays surprising loud, and on rare occasions I do let the music rip for fun. My simple Open Baffle speakers, a slab of plywood with holes in it mounted on a plinth, helps to integrate the Lowthers with the room and create the illusion of space.

Now I would like to share a few simple tweaks with our Low Watt community. I am using Spotify which I pay $9 month for, which gives Deborah and I access to thousands of possible musical choices allowing us to explore music that we would never be able to find without extensive research. I am streaming the music through an iPad mini, which incidentally, I did not originally purchase for this use, so admittedly the DAC in the iPad Mini may not be optimal, which suggests that a great deal more refinement and resolution can potentially await us if I can find a low price DAC that works nicely with it. When in Spotify select the symbol icon on the top right side that looks like a flower-like button. A new page opens with a list of choices; select Musical Quality, then Extreme. That will allow access to 320 kbits resolution when it is available. Then select Playback; a new page opens, select Equalizer. A simple yet effective equalizer appears that lets you move white dots above a choice of 6 gamuts @ 60, 150, 400, 1k, 2.4k and 15khz. A green line connects them helping you to see how your 'chart' looks. There is a list below the eq chart, Accoustics, Bass Booster, Classical and several other selections that will show you what the Spotify engineers think works best with these musical styles, a handy reference to play with.

I realize that my choice of media is not optimal. These days if one reads Stereophile, they are pushing LP's which have proved extraordinarily resilient as media, and there are hundreds of dedicated DAC's and streaming components that promise high resolution; the newest format for digital streaming being MQA, which several streaming services now offer, including streaming components that are designed to unpack it.

But for now, what I am hearing with my 2 watt SET 45 amplifier and 97db sensitive wide-range speakers, using Spotify streamed through a simple iPad Mini can be quite thrilling.

Wishing Everyone Beautiful Musical Experiences and Everything Wonderful for the New Year. With Warmest Friendship ~ Richard
« Last Edit: 18 Dec 2017, 05:45 pm by -Richard- »

Bemopti123

Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #1 on: 17 Dec 2017, 03:46 am »
Welcome back Richard.  It is most often that people such us here tend to mix passion for the technical aspect of musical reproduction rather than the performance, which should be supreme when it comes to audio.  It seems to me that you found the right balance between passion for equipment that delivers the performance that you most expect. Who cares about people who spend grandiose amounts of $$$$ in order to extract that last iota of sonical performance? I say as long as enjoyment is present and kicking, that should be the barometer of our audioquest. 

Even though I have invested $$$$ in equipment, as of late, I have gotten very little listening time from the setup.  Performance and convenience trumps technical prowess.  I say rock on with your system.   :thumb:

Wind Chaser

Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #2 on: 17 Dec 2017, 10:32 am »
Hey Richard,

How's it going? You wouldn't believe changes I've made to my system since we spoke earlier this year. The Coincident was a great amp and it gave me many immensely pleasurable hours; but it's gone and I do not miss it! I've began a new journey and it already feels like I have arrived... :lol:  :D

I too am using an iPad with an Auralic Aries Mini to stream some amazing radio stations from around the globe, some in high def. Like you say it can be quite trilling. It all makes me wish I was 18 again. None of this stuff was available back then. This is a great time to be into this hobby.  :thumb:

roscoe65

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #3 on: 17 Dec 2017, 03:00 pm »
Welcome back.  I am also toying with the design of high efficiency, open baffle speakers but am dealing with room constraints.  My amps and driver are different, but the principles remain the same.

As far as streaming choices, I use Tidal lossless streaming to a Chromecast Audio to my DAC via optical.  I have access to 46  million tracks at CD quality (albeit often remastered) for a discounted rate of $8/month.  I am on the verge of adding Roon, but as of the moment Tidal is the only streaming service that integrates with Roon, and there are recent rumors of Tidal running out of money.  If that happens I will shift over to Deezer until Spotify offers lossless, hopefully with Roon integration.

Streaming - even lossless - may not provide the same ultimate sound quality as vinyl or high resolution local files, but at this point in my life I do not wish to deal with hundred or thousands of pieces of physical media.  Streaming Tidal to my Schmitt Bimby, 421A amp and Omega speakers sounds at least as good as my similar system from over 20 years ago (California Audio Labs Delta/Alpha, Rankin Bugle direct coupled 45 SET, Cabasse 94dB 8” two-ways, Muse Model 18 subwoofer).

Jon L

Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #4 on: 17 Dec 2017, 06:06 pm »
As far as streaming choices, I use Tidal lossless streaming to a Chromecast Audio to my DAC via optical. 

It's puzzling to me that in almost 2018, there is so few choices in solid, low-cost streamers that offer coax spdif output. 
Like most audiophiles, I already own high end DAC's and would like a good streamer that has good coax spdif out.  If no coax, would take regular toslink preferably over mini toslink, and analogue outputs are not needed. 

Looking around, I might just have to pick up Chromecast Audio unless there are better options.. :scratch:


FullRangeMan

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #5 on: 17 Dec 2017, 06:10 pm »
Welcome back Richard :thumb:
I appreciated your advices when I was new here, thanks a lot.

belle harbor

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #6 on: 17 Dec 2017, 09:18 pm »
I have not written in our esteemed AudioCircle forums for quite some time. I had to give up writing in the Open Baffle Forum. It seems that low-watt high-efficiency speaker open-baffle designs are not as welcome there, as they used to be. Indeed, low watt amplifiers have been relegated to the rarest of niches as strange ornaments of times past by the audio community generally. There are exceptions of course, like Nelson Pass's highly praised First Watt, low watt offerings, and excruciatingly expensive Japanese low watt tube designs.

My interest in low watt amplifiers, like my Yamamoto A-O8S 45 Single Ended Triode, began I think, out of a perverse curiosity to find out why, when I was avidly reading about audio several years ago, so many older audio enthusiasts were so vocal that low watt amplifiers can potentially deliver magic to recorded music. The idea being that a simple circuit has less chance of messing things up. In the case of a Single Ended Triode design, letting the output tubes and transformers create their magic without unnecessary interference.
hard

It is gratifying to encounter someone who has experienced the joy of flea power.  There's a whole world of magic to be encountered in the world of single ended tube amps capable of delivering 2 watts or less (both triode and pentode) in combination with very high efficiency speakers (especially if the latter are used in a near-field arrangement).  Like everything else in audio, it's a matter of individual taste; and, many just can't accept that a 1 watt amp can play more loudly and cleanly into a high efficiency speaker than a 100 watt amp into a low efficiency unit.  I do many demonstrations of the former and never disclose details to listeners until after they have had a chance to experience the sound.  The look of pure astonishment on their faces when they find out they were listening to flea power is worth the effort. 

roscoe65

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #7 on: 18 Dec 2017, 01:04 am »
It's puzzling to me that in almost 2018, there is so few choices in solid, low-cost streamers that offer coax spdif output. 
Like most audiophiles, I already own high end DAC's and would like a good streamer that has good coax spdif out.  If no coax, would take regular toslink preferably over mini toslink, and analogue outputs are not needed. 

Looking around, I might just have to pick up Chromecast Audio unless there are better options.. :scratch:

While it isn’t coax SPDIF, the Nvidia Shield TV outputs high resolution via USB.  It’s currently selling for $149.  With the recent news that Deezer will support Chromecast, you would have at least two FLAC services to choose from.

ohenry

Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #8 on: 18 Dec 2017, 02:08 am »
I have a few flea amps and really enjoy them.  I bet there are many of us lurking with sweet and simple tube amps (maybe not as nice as Richard's  :green:).

BTW, if you want to try a cool speaker that's cheap and easy to make, grab a set of Saba console greencone drivers (woofer and tweeters) from the 1950's.  I have mine mounted in simple floorstanding, open-backed plywood boxes using one cap for the tweeter crossover.  They are efficient and sound great with sane decibels.  I got mine from a German guy on ebay and they are in excellent condition.  I suppose it makes perfect sense they get along well with low power tube amps.  :D

I have three Chromecast audio units streaming Tidal hifi.  Again... another good sounding, cheap thrill.  I bought some decent 3.5mm to RCA plug ICs on Amazon and it's fun to sit back and dream of different music to play.  It's a nice way to discover/investigate music before investing in vinyl or CDs if you're like me and addicted to tangible formats.

-Richard-

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #9 on: 18 Dec 2017, 07:36 pm »
Sorry to hear that you are not able to spend more time listening to music, Bemopti123, which everyone in our audio community knows sustains a vital sense of being connected to life and the mystery of deep 'listening'. I have my audio set-up in my main 'living space', which also serves multiple purposes. Also my painting studio and Deborah's studio are open to this 'living space' so I can play the music even while we work. I am fortunate that Deborah loves music at least as much as I do and was even responsible for my continued interest in low watt SET tube designs. She finds most solid state amplifiers agitate her. When I listen to music 'directly' I sit off-axis reclining on a couch. This is one of the unique benefits of Open Baffle speaker design, the presentation penetrates the entire room, allowing for the luxury of off-axis listening pleasure without necessitating having to sit in front of the speakers. I hope you can get back to your listing pleasure soon.
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What have you replaced your Coincident amplifier with, Wind Chaser? The Aurarlic Aries Mini is highly regarded, a nice set-up indeed! Of course you are spot-on, this is really a wonderful time to be involved with audio.
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Tidal is probably the best streaming service available right now, roscoe65. How interesting that you are using Chromecast Audio: https://store.google.com/product/chromecast_audio I have never heard of it before. How did you manage to get a discount on Tidal for only $8 per month? That is a lovely deal! Tidal is running out of money? How strange, it sounds like their must be some problem with their business model. Tidal is the premier streaming service that every audio reviewer is in love with. Yet, and this is peculiar, I tried it during their introductory free month and found it sounded lifeless on my audio set-up. I think using the built-in EQ on Spotify can add juice to the music. And it may be that 'juice' that is creating the special dimension that the music has in Spotify that lends itself to my set-up. However, I should revisit Tidal again when I have the chance.

You are quite right about the limitations of streaming. When I hooked-up my CD player a while back I was shocked at how much musical information it allowed compared to streaming; it was also wildly more dynamic, stunningly so. However, my current set-up is so revealing that all of the warts came through as well from this admittedly low-end CD player; there was a significant lack of refinement that I could never live with, a certain crudeness that accompanied the presentation. I would have to invest in a very sophisticated CD player to get the incredibly dynamic presentation without the noise. Something beyond my present budget. The lack of 'noise' allows Spotify streaming to sound remarkably transparent, something I crave and because of it, the music sounds more like it is coming from an electrostatic speaker.
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I had to look up S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format), Jon L, "The signal is transmitted over either a coaxial cable with RCA connectors or a fibre optic cable with TOSLINK connectors." Can you share with us what advantages this has over standard RCA interconnects? Also, what would be the advantage of Chromecast Audio over streaming Spotify from an iPad?
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Thank you FullRangeMan. I like your idea of no crossovers and (apparently) no tweeters. Keeping things simple really works for me.
---
Nice insight, belle harbor; it seems that as solid state amplifier designers were delivering amps with more and more watts, speaker designers got a little lazy and moved away from working with high-efficiency speakers. Admittedly, there are serious problems designing with high efficiency speakers. My own system using a Lowther Alnico driver played 'full-range' but augmented with a 15" bass speaker which cuts off at around 250Hz and having its own dedicated amp, is no where near 'perfect'. There are anomalies that appear from time to time. I am certain the frequency gamuts are not flat through the entire range, for example, as I use the EQ on Spotify to enhance certain frequency gamuts. Although there is a great deal of work done by speaker designers to flatten the frequency response of their speaker designs, it is not entirely clear if this is ideal. For example the classic BBC speaker design used a 'bump' in the lower gamut, somewhere around 250Hz, I think, to create 'warmth' in the presentation. As you said, it is a matter of individual taste. It also depends on what kind of music one listens to most of the time. Deborah and I love small scale ensemble classical music from every period, including jazz and especially the great women jazz singers, like Holiday, Vaughn, Horn, Gardot, Fitzgerald, Simone, Wilson, Washington, and so many other magnificent singers like Sinatra, Baker, Cohen, Lennon and Mathis. It is a trade-off I am willing to accept for the 'magic' of what the system gets right, wonderful detail without any etching, deep saturation of musical color and texture, and a nice dose of ambient 'space'.
---
Nvidia Shield TV is also new to me, Roscoe65. I have not watched TV for over 40 years but Deborah and I are filmophiles and share a love and passion for film. Can you share with us something about it?
---
I can see your love for 'tangible' media, ohenry, although my budget for all things related to audio and music has shrunk over the years. And of course tangible media needs well designed players to sound at their best, another major expense. I can see why vinyl has such a renewed resurgence over the past 10 years, I love the feel of LP's and handling them has its own charms. However, I also remember trying to poise the needle over the subtle 'empty' grooves between songs, or parts of a sonata in order to just play that section; rather time consuming, requiring great care. There are many drivers from the 1950's that have never been bested! Really, a golden age for audio. My first audio system used a pair of open backed boxes, each with a single Wharfedale coaxial driver, driven by a tube receiver. Essentially, an Open Baffle design. How I loved that sound! That early system enhanced my love of music and broadened my musical tastes and enjoyment beyond measure.

With Warmest Friendship ~ Richard


 

rollo

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #10 on: 5 Jan 2018, 05:17 pm »
 Nice system Richard. I joined the party with Rethm Saadhana 102db wideband speakers and Dennis Had SET [5w]. PP I use an Audio Hungary A20i integrated.


charles

-Richard-

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #11 on: 6 Jan 2018, 08:18 pm »
Hi Charles ~

I cannot think of a more sophisticated design than the Rethm Saadhana, or a more sophisticated hi-end audio designer than Jacob George in India. He is a US trained architect and his design studio in Kerala is quite superb looking! He started with Lowther drivers but his work-around issues trying to tame the British driver to fit his cabinet design led him to start fresh with his own completely redesigned drivers. Now that is a true high-end uncompromised design approach. I would love to hear your system. Nice!

With Warmest Friendship ~ Richard

FullRangeMan

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #12 on: 6 Jan 2018, 11:18 pm »
Wow very nice Yamamoto :thumb:

rollo

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #13 on: 24 Jan 2018, 05:54 pm »
Hi Charles ~

I cannot think of a more sophisticated design than the Rethm Saadhana, or a more sophisticated hi-end audio designer than Jacob George in India. He is a US trained architect and his design studio in Kerala is quite superb looking! He started with Lowther drivers but his work-around issues trying to tame the British driver to fit his cabinet design led him to start fresh with his own completely redesigned drivers. Now that is a true high-end uncompromised design approach. I would love to hear your system. Nice!

With Warmest Friendship ~ Richard
Thanks Richard If you are ever in NY give me a ring, come over and enjoy some tunes and a home cooked Italian feast. Yes Jacob driver is something to behold. With built in sub to 20HZ and no crossover oh my !!

charles

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   Richard if you ever in NY give me

doggie

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #14 on: 30 Jan 2018, 03:54 am »
It's puzzling to me that in almost 2018, there is so few choices in solid, low-cost streamers that offer coax spdif output. 
Like most audiophiles, I already own high end DAC's and would like a good streamer that has good coax spdif out.  If no coax, would take regular toslink preferably over mini toslink, and analogue outputs are not needed. 

Looking around, I might just have to pick up Chromecast Audio unless there are better options.. :scratch:

An older Apple TV has optical out. I use one for Pandora but I am considering moving to Tidal. Does Tidal have a good collection of Classical and Jazz?

rockdoc

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #15 on: 27 Feb 2018, 03:05 pm »
Great post, Richard. I really appreciate your discussion of the various amps you've heard; Yamamoto, Garber, and Korneff, as I'm looking around trying to figure out my next build or maybe purchase. Right now I'm running a pair of Bottlehead Paraglow parafeed amps I built and set up for the 45s many years ago,  and they are truly magical. I'm thinking I need to experience some of the other 45 tube amp circuit flavors out there. I'm also fascinated with high efficiency open baffle speakers, suitable for the 45 amps, so I'll be looking through your previous posts for what you've done there. Yes, for better or worse, we are "relegated to the rarest of niches as strange ornaments of times past" but personally, I'm fine with it.

Steve T

rockdoc

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #16 on: 27 Feb 2018, 05:35 pm »
-Richard-, I saw in another of your posts mention of the Bottlehead Stereomour amp. Did you ever get a chance to listen and compare this with the Yamamoto, Korneff, Garber Fi etc? That Stereomour II set up for 45s might be my next build.

Tyson

Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #17 on: 27 Feb 2018, 07:12 pm »
I would LOVE to use a 45 amp on my speakers.  I'm trying to figure out how to get hum reduced in my system, right now ALL tube amps are problematic.  But if/when I get that sorted, I think 45s would be pretty great on my planar magnetic OB Serenity Acoustic Super 7's, since they have active bass/sub and planar magnetic mids/highs that only go to 200hz or so and have a super flat impedance over that operating range.  Seems like they would be an ideal match for these types of amps. 

roscoe65

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #18 on: 27 Feb 2018, 07:22 pm »
An older Apple TV has optical out. I use one for Pandora but I am considering moving to Tidal. Does Tidal have a good collection of Classical and Jazz?

I'm moving away from Chromecast due to performance issues.  While it will stream, it definitely is not up to our expected standards.

I'm about to implement an Allo USBridge.  It is a higher-performance Raspberry Pi board with a low-noise USB tophat.  preloaded software allows users to stream Roon, Airplay, and DNLA.  Total cost is less than $200 shipped.

Allo also sells the Digione Player, which is the same thing with SPDIF output.  https://allo.com/sparky/digione-player.html

-Richard-

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Re: My Low Watt SET amp & High Sensitivity Speaker Journey ~
« Reply #19 on: 17 Mar 2018, 11:18 pm »
I apologize for not responding earlier. I seem to have been busier than normal lately, but I am happy to say that during the past few weeks I have made some fundamental changes to my system, all of which resulted in an extraordinary leap in performance.

My nephew decided to gift me with a 2010 used mac mini. He has been using it for his own streaming and thought it was time I updated my system. Hooking up the mac mini by itself did not yield better performance than my ipad mini, and Spotify does not provide its simple EQ software for computers, a strange decision on their part, it is only available for mobile devices, so that caused me to plunge into doing a little research into an external DAC that would raise the level of performance for streaming media. Since my budget, such as it is, is minimal, and I wanted to experience MQA, that many reviewers were toting as a high resolution streaming solution, I quickly came to see that there are currently only 2 DAC's that fulfill that niche in this low price area.

I realized that it was time to try Tidal, so I signed-up for their free 30-day trial. The MQA files streaming through Tidal did sound punchy but not refined. During my research I came upon the 'bit-perfect' software of Audirvana and decided to give that a try. You can sign-up for a 2 week free trial with them.

The 2 choices of DAC's came down to the Dragon Fly Red or Explorer2, both sell for $200, a very modest investment. There are several internet sellers that give you 30 days to try either one, so I thought that would give me enough time to decide if this price-point for a DAC really made a difference in performance. I decided on the Explorer2 for a few reasons, one being that Meridian engineers are the designers of the MQA coding scheme, so I thought that their uncorking of the embedded MQA code would be well implemented, although the DFR also now has that option. Some users that have both felt the Explorer2 a little more musical than the DFR which they felt is better for mobile audio devices and the Explorer2 has a little higher resolution capacity.

So I hooked up the Explorer2, streaming Tidal through the bit-perfect software of Audirvana and was truly shocked by the musical performance. My open baffle system uses 2 drivers for each panel, and each driver has its own amplifier. That necessitates splitting the signal at it leaves the Explorer2 DAC. I was using 2 generic cables for that and I felt that they were hindering the performance so with a little research I decided on AudioQuest Big Sur Interconnects, 3.5MM to RCA, 0.6 Meter @ $100 each. Yes, I know quite a splurge for a tight budget. But as soon as I replaced the generic cables with them the performance leaped into a dimension of refinement and surreal quiet as well as ambient spatial presence. I also used the AudioQuest Flexible Mini Adapter Male 3.5 Mini to Dual Female 3.5, @ $16 which provided the split from the Explorer2.

With everything working together there is now an 'ambient' otherworldly quiet pervading the musical space, textures never heard before leap out of instruments and voices, the treble region is now highly resolved and transparent, and the most important factor for Deborah and I, we are easily pulled into the sublime almost hypnotic seductiveness of every well recorded CD we stream. The sound immediately reminded me of my LP playing days, a sense of analogue plumpness with rich overtones. Also, with the EML Mesh Plate 45 tubes the bass reached down to levels I never heard on my system before, articulate, room shaking and completely unexpected.

Audirvana is $74 for a one-time download of its app. But they also have a deal whereby you can sign-up for Tidal for a 3 full months free trial. If you sign-up for Tidal's free 30-day trial first and then through Audirvana sign-up for the free 90-day trial, you are getting Audirvana for $60 off their $74 price of admission (Tidal is $20 a month x 3 months = $60). So the cost of Audirvana comes down to just $14, quite a deal.

Audirvana creates magic with Tidal. Tidal by itself was disappointing to me, especially on CD resolution files of 16/44.1kHz. But streamed through Audirvana, the stream sounds like analog media, rich, clean, highly articulate, detailed and on my system, magical.

Now let me warn everyone interested in trying Audirvana and Tidal, to see if it hopefully helps your streaming experience. Tidal demands that you use an email address that you did not previously use for their 30-day free trial when signing-up through Audirvana for the 90-day free trial. I had originally signed up for the 30-day free trial through Deborah's email so I naturally used my own email address for the 90-day trial period. It would not work, because, as it turned out, I had perhaps a year ago already signed up for their 30-day free trial but had forgotten that I did. But Tidal does not raise a dialogue-box to inform you of that. Instead it simply does not work. I wrote to the Tidal staff to help me resolve this dilemma and they also did not 'see' that I had previously signed-up, so they said go ahead and keep trying. I also asked the designer of Audirvana, Damien Plisson, for help, and he was very accessible and easy to chat with through email. Finally I used an alternative email and everything worked fine. Tidal does have an option for paying for a year that reduces the monthly amount a little.

As it turned out, the resolution and magic of ordinary 16/44.1kHz files sounds as good as MQA files through Audirvana. So in a very real sense I did not necessarily need to purchase an MQA-ready DAC. However, I like what the Explorer2 is doing for the music and at this time feel no need to change DAC's.

The amount of CD's available through Tidal is quite astonishing. Sometimes it takes a little trial-and-error to navigate through Audirvana's search box to find a CD or musical genre, but it is well worth it, and you will be rewarded with a plethora of wonderful CD choices.

I would like to address some of the interesting posts since I wrote last, and I will a little later.

Ojai is getting the much needed rain that we crave, especially after the devastating Thomas fire that burned up most of our mountain foliage. Rain is a blessing we never tire of in this chaparral desert region.

With Warmest Friendship ~ Richard