Warning long post ahead:
Hello fellow Audiocircle friends, I don't post here as much as I used to but I have been given the permission from Mr. Dan Wright to announce this new upgrade to his wonderful PH9.0 phono stage.
I was one of the original Beta testers and received the first balanced out version Serial number 003 and just love the sound of this piece of equipment. Prior to settling on the PH9.0 I tried at least 6 phono pre's.
I am sharing this as it went down with emails back and forth with Dan, we have talked by email and messenger for years now and he always gives his honest opinion and genuinely cares about his customer opinions.
11/25/20 Thanksgiving Weekend
Me: Hi Dan and Kristin, I messed up my PH9.0 I plugged the power cord into the main unit while I had the switch on and heard a pop and smelled smoke, it still powers up but has a pulsating sound. I didn't try to play a record just turned it off, so bummed, do I need a return authorization number and or directions, I will not ship it until next week.
DW: Just send it back and we will service it under warranty. It really shouldn't have done that.
Sorry that it happened before the weekend, but we will take care of it for you Jerry.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
Me: Ha isn't it 5:20 AM out there, you cant sleep either, I was up at 4:30 couldn't go back to sleep either. With the PH9.0 I also included the Wywires power cord just in case it was the cause of the problem.
DW: No problem Jerry.
I am working on a potential upgrade to bring the PH 9.0 closer to the PH 150. I have a unit that I am about to test it in. If you want, I can wait to ship yours back and give you a report on this upgrade first.
It involves the use of Lundahl gapped transformers ($$) in lieu of chokes that I use in the PH 9.0. It allows for fully balanced and SE outputs and possibly an additional 6dB of gain.
Me: Wow that sounds very intriguing yes I would be interested, I assume mine would be upgradeable, not worried about the extra gain anymore I sold the Ortofon A95 it was a good cartridge just too low of an output, I have been using the new Audio Technica ART9XI and I am very impressed with this cartridge.
DW:Y our unit would be upgradable. The upgrade will likely be about $1K due to the cost of the Lundahl gapped transformers. But, if I am right, it will bring the performance that much closer to that of the PH 150. You know will give you my honest opinion.
A coupling cap would be eliminated as the gapped transformer handles the DC and couples the circuit ideally. We do this in the PH 150, but this is one area where we cut costs to get the PH 9.0 to $2900.
Me: That sounds terrific, yes I will accept the offer and do a write up on sound differences, Thanks Dan
Three days later;
DW: Hi Jerry, the PH 9.0 is fixed up. I did test the Lundahl gapped transformer out setup and it IS better.
This brings the PH 9.0 much closer to the PH 150. This upgrade will be offered for $995. The transformer, being gapped, allows me to eliminate a coupling cap and choke in each channel and the much higher primary inductance of the gapped Lundahl, results in better bass and resolution.
Me: Hi Dan, hope you a good Monday, I did I was off.
Wanted to get more details on the update to the new Lundahl's are on the outputs correct, does the change improve the balanced and rca out?
You know I priced some silver Lundahl ones for the inputs at one time, then I thought I could just ordered SUT from the guy that sells them here in the USA but it was all for getting the A95 to work and I remembered why I bought the PH9.0 is to do away with another set of connections and an out board SUT
DW: Our current balanced output that we offer for $300, includes adding a pair of Edcore transformers to the existing circuit to produce a true balanced out.
Both RCA and XLR signal pass through the Lundahl's because they take the place of the audio chokes and the 1:1 Edcore transformers in your unit, in addition to eliminating a coupling cap per channel.
The increased inductance gives a fuller and bigger presentation and the elimination of a coupling cap is always a good thing. This circuit change is how the output of the PH 150 is implemented. This closes the gap in performance at a much lower cost.
XLR and RCA outs will be switched. Please note that if you have both XLR and RCA outs plugged into the same preamp or integrated, it may not work if the unselected inputs are muted. This is because the RCA and XLR outs are wired in parallel. The switch for RCA - XLR, switches the (-) signal leg from the Lundahl to Ground for RCA and Pin 3 (-) on the XLRs for balanced operation. As a result, XLR outs will work either way, but if the preamp or amp is fully balanced, it may not be happy with a grounded pin 3. If you run RCA in XLR toggle position, there will be no ground and it will sound weird.
I am planning on getting this out to you tomorrow.
Me: Thanks I understand better now, I was using mine with rca outs I thought it sounded better, maybe now the xlr outs will sound better.
DW: It should sound the same either way honestly, possibly better via XLR outs.
The Edcor transformers used for the previous balanced out option are good and cost effective, but not nearly as good as the Lundahls. The Edcor transformers allowed me to offer the XLR fully balanced option for a reasonable cost.
The Edcor's are not gapped, meaning that they cannot handle any DC voltage. The Lundahl's are gapped and can handle DC voltage in the way that a SET amp does. The primary of the transformer can deliver the voltage to the tube and be the inductive load. I am using them in a slightly different way, but there is DCV present that otherwise requires coupling caps to block. This solution is elegant and musical in many ways!
Your unit was using chokes and transformers in place of the single transformer here. The elimination of the Lundahl transformer was one of the biggest cost saving design revisions between the PH 9.0 and PH 150. Hence the $995 upgrade cost over stock, but considering that you also get fully balanced outs, for $3900, still makes the PH 9.0('X'?) a phenomenal value. To me is sounds clearly superior to the basic PH 9.0. I do value your opinion.
We have nearly 200 units in the field, so if our customers agree that it is a worthwhile upgrade, then it is a good upgrade path for our customers.
Thanks Jerry, be safe and well and have a Happy New Year!
President, ModWright Instruments Inc (MWI)
As a final note I would like to say Thanks to Dan Wright for the opportunity to check out the improvements, I look forward to it nest week when I get it back
Here is a picture when I first received my unit