Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Hadron Production Detail

Hadron Production Detail

Here are a few details of the Hadron cabinet production.

The layers are bonded in a hydraulic press under high pressure.

Milling cabinets out of solid blocks of plywood might appear to be overkill however this is a process  derived after a long evolution of building cabinets in various ways, measuring and listening to them at each step. 

This expensive and elaborate cabinet is not a product of theory. After years of trial and error, many versions of various cabinets evolved into this. It was an empirical process.

Braces and supports are not added. They are integral in the layers themselves. This not only adds strength but also provides paths and nodes for resonance distribution within the material.

The philosophy is not to eliminate resonance entirely (which is impossible). Reduction in amplitude and distribution over the entire construction is one step in resonance management. The characteristics of material internal dampening are critical.

The first part is not like a musical instrument which resonates intentionally over a broad frequency band. Here we would like to distribute resonances and lower amplitudes. The second part is to be mindful of the nature of resonance which inevitably remains and are internally damped by the material. This last part is very much like a musical instrument. Since we cannot eliminate resonances completely the remainder must be damped with pleasing qualities. Just like amplifiers - is not as much the amount of distortion but the nature of it which is important.

The cabinet shape is a fundamental and critical aspect of resonance management. Here a Fibonacci arch is implemented which is far more potent in distributing harmonic reflections than a similarly proportioned rectangular chamber.

The port is designed into the layers and milled out of the solid wood.

The result is an annealed, solid wood construction which handles resonances evenly.

With considerations of this kind the material of the cabinet itself is critical. It has been recently been made popular with the Dennon 103 re-housing movement (and others that have followed) that a phono cartridge's performance is subject to the material it is housed in.

Sugano San knew this as early as the Rosewood Supex cartridge production of the 1970's and was further mapped out by him in the the evolution of Rosewood, Urushi laquer coated Aluminum, Onyx and other semiprecious stones the Koetsu line utilized over the following decades.

 The loudspeaker is an electro-mechanical transducer ust like a cartridge however its amplitudes are far greater than a phono cartridge's. It should then be easy to understand that a material's resonance characteristics in a loudspeaker are of great importance.

One interesting aspect of this construction method is that the wood which has been subjected to stresses and pressures in manufacture and bonding processes is annealed in the milling process. Not only is an annealed product stronger but it is also more "at rest" which improves its resonant qualities.

Hadron loudspeakers are now available with shorter lead times.

Please email for sales and further information.


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Famous Direct Heated Triodes (DHT's) and the Unknown

Monsieurs Slagle and Jackson

Although the legend of the DHT tubes like the 300B, 2A3 and 45 got me into low powered amplifiers these Holy Grail tubes did not continue to hold my attention after a decade or so. It did however open the door to appreciating other low power, direct heated tubes. After hoarding a stock of NOS tubes while trying new production versions, which were often unreliable, it was time to look further. Before powering up a fleet of collectable tubes was the question: "Is it worth a thermal cycle on the tubes for a quick listen?" This is not the way. The enjoyment of music is the pursuit not materialistic and possessive concerns. After years of foraging in the mire for the same truffles everybody wants it became clear that the mind set of NOS tube acquisition was more about curation, trophy collection and possibly fetish than performance. Fact is tubes do not need to be expensive to sound good. Yay, I blaspheme.

Across the industry DHT landmark tubes like the 300B not only dominate - they rule consumers and often do so poorly. The majority of products are cashing in on the publicized trend leaving the consumer slowly to discover, sometimes over years, that the products they purchased, be it amps or tubes, are not at all what they hoped. The US military abandoned tons of vintage PA gear in the wake of post WWII occupation. Intelligent, sensitive ears salvaged and discovered the treats therein and created the seeds of legend with these discoveries. Yet this does not mean there are not others of equal or greater sublimity, in fact it should excite the curious to know what else is out there. Western Electric can sound good but it can also suck. Yay, I blaspheme! Klangfilm, Seimens, EMT and Russian, etc... artifacts are pretty sweet as well. The Eurodyne is probably the finest small venue vintage speaker there is. Yay, I say even better than the 753c or 757a. GASP! Yay, I blaspheme thrice! May lightning strike me if it is not true!

The WE300B can be an excellent sounding tube but they have no monopoly on special sound and to make amps, and replica tubes of them, poorly undermines the expectations that have been set by their mythology. This unfortunately is the market trend. Marketing, as we know, is all about mythology.

It reminds me of motorcycles in the 80s. The Japanese were not yet making decent handling bikes and so the Europeans were the ones to have. The American BMW ads of the time had the slogan: "The Legendary Motorcycles of Bavaria". After I got tired of grinding cylinder heads on BMWs I got into the relatively unknown Italian bikes. After waiting for a buddy a mile or two past an off camber chicane I returned to find him struggling with his BMW in the mud. Once we got it back on the tarmac he said panting: "That is the last time I try to follow a hot Italian bike on a German Myth. We both smiled. Going fast through corners has little to do with ad copy in magazines.

Mercury vapor baby - its hard to beat.

The iconic labels of 300B, 2A3, 45, etc are just popular labels for what a good DHT can sound like. If this is true what then lies beyond the scope of an audio reviewer's limited vocabulary? If they are indeed closer to the divine glow of tubes and share their wisdom across the alter for us to be blessed with must they not disclose the tenets from which they mount their ideology? If another divine glow is found and they do not recognize it does it then not exist? Must we suffer excommunication in order to explore it? What other glows could their be? Ahem, well this is the question but first: "What is wrong with the average big name tube amp out there?"

The 300B is not an easy tube to get working economically and so many implement it with inadequate voltage swing and/or inadequate current and resulting issues - sucky slew rates. etc... Chop it and dice it how you want, unless there is a pentode in there its a three stage program. (a step up transformer input driven by a low impedance line stage is a stage, its just in a different chassis). It is better to have a well engineered and tastefully voiced amplifier with an unknown tube rather than the average 300B amp out there. Blasphemy #1. The output tubes makes less difference harmonically than the driver tube. Blasphemy #2. The circuit design itself has more to do with the sound than any of the parts and tubes are just parts. Blasphemy #3 Yay, I blaspheme thrice, twice! Clouds darken and high voltages range to find a way to rapture me back to the herd - unless it is true - and then there is nothing in front but freedom and fresh air.

The first crack in the mythical facade began when I heard an amplifier which was not anywhere near the divine glow and did not pay any tribute to it at all. It had none of the elements the lore decreed. It used two 25¢ UF4007 rectifiers in full wave with a π filter. It was indirectly heated, it used a common, high gain but wimpy mini tube driver (12AX7, 12AY7 or 5751) with its two sections paralleled cleverly to give it some grunt yet with nothing but a resistor as a plate load, the output tube was a pentode (6CA7, 6L6, 350B, EL-34, or KY-66) run in ultra linear mode. Worst of all - it intentionally used feedback and even had a selector knob for adding this profane corruption! The real problem with it was that it sounded good. Real, serious good. Thus did the candle's flame waver and the shadows on the cave's wall flutter and fail. Light could be seen from the mouth of the cave and soon after the sky and sunlight for the first time. It was not all about the output tube! The amplifier did have unusual implementations which helped it to be what it was but these can be discussed another time on request.

The creator of this amplifier was Dennis Boyle. He lived in an old movie theater full of vintage gear collected over his lifetime. He had been a successful industrial designer before he discovered one day that one audio device could sound different from another after which he lost everything and fell into habitation with aisles of industrial shelving full of carefully collected vintage audio gear. In this closed stack of a humanities museum he lived a solitary life.

Mercury vapor with a damper diode.

Old movie theaters are spooky. They are built for darkness, temporary illusion and the pleasure this provides. They harbor pigeons who leave it everywhere, coo and come flapping out of places least expected. The smell of their guano is sour and makes for headaches. Harvesting vintage gear from these places was like spelunking. It was dark, dirty work which had a bad feeling about it. I would never visit these places without the promise of cheap or free vintage gear and so it was only after Dennis moved out of his abandoned theater and into a metal warehouse, which could hold all of his plunder, that I began to visit him. There was a little mono system which played FM radio through a Scott tube tuner. It was the only system I ever saw him use and it was always quietly playing. He never showed it off or asked anyone to listen to it. It just sat in a stack, speaker, tuner, amp, on the floor against a wall in the warehouse. Dust covered shelves held gear piled beyond reach row after row. After collecting all of this treasure in junk yards, craig' list, military salvage, and endless internet searches, after decades of study and pursuing the rare and precious flotsam and jetsam in pursuit of magical audio properties this modern day tube shaman, self confined hermit monk of audio listened to nothing else. This amp he called the Ace.

I spent some time there on and off over years becoming fond of Ramble, the Timber Wolf. In greeting he would put his snout between my legs and lift me off the ground, easily. It was just an affectionate nudge on his part which instantly lifted my feet off the ground. The first time he greeted me thus I wound up on my hands and knees. Dennis just commented that Ramble did not take to people like that often. Point being that the sound of that amp went into my comparator database unconsciously. Over time I became less happy with most 300B amps I heard. When I hosted a demonstration of the Axiom 300B amplifier brought out from Florida to Texas. This was Dennis' and Bob Hoekstra's (Nascar Engine designer) all out pursuit of a 300B amp done right. It made abundantly clear the tube itself was never to blame for comprised performance but these amps were huge and stupid heavy. They required two men to carry each mono block. With gobs of custom iron, three tier stacked supplies, ten tubes per channel and metal Deco styling from Dennis they looked like something out of Metropolis. (A modern day version of a 300B done right might be Ale's foray into the fray which became quite an amplifier. Ale's 300B)

The Axiom had 20 tubes to ignite for a stereo listen, the Ace had 4. They had things in common however, they were both alive, muscular, ultra clear and still had the inner lifelike clarity that is was what tubes are all about and few deliver. The similarity in sound demanded attention. One was easily an everyman's amp while the other a statement piece and yet they both broke, without even noticing, many of the decrees, laws and tenets of magazine audio. My conclusion? Tubes are not the problem, it is the commercialism which surrounds them. The 300B and its kin are like Merlot - it can be good but usually it is not. Nothing wrong with the grape but its commercial appeal created commercialized production and its sea of mediocrity. Want something better than Merlot? Learn about other grapes and wines.

It is to this venue I extend an invitation. Let us enjoy a little freedom and fresh air away from the marketplace, the ad men's hypnotic distortion field and amplifiers built into MDF cabinets with vinyl veneer to make them look like wood while costing more than a car. If you have not figured it out by now there is no hot, admiring house wife ready to hang on your every word just because you bought the shiny thing in the advertisement. MDF is dust - toxic dust. Let's make real stuff out of real materials with real design work. This means opening the design criteria well beyond the 300Bs of the world and using our ears to determine the value of music. It is after all our ears we are trying to please is its not? This is the way.

An all DHT amp with tubes not so heavily publicized.

Friday, 15 November 2019

ETF 2019

Arrival Thursday evening in lovely Belleme

What is this?

A Magnetizer - get your magnets energized right here.

Test gear

Now that is a triode.

And some steampunk...

Plaster horns and amazing woodwork

And this is a platter...
The cork is 12” LP size.

Greetings from Belleme with more to come...

Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Foundation Turntable

The concept for our new turntable has been a natural evolution over many years of observation and experimentation with LP playback. This turntable is a distillation of the best elements taken from stand out performers and combined into a single system. Garrard, Lenco, Walker, Kuzma, Galibier, Scheu, Micro Seiki, Verdier, Linn, Thorens are a few of the notable brands which passed through. The best aspects were noted, explored and documented. Myths were plentiful, good performance not so much. With time it became clear what worked and what did not. These insights and understandings created an opportunity to combine the best elements and create a uniquely high performing turntable.

The Platine Verdier is one of the longest enduring and highly regarded turntables when it is with its original “Granito” plinth. Among the experienced vinyl cognoscenti there are two classic turntables considered to be at the top of the game. One is the Micro Seiki 8000 and the other is the Platine Verdier with Granito base. I approached M. Verdier in 2012 with a request to produce the original "Granito" plinth. He was kind enough to provide his approval, mentorship, drawings and specifications as well as awarding my little company dealership of his products. 

The original plinth was fabricated in Italy and so one of the most historical Terrazzo providers in Italy agreed to participate in the research and development of our little project. Fantini Mosaici With their expertise we went through several versions before M. Verdier was satisfied with the result. The final approved version utilizes an uncommon, super hard concrete. This is combined with a Venetian selection of stones from all parts of Italy. Once it was finished and installed all doubt concerning this plinth's roll in acoustics was dispelled. Slate, stainless steel, wood, panzerholz, bronze, brass, Baltic birch, resin encased MDF, steel and combinations of the these were all tried and it was quite clear that this unusual concrete and stone mixture had a more neutral and comprehensively powerful presentation than any of the others by a wide margin.

To earth this high mass plinth Stillpoint Ultra SS filters are employed to create a solid and easily levelled platform. This footing is not only for the plinth, bearing and arm but also the motor pulley which is now relieved of any suspension movement that can cause speed anomalies.

One of the most copied platters and bearings of any turntable was developed by Thomas Scheu. The enterprise he founded provides bearings and platters for many famous brands of turntables. He also created one of the best sounding, ingenious, no-nonsense turntables of his own. Since he provided kits and parts for DIY’ers, many who started with these kits took his concepts and created companies such as Feickert, Teres, Red Point and Galibier with them. Even as they deviated from his original concepts there is no question he inspired them all. His bearing, like the Verdier, utilises an inverted configuration but with more modern materials and understanding of oil cohesion, adhesion, surface tension and capillary action. It is a simple and ingenious design which re-lubricates itself after initial servicing and is relatively maintenance free. 

The Scheu platter employs a high precision, acrylic of special character. It is harder and more dense than most of the acrylic material family in order to achieve a specific goal. The speed of sound through this solid is precisely that of vinyl. I have observed, first hand, this measurement with the specialized measuring equipment required. The result is like playing an 80mm thick, 7.5kg LP record.  There is great solidity with an inner, natural voice that is unique.

The arm pillar and motor pod are made of fibre reinforced concrete to marry plinth, platter, motor and arm in rigid geometry with excellent acoustic properties. The result is a resolute and steadfast loop between groove and stylus which reads microns accurately.

The original Verdier bearing is an hydraulic bearing - not a magnetic one as many believe. Although the magnets (ingeniously) neutralize the weight of the platter, the bearing remains and influences sound according to its hydraulic state. When the oil leaks, which it inevitably does, air gets in and compromises the sound. Purging this air once a month or so is required to maintain best performance. When I complained of the need for this routine and suggested ways to prevent the oil leakage to M. Verdier, he chuckled and encouraged me to try. Many already had...

The Scheu bearing is similar in configuration and geometry. It is also an inverted bearing grossly overrated for its weight bearing capability and uses materials and tolerances which were not available or common in the era of the Platine Verdier. This bearing couples the platter with the plinth through an inverted ceramic bearing which is irrigated in a an oil bath. The result is a dynamically stable, ultra precise, low noise rotation with direct coupling. The later models of the Verdier, the Nouvelle Platine and the Magnum both use hydraulic circulating bearings. This is not a coincidence.

Readers of my old blog may know that I believe the heart of the turntable is often the most overlooked component - the motor. While there are endless discussion of tonearms, cables, cartridges, platter mats and supports the motor is normally overlooked and yet plays one of the most important roles of any component. It is the active component which not only provides the motive force, but also the reactive element to stylus drag. The motor's reaction to this ever-changing source of friction fundamentally influences how a turntable sounds. 

Idler turntable fans attribute this influence to the drive mechanism. Most idler drive turntables use large, shaded pole, motors which compensate for changing load with inductive inertia. Belt drive turntables most often use small, ac synchronous, motors which look like peanuts when compared to these idler juggernauts. Our experiments showed conclusively that motors type makes a greater difference than drive type.

As a result we determined that different types of motors and how they sound are commonly labelled as “idler" or "belt" drive and that this labelling is misleading. The Verdier uses a powerful, precision DC motor which causes many idler enthusiasts say that it is the one "belt drive" motor that has any soul. M. Verdier kindly points out the motor's merits in a Sound Practices publication article - issue 11. 

The grip, heart and slam of the “idler” as well as the fine detail, harmonic decay and ambient information of the best of “belt drive” is to be found with this motor. To build on its strengths and to eliminate its weakness a completely new controller has been created. In the era when the Verdier controller was developed the LM317 voltage regulator was probably an advanced device. However today there is a greater understanding of motor control. A motor acts as a generator in operation and this back EMI causes error in controllers like the LM317. As a result they fall in and out of regulation erratically. There are newer chips designed for motor control which are immune to this problem. There are also circuits of greater sophistication which can self correct speed variations without the complications and problems of closed loop feedback.

Our contoller not only provides rapid and high current delivery but is also not thrown out of regulation by the EMI coming off the motor. Additionally, this controller senses motor load and prevents resulting sag to maintain speed as the load varies. This is a simple and elegant solution which behaves much like the inductive stability of idler wheel shaded pole motors. There is an adjustment which allows tuning of this electronic inertia and provides adjustable degrees of robustness to load changes during transient attacks. One can readily find the desired presentation as well as hear the difference this circuit makes by turning it on and off.

The high degree of mechanical integrity provided by these elements combined together: plinth, bearing, platter, a notoriously good motor and now powered by a sophisticated controller to provide a new perspective in LP playback. The result is music with all its power as well as its nuance.

Appearance is a simple, subdued, mid-century modern to fit any decor.

To accompany the Foundation Turntable we also can provide Dynavector XV-1S and Kuzma Stogi Reference 313 VTA Tonearms / Cardas Clear wire, on request, for a proven, optimum combination. No-nonsense Vinylista tools of world class performance.

For orders send us an email. 

We committed to a small production run which has now been filled however we will reopen production for further orders. Lead time is 60-90 days.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Life in the time of Hay...

A cool and rainy spring gave way to a ferocious beginning of summer. The hottest days ever recorded in France. As a result of this sudden change the farmers came out in synchronisation on the same day to get the hay in before it was lost.

While the farmers have been out in the heat cutting, drying and bailing the hay it has been a busy time indoors as well.

Mojo the mad is a constant companion...

constantly chasing everything (real or imagined) ... 

In trying to stay with the real let's get on with business then, shall we?

Our Field coil design has moved forward.

What started as a simplified way to improve on the historic Tungar battery chargers and Selenium rectified supplies and solve the requirement with a sober design created an avenue of discovery. 

It began with a Schottky rectified, choke loaded design which eliminates noise and its harmonics and provides current stability and storage.

Voltage regulation was tried and was the wrong direction.

Current regulation and turned out to be an excellent solution for field coils, improving sonics considerably.

The difference in the type of AC transformers was more pronounced than anticipated. Split bobbin types were used initially to decouple line noise. R - Cores were tested and were quieter in operation. When toroidal types were tested they demonstrated clear superiority in current delivery. While the other steps forward were solid and clear, the difference of the toroid was pronounced. Quite a treat to experience how much better the music moved and flowed with greater weight and agility above the other steps forward.

Field coils deserve better supplies because they make a field coil more of a field coil - meaning the increased stability of the magnetic field in the face of constantly varying load. The difference in quality of supply is easy to hear. 

 The supplies pictured above are heading to the Island of Crete to power WE555 6-7 volts / 1.5 amps with plenty of headroom. 

For those who would like to update their supplies please contact us by email.