My new Rega arm (and other upgrade tales)

oscroft

Member
Am trying a Pro-ject Tube Box DS2 end of January early February next year. Opted for it, because of it's on-the-fly impedance adjustment.
Ooh, I'll definitely look forward to hearing what you think of that, particularly compared to the 8000A.
I am considering trying the Origin Live Gravity One TT weight/stabiliser. It's on a try and buy or return, like a number of their products. But at around £200 it's rather more expensive than the platter mat, cartridge stabiliser. But if it is as good as those, it would be a keeper.
Interested to hear how that goes too. I've tried record weights before and never got anything from them, but not an OL one.
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Although I described it as a weight, it isn't strictly true. It's actually more of a unwanted noise remover.

A couple of years ago, I lent a TT weight to a guy I know who has a Rega. He reported no discernable benefit, so that was that.

Not sure, until I actually get it, that the phono stage is the right one to go for. If it isn't, then because of the saving I made on it, shouldn't be too much out of pocket if I have to sell it on. But that's being negative and I really want it to be better than the 8000A built-in item.

But the Origin Live item is something else altogether. I shall look into it more when funds permit. Be just my luck to try it, thinking it would not be beneficial, only to find it is, and then grudgingly return it, because of insufficient funds.
 

oscroft

Member
That said, I am considering trying the Origin Live Gravity One TT weight/stabiliser...
I said a weight didn't make any difference for me? Well, I'd tried one with my original Rega felt mat, then with a cork mat, then with an SRM/Tech mat (the best of the three), and it didn't make any difference with any of them.

But I hadn't actually tried it since I moved to the Origin Live mat (better again), and looking up at it on the shelf just now I decided to try it. And wow, it does make a difference, finally, with the OL mat. The only minor downside is that I can't close the lid with the weight on, but I can live with that.

Which super expensive weight is it, you might ask? An unbranded one, £15 from China.
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
But if it works, it'll be a fantastic piece of kit. I have read what reviews there are and ploughed through a good few message board threads on the Houdini. In theory, it should work. If a tonearm is rigidly mounted and can perform as intended, with just minimum play in the bearings, then an effective cartridge isolator must be beneficial. After all, its only the information retrieved by the cartridge that is wanted. But try telling some people that. Light the touch paper and retire to a safe distance. People need to be more open minded and applaud those trying to improve playback.
 

oscroft

Member
But if it works, it'll be a fantastic piece of kit. I have read what reviews there are and ploughed through a good few message board threads on the Houdini. In theory, it should work. If a tonearm is rigidly mounted and can perform as intended, with just minimum play in the bearings, then an effective cartridge isolator must be beneficial. After all, its only the information retrieved by the cartridge that is wanted. But try telling some people that. Light the touch paper and retire to a safe distance. People need to be more open minded and applaud those trying to improve playback.
Oh yes, I quite agree. I grew up on the "fasten the cartridge to the arm as rigidly as possible" mantra, and that actually did work. I've verified it myself several times by comparing a modestly tight cartridge to a very tight one, and the latter was clearly better every time - so I think having the cartridge not fully tightened when fastened to a bare headshell is probably usually a mistake.

But, as I found out, that doesn't mean there isn't an even better approach. And there clearly is, as installing an isolating material (like the OL cartridge felt thing - I keep forgetting the name and I can't be bothered to check) can make a surprising difference. So yes, I'm very open to the possibility that the Houdini might be a great thing - and if I had unlimited cash, I'd order one tomorrow to find out.

But my audio budget is limited, and there are many things I could spend £300 on that I think would be likely to make a bigger difference - in particular, finishing my active system. For that I have to finish building the crossover (though I have most of the parts, maybe all), then I need to recap/upgrade my 8000P (which will cost around £250), build the bass speakers that I'm planning - I have some quite nice cabinets, and I've identified drivers that I think should work well in them (about £300 including damping). I want to build another subwoofer too, to find out if stereo subs do make a difference as a number of respected folk claim (another £300 - and I have another use for a sub if stereo doesn't help, so not wasted).

I want to try a new phono stage too, to see if there's an improvement over the 8000A - either get something like a Rega Fono and upgrade the op-amps, or build one from from a DIY design. I don't know what that would cost.

And then when all that is finished, I have a pair of Magneplanars that need new wiring looms - I don't know how much that will cost, and it's not a trivial job, but I've had them standing here for years and I'm seriously going to do it.

These things would take up all my spare cash for quite some time, even if buying music wasn't my top priority!

But for anyone who has the money for a Houdini and doesn't have higher priorities, I say go for it. (Please - then you can tell me whether it's any good ;))
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Oh yes, I quite agree. I grew up on the "fasten the cartridge to the arm as rigidly as possible" mantra, and that actually did work. I've verified it myself several times by comparing a modestly tight cartridge to a very tight one, and the latter was clearly better every time - so I think having the cartridge not fully tightened when fastened to a bare headshell is probably usually a mistake.

But, as I found out, that doesn't mean there isn't an even better approach. And there clearly is, as installing an isolating material (like the OL cartridge felt thing - I keep forgetting the name and I can't be bothered to check) can make a surprising difference. So yes, I'm very open to the possibility that the Houdini might be a great thing - and if I had unlimited cash, I'd order one tomorrow to find out.

But my audio budget is limited, and there are many things I could spend £300 on that I think would be likely to make a bigger difference - in particular, finishing my active system. For that I have to finish building the crossover (though I have most of the parts, maybe all), then I need to recap/upgrade my 8000P (which will cost around £250), build the bass speakers that I'm planning - I have some quite nice cabinets, and I've identified drivers that I think should work well in them (about £300 including damping). I want to build another subwoofer too, to find out if stereo subs do make a difference as a number of respected folk claim (another £300 - and I have another use for a sub if stereo doesn't help, so not wasted).

I want to try a new phono stage too, to see if there's an improvement over the 8000A - either get something like a Rega Fono and upgrade the op-amps, or build one from from a DIY design. I don't know what that would cost.

And then when all that is finished, I have a pair of Magneplanars that need new wiring looms - I don't know how much that will cost, and it's not a trivial job, but I've had them standing here for years and I'm seriously going to do it.

These things would take up all my spare cash for quite some time, even if buying music wasn't my top priority!

But for anyone who has the money for a Houdini and doesn't have higher priorities, I say go for it. (Please - then you can tell me whether it's any good ;))

I am in complete agreement with you. Keeping an open mind to possibilities is essential. Arthur Khoubesserian is a fine example of someone who constantly challenges conventional thinking and wisdom. I actually hope to try Houdini at some point. I will put off getting another cartridge and use the money for it on the Houdini. But first, I have to ensure that I am getting the best out of what I have before I can do it.

I envy your ability to do your own mods and builds. Am very much hoping you will keep us informed of your progress.
 

oscroft

Member
I am in complete agreement with you. Keeping an open mind to possibilities is essential. Arthur Khoubesserian is a fine example of someone who constantly challenges conventional thinking and wisdom. I actually hope to try Houdini at some point. I will put off getting another cartridge and use the money for it on the Houdini. But first, I have to ensure that I am getting the best out of what I have before I can do it.

I envy your ability to do your own mods and builds. Am very much hoping you will keep us informed of your progress.
Oh yes, I'll be sure to post my progress here in this thread.

As for my ability to do mods and builds, I'm going to be testing another ability shortly - the ability to fix something after I've screwed it up :confused::rolleyes:

I've just restored and upgraded my 8000SX power amp, and I did a fix for a design flaw while I was in there. There are some resistors where Audiolab used ones of too low power handling, and they overheat and can damage the board. It usually just discolours the board a bit, but in this case it was blackened (as were a couple of the resistors). The fix is to replace the resistors with higher power ones, and stand them off the board for ventilation. I did that, but the heat damage had wrecked the PCB tracks and I had to do some wiring. The problem? When I tested it (thankfully with a current-limited power supply), one channel worked fine and produced a lovely sine wave output from the input signal. But the other channel produced a horrible output and it got very hot rather quickly. So, back to inspection - at least with a bad channel in stereo gear, there's a good channel to compare to.
 

oscroft

Member
Haven't got back to the 8000SX amp yet, but I've made another tweak to my speaker crossovers. Previously I'd replaced the electrolytic capacitors with film caps, and now I've replaced the ferrite-core inductors with air-core ones. (And the original caps I used were a stop-gap pair together, but I've replaced the pair with a single cap of the right value now). It's definitely brought another stepwise improvement - I'm hearing clearer timbre and better tonal differentiation between instruments now.

Photos below are the original crossover, and what it looks like now...

D20_031_001a.jpg

D21_002_009a.jpg
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Good work. Are there additional steps you know you could make to further improve the quality of sound reproduction?
 

oscroft

Member
Good work. Are there additional steps you know you could make to further improve the quality of sound reproduction?
It's possible that replacing the other components in the crossover could make some difference - some people recommend certain makes of resistor, and perhaps inductors with thicker wire to replace the small ones. But I think the benefits would be marginal at best, well into diminishing returns.

And these crossovers will come out altogether when I get the active system finished. (They won't be wasted, as these speakers will eventually be retired from my main system, when the crossovers will go back in).
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
Great stuff. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about going active. Does doing so give you on-the-fly adjustment?
 

oscroft

Member
Great stuff. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about going active. Does doing so give you on-the-fly adjustment?
Sort of. I last had an active system back in the 80s, using a kit-built crossover (though not actually a great one). That one had external bass/mid/treble controls (to match to the individual driver sensitivities). But they only needed to be set once, so no need for everyday accessibility, and if they were accidentally changed it could be a pain matching the levels again.

The new crossover is a Linkwitz-Riley one by Rod Elliott (which should be technically quite a bit better than my old one), and the PCBs are laid out to have trimmer pots - which are set once using a screwdriver before fastening the lid down. It can be wired up to have external controls, but I'm going to keep it with the internal trimmers.

(*Just thought, I should post some active crossover photos too)
 
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Khankat

Well-known Member
Sort of. I last had an active system back in the 80s, using a kit-built crossover (though not actually a great one). That one had external bass/mid/treble controls (to match to the individual driver sensitivities). But they only needed to be set once, so no need for everyday accessibility, and if they were accidentally changed it could be a pain matching the levels again.

The new crossover is a Linkwitz-Riley one by Rod Elliott (which should be technically quite a bit better than my old one), and the PCBs are laid out to have trimmer pots - which are set once using a screwdriver before fastening the lid down. It can be wired up to have external controls, but I'm going to keep it with the internal trimmers.

(*Just thought, I should post some crossover photos too)

Pictures and text more than welcome.
 

oscroft

Member
I haven't done much with the active crossover yet, but here's what the project looks like at the moment. I've stripped out the old components, and replaced the power supply caps and checked that's working. I've pulled out the mains connection and I'll redo that - it was built for a country with non-polarized 2-pin mains, and depending on which way you plugged it in either the switch or the fuse was on the live with the other on the neutral.

I've placed one of the old boards inside, next to one of the new unpopulated Rod Elliott boards - you can see how much better Rod is at laying out boards....

D21_003_003a.jpg
 

oscroft

Member
I wish I had a better understanding of the components and electronics in general. Looks good.
With stuff like this, it should be possible to get all the parts and solder it all up in a spirit of blissful ignorance - Rod provides good instructions once you've bought the PCB, and he has a suitable power supply you can build too. But that assumes nothing goes wrong - and if it doesn't just work, you do then need a bit of knowledge (and some test gear) to debug it.
 

oscroft

Member
Turntable tweak...!

I had my (much tweaked) P3 on new original Rega feet, and I used an oak chopping board as an isolation platform, with that in turn mounted on sorbothane feet. The whole thing is on top of a NorStone Bergen 2 rack (well, two of them side by side with the turntable straddling them). It clearly sounded better than with the TT directly on top of the rack, so the isolation thing was doing some good.

The isolation platform/squishy feet approach isolates the turntable from vibrations coming up through the furniture, but it doesn't do anything about direct airborne vibrations. And that brings up the alternative approach, to couple the turntable to the furniture as rigidly as possible. One approach is clearly working against the other, and the best way depends on which is your biggest source of unwanted vibration in your personal setup - airborne or furniture-borne.

Now, my NorStone racks are spiked all the way down to the floor, and stabilised pretty well by the weight of my amps and other components. So maybe a rigid spiky approach might work better for me? As it happens, I have a bag of speaker spikes, so I've fastened some of them to the Rega...

D21_006_002a.jpg


The spikes are just loosely positioned in some new holes for now (I didn't want to over-drill the existing holes, so I can go back to the original feet). If I decide to keep the spikes, I'll fix them properly (so they're adjustable too). I've also removed the sorbothane feet from below the isolation chopping board, so that's rigidly on top of the rack now.

What does it sound like? I have some first impressions, but I'll listen some more (to different kinds of music) and I'll let you know a bit later... and if you're as sadly obsessed as me, you might enjoy the dramatic tension in the meantime ;)
 
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oscroft

Member
And the answer is... spiky is clearly better than squishy for my setup.

The most noticeable difference is an improvement in bass. It just sounds cleaner, with better differentiation between notes. Low piano notes in particular sound, well, more like piano notes. And when the bass is clearer, I find it tends to make the whole spectrum seem clearer.

Maybe the best way to describe it is to describe what the bass sounds like with the squishy setup. I would not have previously considered it to be muffled or indistinct, but compared to the spiky setup that's exactly what it is.

The bummer is that the cost of my chopping board (plus a can of black paint), the sorbothane feet for it, and the new set of Rega feet is wasted money. The black paint is probably toxic too, so I can't even recycle the chopping board for kitchen use.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
What not put spikes under the base board as well, double spikes has got to be twice as good as a single set? have you tried it the other way, base board on spikes, subbed mounts under turn table?
 

oscroft

Member
What not put spikes under the base board as well, double spikes has got to be twice as good as a single set? have you tried it the other way, base board on spikes, subbed mounts under turn table?
Ah, I forgot to say...

I also tried it without the chopping board altogether, with the turntable spikes directly on the glass top of the rack - and that was better again. In fact, I did most of my listening that way - and it's why I put the cost of the chopping board down as wasted.

I don't expect adding the board back would be any benefit. It's good for extra decoupling in a decoupled system, but an extra layer wouldn't increase the coupling in a coupled system. But there's nothing to lose, so I might try the other combinations over the weekend.
 

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