A Tale or Three Phono Stages

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
105
164
50
As clearly seen from pics on the web, it is opamp based. Still, very well executed, even if output appears not to be dc coupled.
My listening sessions with the Igniculus have been a wonder in space and 'openness' The truth is that I have struggled to find the proper adjectives to describe my experience with all of the Synaestec products. 'Openness' would seem to be one descriptor. Things just come out of the air, naturally. After the dialing in of a system, which took a fair bit of physical toil, given that everything, including the speakers, was scaled up, I began to listen. At first the bass drivers weren't broken in, which led to various methods to break them in...they didn't fit into my normal sound proof break-in closet. All to say, it was a process. (in this case powering Soul Sonic Hologramms.) Once completed, I would occasionally swap a component. In most cases, there was a reductive feeling. Like the music had been tethered to fit into the purview of a looking glass, as opposed to the natural open feeling with the full Synaestec system. Prior to this, it wasn't as though this openness drew attention to itself. It did not. Anyway, I could easily blather on about how special I find the sound. There is an ease to it that is addictive...I find this same ease tends to exist in the best thought out systems.

Regarding the choice of transistors and op amps, I have this from Walter Weiss of Synaestec. He also touches on the Octa Drive system.

'Hi Fred, We did not avoid the use of opamps or any other devices. Developing the Octa Drive circuit, we began with a white board, open to all approaches as possibilities with measurements and listening sessions providing feedback for our choices. The Octa-Drive technology is the combination of eight balanced amplifiers, eight for the positive phase and eight for the negative phase. There are opamps as well as low noise discrete transistors inside each of the amplifiers. These amplifiers are connected in parallel not for the higher gain, but for the lower noise, lower distortion and lower output impedance.

Every Synastec Audio product is created in the ultimate balance between objective measurement and subjective listening experience, through countless adjustments and optimizations. The life of music is guaranteed in the final performance.'
 

Fred Crane

Industry Expert
Apr 23, 2020
105
164
50
It's an interesting product from the standpoint of feature set. But 100dB and THD <0.001 sounds like op amps. Is there an explanation of "Octa-Drive" available? The challenge with 105dB SNR is staying "musical", i.e. being able to avoid sucking the life out of the music. Many have tried.
Hi Bazelio, (here is the Octa Drive explanation-I begin with my listening notes and then we hear from Walter Weiss at Synaestec)

My listening sessions with the Igniculus/Octa Drive circuit have been a wonder in space and 'openness' The truth is that I have struggled to find the proper adjectives to describe my experience with all of the Synaestec system (here, I'm referring to the Saxum Amplifier, the Fulcrum preamp and the Igniculus phono stage.) 'Openness' would seem to be one descriptor. Things just come out of the air, naturally. After the dialing in of this system, which took a fair bit of physical toil, given that everything, including the speakers, was scaled up, I began to listen. At first the bass drivers weren't broken in, which led to various methods to break them in...they didn't fit into my sound proof break-in closet. All to say, it was a process. (in this case powering Soul Sonic Hologramms.) Once completed, I would occasionally swap a component. In most cases, there was a reductive feeling. Like the music had been tethered to fit into the purview of a looking glass, as opposed to the natural open feeling with the full Synaestec system. Prior to this, it wasn't as though this openness drew attention to itself. It did not. Anyway, I could easily blather on about how special I find the sound. There is an ease to it that is addictive...I find this same ease tends to exist in the best systems I've heard. It's very special with Synaestec as there is so little 'other' to distract your ears.

Regarding the choice of transistors and op amps, I have this from Walter Weiss of Synaestec. He also touches on the Octa Drive system.

'Hi Fred, We did not avoid the use of opamps or any other devices. Developing the Octa Drive circuit, we began with a white board, open to all approaches as possibilities with measurements and listening sessions providing feedback for our choices. The Octa-Drive technology is the combination of eight balanced amplifiers, eight for the positive phase and eight for the negative phase. There are opamps as well as low noise discrete transistors inside each of the amplifiers. These amplifiers are connected in parallel not for the higher gain, but for the lower noise, lower distortion and lower output impedance.

Every Synastec Audio product is created in the ultimate balance between objective measurement and subjective listening experience, through countless adjustments and optimizations. The life of music is guaranteed in the final performance.'

regarding gain...

'Phono amplifiers are, by definition, much more complex than line stage preamplifiers. We need to take the RIAA equalization into the account. RIAA suppresses a lot of the bass in the vinyl during the mix. That’s why we need to apply a lot more gain in the bass in order to bring the frequency response back to flat. If you look at the RIAA curve, there is 20dB difference between 20Hz and 1KHz. That means at 20Hz, we need 20dB more gain, or 10 times more gain in the linear scale.

Speaking of gain, to bring a 0.2mV low output cartridge up to the modern 2V standard, we do need the gain of 10000 in the 1KHz. But in this case, the phono preamp will require the internal gain of 100000 in the 20Hz. This much of gain is always desirable but is very hard to achieve, because there is noise penalty and limited headroom. We are the very few people who have managed to make it.'
 

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