Alexx V arrive in NJ

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,601
3,008
760
United States
Marty and I have known each other since 1970 and have stayed close during essentially all of the intervening years. Audio has always been a core bond between us as we each advanced in the very elite end of this hobby. Since Marty has been one of my closest friends for so long I know him quite well, just as he knows me. It has been a standing joke between us that his strong OCD streak in his personality has been a huge asset to his current skill level designing and setting up a system.

Now that he is truly seasoned in this space and has the ability and connections to purchase what he desires and deems important, something really special is likely to develop in Marty's amazing music room. While my system is certainly no slouch, Marty and his knowledge, skill set, the best ear I know for live performances driven by his need for perfection, I would always bet on Marty ultimately sitting at the top of the elite pyramid of audio connoisseurs' systems.

Since September 2, I have not turned my system on, nor been home due to some very extreme medical problems that have eliminated my ability to be mobile, thus not being as in touch with Marty's audio growth as typical. He has recently implimented several major system changes that now produce a sound stage and listening experience that is just staggering. During our relationship Marty and I have been on many audio excursions, some quite interesting and special. Amongst the most interesting and certainly special, was a joint visit that lasted all night to the fabled factory Jon Inverson where he had his alleged force fields.

Many speculate that the force fields nevered actually existed. I can guarantee with 100% confidence that they were very real, and while not perfect, incredible in some key area's, with little if any competition. After hours of listening in the most industrial location imagineable, I came to realize that what was so special about that listening experience, was the believability that generated tremendous involvement. Some the quality of the sound was Iversons's amazing class A Electron Kinetics amp designed specifically to drive these highly unusual speakers, but the force fields had a super electrostatic precision, without all of the subtle, but degrading imperfections in audio playback. Voices and their relationship to their environment were in a class I never knew existed, and found to be truly mesmerizing. Since then, I have strived to create a system that has some of that sound that Iverson created.

Last night, I heard it again at Marty's house on his newly configured system that I am quite familiar with histortically. Put simply, I have no idea how to top what Marty has put together. First of all his room is amazing to the point that a Radio Shack table radio would sound good in it. Most of his system has been around for a while, although always being tweaked. The new additions are the Wilson Alexx V's and a pair of Gryphon Class A Mephisto monoblocs, plus some tube adjustments in Marty's Golden Gate Lampizator, and serious and multiple physical and A-B adjustments (OCD)

I have always loved truly good class A sound becauase of its believable effortless cohesiveness. Unfortunately, the associated heat has always been a problem for me due to listening room constraints, removing them from my list of feasible audio objectives. Well Marty's system has the amps in their own room which isolates the heat, leaving their amazing sound, which he has brilliantly messed with the Alexx's and JL Gotham's. For four hours we sat last night listening to an amazing list of digital and vinyl pieces, which all had some degree of this amazing Class A believeability. I am familiar with a large amount of what Marty played since great music remains great and we have been together for a long time. However, as is usually the case, he also had some really interesting new music that he thought I would like.

What a joy to be drolling in anticipation to hear the next sound with this amazing Class A sound that Marty's system produces in huge quantities, effortlessly. It is impossible to resist or ignore. The power of its attraction is so great that you get pulled in as if by a tractor beam. Marty can describe his system way better than me, however I have been around long enough that I know when I am in the presence of something truly special. Marty's system is now truly special and a tremdous sonic tool.
You make situational OCD seem like an attribute! Trust me, it's a curse, although it can be productive.

Yes, it took a while to tweak things accordingly when the Mephistos arrived. As we all know, everything matters when it comes to system synergy. The recent work focused on dialing in the Lampi GG and the Gryphon with tube changes. Previously, I was using KR242 and an EML 274b . This has evolved to where I am now using a Dutch GZ34 recti and the KR 242 RK output tubes and that combo seems to hit it out of the park with the Mephistos (where it did not with the Parasounds/CH 10M/Soulution 701). The stock KR242's are superb and in some ways easier to listen to, but if you have a system that will allow for the highest resolution ancillary components to shine, the 242-RK offers more resolution, especially in the bass - at least in my current rig-while still being highly musical. The system is indeed an excellent tool, but mostly just makes for some damn fine "ordinary" listening.
 
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Alrainbow

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Dec 12, 2013
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NYC , USA
I know im late in commenting but thanks for allowing me to be in your room . I just got back to my home down south.
I will well make a proper post tomorrow. .
Thank you so much for the visit.
Al. D
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
2,623
1,013
415
NYC , USA
Marty's visit was an amazing time , but not just in music or his massive system .
First off i was in awe of his room it alone would be worth the visit even if the sound was below expectations.
Marty is a kind man and was very gracious to allow myself into his home .
His wife was also very warm and i felt invited .
The layout of his room seems perfect nothing is too close, nor too far it is what i think any audiophile would love to have .
Acoustically its alive but never did i hear any unwanted room interactions. of course his room was working overtime to keep things perfect im sure .
First the bass at times the coach was vibrating on my back yet never was it overpowering nor blurred . both his digital and analog performed perfect .
the mids to upper sounds all were seamless as was all levels of bass interaction. while some sounds popped out of a given channel it was always the mix not any cross over anomaly.
Marty is a great performer too his playlist brought to bear each attribute of his system, like pealing back an onion layer by layer .
First track was choral vocals, i mostly can't play this kind of genre due to my hearing not being able to relax but tenses up trying to lock onto each sound . but not in his system all was there but done so well it was just fine .
No matter what track nor what playback level all was in total control like in a vise. i felt this sysem must be built on a massive SS amps. Class a has a sweet sound that keeps things in control so as he raised the sound level i pondered what amp could be performing this feat. my own setup has a set of ML NO 33 , restored perfect by me . i know what controlled music sounds like and this was that sound in spades.
Before i comment on his amp choice and keep in mind i never read this thread until today .
Analog to me is where music is and digital is where it goes .
Analog playing vinyl makes me scratch my head as i look at the mechanics of it , with the many layers of its process . yet its magic that digital can make you feel good but not like analog does .
Marty played a few to show off his analog abilities. one track was a person playing i think a flute while drums and massive percussion all around it . his analog was solid nothing moves , from small to massive the stage was solid like it was not even part of the performance in that it stood alone untouched as i sat in my seat .
The time we spent talking was very important to me this hobby or better yet obsession leaves us to being alone mostly . and on forums we bicker at times. i do add to this as well . his posts above proved to me the amp in question was just not meant for his system no matter what he moved nor did . i do understand a little of why some amps play better on some speakers its predictable in some ways. And no matter how much money is spent on an amp the sound wins not the amp .
i want to thank marty and his wife for their kind gestor of letting me into their home and in some ways lives ,
if i get to build my room down here i would love to entertain some like he does . maybe marty can share his room plans lol.

please excuse my ramblings and grammar Marty will tell you I'm far better in person.
AL. D .

PS
I had a large gryphon amp for a while it was a buds. I was re capping it . IT was a large class A amp cooked big time . it had a button to allow on the fly changing of the class A bias. a really cool feature .
my system dips below 2 ohms while the amp played its sound was rolled off unless i lowered the bias to 50 % . at low volume I could use it at 100% and at low levels it was great . it did have the controlled sound i heard at his place . i dont know what his speakers imp curve is nor do i care the amps controlled the sound never moving off its center of sound .
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,601
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760
United States
Al
Thanks for your kind words. No need to apologize. I too am lost without a spell checker and I still don't catch everything! I've always said the best part of this hobby is meeting like-minded lunatics, many of whom become long term friends. I enjoyed learning that we have both been long time modifiers of just about every audio piece we have ever owned due to the necessity of being raised with considerable resource limitations! That may not be the case so much anymore, but I think it definitely shaped in very important ways, what many old DIY'ers such as us buy now.
Marty
 
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wisnon

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2011
3,511
601
550
Marty and I have known each other since 1970 and have stayed close during essentially all of the intervening years. Audio has always been a core bond between us as we each advanced in the very elite end of this hobby. Since Marty has been one of my closest friends for so long I know him quite well, just as he knows me. It has been a standing joke between us that his strong OCD streak in his personality has been a huge asset to his current skill level designing and setting up a system.

Now that he is truly seasoned in this space and has the ability and connections to purchase what he desires and deems important, something really special is likely to develop in Marty's amazing music room. While my system is certainly no slouch, Marty and his knowledge, skill set, the best ear I know for live performances driven by his need for perfection, I would always bet on Marty ultimately sitting at the top of the elite pyramid of audio connoisseurs' systems.

Since September 2, I have not turned my system on, nor been home due to some very extreme medical problems that have eliminated my ability to be mobile, thus not being as in touch with Marty's audio growth as typical. He has recently implimented several major system changes that now produce a sound stage and listening experience that is just staggering. During our relationship Marty and I have been on many audio excursions, some quite interesting and special. Amongst the most interesting and certainly special, was a joint visit that lasted all night to the fabled factory Jon Inverson where he had his alleged force fields.

Many speculate that the force fields nevered actually existed. I can guarantee with 100% confidence that they were very real, and while not perfect, incredible in some key area's, with little if any competition. After hours of listening in the most industrial location imagineable, I came to realize that what was so special about that listening experience, was the believability that generated tremendous involvement. Some of the quality of the sound was Iversons's amazing class A Electron Kinetics amp designed specifically to drive these highly unusual speakers, but the force fields had a super electrostatic precision, without all of the subtle, but degrading imperfections in audio playback. Voices and their relationship to their environment were in a class I never knew existed, and found to be truly mesmerizing. Since then, I have strived to create a system that has some of that sound that Iverson created.

Last night, I heard it again at Marty's house on his newly configured system that I am quite familiar with histortically. Put simply, I have no idea how to top what Marty has put together. First of all his room is amazing to the point that a Radio Shack table radio would sound good in it. Most of his system has been around for a while, although always being tweaked. The new additions are the Wilson Alexx V's and a pair of Gryphon Class A Mephisto monoblocks, plus some tube adjustments in Marty's Golden Gate Lampizator, and serious and multiple physical and A-B adjustments (OCD)

I have always loved truly good class A sound becauase of its believable effortless cohesiveness. Unfortunately, the associated heat has always been a problem for me due to listening room constraints, removing them from my list of feasible audio objectives. Well Marty's system has the amps in their own room which isolates the heat, leaving their amazing sound, which he has brilliantly meshed with the Alexx's and JL Gotham's. For four hours we sat last night listening to an amazing list of digital and vinyl pieces, which all had some degree of this amazing Class A believeability. I am familiar with a large amount of what Marty played since great music remains great and we have been together for a long time. However, as is usually the case, he also had some really interesting new music that he thought I would like.

What a joy to be drolling in anticipation to hear the next sound with this amazing Class A sound that Marty's system produces in huge quantities, effortlessly. It is impossible to resist or ignore. The power of its attraction is so great that you get pulled in as if by a tractor beam. Marty can describe his system way better than me, however I have been around long enough that I know when I am in the presence of something truly special. Marty's system is now a truly special and a tremdous sonic tool.
Russ, I am very sorry to hear aout your medical problems. I hope things have and keep on improving.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,601
3,008
760
United States
King Rex to the Rescue!

Sometime back in late August I think, I was pondering some impending amplifier changes to the system. The amplifier issue was a frustrating and lingering one in which the failed Soulution 711 monoblocs were replaced by the famed CH M10 monos which didn’t end well for me due to what I suspect was a poor impedance match with Wilson Alexx V’s. For a while the terrific Parasound JC1+ monoblocs spun around in the system nicely until a permanent change was enabled by the arrival of the magnificent Gryphon Mephistos. Somewhere in this floating parade of amps it occurred to me that I should revisit my fundamental electric power grid. One would think that since I built my home nearly 10 years ago, I would have dealt with this issue at the time. And in truth, I thought I did. Yet I suspected that a current assessment might be beneficial. I had seen the postings of uber electrician Rex Hungerford in these pages in which he apparently offered his consulting services to wanting audiophiles even though he was based in Seattle.

In September I called Rex (Kingrex Electric) who told me he would be in New Jersey in the fall and would be happy to drop by for a consultation. He arrived in mid-November with a local electrician, Craig Bradley, and did an assessment. He noticed some obvious deficiencies but more importantly, made some straightforward suggestions for modest ameliorations that might translate to significant SQ performance benefits. The utility company kindly delivers 800 amp service to my home from the street about 450 feet away. However, once the service gets up the driveway into my home to the main service panel, the line that then feeds the music room is 2 gauge aluminum, not copper. Moreover, once that 125 amp feed line gets to the music room, it hits a Siemens panel board with aluminum buss boards before it goes merrily on its way to the audio electronics. (Hint- see where we’re going with this?). In addition, Rex and Craig noticed some corrosion on the ground lines both at the main outdoor 800 amp panel outside the house, as well as the primary panel inside the house. We discussed some plans for how to move forward, but before he left, he told me why he was in New Jersey. He asked “do you know some guy named Michael Fremer? We just re-did his house yesterday.” Heh, heh, heh.

Over the next few weeks, we communicated by email and phone. For me, this was the fun part. I’m pretty detail oriented and ran a bunch of questions by Rex which would probably have caused others to throw their hands up and run from the job as fast as they could. I sent him specs for several panel boards (or load centers as they are often called commercially), breaker types (arc-fault, thermo-mag, etc.) and wiring ratings that most people would have ignored or at least charge me for their reviewing time. In every case, Rex answered every question openly with fastidious precision. This was the level of conversation that I expect with scientists in my labs, but from an electrician? Who knew? But I sure found it refreshing. The things that would have driven me to walk away could have been anything that set of my BS meter. Yet Rex persevered in putting up with question after question with no pretense. I’m always particularly impressed when someone answers a question by simply saying “I don’t know”. After we hit that mark a few times, I knew that I was working with the right guy.

Once we agreed on the scope of work, it took a few months before Rex shipped me the customized Square D panel board that he thought would be best. Part of the “Rex treatment” is that he takes a stock Square D panel board and just damps the crap out of it with a ton of brushed-on painted material and added sorbothane in critical places to make it as ring-free as possible. Don’t’ ask me if this stuff matters. You already know the answer which is a resolute “yes!” since in high end audio, we know everything matters, especially if you pay for it! Seriously I will never know for sure if the Rex panel box damping treatment makes a significant difference. But everything I know tells me it can’t hurt and is almost surely beneficial although one can always question the degree of benefit. All I could do at this point is go with the flow, and so I did while waiting for the real answer (the SQ) to come out in the wash as they say.

It was therefore with great anticipation that we finally found a mutually convenient time last week for Rex and Craig to do their work. Watching Rex and Craig work was really wonderful. It was like watching two really good surgeons in the OR figuring out what to cut where, or bolt, clamp or screw there. (It’s also why I probably never went into Orthopedics!). They made efficient use of their time and at the end of day 1, we had blast-off. The aluminum wire from the main interior panel to the music room was replaced by 2 gauge copper, the new panel board was installed, the breakers were replaced, a significant number of grounding changes were made (part of Rex’s secret sauce, if there is such a thing) and the system was finally fired up. The next day, Craig completed hooking up the additional circuits for the room (mostly lighting and non-audio duplex outlets) while Rex used my handy stethoscope to check each breakers for hum and modify accordingly when possible.

We spent the night before the install listening to the system to get a good sense of baseline. And what we heard was admittedly very good. However, the first night after the install, I think we were both surprised, and a bit astonished, with what his changes hath wrought. Put succinctly, there was a level of clarity that was significantly improved from the previous night. Unfortunately, the bass didn’t quite reach the same level of definition and authority that the rest of the system manifested on day 1, but since bass typically is the last thing to come in with any major electronic or wiring change, I was not concerned. Fortunately by day 4, my patience was rewarded and the bass became aligned with the rest of the range in providing a lower distortion, higher definition presentation. Qualitatively, it’s reasonable to look at the changes we heard as a fundamental improvement due to going from aluminum busses and wiring to copper wiring in the walls and silver-coated copper breakers in the Square D panel. Aluminum wiring or contacts have been described as sounding “soft” in comparison to copper, but I think there is more to aluminum which is a grain structure in the range of 2-2.5K that accompanies this softness. Although I’m uncertain as to why an improvement in clarity occurred, particularly in this range, I had no quarrel with it! Could Rex’s grounding improvements also be responsible? Sure, why not? I may never know the contribution of elements here but in the end, it doesn’t much matter to me. The improvement in sonic performance was significant and impressive.

To be continued.....
 
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marty

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Apr 20, 2010
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Part 2

Two more sonic observations were noteworthy. First, I noticed that Warp 9 music was now delivered with more authority and surprisingly, lower distortion. In my discussions with Rex I learned that although the run from the main interior panel to the music room panel was carried by 2 gauge wire (original= aluminum; new= copper), there is a significant amperage rating difference between the two identical gauge wires such that the copper wire is rated to handle about 45% more current than the aluminum wire (at the same temperature). I suspect that this wire change in metals is what contributes, at least in part, to the new level of ease and lower distortion on loud passages that I am hearing.

Secondly, there was a surprising and unanticipated change in subwoofer integration with the new power grid. I never would have guessed that a slight re-tuning of the crossover parameters of the JL Gotham v.2 subs would have occurred with the new electrical changes but it did. I run the Alexx V full range from the Mephistos and supplement the mains with a parallel set of outputs from the Soulution 725 pre-amp to the subs. The JL subs use the internal crossover on the JLs to control volume, phase and crossover frequency. Previously I had that set at about 28-30 Hz. But now, for reasons that I do not understand exactly, I am able to lower that frequency slightly to about 25-27 Hz. Recall that this is the low pass frequency cutoff. This means that the output of the subs still contribute somewhat to frequencies in the 40+ Hz range, thus effecting the blended sound of the mains and subs in this critical power bass range. A minimal change in the low frequency cutoff frequency may not sound like much but in the real world, however it allowed for better bass integration with the Gotham v2’s and was validated by a more indistinguishable difference in all but the lower half octave of music when one simply switched the subs in and out of the system to listen for sonic differences.

In summary, while it’s easy to dismiss the overall effect of all the electrical changes as just “another layer gone”, the real benefit is that what we have here now is just a way of getting greater enjoyment out of listening to music thanks to Rex’s power grid modifications. This is validated by the observation that the reproduced piano at one end of the music room sounds more like the Steinway at the other end of the music room than it ever has previously. The system just gets out of the way more than it did before and I’m content to leave it at that as I suspect that there are more refinements to be revealed as break-in becomes more fully complete.

I’ll conclude by saying that I felt the cost benefit of this work was very high and of excellent value. The work itself, soup to nuts, came in well under 10K. For a system of considerable expense, I would consider the investment essential in the sense that I couldn’t nor wouldn’t want to undo Rex’s handiwork even if I could!! Although I have yet to read Fremer’s published piece describing Rex’s work in his system (I wanted to avoid bias), I’m told he feels the same way. I can understand why.

Working with Rex and Craig was a genuine delight. Two thumbs up, gentlemen.
 
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ctydwn

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Aug 23, 2019
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Wow. wonderful write-up. I would love to sign-up, not sure if possible re: Rex. Seems like visits from Rex and Stirling are some of the best ‘on the ground’ optimizations that can be made. Congrats Marty/Rex/Craig.
 
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Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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Thanks Marty. It was a pleasure to work with you. I find it very valuable to be present on installs such as yours where the equipment is capable of truely voicing the changes and expressing the shift in tone from the change. I am always growing and learning. Every job I can be on and hear the before and after expands my knowledge and confidence the process I have developed is accurate across systems.

Its is also nice to hear what a good room does for an audio system. When I get home, I want to start making the door I mentioned I need to close the pass through to my kitchen. I think a big part of the success of your system is tuning, and the room. Of course my wife asked last night if she could book a week vacation for us on an island. There always seems to be something.

I believe you are pretty spot on with your comments pertaining to vibration control. I can't stand rattling loose equipment. I can hear it with equipment when it comes to stands and shelving. I have heard it in systems when lashing wires such as I did in your panel. I have read white papers and been exposed to vibration control on jobsites. We listened to your panel with a stethoscope and heard how a piece of equipment we will keep unnamed, created a very noticeable buzz back through its serving circuit breaker and into the whole panel. Imagine how that noise could have populated if I had not taken measures to reduce vibrations and ringing in your panel. I broke that panel all the way down and built it back up. When I was done, I had taken it from a hollow ringing can and rattling plastic/sheet metal to a solid, well braced panel that reaponded to strikes and vibration with a solid dense thud. I was very proud of what that panel became. And from what I heard with the before and after, and how it has continued to improve for you, I feel it was all correct in what was done.

Most every panel I have encountered is emanating noise. You can hear the 60 cycle hum if you get up close and listen. I am sure there are harmonics in that hum. If you turn all your equipment off, most all the noise will disappear. When its all on, our equipment is a huge noise generator. And my scope clearly shows that noise is full of odd order harmonics. I can't see how that is not getting into the panal and back out to other equipment. So I damp to keep it from building upon itself like in a piece of musical equipment. It is also a part of why I feel multiple circuits are better than one. I have clearly heard it with mono blocks in my system and others I have worked on. They run more quiet and clean when they have their own wire. Maybe some of what I do is overkill. But I feel the results speak for themselves.

Thanks again for trusting me with your electrical infrastructure.
Rex
 

TrackingAngle

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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226
263
Thanks Marty. It was a pleasure to work with you. I find it very valuable to be present on installs such as yours where the equipment is capable of truely voicing the changes and expressing the shift in tone from the change. I am always growing and learning. Every job I can be on and hear the before and after expands my knowledge and confidence the process I have developed is accurate across systems.

Its is also nice to hear what a good room does for an audio system. When I get home, I want to start making the door I mentioned I need to close the pass through to my kitchen. I think a big part of the success of your system is tuning, and the room. Of course my wife asked last night if she could book a week vacation for us on an island. There always seems to be something.

I believe you are pretty spot on with your comments pertaining to vibration control. I can't stand rattling loose equipment. I can hear it with equipment when it comes to stands and shelving. I have heard it in systems when lashing wires such as I did in your panel. I have read white papers and been exposed to vibration control on jobsites. We listened to your panel with a stethoscope and heard how a piece of equipment we will keep unnamed, created a very noticeable buzz back through its serving circuit breaker and into the whole panel. Imagine how that noise could have populated if I had not taken measures to reduce vibrations and ringing in your panel. I broke that panel all the way down and built it back up. When I was done, I had taken it from a hollow ringing can and rattling plastic/sheet metal to a solid, well braced panel that reaponded to strikes and vibration with a solid dense thud. I was very proud of what that panel became. And from what I heard with the before and after, and how it has continued to improve for you, I feel it was all correct in what was done.

Most every panel I have encountered is emanating noise. You can hear the 60 cycle hum if you get up close and listen. I am sure there are harmonics in that hum. If you turn all your equipment off, most all the noise will disappear. When its all on, our equipment is a huge noise generator. And my scope clearly shows that noise is full of odd order harmonics. I can't see how that is not getting into the panal and back out to other equipment. So I damp to keep it from building upon itself like in a piece of musical equipment. It is also a part of why I feel multiple circuits are better than one. I have clearly heard it with mono blocks in my system and others I have worked on. They run more quiet and clean when they have their own wire. Maybe some of what I do is overkill. But I feel the results speak for themselves.

Thanks again for trusting me with your electrical infrastructure.
Rex
I AM NOT AT ALL SURPRISED BY ANY OF THIS!
 
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TrackingAngle

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
96
226
263
King Rex to the Rescue!

Sometime back in late August I think, I was pondering some impending amplifier changes to the system. The amplifier issue was a frustrating and lingering one in which the failed Soulution 711 monoblocs were replaced by the famed CH M10 monos which didn’t end well for me due to what I suspect was a poor impedance match with Wilson Alexx V’s. For a while the terrific Parasound JC1+ monoblocs spun around in the system nicely until a permanent change was enabled by the arrival of the magnificent Gryphon Mephistos. Somewhere in this floating parade of amps it occurred to me that I should revisit my fundamental electric power grid. One would think that since I built my home nearly 10 years ago, I would have dealt with this issue at the time. And in truth, I thought I did. Yet I suspected that a current assessment might be beneficial. I had seen the postings of uber electrician Rex Hungerford in these pages in which he apparently offered his consulting services to wanting audiophiles even though he was based in Seattle.

In September I called Rex (Kingrex Electric) who told me he would be in New Jersey in the fall and would be happy to drop by for a consultation. He arrived in mid-November with a local electrician, Craig Bradley, and did an assessment. He noticed some obvious deficiencies but more importantly, made some straightforward suggestions for modest ameliorations that might translate to significant SQ performance benefits. The utility company kindly delivers 800 amp service to my home from the street about 450 feet away. However, once the service gets up the driveway into my home to the main service panel, the line that then feeds the music room is 2 gauge aluminum, not copper. Moreover, once that 125 amp feed line gets to the music room, it hits a Siemens panel board with aluminum buss boards before it goes merrily on its way to the audio electronics. (Hint- see where we’re going with this?). In addition, Rex and Craig noticed some corrosion on the ground lines both at the main outdoor 800 amp panel outside the house, as well as the primary panel inside the house. We discussed some plans for how to move forward, but before he left, he told me why he was in New Jersey. He asked “do you know some guy named Michael Fremer? We just re-did his house yesterday.” Heh, heh, heh.

Over the next few weeks, we communicated by email and phone. For me, this was the fun part. I’m pretty detail oriented and ran a bunch of questions by Rex which would probably have caused others to throw their hands up and run from the job as fast as they could. I sent him specs for several panel boards (or load centers as they are often called commercially), breaker types (arc-fault, thermo-mag, etc.) and wiring ratings that most people would have ignored or at least charge me for their reviewing time. In every case, Rex answered every question openly with fastidious precision. This was the level of conversation that I expect with scientists in my labs, but from an electrician? Who knew? But I sure found it refreshing. The things that would have driven me to walk away could have been anything that set of my BS meter. Yet Rex persevered in putting up with question after question with no pretense. I’m always particularly impressed when someone answers a question by simply saying “I don’t know”. After we hit that mark a few times, I knew that I was working with the right guy.

Once we agreed on the scope of work, it took a few months before Rex shipped me the customized Square D panel board that he thought would be best. Part of the “Rex treatment” is that he takes a stock Square D panel board and just damps the crap out of it with a ton of brushed-on painted material and added sorbothane in critical places to make it as ring-free as possible. Don’t’ ask me if this stuff matters. You already know the answer which is a resolute “yes!” since in high end audio, we know everything matters, especially if you pay for it! Seriously I will never know for sure if the Rex panel box damping treatment makes a significant difference. But everything I know tells me it can’t hurt and is almost surely beneficial although one can always question the degree of benefit. All I could do at this point is go with the flow, and so I did while waiting for the real answer (the SQ) to come out in the wash as they say.

It was therefore with great anticipation that we finally found a mutually convenient time last week for Rex and Craig to do their work. Watching Rex and Craig work was really wonderful. It was like watching two really good surgeons in the OR figuring out what to cut where, or bolt, clamp or screw there. (It’s also why I probably never went into Orthopedics!). They made efficient use of their time and at the end of day 1, we had blast-off. The aluminum wire from the main interior panel to the music room was replaced by 2 gauge copper, the new panel board was installed, the breakers were replaced, a significant number of grounding changes were made (part of Rex’s secret sauce, if there is such a thing) and the system was finally fired up. The next day, Craig completed hooking up the additional circuits for the room (mostly lighting and non-audio duplex outlets) while Rex used my handy stethoscope to check each breakers for hum and modify accordingly when possible.

We spent the night before the install listening to the system to get a good sense of baseline. And what we heard was admittedly very good. However, the first night after the install, I think we were both surprised, and a bit astonished, with what his changes hath wrought. Put succinctly, there was a level of clarity that was significantly improved from the previous night. Unfortunately, the bass didn’t quite reach the same level of definition and authority that the rest of the system manifested on day 1, but since bass typically is the last thing to come in with any major electronic or wiring change, I was not concerned. Fortunately by day 4, my patience was rewarded and the bass became aligned with the rest of the range in providing a lower distortion, higher definition presentation. Qualitatively, it’s reasonable to look at the changes we heard as a fundamental improvement due to going from aluminum busses and wiring to copper wiring in the walls and silver-coated copper breakers in the Square D panel. Aluminum wiring or contacts have been described as sounding “soft” in comparison to copper, but I think there is more to aluminum which is a grain structure in the range of 2-2.5K that accompanies this softness. Although I’m uncertain as to why an improvement in clarity occurred, particularly in this range, I had no quarrel with it! Could Rex’s grounding improvements also be responsible? Sure, why not? I may never know the contribution of elements here but in the end, it doesn’t much matter to me. The improvement in sonic performance was significant and impressive.

To be continued.....
I have been enjoying every day what Rex and Craig (and Ed) did for my system...
 

Kingrex

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I have been enjoying every day what Rex and Craig (and Ed) did for my system...
To bad you were not in town. I had a little something special to add to your panel. I'm actually in the airport in NJ heading home. Just passing through. It's been a long trip. Lets talk later about getting parts to Craig and into your panel.

I love this stuff. My brother is envious I took a personal passion and melded it into a later in life job. I would be boored retired. I'm pretty excited to hit the floor with my feet in the mornings now.
 
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TrackingAngle

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I know, but the U.K. trip produced an exclusive video of the new SME Model 60 so that had to take precedence never mind that I arrived home with Covid. It's not a bad case though. But don't let anyone tell you it's like 'common cold' because it's not! Would love to have the upgrade though it' so great now....I just wish I'd have done this 20 years ago when i first moved in. When sell this house I'm going to offer it first to audio enthusiasts.....
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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I know, but the U.K. trip produced an exclusive video of the new SME Model 60 so that had to take precedence never mind that I arrived home with Covid. It's not a bad case though. But don't let anyone tell you it's like 'common cold' because it's not! Would love to have the upgrade though it' so great now....I just wish I'd have done this 20 years ago when i first moved in. When sell this house I'm going to offer it first to audio enthusiasts.....
SME looks nice but only 1 arm?
 
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SCAudiophile

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Part 2

Two more sonic observations were noteworthy. First, I noticed that Warp 9 music was now delivered with more authority and surprisingly, lower distortion. In my discussions with Rex I learned that although the run from the main interior panel to the music room panel was carried by 2 gauge wire (original= aluminum; new= copper), there is a significant amperage rating difference between the two identical gauge wires such that the copper wire is rated to handle about 45% more current than the aluminum wire (at the same temperature). I suspect that this wire change in metals is what contributes, at least in part, to the new level of ease and lower distortion on loud passages that I am hearing.

Secondly, there was a surprising and unanticipated change in subwoofer integration with the new power grid. I never would have guessed that a slight re-tuning of the crossover parameters of the JL Gotham v.2 subs would have occurred with the new electrical changes but it did. I run the Alexx V full range from the Mephistos and supplement the mains with a parallel set of outputs from the Soulution 725 pre-amp to the subs. The JL subs use the internal crossover on the JLs to control volume, phase and crossover frequency. Previously I had that set at about 28-30 Hz. But now, for reasons that I do not understand exactly, I am able to lower that frequency slightly to about 25-27 Hz. Recall that this is the low pass frequency cutoff. This means that the output of the subs still contribute somewhat to frequencies in the 40+ Hz range, thus effecting the blended sound of the mains and subs in this critical power bass range. A minimal change in the low frequency cutoff frequency may not sound like much but in the real world, however it allowed for better bass integration with the Gotham v2’s and was validated by a more indistinguishable difference in all but the lower half octave of music when one simply switched the subs in and out of the system to listen for sonic differences.

In summary, while it’s easy to dismiss the overall effect of all the electrical changes as just “another layer gone”, the real benefit is that what we have here now is just a way of getting greater enjoyment out of listening to music thanks to Rex’s power grid modifications. This is validated by the observation that the reproduced piano at one end of the music room sounds more like the Steinway at the other end of the music room than it ever has previously. The system just gets out of the way more than it did before and I’m content to leave it at that as I suspect that there are more refinements to be revealed as break-in becomes more fully complete.

I’ll conclude by saying that I felt the cost benefit of this work was very high and of excellent value. The work itself, soup to nuts, came in well under 10K. For a system of considerable expense, I would consider the investment essential in the sense that I couldn’t nor wouldn’t want to undo Rex’s handiwork even if I could!! Although I have yet to read Fremer’s published piece describing Rex’s work in his system (I wanted to avoid bias), I’m told he feels the same way. I can understand why.

Working with Rex and Craig was a genuine delight. Two thumbs up, gentlemen.
@marty @Kingrex

Marty,
Apologies for the late posts,...CONGRATULATIONS on elevating the playback quality of your system with all of these electrical foundational changes. Rex is a great guy and extremely knowledgeable I've found over the years. My plan is do similar work here proportional to the fact I'm in a rental at the moment but the full package if you will of Rex can provide is definitely in the plans when I either buy+renovate or build my next home. Very happy for you!
 

marty

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The FTA Sinope USB cable

USB cables are one of those necessary evils we all endure. They all have personalities. The trick is to find one that gets out of the way as best as possible and leaves you smiling when you listen. Most of us have tried a few to find the best match for one's system.

For the past few years, I have been using the excellent Stealth Select-T. The “T” in the title stands for “tunable”. It uses a sliding ferromagnetic collar allows the user to fine-tune the sound to find what is best for your system. The problem is that you need to be patient – but when you find the sweet spot it’s an outstanding cable. I’ve tried others but they have all come and go… until now.

The FTA Sinope is a cable that has an almost reverential underground reputation but is quickly becoming more widely known. And for good reason. But let’s start at the beginning. Day 1. Buckle up, it’s gonna be a long ride. There are some cables, any cables really (whether interconnects, speaker, power etc) that just take a long time to break-in. And this can be a pain in the neck to live through, especially for the instant gratification crowd. Well, the Sinope is one of those long break-in cables.

I have no idea what or why the break-in time is quite long, but it is. Is it the use of some proprietary metal wire blend that all have to get their outer electron spin resonances to settle down? (The construction of the cable is not stated on the understated FTA website but like its Calliope, it’s predecessor, there appears to be silver in there somewhere. Who knows?) Is it the lunar phase? Other? I have no idea and likely never will. But it doesn’t really matter. You just have to accept it and get on with your life while this cable does its break-in thing.

However, on day 1, you can clearly hear the potential. The most obvious sonic impression is of bass that seems excellent right out of the box. And the rest of the range isn’t too shabby either. And so you think you’ve escaped break-in hell. Uh, no. Day 2-5 was like watching the movie “The Three Faces of Eve”. For 5 minutes there is radiant lucidity and beauty but the next 30 minutes are frankly harsh and strident, particularly around 2-3K. Since Mike L reported having good experience with the cable (he preferred it over his Goebel), I reached out to him and he told me to be patients and that things will indeed improve. And they did. Day 4 provided a much needed turning point where the sound was exceptional some of the time and acceptable for much of the time. However I think things really settled in nicely and although I’m at 10 days, I no longer think about the cable even though some users tell me some further benefits may yet to be realized. Frankly, this is a well-known observation whenever silver is being used in almost any place in one’s system (whether it is silver plated copper busses in one’s panelboard, plating on AC and signal terminations, or as a wire). But at 10 days, I’d be quite content if nothing changed from this point forward. The Sinope isn’t just good. It’s extraordinarily good.

I have read many reviews whereby users say things such as “I’ve played this a 100 times and never heard that before…”. I never thought I’d be one of them, but I just can’t seem to help myself here. There are 2 examples that stand out. IMO, one of the hardest instruments to get “right” is the trombone. One some systems, it often sounds like a low trumpet which isn’t surprising since “tromba” means “large trumpet” and everyone knows it’ has a cylindrical bore like a trumpet (and can have valves as well!) . But the standard B-flat trombone has quite a range that spans about 3 octaves from E2 to F5 or from about 80Hz to 700Hz. It is how the trombone sounds in its lower register that separates the mortal from the immortal as far as USB cables in my system. It was the low trombone range on this album that convinced me the Sinope was doing something special.

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The low brass throughout the album is remarkably well-recorded, but Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto for Trombone and Military Band had me mesmerized. Many other cables sound good, but the Sinope has a richness in its lower range that reproduced this trombone like no other USB cable I have used. Listen to the trombone work beginning at 8:11 and extending through the cadenza. The clarity and warmth of the lower frequencies combined with the glow and rich brass signature of the upper range had me transfixed. This is the most realistic rendering of a trombone I have managed to wring out of my system and the Sinope had no competition in this area.

The trombone is just one example of the sounds that got me to sit up and take notice with the Sinope. From the trombone it's easy to understand how human voice is also, not surprisingly, reproduced with outstanding timbre, particularly for baritones and tenors. The definition and richness were simply ravishing. And when you’re done drooling on the floor after listening to male vocals, you can get ready for more “no way I’m moving from this chair” when you start playing piano recordings. The left hand is just at another level compared to any other USB cable's piano rendering that I have ever heard.

I don’t wish to suggest that the Sinope’s benefits were limited to the lower register. It was not. It doesn’t matter what you play. The overall sound is superb throughout, but I must admit the complete bass range (from low through upper) is so well defined, so compelling in timbre and as musically satisfying as I have ever heard from my system.

I’ve used many USB cables from a $25 Canare USB cable to a very expensive USB such as the Masterbuilt Ultra and have gotten very good sound with many. I tried the previous FTA Calliope and decided I preferred the Stealth by a small margin. I tried the excellent Sablon and still decided to keep the Stealth. The MB Ultra was excellent in the mids and highs but the bass is both simultaneously a bit soft and a bit fat compared to the Sinope- honestly not even close. There are certainly many others I have not tried. But at this point, it’s too hard to find nits to pick with the Sinope and so it will remain in my system as my current reference.
 
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marty

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The Reed 5T tonearm arrives in New Jersey

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Part 1: Hell

The audio product I owned the longest was a Goldmund Studio turntable with a T3F linear tracking arm. That product served me well for 30 years until it was replaced by the exquisite Dohmann Helix MkII table about 2 years ago. Departing from a linear tracker was something I did with a heavy heart because of a long-standing bias that pivoted tonearms have at least some inherent liabilities that LTs do not. So, I put a Reed 3P tonearm on the Helix and mounted a ZYX Uni II cartridge on it and thought I might ride off into the sunset with that combo. I loved the sound of the Reed 3P/ZYX combo but it never suppressed the itch to return to a LT.

There are many LT designs, from air bearings to mechanical devices, many of which have been with us for decades and have enjoyed both critical and commercial success. But my experience with the Goldmund biased me toward choosing the 5T because it enjoys a key similarity to the Goldmund T3F that came on the Studio, which is that the arm movement is controlled by a motor that is activated by a sensor when the arm deviates from perpendicular tangency. Anything that worked well and sounded good for 30 years shouldn’t be easily dismissed when seeking a replacement, and that is what prompted me to explore the 5T. The key liability of the T3F was that it was frankly a pain in the ass product to set-up and adjust. Slight changes of VTA or tracking force were death defying (for the stylus) acts of courage. Azimuth adjustments? Fuggetaboutit. There are none. Shims anyone? I actually got quite good at it and was able to change VTA in about 2 minutes fairly reliably and reproducibly, but it was a steep learning curve that really took, well, decades to master, if only for trying to figure out the right amount of silicone fluid used in the damping trough (which required precise adjustment to within 50 uL- no easy feat). However, nothing in my considerable Goldmund set-up experience prepared me for the Reed 5T. Compared to setting up the 5T, the Goldmund T3F was a walk in the park.

Setting up the 5T on the Helix first required Mark Doehmann (not a typo- his name is spelled differently than the product name) to custom make a spacer for his arm board on which to mount the 5T. That was the was the easy part. But the 5T installation process was sheer torture. There is an installation manual in which Reed advises viewing the assembly process on an accompanying YouTube video as well. But it didn’t take long to find out that unfortunately, the two have major discrepancies and inconsistencies that made this one of the most unpleasurable and difficult undertakings I’ve ever experienced. Somewhere in the middle of the set-up, I flat out gave up and refused to proceed. Fortunately, I called Mark Doehmann who talked me down from the ledge and we used video chat to clarify some things that would otherwise be incomprehensible from the video or the manual. I could go into great detail about the rampant errors in the manual and the video, but why bother? They are simply inexcusable. I wrote Reed more than one angry email and strongly suggested the video should be removed until it is re-done as it only serves the confuse the viewer. As far as the obfuscations present in the manual, perhaps there is a manual that is clearer when translated into Russian or Swahili, but the English translation is in dire need of a re-make. This was a complete surprise to me as the 3P installation was a perfectly straight forward process easily performed by a high school student. All I can say is that I’ve cloned genes, discovered a disease, cofounded a biotech pharma company and now run another one, but found this installation to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Think a dealer is going to help you out with this? Good luck with that. This installation was like going to hell on a bullet train.

Part 2: Heaven

Although it looks like a beast, using the 5T is easy as its design and operation has been thoughtfully implemented by its creator and Reed owner, Vidmantas Triukas. The tonearm is comprised of 196 parts and Reed says it took 5472 hours to design. I’m not surprised. (All good, but would a few more hours to produce a manual worthy of the tonearm be too much to ask?). The 5T is made extraordinarily well and is an engineering marvel. I can’t comment on the principle of Thale’s algorithm which is utilized by the tonearm to maintain tangency but interested readers will find that explained in detail on the web site. Using the tonearm is a bit of an usual and at first, unsettling experience because the design is a basically a pivoted arm on a horizontal swing that is set by a mechanical motor driven by a laser sensor. So when you think you have identified the position on the LP at which you want to drop the needle, the sensor intervenes to confirm where it thinks the arm should be as opposed to where you place it. It does this so exceeding fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it. An astonishing feature of that mechanism however, is that unlike the Goldmund T3F, which corrects tangency only in response to forward movement of the arm, the Reed can do this in either direction. Say what you will about the set-up from hell. But operationally, the thing works flawlessly and is a genuine engineering triumph. It’s truly a beautiful instrument. Any rare positioning glitch or alignment issue is easily addressed by a simple reset of the on-off button on the rear of the fixed portion of the tonearm. I would have preferred if LT’s like the 5T, the Bergmann and others incorporated the highly useful feature of lifting the arm up at the end of LP like the T3F, but their designers do not seem to think such useful features are necessary. I guess they think that everyone enjoys hearing the annoying, repeating chicken scratch-like noises of the stylus play the lead out grooves until you get your ass out of the seat to pick up the arm. Oh well, it is what it is. The folks at Goldmund were ahead of their time. Everyone else seems to be in the land time forgot when it comes to this particular feature. For goodness sake, even the legendary Rabco tonearm did this nearly 50 years ago. But time forgot Rabco as well.

I thought the 3P was good. Damn good. I couldn't imagine the 5T would be that much better. It is. The epiphany came while listening to the classic "The Weavers Reunion Concert at Carnegie Hall". (This legendary recording was made in May of 1963 by Marc Aubort and as Fremer once said, "there's not a lot of recordings ever made that were better than this". The original was on Vanguard and the remake on Classic-Analog Productions was mastered by Doug Sax and produced by Chad Kassem).

At the end of what some say was the greatest folk music concert of all time, they sang "Michael Row the Boat ashore" (embedded in the last track ‘Round the World). I never particularly liked that song, which I've heard dozens of times before on many systems. But this time, the clarity of the audience singing along during the chorus was so overwhelming and so emotional that I was stunned. I never "got" that before (I was 12 at the time of the recording) but now finally felt the weight and the power of the song which was an anthem of the civil rights movement in the US during that era. I just sat there slack jawed with a tear and a smile. All this from a new tonearm? In a word, yes. Many other examples abound. Cantate Domino and The RCA Living Stereo Royal Ballet, both of which have served as references for years, left me gasping the proverbial "I never heard that before". Indeed! Even better, I no longer have any trepidation wondering if the sound I hear at the beginning of an LP will be the same as the end or the middle. The sound quality is outstanding and consistent and the imaging is rock stable regardless of the arm's location anywhere on the LP.

Simply stated, the 5T satisfies on both empirical and emotional levels that you always strive for when digging deep into those grooves to reveal the secrets that lie there. The question is, why?
 
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marty

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Reed 5T (continued)

There are several reasons for the superb performance of the 5T, but the main product differentiation feature that distinguishes it from conventional pivoted arms is the excellent reduction of distortion that results from maintaining a maximum tracking angle error of +/- 5 minutes of arc (typical is +/- 2.5 minutes!). By comparison, pivoted tonearm may induce as much as 1.5 degrees of tracking angle error. And no matter how much you scream from the roof tops that this is not a big deal, it is undeniable that tracking angle error causes distortion in vinyl playback. Nobody is going to argue that distortion is generally considered a bad thing in sound reproduction. So, let’s be clear. Pivoted tonearms are distortion-inducing devices. You may argue that you like their sound and while there are certainly many qualities that account for the overall sound of any tonearm (i.e.., materials, wiring, resonance etc.) you can’t deny that distortion due to tracking angle error is reduced significantly in linear trackers vs pivoted arms and is therefore beneficial.

The second reason that LTs are highly desirable is that they obviate the need for anti-skate correction.

The pressure exerted by a stylus on the groove of a record is in excess of 300 lbs. per square inch and during dynamic passages, the lateral forces from the groove wall on the stylus are staggeringly high. We all know that as the stylus tracks the groove of the record towards the center, the force on the outer edge of the stylus increases as it is ‘steered’ toward the center of the record. Anti-skate is a process by which a degree of counter-rotational torque is applied to the arm to center the stylus in the groove of the record. Anti-skate devices are used to pull against the arm as it moves inwards, nullifying the force as it moves towards the center of the record. The amount of force involved is not particularly large- rarely more than two grams of weight in total- but two grams at the end of a stylus is a great deal of force. “Skating” across an LP has sonic consequences that are plainly bad and well documented. The purpose of anti-skate devices is to reduce, minimize and hopefully completely neutralize these forces and make them disappear. But despite our best efforts, that’s a trick not even Houdini can perform with a pivoted tonearm.

A common method for doing so is to use a small counterweight to apply a required force to neutralize skating. The weight is usually suspended on a line and pulley arrangement and the movement of the arm at the pivot will raise the weight up the pulley. The amount of force exerted is adjusted by moving the end of the line nearer to or further from the pivot point of the arm- the further the distance to the pivot, the more force is being exerted. The force they exert is extremely consistent from the start of the record to the end because the resistance of the weight and line is constant regardless of position. But that’s not the problem. Rather, the force the record applies on the stylus isn’t constant, so all consistent force applied actually does is ensure that the force is exerted at the same level rather than create a perfect response.

Believing that a weight on string and a pulley is a good solution can easily be disproved, but pragmatically, how can this be demonstrated? The problem with a string weight system is that you can’t easily change the force applied as the arm traverses the LP surface. It’s a “set it and forget it system” no matter how you decide what amount of force to use. However, an unanticipated benefit of using the Reed 3P with its ingenious magnetic anti-skate that is precision controlled and can be set by the user in real time! (!) is that any attentive, non-golden ear listener can easily hear that the anti-skate force necessary for best sound at the beginning, middle and end of an LP is different. You just can’t do that with a weight on a string. If critical listeners could do that, so they can hear just how non-linear and inferior anti-skate systems are, I think there would be a lot more dismay with what they would hear. Anti-skate, particularly with a string/weight system, is hardly a great solution for correcting the forces created by a putting a tiny rock on a spinning piece of vinyl.

Due to the constraints of induced distortion due to tracking angle error as well as the unavoidable need to apply anti-skate when using conventional pivoted tonearms, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that the best solution to these problems is to avoid them all together. In my view, pivoted arms should just be banned, period. They are distortion inducing devices that are commercially successful for many reasons, one of which is that many alternative technologies also have liabilities such that if the ultimate arbiter is sound quality, some pivoted arms sound quite fine and in some cases, even better in comparison to some LTs. But there is no question that LTs’ have tremendous inherent advantages. However, if they all offered the benefits of reduced distortion due to reduced tracking error as well the avoidance of an anti-skate “Band-Aid”, while at the same time sounding as superb as the 5T does, then it would be a lot easier to support my argument that nobody would ever miss using a pivoted tonearm. The 5T is a well-executed, genuine accomplishment that deserves to be widely embraced by audiophiles looking to extract the best sound from their vinyl sources.

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LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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The first time perhaps in all these years, I have enjoyed reading a vinyl post from start to finish when I do not even understand the first thing about proper vinyl playback!!!!! Wow...like reading a good novel! Thanks for taking the time, Marty...and enjoy!

Sounds like the system has undergone some serious fundamental upgrades!
 

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