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03-01-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,104
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 1
Post ID: 19056
Reply to: 19056
What Is The Minimum for an "Acceptable" Phono Stage?
fiogf49gjkf0d
For some time I have felt that most audiophile phono stages are over-built, especially those pretending to be thought-out, "no-compromise" designs.  Ironically, it seems to me that few (or none) of the "thought-out" designs I have seen and/or heard are what they pretend to be.  Rather, they are more intellectual excercises than sound reverse engineering, more like second-guessing the Up market than really thinking about in-use requirements.

I understand that a "commercial" phono stage is likely to be "flexible", in order to appeal to as many prospective buyers as possible; one size fits all.  For instance, maybe someone wants to be able to switch the "curve" for different recording techniques.  Too bad these super-flexible designs wind up compromising any given selection by idling "options" in the background, and by all the switches, themselves.  Another compromise, to my way of thinking, is the giant power supplies that wind up costing a ton, yet they cannot protect the signal from bad AC.  Why the hell do we need gigantic power supplies for a phono stage?  Why not skip the AC/DC part altogether and use batteries?

Here is Nagra's recent battery phono stage:
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/nagra2/bps.html

Of course, Nagra wants to make only one version that "everyone can use", so they make switch-able gain, loading, etc.  But I remain interested in something like this, as a minimal solution.

Yes, I know: "battery powered phono stages lack dynamics".  However, I remain convinced that it can be done,  and without undue expense, using modern discrete circuits.  And I see no reason why the unit itself, sans batteries, should be any bigger than the Nagra unit.  I think Musical Surroundings also offers a small-ish battery unit of some sort,, as does Danish Audio Connect (DACT).  I have not yet really looked hard at any of this stuff, because I want to start and stay with only mm gain from the start, so I can use my own SUT, and I am too lazy to even seriously entertain the idea of trying to modify any of this stuff to suit my needs.  That's one big problem with the "minimal" stuff: you can't easily DIY...

By the way, "minimal" used here does NOT mean crappy parts!

Paul S
03-02-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
rowuk


Germany
Posts 222
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 2
Post ID: 19057
Reply to: 19056
The concept of "good enough"
fiogf49gjkf0d
Paul,I agree 100%. Well sort of.....
Can the idea of the overengineered, atomic reactor power supply with water cooling really offer someone just interested in great music a "better" solution?
I think for many, the technical superiority is at least as much of the real motivation as the audible results. That is not even necessarily bad as long as the confidence in the "overengineering" itself does not reduce the brains ability to translate what our ears really hear.
As far as batteries go, I will disagree about no dynamics. Just like any other power supply, the results are defined by the application, not necessarily the technology. What is the difference if a low impedance battery or a transformer feeds a PS cap - as long as they are both properly dimensioned. I have experimented with this extensively to be able to record concerts in difficult situations. I have had excellent results with LiPo batteries and ADC/DAC as well as solid state phono stages.
My problem with phono stages is that it requires a great understanding of the resonant structure (arm/cartridge/loading) to make sure that you are fixing the right thing. I always had the impression that solid state phono amps had no bass - until I started playing with mass and loading the arm/cartridge. It is so easy to back yourself into a corner and blame the wrong thing. Romys site is helpful with the ever continuing reality check.....
I see no real reason why it should not be possible to build a battery powered solid state phono pre amp with superior sonics. There are enough devices with essentially no distortion or measurable noise as well as great bandwidth and slew rate. I just am not sure if that is really what we want however. A phono cartridge is a musical instrument with a more or less defined resonant behaviour and perhaps the ability to leverage that is more important than the raw truth.................


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
03-02-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,104
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 3
Post ID: 19058
Reply to: 19057
The "Least" Approach
fiogf49gjkf0d
Rowuk, we do not disagree about the "battery/dynamics" equation.  As you know, the "accepted notion" from the pundits is that "battery phono stages lack dynamics", and the one expensive unit I've heard did seem lethargic, albeit in a "salon".  However, I'm sure you noticed that I had the remark in quotes, since I, too, think this is only a matter of implementations and/or applications to date rather than any limitations inherent in battery power sources, per se.  Although I am skeptical about the particularly small battery driving Nagra's 9V unit, I know my own DAC works quite well with a "motorcycle" battery.  Even if one needs an extra 20 dB to scrub for RIAA correction (versus a DAC), it should be only a matter of more current, which should only mean a larger reservoir would do the trick, since batteries, generally speaking, are actually excellent at curent delivery.  In fact, they are pretty much the gold standard in this regard.

The only full-scale battery recording and playback I have been around was for filming, and for film sound.  Results from this stuff winds up on par with "plugged in" equipment, but I do not ass-u-me that these aplications translate straight across to high-demands hi-fi Music playback.  But, given the power demands of the "professional" battery powered equipment I've seen, a home phono stage should be a piece of cake, by comparison.

Just now, the only all-SS phono stage I know of that is really good is the stupidly "overbuilt" -  and definitely overpriced -  Boulder 2008.  And I have reasons to believe that even this unit was - ultimately - a "happy accident" for its creators.  But I am also aware that there has been a lot of trickle-down from ongoing R&D in "discrete circuitry", and op amps in general.  I think there might actually be advantages from using smaller, "discrete" components, and less power generally, for a phono stage; which is to say, use as little power as gets the job done, and design accordingly.  However, like I said before, I am leery about "working on" this stuff, so I hope it is already "out there", somewhere.

As for "technical superiority", IMO the only gauge for this is end results, and never mind the "Techno" or Steam Punk aesthetics.   For my purposes, audible and "use" results are then entered into the ultimate cost/benefit equation.  Not to mention that - ironically -  the "over-engineered" stuff is almost always critically flawed, to begin with.

Best regards,
Paul S
03-02-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,486
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 4
Post ID: 19062
Reply to: 19056
An acceptable phonostage for Walter?
fiogf49gjkf0d

Well, frankly this conversation is about nothing in my view as the way how the subject calculated there is no right and wrong in this debate. What is acceptable, what is reasonable, what is effective what is any another adjective to put in… phonostage? There is no answer to this question and there is no even sanity to ask it until some kind of rational coordinate system of evaluation might be set in place. Of couse we could rename this site into www.what_is_ the_best_if_I-am_an_idiot.com and exchange verbiage while demonstrate to each other penises and convince others to buy the penis the same enlargement that I did last week.  The really of Applied Audio is very far from that and thinking about acceptable and reasonable in audio we need to factor in personal objectives, reference points and factual assessment of the actual results. 

What phonostage is “enough” to play a record?   This is very big question and I would like to extend homework for the site visitor to think about the answer.  The key in the thinking about answer is to understand that there is no absolute answer but the answer vary with person’s objective and methods the person use to employ the phonostage.

Let me give you two examples. 

On one side we have the idiot that “Stitch” told he visited. That idiot has $600K playback and  dozens of high-flying cartridges but he was not able to identify Sonic difference between his cartridges without referring to audio publication where those cartridges were reviewed.  Ask that same person what he feel would be “acceptable phonostage”.

On another side let bring a virtual example.   Meet Walter. Walter is second horn player in his municipal orchestra. He is deaf, not even bone hearing when he blow his horn. However, some scientists figure out that if they record Walter play (of course on LP in our case) then they play it back to Walter by injecting some transmitters into his brain. Now, Walter can’t hear anything besides his ‘in brain” playback but he also need each week to play with his orchestra and to be completely conventional with other players of his horn section. So, Walter, can learn his lip techniques, moderation of tone by position of hands , tonguing, breathing , multi-pitching, trilling and anything else ONLY by listening his recording that pass across some kind of phonostage. Now, what would be an acceptable phonostage for Walter?

Rgs,
Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-02-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,104
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 5
Post ID: 19065
Reply to: 19062
An Evolving Conversation?
fiogf49gjkf0d
Thank you for illustrating problems with the "approach".  Now that your response has become part of the dialog, I remain hopeful to get some ideas for a "simple" phono stage that might not choke up on Bruckner or Wagner with battery power, and I do trust myself to sort out any useful thoughts that may land here.  I intentionally tossed out the Nagra as a probable "near miss", and I hope it was generally perceived this way, since I do not really mean to confuse Shoppers.  I also tossed out the Boulder 2008 as an "example".  Let them Shop that!


Best regards,
Paul S
03-03-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
rowuk


Germany
Posts 222
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 6
Post ID: 19066
Reply to: 19062
Walter the GoodSoundClub Reader - for sure not listener
fiogf49gjkf0d
Romy's virtual example is a wonderful example of "context", perhaps the only error up to now in this thread.

The description of Walters VirtualPhonoStage would be a great article for the website: http://www.I_am_a_deaf_musician_but_so_what.org, but hardly for the GoodSoundClub.com as Walter virtually only gets one sound from the outside: whatever the scientists create. Beethoven also had an interesting bout with something similar. I can think of a couple performances of big name orchestras where we asked questions afterwards about the hearing ability of the horn sections........


Asking about battery power is actually in line IMHO with "high quality GoodSound". "Green GoodSound" is a VERY interesting topic as energy is getting more expensive and unreliable all the time, as is our dependency on it. In addition, the complaints about inconsistent power lead to a discussion about moving variables under our own control. The phono stage with its relatively low voltage/current requirements of the in and output is a great place to start. The warmup time Romy has provided with power consumption values. Based on current storage technologies, we can calculate if there is enough power available for Wagners Ring before a recharge........ A motorcycle battery would probably suffice in his case for a 20 minute Bach Cantata.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,486
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 7
Post ID: 19067
Reply to: 19066
I think you did not get my point
fiogf49gjkf0d

It is not about low voltage buttery power, tube version with 200 pounds power supply, CRL filtration, no-transformer gain or air capacitors. The topology that we might or might not admit to comply with the concept of “acceptable phonostage” is completely separate subject from the subject of actual phonostage performance. We read or look at how some specific phonostages made, we evaluate the sound of those specific phonostages and we attribute this or that sonic characteristic to this or that design topology. However, we do not know the sound of the topology but we know only the sound of that specific implementation, the implementation that might have sound not even remotely associated with the topology itself. 

So, I do feel that in most of the cases, unless you yourself test the topologies and you yourself evaluate the sonic consequences of the topologies applications. You can buy as many let say phonostages with input pentode as you want and you can run your mouth about benefits and contra-benefits of having the input pentode. However it all will be meaningless. The sound of a given input pentode would be on 90% dependant from the type and balance of the screen voltage supply. You need to move the screen voltage, provide different type of filtration, stabilization, damping and a few other things until you file that your pentode provide right sound in context of what you are looking in sound. That you will be the person who gets the grip with that very minor aspect of topology.

The very same is about low voltage buttery power phonostages. Of cause it is a great idea. I am absolutely sure that all of you, one time or other, have bought some of those $19. 95 buttery-powered phonostages with a secret wish that it might be sounding so good that it will get rid of the need of use multi-thousand dollars mastodons- phonostages. I did the same and all of those phonostages ended up in the same garbage can as yours did.  Does it mean that a good phonostage must be multi-thousand dollars? Absolutely not! However, it also does not suggest that any topology or technology is suitable for any phonostage or any price point.

The problem in all of it that most, or even any, phonostages out there, being made, being marketed, or even been spoken about, do not make any sonic claim. We spoke about technologies, parts, assembling techniques, and topologies but that is such a full of irrelevant crap from some perspective. Can you approach a manufacture or your dealer and request as phonostages with well formed sonic objectives? Can you request a phonostage that would make the last two movements of Brahms second pianos concerto as interesting as the first one? Can you request a phonostage that would make the meaningless sounds from woodwind of American orchestra to have the same aesthetic beauty as the woodwinds have in Czech, Austria and South Germany? I do not think that you can and this to me make any conversation “design objective” worthless, unless the awareness of the listener itself is plagued into a decision making processes. 

For sure, it would not be not a problem if the people who design and sell our audio were the individuals with proper mind set but we all know that it is not the case.

The Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,104
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 8
Post ID: 19068
Reply to: 19067
Yes, and just because...
fiogf49gjkf0d
what you say is true, one might just as well start with the idea of a "minimal" phonostage that is powered by batteries.  Naturally, if one has no clue what one wants with a "thing" then he is always essentially empty handed.  Still, at some point one starts in with a "bought" thing and works with it, and there is no way around this, even if the bought thing is "accomodated" rather than "modified" in its own right.  Who knows if it is "knowledge" or "intuition" that we use to navigate, and who can say for sure where things and ideas transition, one from and/or into another?

Not to be "philosophical"...

Best regards,
Paul S

03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
N-set
Gdansk, Poland
Posts 441
Joined on 01-07-2006

Post #: 9
Post ID: 19071
Reply to: 19068
Why?
fiogf49gjkf0d
Paul, perhaps I did not understand your posts correctly, but observing your battery obsession throught the time
I cannot get one thing: why the freak
you are hooked up to the idea of a small, neat battery powered phonostage so much
that you start to  invent "acceptable minimums" and other vague ideas? 
What is your motivation behind such an effort to prove that  a battery phono can be "good" in some sense or the other?
Is it the aesthetical "ugliness" of 20kg mastodonts which put out mili-Watts of power?
Perhaps we should be humble and accept...



Cheers,
Jarek
03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Stitch


Behind The Sun
Posts 226
Joined on 01-15-2009

Post #: 10
Post ID: 19072
Reply to: 19056
You must choose, but choose wisely
fiogf49gjkf0d
Cartridge.jpg



Kind Regards
Stitch
03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
rowuk


Germany
Posts 222
Joined on 07-05-2012

Post #: 11
Post ID: 19073
Reply to: 19067
More mileage to the gallon?
fiogf49gjkf0d
Is this not similar to gas mileage? In Germany, we have busses running on fuel cells. Is that optimum transportation? Well it depends. A Mercedes Benz E-Class automobile gets better diesel mileage than their much smaller B-Class with the same sized engine.
With a phono stage it is not necessarily a question of $19.99/9V block. Maybe we need to spend $39,900 to get an "acceptable" low power solution fit for the ISS. It would be interesting to know if anyone has ideas in low power topologies. The rest of course is trial and error depending on the sonic goals of the individual.


Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
03-04-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
N-set
Gdansk, Poland
Posts 441
Joined on 01-07-2006

Post #: 12
Post ID: 19074
Reply to: 19073
True use of SS??
fiogf49gjkf0d
A very nice picture I've found on one of the blogs:

ss_toilet.jpg




Cheers,
Jarek
03-05-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,104
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 13
Post ID: 19075
Reply to: 19074
What "Works" More Often?
fiogf49gjkf0d

If anything, I have already laid out too much "background" or "context" including my likes, dislikes, whatever, at this long-suffering site.  The idea here has nothing to do with anything other than getting "acceptable" sound more often than I do "these days", because of bad electricity.  I happen to think this (presently) means battery power for phono, and I don't think this can happen without "designing for batteries" from the get-go.  Can it be done "successfully" with tubes?  Do certain "minimal" SS options better lend themselves to use with batteries?  If so, are "minimal", discrete circuits (etc) up to the task of making Music I can live with?  I dunno, and I do realize it will ultimately require listening.  At this point I am just developing ideas by way of dialog.

N-set, too true, but I have managed to find a hybrid phonostage, SS amps, and a battery-powered DAC, so now - as ever - I am curious to push it.



Paul S

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