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In the Forum: Analog Playback
In the Thread: The K&K SE hybrid phono stage: a report
Post Subject: A big change for the betterPosted by Paul S on: 6/17/2007
I must say that I have always thought the Cardas "Golden Ratio" schtick was pretty lame.  So it was with no small measure of trepidation that I sent off a rather outlandish sum of money for two Cardas Golden Whatever 4.7 uF caps for the parafeed/output, based on Kevin Carter's rather tepid "recommendation".  Kevin only said that the Cardas sounds "less cap-like" than the (pretty-damn-good) Mundorf S&Gs, adding that the typical cap, in his opinion, "features the initial point of the event", while the Cardas caps did a better job of "putting instruments in their spaces".  Well, that's true enough, but that's not all they do differently.

Fair warning: The Cardas caps are so big that I had to start with chassis mods on my "original" style (unit with multiple boards) in order to make room for the new caps; what a PITA.

But I knew as soon as the music got under way that I was on to something very good, indeed.  And it only got better.  In fact, my wife and daughter actually came into the room to listen, including listening to La Boheme, in this case a 1974 stereo remastering of the dual-mono 1956 original Beecham/de Los Angeles/Bjorling/Merrill, etc.

With the Cardas caps bass is less "prominent" but much deeper and richer (correct), and ambiance capture is fully sufficient to get involved with it, apropos.  A soft depression that had nagged me in the upper midrange is now corrected, to my ear, and the rig now leans more to the record producers' intentions than their procedures.  It has been a long time since any La Boheme aria brought tears to my eyes, but it happened twice today, along with plenty of goosebumps and hair standing on end for the right reasons.  What a great performance, and what a great remastering job!  The revised master loses some immediacy and far-flung dynamics to the original, but the engineered sense of "stage" is good enough that it compensates for the losses, IMO, believe it or not.

I also played some Ellington with Coletrain, some Dylan, etc., and when the level of expression is high it is just captivating.

Image density remains, but it has changed a little due to the increase in ambiant info, and harmonics and subtle inflections are likewise more audible now.  Perhaps absolute "density" has decreased somewhat, but the present image seems no less "real", and it is much more "desirable", to me, in that the music now draws me more strongly.  Oddly, although the stereo separation has not changed in terms of its "strength", and although "perspective" has not changed to speak of, images are now less likely to cling to a speaker when playing hard-panned stereo.

"Timing" or "pacing" has improved, too, without mono-chromia.  This seems to come at least partly from improved "clarity".  Songs now have a clearer sense of their own thematic unity, and good ones tell their story better and they are over more quickly.

I have never heard greater "clarity" than I'm getting now without a dilution or bleaching of the sound.  If this featuure holds it will be incredible.

I have not had any issues with electricity for 3 weeks, at least as far as this phono stage is concerned, and HF is now so good it's laughable.  So maybe the unit isn't super-sensitive to the grid power, after all.

So far this change is all upside (apart from the cost...), and this change has this unit (and my system) right where I want it!

Naturally, I'm in the process of moving again!!!

Best regards,
Paul S

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