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  • Phonostage that isn't dark?

    Or maybe the title should be "Is analog darker than digital" or "Optimizing your system for digital and analog"...

    It seems to be (or at least in my experience) that if I am happy with my system when playing digital, most LPs will sound a little dull or rolled off in the treble. I've had many DACs and this contrast in tonal balance always seems to be consistent.

    Perhaps I should entertain phono stages and cartridges that are fairly extended in the high frequencies.

    Has anyone else wrestled with this?
    Magico M-Project, CAT JL7SE, CH Precision L1/X1/P1, Kronos Pro Limited Edition/SME 3012R/Atlas SL/Opus-1, Schiit Yggdrasil, ZenWave D4 ICs & SCs

  • #2
    Hmm. It sounds like you have optimized your system around DACs that have a tendency towards brightness and when you switch over to analog, the sound is now "a little dull or rolled off in the treble." What are you doing to optimize your system around a particular DAC? If the answer is nothing, maybe your room/gear tends to over dampen the sound and you don't notice it with digital, but it rears its ugly head when playing analog. Most of the PCM DACs I have heard tend to sound bright because PCM sounds bright to me. Are you having the same issue listening to DSD and then switching over to analog?
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by mep View Post
      Hmm. It sounds like you have optimized your system around DACs that have a tendency towards brightness and when you switch over to analog, the sound is now "a little dull or rolled off in the treble." What are you doing to optimize your system around a particular DAC? If the answer is nothing, maybe your room/gear tends to over dampen the sound and you don't notice it with digital, but it rears its ugly head when playing analog. Most of the PCM DACs I have heard tend to sound bright because PCM sounds bright to me. Are you having the same issue listening to DSD and then switching over to analog?
      I optimize with a combination of power cables, signal cables and speaker positioning/toe-in.

      Interesting that you find PCM to be brighter than DSD. I think I agree with you but honestly have never really categorized them that way. I mostly listen to PCM.

      Thanks for your thoughts.
      Magico M-Project, CAT JL7SE, CH Precision L1/X1/P1, Kronos Pro Limited Edition/SME 3012R/Atlas SL/Opus-1, Schiit Yggdrasil, ZenWave D4 ICs & SCs

      Comment


      • 1morerecord2clean
        1morerecord2clean commented
        Editing a comment
        You might want to consider what your TT and equipment in general is sitting on. Platforms and racks make a big difference in sound. Although with the impressive list of equipment you already have you must have very good platforms.

    • #4
      I have a similar journey. I embarked on several phono stage demos a few years back. Ended up keeping my Nagra VPS/VFS/MPS that I've now had for ~ 8 years. The other phono stages could beat it here and there...but nothing was similar in the transparency/energy thing from the mids up as well as a seamlessness that keeps up with my dCS Vivaldi. My former Lyra Atlas and current Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement both are great matches. Have Transparent Magnum Opus cabling from the arm to phono and phono to pre. This also helps. Yes...sounds nuts that my cabling and phono cartridge are like 3.5x the $$'s of the phono stage.

      Not saying this is this path for you...just what is working for me.

      Dark can mean a few things. Any more details you can share?
      Speakers: Rockport Altair 2
      Amps: Nagra HD Pre Amp & HD Amps
      Cables: Transparent Magnum Opus speaker and interconnects
      Power Transparent Opus Power Cords & Opus Isolators
      Digital dCS Vivaldi full stack w/ Transparent Reference XL Digital cables
      Phono: Grand Prix Monaco 2.0 TT, Spiral Groove Centroid, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Nagra Classic Phono & PSU
      Racks: Grand Prix Audio Silverstone F1 (x4)

      Comment


      • Madfloyd
        Madfloyd commented
        Editing a comment
        I say dark but perhaps I should say midrange focused. A little light on bass and highs are rolled off. Part of this may be my somewhat dark sounding CAT amps, but tonal balance of the Vivaldi is good. When I play LPs I miss extension and air - can make recordings sound a little more dated than they should. I play the same recordings (albeit different masterings of course) on digital and the balance is good.

      • jfrech
        jfrech commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm with you...if your Vivaldi tonal balance is to your liking, it's not the amps. And I'm guessing (haven't heard) the Solution 720 vs your CAT maybe eliminating the phono stage as the culprit - based on I suspect that the solid state Soulution is about as far from the CAT as you can get. And I've never heard your Kronos/ZYX/Ortofon be called warm or dark on the forums. Lyra talks quite a bit about the phono cable and how the phono cable capacitance can wreak havoc with the proper loading and it's interaction with your phono stage. Ever tried a truly low capacitance phono cable? You might have to adjust the loading too-upwards-which increases energy in the top end. I just don't know where your KS Elations rank in this area. PS, If you're ever in Austin...swing by.

      • Madfloyd
        Madfloyd commented
        Editing a comment
        Great tip about the phono cable. I've been running with loading fully open to try and get top end energy (to no avail) which could be playing havoc with the low end. I will get a hold of a different phono cable and try that.

    • #5
      Originally posted by Madfloyd View Post
      Or maybe the title should be "Is analog darker than digital" or "Optimizing your system for digital and analog"...

      It seems to be (or at least in my experience) that if I am happy with my system when playing digital, most LPs will sound a little dull or rolled off in the treble. I've had many DACs and this contrast in tonal balance always seems to be consistent.

      Perhaps I should entertain phono stages and cartridges that are fairly extended in the high frequencies.

      Has anyone else wrestled with this?
      Hi Ian,

      What is your current equipment configuration for digital and analog?

      With that configuration you are now using, what phonostages have you used?

      Dre
      **************************************************
      Every day is a good day to play analog.
      - 12" 33-1/3 RPM or 45 RPM vinyl
      - 10.5" 15ips or 30ips tape
      **************************************************
      Every day is a good day for live music.
      **************************************************

      Comment


      • Dre_J
        Dre_J commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for adding some additional information. I see they have been useful in responses above and below this post.

        Since you are possibly leaning towards the Ypsilon PST-100MK2 preamplifier, it may be worth looking at the matching VPS-100 Phonostage and MC step-up transformer.

        Best of luck,
        Dre

      • MylesBAstor
        MylesBAstor commented
        Editing a comment
        Ian do you hear the same thing with both cartridges? The A95 and ZYX are definitely very different sounding.

      • Madfloyd
        Madfloyd commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes there is a significant difference. I think my issue might be too much midrange energy on the Zyx (combined with my CAT amps). The A95 seems more balanced, and I switched from a KS Elation phono to a Kimber.

    • #6
      If it's extension that you want, you definitely need a darTZeel NHB-18NS. If you get an mk1, you'll have to fiddle inside for loading, but with the mk2, set up is much easier.

      With that piece, you won't need to look for another preamp or phono.


      cheers,
      alex

      Disclosure:
      Alma Music and Audio - La Jolla, CA
      Aqua Hi-Fi - Audio Research - Audioquest - Audionet - Audiopax - Auralic - Aurender - Bergmann - Brodmann - D'Agostino - darTZeel - Devialet - DEQX - ELAC - Evolution Acoustics - Hegel - iFi - Innuos - IsoTek - Kii Audio - Koetsu - Kronos - Kubala Sosna - Kuzma - Larsen - Linn - MSB Technology - Music Hall - Ortofon - Solid Steel - Technics - Wharfedale - Wilson Audio - YG Acoustics
      [ http://almaaudio.com ]

      Comment


      • Madfloyd
        Madfloyd commented
        Editing a comment
        Always assumed that piece would be on the darker side. Sounds like I should try it before I make a decision. Thanks, I'll do that.

      • Alex Siufy
        Alex Siufy commented
        Editing a comment
        No, darTZeel has some of the best midrange clarity and treble extension in the business!

    • #7
      The brightness your heating on the dac is probably mastering related on the digital media itself. Well recorded digital media does not sound bright and has a similar treble balance to analog as long as the TT/Cart are set up optimally. Hunting for a bright phonostage sounds like a "fools errand" to me.
      Christian
      System Gear

      Comment


      • #8
        Maybe you can talk about the positive and negative attributes of the Soulution 720 and the CAT. Both are well regarded, the CAT is made for your amps so it should have a leg up.

        I was waiting for the soon to be released Spectral phono stage but lost patience and snapped up an Aesthetix Io Signature. The Cat and the Ypsilon are both designed to use step up transformers so that is a common design trait that has its defined attributes.

        Comment


        • Madfloyd
          Madfloyd commented
          Editing a comment
          The Ypsilon relies on an external step up transformer, the CAT does not.

        • MylesBAstor
          MylesBAstor commented
          Editing a comment
          The Ypsilon is an outstanding phonostage and received great reviews but I'm not sure that tonally it's the answer to your problem.

      • #9
        Hmmm? that's a helluva vinyl rig. The highs should be absolutely stunning. I have the Universe ll, and treble is one of ZYX strong suites.

        Conduct a quick experiment: adjust the anti-skating. This will slightly alter the tracking angle. If this improves things, then you may need to slightly adjust tracking angle. Next try azimuth adjustments. These are done in tiny increments but make a huge difference. Once these two are optimized, now play with vertical tracking angle/side rake angle.

        My ZYX has incredible bass, but only when perfectly aligned.

        Comment


        • #10
          How was the top end with the Raven compared to your current Kronos?

          Have you tried phono cable from Nordost or Crystal cable?

          Comment


          • Madfloyd
            Madfloyd commented
            Editing a comment
            Raven was nowhere as detailed as the Kronos.

            No, haven't tried phono cables from Nordost or Crystal. Trying a different phono cable is a good idea.

          • ashandger
            ashandger commented
            Editing a comment
            I was about to suggest the exact same thing.

        • #11
          Originally posted by Madfloyd View Post
          Or maybe the title should be "Is analog darker than digital" or "Optimizing your system for digital and analog"...

          It seems to be (or at least in my experience) that if I am happy with my system when playing digital, most LPs will sound a little dull or rolled off in the treble. I've had many DACs and this contrast in tonal balance always seems to be consistent.

          Perhaps I should entertain phono stages and cartridges that are fairly extended in the high frequencies.

          Has anyone else wrestled with this?
          I'm still thinking about your question. But one thought comes to mind. Which is right? Digital or analog? Are you just hearing upper octave artifacts with digital that gives one the impression of more extension? Your M-Projects are very revealing in that area too and have really low levels of upper octave crap going on.
          Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
          Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
          ________________________________________

          -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
          -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
          -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
          -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
          -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
          -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
          -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
          -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
          -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
          -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

          Comment


          • #12
            Is the a95 sounding dark as well?

            Comment


            • Madfloyd
              Madfloyd commented
              Editing a comment
              No. I'm not crazy about the highs (slightly grainy) but it's otherwise a nice cart and well balanced.

          • #13
            Before you start buying/upgrading, I would check the set-up/loading. Neither the ZYX nor the A95 are known to be "dark". Try changes in VTA/VTF and see if that changes the sound. Lighten the load on your phono stage - try 600 ohms if not 1000 ohms. The loading resistor can take up a major portion of the output of the cartridge.
            Gary L Koh, CEO and Chief Designer
            Genesis Advanced Technologies, Inc.
            www.genesisloudspeakers.com

            Comment


            • MylesBAstor
              MylesBAstor commented
              Editing a comment
              I think Ian said above he was running wide open which I interpret as 47 k.

          • #14
            Myles, did you notice any grain in the highs of a95?

            Comment


            • david k
              david k commented
              Editing a comment
              Absolutely grain free!
              david

            • MylesBAstor
              MylesBAstor commented
              Editing a comment
              Not here. Ian what are you tracking the A95 at?

            • Madfloyd
              Madfloyd commented
              Editing a comment
              2.3
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