BIII with Broskie Unbalancer vs. EE Minimax Plus - My experience
I would like to share some experiences and would like to get your view / hypothesis to improve as well.
I just finished two projects:
- A BIII with Xmos input, PLacid HD Supply, Unbalancer from Broskie build with Texas Comonents, Mundorf PSU CAps, VCap CU and JJ 802S and Ecc99. All CAlbled with Mnundorf 0,5mm Gold-Silver Wire. A nice 20H Choke in the PSU of the unbalancer.
- A modifified EE Minimax (ESS9018 based) with mtech USB-Input board, modified with BUrson OPamps, Elna Silmics, NIce WBT-Nextgen Outs etc. I use the OPamp-Output as the TUbe Out is a poor design.
After 500 hours of break-in now, this is what I hear:
- The BIII with tube-out sounds much more like solid state than the eemax: It is far more crisp, extreme transparent, but as well somewhot "technical" sounding, tight, the tones have not really enough relaxed freedom to vibrate
- The eemax is softer in a very deleicate, nice way. It is much more musical than the BIII. It has a certain "graininess", it is not as dead quite as the BIII, it has not this technical sound, is more emotional. Tones are vibrating better and are more realistic.
The BIII sounds more like a Amp with heavy feedback, while the EE sounds like a nice DHT.
Well...that was certainly not what I expected.
The design goal was: Best of both worlds. Obviously the ESS9018 can sound very special, as demonstrated in the EE minimax. Very transparent, but as well very musical. I wanted to preserve this, but add the transparence and naturalness of a good tube-stage. I wanted to get rid of the layer of graininess and noise and wanted to lift the still existing curtain.
Some theories / hypothesis I am coming up to follow-on ( and here I would appreciate A LOT your help not to run in circles and to discuss which is the right hypothesis):
1. The Mundorf Silver/Gold Cable with only 0.5mm is too small in diameter and sound nice in trebles, but cant transport the signal
2. The V-Cap CUs put a technical signature to the wole thing. The Unbalancer has two Caps in the Signal Path, while the EE Minimax in Solid ( in my modded version) has none.
3. The JJ tubes have this kind of sound
4. I hear here the nature of passive I/V-conversion vs active i/v conversion: The eemax has active, while the unbalancer needs a 50 ohm resistor
5. The mundorf power cap are polyprops, we hear the PSU here
6. The BIII board sound more sterile (doubt that)
Which of these hypothesis would you advise me to test first ?
The other difference is that the m2tech evo in the minimax plus works only with kernel streaming while the Xmos accepts both and was running under Asio. With Asio you have a more crystalline, airy, but tigtly controlled sound while Xmos with Kernel Streaming is as well more Grounded and now for the first time more realistic. It seems that Asio was needed before to compensate for a muffy output stage, while with the super-transparent Broskie-Stage the Asio-Character is simply to much.
I still want more "vibrations", but this was already a good step in the right direction.
Interesting observations. I have recently build a BuffaloIII with Paul hynes regs and the unbalancer. The unbalancer is setup with the same JJ tubes like you. coupling caps auricaps and RTI film. I was also surprised with the sound - to me it gives a too hifi like sound with too much emphasis on air and treble extension - the 3d image is amazing I must say. But Sometimes I feel it sounds a bit artificial. Definately also not what I expected.
I tried to change the auricaps to russian PIO k40y-9 to get a more relaxed full bodied sound. This helped a little. Next I will try change JJ ecc802s to see what it brings.
Did you manage to tweak the unbalancer to there more warm natural side?
I am really interested in hearing other people's impressions with the buffalo dac and unbalancer combo - especially also if they have tried other I/V stages with buffalo and compared it to the unbalancer
1. It's cable sound signature, not diameter problem.
2. Not big problem.
3. Please dont use JJ tube if you need musical instead hifi element. mullard/tungsol may be more suitable.
4. 5. 6. should be no problem..
just my 2 cent..
I had the same experience with the Unbalancer - needed to change the caps to K40Y and also put some 6072A tubes at the input - this resulted in a very relaxed, yet accurate sound.
I'm using an Ad1865 DAC with balanced output - so can't comment re the Buffalo
I changed meanwhile a few things which made a good progress:
- changed the inputmachine from jriver and windows to alix board with mpdpup
- changed the ecc99 to 12bh7 - much, much better then ecc99, most of the unnutral sound came from the ecc99
E288CC is also nice at the output.
What value resistors did you use at R3/R4 and R13/R13?
I used 300R, which basically allows me to swap in any tubes (except 6DJ8).
upgraded my BUffalo III to Dual Mono and therefore could lower the Input resistor to 20 Ohm. I included now as well Ian's Fifo with Dual-clocks and Crystek 957.
Already a big step forward, each time.
But the biggest step which really brought 3D and Msic and all the technical sounding stuff away: Changed from V-Cap CU to Duelund CAST. WOW. WOW.WOW.
In many places I have put in Z-Foils, but for the I/V-Resistor the only really clear and highly resolving resistor has been the wirewound Neoohm 0.1% precision resistor. Much more attack and detail, "LIve"-Feeling. I will test some more resistors for the I/V, but the Neoohm is currently leading the pack. Really impressive what the Unbalancer is capable of if you select carefully the parts.
Which 12bh7 did you end up using - did you use current production or NOS?
I did not a big swapping contest there yet. Currently I use a TAD. Which is surprisingly good. But I need to revisit this as the whole character of the Unbalancer changed dramatically due to the other parts changes.
To give you an exapmple: I thought that I need to intregrate a stronger L-Pad before the tweeter when using the V-cap, as is was to treble-biased. Now with the Duelunds, you nearly would say: NOt necessary anymore...plus getting MORE transparency. Sound a bit weird, but they are much faster and better than V-CAp. It is not 13 bs 14. It is 13 vs 18. (humblehifi-Score-points.) The Duelund CAST arre a must with the Unbalancer. You will ne very surprised. BTW they are on sale at hificompents.uk
A friend of mine got really nice results using "Shinkoh" resistors for I/V
(BuffaloIII / Feastrex transformer output). That may be worth a try.
What cap are you using for C1 ?
Buy the way I'm still waiting for the new batch of unballancer pcb's,
seems like I have been waiting for ever :cool: .
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