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Old 9th June 2010, 03:50 AM   #1
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default Fi For Flora

Homes in Hong Kong tend to be small. Our living room is 12' x 28' with seating along one long wall and flat screen TV on the opposite side. When we got the flat screen TV it opened up the room considerably but left no place for the tube amps/linestage without negating the benefits of the flat screen.
So I packed up the equipment and we've since been without music; not a big problem for me as I get music at work, however my wife Flora misses the music so I've been planning and now we're ready.
Criteria:
  • must be one button power up for the system
  • computer music playback
  • all-in-one-box amplifier/linestage controller/USB DAC 24bit/192khz capable
  • must have tubes
  • must integrate with the existing flatscreen
Computer music playback:
For the Cleo/Morello projects we choose a MSI Wind Touchscreen all-in-one and it has served nicely. However in this case we don't want another LCD and prefer to select everything from the Samsung 1080p flatscreen. So we've chosen the Asus EeeBox EB1501. It can be connected to the Samsung flatscreen with HDMI, has a DVD R/W, low noise dual Atom CPU and the fan is steppable, measured at 21dbu. It also comes with Windows 7 Home Premium which means we can use the Windows Media Centre for bit perfect playback.
And it's very small (193 x 193 x 39mm), not much bigger than a router and stands on end.
So all the music can be ripped to the hard drive and the visual interface the familiar Windows interface. It also offers the possibility of an upgraded linear power supply done the road.
All-In-One integrated amplifier with USB DAC
The amplification will be provided by the most tube-sounding solid state devices known to man: the Fusion Power Multipliers. They will be driven with the UTS tube stage and controlled by the UVC selector/volume control system. One input will be USB to receive the bit perfect data stream from the Asus and 3 others will be for RCA inputs, all selectable by remote control.
The USB DAC section will be the same as the Cleo with Ultimate Clock and Ultra low noise power supply.
Power out will be a juicy 40w minimum and will drive the resident Neofone/ribbons quite nicely. The Fusion All-In-One will fit into our Projekt chassis and will store quite nicely without a lot of heat build up.
The Fusion All-In-One build will be documented in a separate blog as will the Asus EB1501 setup and configuration
Stay tuned.
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Old 11th June 2010, 11:06 PM   #2
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default Fi For Flora: Asus EB1501 -- Honey I Shrunk the Bits, Part 1

The Asus EB1501 is in house. I can't believe how small this thing is.
Review is here

It comes with
  • wireless keyboard and mouse
  • MCE remote control
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • power supply, CD and usual hardware bits
  • slot loading DVD R/W
  • VGA and HDMI video outputs
  • 320gb hd (enough to rip 500+ redbook CDs)
  • 2gb ram
  • Wifi
This will connect to our flat screen TV using the Media Player that comes with Windows 7 Home Premium. It can be configured for bit perfect playback and, if all goes well, allow true 24bit/192khz though the USB to our USB DAC, the Cleo.
The EB1501 was chosen for it's compact size, inclusion of MCE remote, dual Atom CPU and the possibility to use W7 media player. If W7 media player is up for it, we won't need to buy anything else to get low noise, bit perfect playback. Not sure about the ripping side of things though and will report on that later. Been getting very comfortable with DBpoweramp. Just insert a CD and it fetches the album cover graphics, does all the verification and places the ripped file in a directory structure by genre - no user input needed once setup.
The dual Atom CPU is welcome because the single Atom in the Wind Neton sometimes stalls a bit when called on to do more than one thing at a time. With the Asus EB1501 we also get 2gb ram as compared to 1gb for the Wind Neton. Also the fanspeed can be monitored and controlled by software. It can even be switched off while keeping an eye on CPU temperature. Not having a video screen makes for very low noise and heat.
Flora likes.
Forward we go.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg EB1501.jpg (77.5 KB, 275 views)
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Old 23rd June 2010, 02:52 AM   #3
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default Fi For Flora: Fusion Amp Dac - Part 1

Domestic habitats in Hong Kong tend to be space challenged. Large pieces of equipment quickly turn 'comfy' into 'cluttered'.



For this we have the Fusion AmpDac.

Main source will be the EB1501 Net top as shown in the previous posting. This will connect into the Fusion AmpDac - the Cleo USB-Dac section. There are 4 other line inputs if needed.



The Cleo USB DAC is reclocked by the piggy back mounted EZ Ultimate Clock module. Clean 5v power provided by the UTS.


The analogue output of the Cleo USB DAC serves the UTS tube stage (as there must be tubes to get tube sound) which in turn drives the Fusion output modules 40 - 60 watts depending on speaker load.

I'll be pulling out some old friends -- the Rogers 15 ohm LS35a which is rated for 25w, so a perfect match for the output of the Fusion AmpDac at that load.


Control is by the UVC - Ultimate Volume Control.


The chassis will sit on the cabinet next to the Net Top, next to the flatscreen TV, LS35a's flanking.



We're getting close.
Onward ho!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg FusionAmpDac2.jpg (158.7 KB, 2365 views)
File Type: jpg FusionAmpDac.jpg (186.3 KB, 288 views)
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Old 3rd July 2010, 10:59 PM   #4
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Default Fi For Flora: Fusion Amp Dac - Part 2

OK all debugged and ready to go. We had to install a separate power supply for the Ultimate Clock and 24bit/192khz Cleo module.



Once everything was singing together a quick measure showed 28/50/80w output for 16/8/4ohm speakers. And quiet. Input sensitivity for full power out is 400mv. Next week we'll do some more formal measurements.


I took the Ls35a home with plans for them to be used in the system. I hadn't played them for many years but sadly one has a rubbing voice coil which is apparently common as they age. These are the 15ohm model and would have been a perfect match power-wise as they are rated for 25w.
Instead I used a similarly sized Neofone with ribbon in a corian cabinet. These have much more bass and treble energy. Massed voices are beautifully rendered.


So how does the Fusion AmpDac sound? Happy to say it's more to the tube side than solid state. The UTS driving stage uses a 6922 and does a great job driving the Fusion Power modules. Sound is relaxed and sense of lots of reserve power.

The Cleo USB DAC module takes a week or two to really swing so I high expectations based on want I'm hearing.



The picture gives you an idea of the relative size of the Fusion AmpDac. The black box is the 1TB hard drive. The Asus EB1501 isn't much bigger!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg FusionDac1a.jpg (130.9 KB, 251 views)
File Type: jpg FusionDac2a.jpg (176.9 KB, 216 views)
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Old 3rd July 2010, 11:09 PM   #5
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default Fi For Flora: Asus EB1501 -- Honey I Shrunk the Bits, Part 2

With the Fusion AmpDac available I moved to the next phase of the project: getting the EB1501 to output a bit perfect 24bit 192khz data stream.



First I installed the Cleo drivers with plays ASIO natively. All went fine. Plugged the computer USB into the Fusion AmpDac USB and Windows 7 immediately installed the necessary drivers. Reboot and everything recognized and ready to play.


Having read about the excruciating levels of tweeking needed to get a computer music server to perform optimally as a music source I opted to use Windows 7 Home Premium which includes Windows Media Center. The word on the street is that WMC can do bit perfect playback by setting the media player to exclusive mode which engages WASAPI. And there is a plugin to allow FLAC files to play. My wife Flora has been 'in training' getting comfortable using the WMC to play Poirot movies, some voice recordings and assorted music. She quickly grew fond of the interface and found it quite intuitive.



Well WMC doesn't support WASAPI at all! And the FLAC plugin is rather untidy too. If anyone has found a way to make these work I'd appreciate knowing. I then hoped we could salvage the plan to use WMC by resorting to an ASIO plugin to bypass the W7 playback system but that doesn't work either. It seems to load the system with too much overhead.
So I installed Album Player. This is a very simple but intuitive music control package and the interface looks quite good. It has ASIO support built in, just needs to be selected in the control panel. This turned out to be be an easy way to get up and running with ASIO and bit perfect playback. Flora also finds it to be user friendly and has no problem selecting and playing music. So for now we'll run with this. There is a plugin to use MCE remotes and some options to configure it in the Album Player settings page. The interface is as shown in the picture and other 'skins' and visualization options are available.


The next step is to reduce operating system overhead and especially processes which 'poll' in the background, thus loading down the CPU and causing dropouts. I uninstalled a ton of bloatware which helped lighten things considerably. We will shortly document step by step the other processes which need to be stopped or reconfigured.


I think a key issue is to choose the correct computer. The Wind Neton with touchscreen works very well but needed lots of reworking to get it into that state. However the Asus EB1501 is much easier to achieve bit perfect playback. It comes with the Nvidia Ion graphics card which has its own powerful onboard GPU so it can provide good looking graphics without loading down the CPU. Also it has a dual core CPU (really quad core as it emulates a 3rd and 4th CPU. This allows the CPU to 'throttle down' as needed and yet kick out some pretty good cpu power when needed. The computer doesn't feel laggy at all and it boots up very quickly. So the fan is hardly every heard and can be software controlled.


Proof of this is the latency or resources used at idle. Even without extreme tweeking, it ideals along at between 1 to 5%.


And just look at the size! Not much bigger than a 1TB hard drive. It also has an HDMI output which allows direct connection to you flatscreen with assurance of good video and high quality audio from other sources. It comes with a DVD burner, 2gb memory and 300+gb hard drive. In the package there a very nice wireless keyboard, remote and mouse.


OK we're almost there.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg FusionDac4b.jpg (88.9 KB, 89 views)
File Type: jpg FusionDac2a.jpg (176.9 KB, 77 views)
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Old 7th July 2010, 12:02 AM   #6
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default Fi For Flora - Done! But I know What You're Thinking...

Where's the pain?



We:
buy an Asus EB1501 netop
connect it to our flatscreen TV with the HDMI cable
Install the drivers and connect the Cleo USB DAC
10 minutes of tweeking settings in W7
install J River Media center v15.xxx
point it to our media library
done!


Can it be this easy and audio-good?
Audiophiles are used to pain, such as the kind only audiophiles know. And disappointment -- because it's never right the first time.
Instead all we get is easy. And convenience. And great looking user interface my wife and all the neighbors love and can use.
And understanding. I'm not sure I can get used to being understood...it's kind of an audiophile's private place.
And great sound (24/192 computer audio is The Great Leap Forward promised by digital so long ago).


J River Media center V15.xxx:
Why this? Why now?
Windows Media Player has a face everyone loves but doesn't do WASAPI and the ASIO plug in doesn't work well.
Album Player works well with ASIO and easy to use for music playback only but we couldn't get the remote to work properly.
J River Media Center is very similar to Windows media center in function (does music, images, movie libraries). All the standard MCE remote functions work well. We set it to run in Kernel Streaming mode and runs without a hiccup.
So for us, J River Media Center is the one. Cost 49USD. Recommended.


Fusion+:
At home we needed a one box uncompromising integrated solution.
The Fusion+ contains:
Cleo USB DAC with Ultimate clock and discrete linear power supply
Ultimate Volume Control and selector with remote control
UTS tube stage driving
Fusion power multiplier amplifier modules for 50 watts out, 8ohms (80watts 4 ohms)

Yup, this has got the organic tube sound we need. I will try to arrange a review of this and will soon offer this for sale as a kit or assembled


Easy is good!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Fusion+.jpg (215.2 KB, 2163 views)
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Old 17th August 2010, 07:55 AM   #7
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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The last ingredient needed for our video-integrated home system is speakers.
Klaus Reck (Reckhorn) of Germany has been developing some rather unique speaker drivers for a couple years now, and they're done. Good timing. Last time he passed through Hong Kong he invited me to the factory to listen to the result of these too-cheap drivers in their 'cabinets'.
Click the image to open in full size.
He's put a patent on these as they embody some 'outside-the-box' concepts:
  • The backwards facing mid bass cone has the same radiating characteristics as the dome tweeter, promising excellent coherence.
  • coaxial design
  • cast aluminum frame
  • bass cone is channeled to break up resonances
  • glass fibre voice coil
  • neodymium magnets
  • German manufacture textile dome, ferrofluid and aluminum wire
  • filterless on the bass driver with 10uf film cap + inductor to the tweeter
Click the image to open in full size.
All this promises full-range quality sound and happens to be a perfect match for the Fusion3 Amp Dac which puts out 80+ watts into 4 ohms.
Does it work?
Splendidly. The boxless cabinets throw an impressive wall-of-sound way outside the speaker boundaries. And they give a very nice taste of full range sound.
The last last ingredient needed was a remote control. We weren't short of those - one each for the Fusion, Samsung flatscreen, Cable box, and Asus EB1501; 4 in total. I bought the Harmony 700 which replaces them all. Programmable from the computer and easy to do. Flora was doubtful when i handed it over but the secret is...hide the other remotes.
Ah, Harmony prevails.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg FiForFlora.jpg (136.7 KB, 27 views)
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Old 18th August 2010, 02:07 AM   #8
bcherry is offline bcherry  Hong Kong
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Default More on Those Speakers

Click the image to open in full size.


Click the image to open in full size.

Technical Specifications:

Outer diameter 190 mm
Mounting cut-out diameter 158 mm
Mounting depth 20 mm

Tweeter:
frequency range 1.000 20.000 Hz
Impedance 6 Ohm
Voice coil diameter 28 mm
Power handling capacity from 2 kHz/12 dB 120 Watt rms

Bass-Midrange:
Effective membrane size 160 cm
Frequency range 40 2.000 Hz
Impedance 4 Ohm
Voice coil diameter 38 mm
Voice coil winding height 16 mm
Maximum linear excursion 6 mm
Power handling capacity from 80 Hz/24 dB 120 Watt rms
Power handling capacity from 130 Hz/24 dB 160 Watt rms



Thiele / Small parameter for bass-mid:
Revc = 3,20 Ohm
Levc = 187,804 H
Fo = 41,436 Hz
Sd = 159,94 cm
Md = 15 g
BL = 3,493 T
Vas = 28,658 Liter

Cms = 851,638 uM/N
Mms = 17,323 g
Mmd = 16,225 g
Qms = 7,078
Qes = 1,183
Qts = 1,014
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