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Old 8th June 2007, 01:14 PM   #1
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Default Irish DIY Meet.

We met at Francis's house and were privileged to get to listen to some truly wonderful equipment. Francis basic setup is quite impressive in itself. His main attraction been his QUAD ESL's, he also has a very respectable Audio Innovation 10W class A PP valve amp (with ECL86's), I mention this because we never really got a chance to listen to this as there was so much else to hear, but the small bit I remember, it was very neutral and pleasantly valve sounding.
Present were myself, Francis Morrin, John Kenny, Chris and Derek Burrowes.

We decided to use vinyl as our main source. Fran has a Ariston RD80SL with a high output moving coil Denon DL110 and MM Grado Prestige Gold. We listened to a bit of CD initially and immediately noticed an improvement in naturalness and overall tone when we switched to vinyl.
We started on the DIY equipment by comparing Frans VSPS to my version of Thorstens El Cheapo valve phono stage. I expected the valve phono to come out best, but the VSPS won with a lovely neutral tone (nothing added and nothing taken away). The Thorstens design as implemented by myself had a harsh ragged edge to the treble which I have since tracked down to oscillation due to flying anode leads. Frans VSPS is a real hotrodded version with seperate regulated power supply and Black gates caps throughout, Fran told us that he had spent a good deal of time perfecting his implementation and it showed.
We then moved onto selecting our favourite preamp. Everything was going through the Audio Innovations amp. We tried Fran's passive preamp with stepped attenuator. This sounded clean and detailed. Next we tried a simple single stage 5687 with CCS load. It had a comparable level of detail but the bass was filled out and the whole sound was more inflated. It wasn't hugely liked however as it seemed a bit in your face for everyday listening. Finally we tried my homebrew FVP5 clone. This was found to be the best overall performer. It had clarity and detail but was a lot more relaxed than either of the other two. It seemed to add a slight bloom to the sound which was generally much appreciated. This was the preamp we stuck to for the rest of the day.
As a matter of interest we listened to Frans loss less computer streamed source, with an old Buddy Holly recording. This was a revelation in itself as it just went to show that back in the good old days they really new what they were doing - this was one of the best quality recording I have ever heard, with a sweet tone which didn't rely on the ubiquitous reverb units that all modern recordings seem to use as a crutch. Through the QUAD's this was a perfect audition piece.
At this stage John brought out his diminutive Rogers LS3/5a's and his Baby Huey modified Rogers Cadet. The speakers are very unimpressive looking offerings but boy do they perform. Considering the fact that they are only about a foot on side and about 8 inches wide with a very complex crossover, they didn't give up much to the QUAD's. For me this was the real revelation of the afternoon. The Rogers Cadet with Baby Huey power stage using ECL86's sounded really nice and not overly sweet (as is sometimes the case with EL84 based amps). John has added LED bias and battery powered CCS's. It sounded very slightly veiled and had issues with really low and powerful bass. I put this down to the overly complex preamp stage from the original Cadet circuit and possibly the small size of the output transformers. Everyone agreed that this amp would be very easy to live with if the slight issues were resolved. Overall this was the second best liked amp on the day.
We then went onto try my Zen V3, with additional IRF610 input buffers, through the QUAD's. Unfortunately on powering up, one of the channels was dead and the other was oscillating driving the QUAD's. This was a shame, but what little we did get to hear was quite OK.
We next moved onto my Parafeed RH807. This did most things right but failed to impress generally. Changing the valves to a different brand helped fill the sound out a bit. It seemed as if they didn't quite like driving the QUAD's, so we tried them through the Rogers. Unfortunately there is an impedance mismatch issue between these and so the sound was a bit thin. However this combination generally sounded more satisfying than the QUAD's. Derek thought there may have been some phase shift issues here.
We then moved onto my DC7 amp which consists of 6080's in PP with a 5687 driver and parafeed interstage transformer. Immediately this amp grabbed everyones attention. It drove the QUAD's with ease and had a pacey delivery with great low level detail. Its only slight issue might be a bit of treble softness. This was generally considered to be the best amp auditioned and we spent a good while listening to different music with this combination.
I had wanted to hear a Sonic Impact amp and there were a few on offer here. John had a battery powered one and Fran had a one with a mains power pack. We listened to Frans as it was easier to set up. In the end this was a bit of a disappointment for me after the hype. Everything is very good up to the high treble, and I would say it has a distinctly valve sound. However the treble was very harsh and ragged, to the point where we all drifted off to admire Fran's new turntable project. A very impressive piece of kit which shows Fran's passion for wood work and vinyl, unfortunately it wasn't ready to listen to at this stage. Frans also showed us his latest amp project, SY's RED LIGHT DISTRICT amp, also not yet ready.

I also got a chance to listen to Fran's Sennhesier HD650's with a little Chinese SE amp (Little Dot 2 - 4P1L DHT, 1K5 input) - a very enjoyable combination, and proof positive that the cheap Chinese imports are well worth a serious look.

It was a very enjoyable day in all and a Revelation in many ways. Hopefully we will get another chance to compare our projects in the coming year and that there will be some great new amps to try.

Shoog
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Old 8th June 2007, 02:12 PM   #2
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I mustn't have been paying attention here, I would have quite liked to attend that, though all my gear is in Australia.

Next time.

Sounds good.
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Old 8th June 2007, 03:30 PM   #3
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If you PM me your email address, I will add it to the list that we have going...

Fran
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Old 8th June 2007, 04:28 PM   #4
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Sent.

Cheers.
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Old 8th June 2007, 04:50 PM   #5
protos is offline protos  Greece
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Funny.I was living in Dublin until two years ago.I tried to find fellow diyers thru this forum for exchanges like this but the one or two I contacted did not seem very interested in meeting.
I met Derek Walton (who has a vey nice 300B website) who helped me get into tubes.However since last year can´t seem to contact him.
Great to see a diy group meet in (sunny ) Dublin
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Old 8th June 2007, 06:51 PM   #6
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Hi protos

try waltonaudio at mac dot com

should get you there

Regards

Ed
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Old 8th June 2007, 08:29 PM   #7
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Hey Protos,

if you are talking to him, let him know about us.....


Fran

TheVoice - I've included you in the email group....
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Old 8th June 2007, 08:43 PM   #8
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Shoog has a very good desrcription of the day above there!

It was a great day - and great to see such an array of equipment. I didn't expect to see as much stuff and I thought we'd end up with much more time on our hands. We initally were going to meet for a day, but on my suggestion we said we'd meet from about 2-6 or so. As it turned out (don't know how everyone else feels!) I reckon that this was a good move. I think its probably better to do stuff like this in smaller blocks.

On reflection, we should have listened to jkeny's t-amp as it is more modded than mine, which just has the input caps mod, and driven by Shoogs preamp - it would have been interesting to see what it did with the signal form that pre. I have heard a charlize once, which was much better than a t-amp so i wouldn't rule out digital amps on the basis of the t-amp.


Having Derek there (who isn't a DIYer but has a lot of experience with hifi) was invaluable. He provided much insight into the sound of different amps from an objective POV. Its very easy to get caught up in the excitement of having made an amp, and friends and family are not usually the best judges, so comments by an expert ear are really well worth while. For others out there who are thinking of organising a meet like this, you should bear this in mind.

There was no way I was going to have the RLD amp ready! but then you have to have something for the next time! I did plan on having the Teres TT finished but just didn't get there as I'm waiting on a few parts yet that I can't do myself.

If there are any other Irish DIYers, or at least DIYers living here who would like to be included on a mailing list, let me know - pm me via this website.

A great day, very educational and very inspirational!

Fran

EDIT: a word on that headphone amp mentioned above. Its a little dot 2 bought from ebay. There are now newer versions of it, its current incarnation I think is LD2++ AFAIK. It uses directly heated pentodes (I think) run as triodes with 2 twin triodes as drivers. The tubes are real oddballs - chinese military stuff, with 4V heaters. If any of you know this amp (and a good number were sold) or know anything about the tubes above, could you let me know?

cheers
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Old 10th June 2007, 12:19 AM   #9
jkeny is offline jkeny  Ireland
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Shoog, brilliant write-up of the meeting - I've nothing to add on the technical details which you have expertly provided.

Up front, I’d like to thank Fran for hosting this in a beautiful house in a beautiful part of the country – just a pity the weather wasn’t better on the day but it was conducive to staying indoors.

Also, Fran’s house was the perfect place to have this event as his range of equipment is awesome – from CD & Squeezebox digital sources, Dahou? DAC, Ariston RD80SL TT and in progress Teres TT build, VSPS SS phono stage, passive preamp, and various tube amps - Audio Innovations, Chinese amp (Fran, you’ll need to correct my mistakes & fill in what I left out). Last but not least – the amazing Quad ESLs speakers – this was the first time I had heard these and they truly live up to their legendary status.

Something that startled me at the time was the very noticeable difference between digital and analogue sources. The digital was provided by both CD & Squeezebox sources and the analogue from the Ariston TT as mentioned. Vinyl was just so much more dynamic, with a deeper and wider soundstage – it startled me but probably shouldn’t have.

One of the main things I got out of the meeting was the opportunity to evaluate my own kit in a relaxed environment with like minded, knowledgeable & generous people. This is something which is seldom available to the DIYer who by and large operates as a solitary individual (or am I just talking about myself here?).

It also gave me a chance to evaluate my ear in relation to the ears of others - do I hear what they hear? And this allowed me to confirm that I'm not too far off the mark although Derek was by far the one with golden ears picking up immediately issues with the sonic presentation which took me a while to tease out of the sound. However, we could all concur on the best amp, Shoog’s DC7 amp & with his FVP5 clone proved to be the bees knees.

Given the amount of kit we listened to, it was a rewarding day and has spurred me on to further develop the equipment I have.

I agree with Fran that it’s better to keep the meeting down to about 4-5 hrs as we did and like Fran I too didn’t complete some projects finished which I had intended to bring. I would have liked to get the groups opinion on a SS amp the SKA from Greg Ball (which I was rehousing) & also a LDR based volume control ala the Lightspeed Preamp as well as Jordan JX92S speakers which need mounting but all of these will have to wait until next time.

Anyway, great meet & keen to do it again when all are ready. Indeed, if new people are interested maybe they can post here and we could see if a further meeting would be of interest to all?

Edit: Would love to hear Derek Wlaton's 300B tube amp


John

Ah thevoice,
Sorry about that - I do remember you posting on the thread I started about recycling parts, etc and should have thought of informing you.

Indeed, you would have been proud of the amount of recycled parts which were used to build some excellent sounding kit
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Old 10th June 2007, 09:43 PM   #10
protos is offline protos  Greece
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Quote:
Originally posted by woodturner-fran
Hey Protos,

if you are talking to him, let him know about us.....


Fran

TheVoice - I've included you in the email group....
Well I have his email of course and I have attempted to get in touch with him but he does not seem to be able or want to respond.He used to post here ocasionally.
Nice guy Derek and very helpful.His amps are beautifully made and sound great.I made my own super300b based on his latest model and it sounds great.It would be interesting to have a good set amp in your next meet.Wish I was there.
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