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Another vinyl story (long)


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Its holiday time for me so I had some time on my hand which I invested on my TT. The reason? Well, for all the talk going on here about the quality of vinyl I was always surprised that my combo for all the $$ spent never really made me wish to dig out my old records again.

On the other hand there were those comments indicating some kind of sonic superiority in comparison to digital. So I started examining my set up. First I thought it might be a lack of synergy between my phono stage and the SPU. But because it was Saturday afternoon (meaning closed shops) I decided to have a closer look at the way the cartridge was mounted/adjusted. I must say that this kind of work isnt really my domain, but need makes one do a lot of things.To make the story short I noticed that to my eyes the cartridge azimuth needed some correction. Then it occurred to me to check the arms tracking force. Now with an SPU this is a bit of a problem as no tonearm scale can be used to measure 4 grams. But lets see how correct the SMEs scale is. Going down to 2 grams and checking it with the Shure scale I noticed that the SME figures seem to be much higher than the actual weight, meaning those 4 grams I had used until now were actually more. So I decided to lower the weight according to sound. Guess what when a certain point was reached the sound suddenly opened up and what was relatively uninvolving became a completely new animal. The next day an acquaintance turned up who used to have the same cartridge and solved to problem of weight measurement by using a scale normally used to weigh diamonds. When we checked the weight it was 3.6 gram. When going up to 3.8 (which had been recommended) it was back to square one.

The next step was trying his tube phone stage (using 8 E88CC Telefunken and Siemens tubes) plus step-up transformer. Here the result was a mixed bag. Certainly the music was suddenly playing in front of the speakers and the soundstage seemed to be much more transparent wow! but what had happened to the colour? Suddenly my SPU sounded more like a modern hifi cartridge and at least to my ears- less musically appealing. I tried using a small Audio Note transformer which brought back some of the colour, but although I am really fascinated by the transparency of this unit, it wouldnt be my sound (yes, tube rolling might help a bit, but I assume the amps designer simply favours a more analytical sound).

So where does that leave me by the middle of this week? Since Saturday I havent listened to any CD, I have dug out many old records and in terms of a tube phono stage I have contacted another forum member concerning the ASUSA phono unit. The most surprising thing for me was how dramatic the change was when setting the arms tracking force. I mean 0.1 gram shouldnt make a difference, but believe me it did!

Ooops, this getting far too long, but I somehow felt I have to share my current vinyl enthusiasm with everybody. So like maxg I am starting to buy vinyl again!!!


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You might take a long hard look at the Wright Sound WPP100C Phono Preamplifier. I think it will ultimately provide a steup up in sonics over the little ASUSA piece although that unit is a nice price and probably provides good results for Edmond.

I have liked almost EVERY single Wright Sound component I have heard and the price is always reasonable. This little phono stage got a RAVE review in Listener Mag awhile back. See below. Good results were also found using it in conjuction with the Audio Note stepup transformers.

Wright Sound WPP100C Review - Listener Magazine

Volume 8, Number 3 May/June 2002

Can you get it all for $750?

Specifically, can you get all the musical and sonic performance of an expensive "reference" preamplifier from the $750 Wright Sound Company PP100C phono preamp? Actually, yes. You pretty much can.

The Wright PP100C phono stage typifies Mr. Wrights designs, with gobs of realistic detail, a huge, enveloping soundstage, and a sense of pinpoint focus that, for once, doesn't detract from the musical message: a rare combination. Now I think it would be a little unfairand not very helpfulto compare the audiophile characteristics of the PP100C against those of the above-mentioned CAT, because the CAT is a full-function unit, and its phono stage is an integral part of the same chassis. With the Wright, you have an additional set of interconnects and thus exposure to more environmental RFI. Even so--if I had to give a gun-to-the-head comparison, the Wright would win overall on its exceptional presence, realism, and comparative lack of grain.

The Wright is not darkly euphonic, nor is it at all bright: Its a perfect in-between. And, gosh, does it have good bass: deep, extended, and clear without any muddinessa great achievement for a tube unit. It beats my solid-state Benz phono stage hands-down in the bass, if you want to make an interesting comparison. Incidentally, Wright also offers a small step-up transformer, priced at $250. (Its not listed on their website, but it is available for special order.) The Wright is good but a little less three-dimensional than the Audio Notes. Still, if you're on a tight budget, by using the Wright step-up with the Wright phono pre you'll get overall sonic performance that exceeds most everything else I've heard.

Listening sessionsgosh, where to begin? Ive heard so much music with the Wright that its hard to find a place to start. One of my favorite singers is Ricky Lee Jones. On Chuck Es in Love, the Wright pulls Rickys voice from the mix and presents it in a more multi-dimensional space. It focuses and humanizes her voice. And it's transparent and detailed enough that, if you listen closely, you can hear how Ricky's voice was recorded separately from everything else in the mix: You can hear and even feel the vocal booth around her. I know that sounds farfetched, but its true. In fact almost every studio pop album I've tried exhibits a similar effect through the Wrighta similar layering in the mix or separation of tracks. Neil Youngs Harvest Moon is another example: Because I am still in love with you/I want to see you dance againon this harvest moon"--the Wrights clarity and musical realism allow these beautifully haunting words to wrap around you, as if Neil were standing right in your face and telling you about this woman he loves and wants to see again. His voice and the emotions behind it are explosive: No other word describes it.

The Beethoven String Quartets by the Italian Quartet on Philips is a treasure box of chamber music. The recordings are good, and the performances are superb. (I wish I could say such nice things about the Emerson Quartets most recent cycle.) The Wright PP100C removes a little of the multi-mike congestion and thus reveals additional acoustic space around each player. This effect increases the presence of each instrument within the overall mix. It kind of pulls the mix apart and separates the instrumental soundsand their transient attacks in particular--better than other phono stages do. It does this at all frequencies, so you have a better top-to-bottom transient coherency. What Im trying to say is the instruments sound more real because I can hear them more clearly. The Wright PP100C even brings to my listening room the "anticipation"that very subtle compression of the air--as musicians raise their instruments, draw in their breath, and prepare for their initial attack. You hear this in live music all the time, but rarely in home audio. Its extraordinary--no other one component has brought me this close.

I know, I know: Another reviewer goes gaga over some new toy. And, sure, thats partly true. The Wright swept me away from the start with its finely detailed yet musical presentation. But I didnt want to jump the gun and rave too loudly until I was sure. Now, several months later, I am sure.

I've been listening to the Wright for over a year, and each time I play a record I'm just as impressed as the first time. For that reason if no other, I think this is one of the best buys in audio, and certainly one of the very best sounding preamps I've ever heard, at any price.

Here is another user's comments on the WRight Sound phono. These directly address some of your complaints with certain "High end" presentations:

Thanks for shipping the WPP100C by overnight Fedex. I love the understated, quiet aesthetics of your design, particularly the copper clad chassis! I wanted to let you know my initial impressions, when hooked to my Linn LP12/Valhalla/Ittok/Grado Ref. Platinum. The overwhelming impression as the needle touched the groove was one of outstanding clarity and detail. But, and here is the beauty of it all, all this detail never once sacrificed the overall musical message as so many "audiophile" pieces do. I heard a lot more from my vinyl, and it wass all music, not deconstruction as many high end phono stages I have heard. It is amazing that you straddle this delicate balance of detail and musical coherence with such finesse. That you do it at a $750 price point is downright stunning! The biggest challenge I gave it was one most audiophile componenets cannot face up to... a 1936 recording of the legendary Busch Quartet playing Beethoven's op 132. Most equipment merely emphasizes the hiss and the noise, creating a very dry, sterile, harsh sound. Teh music positively bubbled through with the WPP100C in the chain, and I actually heard much more of the viola and the second violin than before. Amazing!!! - B. Bhattacharyya

At $750, this is a good deal. I think tbabb just got one used on Audiogon as well. I think this unit would be a nice upgrade if you just need a new phono stage. IT has a separate power supply which is very nice and appears to be extremely quiet. The comments are certainly compelling!


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The review is mouthwatering indeed!!! But....as usual funds are limited and the transformer I used wasn't mine but is for sale - $400 for a second-hand unit. Still, it sounds like am option well worth considering.

When it comes to Edmonds unit it should be noticed that it was tweaked which seems to be worth the money (though I have no idea how much that might cost).

Well, for the time being I am still fine with my current set up but I can already see what's going to change some time later (LOL)


BTW: I just listened to a part of a recording on vinyl (Mahler's second symphony conducted by Otto Klemperer which always sounded congested and simply wrong in terms of string sound. But now with the properly adjusted cartridge/arm it's just magic.

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Mobile - That's a great review. I read that awhile back and after that choose to get one. It's enroute to me now in the hands of the UPS gods.

FWIW - There is another one that just popped up for sale on Audiogon for $575

Curious why George does not have the step-up on the web site? I've love to hear from someone that has one. While I don't plan to move to LOMC right away, it might be a good idea for me to get one of these step ups from George before he decides not to sell them anymore.

I'll do some searching on AA to see if anyone has one...

- tb

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if ever you consider getting an MC cartridge I would certainly recommend auditioning an Ortofon SPU. They come in various options (shape of body, internal parts etc) and I only know the 'smallest' called Classic which is like the original SPU design. The later (and more expensive) units (Meister/Royal) have a different needle cut and use more modern (advanced?) internal parts. I have never heard any of these 'bigger' models but I must say that I don't feel the need either. To my ears the SPU (in combination with the right arm - which means 12") is extremely musical, never getting on the nerves, colourful but never dull. I think lovers of vintage tube gear should certainly give it a try.


BTW: there's a chap in Hong Kong who seems (or seemed) to sell Ortofon and SME stuff on ebay. I got my 3012R from him (new and at a lower price than would have been possible here) and it was no problem at all.

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I dont know your cartridge but 3.6 grammes seems a trifle heavy. Most carts these days seem to operate at 1.8 to 2.5 grammes (mine is 2.1).

Did you try even lower settings before settling on the 3.6 you have now?

You should note that I am really out of my depth here. When I bought my table it was on condition that the guy that sold it set the damn thing up (azimuth / vta etc. etc.). When Christos Skaloubakos and Arco came over they verified the settings for me and concured that he had done a good job.

Congrats on the bravery of being so hands on - I try to avoid it - usually the repairman says something to the effect of "its $x to fix the original problem and and extra $2x to fix Max's repairs."

Enough said!

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well I normally also do not like to meddle with mechanical things as they are somehow out of my line, but...I have begun to be a bit critical of the dealer who set up my arm. Usually he is reliable, but setting up an arm/cartridge properly needs time and those guys are always in a hurry. There are certain parameter where I feel I am getting into very deep water (overhang etc.) so I won't fiddle with this.

When it comes to those 3.6 grams I am quite sure, because Ortofon actually recommends 4 grams tracking force (but somehow it does sound much better -more airy- at its current setting).

But thanks for your concern and I wish I had people around like you seem to have who one can really trust!!!


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