Monday, July 1, 2019

Revisiting Marantz CDA-94 - Transformer failed (again)

A couple of months ago, I was enjoying the pleasant results from the CDA-94 when the front display suddenly went dark and there was no longer any music from the hifi set.

I powered off the unit, disconnected the power line (VERY IMPORTANT) and checked the unit's main fuse with a multimeter eg F001 - it was fine. Was puzzled. Hence I reconnected everything and tried to use the DAC again. Still "dead in the water", I repeated the previous check and discovered F001 blew this time. F001 is supposed to be 250V 200mA but had been previously replaced with a 250V 500mA since the 200mA fuses are pretty hard to came by (where I am).

Next I proceeded to check all the fuses on the various PCB(s) with the multimeter; all the existing fuses were fine. Hence suspect a shorted transformer, most probably L001 again since it had been replaced long ago and another visitor on my previous post informing of the same issue. Since I had some spare 500mA fuses handy, I could replace F001 but this time, remove the power to L001 before performing the power-on test. Bingo! The unit could be power-up without L001.

First a recap. When L001 was replaced years ago I did not have access to the Marantz CDA-94 service manual (courtesy of HiFiEngine) and thus did not know how to proceed as there was no information on L001 as there were no markings on the bloody thing!! A retired repair techie from DIYAUDIO advised to use a lower spec transformer instead. Hence I purchased a 12V 133mA toroid with dual secondary(s) from Element14. In those days there were not many choices and you had to pay thru your nose for the part (since they charged for courier delivery if you did not meet the minimum purchase sum). Since the replacement transformer had dual secondary(s), the kind DIYAUDIO techie provided guidance on how to connect the new dual secondary transformer (the original transformer had 3-cables, the replacement came with 4-cables). I have since learnt that the replacement transformer with dual secondary(s) was connected using the center tap technique

Fast forward to the present - was checking the internet for replacement recently ... boy has times changed! You would be overwhelmed by the available choices and surprised by how much prices has lowered!!!

Previously would have loved to install a Talema 7XXXX-series replacement but the cost was prohibitive then since the local agent had minimum purchase requirement(s) etc etc while eBay shipping from overseas was quite expensive. Nowadays it's possible to procure the OEM equivalent for a pretty decent price. 

While trawling the net for information, came across a translated site informing all the transformers used in the CDA-94 were with 1A output. 

Hence settled on the 15W version with 15Vx2 secondary(s) and 500mA output per secondary and the matching mounting PCB - see pix(s) below and additional information on the respective caption(s).

L001 replaced with the blue OEM transformer

Replacement transformer on mounting PCB attached to chassis bracket using plastic screw with additional washer between PCB and the chassis mounting bracket

Close-up of the replacement transformer and cabling

"Center tap" technique hookup at terminator end; fuses after the termination point upgraded from 500mA to 750mA

Please note the cabling used for the replacement transformer were salvaged from it's dead Noratel predecessor.

The CDA-94 back in business again ... now considering procurement of  some heatsinks for the opamps, TDA1541A and the SAA7220 chips.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Add-on heatsinks for Audiolab 8000A

I usually rotate the amp in-use (in the hall) every once in a while. Currently it's the last series of UK made Audiolab 8000A with 'F' in the serial number.

The external casing of the 8000A was running quite warm in the local tropical weather. Hence I search for suitably large piece of heatsink to assist with heat dissipation - inspired by the design of the casing on my long ago Musical Fidelity X1A.

After checking a number of websites, I had to give up my initial idea of acquiring a single largish  heatsink. Discovered that could became a rather costly exercise, with possibly pricey postage too!

About a week later, I came across a PRC website which had some attractive looking heatsinks on offer but these were smaller than what I had in-mind. Then the idea hit me - I could arrange several of these smaller heatsink(s) in such a manner that they could assist with heat dissipation from the critical areas of the 8000A, as if a single large piece of heatsink was deployed.

Each heatsink is anodized aluminium and measuring 150mm x 70mm x 11mm. Used 6 of these heatsinks and arranged them (as per pix) with a spacing of 1-3mm between them. As most of the heat on the external casing were from the LHS of the 8000A, I arranged the heatsinks on the LHS closer to it's neighbour vs those on the RHS.

8000A with several add-on heatsinks

Aesthetically pleasing too, no complaints from the boss ... yet😁

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Minor maintenance of a Quad 33 (on behalf)

Was assisting a friends' friend with minor maintenance on his Quad 33.

Sounds ok initially after power-up but takes about 25-35min before sounding right.

Hence only replaced the two main EC on the PSU and a few of the older poly(s) on the DISC board (see pix below). Used an older generation of poly(s) for the DISC board, to maintain the sonic charm as much as possible.

Sound surprising decent with clearity once more.

They don't make them like they used to these days - not put together with "love and tender loving care" these days, just mass production for the sake of profits.

Initial testing after minor maintainence
New EC caps on the PSU
"Newer" poly(s) on the DISC board

Friday, March 1, 2019

Alternate Radio via Internet (***Update***)

After my previous FM reception issues in January 2019 were (more or less) resolved, I experimented with alternative access to radio eg internet radio via various readily available smart devices which can be connected to the hifi set.

Please note a reliable and fast internet connection will be required for uninterrupted streaming (as per my previous post for an minimalist audio streaming box). 

It was then I realised I could use an Android box to access Internet Radio via app(s) as my unit has both USB & TOS-link for digital audio output, to a DAC. The Android box is able to access AC WIFI as well, hence no need for a ethernet cable.

For testing purposes, I installed a internet radio app at random from Google Play and used a USB cable between the android box to my DIY DAC. I then selected a NZ radio station. Sounds as good as a local FM station with just a tad more bass. Once steaming has been initiated, you can power off the TV as it is no longer required.

Due to the promising results, I will need to invest in a new TOS cable with smaller connectors as my current cable could not fit into the densely populated rear of the small android box eg have a large-ish HDMI connector next to the TOS  socket. Using a TOS link should result in better quality audio reproduction from the DAC.

Will update once I received the TOS cable from overseas (local prices are quite ridiculous).

Android box and DIY DAC used

Rear view of the android box and DIY DAC

Internet radio app menu screen on TV

Radio station accessed by internet via android box

Update 1Apr2019

Received the el-cheapo TOSLINK purchased via the internet and works fine. It was necessary to use a TOSLINK connector with smaller dimension(s) as the rear of the Android box is pretty cramped.

Used as link between the DAC and Android TV box. Audio quality is good using the el-cheapo TOSLINK but is limited to stereo only as the DAC is for tradition stereo reproduction only.

New el-cheapo TOSLINK between the large HDMI connector and the blue USB-2 cable

Normal TOSLINK connector on LHS and the el-cheapo TOSLINK connector on the RHS

Friday, February 1, 2019

Alternate analogue FM reception for the living room (***Update#2***)

First a background of the change in the existing setup.

In Singapore, most of the population (>90%) live in a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat aka government flat. Traditionally there would be standard antenna access points for FM and TV in every unit which are clearly marked in the living room. These antenna access point were supposed to be connected to the antenna at the top of every HDB building.

Traditional FM & TV antenna connector in HDB flats

On the Sunday morning of 6Jan2019, all I was able to hear was static from the FM radio via the access point marked FM in the living room.

When I contacted the authorities the next working day, I was informed the reported service disruption in my apartment was due to the withdrawal of all cable services by the telco Starhub. Only catch was I did not subscribing to any services from Starhub at the present time.

Hence when I visited several electronics DIY shops in the Sim Lim Tower and Sim Lim Square area, the shops informed many experience the same issue as myself. Thus indoor FM antennas and boosters😵 were flying off the shelves!

Prices were better online and I ordered a set. While awaiting the delivery, I had to use a DIY FM antenna - basically just hookup a 3m cable to the antenna socket of my Kenwood KT-5020. It's doing a decent job for the station I wanted to listen to but did not fare well for distant stations.

The order is scheduled to be delivered tonight. Will update once I have time to setup the item(s). For non-Asian visitors, this is a very busy period in the Far East as it's Chinese New Year week eg our version of Christmas😄!

Apologies for the delay for this month's post😞

Update (11Feb2019)

I purchased the following package online which includes a signal amplifier and a "multi-purpose antenna" (according to the seller's website). The booster is rated 20dB.

Signal amplifier and "multi-purpose" antenna purchased online

Assembly of the components is "easy as 1--2-3" and all that was required was a USB charger.

Unfortunately the new components did not deliver a complete solution. Signal strength on the tuner is full but no stereo light on the tuner.

Hence I bought the indoor antenna originally recommended by a number of stores, the Daiyo EU-1703.

EU 1703 Digital Indoor Slim Passive Antenna FM + DVBT 2

I then proceeded to test various combinations to determine which would provide the best reception - DIY antenna (with/out signal booster), digital antenna  (with/out signal booster), and Daiyo antenna  (with/out signal booster).

Best combination seem to be pairing the signal booster with the Daiyo antenna. Not the perfect solution as was able to receive most of the available stations with high signal strength, and,  about 90%+ in stereo.

Luckily my favourite stations were not among the low number of casualties😀

Update#2 (23Mar2019)

This diagram explains why I can no longer use the traditional designated FM and TV ports in my apartment. Starhub was using them (aka SCV port in the pix) as their "new transfer facility". Don't the residents get any say about this?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

JVC XL-MV33 (Part-2)

Continuation from JVC XL-MV33

My skeptical friend finally decided to get his toes wet with minor recapping on the MV33 to improve reproduction.

Upon reviewing the PCB with the output RCA connectors ... I found some typical Japanese poly capacitors encase in a yellow plastic casing. These type of poly capacitors were common in Japanese brand products from the 1980-1990's (see my past article on them) and are most likely the culprits of the audio reproduction barrier - not all need to be swap out unless they are in the audio pathways.

Original output PCB

Part of output schematic for MV33 audio reproduction

The MV33 schematic from HifiEngine confirms only the ELNA EC (47uF 50V) and the yellow encased poly (1500pF) are on the audio pathway between the JRC OPAMP and the RCA outputs. The 220pF capacitors on the schematics were not present on the PCB - replaced by resistors.

As my skeptical friend was unconvinced of how much improvement can be obtained, I proposed initially changing only the two poly capacitors on the audio pathway (1500pF) - should be quite a revelation for him. Used a pair of BC (aka Philips) 1500pF poly for the swap-out. 

ELNA EC and the Japanese poly swapped out

For the first 30mins after the swap, voices were high pitched with the rest of the material sounding a little off-pitch. Thereafter the reproduction was much improved with the HF(s) sounding more natural and precise.

Even so, the overall presentation seem incomplete ... as if there was still some fog in the area. Next the ELNA EC(s) were replaced with audiophile grade Nichicon MUSE and a bypass ... the presentation improved quite a lot - reproduction was now much cleaner and begin to sound more like a decent CD player.

PCB after capacitor swap-outs

As my friend was not adventurous, we did not proceed any further. He wanted to enjoy the new improvements for the time being.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Alternative universal RC

I had recently bought a Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 smartphone.

One unexpected bonus for this average smartphone was it's RC app. The RC app can most useful and handy eg if you had misplaced the original remote (or when someone else monopolised it)!

We used it last month to initiate the testing of the LG-V522P. 

RC app main screen on smartphone

Initial screen to add a new device
Mi App generic screen for the LG-V522P

It's most unlikely you would lose your smartphone as most owners would have it handy. And it's locatible via the various "find my phone" facilities eg ring as loud as possible facility!

Thus this sort of smartphone is a keeper once retired from it's primary duties - it's your "new" universal RC!!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Another budget CD source - LG DV522P

I was introduced to this budget CD source, the LG DV-522P (with co-axial digital output) by a neighbour. He wanted to determine the quality of audio output from it.

The LG DV-522P is a budget DVD player with literally no visible display, only a red LED once power-up. There is provision for a USB source. The unit is RC capable but he had misplaced the RC. Hence we used my "newish" universal remote instead (works like a charm - topic for another post).

No display with only LED to indicate piower-on

Only basic RCA outputs on rear

As my neighbour does not own a DAC, we decided to test the unit via the analogue L-R outputs hooked up to my budget valve EL-34 integrated amplifier (... budget src to budget amp, fair right?) which was paired to the DIY LS 3/5A and matching subwoofer.

I must say I was quite impressed with the results. The presentation was respectable for the price range😮😲!  Who would have thought such a budget combination could deliver any impressive result.

Would have loved to have more listening time with this little mighty mouse...

Monday, October 1, 2018

Technics RS-M02

The RS-M02 was the top end cassette deck for the Technics Concise series (small-size or micro components).

Pix from VintageTechnics

Apologies for the pix from the internet as it's kind'of small and can be difficult to locate in the storeroom (aka the blackhole!!). Will update with pix of the internals once I came across the little critter.

Don't be fooled into thinking the RS-M02 is a lightweight due to it's smaller dimensions. It's a solid performer weighing 5.5kg!

Think of the RS-M02 as a miniaturized RS-M65 without the fine bias and headphone output volume controls but was upgraded for Metal Oxide tapes. Hence the RS-M02 has all the performance of a high-end Technics cassette deck, for the Concise Series.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Celestion SL-6s

In the late 1980's I literally fell "head-over-heels" for the Celestion SL-6 after listening to a pair at my friend's place in NZ.

By the time I scaped enough to buy a pair with a proper amplifier for them, the SL-6 was no longer available and had been replaced by the SL-6s. Hence I bought a pair of SL-6s instead, with the metal sand filled stands from the local NZ agent via the home based hifi dealer at the shore (aka North Shore to Aucklanders).

I still own that pair of SL-6s but have not used them since about 2006. Hence I enclosed pixs from the net till I have the urge to drag them out for a spin.

Pix of the SL6s from the internet

As there are so many articles and reviews on the SL6s, there is no need to repeat the obvious. I will just add on item(s) I discovered along the years of ownership.

I always admired the beautiful wooden finish as the bark rings would flow seamlessly from one panel to another, on each of the speakers. Many a visitors who's seen the pair always pester for a sale (told them if you want them, compensate me for my loss as I never put them up for sale)... still have them, these are REAL KEEPERS!

From memory the SL6s require plenty of grunt to be be driven properly, rather than Watts. Once so, they are real pleasers. The bass deficiency can be addressed using a active sub (suitable for hifi not HT). If I remember correctly, the active sub need to be set to somewhere in the region of 125-150Hz  with volume just about 1-o'clock - TBC once I dig out the sub as well!!!

For instance, I was using the SL6s with a Sansui AU-555 before putting them into storage. Watts was not so much the issue as grunt. The AU-555 is rated as 20W per channel with only a Damping Factor of 12. Many advise using an amp of atleast 50-60W for the task. Yet, the Sansui AU-555 could drive the SL6s beautifully to decent volumes with the volume knob at 10 o'clock and/or above. No issues doing so for atleast 8hrs a day on the weekends.

Another surprise was when I swap out the SL6s (86dB) with the Meridian A500 (89dB) - the output volume remained roughly the same.

Hands getting itchy now since this bring backs bloody fond memories of my years spend with the SL6s ...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Carver C-2 pre with M-200t power amp

While in NZ, I finally settle on the combination of a Carver C-2 pre-amp partnered with a Carver M-200t power amplifier. Could only afford this budget combination then which was able to drive the Celestion SL6s decently.

Both the pre and power amplifier had an external pewter finish on the front plate which was pleasant "eye candy".

The C-2 pre-amp performance was about average, not the best at what it does but the sonic results were acceptable. The four square ON-OFF toggle switches provided quite a flimsy feel. Usually left the C-2 in tonal bypass mode as I did not like the sonic signature from them.

I think the M-200t power amplifier was the better half of the combination with enough grunt to drive the Celestion SL6s decently. When place into mono-block mode, the M-200t truly sounds amazing! My major complaint were the el-cheapo clip-in speaker cable connectors. They could have used slightly better speaker connectors. Sigh ... could not afford 2 of these power amplifiers at the time ....

I enclosed the following pix(s) from Googling the internet as I did not have any pix(s) of my units,

Pix on internet via Googling - front

Pix on internet via Googling - rear of the units

Sold the combination Carver pre and power amplifier in the Wellington area before heading off overseas to take up a  MNC job offer in late 2000. Not much of a choice then as the NZ job market was not great at the time ...

Sunday, July 1, 2018

McLaren 602 pre and 702 power amplifier

Continuation from McLaren A150B

While at that hifi dealers home on the North Shore* (basically the district across the bridge, on other side of Auckland CBD), he had a set of McLaren 602 pre and 702 stereo amplifier hook up in his living room.

*As the locals say ... North Shore - where the real people live

I REALLY LOVE THE REPRODUCTION from this combination! It sound just right - natural with all the details, just like "being there"!! Alas ... it cost as much as my used Honda Accord hatchback ... sob sob

As far as I could determine, these units were sold in the UK and Australia outside of NZ. It was  reviewed on AudioEnz

Friday, June 1, 2018

Onix RA-65

I visited The Cathay (in Singapore) not long after it was newly opened at the end of Orchard Road. There used to be a largish CD shop (think it was a HMV) on the ground floor.

Believe they used to have some sort of arrangement with one of the HIFI resellers, as they were different speakers and amplifier (deployed near the shop) entrance every so often.

Just so happen I was shopping for a floorstander at the time - hence paid a bit more detail to any decently priced hardware on demo. I visited the shop on a few different occasion(s) to listen to the various hardware in-use. During this period they demo a Nait-5 and a Onix A-65 driving a pair of Magnaplanar 1.5 (or 1.6?) over several weeks.

From ONIX website

When I re-visited the shop a few months later, the Nait-5 was no longer in the shop. Hence I was curious and asked regarding it. The shop assistant informed the Nait-5 threw in the towel and they used the Onix instead.

I was not looking for a amplifier then but was suitably impressed by the RA-65, enough to want to became a new owner!

Here cames the bad news ... was informed that Onix model was no longer available and that it belong to the shop, not the HIFI dealer. This seem to happen a lot to me ...

For the curious, I have never owned a Magnaplanar ... yet

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Another budget EL34 integrated

Could not resist buying the following budget integrated EL34 SET amp from China - 8W per channel, about 7.4kg and with a toggle input selector!

Front view
Rear view

Internals of the amp

This amp took a while longer to be run-in before sounding right. Since I no longer have access to the other unit for comparison, believe this white unit require the volume knob to be turn to about 11-o'clock before the volume was equal to about 10-o'clock on the previous black unit. It is grunty enough to drive my DIY LS 3/5A with AB1 without issues.

Will update again once I have more listening opportunities with my new toy ...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Revisit - DIY TDA1541A DAC with USB interface

After a couple of years, the unit began to sound more and more bass-ier?

Discovered the PRC made TEAPO capacitors had an oily film on them eg the 5 greenish capacitors on left side of unit close to the OPAMP(s). Sure enough, there were many feedback on the internet about these leaky PRC capacitors.

Topview of DAC internals with only final stage output caps replaced

The bad rep TEAPO PRC capacitors used for OPAMP power supply
TEAPO 220uF 35V replaced by United Chemicon 470uF 35V capacitor

Decided to take the opportunity to replace the Panasonic FC on the final outout stage with ELNA STARGAT(s) (with HF bypass) since I had to do some soldering.

Resultant internals after TEAPO replacement and final stage capacitor swap out with ELNA STARGATES

How does the result sound?

SUPERB is the word I would use.

In a A-B comparison against my upgraded CD650, they were very close, nearly  INDISTINGUISHABLE!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

McLaren A150B (not Tag-McLaren)

Many would not have heard of the McLaren brand of amplifiers from NZ. I certainly didn't till I was looking to setup a proper hifi set of my own when living in Auckland, New Zealand in the late 1980(s).

Please do not confuse the NZ McLaren brand of amplifiers with the Tag-McLaren series which was basically Audiolab UK with better quality components and finishing.

The 1st McLaren I encountered was the A150 (70W per channel) integrated amplifier at a electronics shop then located near the bottom of Parnell Rise (around 1990). Was not too impressed by it's abilities.

The 2nd McLaren model I came across was the A150B (hifi dealer's home on the North Shore) and it's reproduction was much improved but had a upper HF cutoff. The reproduction was quite decent for a 75W integrated amp driving the Celestion SL6s properly.

For my then available budget, it was a definate shortlister along with the Onix OA20.

Pix of McLaren A150B from AudioNZ

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Kenwood KT-5020

Was window shopping in town when I stumble upon this little gem.

Kenwood KT-5020

FMTUNERINFO rates the KT-5020 as a top-10 contender among all the devices it has tested over the years. Naturally pickup it up as it was too good an opportunity to pass over.

The tuner has a simple, intuitive and easy to use interface with auto-tuning and set of A/B memory presets for both AM and FM - really ... no manual required.

As per reviewed in stock form by FMTUNERINFO, the KT-5020 is indeed an excellent performer which delivers with confidence!

May consider recapping it at a later stage according to the suggestions in the MODS sections of FMTUNERINFO, once I have spend time listening to the KT-5020.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Lambert SP260T Timekeeper speakers

My 1st encounter with these particular Lambert speakers were at a record shop in Singapore. The pair in that record shop were in plain black cabinets, not the beautiful wood finishing, as per pix below.

Pix of Lambert SP260T from AudioEnz

Lambert is a brand of New Zealand speakers (no longer in business). I am surprised to have not encountered them when in NZ.

That pair of  SP260T in the record shop was driven by a Jungson J88 integrated amp - just sound absolutely marvelous! Definitely helped the owner sell many CD(s) and LP(s)!!! 

Moment I asked the owner regarding the speakers, his instantaneous reply were along the lines of "...not for sale...". I just wanted to confirm the brand and model as there were no visible markings on the front of the cabinet.

A few months later, I was in a discussion regarding speakers deployed in record shops and this pair of pyramid looking speakers came up with gusto - many tried to buy them off the owner without success!

Too bad Gary Lambert sold the business. Would have loved to obtain a pair for my own pleasure.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Denon DRW-585

A friend who is giving up his cassette deck asked for help to rate and sell the item on his behalf. I then used the deck to transfer some old material from cassette before selling it for my friend aka previous month post.

Was surprised his DRW-585 was still functioning flawlessly after so many years of service - now that's quality that is sadly missing from today's hifi components.

The unit was equipped with Dolby-HX and has all the required bell&whistles eg digital counters, bias adjust, auto reverse, continuous play one deck another the other, dubbing from one deck to the other, etc. The deck perform flawlessly using my Tracy Chapman Cross Roads album.  Reproduction still sounds decent using only a el-cheapo (less than $10) interlink cable from the neighbourhood shops!

The deck sold within a day of listing!!!

Front view of the DRW-585 after power on
Top view of DRW-585 internals
Close-up of ceramic capacitors (391K) for the IN-OUT RCA connectors

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

DIY - How to transfer audio material from cassette or vinyl to MP3

Since my friend wanted to dispose of his Denon cassette deck, I asked for a loan of the deck to transfer the remainder of my audio on cassette(s) to MP3, before helping him sell it.

On Windows 10, you will require the following in order to perform the transfer successfully.
- Audio software such as Audacity
- Cassette deck
- RCA to 3.5mm headphone jack
- Pre-amplifier, if your PC does not have LINE-IN facilities (as per my Thinkpad)
  - Normal audio RCA-to-RCA cable

If your PC has LINE-IN facilities, you can connect the cassette deck RCA outputs directly to your PC LIGHT BLUE socket. Then startup Audacity and perform test recordings until you determine suitable audio level for your material, before performing the actual transfer.

If you PC does not have the LINE-IN facilities, you will require a PRE-AMP to reduce the output levels from the cassette deck, before it can be properly recorded on the PC. This is because (as per my case) you will have to use the microphone socket on the PC which distorts easily. Connection will then be RCA on cassette deck to RCA  input on the PRE-AMP. PRE-AMP RCA output to the 3,5mm microphone socket on a PC. Then startup Audacity and perform test recordings until you determine suitable audio level on the PRE-AMP for your material, before performing the actual transfer. Please note this process can be use to perform proper transfer from vinyl to MP3.

Transfer from cassette deck  to pre-amp, then to PC microphone with Audacity to perform the recordings

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Craft Audio C3 pre and C4 power amplifier

After moving out and flatting alone in Auckland in the late 1980's, I was searching for a hifi set to call my own.

I have good memories of coming across the NZ made Craft Audio C3&C4 combination at a hifi shop in Ponsonby (don't recall name of the establishment). There were 2 hifi shops more or less just on opposite sides of the street in the Ponsonby area in the late 1980(s)- anybody?

Reproduction from the C3&C4 was extremely enticing but was priced at more than double of my total budget for a complete hifi set (just started working about a year then and the car was a more important requirement in Auckland, as the density was alike that of Los Angeles then).

Pix of Craft Audio C3 and C4 from AudioEnz

For those not familiar with hifi history in New Zealand, Craft Audio was founded by Gary Morrison who later join Peter Thomson at Plinius - his audio relevant experience help shape the Plinius sound of today.

You can read the NZAudio interview with Gary Morrison about the early days of Plinius and when Gary join Peter at Plinius Audio.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Experiment - Soundmate M1 Wi-Fi music streaming receiver (low cost)

As the local SG prices for a proper audiophile grade streamers costing a bomb, I decided to give this low cost streaming receiver a try. Discovered the unit while searching for something else on the China version of eBay.  It is low cost but capable of receiving streaming from any device which supports Airplay, DLNA and QPLAY protocols - basically any Apple and/or Android device! Power is from an external adapter. Initial setup with password is optional.

The theory is the device will act as a pass-thru for material streamed from my iPad. It will be connected via TOSLINK to the Marantz CDA-94 DAC. Hence the streamer will not be processing any of the audio material. Instead it will only convert the material received wirelessly from the iPad, to the fibre optic TOSLINK protocol for processing by the Marantz CDA-94 DAC. Hence no audio processing will be performed by the el-cheapo facilities within the device. If you did decided to listen to the Soundmate M1 analogue output, quality it's what you paid for... yea, could not resist testing the waters for crocodiles!

Possible connectivity scenario's

Soundmate M1 on a CD cover
Connectivity on rear of the Soundmate M1

Always love listening to THE BREEZE when I was living in NZ, so why not use this as the initial session? Download a internet radio app, select the radio station of chocie and link the iPad to the Soundmate - easy as 1-2-3!
Access via iPad
Resolution available thru the internet radio app on  iPad

Sounds as good as my usual FM tuner, the Audiolab 8000T, so very decent quality indeed!

Did note the iPad performs flawlessly only when accessing the WI-FI AC facility. There were periodic pauses when not using the WIFI AC facility.

Streaming quality mode selector in Spotify

Works just as transparently with Spotify and other similar sources. Sometimes Spotify Premium in the Extreme streaming mode did not sound as good as the FM tuner app for some reason - probably due to the recorded material??? Other Spotify resolution lack the proper details in the reproduction and lackluster-ness prevails.

One strong bonus point is that this setup helps to provide a wonderful sampling opportunity (with decent quality) of what's available on the internet without the high cost of ownership for dedicated devices. You can then buy the CD or high definition version later.

Best of all, you can still use the iPad while it is streaming in the background eg games, internet, word processing, etc.

Hence if you are in the same scenario, you can enjoy the benefits without a large outlay IF you have all the pieces of the puzzle except the board to place the pieces!

Items required are :-
1. WIFI streaming device with TOSLINK
2. smartphone or tablet which supports Airplay, DLNA or QPLAY protocol
3. average quality TOSLINK cable
4. DAC or integrated amplifier with a TOSLINK interface
5. (optional) Best if AC capable WIFI router and devices available. Otherwise may need to amend the app buffering facility (TUNEIN buffer had to be made smaller for non AC capable devices)

Enjoy and discover new content for less than SGD$50!!!