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 range๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฒ!  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 practically 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!!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Plinius 3100B

Continuation from Plinius 2b and VII

As per the Plinius "Plint", there does not seem to be much information or pictures of the 3100B on the internet - not even at Plinius own site.

The Plinius 3100B  is a 100W RMS per channel stereo power amplifier which runs in Class-B mode,

From memory it was well built and weight about 15-18kg. It did not run hot, just warm when driving a pair of Celestion SL6s.

Pix of the Plinius 3100B from NZ eBay equivalent

Pix of the Plinius 3100B (rear) from NZ eBay equivalent
How does it sound?

In general, clear presentation but I find the 3100B lack gruntiness with any control at volumes above 10oclock. What I mean is that it's like the older generation of Honda Civic engines - have horsepower but lack torque. So although it can go loud when driving the Celestion SL6s, that's about it. When the volume was at 50% on the pre-amp, the reproduction sound flat. From memory, no details no soundstage; just VOLUME - basically sounding pretty much like the "run of the mill" present day Class-D amps.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


A friend who knows of my hobby asked for a "loan of them ears" to rate the reproduction from his JVC Karaoke VCD player Model XL-MV33.

Have seen many such units in Karaoke establishments and in the home(s) of die-hard Karaoke fans. It's basically a VCD player with a built-in Karaoke master mixer bundled with the very handy and intuitive VCR-type controls.

To be honest, I had always consider such units to be children of a "lesser hifi "... BOY WAS I EVER WRONG - you really can't judge a book by it's cover!!!

This stock Karaoke VCD machine does not have the posh nor classy outlook of a proper hifi component but once you hear the quality of it's reproduction, you would realise it's a real diamond in the rough!  All the details were in the output but the resulting presentation was just a tad warmer than it should be, strong output with a bit of background cluttering  and the HF(s) was half heartly with-held. Something in the resulting presentation remind me of a past encounter. Best description would be "almost there but you need to get over the hill 1st". This ugly duckling has the potential to be a swan! 

Cost wise I reckon this would be a good unit to recap ... much better than getting a below $100 DVD player.

The ugly duckling
Closeup view of frontal right side

Closeup view of frontal left side

Only outputs available on the MV33

No digital output facility. Only analogue audio and composite video outputs via RCA sockets.

Top view. Transformer towards bottom of pix.

A quick glance of the caps reveal extensive usage of Panasonic EC(s) with a pair of United Chemicon (OOOPS - ELNA's) on the vertical PCB. There are a number of the Japanese poly capacitors encased in a yellowish transparent plastic jacket on the vertical PCB - without examining in detail, my guess to be the audio pathway(s).

My friend could not decide regarding the possibility of recapping to release the full potential of the ugly ducking and would revert in the near future.

Hopefully I will have the opportunity to work on this ugly duckling in the near future.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rotel RA-820AX

Continuation from Plinius 2b and VII

This was the original amplifier my flatmate was using at the time, the Rotel RA-820AX.

Pix form Google
Pix (rear) from Google

He bought it over from Australia, as he had just graduated and started working in NZ (later half of the 1980's). Unfortunately for the Rotel, it's 20W RMS per channel output had a up hill task of driving a pair of then newish Celestion SL6s!!! Even so, the components in this puny amp did not burn up as per the Plinius Plint - you had to crank up the volume before any decent reproduction came out of the SL6s ...๐Ÿ˜†

For those not familiar with the Celestion SL6 series of book-shelve speakers, they have a reputation for being power hungry but sounding sweet and decent once driven properly.

It was a shoe string budget setup, so you can't expect much. Reason why he then started on his quest for a proper amplifier to drive the SL6s.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Plinius 2b and VII

Had a surprisingly hard time trying to locate pix for these units on the internet - they were hardly any, not even on Plinius own site. Only managed to locate the following on a NZ audio magazine site.

The Plinius Plint from AudioEnz

For Plinius fans who wish to know a bit more of the original Plinius history in NZ, checkout the following NZAudio interview with Plinius Founder, Peter Thompson.

Before the internet era, I was informed by a local Auckland hifi reseller Plinius came about much alike the history of Lamborghini and Ferrari - Lamborghini made his fortune selling agriculture equipment after WW2 and bought a then much desired Ferrari, only to be severely disappointed; had a bad spate of words with Enzo himself before deciding to show the world what a Ferrari should have been, with his own brand of super cars!

I was introduced to the Plinius 2b & VII in 1988 while flatting in Auckland, New Zealand. My flatmate took home a set of the "Plint" for evaluation, to replace a Rotel integrated amp since the Rotel could not drive a pair of Celestion SL6s properly.

From memory, the Plint sounded decent up to 30% of the volume dial. Between 30-50%, it lacked the punch but still maintained it's poise with dignity.

That was until my flatmate decided to leave it at 50% on the volume dial as he wanted to enjoy the music in the garden - after all, it was a beautiful Summer's day.

About 30min later, our noses picked up a strong burning smell in the air! We started checking around the house but could not locate any smoke nor anything burning. It was not until we enter the living room that we hit the jackpot - the smell was chokingly strong there! After more nos-ing around, we were surprised to discover that it was coming from the Plinius VII!!! Needless to say ... no more good audio that day.๐Ÿ˜(true account, not made up)

My flatmate returned the Plint on the next working day. Later that week, he returned with a then brand new Plinius 3100B (article for the near future) and a traded-in Luxman C-02.

Plinius 2c (with extra dial but less buttons; looks similar to 2b). From AudioNZ

Plinius VII from local NZ eBay equivalent site

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Original Mission Cyrus 1&2

When I saw the announcement of a new Misson Cyrus One integrated amplifier, it brought back memories of my original UK made Misson Cyrus 1 & 2 amplifiers.

Mission Cyrus pix from Google
Misson Cyrus 2 pix from Google

There are many reviews for the Giant Killer and it's successor on the net, so there's no need for me to repeat them.

Years ago I was visiting a relative overseas and he had the giant killer hooked up to a pair of big AR floorstanders using the original Monster Cable speaker cables. Source was a 300-CD Sony library player ... it sounded delightful and I remember just enjoying the music from his setup. A few months after returning home, I came across the opportunity to own a Cyrus 1&2 from the reuse market.

I do remember re-selling the Cyrus 2 quickly afterwards but kept the giant killer for a few months longer. I finally parted with the Cyrus 1 by selling it to a local Cyrus amplifier collector as I could not locate the preferred AR speakers for it.

Sometimes I do regret selling the Cyrus 1, as it was a simple amplifier which just delivers the performance reliably time after time. The component which often failed after many years of operation is the flick ON-OFF switch. Oh well ...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mission PCM 4000

This brings backs memories ...
Pix from HiFiEngine

Mission produced an extremely good and sweet sounding CD player in the form of the PCM4000 in the late 1980's.

Both the PCM4K and PCM7K deployed the infamous Philips TDA1541A DAC chipset along with the Philips CDM2 transport, and the Philips RC5 IR remote facility. These CD players ran quite warm, even with the enlarge heatsinks vs their Philips equivalents. As per their Philips equivalents, the units were largely made of plastic.

I had truly very fond memories of the PCM4K as it always sounded "just right". And the larger display was a nice touch as you could view the displayed information from afar. 

Unfortunately the CDM2 deployed on the Misson PCM4K and PCM7K seem to be it's Achilles heel. For some unknown reason, my PCM4K and PCM7K did not enjoy service longitivity??? I bought a used PCM7000 after the CDM2 on the PCM4000 gave way. A few months later the CDM2 on the PCM7000 gave up as well! These back-to-back Mission CDP failure(s) really put me off Mission CD players ever since. The CDM2/10 on the Philips CD650 seem to be still going strong.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Technics 808 series - 1st Technics fully remote control component system

Was browsing thru a few days ago when I stumbled across the pix(s) of the 1st stereo set I ever own - Technics 808 series of slimline components.

Pix from internet - Technics 808-series package

The 808-series was the 1st Technics fully remote stereo set of components, primitive by today's  standards but advance for 1980. My set was in silver as per the pix above and consists of the following components.

SE-A808  - Power amplifier which can be converted into a monoblok

ST-K808  - Integrated Quartz tuner (with presets), pre-amplifier and built in-timer

SH-R808 - Remote control module

RS-M45   - High performance cassette deck

SL-D33    - Direct drive turntable

SB-L50    - 3-way floorstanders

Purchased the set as it was the best deal in town then - was on a "shoe string budget" as still in secondary school. Major purchase decider was the then advance and rare FULL IR remote facility.

Looking back I always wondered if I should have saved up for a proper set based around the then new Sansui AU-717 ...

Reproduction quality of the set was typical of many Japanese sets from that era - neither here nor there. Not suitable for detail listening but good for rock, heavy metal (and the alike) after you crank up the volume!

Cost for the IR remote facility justified for itself when songs I liked were played on any of the sources!!

Personally I find the cassette deck to be the best component in the setup - you can click on the component list(s) above for more information on them. The other memorable item was the Quartz synthesizer tuner as the station lock was just superb.

Anyway ... the Technics 808 set was extremely reliable and perform flawlessly for well over a decade (even after the speaker cone surrounds gave way).

On a sadder note, I wish my parents had advised to leave the money in the bank instead of splurging on a hifiset. Long story short - If I had left the money in the bank account, it would have accumulated (if untouched) to quite a large sum today! Could then have bought a much better setup (actually enough to buy a house!)... sob sob

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Basic Tube amp from PRC (***Update#1***)

I came across the following mighty mouse on Amazon USA with many good reviews. It was being marketed under a different brand. However, US items are 110V and not suitable for local consumption unless you are willing to invest in a proper voltage conversion unit. For the cost involved, it was simply not worth it.

When I browsing on the China version of eBay (aka TaoBao), I came across the following amp - with specifications and looks matching the Amazon unit and available with a 220V transformer. Hence I bought a unit. It was likely to be the OEM version for local consumption.

Did have doubts of the "looks only" issue eg with different internals. 

A month odd later, the unit arrived. Weights about 9kg. Assembling and setting up was a breeze.

Initial power up and usage proved to be a shocking surprise! For the price, I was speechless by the delivery of the sound quality and workmanship of the unit. 

Apologies no pix of the internals - good thick quality blue PCB with audiophile components which included RIFA 429 poly caps!!!

With less than 20hr on the amp, it is proving to be extremely good value for money. The unit runs hot as it is a SET valve unit operating in Class-A mode with a modest 8W RMS per channel output - more than adequate grunt to drive my LS 3/5A+AB1.

Will provide more update next month once I have time to burn in the unit.


After listening more to the PRC amp, I realised the reproduction of certain mid and HF tones were a little off. Checking the Amazon link for the non-OEM version, I discovered many reviews recommend replacing the Chinese military spec PRE tube with a Sovtek 6SL7. There were also reviewers recommending replacing the EL34 tubes provided but with just as many indicating to keep the EL34.

Hence I ordered the Sovtek 6SL7 to test the waters since it is not a hefty purchase. Once installed, the improvement was apparent after about 15-20mins. Initially there was a slight high pitched HF in the reproduction with the 6SL7. That slight HF pitch never return after the first 30mins. The reproduction of the voices was now more natural. Actually it was beginning to sound like my previous set-up with the Quad 33-303 acting as the amplifier, if you were listening to the PRC amp in passing aka not in-depth listening.

Am currently contemplating the next recommendation from the Amazon reviews - to change the EL34 ...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Analog-to-Digital Converter

I had an issue with the limited number of input sources for my older design units eg limited to single or only two sets of inputs.

Since my DAC is in-use most of the time, I decided to invest in a Analog-to-Digital (A2D) converter for consolidating the tuner output to the DAC. 

That was the easy part ... Had to search hard before purchasing the below as I did not realise how difficult it was to locate such a unit! Most of the market was geared towards Digital to Analogue (D2A) converters. Prices for the available A2D converters were quite shocking as well.

Analog to Digital converter from PRC
Bought the above from PRC since I was buying new batteries for my laptops at the time. The unit was delivered in a nice white box with magnetic latch. Inside the box was a manual in English (surprisingly), a short pair of normal RCA cables and a multi-voltage PSU unit. The unit has two outputs (RCA & TOSLINK) on one side with the LHS-RHS RCA analogue inputs and power connector on the opposite end.

Operation is simplistic as it operates in single direction only eg A2D not D2A. 

Initial testing with the RCA digital output was disappointing - low output volume and the audio quality was mediocre. Changing to TOSLINK, the difference was like night and day! Using a normal TOSLINK cable (about $6 from PRC) and the normal RCA analogue cable provided, my ES tuner sounds as good as the previous direct connection to the amplifier. 

Hence I am now able to use the DAC as a source consolidator for the older vintage amplifier units in my collection.