Postby kazam » Sun Sep 07, 2014 1:27 pm
Terry, I have also recently experimented with taking the BMU out and my experience sounds like it echoed yours, in that there was a very noticeable thinness to the sound without it. I was forced to put the BMU straight back in, amazed at the life, depth and timber that it brings.
I'd be very surprised to hear that anyone trialling one of these doesn't end up buying one, although it might be worth getting the loan unit back to the Doc for doping as transformer noise is the only slight downside. However, I am now 100% confident that in my system the sonic benefits far outweigh this and I am yet to take any further measures to try and minimise unwanted noise from the unit.
As mentioned before, the BMU could be situated out of the listening environment. However, my room layout currently makes this a little challenging.
Once again, I've been privileged to watch a Phono 1 being made and have been able to try it with the AP20 etc. etc. for a couple of weeks. As with all the NVA gear I've now seen the innards of this little unit and it is very labour intensive in assembly. No one-circuit-board-fits-all kind of approach here, but a sensible layout with plenty of individually cut and formed hard wiring from one part to another.
Warm up seems to be around ten minutes for 99.999% of what it can do, although there's no temperament that I could see or hear. As for the sound, the thing I've grown to love about NVA is the total lack of 'stodge' and 'smear' in the sound. Rapid 'flutter echoes' or double tracking that can beat some of the gear I have are clearly reproduced in an unforced way, the 'tunefulness' (or not) of a piece of music is effortlessly reproduced and this applies to little details way back in the mix too - one is totally able to dip in to a recording at ease, without the gear telling you what and how to listen. Hum and noise is very low indeed and NEVER gets in the way and, just when I thought I heard some sibilant overload, another hotter trebly cut disc played perfectly with no apparent mistracking (checking with another system showed it was the record at fault, not the cartridge or preamp).
I'm deeply impressed with the Phono 1 and am enjoying it and the AP20 in the few days I have remaining with it, more so having seen so few components in or around the signal path (op-amps notwithstanding ). The easy clarity shows this is a good way to go in my book. I must try and prise a moving coil version away for a week or two next I think
I live alone in this my heaven, in my love (and) in my songs.
Late addition to this thread. After trying the Van Damme ultra white and the Klotz AC110 looms in my system without success progress ground to a halt. I was using a loom of the Belkin 'Pure AV' but was not entirely happy with it. Since I use an NVA passive pre I decided to consult NVA who unsurprisingly recommended using their cables, on the grounds that with a passive pre you need as low capacitance and resistance as possible.
So I had a punt on a loom of 'Soundcords' at £14 each delivered hardly breaking the bank plus there is a 28 day no quibble refund policy. Delivery was quick. The cables are very very thin with blingy gold plugs on them, they don't look like much but when I hooked them up it was a different story. I could tell from the first bar of music that this was a 'big' difference. I wasn't getting a bad sound with the Belkins but these cables have moved everything up a couple of notches. Particularly noticeable was the top end, which had opened up a lot, with lovely shimmer and decay on cymbals where previously I ws thinking that the B&O CD player I am currently playing with was just a bit too shut in 'up top' for my tastes.
The overall tone of the system was now sonorous and *very* sweet, without any hint of the slight fuzzy distortion that had been there previously. If I have one criticism (and it is churlish for a cable that only costs £14 delivered) it is that there is the loss of a little drive and slam in the bass compared to the Belkin loom. Not enough to be a deal-breaker but there nonetheless. I am advised by NVA that this should be remedied by upgrading to the more expensive cables that they offer. Well I've already blown the hi-fi budget for 2014 but based on the performance of these sound cords I am going to have to give the pricier option a try. I would certainly recommed trying these cables in your system, especially if you are using a passive pre.
Just to let you know my 2nd psu for Phono 2 arrived safe and sound this morning.....
190 Quid well spent - The improvement in sound quality is certainly not subtle, Just more of all that's good......
Playing - Simply Red / Picture Book at present (Elektra pressing, production ace). Thought I knew this album well, but the addition of 2nd psu has revieled yet another dimension to the sound.
Hat's of to ya - cheers Jammy.
Postby Gromit » Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:06 pm
Got the full set here - SC, SSC, SSP Mk2 and TIS.
Sorry I haven't really had the time to make lengthy notes - the simple reason being that I've been so busy and the photography and music teaching (as opposed to playing) thing is starting to take off and time listening to music on the hifi has been short.
I really like SC - it's a simple, flexible bit of wire which for the money is just stooopidly good vfm. Particularly good for hooking up turntables which have RCA outs on their backs (PL71, and my PS6750 for example) and it's well screened against hum, in fact it's pretty much inert from outside 'noise' like transformers etc.
Sonically it's hard to criticise - it's well balanced, doesn't draw attention to itself and compared to a couple of other cables I own, it has no discernible character.
With each upgrade in the range it's as though more meat is being put onto the bare bones - separate musical strands begin to appear more readily from the mix, in the same way (strangely enough - not!) upgrading through the speaker cable range does. Up to SSP Mk2 it's all the same, but more. TIS though is a different animal. SSP Mk2 has a 'bit' of character; it's a fuller-sounding cable but switching to TIS reveals something quite unexpected. In the same way as when going from LS6 to LS7 (a comparison I did at length) the initial response is 'eh?' but after 30 secs or so all is revealed. Tiny rhythmic and dynamic nuance appears but rather than being forced upon the listener (ie that initial 'wow!' which soon subsides to 'ergh') these just flow out in a natural way. If you've been lucky enough to grab a listen to your rig with some LS7, the TIS really does do a similar trick.
I was fortunate again yesterday to see an AP10H made in front of me This little amp is basically a stereo 10W power amp with gain control and with resistor-coupled feeds to the headphone socket - no parallel speaker wires on this one
Again, very labour intensive and every piece of internal wiring except for the transformer wires is custom cut and soldered into position. The wires are left free-floating and not tied to within an inch of their lives for genuine reasons (severe neatness a la Naim and Quad isn't always a good idea) and the transformer is orientated the way it is for magnetic-bleed reasons I understand. The amp boards are nicely made and sit, fixed neatly on their 'feet,' on the aluminium slab in the bottom of the case that acts as a heatsink. I couldn't wait to compare it to the Crown D-60 which I use as a headphone amp (the Crown is potentially level-dangerous although designed for studio 'phone monitoring use, as the socket is taken directly from the speaker terminals with no padding at all - the Doc stared at me in horror when I told him).
Within minutes of comparing these two, the differences became apparent. This particular D-60 has a slightly darker tone, which is fine for the Sennheiser 25SP headphones I used and the bass is extremely powerful. Detail and definition is fine too and it never draws attention to itself, or at least hasn't done until today! The AP10H though is a rather different kettle of sonic fish.
The AP10H has the lightness of touch - without losing weight or 'power' in the playing - and a truly beguiling delicacy about it that NVA owners old and new should immediately identify with. No sign at all of things taken away from the music, but a cleaner perspective into the mix and a feeling the amp isn't 'adding' anything of its own either. The nearest I can think of in terms of sonic comparison is when you've tidied up your system wires, shortening the over-long ones, especially speaker leads, and tidied mains cables away from signal ones etc.. After a while I got fed up with the Crown amp and just went over to the AP10H full-time, as it just makes the music easier to get into and less heavy-handed as the D-60 was increasingly becoming in comparison...
Music used to make this immediate comparison is System 7 (777) - one of their early ones, on both an ancient Garrard 86SB/ADC Phase IV and the superior Ton-up Digit Opto. The greater dynamic range of the CD improved both amps, but the AP10H was the one I stayed with and it's another thing I'll miss when it has to be returned...
I live alone in this my heaven, in my love (and) in my songs.
I'd started off a comparison of the Stereo Coffee LDR pre amp and my NVA stepped attenuator passive. A week with the Stereo Coffee and whilst the sound was good by any general benchmark, in ultimate terms it was a bit bland and at the same time a bit harsh. When you always want to turn it down a bit you know you have an issue somewhere. But where? I had heard the Stereo Coffee in other set ups and did not notice these negatives so It would seem it was not to blame. I swapped back to the NVA. This was better - a little softer and less defined but preferable, the blandness was gone but a little distortion remained. And I don't mean a harsh distortion but something far more subtle. If you separately analysed the elements of the sound, bass, mid and top you really couldn't point to any definitive problem but my gut still told me something was not quite right and I could not really relax into the sound. I tried a few different combinations of CD players and different interconnects to no avail. The only thing I could conclude was that it was definitely a cable issue and that a full loom of whatever cable sounded better than mixing and matching.
The problem with accepting that the problem had to be the interconnects is that I hate cables with a passion. I don't like endlessly faffing around with them trying to get the right match with whatever kit I am using because whilst in theory it is all about the LDR characteristics in practice it is just suck and see. But there was no other option. So I bought and borrowed a few of the cheapies that are doing the rounds at the moment and got nowhere until I ended up with a couple of pairs of NVA soundcords. Finally that annoying distortion or whatever it was had disappeared from the sound. It was just gone. Now there was a sonorous and sweet (think valve SET sort of sweet) sound so that I noticed after just half an hour I had physically relaxed quite a bit and was getting quite immersed.
Downside? Well the sweetness was just a bit too good to be true and at the same time there was a lack of tone to guitars and other instruments that have 'tone' if you know what I mean. Sax for example. Also there was a lack of body to the bass end which you could almost overlook but not quite. Adding a sub did not help, strangely. Even so I felt I was on to something so ordered the next set of cables up - the super soundcord. Installing those and switching on it was almost a Goldilocks moment from the first few bars - as in 'just right'. 'Tone' was restored to guitars and the bass and body were back in the sound. I no longer needed the subwoofer. It was still sonorous and sweet but not a cloying sweetness, more that the genuine sweetness of the sounds of the instruments was coming through. The top end decay on percussion is stunning, some of the best I have heard from digital, bar some real megabucks systems. I'm pretty big on getting that part of the sound right so that was a real bonus.
One thing I have noticed in the twenty or so hours I have been listening to this particular iteration of the lash up was how noticeable the difference was between an analogue recording on CD and a digital recording. Obviously we are all aware of this subconsciously but I was surprised to hear it so blatantly presented. Dynamics and separation on the digital recordings, coupled with that slightly glassy sheen, compared with a softer, warmer but less dynamic sound from the analogues, almost like I was using a reel to reel to play them, not a CD player.
For those that don't know, the Phono 2 is a significantly supply-enhanced Phono 1 and comes in two boxes, the heavy one containing large transformer and twin rectification and smoothing. The second box contains extra twin smoothing and regulation before supplying the little board itself.
Sound? Well, like all bigger NVA's over little ones, the sound is more substantial than the Phono 1. Tonally there's little in it as you'd expect, but the sense of 'power,' 'perspective' and 'expression in the playing' is genuinely better, presented in a larger soundstage. One thing I love about these phono stages is the lack of tonal 'sheen' and 'grain' in both models and also a lack of artificial 'silk,' the music just coming through so naturally. I can't wax lyrical about soundstage, or atmosphere, or other things so beloved of reviewers, as this product just does a fantastic disappearing act. The sound changes with the cartridge fed it I found. I tried a Supex 900E Super and an Ortofon MC30 Super and the differences in frequency emphasis in these two were far more than with the AVI's MC stage, the Supex sounding more polite and full bodied and the Ortofon lively and 'immediate' further up in the range. The sources fed it will be reproduced as they really are - good and bad together sometimes, but get it right and record after record will be played with a huge grin on your face
What amazes me - and something other designs seem to ignore - is just how much a couple of op-amps can improve by careful over-design of power supply. Both the Phono 1 and 2 use + and - regulation, the board doubled up for the Phono 2 (one per channel) and the smoothing is doubled up too. Whatever, it works, without EVER appearing to enhance the sonics into something artificial. The price for what you get isn't silly either and for me, the bespoke build is a huge bonus.
I live alone in this my heaven, in my love (and) in my songs.
Postby Lazmo » Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:25 am
My BMU unit was plugged in late thursday evening and left to run without anything plugged in to it for a few hours and is very silent i have have had a few hours with it tonite with my TFS and amps plugged in to it alone and from my initial listening it's made a considerable difference no elevation of amp buzz which where quite anyway but the general first impressions are very positive bass is tighter less bloom vocals on the choices i have played tonite are very clear and just far more impressive listening to Nick Cave+ the bad seeds right now and the depth of his vocal is amazing drums are very very nice and real ! the kick drum and drums in general sound so natural cymbals are more dynamic and the whole soundstage is more atmospheric hammond organ sounds incredible and this is only after my initial listening.
I consider my mains must be reasonably good as my A 80 amps are damn near silent the tfs power supply is the noisiest but by no means obtrusive and this BMU makes a world of difference to the soundstage of what i am listening to. The analogy of a clean window on to the music now makes perfect sense to me as i can hear the clarity and a more general togetherness of my system my amps run cooler and my listening level has dropped a little but seems all the better for it ( recording level quality of source to be taken in to account of course ) but in general this is like acupuncture (realignment of my systems Chi) i think the Doc will know what i am getting at hopefully .
I am very happy with what this unit does and Doc you wont be getting this one back
kimangelis » Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:54 pm
So.... the BMU is all hooked-up and listening to the same as last time I was home. My amps and BMU have been warming-up all day.
I'd selected a cross-section of stuff from Goldfrapp and Bjork through Steely Dan to Foo Fighters with some Capt.Beefheart and Zappa guitar stuff on the way.
Quite a marked difference on first ears. However different doesn't mean better as I'm sure you're aware. Though.... things are easier to listen to. Bjork can be a little strident, and some of the David Grohl vocals a bit strained... But not so now. If this were cables I would perhaps feel something was being blocked, like high frequencies? But I can't see how a different mains supply can do that, so am inclined to feel that everything is getting through but in a more acceptable or listenable way....
+ 1 hour........ Just confirmed this with a few pieces by Satie. Everything is there, but more as I would expect from being at a concert where the piano is metres away. I hear every vibration from the lower notes and am not jarred out of my seat when I hear a higher F#. I play piano and violin so know how the instrument should sound as I'm next to it, or part of it.
At first I thought things were being filtered. But later realised everything was still there, perhaps even more? What I was hearing was truer to the (acoustic) truth than before. It's now I realise I may have been a little premature in selling my LS6 speaker cables in favour of the LS3's (you were right Doc & Jammy) The LS6's were letting too much through from (possibly) a relatively dirty mains, that it was jarring. The LS3's toned it down which made it easier to listen to.
Looks like next on my list will be back to LS6's or LS7's. All I know (rather than guess at) is that now it's all better and very very good. I haven't sat for hours listening to music like this for years. I'm a music lover rather than a gear-freak. All this stuff does is let me hear what's been recorded.... and that's a good thing...