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Thread: Frontend upgrade path

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default Frontend upgrade path

    I am currently using Systemdek IIX with Rega RB300 and Denon DL-103 into Denon AU-310 SUT feeding into Emotiva XPS-1 MM phono stage. I am enjoying the sound immensely, but have caught the 'upgraditis' bug and started wondering what can be done to push the sound to the next level?

    I have sort of three options to consider:

    1. Upgrade the cartridge
    2. Upgrade the tonearm
    3. Upgrade the phono stage

    (I am not considering upgrading the turntable, as I like my Systemdek and feel that only a big bucks upgrade would make things better).

    My budget is between $500 - $1,000 (although I could push it a bit north of a grand, if I could be convinced that it is going to make a substantial difference).

    I hasten to add that I am enamoured by the Denon DL-103 sound. I love that overly enthusiastic, hefty, fiery and full bodied presentation. But I am fully aware that it has a lowly conical stylus, which probably means I'm missing some finer details buried deeper in the microgrooves. So I'd be interested in trying different, more sophisticated cartridges, but only if they'd approximate the Denon's savage sound. I'm not interested in delicate, airy, light-as-a-feather refined sound. But I'd be willing to trade some of the wild and reckless Denon features for a more controlled, more detailed presentation. But only up to a point.

    If I stay with Denon, my next option would be replacing Rega RB300 with Jelco, or some other heavier tonearm. Many claim that increasing the tonearm weight should propel DL-103 to new heights, and Jelco seems to fall within my budgetary constraints. Not 100% convinced that it will substantially better the RB300, but I remain open to be convinced otherwise.

    Lastly, the phono stage. I found match made in heaven when I paired Denon DL-103 with Denon AU-310 SUT. They work hand-in-the-glove. So maybe everything upstream from my Emotiva phono is hunky-dory, and maybe by improving the phono I'll gain entry to the next level?

    I did some reading and learned that Jolida JD9 v2 is being praised by many as a good tube phono. When I visited my dealer yesterday asking for Jolida, he pushed back and tried to convince me that such a cheapo tube phono cannot possibly result in quality sound. Instead, he suggested I go with Clearaudio Basic +. Now, it's sometimes hard to tell with salespeople if they're being straight, or if they're pushing some hidden agenda which benefits their commission. Again, I remain open to suggestions.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 35,227
    I'm Geoff.

    Default

    I actually think your turntable, arm, cartridge and SUT are well matched and you'd need to spend considerably more to obtain a significant improvement.

    I'm not familiar with your phono stage, but I doubt the dealer suggestion of the Clearaudio Basic + would be much of a leg up in quality.

    If you'd like a touch of tube fun without breaking the bank, you could look at the US made Bellari VP130 which offers great value. It's a good sounding unit.

    Some user reviews if you're interested: http://www.audioreview.com/product/a...ri-vp-130.html

    I'd say they sum it up well enough.





    .
    Last edited by walpurgis; 19-02-2018 at 19:16.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Oct 2012

    Location: The Black Country

    Posts: 4,157
    I'm Alan.

    Default

    First off the Bellari has a fairly low level of gain so you might struggle for level. I've also read that the standard power supply is somewhat lacking.

    Secondly the Jolida is not a tube phono stage, it is an IC based phono with a tube buffer on the end of it. However I have heard it and think it gives a very good sound and if anything has too much gain.
    You can try it with direct MC input as well, not using the SUT, so have a level of choice and sound presentation to experiment with.

    I haven't heard a Clearaudio, if the salesman is so keen to push it can he offer a home trial? That is always best.
    Good luck.
    Firebottle - for the no bottleneck approach.

    I love Hendrix for so many reasons. He was so much more than just a blues guitarist - he played damn well any kind of guitar he wanted. In fact I'm not sure if he even played the guitar - he played music. - Stevie Ray Vaughan

  4. #4
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 35,227
    I'm Geoff.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Firebottle View Post
    First off the Bellari has a fairly low level of gain so you might struggle for level. I've also read that the standard power supply is somewhat lacking.
    I owned the identical VP129. The wall wart power supplies are different spec but that's all. I loved the little thing, it sounded unbelievably good at it's price. There were no level issues.

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by walpurgis View Post
    I actually think your turntable, arm, cartridge and SUT are well matched and you'd need to spend considerably more to obtain a significant improvement.

    I'm not familiar with your phono stage, but I doubt the dealer suggestion of the Clearaudio Basic + would be much of a leg up in quality.

    If you'd like a touch of tube fun without breaking the bank, you could look at the US made Bellari VP130 which offers great value. It's a good sounding unit.

    Some user reviews if you're interested: http://www.audioreview.com/product/a...ri-vp-130.html

    I'd say they sum it up well enough.





    .
    Thanks for your thoughtful answer and for a very interesting suggestion, Geoff. Which tubes do you recommend I get to replace the bog Chinese ones shipping with Bellari?

    Also, can I use some kind of rechargeable battery to power it?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  6. #6
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Firebottle View Post
    First off the Bellari has a fairly low level of gain so you might struggle for level. I've also read that the standard power supply is somewhat lacking.

    Secondly the Jolida is not a tube phono stage, it is an IC based phono with a tube buffer on the end of it. However I have heard it and think it gives a very good sound and if anything has too much gain.
    You can try it with direct MC input as well, not using the SUT, so have a level of choice and sound presentation to experiment with.

    I haven't heard a Clearaudio, if the salesman is so keen to push it can he offer a home trial? That is always best.
    Good luck.
    So even DL-103 into Denon AU 310 SUT will not be sufficient gain level for Bellari?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Oct 2012

    Location: The Black Country

    Posts: 4,157
    I'm Alan.

    Default

    When I said struggle for level maybe I was being a bit OTT.
    The Bellari has a published gain of 30dB whereas the usual gain of an MM stage is 40dB.


  8. #8
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 35,227
    I'm Geoff.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    Thanks for your thoughtful answer and for a very interesting suggestion, Geoff. Which tubes do you recommend I get to replace the bog Chinese ones shipping with Bellari?

    Also, can I use some kind of rechargeable battery to power it?
    I left mine with the standard tube. Didn't see much point in playing around with it as it sounded excellent as it was.

    Same with the standard power supply, I stuck with that as it worked fine. Using batteries could be tricky, I've seen the Bellari's marked 12v DC which would be OK with batteries, but also 15v examples and some with AC inputs. It would depend on which one you tried I guess.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Aug 2014

    Location: North Shields

    Posts: 27
    I'm Leslie.

    Default Offer from Soundeck.co.uk

    I would be happy for you to try the Soundeck PM platter mat and a set of the DF Damping feet. If you don't like them I'll give you a full refund. Below is an email I received from a customer last week. Kind Regards.. Les Thompson

    Hi Les,
    I first heard about the original Sound Dead Steel products around 2006 after reading about modifications to the Technics SL1200 in HiFi World magazine.
    I think David Price raved about it at the time and I always wanted to eventually try one.
    Iím lucky enough to have a couple of systems (1 Valve, 1 Solid State) and altogether I have three different turntables that I like to switch between the two.
    The Technics I have is an ongoing experiment and the SDS platter matt is the latest addition to try and improve its performance.

    In the short time I have used it I would say the mat has improved everything, tightening up the Bass allowing to hear better separation between instruments, and somehow increasing the soundstage presented by the cartridge.
    I have placed the damping feet under a Rega P9 turntable and they have helped improve its isolation from the other equipment itís connected to, and also the noise floor level has improved.
    Quieter moments in music seem to be coming across quieter, if that makes any sense 

    In general the products have all made an improvement to my set up and I plan to experiment with them a lot more in the coming months.
    I would say (apart from the cost of shipping to the other side of the world) all represent good value for money.

    All the best
    Steve wells.


    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    I am currently using Systemdek IIX with Rega RB300 and Denon DL-103 into Denon AU-310 SUT feeding into Emotiva XPS-1 MM phono stage. I am enjoying the sound immensely, but have caught the 'upgraditis' bug and started wondering what can be done to push the sound to the next level?

    I have sort of three options to consider:

    1. Upgrade the cartridge
    2. Upgrade the tonearm
    3. Upgrade the phono stage

    (I am not considering upgrading the turntable, as I like my Systemdek and feel that only a big bucks upgrade would make things better).

    My budget is between $500 - $1,000 (although I could push it a bit north of a grand, if I could be convinced that it is going to make a substantial difference).

    I hasten to add that I am enamoured by the Denon DL-103 sound. I love that overly enthusiastic, hefty, fiery and full bodied presentation. But I am fully aware that it has a lowly conical stylus, which probably means I'm missing some finer details buried deeper in the microgrooves. So I'd be interested in trying different, more sophisticated cartridges, but only if they'd approximate the Denon's savage sound. I'm not interested in delicate, airy, light-as-a-feather refined sound. But I'd be willing to trade some of the wild and reckless Denon features for a more controlled, more detailed presentation. But only up to a point.

    If I stay with Denon, my next option would be replacing Rega RB300 with Jelco, or some other heavier tonearm. Many claim that increasing the tonearm weight should propel DL-103 to new heights, and Jelco seems to fall within my budgetary constraints. Not 100% convinced that it will substantially better the RB300, but I remain open to be convinced otherwise.

    Lastly, the phono stage. I found match made in heaven when I paired Denon DL-103 with Denon AU-310 SUT. They work hand-in-the-glove. So maybe everything upstream from my Emotiva phono is hunky-dory, and maybe by improving the phono I'll gain entry to the next level?

    I did some reading and learned that Jolida JD9 v2 is being praised by many as a good tube phono. When I visited my dealer yesterday asking for Jolida, he pushed back and tried to convince me that such a cheapo tube phono cannot possibly result in quality sound. Instead, he suggested I go with Clearaudio Basic +. Now, it's sometimes hard to tell with salespeople if they're being straight, or if they're pushing some hidden agenda which benefits their commission. Again, I remain open to suggestions.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 35,227
    I'm Geoff.

    Default

    I do wonder about using isolating feet with turntables that have a suspended sub-chassis. It introduces another compliance. This may of course work in combination with the existing compliance of the sub-chassis suspension or may create unpredictable interferences. Suck it and see I guess.

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