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Thread: Latest arrival - Miyajima ETR Mono step-up transformer, and musings on the EAR 912

  1. #1
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,083
    I'm Tom.

    Default Latest arrival - Miyajima ETR Mono step-up transformer, and musings on the EAR 912



    Recently arrived - a Miyajima ETR-Mono step-up transformer. Not the simplest device to use (I'll come to that in a minute). But the biggest question for me was whether I needed it at all, having been so happy with my EAR 912 phono preamp, which replaced some Hashimoto HM-7s (the best SUTs I had owned out of many in a list that included an AN-S6c and a fully implemented TX-103), an Aurorasound Vida (widely regarded as one of the best phono stages out there), and assorted quality preamps including a Modwright 36.5 and a truly cracking Radford Revival prototype.

    The EAR 912 is a true Swiss Army knife when it comes to the whole business of vinyl, and moving coil cartridges in particular. Its internal SUT is broadly similar to EAR's stand-along SUT the MC-4, but not quite the same in terms of ratios (and also supposedly made to a higher standard). It provides the following in terms of settings:

    x 30 step-up, giving a cartridge loading of 52 ohms into a 47k ohm phono stage (labelled 3 ohms, for low impedance cartridges)
    x 24 step-up, cartridge loading 82 ohms @47k (labelled 6 ohms)
    x 18 step-up, cartridge loading 145 ohms @47k (labelled 12 ohms)
    x 10 step-up, cartridge loading 470 ohms @47k (labelled 40 ohms)

    I'm informed by a fellow AoS'er who asked Tim de P at a show 'why these settings?', and he answered that these are the most commonly used values in Japan - 3 ohm for SPU, 6 ohm for Koetsu, 12 ohm for lots of ATs and many other mainstream cartridges, 40 ohm for Denon 103 and other oddball cartridges. Which makes total sense.

    The other features on the all-tube (5 x PCC88) EAR 912 complement the SUT options nicely: two tonearm inputs, a toggle switch between MC + MM setting which allows the step-up stage to be bypassed, and perhaps most important of all, an absolutely top moving magnet phono stage that provides RIAA correction on LR (inductance and resistance) principles, as opposed to the more normal CR (capacitance/resistance) type. I had previously thought this was LCR, similar to Aurorasound Vida and several Allnic models, but LR it is indeed when it was introduced back in the early 00s it was the first ever to offer this - based around EAR custom wound inductors, such windings of course being a Tim de P speciality.

    The phono section is high gain, especially when the appropriate ratio for a given cartridge is quite a high one, so yet another custom transformer is present in which nicely matches gain between phono and linestage - options are 0db (for no attenuation), -6db and -12db for different levels of gain. This is what the VU meters are for - to ensure things stay nicely in the ideal zone for gain.

    The result is a seriously flexible piece of kit, which manages to be more than the sum of its very high-quality parts and does (I think) more than enough to justify its £9,370 list price (not that I paid that for it, thankfully having picked it up second-hand). I've tried it with quite a number of stereo cartridges (well over a dozen) and never found one I couldn't find a setting for that didn't sound ideal. There are potentially a few outliers, though the amount of gain in the system convinces me that it would very probably handle most cartridges at the low impedance/low output end of the scale - including for example the Audio Note Io (1 ohm at the cartridge coils, 0.05mV output) - given how well it recently handled several borrowed Fidelity Research cartridges with 1-2 ohm coils and outputs of 0.1mv, with no lack of gain or impact on the sound from an impedance mismatch. Indeed I believe the only real gap could be said to be at the other end of the output scale, vintage cartridges, mainly mono, with high-ish outputs and oddball coil impedances in the region of 1000-3000, like the 1.5mV Ortofon CD25.

    But with modern mono cartridges such as the Miyjima Zero, Premium, Spirit, Kotetu and the rest that I've been playing with for about 8 years now, the EAR SUT section works beautifully and it never occurred to me that what I was getting could be improved in any particular way. The EAR 912 has a mono button, not that you really need it with a mono cartridge, and I've been very happy.

    However, audophilia nervosa is never that far away, and a conversation with Hugo of Ammonite Audio, who was enthusing about the ETR-Mono, made me want to investigate - after all, this was a SUT specifically intended for use with Miyajima mono cartridges, of which I own three (though it's flexibility goes way beyond the demands of the Miyajima range).

    When it arrived, it took me a little while to fully appreciate how it worked (I'm not going to attempt to go into the detail in this post as Hugo has explained it really well here https://ammonite-audio.co.uk/thought...-etr-mono-sut/ ) - but essentially, there are a range of input coils which map broadly to the impedance of the cartridge in use, and output coils that map to the gain required. Thereís a ton of maths behind the selection, but what Iíve found it that the maths line up with the listening experience. There is a third knob which trims the loading (effectively enabling the overall loading into the phono stage to be altered), I have found this useful too, which (interestingly) isnít quite what Hugo found.

    Anyway Iíve already uncovered the perfect settings for the Miyajima Zero 0.7 (which I used for later mono and for most reissues), Miyajima Premium 1.0 (earlier microgroove mono) and Miyajima Kotetu 78 (for 78s) - all slightly different as their coils and output levels vary. With the Zero in particular Iíve found it has taken performance to an new level - keeping the great horizontal wall of sound that itís famous for (mono in widevision I call it), but with a shade more detail, more expression, more musicality. With the Premium, which has a part-bamboo tip done by Ana Mighty Sound, it modernises the sound every so slightly and makes it sound more like what I get from Zero .. it seems to clean up the sound in a way that the stereo SUT doesnít, which is just ideal really - it's always been my view that a lot of old recordings sound old and vintagey simply because we've lost the ability to reproduce them correctly. I have a CD purchased from Pristine Classics that exemplifies this - a masterpiece of work by Andrew Rose, who took some 1929 recordings of Cortot and Thibaud (famous pre-war violin and piano duo) playing Beethoven, and restored it to sound superb - you would simply never fathom this as an 89 year old recording. Likewise there's no reason for 1950s stuff to sound poor - it's just a question of finding ways to get closer to the original recording.

    Having said that, compared to the EAR, the Miyajima's changes are subtle, not night and day. There was absolutely nothing Ďwrongí with the EARís mono capability - this just kicks it up a notch. And the precise settings matter a lot - itís easily possible to make things sound worse. What Iíve found too is that Iím not using it as a tone control - quite simply there are Ďcorrectí settings for the cartridges and these donít really vary from recording to recording. Of course I have my Esoteric Re-equalizer to handle recordings that were created prior to universal adoption of the RIAA equalisation standard. In combination, I really feel Iím getting to the heart of mono reproduction in a way that I wouldnít have expected even a few years back.

    A bonus of course is that this new, all mono Swiss Army knife is not restricted to Miyajimas ... what I want to do now is check out other mono options, perhaps with more advanced stylus profiles than the conical Miyajimas Ö the Ikeda 9 Mono is very much in my sights (just need to find one s/h or ex-dem as the new price is a wee bit off-putting!). But I'm sure it could equally be used for Lyra, Koetsu and others who have created quality mono cartridges.

    The fun continues!

    Current mono cartridges: Miyajima Zero 0.7mil, Miyajima Premium/Ana bamboo cantilever 1.0 mil, Miyajima Kotetu/Oto-no Edison Replika 78 4.0 mil, Sonovox MC-4 LP10 1.0mil, Shure M44/7 mono strapped with assorted Expert Stylus tips for 78 2.5-3.5mi
    Current stereo cartridges: Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Takumi, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC C-3, Ortofon SPU Royal N,

    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Norwich

    Posts: 709
    I'm Mike.

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    Very interesting write up of the 912, Tom. I appreciate that it was to contrast the Miyajima stage, but good reading for me, as I have almost the cosmetic opposite to you; black fascia/knobs and silver handles (though I wouldn't have chosen that combo). I have been getting light background crackling and a bit of hum on the R/H channel recently, though; on both m/c inputs. Oddly, this same crackling etc. happened over a few months earlier in the year prior to one of my 509s flaming an output valve and needing a fair bit of work, so I put the problem down to the amp. Maybe it was a coincidence.

    I agree with your summation of the 912, but it looks like mine will have to go back, despite a full service and new ph/stage valve 20 months ago. B.t.w., d'you know if it's one valve per stage or shared? The combo is excellent with my ESLs., and the 912 surpassed my previous Naim 552 in all departments though synergy may well have played a part. Too bloody hot to do anything at present, though (and it's Wimbledon !).

  3. #3
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,083
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Reed View Post
    Very interesting write up of the 912, Tom. I appreciate that it was to contrast the Miyajima stage, but good reading for me, as I have almost the cosmetic opposite to you; black fascia/knobs and silver handles (though I wouldn't have chosen that combo). I have been getting light background crackling and a bit of hum on the R/H channel recently, though; on both m/c inputs. Oddly, this same crackling etc. happened over a few months earlier in the year prior to one of my 509s flaming an output valve and needing a fair bit of work, so I put the problem down to the amp. Maybe it was a coincidence.

    I agree with your summation of the 912, but it looks like mine will have to go back, despite a full service and new ph/stage valve 20 months ago. B.t.w., d'you know if it's one valve per stage or shared? The combo is excellent with my ESLs., and the 912 surpassed my previous Naim 552 in all departments though synergy may well have played a part. Too bloody hot to do anything at present, though (and it's Wimbledon !).
    As I understand it the five valves are distributed two (one each channel) to the line stage and three (one each channel plus one shared triode) to the phono stage. I've found that the standard TdP-branded valves work best - Ive had Teslas and Telefunkens in there and found no benefit over the standard valves, though it may depend on what comes after as other owners have sworn by both. I have a full set of Telefunkens availalable and had pondered selling them if you think that might be of interest - for me they added detail but reduced body, and I preferred the beefier presentation.

    Mine was all silver when I bought it but I had the black handles and knobs swapped in for a bit of contrast when I sent it for service this wasn't an expensive change at all.
    Last edited by montesquieu; 07-07-2018 at 22:43.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 17,853
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

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    Should one wish to use the Miyajima SUT with stereo MCs, does one simply use two of them?
    Have you listened to this month's choice in the Album Club?

    Barry

  5. #5
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,083
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    Should one wish to use the Miyajima SUT with stereo MCs, does one simply use two of them?
    Apparently Hugo has tried this to good effect, but a Miyajima ETR-Stereo does exist - this has additional settings to adjust capacitance (four knobs instead of three), but the input and output coil values are different, it appears to me that this is in order to give a wider spread of options with stereo cartridges. While I struggle to believe that the stereo performance of the EAR 912 could be significantly bettered by this step-up (which is not cheap at approaching £3k), I would certainly like to hear it, though I don't know of one available for demo.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 17,853
    I'm openingabottleofwine.

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    Thanks Tom.
    Have you listened to this month's choice in the Album Club?

    Barry

  7. #7
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 869
    I'm Adam.

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    This mono journey is Fascinating. Informative & passionate write up Tom. Thanks For sharing
    "lack of passion is fatal"
    Gerrard 401, classic hifi hammertone, Russ Collinson plinth / Tenuto Gun Metal Turntable Mat / SME 3012 J7 Rewired / audio-technica ATP-12T - phonomac modified / Ortofon Vintage SPU GE /Shure M3D /DV XX2Mk2 / The Cartridge Man Music Master with isolator / Miyajima Zero B 0.7mil Mono / Vintage GE VRII Mono / WAD 300b Power modded, TJ Mesh Plate Valves / David Coe AD Audio 'Satchmo' Pre & Phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / Tannoy 12" MGs in RFC Custom Rutland Cabinets with RFC Custom Crossovers / Speaker Cables: Duelund DCA16GA Tinned Copper / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 Signature / Interconnects: Duelund DCA20GA home brew /SW1X Audio SPDIF AERO 6 / Synology NAS Drive / Roon / Tidal HiFi / Mains Power Conditioner

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2009

    Location: Norwich

    Posts: 2,426
    I'm Hugo.

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    Thanks Tom for the comprehensive write-up on the ETR-MONO SUT. It does work like nothing else with Miyajima mono cartridges; and it's a shame that its minimum gain is still too high for Ortofon SPU Mono CG models, which are the only mono MC cartridges that I've heard that offer a half acceptable alternative to Miyajima.

    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    Apparently Hugo has tried this to good effect, but a Miyajima ETR-Stereo does exist - this has additional settings to adjust capacitance (four knobs instead of three), but the input and output coil values are different, it appears to me that this is in order to give a wider spread of options with stereo cartridges. While I struggle to believe that the stereo performance of the EAR 912 could be significantly bettered by this step-up (which is not cheap at approaching £3k), I would certainly like to hear it, though I don't know of one available for demo.
    Yes, out of pure curiosity I did try using two ETR-MONO SUTs for stereo and it worked very nicely indeed, but for stereo duties I do prefer my Paul Hynes Design MC2 active MC head amp (which visitors to the North West Audio Show will have heard). For Miyajima mono, the ETR-MONO SUT is by far preferable over the MC2 - one of those audio synergies that is hard to rationalise in technical terms but which is profoundly obvious from the first notes being played.

    While I'm curious about the multi-adjustable Miyajima ETR-STEREO SUT, we will only be offering it here in the UK as a special order item


  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2008

    Location: belgrade serbia

    Posts: 635
    I'm gordan.

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    I'm also curious what small tubes TdP uses today. Back in the 90s, he made a huge stock from EI factory in Serbia/Yugoslavia, luckily before the production quality went down the drain. When I had 834p, we compared EAR branded valves with EI from that time and they were clearly the same, both sonically and visually. However a rumor is that he switched to other sources (Chinese?) and it would be good to find out which ones.

    Actually I've never had a valve device so insensitive to rolling like EAR's. This is one of my reasons for deep respect for TdP, I have no patience anymore for these types of time wasting
    Gordan.
    Speakers: Oris Swing MkII
    Amps: Thomas Mayer 300b/ Hiraga La Maison de L'Audiophile 20
    Preamp: Silver AVC by eng. Ferenc Lazar
    Phono Preamp: Shishido LCR by Solaja Audio
    Deck: Garrard 301 with Fidelity Research FR64fx
    Cartridges: SPU Spirit/ Koetsu Black revisited by eng. Salai/ Miyajima Shilabe
    Step Up Transformers: Tango MCT 999/ Ortofon T-5000/ Lumiere SUT
    Digital: Shigaclone by eng. Ferenc Lazar with Lampizator Amber II
    Wires: of sufficient length

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