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View Full Version : CAIMAN: Gator'd or non-Gator'd



kash
25-08-2011, 07:45
Reading through all the posts regarding this upgrade, would I be right in thinking that you only need the the Gator mod if you are listening through headphones? I ask because I never used them.

I'm on the look out for one of stan's dac's but not sure if I just need a standard or a modified one.

hopefully someone can advise: I only listen through speakers, and importantly, I want to bypass the the pre amp stage and run the dac straight into the power amp. So, what are the best upgrades to get for my listening needs?

I'm not a techy, so I would maybe Tirna to do them.

Many thanks in advance for all help and info.

StanleyB
25-08-2011, 08:01
Reading through all the posts regarding this upgrade, would I be right in thinking that you only need the the Gator mod if you are listening through headphones? I ask because I never used them.
This question has been covered quite a few times.
You need the Gator if you want the passive line output mod, but need a higher gain than the passive mod can provide.
The Gator is not a headphone mod, but a line output mod.
The headphone mod can be implemented on both the standard DACs and the Gatorized DACs. But for convenience, the headphone mod is pre-installed on the Gator boards that were made as of the 2nd batch ( those are the ones that had the gain reduced on them as of late 2010).

kash
25-08-2011, 08:08
Hi Stan

Ok so I definitely need the Gator mod, but not fully understanding this bit of what you said "but need a higher gain than the passive mod can provide"

Thanks

StanleyB
25-08-2011, 08:28
Do a search for the passive mod thread.

kash
25-08-2011, 08:40
This is starting to become like an episode of Miss Marple! think I'm done with searching and reading through the posts as I have read through numerous pages already. A straight answer to my original question would be nice.

dave2010
25-08-2011, 09:02
This is starting to become like an episode of Miss Marple! think I'm done with searching and reading through the posts as I have read through numerous pages already. A straight answer to my original question would be nice.As I recall, the passive mod is supposed to give better SQ, but also reduces gain - possibly system dependent on what amp is connected. The Gator mod allegedly provides almost identical SQ to passive modded units, but has the gain increased to make the unit more compatible with different amps.

I personally have an un-modded Caiman, and I don't know if the SQ benefits of the passive mod, or Gatorization, are real or significant. Most who have posted seem to think there is a benefit.

If you are buying from new, then it may well be worth buying a Gatored model, as it doesn't sound as though you are going to do the mods yourself, and it will save you hassle.

kash
25-08-2011, 09:38
Many thanks Dave for your advice.

Cheers

worrasf
25-08-2011, 10:26
Russ
The Gator board makes a significant difference to the already excellent Caiman - I only ever used mine with speakers not headphones - I personally would not go back to the pre-gator Caiman

Steve

Gazjam
25-08-2011, 10:29
+1

Get a Gator, significant improvement.

Canetoad
25-08-2011, 11:08
+1

synsei
25-08-2011, 15:12
+1 ;)

magiccarpetride
25-08-2011, 16:39
Reading through all the posts regarding this upgrade, would I be right in thinking that you only need the the Gator mod if you are listening through headphones? I ask because I never used them.

I'm on the look out for one of stan's dac's but not sure if I just need a standard or a modified one.

hopefully someone can advise: I only listen through speakers, and importantly, I want to bypass the the pre amp stage and run the dac straight into the power amp. So, what are the best upgrades to get for my listening needs?

I'm not a techy, so I would maybe Tirna to do them.

Many thanks in advance for all help and info.

Two biggest (and I mean massive) improvements to the sound of my stereo that I made this year:

1. Adding the Gator board to my Caiman
2. Applying dynaudio's mods to my Touch

slate
25-08-2011, 21:38
Kash have you noticed this http://theartofsound.net/forum/showthread.php?t=12965

d00gz
25-08-2011, 22:26
+1 Absolutely. Go for the Gator. I currently own 2 caimans. One in bits as I keep "modding" (breaking) it. The other one works beautifully with Tirna installed mods. Ive just recently swapped out its original board for a passive mod. I have used the Gator on my Caimans for several months and its is so much clearer and natural sounding than the original board. If you are just about to buy a Caiman this is the ideal time to get it - pre fitted. Unless you want to try fitting a passive mod yourself and potentially lose the variable or headphone output I would definately go with it.

Butuz
26-08-2011, 08:11
I would cover this in two options.

1. If you DO NOT use headphones ever. Just do the simple passive mod (its so easy and so cheap, anyone can do it)

2. If you DO use headphones then get the Gator

Whatever you do don't leave the Caiman as standard, both the passive mod and Gator are night and day better than the standard Caiman.

Butuz

kash
26-08-2011, 15:19
Thanks Butuz for the reply. This is what I wanted clarification on after reading through all the posts. It seems that if just listening through speakers the passive mod is all that is required, and really no need for the gator upgrade.

chrism
26-08-2011, 19:52
Thanks Butuz for the reply. This is what I wanted clarification on after reading through all the posts. It seems that if just listening through speakers the passive mod is all that is required, and really no need for the gator upgrade.

Correct.

A few points to add:

1. With the passive mod you do not lose the fixed or variable outputs of the Caiman. You would only lose the headphone output.

2. The Gator does not better the "sound quality" of the passive mod only the "loudness" if your amp needs a higher input gain.

3. You could try the passive mod first and buy a Gator later if needed as it is a drop in replacement for the original board.

4. You will need to try a few different capacitors with the passive mod as it is amplifier dependant.

Hope this addresses some of the "confusion".

Regards

Chris

Butuz
27-08-2011, 19:41
Yep.

One further benefit of the passive mod compared to the gator is that you can tailor the sound of the passive mod slightly by using different values or makes and models of capacitors.

It's a bit of fun "cap rolling". I have tried about 5 different types of caps from 10p each to about 4 each and they all sound slightly different. Experiment and pick the caps you like best and all with no soldering.

With the gaitor you get the great sound you get and that can't change.

Butuz

dave2010
27-08-2011, 20:41
Sounds like the Gator board is worth having (I have an un-Gatored Caiman), and should come in at around 40 with VAT and shipping. How easy is it to fit? Is there even a little soldering involved, and an ability to squeeze things into the box, or is it really all very straightforward?

howlindawg
27-08-2011, 21:10
The Gator is definitely a worthwhile mod for the Caiman.
I wouldn't say it's a massive revolution, more an evolution.
The stock Caiman was excellent, even disregarding the paltry asking price, but the Gator adds a degree of refinement doing away with the occasionally grainy sound of the caiman without sacrificing any of the detail.

Also factor in that the Gator retains the full functionality of the Caiman and will also increase the resale value/desirability of your DAC whereas a DIY passive mod is likely to reduce the resale value or at least limit the prospective resale market.

Alex_UK
27-08-2011, 22:28
Sounds like the Gator board is worth having (I have an un-Gatored Caiman), and should come in at around 40 with VAT and shipping. How easy is it to fit? Is there even a little soldering involved, and an ability to squeeze things into the box, or is it really all very straightforward?

Very easy - there are various posts around, but in summary you need to "unstick" the current board (there's a blob of glue holding it in place, I simply used a sharp knife to cut through it) and then you plop the Gator in - no soldering needed, if a numpty like me can manage it, anyone can! Just make sure you get the right pins in the right holes, and all aligned ok before pushing it home and you will be fine. Personally, I like the slightly lower gain of going the passive route, as it means the volume between vinyl and digital is pretty much the same, and I don't use headphones often on may main system.

chrism
28-08-2011, 08:23
The Gator is definitely a worthwhile mod for the Caiman.
I wouldn't say it's a massive revolution, more an evolution.
The stock Caiman was excellent, even disregarding the paltry asking price, but the Gator adds a degree of refinement doing away with the occasionally grainy sound of the caiman without sacrificing any of the detail.

Also factor in that the Gator retains the full functionality of the Caiman and will also increase the resale value/desirability of your DAC whereas a DIY passive mod is likely to reduce the resale value or at least limit the prospective resale market.

I think that the first statement over shadows the second! Best not to keep telling Stan that the price is low or he will ask more ;)

Regards

Chris

StanleyB
28-08-2011, 08:38
:lol:. I must admit that I sometimes wonder if I am a bit shy in asking for more money on some items when I barely make anything on them. But luckily I do make a profit on the Gator after having to put the price up by a fiver a few month's back.

Themis
28-08-2011, 09:18
There's a word for this attitude, Stan : Honesty :eyebrows:

:respect:

LittleTone
15-09-2011, 13:51
Stan,
Seeking your advice.

I have a 7520/Gator Mk2/15v Power Supply; all purchased direct from you. I have recently changed amps to a Rega Brio R and I feel that the output from the DAC is a little high because I don't have a great deal of range on the volume control. It's sweetest at about 9 o'clock position on the volume control any higher and I sense a bit of overload. This may; of course; be somewhere else in the chain. My question is; is you feel this a sensible comment; can the Gator be modified to reduce the output ? Is the Mk3 a lower output ?
I guess I could go down the road of the passive mod which would reduce the output but If its a case of adjusting the Gator I'd rather send it back to you.
Regards
Tony

StanleyB
15-09-2011, 13:58
The gain can be reduced. Have you got a soldering iron or do you want me to do it for you? email me if you would like me to do it.

LittleTone
15-09-2011, 14:09
Thanks for the quick response Stan.
Yes I do have a soldering iron. Could you give me some idea of what it entails so that I can decide. How much for you to carry out the mod.

The Brio R amps input sensitivity is 210mV @ 47k.
It also states that the maximum input level is 10.25V ( Don't fully understand this bit; seems a helluva lot )
Regards
Tony

DSJR
15-09-2011, 14:10
The "law" and overall gain structure on typical audio volume controls is such that by half way up, the amp id being driven hard into clipping most of the time. From half way to maximum, most of the time, little happens, all the gain being squashed down into the low end of the control. I agree that in the case of, say, NVA amp "systems" and with custom attenuators, this "law" can be modified or totally altered by careful design, allowing more control use over a greater range. this is something the average mass-market amp manufacturer can't specify I think...

LittleTone
15-09-2011, 14:22
Thank you for your comments Dave.

I'm slightly concerned in as much and my last combo; Quantum Amp/Mission 753
showed no real distress even at the 2pm position. The designer Tim Nind stated that they were designed to work best with the volume at 12 o'clock
Perhaps another comment I should make is that I have just aquired a pair of 6 ohm speakers and although I can't believe they'd be a problem for the Rega amp'
maybe they're just a mismatch.

Regards
Tony

LittleTone
15-09-2011, 23:41
Stan

I swapped out the Gator and refitted the original board which is wired passively without caps as per you post 207 on 10/7/2010


Quote
The latest suggestion for trying out the mod requires only two pieces of wires. That means that you can try the mod out before deciding if you want to invest in two expensive caps.
Remove the line output opamp.
Solder two pieces of wires to the outer pins on the connector on the left side of the PCB (looking at the DAC from the front).
Push the bare ends of the left wire into pin 1 of the empty IC socket.
Push the bare ends of the rightt wire into pin 7 of the empty IC socket.


The lower output from the original board seems to suggest that too much gain from the Gator IS the problem.

If you can mod the Gator for to match the Brio R amps input sensitivity of 210mV @ 47k. and I don't lose any of the Gator attributes; I'll be pleased to send it to you.

Please advise

Regards
Tony

StanleyB
16-09-2011, 06:22
The Gator was designed to add gain when the passive mod was too low. The Rega's input sensitivity is well below CD input level, which is 2V, so the Gator output would be too high by about 9dB. The WM8716 output alone is 1V.
I don't think the Gator output would be stable if reduced to below the output level of the WM8716 itself. Most gain circuits need to have a gain of more than 1 in order to work properly.
So in your case you'll have to use the passive mod with the Brio.

LittleTone
16-09-2011, 08:30
Stan,

Thanks for your response. I'm not running with the 8716 chip. I'm still with the
original 1716 DAC chip. Does that change your view at all.
Can I still make use of the Caiman 15v power supply with a standard 7520 ?

Regards
Tony

Canetoad
16-09-2011, 09:48
I use a pair of 6dB attenuators, which work very well. You might want to try this. :)

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ROTHWELL-LINE-ATTENUATORS-X-2-/110740327976?pt=UK_Computing_CablesConnectors_RL&hash=item19c8a34e28

StanleyB
16-09-2011, 10:20
Stan,

Thanks for your response. I'm not running with the 8716 chip. I'm still with the
original 1716 DAC chip. Does that change your view at all.
Can I still make use of the Caiman 15v power supply with a standard 7520 ?

It doesn't change my view one bit. The pCM1716 has a 0.6V output, which is still higher than the Brio sensitivity.
Yes you can use the Caiman PSU on the TC-7520.

Talking about the Brio: why would Rega have a matching amp to their high output DAC with such a low input sensitivity? It doesn't make any sense :scratch: :mental:.

LittleTone
16-09-2011, 11:21
Hi Chaps
Thank you for your input. For the moment I've reverted to to the original op-amp board which is fitted with a LM4562 and cut MLC5 / MLC6. Really disappointed that the Gator is no longer suitable. Annoyingly my sons still asleep so can't listen at the moment.
Thanks once again

Tony

StanleyB
16-09-2011, 13:30
I can try out the same gain mod that I did for Alex_UK, but the Brio is lower in sensitivity than his amp. No guarantee you get past 3PM on the volume before the Brio input sensitivity becomes a problem though.

Send the Gator back for me to try out the mod if you are not using it.

Alternatively try out the audio attenuators.

LittleTone
16-09-2011, 14:35
Hi Stan

Thanks for that. As I said earlier with the Gator anything above the 9 o'clock position (about a quarter ) I start running into problems. I've been used to a healthy volume @ the 12 o'clock position.
I'll post the gator back to you over the weekend. Can you please advise your postal address.

Alternatively if you really feel the passive mod is the way to go; do you have any good caps you could send me. Let me know how much I'll owe you.

Thanks again

Tony

StanleyB
16-09-2011, 14:37
Can you please advise your postal address.

As I wrote earlier, PM or email me.