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View Full Version : Test Disc, Sort Of



Ducatista47
12-09-2006, 01:28 PM
In the past there have been threads for subwoofer worthy recordings, but I have a candidate for an overall speaker quality CD.

I have been listening to music lately through my Mu stage preamped SET unit hooked up to Stax electrostatic headphones. Even with serious money to burn you would have trouble coming up with a more accurate, revealing system than that. I have resorted to this system to tide me over until my 4345's are back online, but that is another story.

In any case, the resolving power and ability to reveal the least fault, sibilance produced in the electronics chain for instance, is startling. I have found that one recording in particular that I have is a real barometer of how well a really good system is at dealing with the subtleties of musical information. It is very well recorded, of course. It is a CD. I know many here do not play vinyl. It has most of the material that really challenges a system. That would include the great pianist John Taylor, in a percussive mood no less. Piano played percussively is a real test of amps and speakers. Steve Swallow on bass, Ralph Towner on guitars, Patrice Heral on drums. But most of all, a female voice. In this case my favorite singer, Maria Pia De Vito. She is using all of her voice here, and she is capable of making an incredible range of sounds and styles. There is so much in her singing that you will never run out of subtleties to reveal, most of all on this album.

The one problem is...if one hundred of you heard this maybe one of you would like it. One could say she sings jazz and some world music, but that would be wrong, especially on this album, her solo effort. Here she pretty much pushes the envelope, and I would not expect anyone but me to enjoy it. I could point to one or two songs that might be more well received. One, Yearning, is perhaps the best test on the album and is easy to relate to.

Let me say that even I, Sun Ra lover and huge fan of this singer that I am, took a long time to warm up to some of the music on this CD. What did it was hearing it on the system I described. The clarity revealed more and more, and then more with each listening. When I could hear what they were really doing, in other words, I was in love with the music. But it takes one hell of a playback system to get that far, so it is a really fine test of a system. When you think this bunch is actually in the room with you, that will be really something!

After discovering all this I deliberately took the CD to my hi-fi shop and had it played on their best rig. It didn't sound nearly as good, kind of flat. Something like twenty or thirty thousand dollars US in amps, wires and speakers could not play it. This is a real test. Bear in mind, the speakers, while great, did not have any horns. ;) (I still don't see how to get the explosive transients of an acoustic grand piano right without a compression driver and horn. In person they actually hurt a little. If Steve Schell gets his system right I'm going to rob a bank to get it. Then there is the compression driver in the DD66000, which claims the best characteristics of the type coupled with the clarity of electrostatics. Please post some listening reports from CES, I can't go.)

The CD is Nel Respiro by Maria Pia De Vito. Provocateur Records PVC 1031

Verso, De Vito/Taylor/Towner, has the most important personel from Nel Respiro on it, if you do like the music. PVC 1023. A much more conventional presentation of her talents can be found on Still Life, Colin towns' Mask Quintet With Maria Pia De Vito. PVC 1015.

I had to order these from the Label in the UK. They should be easy to get in Europe. For all I know I may have the only copy of Nel Respiro in America. I'm not saying I'm a fan, but I have probably half of their catalog.
http://www.provocateurrecords.co.uk/

Clark in Peoria

Ducatista47
12-10-2006, 12:04 PM
Sorry to reply to my own thread, but this has me thinking about high end. Now I have some appreciation about why someone with a lot of money would keep throwing it, even if foolishly, at their rig - well, their system - to get that tiny little extra. Sometimes that last bit of clarity can completely open up a recording like nothing less could. I'm sure of it.

Too bad these music lovers are being taken in by so much expensive BS. Cables that cost more than both of our family cars come to mind. So do $30,000 preamps. And don't get me started on the pious, clueless windbags that are most high end reviewers.

The rig that did it for me: $900 dollar CD player, $995 amp and $400 headphones. Two outstanding Soviet era tubes, $26. Maybe $65 in the lowest line Kimber Cables and a few gold plated copper spade lugs. That is it in total.

The headphones are cheating a little. It would cost something like 7-10K dollars today to get into nice Stax phones with tube power. Years ago Stax changed their system and since then you need to purchase their amps. (Or not. Peter outlines below how to DIY amps for electrostatic headphones.) My phones were twenty year old NIB.

Something to think about, though. Maybe we need to point the way for these people with more money than experience.

Clark in Peoria

Hoerninger
12-10-2006, 12:52 PM
Sorry to reply to my own thread, but this has me thinking about high end.

Clark,

don't worry, I 've been reading here with interest. I even bought the CD Nel Respiro by Maria Pia De Vito. You have made me curious, I'm open for new style of music. It was very easy to find it on Ebay.de.


It would cost something like 7-10K dollars today to get into nice Stax phones with tube power. Years ago Stax changed their system and since then you need to purchase their amps.
Now I'm not following the intention of your own reply.

If you are handy with a soldering iron you can choose the DIY route:
When I was much younger a built a alltransistor amp for my Micro Seiki electrostatic headphone (very smooth, but a bit lack of bass). Although it is still great - no transformers but 750 volts ( and I'm proud about this amp) - it is now vintage and needs to be refurbished.

But I have found something better by Kevin Gilmore on http://headwize.com.
He has introduced three types of amps for electrostatic headphone amps: all-triode, hybrid and all transistor amp.
Although I tend to the all transistor design for practicability, the triode version is really nice.
http://headwize.com/projects/showfile.php?file=gilmore_prj.htm
http://headwize.com/projects/showfile.php?file=gilmore4_prj.htm
http://headwize.com/projects/showfile.php?file=gilmore2_prj.htm

May be you like it.
__________
Peter

Ducatista47
12-10-2006, 01:09 PM
Thank you for the correction, Peter! That is good news. No, that is great news. Good old Headwize, I have not kept up like I should.

The problem I was referring to was when Stax doubled their voltage to increase bass extension. At that point they stopped making adapter boxes. I had no idea clever folks had designed workarounds for the issue.

Luckily I have an adapter box and can use my SET amp, or any amp for that matter, with my Stax. Still, I am going to read every word of your references, believe me. Perhaps I can improve or bypass my box. This is exciting news for budget high end-ers like most of us here.

While you were posting I added an important paragraph to the original post which will demonstrate just how good the CD is for comparing top end systems. It is the "After discovering all this,..." part. My apologies if you have already seen it.

When it comes to the music on the CD's, I think Verso would be more to your liking unless your taste is on the ragged edge of experimental vocals. It is not the test of systems that Nel Respiro is, though. Easier to play. Still, the piano is challenging. Nel Respiro may be easy to find because no one wanted to keep it!

Thank you again, Clark

Hoerninger
12-19-2006, 01:09 PM
Clark,

your link to http://www7.taosnet.com/f10/mustage.html in the thread "Tube stories" has reminded me to some other tube amps for electrostatic tube headphones. They have a topology which I like due to their differential approach:
The first circuit is flowing through the net, I don't know it's origin. At another place I've read that the 6FQ7 works at its limits, besides I've never seen an offer.
http://hjem.get2net.dk/aaholm_audio/schems/staxsrx.htm ,
http://www.dddac.de/tp08.htm and http://www.dddac.de/files/auridux22.pdf

Your recommended CD by Maria Pia De Vito is really far better for testing. She has a great voice. I'm waiting for listening to her with "Paragon XXL" which is in the workshop right now. Although it is sonically not perfect ( - it's only me who knows the deviding network :D - ) this full horn system sounds great.


;) (I still don't see how to get the explosive transients of an acoustic grand piano right without a compression driver and horn. In person they actually hurt a little. If Steve Schell gets his system right I'm going to rob a bank to get it. Then there is the compression driver in the DD66000, which claims the best characteristics of the type coupled with the clarity of electrostatics. Please post some listening reports from CES, I can't go.)


Your are the first who mentions this little statement. This statement thrills me! One of my first "great" listening experiences in my youth was with an electrostatic speaker system. But I gave it up for me, I do choose electrostats only for headphones.
____________
Peter

Ducatista47
12-24-2006, 09:47 AM
Peter, thank you for the new links, very interesting. I need to increase my circuit skills so I can adapt a high voltage triode output stage to the line outputs from the wonderful Grommes tube amp I have already. I honestly believe it has the best preamp stage currently available anywhere. Then I guess I could build an EL34 based triode output with more power for speaker use.

I don't remember where I saw the electrostatic quality remark. I hope I didn't paraphrase it into existence! I think it might have been a press release online, not necessarily a JBL source. More likely coverage of the DD66000 launch in Japan.

It does seem to me that such clarity is implied in the literature. The actual language used says in so many words that the driver is the most accurate JBL compression driver ever. The specifications for distortion were refered to as amplifier level rather than speaker level. That being a design goal has been mentioned several time by JBL in the past year or so. That would put it into the electrostatic clarity level. Since a compression driver is potentially even more dynamic than an electrostatic diaphram, that would be exciting.

I am happy you enjoy Maria Pia De Vito's singing. Sadly, she is unknown in America. I wish I could hear the Paragon XXL in person!

Clark

Hoerninger
12-25-2006, 09:17 AM
I don't remember where I saw the electrostatic quality remark. I hope I didn't paraphrase it into existence! I think it might have been a press release online, not necessarily a JBL source. More likely coverage of the DD66000 launch in Japan.

Clark,
in short it was Don, someone who has really heard the DD66000:


I can't say enough about the 476Be driver. This driver is very similar to an electrostatic in its ability to be delicate and nuanced, however with all of the power and impact of a large format compression driver. The twin bass drivers make the system truly magical.

___________
Peter