Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Shure M97xe phono cartridge

The Nagaoka MP-110 on the Dual CS5000 wasn't exactly a perfect match, not with such a light tonearm, but I was satisfied with the overall sound.  A couple hundred records later and I was starting to have some IGD distortion issues.  I decided it was time to try something different.  The Shure M97xe with the aftermarket JICO SAS stylus is a popular combination for an budget upscale cartridge.  With that future goal in mind, I bought a plain-Jane M97xe on Ebay for a not-so princely sum of $69 shipped.

Very nice box - all metal - and the package also included a screwdriver, brush, and a template for mounting.  For the Dual CS5000 I eschewed the Shure template and instead used the one that came with the turntable.  Mounting, with the integrated brush on the cartridge body, is a royal pain but once I got everything straight, I gave a few records a spin.

Initial presentation was BRIGHT - reminding me of headache inducing bad digital.  But a few hours later and the sound mellowed out considerably.  Compared to the Nagaoka - at least with the Dual CS5000 - I preferred the Shure M97xe, which is a much better match with the low-mass tonearm.  Tracking, even on the inner grooves, is really good and the little front mounted brush actually does remove the errant cat hair.  Of course if too much fuzz is picked up, the cartridge brush and cantilever need cleaning, otherwise records will mistrack.  Overall sound is not brash or exciting like some cartridges, but - at least to my ears - is fairly neutral.  Ticks 'n' pops are fairy reduced too, though perhaps not to the same level as the Nagaoka.

Treble seems a might rolled off, as does the bass.  But my budget system doesn't have that much low-end content so I don't feel like I'm missing much.  The rolled off treble may be an issue for younger people, but these middle-aged ears aren't wishing for any more air.  Even with the el-cheapo Adcom preamplifier and the ancient McIntosh 2100, the sound is surprisingly neutral.  I think there is some real synergy here with the Dual CS5000, like the arm and cartridge are matched well.

Soundstaging and other intangibles:  I won't comment too much here since my current setup - speakers wide apart and pretty close to the wall - isn't conducive for the best depth.  There also seems to be some missing detail, but with this amplification chain, that's a given.  What I am hearing is great cartridge for the money.  I'm now in no rush to get the JICO SAS stylus, but will keep that in mind for a future upgrade.

Adcom GFP-555 preamplifier
Adcom GFT-555 tuner
McIntosh MC2100 amplifier
Panasonic DVD player
Dual CS5000 turntable
B&W Matrix 805 speakers on VTI stands
Dual CS5000 turntable
Pioneer DVD-V7400
Adcom GFP-555 preamp
Adcom GFT-555 tuner
McIntosh MC2100
B&W Matrix 805s on stands
Wire: Kimber 8PR/4PR bi-wired
           Cardas Crosslink interconnects

Monday, June 22, 2015

Building a new Dynaco PAS-3 tube preamplifier

The existing Dynaco PAS preamplifiers are now all getting a little long in the tooth - with a history that goes back to the Golden Age of stereo, this simple circuit has provided many of an hour of audio enjoyment.  Sure there are more transparent and detailed units out there, along with newer products with better reliability.

But I do have many fond memories of the Dynaco PAS - the first time I heard Quad ESL-63s, and with surprising results coupled with a simple Mosfet amplifier from Stereo Cost Cutters driving a pair of Wharfedale Diamond V speakers.  Both had huge soundstages - both in depth and width - along with a thoroughly musical presentation.  In an effort to capture those glory days, I decided to give this preamplifier another whirl, but this time decided I wanted to build it from scratch.

Chassis and many of the parts from, while everything else was from various Ebay sellers, along with a few stops at Mouser.

For now this will just be a picture presentation.  Updates later.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Adcom GFT-555 tuner

I'm not a radio guy since most of the program material in my area is pretty bad - overplayed classic rock and a plethora of bro country stations.  But I do fancy some classical music once in a while, and perhaps a little sports radio if I'm in the mood to experience some Red Wings hockey.  So with that in mind, and to keep the rest of my family happy, I purchased an Adcom GFT-555 tuner to match the GFP-555 preamplifier.

Together they make a handsome pair with black metalwork, red LEDs, and matching dials.  Such a setup would have been common for an entry-level audiophile of the early 1990s.  Inputs are for separate AM and FM antennas, while the output is a single pair of RCA jacks.  Digital tuning between station is using tap-a tap-a buttons, and there are also buttons for presets and whatnot.

Sound quality is nothing to get excited about - this is, after all, a compressed, eq'd, and limited format - but what does come through has that Adcom trademark sound: slightly warm, inoffensive, and just a tad grayed out.  This is no Marantz 10B or McIntosh MR78, but is instead a good working man's tuner.   Reception is better than the (probably misaligned) Sansui AU-777 in my collection, but the latter does have an even warmer sound and one of the coolest dials around.

Old school radio is a dying format versus satellite and Internet services, but there still is a nostalgic place for a peace of gear like this.  So if you need a tuner, then the Adcom GFT-555 tuner is worth it provided you don't pay more than $100.