Setup Info and Accessories

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Turntable Ownership Chronology

Luxman PD264 (~1978 - 1979)
Rega Planar 3, Grace 707 (~1980 - 1984)
Sota Saphire, Sumiko MDC800 'The Arm' - (~1984 - 1989)
VPI TNT, SME-V (1989 - 1991)
VPI TNT, Graham 1.5T (1991 - 2009)
VPI TNT, Graham Phantom II (2009 - current)

Cartridges owned in (rough) Chronological order

Grace F9E, Grace F9L, Audio Technica OC9, Sumiko Talisman S, Garrott P77, Audio Technica ART-1, Monster Cable SG-2000, Sumiko BPS (worst cartridge owned!), Benz Glider (0.9mV), Crown Jewel (VdH retip), Denon 103R, Ortofon Jubilee, Ortofon A90, Denon 103R stock & Soundsmith retip/various bodies x 4, Audio Technica 33PTG(briefly), Audio Technica OC9-III(briefly), Ortofon Cadenza Black, Audio Technica ART-9     

Phono Accessories

Mint LP tractor - amazingly precise tool for establishing exact stylus/cantilever geometry. 
There are reports that this tractor is a PITA to use but, after following the (very clear) instruction steps, I found it easy enough - certainly easier than non mirrored tools. However allow at least 15 to 20min after you are familiar with the adjustments. 

Note: The Graham alignment tool supplied with the Phantom arm I'm using has the advantage of doing alignment away from the turntable, seated comfortably at a desk with adequate lighting etc. Alignment is much faster with this tool - 5-6min - and also very accurate (accuracy reliant on exact setting of the initial arm overhang and care in using the alignment tool). I find myself increasingly reliant on the Graham tool - no crouching in awkward positions at the turntable!

KAB Speedstrobe, a brilliant tool for setting turntable speed

Disc Doctor Miracle Record Cleaner and Quickwash
Nitty Gritty 2.5 vacuum record cleaner
Zerostat Antistatic gun
Magic Eraser used for stylus cleaning
Digital pocket scale (.01g resolution)

Phono Loading

Denon 103R (14 ohm DCR):                  Active stage: 100ohms; Step-up transformer: ~46ohms**
Ortofon Cadenza Black
(5 ohm DCR): Active stage: 100ohms (Rowland Capri S2 phono cards); Step-up transformer: ~52ohms* 
Ortofon Jubilee (5 ohm DCR):            Active stage: 100ohms; Step-up transformer: ~52ohms*  
Ortofon A90 (4 ohm DCR):                 Active stage: 47ohms (Note: I didn't have an SUT in my system when I owned the A90)

*Note1: Using Choir Audio/Hashimoto SUT on 1:30 setting, 47K ohm phono stage
**Note2: Using Lundahl LL1941 SUT on 1:32 setting, 47K ohm phono stage
(reflected impedance = Rload/N2, where
Rload is the input resistance following phono stage and N is the turns ratio of the SUT)

Uwe/Denon 103R with Soundsmith ruby cantilever and Optimised Contour Line contact stylus
Denon 103R's with Soundsmith ruby cantilever/Optimised Line Contact styli, epoxy potted in 'Midas' Aluminium bodies
Old favorite: Ortofon Jubilee Moving Coil Cartridge - Silver coils, Boron Cantilever, Shibata Stylus

Ortofon Cadenza Black Moving Coil - boron cantilever, Shibata stylus (moved on)
Ortofon Cadenza Black

Ortofon A90 Moving Coil Cartridge
Minimalist steel body formed by Selective Laser Melting (SLM) process, boron cantilever, 'Replicant 100' Stylus.
Regrettably now sold

Bob's Devices Cinemag based SUT and the Choir Audio SUT-H7 with Hashimoto HM7 transformers - great devices, sold for other stuff
Cinemag and Choir Audio H7
Cary PH302 MkII phono stage - NOS Sylvania Gold Brand 6SL7WGT  & Mullard 1968 vintage GZ34
All tubes fitted with Herbies Ultrasonic RX tube dampers. 
0.22uF 'Audio 1' oil cap in PS replaced with Multicap RTX.
0.1uF Solen interstage coupling caps replaced with ClarityCap MR.
1uF output coupling caps replaced with ClarityCap MR.
0.01uF KimberCaps in RIAA replaced with Aura T (1% tolerance) Teflon.
(All replacement capacitors are of the same nominal value as stock caps)
Audio Research VS55 power amp - Stock 'Rel-Cap'capacitors in phase splitter/driver stages replaced with Clarity Cap MR
The Rel-Cap's were removed from the top of the pcb and, due to their size, the Clarity caps were fitted to the underside of the pcb.
vs55 MR mod


The audio equipment has a separate 240VAC mains spur, run straight from the fuse box to behind the equipment rack (a distance of about 12m).  Conductors in the spur cable are 6mm2(~9AWG).

Two Furutech FP-15A-Cu AC duplex outlets are mounted into a fire and acoustic rated wall-box. At the wall socket an
Audience aR2p-TO, Teflon capped line power conditioner (240V version) is used. Two VH Audio Hotbox's with Furutech FI-11Cu male wall plug and FP-15Cu outlets are plugged into the aR2p-TO. 

Power cords are all DIY. Bob Crump's 'Asylum' recipe for the turntable/SDS,  Chris VH's DIY Flavor 2 design  on the pre/power amps and VH Audio Flavor 3 on the digital sources. The DIY F2/F3s can be used with many different connectors available from Chris' parts list. I chose the Furutech FI-11Ag IECs and the FI-11Cu male plugs.
All power cords have been made a similar length to help maintain a star earthing scheme.

It boggles the mind, but power cords and outlets seem to have a much greater effect on system sound quality than interconnects and speaker cables.  In fact I now consider power connections to be of fundamental importance (those who haven't experimented will be shaking their heads!). Prior to installing the VH Audio power cables and Hotboxes, I'd been using an API Power Wedge IIe line conditioner (high current filtered outlets and isolation transformers for low power gear) and the generic cords supplied with the equipment. I could scarcely believe the improvement that occurred when I substituted the Hotbox/Crump/VH Audio cords. Every aspect of the sound improved: soundstage height/width/depth, transparency, transient definition, focus, bass power, dynamics, detail - the sound became more open, vivid and robustly realistic.  I'm talking BIG improvements here, of the kind associated with a major component upgrade!

VH Audio Hotbox - photo linked from VH Audio
(Chris's photo is much nicer than my crappy camera skills can produce.....but picture NOT showing the Furutech plug/outlets - see above)


Speaker positioning and room

For a long time I had my speakers facing down the long dimension of my old rectangular listening room and this seemed satisfactory.
Some further reading revealed that several speaker manufacturers (including Thiele, Wilson, Audio Physic and Dunlavy) recommended that speakers face across the narrow dimension of a rectangular room.
I decided to experiment with this placement and found it preferable - I also prefer it aesthetically, it feels less cluttered than pulling the couch and speakers into the room.

My current room has a timber floor nailed to battens over concrete and 13mm plaster walls. The two internal and external walls are insulated brick+stud to improve isolation (particularly to the rest of the house) and the fourth wall (facing the garage) is simple insulated stud construction. The ceiling plaster is fixed to resilient mounts and the music room shares its (skillion) roofline with the garage only. The external window is double glazed, which further reduces outside noise. This room is much quieter than the one in my previous house - and this benefits resolution.

The room size had to fit basic design constraints - odd shapes would be difficult to analyse and expensive, so basic rectangular construction was chosen. Dimensions are: 6m length, 4.3m width and 2.7m height. The dimensions of the room started by following Sepmeyer's  1 : 1.6 : 2.33 ratios and was slightly adjusted using basic (calculated) spectrum analysis of room modes.
The corners behind the speakers have DIY Bass traps built to Jon Risch's instructions. There are four DIY absorptive panels between the speakers on the front wall.  The panels are a slightly simplified version of JR's panel recipe. Some additional 100mm thick 'Wave Panel' acoustic tiles are placed in the front corners above the bass traps and at other reflection points.

Speaker stands are are from Target Audio, 610mm (24") high, constructed from four square section steel pillars with steel plates top and bottom. The vertical columns have been filled with sand. Spikes are fitted to the bottom of the stands and these insert into Quadraspire QX7 floor protectors. The 30.1's are secured to the stands with four small blobs of Blutack. FWIW I've experimented with both solid cones and compliant stick on 'rubber' dots between the speaker and stand top plate - but prefer the sound with the Blutack. Speakers are positioned about 1.25m from the front wall and 1.6m from both side walls (measured to the centre of the front baffle). They are spaced about 2.7m apart and ~2.8m to the listening position (again measurements from the centre of the front baffle). Speakers are angled towards the central listening position.

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