Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just ordered nice Belden 1800F cables for balanced audio (from oppo player to lavry ADC) and digital audio (lavry to Tact digital preamp).  3 custom XLR terminated cables for about $80 shipped from Blue Jeans Cable.  1800F meets AES/EBU digital requirements with lowest capacitance and excellent shielding.  Perhaps as low cap as balanced cable gets, 13pf/ft polyethylene dielectric, 95% coverage french braid shielding.  The actual audio cables are 1 foot long, the digital cable is 5 feet.  The ADC will sit right on top of the Oppo player.

Thinking hard about balanced switching options: 4-way mechanical switch, broadcast quality (Kramer or Ocean Matrix make identical units) $159.

Relay A/B balanced audio switch (optional wired remote), OMX series Ocean Matrix, $199.

The relay unit looks and reads better.  I think relays are better than big 4-button 4-pole switch.

Goldpoint 2-way rotary balanced audio switch with teflon wiring $372.

The Goldpoint looks best of all.  I want something of unquestionable quality, so that you never have this nagging feeling "got to remove the switch to make it sound better".  If you have to remove the switch for "the best experience", the switch function has effectively failed, and you're back to cable swapping.  The idea is that the switch should be as close to the best wire as possible, so you'd never think about removing it.  Therefore it must be very very good.  Rotary switches are generally the best kind and there are no non-signal currents flowing through the box, it's as simple as it could get.

I'm not sure about their stranded silver-plated coper teflon wiring.  I'd rather have solid copper core teflon wiring.  Anyway, Goldpoint is definitely high end audio quality.  Their wide range of passive-pre products are routinely praised in audiophile magazines.  The price is high, but that's the way quality is, and there's no fake snake oil.  High end audio switches and attenuators are their specialty.

If I got the relay controlled switch, I could ultimately integrate it into a whole-house automated system, etc.  But my experience so far on that track is...I can't keep up with all the things that need automation.  Historically I've spent more time building most automated systems than actually using them.

With the Goldpoint, I flip the switch to listen to audio disc or "other" where "other" is all my analog single-ended sources, Kenwood tuner, Sony tuner, Nakamichi deck.  Those unbalanced sources are more in need of automatic switching (get away from DJ, etc), and I have an option for that ($550 5-way remote switch) but I'm going to let that one rest for awhile.  I can use my existing defunct Aragon preamp (unbuffered tape outs) or buy a cheap dB switcher for them.

Maybe it would be a good idea to listen to Oppo with balanced connection first, compare to Denon with unbalanced.  Getting Goldpoint switch presumes I'll get a second Oppo player for kitchen and actual Blu Ray discs.  I had only been planning to get one Oppo, but it's so good (including balanced audio outputs) that I might get two.

Anyway, one step forwards, I ordered basic balanced audio cables today.  Without those, can't do anything balanced.

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