Monday, December 24, 2012

making more of the L-1000T

In the early hours of December 24, I finally hooked up the Lavry AD10 digitizer to the Behringer DEQ 2496 which applies EQ correction for my European L-1000T.  I used a Monster Standard 8 foot optical cable.  With that digital connection, I was able to bypass the inferior digitizer at the input of the Behringer itself, and therefore enjoy the benefits of the better Lavry digitizer in other rooms, when listening to the L-1000T remotely using my Sonos system.  It also allows me to select the L-1000T in the living room without having to change the EQ mode of the DCX crossover, which can also perform the EQ correction, and yet still enjoy the benefits of the Lavry front end.

The benefits of this change seemed clearly audible in other rooms, which previously could not enjoy the benefits of the Lavry at all.  In the living room, I could previously, and can still, listen straight from the Lavry into the AES input of my Tact.  When I listen that way, I have to get up and turn the EQ mode of the crossover from OFF to ON.  That setup still seems to provide the last nth degree of performance, seeming to have slightly better incredibly real 3D imaging.  But it's a pain to get up and turn the EQ mode of the crossover on and off, far simpler just to switch inputs on the Tact, where I can select the digital output of the DEQ as input.

As compared with using the digital input of the Behringer, using the Lavry provides an especially musical sound, with utterly transparent but non-electronic sounding midrange.  By comparison, the Behringer has a slightly etched sounding midrange that sounds like hifi reproduction, not real music.

It's funny how (or if) I can hear this even going through a second level of digitization in the Sonos system itself.  Sonos lets me listen to line inputs from every room having a Sonos box.  The Sonos line input must be an analog input, which is then digitized to 44.1khz by the box and transmitted through digital signals on the CAT-5 cables that connect all rooms in my house.  Each other Sonos box can pick up this signal and play it back through a digital output which gets fed into the Tact preamps in living room and bedroom, and the Yamaha HTR-5790 receiver in the Kitchen.  When listening to the L-1000T in the bedroom, for example, here is the chain of connections:

Kenwood L-1000T source, using variable output adjusted to within 3dB of Lavry dynamic range
6 ft Radio Shack RCA cable
dB systems selector switch with Teflon jacks
0.5 meter Cardas crosslink cable
unbalanced-to-balanced adapter plugs
Lavry AD10, which samples produces optical digital output at 24/96
Monster Standard 8ft optical cable
Behringer 2496 DEQ programmed to correct European 50uS to 75uS (slight treble shelving)
Balanced-to-unbalanced audio adapter plugs
6 ft Radio Shack RCA cable
Sonos 80 analog input in Living Room
CAT-5 cables and switches
Sonos 80 digital output in bedroom
Blue Jeans digital coax connector
Tact Preamp digital input
...Behringer DEQ for EQ and DCX for crossover
Parasound HCA-1500 power amp
Revel M20 monitors
SVS 1642 plus subs (connected to DCX)

Yes, it goes through all this stuff, but mostly in transparent digital.  With the Lavry at the front end, it all sounds so good you could imagine a direct analog electronic connection to the original source.  The fact that it's all going through a second level of analog-to-digital conversion in the Sonos 80 is not audibly apparent.

The Lavry and Behringer are connected at 24 bit 96 kHz digital.  When I'm listening in the living room, I can either select the Lavry directly from the Tact, or connect to the optical digital output of the Behringer--in which case the Behringer is being used in pure digital mode, with digital input from the Lavry and digital output to the Tact.

I bought the Monster Standard 8ft optical cable at Radio Shack a few weeks ago.  It has a sticker on the plastic case it came in saying "E-Z Open Package."  It was easier than some, but still a big pain.  It took a fair amount of torque to get the back plastic panel of the package to tear off, and as it was tearing off tiny pieces of plastic and paper (from the E-Z Open sticker itself!) flew off.  I had to wipe down my leather chair afterwards to brush off the specks of plastic and paper.  And then, the package still didn't open enough to remove the cable ends, which were held behind a second plastic panel.  After many attempts, I finally got the second plastic panel to tear off, removing the cable ends, and without tearing the cable apart.  Once again, this produced tiny bits of plastic flying through the air, but this time I was no where near my chair.  Then, the cable itself was held together with a soft plastic wrap that did not tear or easily unwrap.  I had to use the tiny scissors from my Swiss Army knife to gut the plastic strip without damaging the cable.

This is a HUGE contrast to what was a truly easy open plastic package, the package that my $400 list price Nordost Baldur balanced cables came in.  It did indeed snap right open, and without apparently producing tiny bits of plastic and paper,   And the inner plastic retainer panel was then held in with friction and could easily be pulled out or put back.  Once opened like this, the Nordost box was re-useable.  The cables were held together with soft re-useable velcro tape.  In contrast, the Monster box now fully pulled apart is clearly a piece of trash (having a very vague resemblance to the jaws of a shark) featuring rough edges that you never want to see again.

Aside from the considerable difference in list price, another feature of the Nordost cables is that they are made-in-the-USA.

And then nothing beats the ease of opening Cardas cables, which come in a large but very heavy duty ziplock style bag.  Also made-in-the-USA of course.

Somehow when you pay the extra bucks for a true premium made-in-USA cable, you get nice packaging as part of the deal.

One of the reasons I had been slow in making this change, was that I often like to keep the Kurzweil K2661 keyboard connected to the living room system, also through the Lavry.  If I have the keyboard selected in the living room, as I often do, I couldn't listen to the L-1000T without going into the living room and changing the selection on the dB systems selector switch.

Well I decided that it would be OK to listen to the K2661 through the less high quality line input of the Tact, which has 16 bits of resolution according to Stereophile.  Note that the balanced output of the K2661 first goes through a Jensen ISOLINK transformer to change to unbalanced.  With that connection, unfortunately, I have to turn the volume way up because the output is apparently quite a bit lower than the 1.6V max input of the Tact with most program.  I'm thinking of putting another line amplifier in between, such as the Classe CP-35 I am not currently using.

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