Tag Archives: preamplifier

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Turntable setup

Proper setup of a turntable arm and cartridge are more important to great stereo performance than even the electronics it feeds.

Of course, it’s all an audio system and even the most accurate setup won’t sound great through a mediocre phono preamplifier but it’s equally true that the world’s best phono stage won’t be worth its cost without the proper arm and cartridge attention.

I wish I could impart an expert’s step-by-step instruction on how to set up your table, but the extent of my knowledge just dusts the surface. Sure, I’ve set up plenty of arms and tables in my day. Protractor and stylus gauge in hand, I’ve fumbled through the basics as most of us have and the results were often good. Time spent adjusting and tweaking always paid off in better performance and the freeing of music trapped in vinyl grooves.

Yet, a novice’s best efforts pale in comparison to an expert’s deft hand. Years ago I paid setup expert Brooks Berdan to tweak my table and upon its return I was floored with the improvements. Suddenly, two dimensions became three: surface noise and music were separated, highs and lows were balanced, and a musicality warmed the room like a fire in the hearth.

Though my readers know I prefer an optimized DSD based system to that of vinyl, there’s no disputing the magic that is trapped in those wiggly grooves.

I fear the skills needed to expertly set up a turntable have largely been lost as, sadly, experts are dying off. However, we do live in an age of recorded wisdom and that’s a good thing.

One of the best setup people still with us today is our good friend Michael Fremer and, guess what. Mikey has a setup DVD available for sale.

This video, followed closely, will bring as much improvement to your vinyl system as any new piece of gear. Maybe more.

Building a reference quality vinyl system takes work. But then, so too does any worthwhile adventure.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

World’s most popular IC

Here’s a bit of nostalgia for you. My first, and to date only, attempt at  audio programming used the world’s most popular integrated circuit ever manufactured—the venerable 555 Timer.

The 555 timer is a simple device. It is an 8-pin IC that can be configured as an oscillator, clock or simple timer with the addition of one or more components. Since its introduction in 1972 more than a billion of these devices are shipped each year. By my unofficial count that would add up to nearly 50 billion of the little black cockroaches timing their way through every manner of consumer and industrial products all over the world.

It was the late 1970s and Stan and I needed an easy way to make our front panel LED blink while our new preamplifier was warming up. The task of turning an LED on and off in a timed sequence might seem trivial by today’s standards but in those all-analog-days, it was rather a challenge. To turn an LED on and off you need an electronic switch. A simple transistor will do nicely but then you need another element to instruct the transistor to turn on and off and then that has to have some type of timing mechanism referenced to a clock and so on. (To put this in perspective the 555 Timer uses 25 transistors, 2 diodes and 15 resistors inside—as many parts as one channel of our entire preamp just to blink a light)

By placing a simple capacitor across two pins of the 555 we could adjust the on/off timing of a built-in switch by simply raising or lowering the value of the capacitor (bigger got you slower timing). It took me all of 5 minutes to breadboard the circuit and voila! A blinking green light erupted from the PCB and I went running across the building with excitement.

Today that story draws chuckles. The same size component can now hold bazillions of parts and perform what back in 1972 would have seemed like witchcraft.

We’ve come a long way, baby!