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The MYSTERY AMP ! (Read 146221 times)
vyokyong
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1065 - 04/21/14 at 10:49:36
 
Hi Ilance,

tube rolling for ZMA. Yes, I have done with Siemens E88CC ($370 for quad), RCA 6L6GC ($380 for quad) and RCA JAN OA3 ($18 for pair).

The sound quality of ZMA with stock tubes is unquestionably superb
. But I need more in lush midrange female vocal, sparkle treble and powerful bass or bass slam.

My first plan is to burn in ZMA with stock tubes for >300 hrs first to know the sound. Then do tube rolling step by step to observe sound quality changing. But ZMA with stock tube's sound is so good that I imagine what if I put Siemens E88CC tubes in, how much is the sound improvement?  
I cannot wait, I change plan to put in Siemens E88CC tubes first 3 days ago. Midrange sound is more lush, both high end and low end extend more, more holograph sound stage. But speed is slower than stock tube.  The fun or PRAT is reduce a little. But overall sound improvement is very satisfy. I replace KT66 with RCA 6L6GC next day. There is more dense sound and more bass. Now speed come back, PRAT is same as stock tube now. But bass is little boated, not well control. Then I put in RCA JAN OA3.
OMG, it is the last jigsaw. RCA JAN OA3 make over all sound dense, coherent and PUNCH SLAM bass!  Boated bass disappear and very well control now.

Now I get all, lush midrange female vocal sound to die for of tube amp reputation, sparkle high and PUNCH SLAM bass!  Playing with heavy rock music, you can feel wavy air movement of bass. It is very very scare realism! If you run at 56 ma, it likes discotheque. If you run at 52 ma, it likes stadium rock live concert. The strange is that you just listen at normal SPL 80-93. It is scale down at any SPL, no need to get loud of 100 SPL to get rock live concert feel.

Is it worth to change tubes as above? In my system, the answer is absolute yes!  I will report more when have more hours on these tubes. It is improving.

You can read more on page 66.
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Charnwood
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1066 - 04/21/14 at 10:49:43
 
I too have run out of bias adjustment trying to achieve the desired 50mA. This is with the standard tubes. I can just about get 50mA and I do achieve it on one channel. In my case I know part of the problem is down to my mains voltage of 250v instead of 230v-240v.
Adding a 500W mains re-generator I was using in another system allowed me to drop the voltage down to 230v. This allows for a bit more level adjustment but it's still close to the maximum. I've emailed Steve about this but had no reply.

I've had my ZMA for about 5 week and apart from this one minor issue I'm finding it to be a superb amp. Before the arrival of the ERR's a week ago I was wondering what the ERR's could possibly add. Well, the new ERR's take the system to a whole new level. The openness of the sound I immediately noticed. But for me what makes the ERR's very special is what they do for the bass response in my small room. Nothing else I've tried has come close to giving me the sort of response I get at my listening position with the ERR's. The ZMA in combination with the ERR's totally transforms much of my music.
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stone_of_tone
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1067 - 04/22/14 at 21:15:40
 
LR, #1062, ....I don't know if the ZMA has plateaued? I have the CSP3, now in its 46th hour....and the involving music with this Pre, I am getting-does keep getting better. No hyperbole...I was not a fan of the Torii III...so I sold it. .......the CSP3 & ZMA combo is truly a musical journey every time I turn them on.

LR & Palomino, have fun at Axpona! I would have been there to meet you guys... . I will be partying in Northern Cal gentlemen, being a Stanford dad!

Cheers, enjoy!
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Palomino
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1068 - 04/22/14 at 21:26:54
 
Will do Stone.  Let us know if there are any other products we should check out.  

I more or less wander around, visit a few rooms where I know the products and go to some of the completely over-the-top rooms for fun.  The Direct Stream is on our list.  I also am a sucker for any rooms with horns, single driver setups and triode amps.  Given the discussion here, I may have to add reel to reel rooms as well.

I bring my Shazam equipped phone and get as many music ideas as I can.  There are a lot of audio show clichés played, but last year I picked up some good new artists.

I will be listening to see if there are any ZMA toppers and if so, what price point they sell at.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1069 - 04/23/14 at 22:29:00
 

I'll just leave this right here.










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deucekazoo
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1070 - 04/23/14 at 22:41:21
 
Nice!  :)
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lLance
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1071 - 04/26/14 at 00:50:10
 
I wonder that Otari MX5050 sounds compared to the master tape console.
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ZMA, Tori MK3, Audible Illusions M3B pre, NAD M51 DAC, VPI Scout 1.1 & Soundsmith Zepher Cart, Janszen zA2.1 Speakers, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB, PS Audio P10, Win 8 & J River app, Audioquest Sky XLR, Triode Wire Labs #7 & Black Sands Z1 PC, VooDoo AES/
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Lonely Raven
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1072 - 04/27/14 at 19:07:14
 
Quote:
I wonder that Otari MX5050 sounds compared to the master tape console.


That's a good question. I've been doing a lot of research to get up to speed on R2R, and from what I've read, the heads on the pro studio decks are supposed to have higher top end extension. The MX-5050 was designed as a pro-sumer/broadcast deck. In fact, mine came out of a radio station and has a set of two track heads (aka half-track) and a big mono "full track" head which is kinda useless to me. The MX-5050 is fine for our purposes - playback, but there is a shop that makes a studio grade (upgrade) head for this deck that brings it more in line with the studio decks like Steve has; I believe they said the new heads extend to 30khz.

That said, Steve said that I had uncovered the *best* $400 source he'd ever heard, and was tempted to try and trade me one of his big studio decks for it as the 5050 seemed to record just as well as his second deck.

Steve tried to prove this to me by playing a recording of one of his two track radio station tapes he made for me...but it honestly sounded kinda rough. Long story short, everything we did that night sounded bad, even going back to his big Otari MTR-10, radio master tape, and two different Mystery Amps (mine, and someone's brand new one that got shipped out that night). *Nothing* we did sounded good and nothing Steve, Dave or I could think of was resolving this issue. We all shrugged and said


I've since taken the deck and my ZMA (now with balanced inputs) home, and even the crappiest tape I got off craigs list sounds better than what we heard that night. So I still have no idea what it was, but everything's OK now.

I'm confident the MX-5050 is a great source; one just needs to find one with good heads (the correct ones! LOL), and learn how to clean and maintain, and find good media for it. In the Decware Tapefest thread I've started a listing of shops that sell "studio masters" or just one generation off the masters. More on all this in that thread, or if Steve puts together a Tape sub-forum.
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« Last Edit: 04/27/14 at 19:10:50 by Lonely Raven »  
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Lonely Raven
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1073 - 04/30/14 at 06:35:45
 
So I've had my first real listening session since getting the XLR inputs on the ZMA, and I had some friends over for a listen. One friend I've been on this listening journey with since I bought my first amp from Steve back in 1998. The other friend was curious what this audiophile thing was, and is a pretty smart dude (in general) who loves music, so I invited him to join us tonight.

Long story short, I played some of my favorite audiophile tracks, plus some classic stuff like Pink Floyd and Crosby, Stills, and Nash just to prove my setup does more than female voices and jazz (which it seems to be what 98% audiophile tracks seem to be), then took a couple requests, and finished up the night by playing some of the Twins Soundtrack (a copy of Steve's Master), and...get this, Allied Electronics commercials from April 1959 that came in a box of tapes I picked up off Craigs List.

I have to say, this was the *best* the ZMA has *ever* sounded! I thought I was done with the "wow, I've never heard *that* before" thing when playing old favorites, but there is was again! Another level of detail and depth and soundstage that I didn't have before. My friend Jason was just like, Wow, that's the best I've ever heard Pink Floyd's The Wall - and I pointed out it was the MFSL 24k CD (FLAC) that he never liked compared to his standard copy. We both heard details we'd never heard before. And my friend Nate who'd never experienced anything like this before...well, I think the ZMA was too much for him...he was stumbling over his worlds just trying to say WOW. He was pretty flabbergasted.

Now, my friend Jason who's been listening with me for 15 years, he heard the ZMA when it was still pretty new...not quite 100 hours I think, and we both thought the high end was a bit edgy and dry, and I caught him looking at me like "you spend how much on this..." Now that the got 400+ hours (and XLR inputs) he was floored - he said he couldn't understand how I heard this potential in an amp that sounded that rough when it was new. He said everything I described to him 3 months ago was there now; the detail, the rich harmonics that bring voices and instruments alive, and the dynamics that just make everything pop.

And the new guy was like...wait, there's only two speakers playing here? No center channel, or surrounds? He'd heard of soundstage before, but this was the first time experiencing it.

So after such an amazing digital show (all from the Oppo via XLR, controlled by my cell phone), the tape only floored them all over again. The Twins soundtrack was so dynamic and live. Neither one of them could put their finger on how or why the tape sounded so much "better" than the digital tracks "it just did". I still have a lot to learn about tape, and Steve's copy isn't 100% right IMHO, but it was a good showing. With some tweaking on my part, and a slightly better recording, this could be a whole lot better. And my friend Jason who's a very science geek said that he was very skeptical of tape, that he really believed that CD was already to the limits of what we could hear, but that special something that comes from Analog really changed his mind.

And to finish up the night, we all got a great laugh out of these 55 year old commercials for Allied Electronics. It was just some typical late '50s jingles and an announcer with a great voice, but it sounded so live and present, like he was here in the room with us trying to sell us a stereo (only 149.50 and only $5 down!). That was certainly a great way to end the night, and just blew our minds how a 55 year old tape could be so fresh and present.

Sorry to ramble and gush so much. It's just that I thought this amp was done, it's at its final plateau and will sound this good forever.  I really believe these XLR with my Oppo took it up another notch.

Gear tonight was -

Oppo BDP-105 with 2T Passport hard drive playing FLACs ripped, FLACs downloaded, and DSD purchased.

Morrow Audio 1.5m XLR cables (I have no idea which ones, they cost me $135 at the audio show) to Zen Mystery Amp

10AWG Zen Styx clones (soon to be replaced with 8AWG versions)

MG-944 on spikes

Also, Otari MX-5050 playing 2 track tapes with my own DIY 26AWG Zen Styx style wire XLR cables
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« Last Edit: 04/30/14 at 06:41:54 by Lonely Raven »  
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Palomino
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1074 - 04/30/14 at 14:22:09
 
Sounds like fun.  Makes all the tweaking time and the wallet-ectomy worth it when you get great feedback.

Did you find that Stevie Ray song?  Big soundstage on that one.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1075 - 04/30/14 at 14:33:04
 
I found like six version of it from my usual sources - which album is the correct version off of?
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« Last Edit: 04/30/14 at 14:51:56 by Lonely Raven »  
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Lon
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1076 - 04/30/14 at 14:40:36
 
Glad you had fun Eric!
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Dave1210
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1077 - 04/30/14 at 14:56:07
 
Awesome story Eric!

We had friends over a couple weeks ago and my friend’s boyfriend was showing some interest in the stereo equipment.  I think it was the blue lights/screens on the PSA gear that initially caught his attention.  He then started looking around and asking questions (why are the speakers so far into the room?, etc).  He isn’t into audio and had never seen a tube amplifier which further intrigued him.  I asked him if he wanted to listen.  He said sure and I sat him down in the sweet spot.   His reaction was very similar to what was described below:

And the new guy was like...wait, there's only two speakers playing here? No center channel, or surrounds? He'd heard of soundstage before, but this was the first time experiencing it.

He initially said, wow, this would be great for movies because he thought I had a multi-channel setup going.  When I told him that all of the sound was coming from the two speakers, he couldn’t believe it.  He pointed at my diffusion panels and said “those aren’t speakers”?  I think it really blew his mind.  He couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the night.  It was pretty entertaining.  
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ZYGI
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1078 - 04/30/14 at 15:00:33
 
Eric,

      I basically had the same experience as you had, except the only thing in my system that changed was the  little magic box Steve made for my tape machine to use XLR's.

In this case, I thought my PS audio DAC also has XLR outs, why not give it a try. It was uncanny good. Everything you said changed in your system, I concur with. So go back and try using the RCA's again and let us know if it has as much to do with the Steve's version of an XLR converter or was it really another stage in your Mystery amps break in?

I know Steve bought the little XLR to RCA stand alone box, which he thought sucked (you may have been there to hear it) so he then built one in a Zbox case with volume controls and it is awesome.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: The MYSTERY AMP !
Reply #1079 - 04/30/14 at 15:01:21
 
Dave, Sounds like you have a good setup for that. My imaging and soundstage are the weak points because of my L-shaped room and the fact that I've not finished building my diffusers. I think I'll be at that happy point that Lon is  at once I get my room better dealt with. I just need to redesign (make more simple) my diffusers, or come up with a better way to mass produce them error free.

Zygi, I saw a box like that when I visited Steve, but I wasn't really paying attention to it. I was more focused on Tape Stuff than the XLR ports, but now I'm seriously looking at the XLRs, as it's the only explanation as to why the ZMA has really taken a step up. Honestly, I thought I was done with the "I've never heard that before!" thing. I'm giddy all over again, like I got a new amp.  :)



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« Last Edit: 04/30/14 at 16:25:51 by Lonely Raven »  
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