Are you familiar with tube hiss? That would be my first guess. Your linestage has tubes, have you checked them?
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If you can hear hiss at the listening position while music is playing at any volume, something is definitely wrong. Notwithstanding the fact that the high sensitivity of your Daedalus speakers will reproduce any noise that is generated or introduced downstream of the volume control to higher levels than would result with less sensitive speakers. With my preamp muted, the hiss level from my Ulysses is almost imperceptible with my ear less than two inches from the tweeters. I do have a very slight ground loop-related hum, though.
Some thoughts and questions:
1)My guess is that the problem is unrelated to AC power quality.
2)Have you tried both positions of the "Gnd" switch on the back of the amplifier? N.B.: To prevent the possibility of loud transients, I would strongly suggest not changing the position of that switch while the amp is on, and waiting a minute or so after turning the amp off before changing its position.
3)What happens to the noise level if the preamp is turned on but is muted?
4)Are your interconnects between preamp and power amp shielded or unshielded, and balanced or unbalanced? Shielded and balanced would provide the best noise rejection. If that is not what you have, you might want to try some inexpensive Mogami Gold Studio cables, which are known for their excellent noise rejection.
5)If they are not already, route the interconnects with as much separation as possible from power cords or other possible sources of electrical noise.
6)Good suggestion by Mofi about disconnecting everything but the amp. For the results to be totally conclusive, though, you should put shorting plugs such as these on the amp inputs.
Hope that helps. Best regards,
I played around a little last night and here is where we are:
I confirmed that the noise is ONLY present when the amp is on. I can turn on any/all other components and don't hear the hissing sound. Disconnecting the amp from the rest of the components (ala Mofi) eliminated the noise. That leaves the IC's as a prime suspect and me with a possible answer to the problem. I'm using balanced/unshielded Empirical Design 422 interconnects AND they are (by necessity) routed very close to the 4 gang outlet box where all of the components are plugged into the wall. In fact, one of the wires is literally resting against the power cord for the amp about an inch away from the XLR connector. (BTW, I wasn't oblivious to the potential problem here but given my room/setup and the way the XLR connector wants to "sit" when correctly rotated and seated into the amp receptical it is difficult to avoid this result). So, this morning I moved the power cables around as much as possible to get them away from the IC in question and things improved--somewhat (I'm still not happy). Options? I could stay with balanced IC's but go with a cable with better shielding OR go with a pair of single ended IC's which not only move the cable away from the power cables (slightly) but also allow rotation which should give me (slightly) more wiggle room OR move the rack away from the wall a few inches to gain more leeway OR a combination of the above OR one of your ideas which I have not yet thought of. Thoughts? Many thanks as always.
Before finalizing any further suggestions, I'd still like to know the answers to items 2 and 3 in my earlier post.
My tentative thought, pending those answers, is to suggest that you try the Mogami shielded and balanced cables I mentioned earlier. Changing to unbalanced cables might alter the sonics you presently have; would increase susceptibility to ground loop hum or other ground loop-related problems; and very conceivably might not help the hiss problem.
So my understanding is that:
(a)Amp on + preamp off = no noise.
(b)Amp on + amp inputs disconnected = no noise.
(c)Amp on + preamp on and muted = no noise.
(d)Amp on + preamp on and unmuted = noise. The noise level is independent of the volume control setting.
(e)The noise was present both before and after the recent upgrade of the amp. Dan checked the amp for any noise issues when he did the upgrade. So presumably the problem is not some defect in the amp that is degrading the common mode noise rejection that its balanced inputs should be providing, such as would occur if one of the two signals in the balanced signal pair for each channel were not being responded to.
If all of that is correct there are two possibilities that occur to me. Your guess is as good as mine as to which is most likely:
1)The unshielded cables are picking up the noise, in which case going to shielded balanced cables such as the Mogami's I suggested could be a good solution.
If that diagnosis is correct, the reason the noise disappears when the preamp is muted or turned off is probably that the preamp shunts its outputs to ground through a low impedance when it is muted or turned off. The low impedance essentially shorts out the inputs to the amp, reducing the amount of noise that is picked up and able to enter the amp.
2)The preamp has a problem in its circuitry somewhere between the volume control and the output, that affects both channels. Possibly a tube, as Michael (Uru975) suggested.
One more thing to try, if you haven't already, would be to disconnect the balanced interconnects at the preamp end, while leaving them connected to the amp, and then turning on all of the components so that they are generating whatever noise or interference they normally generate. If that results in a similar amount of noise through the speakers it would pretty much confirm that noise being picked up by the cables is the problem.
05-10-12: DodgealumAccording to me, you'll only hear the hiss/noise once the amplifier is on 'cuz the amp is the only piece of electronics driving the speaker. Amp not on, no noise from the speakers.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the amp itself has a problem. Merely saying that unless the amp is on, the speakers are not driven thus any noise generated in the electronics will not be heard.
This is obvious to me but no one else including Almarg stated it so, what am I missing here?
So, this morning I moved the power cables around as much as possible to get them away from the IC in question and things improved--somewhat (I'm still not happy). ....to me this points to unshielded interconnect cables & to the preamp (since Dodgealum is not fully satisfied with the reduction in noise indicating that the interconnects are not the full source of the problem).
I believe that Almarg already stated this in his latest post.
One more thing to try, if you haven't already, would be to disconnect the balanced interconnects at the preamp end, while leaving them connected to the amp, and then turning on all of the components so that they are generating whatever noise or interference they normally generate. If that results in a similar amount of noise through the speakers it would pretty much confirm that noise being picked up by the cables is the problem.yeah, this would be a good test to see if the cables are acting like antenna picking up RF noise.
My gut feeling is that balanced interconnects should not be the issue. Afterall balanced cables are used for the very fact that they are balanced hence noise cancelling. They perform remarkably well in (RF) noisy environments such as pro studios. If a balanced interconnect (even tho' unshielded) is being a noise antenna, something does not smell right to me.....
My brother once had a similar issue - the single-ended cables in his system were picking up signals from a FM station & creating a low level signal output from his speakers. Once he switched to balanced interconnects (I forgot shielded or not) the problem was fixed. Here Dodgealum is already using balanced cables.....
I have a strong hunch that it's the preamp. To me all fingers point to that device. As Almarg wrote:
a)Amp on + preamp off = no noise.each time the preamp signal is not allowed to reach the power amp, there is no noise.
05-10-12: BombaywallaYes, I noticed that too, and you're not missing anything :-)
Good comments in your post.
It could also be something coming into the preamp. I would unhook everything from the preamp except the AC power cord and the output cables to the amp. This would be like starting from square one.
If you hear any noise, it is either the cables from the preamp to amp or the preamp itself, (probably a tube).
If you do not hear any noise, start plugging your components back in to the preamp ONE AT A TIME and listen for the noise. One of these will be the culpruit. Which, now you will need to determine if it's the unit itself or the cables from it to the preamp.
Sorry, but you'll need to troubleshoot this thing from the very beginning. I just helped a friend do the same thing. Noises/hums/buzzes are a pain in the ass to find. Starting from square one and working one at a time is the only way to find it.
Note that Mark indicated that "the level of noise is audible when I am playing music only at very low volumes." That would appear to indicate that the noise level is insensitive to the volume control setting, which would mean that it is not being caused by anything upstream of the volume control.
I may have been unclear and so driven the discussion off the rails. Almarg: your synopsis "a" is not correct: amp on + preamp off = noise. Again, none of the other components make the hissing noise alone or together. Just the amp when on alone or when on and the preamp is unmuted. I moved the cables as best I could away from the power cords and the noise is significantly diminished. I think this is the culprit and the sound will likely disappear if I can find a way to get the ICs between amp and preamp completely away from power cords.