Soundsmith Straingauge cartridge taken to the next level


After a long pause, my analog was reinstalled 6 weeks ago.
This pause gave me the chance to go to the next level on my Straingauge.
Atm, Straingauge is a great performer, but IMHO it’s let down by it’s cheap and nasty 24V DC wall warts.
Initially I upgraded these to Red Wine Audio Black Lightning battery psu which gave a great upstick in SQ, but at expense of ongoing unreliability.
So 9 months ago I commissioned Peter Downs of Alternative Audio in SW of U.K., www.alternativeaudio.co.uk
to make a bespoke psu to the cart.
And after many prototypes the finished version, with specialist transformer, oversized choke and best choice of caps etc, was delivered and installed.
Together with a sister psu to replace the stock one on my Trans Fi Salvation rim drive motor.
6 weeks of burn in, and I’m in Seventh Heaven re the SQ impvts these psus are bringing to the party.
Will report more at next post. But I can’t praise Peter enough in what he’s created, it’s truly taking my analog to the next level.
spiritofmusic
The Straingauge is an excellent all-round performer, but noise from the stock SMPS wall warts seriously hold back its performance.
Moving to the battery power supply was a big step up.
But nothing as compared to Peter’s bespoke psu. Now there’s a whole layer of grunge and noise removed, revealing total air around instruments, full bass texture and extension, deep and layered mids, imaging to die for, and sweet non-strident treble.
Its now a fantastic balance of Koetsu-like warmth and ease, with Transfiguration-like neutrality, openness and transparency.
In one fell swoop, IMHO the Straingauge absolutely leaps into the top league of carts.
And Peter Downs/Alternative Audio bespoke psu is crucial to achieving this result. If you own this cart, you absolutely must consider this upgrade option.
So the psu is only for the SG-200?
I think it’s good across all of them.
Best to email the designer to be sure:
[email protected]
Mention my name, Marc.
If you go ahead, you absolutely won’t regret it.
Please bear in mind that the Power supplies we ship are all ANALOG, not SWITCHING supplies, because switching supplies are very noisy. Often, when we ship overseas folks replace our analog DC supplies with switching supplies.

The analog supplies we ship are 24 volts DC at 1 Amp. usage is less than 500 mA.  There is considerable filtering and voltage regulation inside the SG-200 and SG-210, so it is hard to believe that the tiny amounts of ripple coming from the analog supplies is not filtered out. For the SG-230, we supply an inline filter, called the WWE. This unit provides huge amounts of filtering, as well as RF filtering. When used with switching supplies,  we measure absolutely NO NOISE coming out of the WWE. It can be ordered from Soundsmith and used with the SG-200 and SG-210 for those who must use switching supplies. 

Peter Ledermann/President/Soundsmith  
Peter, I don’t know what to tell you.
Ive had 2 updates on Straingauge energiser/stylus. On each occasion, the SQ has been taken up by replacing the stock wall warts, first w the Red Wine batt psu, and dramatically further w Peter Downs’ bespoke psu.
It’s night and day.
Please do not take my thread as a criticism of your product, the SG is very fine indeed. But it’s maximised by the new psu.
Dear Spirit of music;

Please don’t misunderstand what I have written - in over 45 yeas of designing and manufacturing audio, I NEVER tell anyone what they can, or cannot hear. I am speaking strictly from a TECHNICAL standpoint. I am NOT disputing your claims. I am strictly saying that analog supplies are far cleaner than switching supplies, by a long shot. I totally dislike switching supplies, save for their ease of use. What I am saying is that a simple analog supply, filtered by lots of capacitance, then regulated, then filtered some more, coupled with power supply rejection circuitry commonly found in IC’s, results in excellent performance from an IC. That is NOT to say that a more sophisticated PS is a fools errand. On the contrary, there have been many articles written on the noise generated by IC regulators themselves, which an external supply has minimal effect upon.

I did conduct a blind listening test between a laboratory grade dual DC supply against the wall analog supplies we ship, by a group of listeners years ago. At that time, we could not hear the difference. I am well aware that a battery supply (or the technical equivalent) can easily outperform high grade lab supplies, and similar. So I am by no means dismissing your claim - I am in fact, supporting it. I have had many report to us that the phono preamps we design and manufacture sound much better with battery supplies than the DC wall supply that comes with them. I will never dispute that claim - it is a low cost upgrade.

Bear in mind that the "entry level" Strain Gauge series I produce are expensive to build, and I must do everything I can to keep the costs as low as possible to be able to market these to our world-wide distribution channels. We DO make a Signature Series line of products, including Power Amplifiers and Strain Gauges designs which feature a higher end SG and circuit design, the SG-400,410,600,610 and 810, all of which feature an outboard unit that serves as a high performance dual power supply, designed and produced by Soundsmith. Far from dismissing your claims, I support them with this PSU we make, but always taking cost effective measures where I can, and must. It would be of interest to compare by blind test the WWE filter I designed and our analog supplies with your new supply to see if the WWE is a cost effective alternative. I say this, not knowing the cost of what has been custom built for you.

I am glad that the Strain Gauge and the modifications to the power supplies is increasing your enjoyment of recorded music. That, first and foremost, is my primary goal.

Peter Ledermann/Soundsmith
Peter, apologies if I mislabelled your factory wall warts psus as SMPS.
This bespoke psu to the Straingauge also isn’t SMPS.
At least we’re on the same page here LOL.
Let me tip my hat to you, and say that after 20 years of incessant upgrading, including running Lyra Skala and Parnassus, Transfiguration Temper Supreme and Orpheus, and even the Zu Denon 103R, I have zero desire to look at anything past the SG. Esp w the help of this bespoke psu.

@spiritofmusic 

I also have the good fortune of music with the strain gauge.

As you indicated in your first post, you also had a power supply made for your turntable. Did you happen to run them individually, or did you install both at the same time?

You also say the RedWine unit was unreliable. Can you elaborate on that?

@retipper 

 I am planning on building a battery supply for the strain gauge.

The plan is to use 2,  24 volt 4.5 amp wet sealed batteries, with 1 smart charger. Can I use just one charger, or will I need two ,so as to have two completely separate circuits?

Thankyou both for your input !

Ron

Hi Ron.
I did acquire both psus at the same time.
Due to both of them needing 60-80 hrs burn in to fully open up, I did spend some occasions going back to stock psu for tt motor whilst sticking w the psu on the SG.
I can assure you it is dead simple to gauge the impvts wrought by both psus, and solely to the SG.
As I’ve now exceeded 80 hrs, the changes are profound and ongoing.
What I’m particularly getting as an impvt over stock wall warts and RWA batt psu, is amazing imaging, stage depth and airiness. A result of massively reduced noise. Truly adds to the whole listening experience, and is making the SG a wholly compelling transducer.

Re the RWA batt psu, it sounded very good (not as good as Peter’s psu, but still excellent) when it worked. But it often didn’t work, and once tripped the energiser necessitating return to the factory.
The issue seems to be that even though the SG is nominal 24V, I believe there is some variance +/- on this figure on R and L channels, and get this incorrect, and the energiser trips leading to potential irreversible failure.
You can quiz Vinnie at RWA about this. On two occasions I had to send both energiser and his batt pack to him. He had to configure a twin battery system and needed the energiser to measure both channels. Unfortunately even despite this switching the system on and off left tripping things a major risk. A shame, Vinnie’s efforts were much appreciated.
However I now have the dream psu to the SG, multiple power down/up during the burn in period not once risked tripping, and the SQ is significantly in advance of the RWA twin batt psu.

@spiritofmusic 

Thankyou for your reply !

Just a clarification, does your new unit replace the Soundsmith energizer, or does the new power supply provide power to the Soundsmith energizer?

Do you use a preamp, or do you go direct to amp?

It is astounding to me that more performance is available from this system. In my case, I currently use the sg5 stylus, so another level will be achieved when I go to sg6. Hard to imagine , and then to realize another level of performance is available beyond that.....

For me this has been the single best audio upgrade I have ever done. It,s a keeper!

Ron


 



Ron, the psu replaces the stock wall warts, to power the energiser.
Energiser into preamp.
I believe I have the top stylus.
SG absolutely has an amazing potential upside. The RWA batt psu showed some of that, but the Alternative Audio bespoke psu goes further.
I’m never moving past the SG.

I was fortunate enough to get an SG220 which has a variable gain among other features. I go straight to amp. With various  preamps, I feel the best "truth" of the performance is without a preamp in my system. Thank you again for your insight !

  Ron
 

Do email my psu designer and see what he has to say. I can’t praise his work enough.
I'm am intrigued by the Straingauge system and have pondered upgrading from Peter's wonderful Hyperion.  I HATE wallwarts...they have no place in the high end audio!  Can you please tell us what the retail price is for your new power supply?
Badboss, Peter charges £2800 plus VAT & carriage for the Super Linear Power Supply. It can be specced as 230V or 115V, with gold or rhodium IEC, gold input to DC lead, and AMR fuse.
Contact Peter Downs at:
[email protected]
Thanks Spirit, the price appears reasonable.  I assume VAT is not applied if purchased by a US based customer? 
It’s a U.K. made device, so I’m assuming it’s $ equivalent of £2800 PLUS US Sales Tax.
A ex US importer will not charge US sales tax. That’s the buyers responsibility to pay as a “use tax”. There may be import duty however, although I’ve imported loads of stuff from the UK at this sort of price and never paid it


Well, then you’re looking at £2800 plus shipping in $s, and whatever US sales tax ensues.
VAT is purely for U.K. and EU sales.
Further info from designer Peter Downs.
The Straingauge Super Linear PSU has a specially commissioned oversized mains transformer, high speed rectifiers, custom designed oversized choke, specially selected caps, and custom hand-made gold plug DC connecting cables.