Suggestions to upgrade from Lyra Delos


Greetings again folks:

I've done a bunch of tweaking and fiddling with my Thorens TD124 including a new arm (Jeff Spall), Audio Silente bushings and other minor things.  I love my Delos in general, but I feel like it's missing something.  It's very detailed, fast, tight bass, good channel separation and soundstage (in general, feels a bit compressed front to back) but I feel like I'm missing that 'thing.'  Of course it could just be perception on my part, but I don't have much to compare with so that is the intent of this thread.

The rig:

Thorens TD124 Mk1 w/Mk II mods
Jeff Spall (Audiomods UK) Tonearm,v6
Lyra Delos, with Microridge stylus (original, not rebuilt)
Hagerman Audio Labs Trumpet MC (Loaded at 110 Ohms)
Stax SRM-007T Headphone Amp with Stax Lambda Nova Signature headphones

I'd like to stay under $5K as well and would prefer a similar cost to the Delos ($2K) if possible, but willing to invest more in a different experience if that experience is better.

I realize this is a highly subjective ask.  I would appreciate responses from those that have gone from or to a Delos and what you went to / from.  I'm certainly considering the Kleos or a used Etna (if I can find one in the price range) but again, would like to try another direction to experience a broader range of sound signatures.

Thank you, in advance, for any suggestions.

Previewdducat
Nice tonearm! I would suggest an Ortofon Windfeld Ti. 
It has a fuller sound than the Lyra without being heavy handed. Better tracker, better stylus. 
front to back ?i have a Delos on a Triplaner , Brinkman Bardo.
I see the v6 arm offers variable effective mass up to 22 grams. Is it known to be a good match for carts that work best in higher mass arms? What is the upper threshold of cart weight it can balance?
I don't know that I know the max, but the docs say it can take a 10g Ortofon with no problem, so I can't imagine the MC Anna, for example, at 16g would pose any problem given the construction of the arm and the available balance weight options available.  (For example, you can dismantle the weight and use different mass loading of the counterweight itself up or down).
Would be interesting to check into. Since 10g is on the moderate side and 20g is quite heavy it is not always a matter of ' can the counterweight balance it'. On the heavier side lies a number of interesting carts; Anna ( as you mention ) Phasemation, Ikeda, Sensitive Sound etc.
I have run the Audiomods tonearm in a Platine Verdier. It is a great arm for the money, a giantkiller, but in my view it is not a top arm. 

In my view you should stick to medium compliance cartridges for this arm - Van den Hul & Dynavector moving coils tend to medium compliance, or Soundsmith moving iron medium compliance version.

I would not run heavy low compliance MC's in this arm if you want the best result.

I am a fan of Lyra cartridges.  I own a Titan, although these days a Transfiguration Orpheus L resides in my tonearm.  Lyra cartridges have a open, and nimble sound, which is not as harmonically rich and dense sounding as something like Koetsu cartridges.  If you want to hear something quite different, try something like the Koetsu Rosewood cartridge.  The downside to the Koetsu is that it will not sound as detailed, and nimble and it will not track quite as well as the Lyra,

A cartridge that I really like, because it sounds very vivid and immediate, without being harsh or thin sounding, is the Audio Technica ART 1000.  This is the one I would buy if I were in the market for a new cartridge.
Dear @dducat : I see two options as an up grade your system.

One is to change the phono stage for a better one and stay with the Delos ( byw, this cartridge is not " compressed " as you say, this characteristic could be happening in other link of your system. ) and the other could be to buy this AT MC cartridge:

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-us/at-art9xa


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.
@rauliruegas:

I didn't say that the entire thing was compressed - just the front/back soundstage.  

I'm not sure what would be wrong with the phono preamp here - it's a very clean circuit, one 12AU7 and two 12AX7s per channel, and at the moment, all are vintage Telefunken.  I've got it very low loaded and a decent amount of gain, so I don't think it's really the phono preamp (I mean, I guess it could be).  If I had my druthers, I'd get a Herron VTPH-2A but well, that's probably not going to happen any time soon.

I do appreciate the suggestion on the at-art9xa.  I hadn't really thought of that cart as a serious comparison but it's certainly something I will look into as well.

@larryi  - thanks for the suggestion on the ART 1000.  I'll look into it.

@dover  - I'm curious what a top arm would be in the price range of the audiomods arm?  I figured I would have go $5K or more for a better arm which wasn't in the cards (and still isn't).

@solypsa - I'm fairly confident the arm can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.  While I don't know that it would handle an extremely low compliance heavy cart well, there are additional cartridge mounting plates as well as counter weight discs that you can swap or add so I suspect that even for the heaviest, lowest compliance carts, there's a solution.  Whether that's going to produce the best sound possible out of the combo needs further examination, I guess.  
s@dducat
As I said the Audiomods is a very good arm for the money and punches above its weight. There are arms up to $5k that in my view are better - the Kuzma 4Point9 for example @ around $4.5k

If you had $7k for arm/cart - then $5k arm/$2k cart will outperform $2k arm/$5k cart.

Arm cartridge matching is vital to provide synergy - that is why I'm suggesting medium compliance cartridges for the Audiomods. I know the arm and I simply would not put a Koetsu or top of the line Lyra on it. If you are looking at spending closer to $5k I would get a better arm first. My advice - stay at $2-2.5k budget - medium compliance.

I know the Soundsmith range works well in this arm - I've heard most of them.

What are you "missing" from your current combination ??
Check out miyajima Kansui ,but on low compliance .
Dynavector is medium side and their XX2 is very good for money .
+1 @dover regarding putting funds towards arm ( as a rule of thumb; no disrespect for the Audiomods arm )

@dducat which version Trumpet do you have? The current one with the dc wallwart or the old tall one or the reference? Just curious. I’ve heard the old tall one ( with a few mods at a friends house ) sound fantastic in the past...
Also *if* you splash out on a higher end arm in addition the Kuzma take a look at Schroder CB or BA arm.
Anyways for medium compliance I would also suggest reaching out to Ana Mighty Sound in Paris. They are longtime Audio Technica users, cart retippers, and manufacturers of the medium compliance Sculpture A carts. Great analog loving folks.
@dover - what I feel like I'm missing is 'roundness' of the overall sound presentation.  It presents well and is highly detailed.  It just doesn't feel 'musical' to me, I guess.  It's hard to explain really.

@solypsa - I have the most recent version, with the 15VDC wall wart power supply.  I think it sounds good - dead quiet, no over-coloration.  Again, I wish I could have pulled the trigger on a Herron, but I haven't been able to do that.  At least, not yet.

I do have designs on a Schroeder or Kuzma arm in the future.  I had forgotten that the Audiomods arm comes with a larger mass cartridge mounting plate, so I'm going to try that, for the moment, to see if there's any audible difference.  
Good plan. Meanwhile its possible that trying a higher quality 15vdc linear power supply on the Trumpet could raise it higher in SQ ( like the Farad ) but Hagermann is a very savvy designer so who knows...
Whenever I hear someone say they are looking for a cartridge that is more musical vs. detailed, I think that the person is looking for something that sounds harmonically rich or "dense" such as Koetsu or certain Ortofon and Grado cartridges.  The downside to these richer sounding cartridges is a sense of the cartridge being a bit muddy or "sluggish."  If you are not looking for an extreme contrast to your Lyra (which a Koetsu certainly would be), perhaps a Dynavector XX-2 might be of interest.
@larryi 

The other problem is that I don't know what I don't know.  I don't have much experience beyond my Lyra (other than a Denon 103R) since I've gotten back into the hobby after decades of being away from it.  I'm aware of the Dynavector XX-2, but have never heard one.

I certainly don't want to be 'sluggish' and I would not trade detail and speed for 'warmth' and 'sluggish.'   There may not be another option, per se, and I'm ok with that, but I thought I would reach out to this group to see if there were any similar experiences and/or advice which I've gotten a great deal of - so, thank you all for that.
My experience with a Delos ( one time for a client ) is that it is a great cart, however In this instance it wasn't as deep or 'fleshed out' in the bass as some others and this imho is required for a sense of 'richness'.
Dear @dducat : ""   so I don't think it's really the phono preamp (I mean, I guess it could be)  ""

you have a phono stage unit designed/manufactured to a price point and is very good for what you paid for but it's far away of many many phono stages out there.

You need that kind of first hand experiences. Those 5K on target will rewarded the more changing the phono stage, you can look at: Parasound, Ayre, SimsAudio, Sutherland and the like.

The Delos is very good performer and your PS does not honor it.

R.
Quick update - swapped out the cart mounting plate to the heavier 'low compliance' plate and there is a noticeable difference.  I'm going through a series of recordings the see how much there really is, but definitely stronger bass response, wider soundstage (although it was wide before), slightly better space / separation between instruments.  I think the extra mass definitely was a plus, along with some gain tweaking.

I'm still investigating arms, carts, phono preamps, etc.  But this certainly does sound great.
It appears that you have done some trials on "free" or near free set up modifications, many of which can have quite a big impact on the sound.  I hope you have tried changing vertical tracking angle; for example, lowering the arm pivot point will add bass weight to the sound.  I found that the Lyra cartridges I have used are quite sensitive to changes in vertical tracking angle.  I hope you have tried changes in loading as well.  With most tube phono stages, less loading than utilized with solid state phono stages tends to work out well (less loading means HIGHER value of resistance, such as 47k ohm). 

Not so free changes that will really make a difference involve the tubes used in your phono stage.  Telefunken 12AX7 and 12AU7 run the gamut from warm and smooth sounding to lean and very punchy and dynamic; it depends on the specific tube.  I run a lean and dynamic variant (ECC803S) that has become crazy expensive.  You could try other tubes that are known to be on the warmer side (that warmer side is often the "magic" attribute some seek in tube gear).  To me, a pretty safe recommendation that almost always seems to please are Amperex Bugle Boy tubes.

Given that the Delos is quite a nice cartridge, Raul's recommendation that you at least consider a phono stage upgrade is a reasonable suggestion.  I don't know about your Hagerman phono stage, but, I do know that a good phono stage makes quite a difference.  
@larryi 

Yes, I've adjusted VTA.  I have also played with loading and gain previously as well as after this most recent change.  Right now I'm running it at the lowest possible load and 60db gain.

I have tried a variety of tube complements in this preamp, and so far the Telefunken combination is the most 'natural' sounding without being overly colored.  The Mullard repros it came with are a waste of time.  I like the Telefunkens slightly more than the vintage Mullards.  I'm working on (because as you've said, it's not exactly 'free') sets of NOS Siemens, Bugle Boys and Vintage Raytheons.  I've actually ECC803s in this stage and it was a very weird sound signature - felt like the midrange was being thrown in my lap.

As I said, I'm looking into other phono preamps a notch or three above this one.  Sutherland, Herron, Musical Fidelity NuVista, and a few others.

But, I do think I've got this finally dialed in for the moment so I'm going to continue playing with it to see how it goes.
I do agree that ECC803S can have a forward, sort of aggressive, midrange (assuming you are talking about real, old stock, tubes); what is appropriate in one setting, or for a particular taste, is not appropriate in another.

I wish you the best in your search for a phono stage.  It can be a daunting task given how many candidates are out there.  I have not been in that market for a long time, so I have only run into different models incidentally.  I heard systems that sounded quite good with Audio Note (uk), Lector (Italy), Zanden (Japan), and Doshi phono stages.  I own a Viva (Italy) phono stage myself.  If you like to fiddle around with your sound, you would love the Zanden because it gives you a choice of equalization curves.  Sometimes, the "wrong" curve actually sounds better than the correct curve so it is nice to have that option.

Another option is to look for an outboard step up transformer to feed the MM input of your phono stage.  While I know there are all sorts of theoretical reasons for eschewing step up transformers, I've always preferred the sound of systems employing them (my Viva has a built-in step up transformer).  There are plenty to chose from, including custom-wound transformers made for your particular cartridge/application (look at myemia.com, a company noted for transformers and autoformers).
  
Didn't read whole thread but this caught my eye:
I've got it very low loaded and a decent amount of gain, so I don't think it's really the phono preamp
Reduce the loading to open up the sound.
@larryi - yes, I was talking about vintage/NOS tubes.  That's all I use.  I appreciate the suggestions, and I've been interested in the Vifa as well. I'll look into the Zanden, for sure. 

@noromance - yeah, I thought I was at the lowest load setting on the Hagerman and it turns out I wasn't. (It isn't obvious because the gain adjustment, which is built the same way doesn't operate the same way and neither are labeled or marked, so I had assumed that I was already at the lowest load based on knob positioning). That's what I meant earlier when I said I tweaked load as well. 

Again, it's definitely sounding better overall and on quality recordings it's sounding rich and full so, I think I have addressed short term issues. 
my bud had exactly same  feeling with Lyra delos.

he tried a few conical and MM

things he loved now.as well. goldring 1042. shure m44.  toe tapping magical. 

and doesn't cost 5k. and not a downgrade in his book. different way to enjoy

if want more hi end maybe can look at soundsmith. 

I have lots of experience with the Audiomods arm although I am currently not using one.  It is a great arm and should work great with the Delos.  I think you can tweak the setup parameters to get at what you may be missing but I also thinking you are hearing the Delos for what it is. 

Exploring news carts is fun. I have a Koetsu RSP and a Lyra Etna SL So I know these house sounds well and feel like they fall at two ends of a continuum. In the middle of them are carts like Ortofon A90 and SoundSmith carts like the MIMC Star, Paua and Sussurro.  Any of those, once they finally break in, might be the change your ears are looking for.  I have a Sussurro ES and an A90. The SoundSmith in particular seems to "get out of the way" to me so that I don't notice the characteristics of the cart and just listen to the music.  Some may interpret this as boring?  Unlike the Koetsu, the SoundSmith carts will work great with your Audiomods.  Your phono pre needs to be able to load them 470 Ohms or higher.