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I have a Bob's Devices SUT, which uses Cinemag and it is quite good. I just heard it Sat. used with the Phono section of my Magic preamp into a friends system consisting of Wilson Sasha speakers driven by Lamm amp and pre and Raven table with Graham Phantom arm with Dynavector cartridge and it worked quite well so it will partner some very exacting components. One of the better bargains in audio in my experience. It is usually used in a SS rather than tube system and works well there also. Currently I am using it with a Basis 2001 table, Graham 2.2 arm with AT 33EV, Musical Fidelity Kw line and phono, CJ 350 amp into Spendor S 100s with 2 REL Stadium subs.
Great thread Sibelius. Thanks for sharing your findings.
I am also using a Koetsu, the Jade, in to a Shindo Monbrison. I started w/ the A23 High Impedance Denon
version SUT. I preferred it to the built in Shindo SUT,
especially w/ rock music. I then discovered that A23 also
had an SPU version, which retals for approx $1,400, around $400+ more than the Denon version. This SUT is matched
for the SPU's , which I believe are in the 2 ohms range.
The Koetsu's are 5 ohm's, so it would stand to reason that the SPU SUT may be better matched than the High Impedance Denon version. It was a better match, so I am now running it w/ the Jade. I am keeping the Denon, because an EMT cartridge is in my future plans. Stingreen: I had both the Ruby 3H and Ruby 3. I also have owned the Rosewood std, and RSP, which Sibelius now uses. Admittedly, some equipment went in and out during these changes. I can say for my tastes, I prefer Koetsu's. They just have that midrange that is just so engaging IMO. This of course, IMHO, and in the context of my system. Cheers!
Stringreen: I prefer the Koetsu to the Benz. I love the tone of the RSP. Some may think the Koetsu's as overly "colored" but it hits the right emotional chord for me. I also find that the Platinum Koetsu's do a more than adequate job on the low and high ends as well. It may not be as detailed as some other cartridges I've had but it's strengths align perfectly with my tastes.
Stanwal: Agree with you that Cinemag SUT is an incredible value. In fact, I currently have a Cinemag SUT in my second system. I find the Cinemag to be extremely musical. It is only in a direct analytical comparison that I found I prefered some of the others.
Interesting thread... How would you say a transformer differs from the sound of an active phono stage with FET amplifiers? I currently have an active phono stage (Sonic Frontiers) and I think the tone is actually a little better in MM mode. In MC mode, things become a little "hyper", as it were. Tons of speed, detail and nuance, but I think tone suffers a little. I think I would like to try a transformer some time.
Gadfly: The Cinemag has nothing to be ashamed of. My second system pairs the Cinemag SUT with a Denon 103R cartridge and the music flows wonderfully. The Cinemag may not catch all the micro details as well as some of the more expensive SUT's but on a macro level I find it boogies right along with the best of them.
A shoot-out with 8 SUTs and two cartridges without any mention of the source impedance nor the primary of the SUTs ........ sorry folks, but a SUT and a given cartridge do have some technical interactions between (not only... ) the cartridges output and its source impedance and the primary impedance of the SUT and its corresponding step-up ratio.
You may have tried which SUT worked best with your two cartridges (most likely because its technical parameters were best suited to work with the source impedance of the cartridge), but this was not a shoot-out showing anything about the quality of any of the SUTs vs any other others.
"Finally, I am aware that the performance of the products in question may differ substantially with other cartridges and systems so my ranking is a subjective opinion within the parameters of my system, room and musical tastes."
I'm glad to see you point this out and I'd like to expand on this. I'm thrilled to see the A23 and Shindo tranfos do well and I'm glad you like them. Both are being used with a non optimum source impedance. Nothing is universal about a SUT and each will sound its best with a different source impedance. The Koetsu is 2.5 x the optimum impedance of both the A23 and Shindo SUT putting them at a big disadvantage, IMHO. The shoot out results are more about the cartridges likes than the actual transformers abilities.
The shoot out results are more about the cartridges likes than the actual transformers abilities.Exactly right, and Vinyljh only mentioned half the issues. As fun as this shootout was, there was no mention of impedance loading of any of the SUTs, whether on the primary to match the source (cartridge) or on the secondary to control transformer resonances (Zoebel network).
Based on the OP, it seems unlikely that any of these cartridge/SUT combos was optimized. The outcomes therefore, while valid and interesting as an exploration of listener preferences, demonstrated little about the components themselves.
To perform a meaningful shootout would first require identifying the optimal primary and secondary side load for each SUT/cartridge combination. Balancing even one such combination is a work of several hours, at least. It's also not inexpensive, since multiple sets of high quality resistors are required. I've done this for one SUT and two cartridges. It required $1,000 worth of resistors, which I've still got lying about if anyone wants to repeat it. It's not a task for the fainthearted.
Optimizing sixteen cartridge/SUT combos would take weeks (and many more resistors than I've got). Only after optimizing each combo could we begin meaningful A/B comparisons.
Not trying to rain on your parade, but your shootout only scratched the surface. Using SUTs properly is difficult, time consuming and sometimes more costly than expected. It's less costly than top class active MC amplification, so SUTs remain a viable path into LOMC for those on a budget, but not managing all the factors involved can lead to inconsistent outcomes.
I agree with you 100%. Post was not meant to be authoratative. I needed a SUT and had the opportunity to test drive a bunch in my system. I had a blast doing it so I thought I'd share my subjective opinions with the board. That's it. I made a point of listing my equipment. It might help a few readers that have similar gear (Shindo preamps & Koetsu cartridges etc..)
I am old enough and been in the hobby long enough to realize one never should talk about equipment in absolute terms. Too many variables and personal preferences involved.
Sibelius: I am aware that this shoot-out's only purpose was to find out what actually would suit you best in your system. Which is perfectly fine. However - on some of the SUTs you've tested (Hashimoto, Lundahl, Swother), you can actually alter the primary to suit a given MCs source impedance best. So maybe you would have gotten more "precise" or "on target" results with your evaluation, if the SUTs (where possible...) had been aligned to similar primary/to a primary best suiting your carts source impedance. Right now the results may based on a given SUT's ideal matching by pure incidence. While another may have performed "worse" in the shoot-out, but would - if it's primary were connected different and thus altered to suit the MC better - actually outperform the other if aligned to the carts source impedance. A SUT and a MC do form a "team". There is never a certain SUT better than any other. There are ideal matches between a given SUT and a given cartridge which may result in a great performance. The inductance and impedance of the SUT and the LOMC do correspond which each other. I just want to encourage you to find the best SUT for your system by performing the shoot-out in a way which will give you the correct and optimized results.
Amen to the previous posts targeting the importance of the load a SUT is presenting to the cartridge in front of it. I recently acquired a K & K Premium SUT using Lundahl LL1931. It has solder sockets that allow relatively easy use of parallel resistors to precisely adjust the loading for the cartridge being used.
I was able to compare the K & K to the internal transformers on my EAR 834P (heavily modified but retains the stock transformers). After confirming that the EAR presents loading of about 125 ohms to the cartridge I made the adjustment to the K & K to present a similar load. Kevin Carter provides an .XLS spreadsheet file to be used for this purpose. What I found is that with similar loading of 125 ohms (EAR) and 122 ohms (K & K)to the my audio Technica AT33PTG the frequency balances were nearly identical. Yes, there was some difference in the sound of the two SUT, though nothing of the magnitude that I heard with dissimilar loading.
What the load matching allows, to paraphrase what others have stated, is the ability to compare "apples to apples."
Otherwise one is introducing an uncontrolled and unaccounted for variable into the "experiment."
To perform a meaningful shootout would first require identifying the optimal primary and secondary side load for each SUT/cartridge combination. Balancing even one such combination is a work of several hours, at least. It's also not inexpensive, since multiple sets of high quality resistors are required. I've done this for one SUT and two cartridges. It required $1,000 worth of resistors, which I've still got lying about if anyone wants to repeat it. It's not a task for the fainthearted.A question for Doug, Dertonearm, and the other experts who have responded above, which I'll introduce by saying that I have no experience with SUTs (or with MCs either, for that matter).
Wouldn't it be possible to accelerate the lengthy optimization process, which Doug has done a good job of describing, by using an oscilloscope and appropriate test record to optimize pulse response?
What would be required, I believe, is a test record that provided an riaa pre-emphasized square wave, say with a fundamental frequency of 1kHz, and whose risetime and falltime correspond to spectral components extending some distance into the ultrasonic region. Given that input signal, it seems to me that by using the scope to monitor the resulting phono stage or preamp output, and by substituting resistors until overshoot, ringing, etc. are reasonably optimized, it should be possible to get into the right ballpark much more quickly than by trial and error resistor substitution and listening. Further optimization by listening would then presumably be a relatively rapid process.
I'll add, though, that I am not aware of any test record that would seem to be suitable for this purpose. The Analog Productions test LP, for instance, and others that I have or have encountered, typically just provide sinusoidal waveforms, pink noise, etc.
Thanks! Best regards,
Impedance match was the main factor in choosing the CineMags for me. Using the DL103 w 40ohms, the Cinemag makes a close match at about 37ohms.
I have a switch to toggle between 37 and 150 but the 37 seems a more colorul and settled setting which also drops the level of hum in my system.
Phono preamp in use is the Hagerman Cornet2.
With this SUT and preamp I can really tell the difference between wood bodies, stylus'n and cantilevers. So for me there is enough detail in that sense.
Al, a few quibbles (it's what I do!)...
No normal cutting lathe could cut a square wave and no playback rig could trace one. You certainly wouldn't find me trying with my $4K cartridge! A square wave would be useful but perhaps it's not essential, though I have zero experience with oscilloscopes.
I believe RIAA pre-emphasis or its lack would be irrelevant. An SUT's function is to amplify voltages across all frequencies. To the extent ringing could be detected with sinusoidal waveforms, it should be detectable regardless of the incoming voltage (amplitude) at any particular frequency. Most SUT's operate before the RIAA de-emphasis anyway.
Quibbles aside, that method might well work. It would take me a while at first, since I haven't a clue how to operate a 'scope, but it might indeed be a quicker path into the right ballpark. Signal analyzer software instead of a 'scope might work too.
I stopped using SUTs several years ago, so further developments are up to you!
Thanks, Doug. A couple of clarifications to my previous post, which are relevant to your "quibbles" :)
By "square wave" I did not mean to refer to something that is truly square, with edges that are nearly vertical, or that even approach being nearly vertical. My reference to "risetime and falltime corresponding to spectral components extending some distance into the ultrasonic region" means that the edges of the waveform would rise and fall in a controlled, somewhat gradual manner. Since risetime and falltime have an inverse relationship to bandwidth, if those parameters were set so as to correspond to a bandwidth of say 30 or 40kHz, and if the amplitude of the signal were small, I would not expect tracking to be much more difficult than for a high frequency low level sine wave.
The point to riaa pre-emphasis would be to make the waveform that is monitored on the scope, at the output of the phono stage or preamp, more readily interpretable by the user, given that the user would be monitoring at a point downstream from riaa de-emphasis. Monitoring the signal at the phono stage input, prior to riaa de-emphasis, may be problematic due to the low signal level, and possibly also due to the effect of probe capacitance on the signal being put out by the SUT.
I vaguely recall that such test records were available way back when, from Shure among others, but I have no knowledge of any that may be available now.
Scopes are very easy to use, btw, following some brief familiarization, and, as you are probably aware, are potentially useful for optimizing some tonearm settings as well.
Basically, as I see it, the process of optimizing SUT/cartridge loading is attempting to accomplish two things:
1)Minimizing resonant peaks in frequency response, and/or shifting the frequencies at which they occur so as to make them inaudible; and minimizing overshoot, ringing, time dispersive phase shifts, etc.
2)To the extent that those kinds of effects cannot be eliminated, making them as synergistic as possible with the sonic characteristics of the rest of the system.
It seems to me that all of the effects that come into play in item 1 would be reflected in the response of the system to a "square wave" with suitably chosen rise and fall times. And a methodology like that could conceivably facilitate item 2 as well, with the waveform characteristics providing clues as to what to listen for and what type of material to listen with.
Further developments are up to you!I'll keep it in mind. But if my Grace F9E Ruby performs as expected when I get it back from Soundsmith, I may not venture into mc's for a considerable number of years. :-)
It is always interesting to read about comparisons, but they have all one problem:
SUT have huge differences in their quality and specs.
Another point why they will show different results. It is similar to Phonostages with a given cartridge, using that one with 100 ohms in Phonostage A are not comparable to 100 ohms in Phonostage B.
All - points well taken. Now that I've brushed myself off from the pumelling :) I want to at least mention that none of the SUT implementations were done by me. Just for the record:
The Cinemag and both Hashimoto SUT's are finished products purchased directly from Choir Audio in Georgia. The Cinemag was intially purchased for a second system with a Denon 103R cartridige. Choir Audio was aware of the Koetsu when I purchased the Hashimotos (First purchased the HM-3 version and later "upgraded" to the HM-7 when that became available).
The Sowter SUT was purchased directly from Bob's devices. Bob recommended the unit specifically for the Koetsu.
EAR 834P was purchased and modified ( specifically for the Koetsu) by the Analog Room in San Jose. Scott Franklin of Wavestream performed the Mods.
Auditorium Hommage was a loaner from PitchPerfect Audio in SF. The Shindo Masetto Preamp was purchased from PitchPerfect.
I currently still own the following with the rest returned or sold.
Can someone tell me how to quantify soundstage or tell a good soundstage from a bad one in the reproduction of a recording? Why is a "huge" or "wide" soundstage preferable to a narrow soundstage? What is this obsession about soundstage? With imaging at least I can at least relate it to phase distortion or time alignment issue. But not all recordings have inherently wide soundstage and what if the reproduction make it wider than actually in the recording and is that still better than a narrow soundstage? If a SUT creates a wide soundstage, do I have to like it? What happens if I play a mono record? What if I re-evaluate all the above SUT but eliminating the soundstage criterion, will the result be different? By now, I should get kicked out of the audiophile club but I think I just got my membership re-approved by simply using the word soundstage so many times in this post.
Obviously hearing a wide soundstage from a mono recording would indicate a system problem. Further, only a fool would expect any sort of soundstage from multi-miked recordings made in 15 seperate booths, in takes spread over three weeks, all mixed onto a single LP. GI/GO
Soundstage is a viable consideraton only when the original performance had one and the recording at least attempted to capture it. It's a fair bet that any Kenneth Wilkinson recording of any orchestra started with a real soundstage, and that he intended for us to hear it. The fact that he and other skilled recording engineers generally used the barest minimum number of mikes was critical. The more mikes, the more phase confusion. The more phase confusion, the harder it is for ears to identify the size or direction of any particular sound source.
As for quantifying, that's an obsession in itself, but accurate soundstage reproduction requires, at least, a very low system sound floor. The lower the level of detail a system can reproduce, the more soundstage information you'll hear. Phase clarity and lack of distortion also help, since any problems in these areas will confuse, mask or slur directional cues. Very fast, very clear HF response also helps, since our ears are most sensitive to HFs for direction and distance information.
Accurate soundstaging is a byproduct of accurate reproduction. To the extent it exists, it's an indicator of system health. To the extent it's missing, it's an indicator of problems to be investigated and resolved.
Dear Hiho, as for soundstage dimensions in reproduced music - I would recommend getting a first-hand impression of a reference.
Try to find a set-up which does give an illusion of real space, ease and the sense of naturalness in the reproduced "space". It should give you a feeling of being "right" - you should forget about the reproduction at all.
One always need to hear what is possible to find a reference enabling the student of the art to judge the performance of a certain set-up. If we do not know what is possible, we will always settle for the next best.
The last paragraph of Dougdeacon's post of 07-09-2010 gives a lot of truth and insight. If you are out in the wilderness to find, then it shows the path to follow.
Cool thread, the subject of which I'm only just beginning to investigate (tried a CineMag, liked it OK but wound up returning it for tangential reasons, at least for the time being).
But while Dougdeacon has apparently long since moved on from SUTs, and I have not yet begun to load as one might say (I used no resistors, since no provision was made for adding them in the particular SUT I tried), I'd still like to ask why it requires $1K worth of what I'm assuming must be premium resistors in order to figure out optimal values? Couldn't this experimentation be performed first with cheapie resistors to get into the ballpark, and once that's done then finish coming down the homestretch using fewer expensive ones? (Yes, I do at least know that better resistors actually sound better, often much better.)
Furthermore, is it truly necessary to load both the primary and the secondary to get good sound? I would have thought, in my ignorance, that one of the benefits of going with a reasonably well-matched SUT may have been eliminating the need for adding any resistors at all. And indeed, in my short time playing around with the two ratio choices in the model I tried, I found that transformer-loading seemed if anything less critical than what I've experienced with regular resistive loading, i.e., my carts sounded happier at a wider range of nominal loads than has usually been the case going straight into the phonostage's MC section. Which is also something I've read people saying around about using SUTs in general, however you and several other obviously experienced posters above would seem to take exception with this liberal, loosey-goosey point of view...
Largely based on Sibelius' review, above, I recently purchased a Hashimoto HM3-based SUT; the SUT-H from Choir Audio. It's a great product and is better in every way than I was expecting (and I had high expectations). John Parker is a great guy to deal with and a true gentleman.
Before ordering the SUT-H I had been using a friend's CineMag (Bob's) unit for a couple of months, and I also already owned an Audio Note AN-2. The Hashimoto-based SUT is simply better than the CineMag unit in every way, at least in my system. Cartridges have been a pair of Shelter 501s (stereo and mono), recently upgraded the 501 st to a 5000, and a DL-103R.
I would like to append my response form 2010:
I met Bob Sattin from Bob's Devices at the T.H.E. Show in Newport last year (2011). Bob is a very pleasant guy, during our discussion expressed genuine surprise that I preferred the Hashimoto-based SUT to his Cinemag unit. Since he was going to be in town on vacation, I invited Bob to come to my office the following week and compare his units to my HM-3 unit from Choir Audio.
It was an interesting afternoon. We compared several of Bob's devices to my SUT, and I was surprised by a couple of things: First, just how much different various SUTs can sound, even from the same manufacturer (Bob's) and within the same transformer family (Cinemag). And the differences were not subtle.
Secondly, I was surprised at how much I preferred Bob's Cinemag 3440AH (Blue) unit to my beloved Hashimoto-based SUT. It's not that the HM-3 unit sounded worse compared to Bob's SUT. The unit from Choir Audio has a very seductive sound; warm, dusky and brassy. What I love about the Hashmoto-based SUT is what it does to horns, wood instruments and voices - there is great timbre and texture.
The Cinemag Blue unit, in comparison, was smoother and silkier. But more importantly, the Cinemag Blue unit presented more musical detail than did the Hashimoto unit. No matter which recording we listened to, Bob's Cinemeg Blue unit provided a sense sense of musical balance. Finally, I will say that I found the width and depth of the soundstage increased with the Cinemag unit, and not by a small degree.
I have kept my Choir Audio SUT, and still listen through it occasionally. But for most of my LP listening I rely on Bob's Cinemag 3440AH (Blue) SUT - it's simply a superior product.
If anyone is interested, the equipment used for the SUT comparison were a Luxman PD-441 turntable with Micro Seiki MA-505 S1 tonearm and Benz Ace (Low) cartridge. The amp was an Audio Note Oto Phono SE, and the speakers were Altec Lansing Model 14s.
Hashimoto SUT was plugged into MM connection of preamp. IC was Shindo.
Agree with you that Bob's Blue Cinemag is a major step up from the normal Cinemag and worthy of consideration. I also have one, enjoy it, and find it a great value for the money. I still slightly prefer the Hashimoto with my current cartridge (Koetsu Onyx Platinum) but the Blue is neck and neck with it. A refurbed Garrard with Ortofon SPU will be arriving in about a week and am currently planning on using the Blue Cinemag in this setup.
I wonder to what degree the turns ratio effected this comparison. What setting did you use to compare the 2 SUT's?
Curious because the high gain setting of the HM3 - 1:40 - would give a reflected impedance of 29.4ohms while the Cinemag on high gain (1:30) would give 52ohms. Probably enough to influence the comparison, making it difficult to compare those two SUT's with a particular cartridge. I suspect a low DCR cartridge would be best with the HM3 on high gain. The HM7 - 1:30 on high gain - is closer in spec to the Cinemag (though HM7 is considerably more expensive).
When we did the direct comparison between the Choir Audio SUT-H (HM-3) vs. Bob's Cinemag Blue unit, I had the SUT-H set at 7-40 Ohms (+26dB). Bob's Cinemag 3440AH SUT was set to 1:16 (+24dB). But as I recall, we tried both units both ways, and the above loading sounded best.
To be fair, I should note that I had originally purchased the Choir SUT-H for use with a modded Denon DL-103R cartridge. With that cartridge the two units are closer; although I still find that the Cinemag Blue unit is more detailed and sweet sounding. The HM-3 sounds more warm, fat and "wet". With the Benz or my Ortofon cartridges I prefer the detail I hear with the Cinemag Blue SUT.
Thanks for the further info Br.
Even though the gain of the HM3 and Cinemag are pretty close, the turns ratio of the HM3 on low gain setting (1:20) will give a reflected impedance of 117.5ohms vs 183ohms for the Cinemag (1:16).
Its hard to predict how different cartridges will work with differing SUT's and to complicate things further the best setting (turns ratio) for the SUT will vary with the phono amp.
In my setup with the lowish gain Cary ph302 (38dB on MM) the high gain 1:30 setting of my H7 sounds best by far with my modded/retipped 103R - though Hashimoto suggest using the low gain/ratio 1:16 setting based on the 14ohm DCR of the cartridge.
IME the H7 sounds nothing like your description of the H3 - being very transparent, neutral, extended, detailed and fast compared to the standard 'red' Cinemag.
I've not heard Bob's 'blue' version which is apparently a far better device (than the red) - but I'd like to.
IMO, the blue cinemag is more extended than the HM-7. The HM-7 brings out the Koetsu tone a little better than the Blue - especially in the midrange. Soundstage is very large for both. Blue is a tad bit more more up front sounding (or you can say the HM-7 is a tad bit more layed back). Both are well built but I like the design of the Choir Audio SUT better. It is larger and heavier. The blue is small and rather lite. Having exposed transformers looks cool but I personally like them in an enclosure for extra protection. Both are great sounding SUT's and I can't imagine anyone disliking either. The step up from the Cinemag red to blue is huge.
Br, thanks for the invite, but I'm located in Australia - so not likely to take up your generous offer.
Sibelius, that Blue Cinemag must be quite a piece (and a bargain) to be running neck and neck with the H7. I almost went with Bob's blue Cinemag - I did love the red - but decided to try something different with the Choir Audio unit.
The H7 does sound fantastic and like you I much prefer its form factor to Bob's Cinemag - less likely to be pulled around by cabling and it looks quite tasty and elegant(though its sound that counts of course).
I can see how the the small footprint of Bob's unit could be useful though - and it has its charms in a form follows function way.
Hey Br2098, I'm in So Cal and would love to hear the Bob's SUT. I'm running a Shindo Masseto/Cortese combo and in the process of rebuilding a Garrard 301 (hammertone version). I was originally looking at the A23 SUT but it seems the "blue" version of Bob's Cinemag devices might give it a run for the money.
Where in So Cal are you? I'm in the Long Beach area.
Oh well, at least that makes the comparison to the HM3 more valid, since on their low gain setting they both have the same ratio of 1:20.
Close in price too, though the Blue 1131 is actually $200 more than the HM3.
For those who own many MC carts the obvious problem is this
''one to one'' approach between an particular cart and particular
SUT. I am not aware that anybody collects SUT's while there are
many who own more MC carts than one. So it seems that at least
3 SUT's are needed: for 2- 5 Ohms, 6 ohms -20 Ohms and above
30 Ohms. But even then Dertonarm's criteria can't be meet.
BTW I use Denon AU-S1 with 3 -40 Ohm reach.