I use to own the 834 and I was considering having it modded by Mitch Singerman, $300-$500 depending how far you wanted to take it. He knows the 834 very well. Do a search and you will find much info!
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Hi, I also have an 834 and have recently modified it per Thorsten Loesch's guide on AA.
It involves some updates to the circuit like direct coupling and power supply filtering, as well as replacing some stock caps, resistors and diodes with better parts. It is a suprisingly simple procedure, and results in very nice sound. The guide is so well organized, describing each step in detail, that even I could do it ;-) My total parts cost investment is about $100. The results are quite good - factoring in the cost, this is really a no brainer.
My contact with Mitch Singerman is very positive, if you choose to go this route. He has two or three levels of mods, all limited to exchanging parts. He does not modify the circuit, per Thorsten. Mitch seems very knowledgable, and qualified to complete the work, as well as a gentleman. On the other hand, I found that the largest gains came with modifiying the circuit. I know, because I did my project in phases to evaluate the results.
IMO $1000 to mod this unit is too much. Just me, but this is really simple to do. For comparison, I have listened to more expensive phono stages (the usual suspects: Lamm, Aesthetix, Pass, Dartzeel, Manley, ARC, Hovland, etc,), so I have some familiarity with this class of product. The modified 834 delivers surprisingly charming and elegant sound for what it is, it may or may not be comfortable in the above company, but I am not aware of a commercial $2k unit that would embarass it.
I completely agree with Scott on the results from modding an 834P. It will be very close to, and in some ways better than, an Aesthetix Rhea. (I've owned both of these.)
The one drawback with the 834p is the stepups. This is not a huge deal because you could always run a quality stepup in front of the 834p.
If you do start looking for a replacement I would suggest seeking a phono stage with a FET MC gain stage. This is much better than using stepups.
Hi, well $100 is an estimate. The components are Thorsten's recommendations. Here are the particulars:
C1 and C7 - Mundorf ZN tinfoil film caps from HiFi Collective in UK. Price was around $56 including shipping. Bty, I strongly recommend staying away from this vendor. Customer service is abysmal.
C3 and C4 1% NOS silver mica caps - around $11 total (Ebay)
C6 Elna Silmic - $0.50 (Handmade electronics)
C8 and C9 Nippon Chemicon electrolytics - around $15
Caddock precision resistors (6 pairs) and diodes D1 and D2 around $50
PSU filter resistors (2) - no charge (from a friend)
I was already using outboard mc step up trasformers (S&B TX-103), so again no charge for using these in lieu of the internal step-ups
So in total, around $133 (+ or -) in parts. Hope this helps.
Good point, Tfkaudio, I should not have used the term quality with step-ups. Some are better than others, but they are all filtering out details. Step ups may be a cost effective alternative, however the do drop information. I have come to learn that fet MC gain stages are the only way to go.
I believe that the 834p, at least the one I had several years ago, had Stevens and Billings trannies. These little things stuck in one corner of the box.
Tfkaudio - you can get a Lundahl step up transformer from K&K Audio. Kevin Carter will configure it and assemble it for you if you like. The process of swappping resistors is one that does not require soldering as Kevin provided pin holes on the PCB that you can easily pop resistors of your choice into. I'm very happy with mine.
I guess labor needs to be paid for, but it does seem steep. I have never modded an EAR, but in my experience biggest improvement (by far) come when changing the coupling caps to better units. Looking at Skushinos post, those are C1 and C7.
You may want to crack open the ear and have a look and see if you can replace them yourself. Practice soldering for a little on a wires/clips before to get yourself comfortable with the soldering iron, and then make the mod. Do one mod at a time (on both channels) and test after each mod. That way if anything goes awry, you know where.
The nice thing about going it yourself is that you can do it step by step and hear the effect of each mod. This will allow you to choose components that really suit your tastes. And the satisfaction of modding the gear yourself is almost as good as listening.
I like Mudorfs, but prefer V-Caps for coupling caps (when finances allow). Less expensive caps which also sound fantastic are Dynamicaps.
Resistors in the signal path I generally go for AN Tantulums.
Anyway, best of luck with the EAR. I believe they are very good once modded.
After reading hundreds of posts about which caps,resistors,and tubes to use I have decided that there is no right or wrong way to mod. the 834p. You can tune it to you liking. I used Hovland couplng caps,Blackgate power caps,fast recovery diodes, and vishay metal film resitors.
I love the way it sounds in my system. This is a great way to get your feet wet with DIY.
I can't but second all the modders' -- go ahead & pick up the soldering iron. Skushino & Pauly in particular give excellent directions. I strongly suggest you follow Thorsten Loesch. Do print out Loesch's instructions and follow them carefully. I have myself referred to Thorsten's proposed mods about a year ago in this forum but can't find the reference. I think I was linking to "Romy the cat's" ("goodsoundclub.com") but am not sure.
I suggest you keep the original step-up trannies though -- or replace with Lundahl (better). The S&B Skushino's using and the Bent unit is using are superior by far, of course, but extremely expensive. Buy some music with the extra savings:)
I did a quick scan of (used) phono stages currently for sale on Audiogon, around $2000 (your pricing breakpoint). A partial list includes:
Klyne 7PX, Thor TA3000, Whest, Canary Audio, Herron VTPH1mc, Joule Electra OPS2, Pass Labs Ono, Art Audio Vinyl One ($2400), Klimo VIV, and Pass Labs XONO.
This is a surprisingly varied assortment of phono amps, including both tube and SS products, and different circuits. There are of course, many more for sale at less than $2000. Additionally, you mentioned the EAR 324. I don't see these for sale as often, but if memory serves me, they could be had around $2k.
If I was in your shoes, the wide variety of choices wouldn't make my decision any easier. UNLESS I first clarified what I wanted in a phono stage, and then found one that met my needs. For instance, Dan_ed mentioned a preference for a FET mc stage over a tube stage. This would narrow the field considerably to units like the Herron. On the other hand, I once owned an ARC SP-9, which has a FET input, and couldn't take it. Implementation has a huge impact in this price range, because these units are NOT cost-no-object designs. bty, I would love to listen to Dan_ed's Doshi phono stage because a friend, with similar sonic preferences to mine, has and loves his. bty, the same friend has (had) and loved the EAR 834P after mods and the Wright phono stage. He and I tend to value ability to convey emotion over absolute resolution of detail.
Unless you have the means and perserverance to obtain many phono stages to compare yourself, I suggest choosing one or two that interest you, listen yourself, then pick a winner and sell the other.
And I really don't want to advocate someone else buying gear just because it happens to be in my system. In fact, I myself probably would not invest $2k in the EAR. I have about $750 total in mine (the unit itself plus parts for the mod) and I'm content until (or if) I decided to pull the trigger on something in the $4k - $5k range, where I would expect significant improvements. IMO.
Hi Pauly! Thanks for the link. My phono stage is still dead and every once in a while I'll hear a small chirp from my TT begging to be played. I really need to get my phono stage taken care of. I'll read through the link you provided and hopefully it can get me thinking more. I believe I will at least repair the RCA's so that I have the unit functioning, I'm leaning more towards Steve at EAR to mod the unit, cheaper and he knows the EAR inside and out, as he well should. I just hate shipping internationally hence my inclination to send straight to Parts Connexion who does fabulous work and whom with I have experience.
a quick scan of (used) phono stages currently for saleHoly Shmoly (or is it schmoly). Come on, Zanth, solder those rca's and buy one of the used phonos there. Really. The few I know are really good (Klimo, Ayre, Xono) and,
I myself probably would not invest $2k in the EAR. Agreed, good as this unit is.
Sorry to be insistent -- but you're an audiophile brother after all!
Disagree with Greg and Audiopheil.
There is nothing wrong with the Ear except that it has parts that one would expect with Best Buy gear.
Agree with Greg and Audiopheil.
Grab the soldering iron and do it yourself. A set of v-caps (the very best caps out there period - IMHO) will cost you $250-$300 maybe. Another $50 for bypass caps and some good resistors and you have a serious high end kit. No shipping cost or weeks of waiting ...
BTW, the Vishays are bulk metal foil, not metal film; less noise and edginess. They are also available nude which is better sounding but physically delicate.
IMHO the Hovlands would be in the direction of smoothing over detail, perhaps not in the "right" direction for the EAR unit. I would favor the DynamiCaps and try pealing off at least some of the excess outer tape.
"You may want to crack open the ear and have a look and see if you can replace them yourself."
I'm into the mod thing but isn't it going a bit far to replace your ears?
I owned a stock 834p and a heavily modified one and compared them in detail. The heavily modified one was an order of magnitude better, and comparable in overall pleasure to my $2000 phono preamp. However my modded 834p was more euphonic than other preamps - pleasing to my ear and a nice complement to the slightly lean fast Van Den Hull Frog. ALSO, swapping in Mullard CV4004's was a revelation.
When I've compared this modded unit to solid state pieces under $1000 (e.g. phenonona (spelling?), it simply embarassed them.
I guess if you can do it yourself that would be fun, if you have the time and patience.