What's new? This Stuff, of course!
We started the "What's New" page in December 2001. If you want to see what was new in other years, then click on the links below.
RMAF 2014 show report
The RMAF(Rocky Mountain Audio Fest) audio show took place from October 10-12, 2014 at the Marriott Tech Center Hotel in Denver. Our display was located in RM 431 of the Atrium area.
Musical Design shared the room with Mosaic Acoustics(loudspeakers, unique AC line treatment and all cables excepting USB), Allnic Audio Labs digital electronics and the Audio Bunker equipment stand/racks.
Musical Design supplied our Chameleon Elite Preamplifier, mostly used with the PC-2T Acitve Board and a single, superb mid-50s Tungsol 5687 tube, though the PC-5T Active Board with twin NOS 12AU7 Conn Organ tubes(Westinghouse we think) saw some service too. This particular Chameleon did not have a phono stage since no turntable was in service. This makes it a $2995 preamp. On Friday the 10th we used the Musical Design T-100 Elite power amp, $2995. Then on Sat. And Sun. we used the new solid-state DM-100D Elite Ultra power amplifier, also $2995. Our electronics were a consistent $5990 during the show.
Mosaic Acoustics provided the Illumination speakers, $20,000, for our playback. They also provided the Theorem AC power line treatment device. It is so unique I can’t even explain the NASA like internal build/theories. They also provided all cables except the USB. That cable was provided by Allnic Audio Labs with their D5000 a $12,000 DHT tubed DAC. They also provided the music server/power supply package. Audio Bunker’s Duane Randleman displayed the Elevated Audio equipment racks. They are attractive, sturdy and good sounding. Pictures below.
Here is a snap shot of the room. More will be revealed in coming days. Word has it that some of the audio review sites are commenting. Check back soon.
Elevated Audio - full black rack, rosewood inlay detail(several wood choices available)
What’s New for 2012
We’re back from RMAF 2012 where we once again partnered with PranaFidelity. Steven Norber, owner of PranaFidelity, graciously invited us to provide the electronics. We showed our Chameleon Elite Preamplifier with phono stage and the model T-100 Elite Ultra Hybrid Power Amplifier. Our Chameleon Elite Preamplifier was outfitted with the standard PC-1T/single 6922 tube. Phono amplification was handled by our Elite, two stage, passive EQ, 6922 tubed phono stage installed within the Chameleon Elite. Our DAC-1A Elite Ultra handled most of the digital conversion tasks when we were not using Steven’s magnificent turntable combo with Kuzma Stabi Reference Turntable and Kuzma 4Point Tonearm/Denon 103R cartridge. It is a great combo. Most of our cables were either Musical Concepts SuperConnect or Musical Design Aura. Power cords were mostly shielded Belden. I believe we had a powerful 3D sound. Judging by the compliments and smiles I think most of the show attendees agreed with my assessment. Some of those smiles came from engineers who brought LPs that they had engineered which they carried into the room with them.
While most of our displayed components were the same models as last year we have made some notable sonic upgrades in that year. We did have one new item at the show though. That new item generated a lot of buzz, smiles and amusement from attendees. It was a ‘reasonable condition’ Dynaco PAT-4 preamplifier, but with a twist. You’ll remember that the Dynaco PAT-4 was a solid-state preamplifier from 1967. Our new PasPro 1 preamplifier modification was inside. The PasPro 1 is a single circuit board with three 6922 tubes, including a twin tube passive EQ phono stage. It uses precision resistors and capacitors in the RIAA EQ. The line stage is a straightforward grounded-cathode amplifier stage using the 6922 tube. All gain stage resistors are precision, very low-noise, USA made parts. The B+ power supply is a large, ‘passive regulated’ design. The filament power supply is also regulated. PasPro 1 fits into the Dynaco PAT-4 and PAT-5, not to mention the Dynaco PAS-2 and PAS-3 models. It can even be used with the Hafler DH-101 preamp or as a project kit for your own chassis. An outboard power supply will be made available for lowest noise and ease of installation. Too bad we just barely made it to the show with one working sample. We could have sold a pile of these kits right there. See the latest information on our PasPro 1 page.
Here are some links gathered from comments and official reporting:
Okay it’s always the speaker maker that gets the credit but as I pointed out many times during the show, the speakers make no sound when you turn off the amplifier switch. The speakers don’t just sound that way with any old amp and preamp. You don’t race NASCAR and put any old tire on the car. Enough said. Yes, the PranaFidelity speakers are great but how about just a little credit guys?
PranaFidelity, http://www.pranafidelity.com/, showed two new loudspeakers. Steven Norber, the designer of the new Model Fifty90($3495/pr) and Model 108a($34,950/pr), played the Fifty90 for most of the show. Steven wanted to produce a speaker worthy of the PranaFidelity name in a more affordable price category and so the Fifty90 was born. The speaker earns its name by producing 90% of the sound quality of the best sounding audiophile speakers for those 50% of audiophiles who are in the $3495+ speaker market, hence the name. It is an attractive MTM design with proprietary drivers. The low end extension, dynamic range and three dimensionality are exceptional for a moderate size cabinet design. When it comes to sound quality Steven and I are definitely on the same page. I predict brisk sales for the Fifty90.
What’s New for 2011
A PAIR OF ELITE CUSTOM MODIFIED ADCOM GFA-565 300W MONO AMPS with great sounding mods including Elite level mods, Mills NI wirewound emitter resistors, Ixys rectifiers, etc. These are very powerful mono-blocks that can drive nearly any speaker and portray the relaxed sound of a smaller, sweeter amp.
Just to the left of the power transformer you see the Ixys Hyper-Fred rectifier. Then there are the multiple bypass caps on the main power cans.
Here is the modified main driver board with BlackGate caps, MIL-QUALIFIED 100% factory tested Blue Dale resistors, rebuilt front-end power supply plus zener referenced power supply is rebuilt. The latter resolves the ‘failing capacitor’ issue that plagued the GFA-565 amps.
A dual set of Cardas Copper Binding Posts are ready to go not to mention the Oxygen-free Copper, hard gold-plated RCA jacks. Oh yeah, there is also a new IEC power cord socket on each amp and a heavy duty power cord provided for each. On these amps the two ‘rail’ fuses and the main power fuse are right there on the back panel.
A medium voltage BlackGate cap is used for decoupling on the power output transistor boards alongside those great Mills resistors.
Here are the precision, rather expensive Mills non-inductive wirewound resistors which replace the original inexpensive ‘sand’ wirewound parts. Yeah, that’s 20 of these babies in each amplifier!
WE HAVE RETURNED FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN AUDIO FEST(RMAF).............so here is a little outline of what went on there.
Musical Design / Musical Concepts was honored to receive the Al Stiefel Memorial Room. Al Stiefel, who passed away in 2009, was the founder of the RMAF along with his wife Marjorie Baumert. Marjorie has continued the tradition. The Memorial Room is for new companies or companies judged to be too good for the lack of publicity they have received as I understand the award.
RMAF was huge. The list of companies displaying was mind-boggling. It was a literal smorgasbord of all kinds of audio and the characters that make up the industry. Of special note was the CanJam, a ballroom dedicated to displaying the best of headphones, headphone amps and related gear. The show is not just for dealers but for all audiophiles who want to meet and greet, then hear the gear. If you haven’t been there I suggest you find a way next year. You know how events have a feel to them and for this event it seems like a good time was had by all. The organization was great and it went off without a hitch for us. Congratulations to Marjorie Baumert and her staff.
Now as far as Musical Design / Musical Concepts is concerned the visitors to our room were very pleased. Some print and online reviewers returned for multiple sessions. The same was true of quite a few people who just loved the 3D sound we were getting in our room. Some went so far as to say that only a few rooms had a smidgen of 3D sound. Many said we were in the top 3 for sound quality. Some were trying to decide if we deserved 1st or 2nd place honors. Though I self-limited my time out of the display room, meaning I didn’t hear all the rooms, I did hear a few pretty good rooms so I’d say good sound is alive and well.
Here is a simplified list of our equipment:
Items supplied by Steven Norber of PranaFidelity:
*First audio show introduction.
Our rack of equipment from RMAF 2011 and below the PranaFidelity Model 108.
WE’RE NOT TRYING TO RECYCLE AN OLDIE HERE........ but this wonderful modified Hafler DH-101 recently pulled in for a pit stop. The customer was so delighted with the results of the first modification that he wondered if we could make it sound even better. We thought so and we built a completely new outboard power supply with a higher voltage toroid transformer and a pair of Jensen 10,000uF 4-pole capacitors, the super transparent Cree SiC rectifiers and an additional Pi filter section. We changed the internals of the preamp somewhat by adding new bypass caps in key spots, reconfiguring the RIAA circuit and replacing the phono input cap with an even more transparent part. Now due to the original grounding and switch assembly the Hafler DH-101 is not known as having the best channel separation and noise figures on the planet. We attacked that by completely disconnecting all the pushbutton switches and then installing our Chameleon preamp selector switch, then completely rewiring the inputs with twisted ground shields. The noise vanished and not a trace of crosstalk can be heard at all. We also use the great CMC silver RCA jacks as you can see below, plus we left some of the already good sounding Deltron RCAs from the last modification.
You can see the original article below with the original picture - forgot to snap a new one excepting the one above. It is worth mentioning that the customer is very experienced with both tube and solid-state preamps of all sorts and prices. He considers this his top preamp now. Okay, okay it doesn’t look impressive but you really ought to hear it. (08-25-11)
This bit from 2009 - OKAY, WHAT’S THIS DOING HERE?...... I thought that I just had to share this story. I was challenged by a customer, who absolutely loves what we've done for him with a Hafler amp, to take a Hafler solid-state preamp and get it close to tube sound. Now this customer isn't just your average Joe that's owned a stock Hafler or Adcom. He's owned all manner of goodies including hybrid amps, Futterman OTLs, lots of other tube preamps and power amps, many turntables, cartridges, speakers. You get the idea, he's a seasoned veteran with great ears. Hey, I'm buying a new set of speakers on his say-so if that gives you some idea.
Hmm, we have a dilemma. Where oh where to start? Wait a minute, I find I'm stunned with the sound of the Jensen caps in solid-state power amps so wouldn't those sonic qualities transplant into a preamp. There's a bit of head scratching and then "let's just go ahead and try it". What else to do I wonder? Oh yeah, we have massive capacitance available with these four 10,000uF caps so who needs voltage regulation. A simple resistor-capacitor pi filter will do. I was starting to get excited about the project. Let's throw in our favorite Dale resistors, a high performance volume pot, silky smooth Silmic II caps, Schottky rectifiers and, sure, a toroid equipped outboard power supply. Hey, hey lets keep it simple, DC coupled, since I'm a big advocate of the KISS principle in audio.
So what happened? The envelope please! I did not believe the results and neither will you unless you hear it!!! It's a true jaw dropper. Here it is with some of it's clothes removed. Have we equaled tubes - several local audiophiles heard "tube sound" coming from it! Have we exceeded tubes? Well it's still breaking in, but it's a sort of spooky miracle in my view!
A lot of interest was generated.....by a post we placed here in the “What’s New in 2009” section about our modification of a Hafler DH-101 preamp. Several customers have purchased “kits” of parts to do this mod though we really don’t have a formal kit - yet. They’ve worked from the picture on this page. The comments we get on this preamp are amazing. Some say it’s the best thing they’ve ever heard, others say it beats up their megabucks preamps and for comparative peanuts. Some have adapted what we have done with more common parts and they still love it. While it’s not up there with our Chameleon preamp we understand that some of you don’t ever want to change a tube.
We did not intend to give all the secrets away so there’s no bottom view of the preamp. It can be a bit tricky for the average builder to set up the Pi section power supply too. If you want to take your Hafler DH-101 to a new level we can work with these upgrades starting at $299. Of course, we can’t provide the all-out sort of mod shown below at a base price. Scroll down to the heading “Ok what’s this doing here” and take a peek.
I was recently reading an article...... on the subject of blogs. Basically the author was trying to define a blog and decided that it was whatever you want it to be such was the variety of formats. I’ve been writing short reports of our listening sessions lately and sending them to some of my friends for comment or just “keeping up”. I thought I would post some of these here for your possible interest. You really should read from the first onward since you might not understand some comments if you start randomly. Visit our Is It a Blog? Page. If you like it let us know.
What’s New for 2010
The perfect pair - of amplifiers. Below we see the beginnings of a very special pair of Hafler XL-280 amps. Well that’s what they were once, but now they’re a pair of muscular Musical Concepts monos you might say. Please watch as we build them. The process begins by stripping the original chassis. Going quickly to step two we see the power supply taking form. We now have one of our TP-200 power transformers in place and the PS-200J power supplies with 4 Jensen four-pole capacitors! See the IEC power cord socket and OFC RCA jack. For bi-wiring we installed twin Cardas Gold/Rhodium binding posts, gold parts not installed at that particular moment.
Now remember we are showing you one amplifier. The other will be a twin. On the left below we show one of the amplifier channels after installing the PA-3E Elite circuit board. Our customer chose the truly natural sounding Aura-T Teflon coupling cap. Yes, they’re expensive but some things are worth the money. Oh yeah, the amplifier now has the superb Exicon MOSFETs - 12 of them to be exact. We are going to drive the other six MOSFETs on the opposite heatsink from the drive voltages of a single PA-3E. Wait a minute that circuit on the left side looks like a stock Hafler - because it is. It is used merely as a tie-off point for power and driving voltages. It is inactive except for that.
Ok, somebody pull out a bigger, sexier picture here! We need some excitement. That’s better!
Still, it looks kinda plain really. It’s simple, straightforward, non-complex and that’s the real beauty. Simple, high quality circuitry with “ear approved” parts can produce very exciting results. These amps are exciting!!! They have majestic power, a just right but solid grip on the loudspeaker and a sense of absolute ease of reproduction. Imaging, delicacy and projection of power is world class. This is the first pair exactly like these that we have built. At this point I can’t help but think that I’d like to have a pair of these around. That’s how much we enjoyed them!
Oh yes, naturally these can be built up in Hafler DH-200/220 amps too! Your originals don’t even need to work since they’re being completely rebuilt to your specifications. You can see how the finished amp looks externally on our Demo/Used page.
High-frequency extension and delicacy......... turned out to be the real surprise with this Cambridge Audio 540 CD player. We applied the recently reconfigured Elite modification to this unit. Actually it’s our mid-level mod. Still there was nothing mid-level about the sound of the modified player.
If I might digress a moment I have always thought of the Cambridge Audio sound as being a bit dry, light weight, whitish, bleached and just lacking in dynamic excitement - a sort of very clean, nearly satisfying solid-state stereotype(lousy pun, okay). There aren’t any “big” sonic mistakes. In fact, I have one of their receivers in a video system and it seems to share that family of sound. It’s clean, yes, but not the meaty, warm and dynamic slice of life we really want. Yes, now I must mod that receiver. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the Cambridge Audio brand. I think the company offers very well engineered, competently built and attractive products. I bought one of their receivers for my own use, enough said.
Now back to that 540 CD player. Our mod involved a lot of rebuilding of the analog filtering, output coupling caps, power supply caps and so on. I don’t want to give all the secrets away so I’m being brief. You might find some high quality diodes, Silmic II caps and so on if you looked around. Of course, higher quality RCA output jacks are always on the menu. I was really stunned at the transformation with this CD player. It is warm, dynamic and yet very detailed right on into the upper octaves. The owner was impressed too and plans to send in his 740 CD plus some other amps for modification. See our CD/DVD mods here!
AN OUTBOARD POWER SUPPLY(OPS) ............ was recently built at the request of a Musical Design SP-2B owner. He wanted to get even better performance and prepare it for a future phono stage installation. We began with a sturdy ventilated enclosure. The natural power transformer of choice was the toroid transformer we use in our Chameleon preamp. Capacitor choice was based on past good results.
You can see most of the details. We used Schottky power rectifiers for the heater voltage and our favorite IXYS HyperFred bridge for the high-voltage. Obviously this OPS has massive current capability for the intended application. It sounds great, but why wouldn’t it. We connected the SP-2B with a DIN umbilical cord using ferrite beads for RFI attenuation. With just a few specs we can build a custom power supply for your preamp too. (07-26-10)
AN INEXPENSIVE AND THRILLING IMPROVEMENT............ is easily achieved by replacing the bridge rectifier in your power amplifier. Below we have a neat installation into a Hafler DH-220. Other amps can be modified similarly, nearly universally. The IXYS HyperFred bridge rectifier we’ve chosen offers superb sound quality, ultra-fast switching, superb soft-recovery, 22 Amp/600V toughness and simple installation.
Using the original hole which located the stock bridge rectifier we have installed a “euro” connector. We then bend and cut the leads of the rectifier for a nice fit. We temporarily put the rectifier in place long enough to mark the new hole for the hold-down clip. Then you drill the hole and just install the rectifier, tighten the appropriate screws. Connect the transformer appropriately and you’re done. The rectifier has a metal, heat dissipating backside which is not electrically connected. Since the rectifier never seems to get warm, even without heatsinking, you shouldn’t need to use silicon transistor grease or heat dissipation pads though you can do so if you wish. It’s a neat, simple and no mess installation - then great sound with minimal cost!
Rectifier kit, parts as shown, $35. This amp has the standard power transformer as you can see, plus a single pair of our custom-built LC-200 (27,000uF/80V) power supply capacitors, offered at $89/kit themselves. That’s right you have a 54,000uF of low-noise, sweet sounding, low-inductance power supply for a song (pun intended). (06-04-2011)
What's new for 2009
WE'RE DEFINITELY EXCITED..............with the coming introduction of the Chameleon preamp. We think we have something really special here. What you see below is the pre-production metalwork without the silkscreen and fine finish steps which adds a lot to the package in terms of appearance. Don't be cruel, it's a prototype. Working late in the evening here so I will just post some photos and add more later. One small point is that the front panel bolts will not be there in production. A smooth panel with no visible bolt heads showing is the final look. Okay, it looks empty, but when you install the phono stage it starts to fill up. In the future there is room for a remote control volume board, optional power supply and maybe even a headphone amp! Thanks for looking!
THE FIRST OF A NEW SERIES.........the Musical Design DM-100C ELITE is being introduced and so here it is. The Elite gets it name from the Elite parts which make it so special. Firstly, we have a quiet pair of 330 Watt toroids. We have found the Jensen four-pole power supply caps incomparably great even compared to a certain black cap from the recent past. We use the highest performance, super quiet Dale resistors, not the standard, but already fine "brown" Dales that you see in so many amps nobody can afford. We have found the Elna Silmic II capacitor superb in it's natural octave to octave balance and it's silky smooth frequency extension. See our page on this new amp.
THAT SPECIAL HAFLER DH-500 FACEPLATE........... is on the way. It's a shame that so many of those original face plates have been damaged in shipping or with just years of wear and tear. Help is on the way! Our new panel is made with a finely brushed, high-strength aluminum alloy. You can order it in black or silver anodized with attractive silkscreen. It is just slightly larger than the the front sub panel of the amp, i.e. smaller than the original in width. It is not a rack mountable panel. It is thicker and far tougher than the original. The original handles could be used to secure the panel, but attractive contrasting color bolts will be provided if you prefer that look. It is as simple as could be to remove the original panel and replace it with the four screws provided. We will have some suggestions for knockout looking, commercially available handles if you prefer the "handles look". Just that quickly you'll have a classy looking amplifier instead of an ugly duckling! Kit is $95 either color
HERE IS A LOOK INSIDE OF A NEW MUSICAL DESIGN HYBRID AMPLIFIER.............. It sounds just too natural to believe. Be prepared for a level of detail and an acoustic envelope that is truly breathtaking. A few details: You see a pair of NOS 6922 tubes operating at 250VDC, but you can use the 6N1P, 6DJ8, ECC88, 7308 and the other 6DJ8 variants. Those are MOSFET outputs you see on the heatsinks. You are also looking at an incredibly simple SRPP front-end with no feedback!!! You see it here installed into the Musical Design D-75/DM-100 chassis which the amplifiers will share. We rate it at 100W/CH. A less powerful 75W/CH version is available too for use with efficient speakers and bi-amping. The 100W version has four MOSFETs per channel, larger heatsinks and taller chassis. This is our all-out version with Jensen filter caps for all except heater voltages. Our Platinum grade resistors are used in most positions. You see the Audience Aura-T Teflon coupling capacitor used in coupling applications. Some of you will notice the little red BlackGate cap there and Cardas connectors on the back. Our T-100 Elite Ultra model is $4495.
Sample installations of our new Musical Concepts PS-200 power supply board
Above you have a Signature modified Adcom GFA-5400 with twin dual-mono configured PS-200 boards which are populated with the 10,000uF/63V Jensen caps. The caps here are doubled up(paralleled) and there is the one transformer-one PS-200 per channel implementation. The amp is just simply delicious sounding, the essence of natural and entrancing!! It yields even more sense of drive and dynamics than the single supply setup. Initial comments from the owner are extremely positive.
OWNER COMMENTS: WOW! WOW! WOW! The new separate power supplies and the eight Jensen capacitors really are rockin' my world! My resolution from mid to top is extremely coherent and palatable; heck, we are talking smooth and flowing, my sound cup runneth over... My new bass is simply ferocious, tight, taut, fast and scary good. Lastly, my soundstage is now a little too bodacious (not complaining) and way deeper, holographically speaking. - Thomas R.
The pictures above are the inside of a Hafler DH-500 minus the face plate. This is our Platinum modification with a custom dual-mono configuration. Here you see two of our PS-200 boards with a total of eight Jensen 6800uF/100V caps installed. The listening test was good for some serious goose bumps. Here is what the customer thought about his modified amp.
Here is a single PS-200 with the Jensen 10,000uF/63V caps installed in an Adcom GFA-545. If you look closely you'll see that there are two stacked 330VA toroid power transformers too. This produces totally dual-mono operation. The modified amp sounds so natural, clear, three dimensional and instantaneous that, like live music, it can be soothing and exciting at the same time. These extraordinary Jensen caps beautify everything they touch! This audiophile had some definite ideas about the results here.
Why we developed the PS-200:
Previously our dual-mono mods were very labor intensive. We sold these in a kit form, but for the first time builder it was complex and very time consuming to install. It all fit really tightly into the amps too - no room for errors. Now you can easily install it yourself and save on labor and freight charges. With the PS-200 there is plenty of room after installation. Our large TP-200 toroidal transformer is no longer a challenge to locate and install with the dual-mono configuration for Hafler 200 series amps. The PS-200 will allow you to improve neatness of installation, shorten current paths due to "inverted" capacitors which is good, improve sound quality and lower the price for high-performance dual-mono sound. Life is good!
What you can do with the PS-200:
PS-200 Board Features:
|PS-100 / 200|
|B & K|
|D-75D Power Amplifier|
|DM-100D Power Amplifier|
|D-150B Power Amplifier|
|T-75 Hybrid Amplifier|
|T-100 Hybrid Amplifier|
|SP-2B Phono Stage|