Dec 242015
 

Dedication

I want to dedicate this review to my parents – I miss you both.

 

‘A Beginning is a very Delicate Time’. ‘Know then……..’

This was to have been the first in a series (1) of reviews aimed at exploring the various upgrade options to improve a stock Technics 1200/1210 turntable, a series of reviews that have been a very long time in gestation, in fact when I first thought about undertaking this project the turntable was still a production item but alas not long after I began gathering up the various items I felt were needed to conduct this extensive project, Matsushita (Panasonic/Technics) announced that all production of these direct drive turntables would cease.

The good news is its still possible to buy new old stock 1200/1210s and the used market is full of the good, bad and ugly remains of failed DJ ventures and audiophiles who decided belt drive was really more what they wanted. However despite this plentiful supply of used items many have seen better days and frankly the very beat up examples should be avoided unless one aims on refinishing it and replacing all of its external and many of its internal bits right from the off – which is a potentially expensive task, as I know only too well.

The original order these reviews were to come in, was basic upgrades via accessories first, looking at mats, isolation feet, moving onto replacement tonearms, cartridges, platters and power-supplies. Most of the items obtained for these reviews were bought by myself – either new or second hand – as very few of the suppliers of such products wished to be officially involved or logistically could not be involved (2) but several companies did and I am very grateful for this involvement and their patience in waiting (3) for this project to begin and reach its culmination.

Alas a series of life changing occurrences barged there way into my life and this series of reviews was a casualty, as was much of my writing for AIHFA. More or less back on track now, the running order got thrown out by the Funk items appearing when they did, and the review I wrote on these, so I have decided to begin this short series with what for me is the most controversial aspect of modifying/improving this turntable and that is upgrading the power supply, in fact I would go so far as to say I was sceptical at one time about any turntable manufacturer that offered upgraded PSUs, for what was after all just a DJ deck !

Getting past my bias regarding the Technics 1200/1210 was part of the reason for undertaking this project originally, and it has been an interesting, challenging and at times a frustrating journey – anyway onwards we go.

Review System

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When this project began, I had one Technics 1200, with original arm, Ortofon Pro S mm cartridge, original platter, mat and internal PSU arrangement but as time has worn on the baseline reference, which I have been using – more often – is a S/H Technics 1210 mk2 with the original platter, bearing and arm replaced, with the PSU now outside the turntable’s chassis. The details of which are here: Graham 2.2 tonearm, VDH MC10 moving coil cartridge, Funk MK1 platter, Mike New bearing and Graham IC70 tonearm cable.

007_550x412Also used for this review was my original Technics 1200 with its original platter but topped with an Oyaide BR One under mat, Oyaide MJ12 STB-MS record weight, Jelco 750D tonearm and Denon DL103R cartridge, external PSU connection and another 1210 fitted with Origin Live Encounter tonearm, Benz Micro Silver MC cartridge, Origin Live mat and isolation feet and later Isonoe Feet, Oyaide Mat and weight. This deck too, had an external PSU connection.

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The current review system is as follows: Balanced Audio Technology VK52se pre-amplifier, Music Reference RM200 mk1 power-amplifier, Pass Labs Xono phonostage, Anthony Gallo Reference 3.5s, Atlas Mavros XLR interconnects, Atlas Mavros speaker cable. Audience AU24 mainscables, Analysis Plus Power Oval, Mark Grant mains distribution strips. Clearlight Audio Aspekt racks, Mana Reference table. RDC platform, SSC platform, M8 cones, Telos caps.

I think it only fair to mention that this written review is a distillation of a lot of early listening sessions right up until the last few months. There have also been some changes in the system since then, mainly in the overall mix of components making up the Technics turntables used, and the overall review has been conducted in three listening rooms and one session a comparison using blind listening conditions and two extra pairs of ears – this was almost at the beginning of the process but won’t be mentioned in the text because a number of the PSUs written about here were not present during that initial review. However this listening session still proved useful in helping to suss out the essences of those items that were used at that time and how they related to the later additions.

As mentioned in the footnotes there has been a lot personal upheaval during this period so to insure consistency the listening part of the review has been redone several times to guarantee a solid basis upon which to write the review.

Music

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Hawkwind – Warrior on the Edge of Time

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Yello – One Second

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Dead Can Dance – Into the Labyrinth

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Thomas Dolby – Aliens Ate My Buick

and numerous others, too many to mention.

Methodology

I spent a great deal of time listening to various Technics 1200/1210 turntables, tonearm, cartridge isolation feet, mats, platters, combinations before then trying various power-supplies with those combinations to see what suited what. After establishing fixed reference points I then spent time listening to each PSU with each of the 1200/1210’s before comparing PSUs, within brand ranges to establish what upgrade in soundquality spending extra money achieved, before comparing the Paul Hynes PSUs with the Origin live and Longdog Audio designs to see if there were any differences between the various PSUs, and was there a best fit PSU with any particular Technics 1200/1210 I had. The answering of this question produced some interesting answers.

Before undertaking this process, just to make it extra fun, many of the PSUs use different sizes of DC output socket for the mains connection to the turntable – one would almost be forced to think they were trying to make it difficult to do easy comparisons, perish the thought. Anyway any initial concerns re being able to swap all the PSUs quickly in and out was overcome with a little clever planning and the use of a comprehensive adapter, to overcome different plug types or termination sizes – thanks go to Nick Gorham of Longdog Audio for making and supplying the solution.

In order to factor out any potential issues re the adaptor itself, perhaps affecting the results, listening tests were conducted to assess this and no difference in performance were detected whether the connection was direct or using the adaptor.

Before undertaking these reviews I had stumbled across some suggestions online that some of the PSUs I would be using sounded better left on, and again before beginning I did some listening tests to verify this and I could hear no differences whether a PSU was on for ten minutes or so, over one left on for 24 hours – go figure – my mileage may well be different to others re this but after extensive listening I was happy that quick swaps between the various PSUs would lead to valid listening results. I mention this as some may question my swapping PSUs in and out and listening after they were powered up for only ten minutes or so – a suggestion may be made that my results are not valid because of that. I assure my readers I could hear no differences no matter how long the PSUs were left on.

While I did a lot of comparing and contrasting during the overall length of this review I also spent long periods of time just listening to the various PSUs on each turntable, so the listening results are not based alone on quick comparisons but much, much longer fixed listening sessions.

I have to say I found this an interesting and educational process and in some ways a slightly perplexing one – but more on that later – and one that has left me with a small book full of listening notes.

As a final note before we go further the review is split in two, with the initial results presented in a more general way, with Part Two having more detail, and covering direct comparisons. I could see no way of blending the two into one without making the text too complex and difficult to read.

 

Paul Hynes Designs (PHD) SR3-21, SR5-21, SR7-21 

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Paul Hynes Designs offer a number of PSU designs, which can be customised to suit various applications and products (such as the Caiman DAC, Squeezebox (SB3, Duet, Touch), Altmann DAC, Weiss and M2Tech products, Computer audio server power supplies, hard drives and add on soundcards etc.) and among those there are three PSUs which are also offered as upgrades for the Technics 1200/1210.

These are the SR3 £ 270, SR5 £525, SR7 £650. PHD also offers some variations for these at extra cost including better quality DC cables and connectors. The SR7 PSU can also be used with some extra regulators which are fitted inside the turntable. As these could not be swapped in and out I stuck with the standard configuration, with a DC lead fitted inside the various turntables which then connects to the various PSUs via DC plug.

Initially I will describe the differences between the PSUs in generalities saving specific music references to the comparison section. If I don’t do this, the potential for making what is already a very complex review unreadable would occur, something I want to try and avoid.

About

During organising the review items I asked Paul to give me an overview of his company and work and this is the reply he sent me.

‘Paul Hynes Designs is based on the Isle of South Uist, Scotland, which Paul moved to, essentially to escape the rat race on the mainland.

The SR3, SR5 and SR7 all use the same high performance, ultra low noise, wide bandwidth regulator circuitry, which is a discrete component circuit topology, designed specifically for high-end audio applications.

The SR3-21 is a simple external replacement of the standard 21v internal power supply. It uses the best of the off the shelf mains transformers readily available in the UK, rated at 50VA, and the same high quality electronic components as used in the SR5 and SR7. This power supply cannot be used with the internal multirail regulator upgrade modules in the higher-level modifications.

The SR5-21/27 uses a 160VA mains transformer that is custom built to my specifications and compared to the SR3, the regulator module has higher power rectification and output stage devices.

The SR7-21/27 uses a 250VA mains transformer that is custom built to my specifications and compared to the SR5 the regulator module has even higher power rectification and output stage devices as well as additional energy storage capacitance.

Both the SR5-21/27 and the SR7-21/27 can be used for replacing the internal power supply but in addition they can have the output voltage increased to provide the voltage headroom required for application of the internal multirail regulator module upgrades (higher level modifications) allowing further sound quality improvements than an external power supply alone can provide.

The voltage regulator consists of a high performance driver stage that uses a higher supply rail than the main supply to drive the output stage mosfet. This allows full regulation with as little as 1v across the output stage providing a high level of efficiency for this regulator topology. It also allows enough voltage drive on the mosfet gate to deliver very large transient currents into the load without loss of regulation.

Regarding power supply design the key parameters I consider are very low noise, high supply line rejection across a very wide bandwidth to allow useful rejection of mains born RFI, rectification harmonics etc, wide operating bandwidth to ensure that the supply rail is well regulated with loads operating at high frequencies, fast and well damped transient response to keep the supply line stable with loads that draw fast transient currents, and fast settling time after a load transient event. Paying attention to all these design parameters produces a power supply that allows well-designed signal processing circuits to achieve exceptional performance.

I design power supplies for my own use primarily, but I make my best designs available for other enthusiasts to upgrade their audio equipment.

The SR3 was first to market and then I added the SR5 and SR7 later after some testing revealed good improvements with these on my test SL1210.

Individual internal regulators for each section of the motor board followed on naturally as I have been using this approach with the rest of my system since the early 1980s.’

Because the ‘internal multirail regulator module upgrades’ that the SR7 allows for inside the turntable can’t be removed or bypassed once done I opted not to have them fitted. This frustrates me, as I am missing the ability to review the full performance of the SR7, but I felt that it was more important to maintain the ability to easily swap between the various PSUs, to hear the differences, something having the extra regulation modules fitted would have prevented.

SR3 – 21

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The SR3 is the base line entry model into Paul Hynes PSU designs for the Technics 1200/1210 turntables, it is a modestly sized: 17 cm long, 11 cm wide, 5 cm high but fairly weighty rectangular silver, with black front and rear, box – the size maybe modest but the quality construction oozes quality. It has (in this example) a 4 pin mains XLR output (but can be fitted with any size of suitable DC socket) and an IEC fused, switch controlled mains power input – so upgrading the mains cable is possible. Under the front fascia there is a power on indicator bulb.

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Fit, finish and build quality is excellent – as hinted at above – and while one can’t do a great deal with a PSU re appearance, this one would look nice displayed rather than hidden away.

This was the first PHD PSU I got to try, quiet awhile ago (3), and it was a fairly major step up from the internal Technics PSU. All the strengths already inherent in the Technics 1200/1210, were taken to the next level by connecting up the SR3, the excellent timing, image stability and fun factor present in the standard turntable were retained – the essential flavour of the Technics turntable – but adding the SR3 brought improvements in these areas, bringing increased stability of image, bass weight, depth and slam, as well as image width, height and increased resolution of detail.

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If I say much more at this stage though I will be giving too much away as this review was quiet a complex one to undertake and write, but I will say at this stage that fitting an external PSU based on these first listening sessions was really a no brainer.

SR5 – 21

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018_550x412Next up in PHDs range of PSUs is the much larger (22 cm long,  16cm wide, 8cm high) and much heavier – about two and a half times heavier than the SR3 – SR5 -21 which like the SR3 is very well made, but unlike the SE3 is all black. Also unlike the SR3 the on/off switch is on the front, but like the SR3 the on light is still underneath the PSU, at the middle front. On the rear there is – on this example – DC out available both on a 4 pin XLR and a standard DC out socket. Main power in s supplied via a twin fused IEC input.

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Build quality fit and finish is excellent and the quality of the SR3 is improved on, as one would expect for the increased cost.

The SR7 – 21

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The SR7 is a very large PSU, being 22.5 cm long, 22 cm wide, and 18 cm high, it is quiet a bit heavier than the SR5 but not so much as between the SR3 and SR5. Fit and finish is good, but not quiet as good as the smaller PSUs, with a thinner metal front and back, than on those other PSUs. The unit I was sent for review was a revised case model.

The rear panel has a pair of blanked out panels for the ‘internal multirail regulator module upgrades’ power supply cable outs, a twin fused IEC main power in socket, and a blanked out DC power output and a 4 pin XLR DC out. The front panel has the on/off switch, and as in the other models the on light is underneath the front middle panel.

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I had quiet a wait to get an SR7 for review, and in part some of the delay in getting this review under-way fully was down to this delay and as I wanted to be able to review and compare all the PHD PSUs, something Paul Hynes wanted me to be able to do too, the delay was ultimately worthwhile, as it permitted me to get a context on the differences in performance and how these designs compared to others in the related marketplace.

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So not long after the SR7 arrived the long awaited Funk Firm Technics items arrived also and as this phase (5) of the reviews began just after I completed the Funk Technics review, I opted to begin with the SR7 – 21 power supply in place – used during that particular review – as my starting point.

Listening 

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Using the SR7 imparted the Technics 1210, Graham 2.2 (and the Funk version) a weight, scale and dynamics that made music within my listening room a very visceral experience. Bass was deep, extended and propulsive, driving all genres on a bed of solid, articulate lower frequency power. Dance, electronica, rock and even jazz, particularly double bass benefited from this. Despite some differences in presentation, texture and tonal depth and shading between the Funked Technics and the same unit fitted with the Graham, all of the above was still the case with either version.

The width, and depth of the soundstage was also extended well beyond the edges of my speakers and both the micro and macro elements of the music was much clearer, both as a whole, but also in away that allowed minute examination of all the elements of the music.

The noise floor seemed much lower, back ground surface noise reduced and as such the acoustic within the recording I listened to was much more expansive, solid and real.

One thing I did notice with either the Funk or Graham tonearms fitted was that using the SR7 pushed that acoustic more into the room, thus making the presentation slightly more forward to what I had been used to up until putting the SR7 into the equation.

SR5 – 21

Switching from the SR7 – often moving downwards in a product range is more telling than going upwards – to the SR5 brought a shift in weight and scale, with a slightly lighter presentation, but interestingly the same drive and propulsive, boogie factor found with the SR7 remained. Music was still driven along, in a very enjoyable manner – albeit in a slightly more relaxed way than had been the case with the SR7.

However switching down to the SR5 while it retained some of the SR7’s magic also highlighted a slight reduction in openness, detail, and ability to see into the structure of the music that using the SR5 had brought.

Overall despite the drop in performance, the SR5 was still very enjoyable and in a few ways actually offered a slightly better match to my system and room, in that the reduction in bass weight and scale mean’t my room was energised in away that didn’t excite a few room nodes that the SR7 had.

SR3 – 21 

Moving down to PHD’s entry level PSU brought a noticeable reduction in what the other PSUs had been doing, but this was only to be expected. In saying that however its worth pointing out that the SR3 is a substantial upgrade over the internal OEM Technics PSU, bringing about improvements in weight, scale, tonality, reducing the greyness in the Technics presentation and giving a lot more definition and detail to what can be at times a somewhat atonal bass in the stock turntables performance.

The differences between the SR3 and SR5 are obvious, and moving to the 3 from 5 saw a slight shift in tonality, a minuscule thinning of textures and instrumental colour, with a reduction in detail and resolution – an increase in noise floor perhaps.

With the SR 3 bass lost some weight and the soundstage, depth and width shrank, but interestingly the drive and boogie factor still remained pretty much intact just a bit smaller and lighter in feel  – this boogie factor a PHD trait perhaps – just reduced from what the SR5 and SR7 did.

 

Origin Live – Advanced and Ultra

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Origin Live (OL) are very well known and highly regarded for their own range of turntables and tonearms from the mid market to the high end but also for offering upgrades and modification items for other companies turntables, such as the Linn LP12, and now also the Technics 1200/1210.

Origin Live offer two PSUs for the Technics 1200/1210, the Advanced and Ultra. The Advanced is available in Black for £347 or Silver for £295 and the Ultra in Black only for £460. Both models can be used with a large external power unit option (similar to that used in OL turntables) £195 with all other aspects of the PSU housed within an attractive, but light weight (there is a slight difference in weight between the two with the Ultra marginally heavier than the Advanced), brushed aluminium box. The external transformer OL says this ‘Lower resistance in the transformer means far quicker response and ability to deliver current instantaneously and increased current capability means the ability to deliver higher current at transient peaks of demand.’

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Unfortunately the one thing I have found in general about external PSUs and Technics upgrades is that some of the designers are very reluctant to publicise much detail about what it is that is actually inside their products and Origin Live are no different to others in this respect but maybe more so as there are no real details re what way their Ultra and Advanced PSUs are designed, what’s in them and how they work.

Description 

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The Origin Live PSUs consist of a fairly light weight, but nicely made 16.5 cm long, 10.5 cm wide, 4.5 cm high metal box, with the only distinguishing feature between the Ultra and Advanced being the colour, and a very slight difference in weight with the Ultra being marginally heavier, than the Advanced. The front panel is devoid of features, bar the company logo and a recessed front panel light to indicate the PSU is on. The back panel has the DC output socket and a slightly larger power in socket, into which the power transformer is plugged.

The 12 volt upgraded power transformer is 21.5 cm long, 14.5 cm wide and 7 cm high, and its pretty heavy. The back panel has two fixed cables a .75 m mains cable and a 1 m power out cable. One omission that was a bit of a pain was there being no on/off switch, and for those that rate such things the fixed mains in cable means one can’t try upgrade power cables.

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I did not have the basic supplied power transformer, so all my comments are based on my experiences with the upgrade option.

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Performance. 

Initially I used the Origin Live PSUs on the Technics 1210 upon which the Origin Live Encounter tonearm was mounted, which early on had a set of Origin Live upgrade feet and mat. However after awhile I felt the best sound was achieved by replacing the Origin Live feet with Isonoes and the OL mat with a Oyaide MJ12 mat. My following comments in the review as awhole are based on that pairing.

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Once the final configuration was established I found the overall presentation of music to be marginally sweeter and less driven than with the other Technics 1210/1200 I used. That’s not to say they were any less musical, or enjoyable, less or more able to extract information out of the groves of a record, but there was a definite sweeter, slightly more delicate, less balls to the wall flavour to the sound of music presented by this particular version.

014_550x412There were similar gains in sound quality as I experienced with the Paul Hynes Design PSUs moving from the Advanced to the Ultra. Doing so brought an increase in openness and airiness, more detail, more insight into the music and an increase in weight, scale and dynamics, but as stated earlier, with a more relaxed, less driven presentation than with the PHD designs. With the OL PSUs used on the Origin Live Technics or the other Technics turntables I used during the review period this was the case, music hung just before the speakers and extended well to each side but was slightly less forward than with the PHD PSUs.

 

Longdog Audio (LdA) – Stage Two PSU

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Longdog Audio say this of themselves ‘Based in rural Halifax, Longdog Audio is owned and run by Nick Gorham who is a specialist in valves. He designs and builds a variety of bespoke audio kit, amongst them being a special 300b amplifier and a phono amp’

Long Dog Audio say this about their approach to the Technics power supply…

‘When thinking of regulation, it’s worth remembering the Roman god Janus. Who was the god of gateways, and was a two faced god looking in both directions. Likewise a good voltage regulator is required to look in both directions at once. From one direction you have the mains supply, with the ever increasing noise, distortion and random variation that exists on our household mains supply. In the other direction you have the device you are supplying power to. The load will be asking constantly varying current, and the job of the regulator will be to ignore the varying load and to supply a rock steady voltage that ignores the changing load.

To ask a single regulator to perform both tasks means that it can not do either as well as it could. We don’t ask our regulators to be two faced, we split the two functions into two separate regulators and put them both where they can do the best job. 

The first regulator is close to the mains supply, its job is to take the incoming mains and convert it into a low(ish) noise DC supply, and to isolate the mess that is our household power lines from what follows. In most power supplies on the market, the output of the first stage would be directly connected to the load device, and that would certainly be an improvement over the supplies that most manufactures provide. But we can do better by adding the other face of Janus to the system.

The second regulator is supplied with a clean low noise supply, and its job is to handle the changing demands of the load. To do that, it needs to be as close to the load as possible. So we remove the second regulator from the main box, and place it close to the load, both electrically and physically, that removes it from the noise and interference of the mains supply, and allows it to spend its time looking towards the load. Typical commercial voltage regulator chips are general purpose devices, but are not quiet enough for the task on hand, so the second regulator uses a bespoke regulator based on a low noise multi stage filtered voltage reference, a low noise error amplifier and a high current low resistance mosfet. To allow it to handle the changing load it also needs to supply current on demand, so all the remaining space in the second regulator is filled with low impedance capacitors to act as a local energy source.

Using the two stages of regulator, we achieve a noise floor equal or better than most battery supplies, and a effective source resistance of the order of 0.02 ohm (and the short cable run to the load avoids increasing this value by adding copper where its not needed), and the use of a discrete regulator design allows that tiny value to be maintained way above frequency any audio device operates at.’

Supplied to me for review was the second up the range Stage 2 Longdog Audio (LdA) PSU, which retails for £285.

Description 

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Like the Origin Live PSUs this is a two box design, but unlike the OL solution one part of the LdA design comprises a small box perfectly designed to sit within the body of the Technics turntable in the place were the original internal PSU was positioned.

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This is a neat, nicely thought out solution, and puts the final stage of the PSU right bang inside the 1200/1210’s plinth.

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Build quality, fit and finish is excellent, with the first stage box being 17 cm long, 10.5 cm wide, 6 cm high, the second stage is 8.5 cm long 5.7 cm wide and 2.5 cm high. The first stage box has an on light on the front fascia, a fused IEC power input and a locking 3 pin output which provides power to the next stage box. One omission which is a bit of a pain is there is no on/off switch, thus meaning one has to leave the turntable powered up 24/7 or use it from a switched mains strip or wall socket – which depending on location might be awkward to get at.

Performance. 

004_550x412I tried the Longdog Audio Stage 2 on all of my Technics turntables and enjoyed its overall affect on music, which in terms of presentation sat between the way the Paul Hynes and Origin Live PSUs did things – regarding its flavour/presentation.

In absolute terms I felt it performed to a roughly similar level as the PHD SR3 – 21 but was perhaps more evenly balanced, in that it was not forward sounding, or as energetic as the PHD was, nor quiet as sweet, or delicate as the Origin Live. It sat almost bang in the middle of what the other two PSU brands entry models did.

In terms of detail retrieval, soundstage width, depth, bass weight and scale it matched the SR3, and mixed in a dollop of the OL Advanced’s sound, and as such it certainly made me curious about what a dearer Longdog Audio Technics PSU might do.

It would be wrong I feel to view the LdA as being a neutral PSU – whatever that might be – but certainly its way with all the Technics turntables was the middle ground, offering many of the the best aspects of the PHD SR3 and the OL Advanced, but whether its ultimately best for you will depend on the system its used in, music choices, listening bias and the particular components the end user selects for their Technics – more on this later on.

 

Part Two – Further Listening, more detailed Comparisons, more Meat on the Bones. 

I felt initially that just reviewing the various PSUs on just the one turntable – though much of the review work was done with the 1210/Graham 2.2/VDH MC10 combination – would not be enough, and to really get to the bottom of things I needed to try each PSU on each turntable, and then compare each PSU to each other on those turntables. This of course led to three turntables, multiplied by six PSU options being listened to, a total of 18, and this presented me with quite a challenge of finding away of translating numerous pages of notes into a coherent review.

As a reminder these are turntables that were used: Technics 1200, Jelco 750D tonearm, Denon 103 MC cartridge, Oyaide MJ12 platter mat, Oyaide BR one undermat, Oyaide record weight, Isonoe feet. Technics 1210, Graham 2.2 tonearm, VDH MC10 MC cartridge, Funk mk1 platter, Mike New bearing, Bruil record weight, Isonoe feet, and a Technics 1210, Origin live Illustrious tonearm, Benz Micro Silver, Oyaide MJ12 platter mat, Oyaide BR one undermat, Oyaide record weight, Isonoe feet.

Bit off much I did, too much ? Lets see.

Technics 1200/ Jelco 750 D Tonearm, Denon 103 Cartridge

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Switching to the SR5 from the  SR3, as it had on the Technics/Graham combination gave a bigger and bolder sound, with more drive and a more open and airy presentation. And again swapping to the SR 7 resulted in more of the above, but with bass, tighter and more extended. Moving from the SR7 back down to the SR3 saw reductions across the board in the areas were the improvements had been.

With the Origin Live Ultra connected up the overall gains in sound quality were comparable to what the SR7 brought to the party but as observed before with the Technics/Graham the presentation, and tonality was a little lighter, not as driven or as upfront, with the Origin Live Advanced there was, less control, bass was a bit looser, less well defined, but depth and width of image was about mid way between that of the Paul Hynes SR3 and SR5.

Using the Longdog Audio PSU at this point, and comparing it to the other PSUs reinforced my view that its way of doing things resulted in a middle path to the other PSUs. All the music I played with it hooked up resulted in a nice open sound, with plenty of detailed, and nuanced insight into the recording. However, its only fair to state that in regards to comparisons with the other PSUs the LdA came out in absolute terms only slightly ahead of the SR3 re sound quality on this Technics – if its way of doing things suits your set up – and in some way’s similar to the Advanced Origin Live PSU. Bass was slightly lighter and tighter than SR 3, but a little richer than with the Origin Live Advanced. Both the SR 5 and SR 7, were superior overall as was the Origin Live Ultra but the LdA offered a lot of performance for a modest amount.

Using Thomas Dolby’s wonderful album Aliens Ate My Buick, all the tracks were open detailed, relaxed and organic. The soundstage extended just beyond the speakers, with nice depth, and vocal focus. There was slightly less depth and width of stage than there was via the SR5 or SR7, with slight veiling compared to the SR5 and quiet a bit more compared to the SR7.

Origin Live 1210, Illustrious Tonearm/Benz Silver Cartridge.

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Sticking with the Longdog Audio power supply it worked well as part of this combination with it having a slightly leaner presentation (down to cart/arm combination) than with the other combinations used, but it should be taken note of this was only slight. Obviously the ideal would have been to have had several cartridges the same, thus negating having to change the settings of the phonostage, but this wasn’t possible, so there were variations in relative performance between the basic motor unit, arm cart combinations I used in respect to their varying price points and overall performance, but still these were well balanced and matched within those parameters, and ultimately proved useful.

008_550x412Listening to Pulp with the LDG  gave a well balanced sound, with good articulation, openness and detail. Comparing the LdA on this particular turntable mean’t that I felt that overall bass weight was slightly more fleshed out than with the Origin Live Advanced, and had more in common with the SR3 but lacked the forwardness of drive, that particular PSU has, albeit less so than the dearer Paul Hynes PSUs.

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During the long period of reviewing, I had an Origin Live Silver on this turntable, an Encounter and finally settled on the Illustrious. Several Benz cartridges were tried and the Silver suited well.

Using the Origin Live Advanced resulted in a nicely open and detailed sound with articulate treble, mid, bass, nicely coherent. Soundstage nice depth, width and instrument separation.

Overall the bass was fairly extended, but remained tight, and the overall sound was fairly even handed and balanced, though lacking the resolution and detail of the dearer power supplies.

Playing Thomas Dolby’s track PULP, off Aliens Ate My Buick, the opening bass lines were extended, with good articulation, and suitably propulsive, as they should be, but not were not over egged. There was also good separation of detail, with all elements in the recording coherent, clear but not spotlit.

Halfway through the track there is a series of fairly explosive bass lines, which really punctuate the track and there was good weight and scale to these.

Directly comparing this track with the Origin Live Ultra hooked up revealed a more open, detailed, sound with an obviously lower noise floor. Bass was more extended, detailed and nuances in playing better resolved, with greater clarity. The overall complexity of the track was more resolved, with the soundstage bigger, wider, and the tracks acoustic more airy. There was also more presence, delicacy, and the interplay between instruments was also clearer.

The inner ebb and flow of instruments in Pulp and on the other tracks also felt better resolved, with the guitar solo, drums, and bass also more dimensional and real sounding. Music felt more effortless and controlled, and the mid track bass line was more powerful and extended that with the Advanced PSU.

Hawkwind’s Warrior on the Edge of Time album’s track Golden Void, as with Thomas Dolby’s Pulp track, sounded very good and switching to the more basic Advanced PSU lost one some bass weight, detail and overall resolution, in the areas mentioned above.

What I have written above could also be said to be the case when comparing the various Paul Hynes Designs PSUs too, as proceeding up the range gave pretty similar advances in performance, but with differences.

Paul Hynes on the Origin Live 1210, Illustrious Tonearm/Benz Silver Cartridge.

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Using the SR 3 Hawkwind’s track Golden Void had a more driven presentation, with slightly more bass weight than via the OL Advanced, Instrument separation, was pretty much on a par with OL Advanced, but with a slightly richer tonal palette. With the SR3, the soundstage was slightly more forward, but had slightly better depth. The Violin transition between Assault and Battery and the Golden Void had better control and clarity.

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Swapping the SR5 in brought a degree more control, with a lower noise floor – as had been the case swapping from OL Advanced to Ultra – but along with greater detail, an increase in transparency, there was also an increase in bass weight, and overall drive. Lemmy’s bass playing gained more solidity, articulation and dimension and was clearer in its own space, whereas with the SR3 his bass work was more amorphous and veiled.

008_412x550Adding the SR7 changed things, adding more drive, and more dynamic energy to the music turbo charging it. The soundstage moved a little more forwards and stage width, depth and height of the image increased. There was more air, space, detail, clarity, and articulate across the board.

However comparing the Origin Live Ultra left me feeling despite a bit of a step back in overall performance that the slightly more relaxed way music was presented sat better in my system than it had with the SR7. This shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of the SR7 as such, just a system synergy, presentation preference issue.
Conclusions

I came to this review initially fairly sceptical that in the case of direct drive Technics turntables that adding a high specification PSU would bring much of an improvement to the overall performance. Removing the internal transformer, and PSU from under the platter was a fairly obvious change to make for all sorts of reasons, but that a PSU dearer than the original turntable would make much of an improvement, never mind one nearly three times the price would be a bit of a stretch for me, but I was wrong, they do and significantly so.

However what I was not really expecting, and this did throw me big time, and being honest I still don’t fully understand why this should be – answers on a post card to – that three different makes of PSU should have a consistent effect – signature flavour so to speak – on the presentation of three different Technics 1200/1210 motor units with different tonearms, platter, platter mats and cartridges, was a reality I had no previous experience to understand. The Paul Hynes Designs, Origin Live and Longdog Audio consistently had a ‘flavour’ which I am pretty sure I could pick out blind, but I struggled with this so much that I did the listening tests and comparisons again and again and again to be sure. Every time I did the listening tests the results were the same.

After these multiple hours of listening and comparisons I was faced with the fact that Paul Hynes PSUs, Origin Live PSUs and Longdog Audio PSU all have a signature of sorts that will mean that matching will be required to put the right PSU onto the end users particular Technics turntable mix.

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My view, my experience in doing this review is that if you favour a more front seat, listening experience, one that is energetic and dynamic, in much the way the stock Technics 1200/1210 is but with increased resolution, finesse, extended and controlled bass, then the Paul Hynes PSUs will suit, assuming your system and room won’t take this out of balance. One particular combination of items early on (not mentioned in this review) in this process left me feeling a bit underwhelmed and I now realise that this was because the Paul Hynes Designs PSU, didn’t suit this particular Technics mix – at least within the context of my system and listening bias.

001_550x412If you want a more mid room experience, a sweeter, more relaxed presentation, or to balance out a thinner, or brighter more lively tonearm and cartridge pairing then either the Origin Live PSUs or Longdog Audio one (having not heard the others models I can offer no opinion re how more expensive ‘Stages’ might sound) might suit your Technics mix better. However in saying this, its worth keeping in mind that these PSU ‘flavours’ will not cure a poorly thought out mix.

Of course there will be those who will pounce upon this and state that must mean that there is ‘wrong’ here. I don’t feel that there is, at least from a subjective point of view as system matching and matching tonearms, cartridges etc to a turntable motor unit isn’t that unusual, par for the course if buying separates but finding that PSUs might, in feeding correctly regulated, clean power to a drive motor might need to be matched due to a ‘character’ was something new to me.

I guess at the heels of the hunt there is ultimately no right or wrong in this, there are just different flavours in audio, with some folks preferring the Naim sound, to that of valve amps and vice versa, those who like digital over analogue and which PSU will suit will be based in part on similar sensibilities and what amalgam of bits the possible purchaser has as part of their Technics (6)

002_412x550Getting to the nitty gritty if I am pushed to reveal relative rankings – in the round (7) – keeping in mind my system, room and listening bias, then I would say that the Paul Hynes Designs SR3 (8) sat ultimately just a smidge ahead of the Longdog Audio Stage 2, (in part that its slightly cheaper and has a power on/off switch) and mostly ahead of the Origin Live Advanced. The SR 5 was ahead of the LdA, the SR3 and just slightly behind the OL Ultra, there was however little in it, and in another setup the swing might have swung the other way. The SR7 was ahead of all of the other PSUs, but in my system the bass performance was a little too strong and the forwardness – also present in the other PHD PSUs but more so in the SR7 – mean’t despite losses in detail, timing etc the SR5 and OL Ultra worked better and more consistently in my system, with the music I listened to. This one of those occasions when better, and yes it was, didn’t quiet synergise with my system and room. I suspect in a bigger room, or a room with a solid concrete floor – reinforced suspended in my case – there would no doubt have been no bass related issues. The forwardness of presentation issue is more a taste one in that I tend generally to prefer the mid position than be right at the front of the hall.

In regard to the SR7 a big elephant in the room is the fact, that without the extra internal regulation work done I didn’t fully hear what it can do and I am painfully aware of this omission, but as explained earlier in the review it just was not practical to do this, so my listening – while positive without – the reality could be much more so, with those extra internal aspects having been done – this is very much worth keeping in mind.

I think the Paul Hynes SR3 and SR5 offer excellent value for money so are strongly recommended, as does the Longdog Audio Stage Two (recommended).

The SR7 is certainly the best PSU here, so its recommended, but that recommendation comes with a caveat, in that the SR7’s strong bass performance and forwardness – which is also, to a lesser degree, a factor in the SR3 and SR5 – may not sit right in your system, room or listening preference, so some care needs to be taken re the SR7.

Notable mention goes to the Origin Live Ultra which is very good, but alas its dearer selling price puts it just behind, a recommended simply because its performance vs price falls closer to that of the PHD SR5 than the SR7, but it sells for just over the price of the SR7.

The above rankings – in the round – were overall consistent with all the Technics turntables used throughout the review period.

Final Thoughts 

Well what a long strange trip this has been, challenging and at times perplexing, this very review for instance, has been written and rewritten numerous times as I sought away to do justice to this task, and the amount of time I put into it – finding away to share my trip in a legible way, and I think, hope I have managed to do so.

 

Neil 

 

 

Manufacturer

Source of Loan – Manufacturer Supplied Products.

UK Distributor – Direct from Manufacturer.

Retail Prices (prices don’t include postage and packaging where applicable) – 

Paul Hynes SR3 – 21 £270  SR5 – 21 £525  SR7 – 21 £650

Longdog Audio ‘Stage’ 2 £285

Origin Live Advanced –  Silver for £295 (special order Black for £347 ) Origin Live Ultra £460 (Black only) Origin Live Upgrade Transformer £199.99

Contact Details –

Paul Hynes Designs http://www.paulhynesdesign.com/

Longdog Audio http://www.longdogaudio.com/

Origin Live http://www.originlive.com/

 

(Quote) Taken from the 1984 epic film Dune

(1) I will probably write one more article in reference to the Technics 1200/1210 turntables and modifications in the new year and that will conclude this review project.

(2) Several are based in America, so supply logistics were too awkward, and most are fairly small ventures that sell all they make pretty much all the time so could not afford to supply loan/review products. In one case I had to wait nearly 7 months for a review PSU to become available but this was worth doing as I then had the opportunity to review the entire range.

Sadly one company during the process went down (its fate still not fully clear), one for reasons best know to themselves another company point blank refused to be involved (their loss) officially or unofficially.

(3) I really can’t apologise enough for the delay and having a number of PSUs for what is a crazy amount of time. Thanks and profuse apology go to Paul Hynes and Longdog Audio. I am grateful for their understanding and compassion during a very difficult period in my life.

(4) The SR3-21 has had a couple of modifications since I was supplied with this example.

(5) This is the last period of listening tests, over what turned out to be a much longer period than anticipated. It really did feel like some force didn’t want this done. Early on one company who’s items were in for review decided to withdraw, waiting for another set of products (Funk) took well over a year, and waiting for another companies top PSU took longer than thought.

(6) In my own experience the SR5 sits in the sweet spot for my system and room. The SR5 offers very clear improvements in performance, which directly translated to improved music reproduction over the SR3, but in my system the SR7 over egged the pudding just a bit. In saying that I am painfully aware that without the additional stage of internal regulation this PSU allows I didn’t really hear it fully, so I must say that perhaps if that had of been the case it might have sat better in my current system.

Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that to a degree the end result will depend on the usual factors of music choice, arm, cart, system synergy but also the design goals of the designer/company offering the PSU and whether or not they also offer tonearms, mats, platters etc.

In saying the above I can’t say that just because one has, say an Origin Live based Technics that the Origin Live power supplies are going to be the best with that turntable. I wish I could, because its more simple to do so, but my views have moved on since originally thinking this might be the way of things.

I now feel that there is no one true way re PSUs and whatever other items one uses with a Technics motor unit, and prolonged listening and extensive comparisons, despite differences between the various versions I used all boiled down to the three different flavours that these PSUs offer, Paul Hynes lively, energetic with drive, Origin Live sweeter and musical and the Longdog Audio the middle way.

I was surprised to find that all three brands had such. Never before would I have thought that a brand of PSU might actually have a characteristic that would be a factor in matching a PSU to a 1200/1210.

There is no doubt in my mind that Paul Hynes, Origin Live and Longdog Audio are excellent ways of getting regulated power into a Technics turntable and at the end of the day the choice will

(7) Taking all aspects of performance, matching etc into account.

(8) The SR3-21 I have for review has recently been superseded by a newer, more recent version. Not having heard this in my set up I can’t say whether its better, or performs similarly, but I can say that based on my overall experiences with the PSUs I had from PHD I would not expect, at a guess, that it would be worse, but rather better than the version I reviewed.

 

© Text and Photos Copyright 2015 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Except album sleeves/manufacturers images Copyright resides with those owners.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

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