The Transcendent RIAA
Copyright 2010 © Troels Gravesen
The Transcendent RIAA, providing 52 dB gain, is currently used with my Dynavector XX2 mkII cartridge through SILK trafos and from here on I think we're talking serious money to increase playback quality significantly. If you can live without show-off 10 mm alu front panels, fancy knobs, etc., give it a try. At 650 US $ the Transcendent RIAA is excellent and easy to tweak should any new ideas emerge. Add 4 good coupling caps (2 x 0.01 uF and 2 x 0.10 uF) and you may be in for a good experience. Tubes are 4 x 6C45pi and 2 x ECC83. The Dyna XX2 mkII and SILK/Transcendent has given me great times in front of my speakers.
The SILK/Transcendent combo has so far been compared to a Densen MC step up units (solid state) and a Jasmine MC step up (solid state) and it didn't make me reach for the soldering iron. Trying to visualise my very subjective experience from these comparisons combined with other tests on valves vs. solid state looks like this:
Above the perceived soundstage
from these experiments. When we did the
Densen/Transcendent comparison we first listened to the
Densen and then the Transcendent and my guest bringing in
the Densen said: "See, a wider soundstage!" And
yes, I too hear a sort of wider soundstage, but at the
cost of the holographic and expansive midrange good valve
stages can create through good high-efficiency speakers
(DTQWT in use here). From Densen and the Jasmine I hear a
somewhat compressed midrange, very cool, very clean, but
nevertheless without the transparent, almost "reach
out and touch" properties of good valves. The owner
of the Jasmine is also my friend and we have plans to try
out some significantly better coupling caps for the
Jasmine, because we don't think we've yet heard what this
unit is capable of.
The Transcendent RIAA comes with "orange drop" caps - quite good actually - but hard not to experiment with a wide range of caps as they are so easy to change - and the values are 0.1 uF and 0.01 uF making even really expensive caps accessible. Russian NOS PIO has been tried, Jensen copper/PIO, Russian alu/teflon, standard MKP, etc. The Russian alu/teflons stayed in for a long time and were eventually replaced by Mundorf Supreme silver/1% golds. I had these running for a year until I tried SCR tin/teflon. These will stay (- I think ;-)).
Eventually these trafos were built into the Transcendent RIAA and the RIAA power supply was moved into a separate unit. With the power supply close to the RIAA board I never could get this set-up free from serious hum problems.
6C45pi/ECC83 phono stage. Three tubes/channel. The 6C45pi tubes draw some serious current, thus 12 watts available. 6C45pi tube (single triode) filaments are connected in series similar to the two filaments in the ECC83 tube. Have tried 5751 tubes in replacement of EH ECC83. The 5751 should have 30% less gain compared to ECC83. Can't hear any noticeable difference in gain and I'll buy another pair of 5751 tubes as I have no idea how old (used) they are. The 5751s appear to outperform the EH ECC83 tubes sonically.