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Author Topic: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.  (Read 3907 times)

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Offline raymonda

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Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« on: June 12, 2014, 10:51:40 AM »
Okay, this is more about a total system rather than just this amp. However, I do want to report on the amp, which I find works really well with the new second system I've put together. I sold my Jolida 102 in order to purchase this amp, to run the Heresy (s) and to use as a head phone amp. I have found that I have now gone totally backwards in time to build this system. Gone is my Well Tempered Record Player.....which is a really nice spinner.........and in its place is a highly modified Thorens TD 166 MkII. Which, after building up as a project led me to separating from my long term relationship with the WTRP. Yes, it is really that nice and mates extremely well with my Sound Smith modified Benz Glider. It has gotten me back to listening to vinyl for hours on end. I suggest anyone considering a turntable to pursue this alternative.....you won't be disappointed. I bought a Music Hall speed controller, which added to the sonic mix of the system.

Needing a preamp I went with a passive that is made in China with excellent components and an extremely reasonable price of $135.00. I was going to build my own but after looking at the cost and finding this one I didn't have to since this is built to the standard I would have made and less than the price of the components purchase separately.  It came with a chioce of pots.....ALPS Blue Velvet.......resistor based, stepped attenuator or SMD stepped attenuator. Wanting to try a SMD attenuator I went with that. If I didn't like it I would just replace it with a Dale stepped attenuator, however, at this point, I'm happy with the SMD. It comes with 4 inputs, 2 volume controled outputs and one fixed output, CMC RCA's and wired with sliver/teflon cable. Nicely done and it works well if you don't need gain.

I bought another MK MX150 for a good price. It needed a few toggles replaced to work again and the grill cloth needed to be replace (cosmetic) and now matches well with my other one. Many feel that you don't need two subs and that one is better but I wanted two in order to energize the room more evenly and feel that it is an incremental improvement that is worth the extra cabinet and set up.

I finally finished the Heresy modifications and now have a pair that I can listen to. It took a lot of work, as I feel, in stock form, the Heresy is problematic. As a reminder, I bought a 1982 vintage pair at a seriously reasonable price. When I ran them in stock form with the Jolida they were, to say the least, almost unlistenable. Shrill, hard and no bass best describes their sound. The first thing I did was replace all the caps in the crossover, as they were old and most likely drifted. I also replaced the stock internal cable with Teflon/Silver/Copper, as well as upgraded the binding posts. This made an improvement but not to the level needed for enjoyable listening. I then dampened the internal cabinet to extend the low end. I think I'm getting around 5-7hz more in the low end. Coupled with a sub continued to improve the speaker. These speakers require a sub, IMO, to be enjoyed, unless, you don't mind having only a 3 string bass....e.g. No low (E) and god forbid your recording has a five string bass with a low B. Things started to come together but still not there......so, I bought a pair of stands that raised them off the floor and gives me a better soundstage instead of feeling that I'm listening to the band from a 3rd tier balcony. The final two modifications were significant in creating a speaker that could be enjoyed. I replaced the tweeters diaphragm with new ones from Bob Crites. What a difference! Now the high end it more extended and easier to listen to. It sounds more real than the old ones.......not to the standards of my Maggie ribbons....but good enough. Gone is the sizzle that looses control when pushed above 85dbs. The last modification tamed a lot of the shoutiness of the mid horn. I took a SD wind screen coupled with a layer of wind screen foam and placed it in the throat of the horn. Ah, now everything sounds better and more seamless. They now can be pushed to loud volumes without totally assaulting your sonic sensibilities. I finished off the cabinets by sanding down the chipped birch, staining them in black ebony and paste waxing them so they look like a gloss, black piano finish. At a distance they look good.......at least good enough.

Anyway, I now have a second system that is a different spin from my Classe'/Maggie sound. Hand on heart, the Classe'/ Maggie is truer to timbre but the Golden Tube/Heresy is very enjoyable and brings some of the virtues and romance of systems of yore. Yes it needs a sub to give ultimate impact and low end but it is worth it.

BTW, combining to two systems together has given me a system that affords me attributes that individually both miss.......refinement, impact, truth to timbre and an incredible sound stage. When doings so, I run the Heresy (s) at a lowered volume in order to just blend them into the sound without smearing the soundstage or creating other undesirable artifacts. It works extremely well.

Back to the Golden Tube Audio SE 40. This is a long term keeper for me. With the Sonic Craft modifications this is a great SE tube amp and IMO sounds as good as the MacIntosh 275, which I had for 4 years but rarely listened to. To be honest, I never mated the 275 to a proper pair of speakers and I wouldn't suggest that anyone dump their 275 but rather, for those that want good tube sound......can get by on 40 watts.......and don't have the money to spend on a great amp, like the 275.........a Sonic Craft modified SE 40 is a viable way to go. Be cautioned though, a stock SE 40 is problematic and riddled with component failure. Yes it was a great sounding amp when it came out but over time caps and resistors that weren't up to spec failed causing many SE 40's to go down. Sonic Craft addressed this as a way to keep owners happy and to address the issues related to stock amps. A Sonic Craft modified SE-40 is as reliable as the best and the way to go for anyone looking to buy one. One with out mods is very risky and should only be purchase by someone willing to replace the 50 or so components that are addressed by the Sonic Craft mod. Those that are really good with an iron can come up with their own component replacements and may end up with an amp that sounds as good or better than what Sonic Craft has done. 

Here are some shots of the system I've described. Some have been posted before but these are the most recent.

Ray
« Last Edit: June 12, 2014, 12:33:58 PM by raymonda »

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2014, 10:52:47 AM »
Here is a shot of the total speaker system.


Offline nickgregory

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2014, 03:03:43 PM »
awesome...I recently got a primaluna prologue 5 that I am using to biamp my VR-2s and have been amazed at the difference of how tubes sound in my system.  Kinda wish I had gone down the tube route years ago.

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2014, 03:31:38 PM »
I've heard awesome things about your amp. Wish I had the funds to play a bit more. I took today off from work and been listening to the tube system and vinyl. Very much enjoying Dylan together through life and Knopfler kill to get crimson. I don't know how I would feel without the subs. The Heresy(s) need them. Your VA 2s are more capable down low. Well pretty much all around, I'd say.  The klipsch have a house sound, which I think I have tamed and improved upon.

Btw, the passive I'm using is pretty much a steal and not only highly recommended but should be considered the gold standard for under 250. If you've got the gain this is the pre for you. The smd attenuator sounds great. Cleaner than the Alps Blue velvet. It is a very flexible pre too.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2014, 03:33:24 PM by raymonda »

Offline nickgregory

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2014, 04:08:33 PM »
yeah, the amp was an impulse buy from Agon....using it to drive the uppers of my vr-2s and my conrad johnson mf-80 driving the lowers, both driven from CJ PV-11 pre...I had listened to the system with the MF-80 driving the VR-2s by themselves...sounded good, but the upper end lacked clarity.  Adding the Prologue 5 seems to have taken a blanket off of the music.  At the risk of using too many music analogies that everyone interprets differently, I will just say it sounds fantastic.

The Prologue 5 is a pretty piece...built extremely well (read, heavy)....really happy with where my system is now.  Next step is to start looking at my vinyl setup (currently Rega P3-24 w/Benz gold micro cart, musical surroundings phonomea pre) and considering making some changes there...

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2014, 04:30:08 PM »
That's a nice vinyl set up. What do you like and don't like about it.

Offline nickgregory

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2014, 08:44:32 PM »
Honestly I like most everything about it.  The pre was the last thing I changed with it (a little over a year ago from a rega fono pre) and that gave a level of clarity that I had not heard from my rig.  Honestly I love the cart and the pre.  The thing that I have in the back of my mind is whether upgrading to a P5 (or higher) would give me a sonic improvement due to the table and arm upgrade on those units.

That said, there really isn't anything I am unhappy about with my vinyl rig...just like to keep the next step open if that makes any sense.

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2014, 03:03:07 PM »
The P8 looks like a nice one. I ran the benz silver for a while and really liked it. When you need a re tip it might be a good thought to send it to Soundsmith.

Offline nickgregory

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 08:34:20 PM »
The P8 looks like a nice one. I ran the benz silver for a while and really liked it. When you need a re tip it might be a good thought to send it to Soundsmith.

that is definitely my plan for when I get to the point where it needs to be retipped.  The p8 is really my plan....just have to wait for the right deal to come around.

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2014, 09:18:53 PM »
That should be a good match and drive you far down the vinyl hi way.

Anyway, I've been rockin the heresy (s) this weekend and I have now gotten them to a point where they are sounding real good. The mods, gta, passive pre and subs are all coming together nicely. The work to get these to the level they are playing was well worth it. I'm glad I didn't give up on them. I'm also glad that I got them on the cheap so that I had no fear tearing them apart.

I should also mention that late night, low level listen is a real treat. Maggies just don't play well at low volumes. They need to be goosed, while these sound as good as a nice set of cans.

This whole weekend, when time allowed, I listen only to the klipsch, gta system and never felt wanting more. That doesn't mean it is the last word in reproduction, hardy, but rather, what it offered was engaging and truly satisfying. I've gone from a heresy non believer to a believer.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 09:24:16 PM by raymonda »

Offline nickgregory

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2014, 03:58:51 PM »
it looks like you have cable isolators in your system.  Thoughts?  curious what impact you hear.

Offline raymonda

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2014, 05:09:12 PM »
it looks like you have cable isolators in your system.  Thoughts?  curious what impact you hear.

I made those back in 1997 or 98. I'm not sure if they make a difference but they were easy to make and they don't harm the sound. They might of made more of a difference on carpet than tile.......but I never really A/B'ed them. I just made them....installed them and kept them in. I pity the fool who spends long green on tweaks like this that are easy diy.

The real deal were the AQ Sterling+++++ cables I scored in 1998 for 35.00, when they were selling new for 1500. They've been in my system ever since.

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Re: Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Sonic Craft upgrade etc.
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2014, 09:58:49 AM »
it looks like you have cable isolators in your system.  Thoughts?  curious what impact you hear.

I made those back in 1997 or 98. I'm not sure if they make a difference but they were easy to make and they don't harm the sound. They might of made more of a difference on carpet than tile.......but I never really A/B'ed them. I just made them....installed them and kept them in. I pity the fool who spends long green on tweaks like this that are easy diy.

The real deal were the AQ Sterling+++++ cables I scored in 1998 for 35.00, when they were selling new for 1500. They've been in my system ever since.

makes sense on the elevators...never really saw the purpose.

that is a sick deal on the AQ cables....I keep an eye out for audio magic cables and have gotten some sick deals as they move product lines...definitely able to find good deals on high end cables if you pay attention...and of course get lucky

 

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