Telos

Phono


Phono Amplifiers


Sutherland: DUO MCX

Phono Stage with In-built Step-up Transformer

The DUO MCX is derived from the cost no object Phono Blocks and is an upgrade in perfomrance over the well-reviewed DUO. By adding an internal transformer step-up to provide low noise passive cartridge gain the DUO MCX breaks into the boutique transformer Phono stage market.

Ron Sutherland studied the market and applied his considerable skills to deliver consistent excellence from a well-establish and recognised brand. 

Dual chassis construction

A sense of space and dimensionality is conveyed by the difference in the left and right channel information.  To preserve those auditory clues, each channel must be isolated from the other and not spill over. 

The DUO MCX uses a stack of two mono phono preamps for stereo.  

Absolutely nothing is shared between the left and right channels.  

Each channel is a completely free standing mono phono preamp.   

That is the ultimate in channel separation.  The ultimate in spatial listening involvement!

PARTS QUALITY

  • FR-4 fiberglass circuit boards, Double-sided with plated thru holes. 1/8” thick for extra rigidity and minimal dielectric influence.
  • Dale/Vishay 1% metal film resistors
  • Wima Polypropylene capacitors for power supply by passing and DC servo
  • Custom wound, 1% polystyrene film capacitors for equalization
  • 14 gauge cold rolled steel base
  • baked epoxy powder coat finish
  • 1/2 “ thick anodized aluminum panel
  • anodized in front panel artwork
  • gold plated, Teflon insulated RCA connectors
  • gold plated configuration headers and shunts

Specifications:

Gain Options:

40 dB

46 dB

52 dB

58 dB

64 dB

Loading Options:

47.5 k Ohm

1 k Ohms

475 Ohms

200 Ohms

100 Ohms

SIZE: 17” x 2 ½” x 12   each DUO

23" x 18" x 9"                  each DUO, packed in shipping box

WEIGHT:

6kg                              each DUO

12Kg                            packed in shipping box

If you thought you knew the Sutherland sound from listening to them in the 1990's and early 2000's then its time to hear the new DUO MCX. A transformation in sonics and musicality!

Ron's engineering research concludes that anytime two conductors are at a different voltage potential, there is an electric field generated between them.  The dielectric (the insulation between conductors) within that field become involved in charge storage. 

If not carefully considered, that extra charge storage can time smear details of a musical signal.  Circuit board material is a dielectric.  With normal double-sided construction, there are copper conductors on each side of the board. 

Unintentionally, a new capacitor is introduced into the circuit, formed by top surface copper, bottom surface copper and the circuit board dielectric sandwiched between the two. 

It is NOT the quality of capacitor we want to have in a high-end signal path. 

Some manufactures make the situation even worse by going to multi-layer boards in the analog audio sections.  Instead of two layers of copper, there are four or more layers of copper. 

Even worse than that, the dielectric between layers is much thinner and the undesired capacitive effect is inversely proportional to thickness.  At best, some manufactures make small, incremental improvements by using exotic board material.

The Duo MCX addresses the issue of circuit board dielectric by doubling the thickness of an FR4 fiberglass circuit board.   Just that one choice reduces electric field strength by one-half.    Additionally, the area of copper interacting with board dielectric is also reduced in critical regions.   Signal lines are kept narrow.   Power lines are extremely wide.   Such choices get us refined performance.  Good solid advantages based up the application of good solid physics. 

With the additon of a custom Lundahl input transformer for each channel the passive gain is boosted to allow the active circuitry more headroom to work.

This is truly a high-end approach and takes the DUO MCX into some pretty serious territory performance wise.



Sutherland: DUO

Phono Amplifier

The DUO is  derived from the cost no object Phono Blocks and the cost-optimized 20/20. Each DUO has a built in AC power supply. There is an IEC power inlet on each chassis to accommodate the user's personal power cord choice.  The shielded power supply module has one output. That output is split into two branches. One for each of the two gain stages. ch of those branches is independently filtered and regulated to provide a substantial foundation for the gain stages. 

Circuit board properties: Circuit board dielectric properties can introduce detail damaging artifacts into the signal,

The DUO mitigates circuit board dielectric properties using the same approach that has worked so well in the Phono Blocks.   Circuit board thickness is doubled from the standard 1/16” thickness to 1/8” thickness.   Not only is dielectric absorption addressed, but further advantages are realized with an extremity rigid platform for component mounting.  It is the cost-no-object,  preferred way to go.

Anytime two conductors are at a different voltage potential, there is an electric field generated between them.  The dielectric (the insulation between conductors) within that field become involved in charge storage.  If not carefully considered, that extra charge storage can time smear details of a musical signal.  Circuit board material is a dielectric.  With normal double-sided construction, there are copper conductors on each side of the board.  Unintentionally, a new capacitor is introduced into the circuit, formed by top surface copper, bottom surface copper and the circuit board dielectric sandwiched between the two.  It is NOT the quality of capacitor we want to have in a high-end signal path.  Some manufactures make the situation even worse by going to multi-layer boards in the analog audio sections.  Instead of two layers of copper, there are four or more layers of copper.  Even worse than that, the dielectric between layers is much thinner and the undesired capacitive effect is inversely proportional to thickness.  At best, some manufactures make small, incremental improvements by using exotic board material.

The Duo addresses the issue of circuit board dielectric by doubling the thickness of an FR4 fiberglass circuit board.   Just that one choice reduces electric field strength by one-half.    Additionally, the area of copper interacting with board dielectric is also reduced in critical regions.   Signal lines are kept narrow.   Power lines are extremely wide.   Such choices get us refined performance.  Good solid advantages based up the application of good solid physics. 

Dual chassis construction

A sense of space and dimensionality is conveyed by the difference in the left and right channel information.  To preserve those auditory clues, each channel must be isolated from the other and not spill over. 

Both the DUO and the Phono Blocks use a stack of two mono phono preamps for stereo.   Absolutely nothing is shared between the left and right channels.   Each channel is a completely free standing mono phono preamp.    That is the ultimate in channel separation.  The ultimate in spatial listening involvement!

PARTS QUALITY

FR-4 fiberglass circuit boards, Double-sided with plated thru holes.   1/8” thick for extra rigidity and minimal dielectric influence.

Dale/Vishay 1% metal film resistors

Wima Polypropylene capacitors for power supply by passing and DC servo

Custom wound, 1% polystyrene film capacitors for equalization

14 gage cold rolled steel base

baked epoxy powder coat finish

1/2 “ thick anodized aluminum panel

anodized in front panel artwork

gold plated, Teflon insulated RCA connectors

gold plated configuration headers and shunts

Gain Options

 

40 dB

46 dB

52 dB

58 dB

64 dB

Loading Options

47.5 k Ohm

1 k Ohms

475 Ohms

200 Ohms

100 Ohms

SIZE;

17” x 2 ½” x 12            each DUO

23 x 18 x 9                  each DUO, packed in shipping box

WEIGHT: 10kg             each DUO,  packed in shipping box

No expense was spared in the design and construction of the Phono Blocks. It just doesn't get any better in Sutherland. The 20/20 was designed to get the most performance possible at its predetermined price point.   To get there, extra was spent to get premium parts and circuitry into the signal path.  

What if all the price constraints in the 20/20 were lifted ?  The price goes up, the performance goes up.  It starts looking a lot like the Phono Blocks.

This is where the DUO comes in to bridge the performance gap.

Where the Hubble used to sit the DUO now breaks new ground as the performance choice. It sits at the pinnacle of engineering excellence without heading into the stratosphere cost wise.

The Hubble used a battery power supply and this created a very smooth sound and blended well in systems which used cartridges that had edges and peaks. The DUO has strived to open this aspect up for extended frequencies and fast dynamics whilst preserving the low noise attributes Sutherland is known for.

DUO is a worthy successor to the Hubble and a valid upgrade path for all Sutherland owners from times past. Definitely put this one on your short list!



Ypsilon: VPS-100

Transformer LCR Phono Stage

The road to VPS-100 took many turns in our long and extensive evaluation of topologies and materials, design and implementation.

Passive RIAA equalization is preferred to active because in active RIAA equalization there is a feedback loop and the RIAA network is in this feedback loop.

Usually RIAA equalizer circuits are implemented with capacitors and resistors (CR networks). Capacitors present the so called "dielectric absorption" -energy is stored in the dielectric material and is added to the signal with a small delay producing a ringing character in fundame

In the past an alternative way of implementing a RIAA equalizer the LCR (Inductance-capacitance-resistance) circuit was proposed.

A long time ago TANGO transformers from Japan used to produce such a circuit working in 600Ohms.

A few manufacturers are using LCR based phono stages using variations of the original TANGO LCR circuit. The challenge in 600ohm LCR eq is to drive the network properly; having no more than 2 gain stages with enough overall gain and low enough output impedance.

The best way of driving the LCR network is by using a transformer. We design and build ourselves the transformers using a special amorphous c-core material. Winding insulation is paper. A properly implemented LCR RIAA sounds much more natural, musical and open than CR networks with better defined macro and micro dynamics.

The LCR networks most commonly used are based in double T filter networks .One T filter forms the 50-500Hz poles and the second T filter forms the 2123Hz pole.

In the VPS-100 we took it one step further, the 2123Hz pole is formed by air core inductor with practically no stray capacitance at the first gain stage and the 50-500Hz poles are formed in high signal level directly at the output of the second gain stage. So this is a split RIAA design using two gain stages based on the SIEMENS C3g tube. These tubes are very reliable as they are specified for 10.000 hours.

The power supply uses the 6CA4 tube rectifier and a choke filter .The heaters for the tubes are AC in the second stage and DC passive regulated for the first stage. The construction uses no printed circuit boards and is point to point silver wired using our own extruded and annealed to spec silver wire. Special attention is paid to mechanically de-couple the first gain stage and 2123 pole coils using a specially designed decoupling system.

The rest of the construction is mounted on a aluminium sub chassis that forms together with the aluminium bottom plate a very rigid platform.

The road to VPS-100 took many turns in Ypsilon's long and extensive evaluation of topologies and materials, design and implementation.

Passive RIAA equalization is preferred to active because in active RIAA equalization there is a feedback loop. If the RIAA network is in this feedback loop then microdetail is affected.

Stereophile Class A+ ratings get given to those products that are really in a class of their own.

The VPS100 sits at the pinnacle of Phono Stage development and sonics. One cannot "unhear" the effects once auditioned. The like priced competitors sound smeared and slow in comparison. Truly one of the most important additions to a serious analog source.

 

 



Thrax: Orpheus Phono

Phono Preamplifier with LCR RIAA equalizer

Orpheus - Phono Preamplifier with LCR RIAA equalizer

Two tube gain stages with zero feedback passive LCR phono equalizer for a simple elegant signal path..

The phono equalizer is designed to amplify the delicate signal of your phono cartridge without losing any of it and to apply the RIAA standard equalization.

Two tube gain stages with zero feedback passive LCR phono equalizer.

This solution was made popular years ago by a Japanese transformer manufacturer called Tango as a standalone module. Due to the difficulty in manufacturing consistently and the high cost associated penetration of the idea, it was limited to just few manufacturers. We decided to go a step further and making it from discrete components allowing us to tune it in context of the whole system. Sonic qualities of this solution are well described in the audiophile literature.

To interface to both MC and MM type cartridges our design uses of a built in Lundahl cobalt amorphous step-up transformer for the MC types.

It is switchable for low and high impedance providing for appropriate load and gain to the wide variety of cartridges and is bypassed in MM mode.

Our input gain stage is based on a super low noise D3a German tube used as a triode.

It provides the necessary gain and output impedance to feed the custom passive LCR RIAA correction. The equalization is done with high precision custom made coils wound with special Cardas wire by Sowter in the UK and paper/foil capacitors.

The equalization is passive and is followed by another super low noise tube (a Russian triode similar to WE417) loaded by a Hashimoto transformer to bring the signal up to the necessary level and provide complete isolation of this sensitive circuit from the following components in your system.

The LCR equalization is known as constant impedance filters. This means that at the stage feeding it sees a constant load making its behaviour predictable at any signal value and frequency. The filter is out of any gain loops and sits between the two gain stages protected from any unpredictable loads and signals. To make it properly, very precise high quality inductors are needed. The signal is in a series with them so high wire quality and magnetic material with lowest hysteresis are used.

To reduce power supply noise further instead of the normal arrangement of bridge rectifier and electrolytic capacitor bank we use a choke input full wave tube rectifier arrangement. This practically eliminates switching noise and anything that comes before the choke stays there. The other beauty of this topology is that the choke keeps the voltage on the capacitor bank pretty constant. In our case this allows for a considerably small capacitor bank to open the possibility of using vibration resistant military paper in oil capacitors for the job that would last a lifetime.

The power supply of Orpheus uses a very well known but extremely rarely used arrangement. We use a C-core transformer with a gap in the core to prevent any saturation of the core from distorted mains or a DC component in the mains.

As the power transformer is in the same case we chose a design that has two identical sets of windings (essentially two transformers) on the same core. This way all the nasty magnetic and electrostatic leaks are canceled and it does not influence any of the other components in the chassis.

The ergonomics It doesn’t matter how advanced a technology is if it is not useful. We have tried to anticipate all possible needs of our clients. Orpheus has 2 inputs on RCA and one on XLR connectors. All inputs are balanced differential unless the grounding option

is engaged on the RCA inputs. As we switch the ground plane when switching inputs there are no hum loops and induced ground noises, allowing for large setups with multiple sources powered from for the outputs as well.

We have provisioned for Balanced and unbalanced outputs. Switches on the back programming the unit set the gain and type of each input. We have included an absolute phase switch on the front panel with memory for each input.

Specifications:

• Tube compliment :
- 2 x D3a amplification
- 2 x 6C4П amplification
- 1 х 6Ц4П rectifier
• Inputs
- 2 x RCA or XLR – MM or MC phone cartridges
• Output
- RCA or XLR
• Power consumption: ………........……...............................................….. 50W
• Dimensions: ………..…............….............................. 432W x 400D x 120H mm
• Weight: ………..…….......................................................................…….. 15 kg

 

Sublime Phono Stage which defies convention to deliver a lower noise floor than what you thought possible. Just ask Paul Messenger of Hifi Critic magazine in the UK who said "Sound Quality - The Orpheus was left to warm up for 24 hours before I lowered the stylus onto Bruch’s Violin Concerto No1.
I was immediately amazed. This 1968 disc is nothing special, but I was transfixed by the power and realism produced – it had so much more body, more focus and precision than anything I’d previously heard from this recording. Violins really did sound more ‘live’, and far closer to having someone playing in the room. This was a stunning revelation of tonal colour and vibrancy, in comparison with the ‘digital greyness’ of so many modern hi-fi products.
On piano it sounds rich and full, flowing well with great perspectives, balance, and staging. The midrange is very lively and dynamic, tonally very pure, and
reproduces stringed instruments with a more of a sense of ‘being there’ than I’ve experienced from any consumer replay medium previously. The treble is also excellent: devoid of grain, with great detail, precise focus and an airy realism I’ve rarely heard from a hi-fi system before. Image stability is also exceptional with finely etched focus within the expansive sound stage. It’s very analytical and transparent, had really good width and depth, creating an interesting illusion of live performance. Choral music also works so well that the Orpheus creates a great sense of the space around the performers, as well as reproducing the purity and beauty of voices. The timing ability is also excellent, so excellent in fact that when I went back to the fairly decent digital set up I had been happily listening to previously, I thought it must be broken because it sounded so painfully bland. The Orpheus has excellent bass: solid and forceful with fine tactility and resolution. It’s able to separate out complex multiple strands while translating awkward pitch changes admirably."

He also said "Irrespective of the music played, it had the ability to extract fresh sounds and bring my attention to new phrasing and a fresh sense of rhythm pulled from well known pieces. It is also great on rock and pop material, often managing to reveal fresh information from 50 year old pop grooves. It is simply a revelation."

His conclusion "At £12,000 I anticipated exceptional performance, but ultimately was almost overwhelmed by the Orpheus’ prodigious sonic capabilities. There is nothing wholly revolutionary about this amplifier, as it employs existing, accessible technologies. Yet through careful research the designers have crafted and assembled something quite exceptional. Its stunning sound quality encouraged me to abandon digital replay entirely while it remained in my possession. The best vinyl reproduction requires quite extreme esoteric design and exotic components, a path the Orpheus follows faithfully to achieve the amazingly high score of 225. The best phono stage I have so far encountered has to be at or very near the top of my very short list of truly great products, and may be highly recommended."

We couldn't put it better ourselves!



Sutherland: Insight

Mains Powered Phono RIAA Preamplifier

The Insight is a self-contained stereo phono preamp with built in shielded power supply compartment.  Dual mono board layout gives each channel the expected same circuitry.   Going beyond that, an identical layout gives each channel the same physical environment.     All the nuances of channel tracking are meticulously maintained.   Not only is parts quality at the highest level,  every aspect is harmoniously focused into an artist expression of beautiful design. A very affordable high-end sound without the high-end price

The Sutherland Insight is a fine AC powered phono stage. We were able to show this at RMAF 2012 with the VPI Traveler turntable and Shelter 501II cartridge and boy did that combo sound great!

The Insight finesses Sutherland's accumulated expertise into an exciting new option.

The Insight is a self-contained stereo phono preamp with built in shielded power supply compartment.  Dual mono board layout gives each channel the expected same circuitry.   Going beyond that, an identical layout gives each channel the same physical environment.     All the nuances of channel tracking are meticulously maintained.   Not only is parts quality at the highest level,  every aspect is harmoniously focused into an artist expression of beautiful design.  

The Insight delivers on both pride of ownership and musicality.

Insight SPECIFICATIONS

Gain Settings
40 dB
45 dB
50 dB
55 dB
60 dB

Cartridge Loading
100 Ohms
200 Ohms
1k   Ohms
10k Ohms
47k Ohms

POWER REQIREMENTS: 86 to 260 volts AC, 5 watts universal, no adjustment required

SIZE: 17” x 2 ½” x 12 Insight 23" x 18" x 9" Shipping Box

WEIGHT: 10Kg
 

We think this phonostage can be seriously put up against some $10,000 plus devices and still come up trumps!

Ron Sutherland's passion, engineering and soul are all distilled to their essence in this new Insight phonostage.

A winner on all fronts.....



Sutherland: 20/20

Phono RIAA Stage

Two complete mono phono stages combined to form the 20/20 phono preamp solution. 20/20 is AC powered and quiet! It starts with separate external AC power modules for each channel, followed by 10 sections of passive Resistor Capacitor filtering and finalized with local constant voltage shunt regulation.

Made in USA in Kansas City MO. Renowned for being the heartland of America the authentic approach of local MO native Sutherland has extended his influence to a global fan base after solid engineering and extreme performance.

It is derived from the best elements of the PH3D and the Hubble. The signal path is almost the same as the Hubble; the construction is as simple as the PH3D. It has an elegant esthetic of performance, value, craftsmanship and minimalism.

That heritage, however, does not keep the 20/20 design from taking on its own unique character.

First. Everyone wants the advantages of AC power line isolation offered by battery operation. The 20/20 is for the person who wants those advantages, but does not want to mess with batteries.

The 20/20 comes as close as possible to offering an equivalence of battery isolation from AC line power.

Second. Two-Mono (definition: bumping it up from dual-mono) construction. The 20/20 is literally two identical mono phono preamplifiers. Each channel is on its own circuit board, has its own shielded compartment, power indicator, its own AC power supply and its own power cord. It is the ultimate in channel separation.

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

POWER SUPPLIES

I don’t know of any audiophile who likes power supplies that even remotely resemble ‘walwarts’. The 20/20 uses not one, but two of the wallwarts more sophisticated relatives – politely called a regulated tabletop power supply.

To understand this choice, let’s look at AC to DC power supply elements required for no-compromise high-end performance:

1. Rectify the AC to DC

2. Filter that DC

3. Use that raw DC to power a regulating DC to DC switching inverter (this provides galvanic isolation between the AC power line and the DC load)

4. Provide additional levels of filtering to remove the high-frequency ripple from the switching inverter.

5. Provide additional levels of noise isolation from the switching inverter to the load

6. Provide local voltage regulation right at the audio circuitry.

From an engineering viewpoint, items 1, 2 and 3 can be accomplished with a well chosen, off-the-shelf table top power supply. It does those tasks well, reliably and at a very reasonable cost. The supplies included with the 20/20 are rated at a MTF (Mean Time between Failure) of over 100,000 hours. They are used at less than 10% of their rated capacity, so reliably should be even further increased. If one were to fail, replacement is simple and inexpensive. In addition to that functionality, they are already safety tested and approved for use all over the world. A great deal more time, effort and money could be spent on custom circuitry – but to no performance advantage.

From an audiophile viewpoint, it is items 4, 5 and 6 that determine the quality of DC available for the sensitive audio circuitry. That function is so important it takes up over 2/3 of each amplifier’s circuit board area. Ten cascaded stages of passive RC filtering, provide an enormous distance from the pre-amp area to the incoming DC power connector. There are over 35,000 microfarads of capacitance on each board. The electrical ‘distance’ is so great, when power is first applied, it takes over 10 seconds for the power to travel thru these ten sections of filtering and reach the preamp stage. Voltage slowly ramps up until the zener diodes clamp it to the correct value. Until that voltage is reached, the audio output is muted. It is this section of circuitry that provides the extreme isolation from AC power line affects.

Beautiful On the Inside

FR-4 fi berglass circuit boards, Double-sided with plated thru holes

Dale/Vishay 1% metal fi lm resistors

Wima Polypropylene capacitors for power supply by passing

Custom wound, 1% polystyrene fi lm capacitors for equalization

14 gauge cold rolled steel chassis

baked epoxy powder coat finish

1/2 “ thick anodized aluminum panel front panel artwork anodized in

gold plated, Tefl on insulated RCA connectors

gold plated confi guration headers and sockets

output muted during power up and power down

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

DC CONNECTOR LOCATION

Don’t be looking for power connections on the back panel. Instead, you will fi nd them located at the front and under the cover. That is one of those form follows function decisions. The front of the circuit board IS where the power enters the circuit, there fore that is where the connector went. On your car, the gas cap is very near the gas tank. It is not located at the opposite end of the car.

Putting the entry point at the front permits power supply wires (low voltage DC) to be routed well away from all the sensitive part of the circuit. Contrast that with the AC IEC power connector (high voltage AC) conventionally located on the back panel very near the preamp circuitry and all the input/output jacks.

OPERATION

Initial Set Up

Release the top cover by removing the four knurled screws on the sides of the chassis. At the left rear of each circuit board, you will find jumpers which are clearly labeled for changing cartridge loading and gain settings. The 20/20 is shipped with a cartridge loading of 100 Ohms and a gain of 60 dB. If you wish to change those values, simply move the jumper to the correct location for each channel. Make sure that you match the loading and gain setting for each channel.

Gain Options

40 dB 46 dB 52 dB 58dB 64 dB

Loading Options

47.5 k Ohm 1 k Ohm 475 Ohm 200 Ohm 100 Ohm

20/20 specifications

Gain settings

40 dB

46 dB

52 dB

58 dB

64 dB

Cartridge Loading

100 ohms

200 ohms

475 ohms

1k ohms

47k ohms

Size 17” wide x 2 ¼ “ high x 12” deep

-external power supply (each) 5” deep x 1 ½” high x 2” wide

Weight 11 lbs. net 19 lbs. shipping

Power Requirements

Power: 20 watts (10 watts per channel)

Operating Voltage: 100 to 240 volts (universal, no adjustments

TWO-MONO

In the quest for the ultimate in stereo separation, the 20/20 goes beyond dual mono, offering instead what Sutherland like to call “two-mono.” Many audiophiles prefer using mono-block amplification for the benefits of eliminating crosstalk and other noise contaminants associated with shared power supplies. They also prefer the benefit of each amp having its own resevoir of power, increasing dynamic capabilities, and giving the amp a sense of ease. The exact advantage can be had in a phono-preamplifier, where noise is the worst of enemies.

The 20/20 may look like a conventional stereo phono stage, but take off the cover.

You will discover two identical mono phono circuit boards, sharing only the same front and back panels. Power supplies, power cords , and all circuitry are separate. Even the power indicator lights are independent.

Ease of adjustment for cartridge loading and gain and fuss free lifetime of operation. 

Amazing sonics - When compared musically to even twice as expensive competition the Sutherland prevails. It's a no-brainer exercise. No waste, no over hyped features, just the music appearing naturally out of a dead quiet background.



Sutherland: KC Vibe

Entry Level Phono with a High End delivery.

Built in Kansas City with that midwestern value of doing something well. With a straight forward, unassuming manner. Do it with care and focused concern. In Sutherland's assembly area, there are 100's of parts bins that hold the individual components for all of their products. All carefully selected, over the years, for solid performance and proven reliability. Of course, many of the components find their way into more than one model.

Most everything in the KC VIBE comes from that SAME stock of premium parts. They only had to add 5 new parts bins to build the KC VIBE

The Power Supply Challenge:
It is a well-accepted premise that high-end audio performance requires exceptionally good power supply design and execution. Energy from the power supply is the foundation for constructing the output signal. All too often, you will find cost cutting compromises that undercut any possibility for fulfillment. Those commonly used out board (the pejorative would be 'wall wart') power supplies are a good example. Their limited power, limited filtering, limited regulation, limited output voltage and limited quality suggest limitation in delivering the required, quality power foundation.

The worst bad choice is a low output voltage. Many have outputs of 12 volts, maybe 24 volts. It is too little or, at best, leaves no margin for filtering or regulation. A good audio circuit would need at least 24 volts AFTER regulation/filtering. There is no excess capacity to insert an effective filtering function. Performance is already compromised, no matter how good the audio circuit may be.

The 48 Volt Advantage:
The KC VIBE uses a 48 volt out board power supply. THAT key choice gives an opportunity to get a very good power foundation for the audio circuit. Limited power: fixed. The 18 watt power supply is loafing to meet the 2 watt KC VIBE power requirement. Limited filtering: fixed. Filtering is no longer determined by the external power supply. Within the KC VIBE, an extensive, passive RC filtering network completely removes any incoming residue. Completely isolating the audio circuitry from both the AC power line and outboard power supply. Limited output voltage: fixed. The 48 volt source gives a huge margin for extensive filtering and isolation. A full 30 volts of quiet, clean voltage is available for the audio circuits. Limited quality: fixed. The KC VIBE power supply is rated for over 500,000 hours MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure). In accordance with Military Spec MIL-HDBK-217.

The 48 volt power supply gives plenty of room for effective filtering, isolation and regulation. The audio circuit gets the voltage and power quality it needs for performance.

Specifications:
Gain Settings: 40, 45, 50, 55 or 60 dB
Loading: 100, 200, 475, 1k or 47kOhms
Power Requirements: 86 to 260 volts AC, 2 Watts Universal, No Adjustment Required
Size: 11" x 9" x 2" (KC Vibe)
Size: 14.5" x 12.5" x 6.5" (Shipping Box)
Weight: 6 lbs (KC Vibe)
Weight: 9.5 lbs (Shipping Weight)

Amazing performance for budget proice - what more can we say?



Sutherland: Phono Block

Ultra High Performance Phono Stage

The PhonoBlock is the phono preamp Ron Sutherland designed for his home system. Its design was a self indulgence. There was no consideration to accommodate any market influences. That mind-set gave him the absolute freedom to build an uncompromised phono preamp. Almost always, upscale designs are laden with features. More features are touted to represent advancement, product differentiation AND a rational for the upscale price. The PhonoBlocks don’t play that game. Their elevated performance is achieved by NOT cluttering the signal path with deleterious features. Complexity is not the

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

Almost always, upscale designs are laden with features. More features are touted to represent advancement, product differentiation AND a rational for the upscale price. The PhonoBlocks don’t play that game. Their elevated performance is achieved by NOT cluttering the signal path with deleterious features. Complexity is not the path to purity. Elegant refinement is.

POWER SUPPLY:

For a design guided by simplicity, the PhonoBlock’s power supply may, at first, appear plenty complicated. Admittedly, it is both simple AND complex. It is a long chain of individually simple elements.

Much of the PhonoBlock’s effortless musicality can be attributed to power supply capability. The power supply is not ‘sized’ for the gain stage’s load. On the contrary, gain stage power requirements place an insignificant load on the power supply’s capacity. The power available to the amplifier section is a bedrock solid foundation. Precisely defined by fixed current regulators, shunt voltage regulators right at the load and over 100,000 microfarads (per mono chassis) for energy storage. It takes nearly 20 seconds for this huge reservoir to fill up when AC power is applied.

For a design guided by simplicity, the PhonoBlock’s power supply may, at first, appear plenty complicated. Admittedly, it is both simple AND complex. It is a long chain of individually simple elements.

Each element has a function of either filtering or regulation (also doing a filtering function). Each element inserts a level of isolation. The accumulated isolation is unprecedented.

The chain looks like this:

• AC power entry connector

• AC fuses

• First torroidal transformer

• Dual pi ferrite bead / film capacitor filter

• Second torroidal transformer

From here, there are two parallel power paths. One for the first gain stage and another one for the final gain stage. EACH of the two separate paths has these elements.

• Slow recovery, discrete diode, full-wave bridge rectifier

• Initial filter capacitors

• Constant current regulator

• First RC pi filter

• Second RC pi filter

• Shielded ribbon cable between shielded compartments

• Cross over from the right compartment to the left compartment

• Third RC pi filter

• Forth RC pi filter

• Fifth RC pi filter

• Constant voltage shunt regulator

• Electrolytic and film capacitor bypass at the active devices

You can clearly see that each element adds ‘distance’ from the incoming AC power source. This is also apparent when you look at the physical layout of components. Each element adds a physical distance from the AC power connector. All listed items before the ribbon cable are in the right shielded enclosure. They are in linear order from back to front. The ribbon cable goes from right to left, taking power to the front of the audio board. Power filtering elements then go in linear order from front to back on the audio board. Finally, you will see the electrolytic and film capacitors very closely clustered right at the chips they are powering.

Simple, logical, straightforward, reliable AND effective.

CASE / CONSTRUCTION:

Once a circuit topology is optimized for sound quality, it is critical that the surrounding physical environment is supportive of that achievement.

Like so many other aspects of the Phono Block design, the case is unassuming, classic --------- but with a unique, purposeful twist.

There are two shielded enclosures behind the machined front panel. The right side contains the AC power supply and left side contains the analog audio circuitry. We get the performance advantages of shielded isolation and the tidiness of unification.

And yet there is another concealed advantage. Usually the cable interconnecting audio and power supply sections is hanging out in space, exposed to radiated interference and other environmental uncertainties.

The Phono Block interconnection is hidden away, protected and totally shielded.

You don’t even see that cable. It is securely tucked into a machined channel in the aluminum front panel.

There are other details making the PhonoBlocks special.

Some are small. For instance, if the front panel logo were simply silk-screened ink, sitting on the surface of the panel it would, over the years, rub off. It is actually a black dye anodized INTO the aluminum. You can see and even feel the difference.

Some are big. The base of the PhonoBlock is laser machined 12 gage cold rolled steel. That’s about 1/8” thick. That substantial platform is protected with baked on epoxy power coat.

Feet are custom machined from Delrin with rubberized cork inserts.

The theme of robust construction is also evident in the circuit boards. Fiberglass FR-4 is a well-established, top quality choice for circuit board material. However, what you will see in the honoBlock is over the top. At 1/8” thickness, PhonoBlock circuit boards are twice as thick as normally seen. Individual parts are anchored from any mechanical movement.

PRINTED CIRCUIT DIELECTRIC:

Anytime two conductors are at a different voltage potential, there is an electric field generated between them. The dielectric (the insulation between conductors) within that field become involved in charge storage. If not carefully considered, that extra charge storage can time smear details of a musical signal. Circuit board material is a dielectric. With normal double-sided construction, there are copper conductors on each side of the board. Unintentionally, a new capacitor is introduced into the circuit, formed by top surface copper, bottom surface copper and the circuit board dielectric sandwiched between the two. It is NOT the quality of capacitor we want to have in a high-end signal path. Some manufactures make the situation even worse by going to multi-layer boards in the analog audio sections. Instead of two layers of copper, there are four or more layers of copper. Even worse than that, the dielectric between layers is much thinner and the undesired capacitive effect is inversely proportional to thickness. At best, some manufactures make small, incremental improvements by using exotic board material.

The PhonoBlocks addresses the issue of circuit board dielectric in a novel – yet elegantly simple way.

All signal carrying conductors are on the top plane of the circuit board. There are no copper conductors on the bottom plane, opposite signal carrying regions. Thus there are no electric fields generated between top and bottom layers. The circuit board dielectric is not exposed to electric fields and there is no undesired storage in circuit board material. The circuit board dielectric is not improved ---------- it is removed. It is as if a window were behind you, instead of in front of you. It is still there, but not in the way of clarity.

WHITE NOISE GENERATOR:

It can take quite a long listening time before a high resolution component reaches its performance potential. The Phono Blocks are no exception.

However, the PhonoBlocks distinguish themselves by including white noise generators --- one for each channel. White noise becomes the input signal and passes thru all stages of the PhonoBlock. You can even use the output of the PhonoBlock as a burn-in signal source for interconnect cables and the rest of your system.

The inclusion of such a feature into the signal path may seem to contradict the previously stated (emphatically stated) value of an uncluttered signal path.

The challenge is to add this useful feature without ANY compromise to the signal path. Remember, there are loading resistor circuit boards that plug into the Phono Block. The white noise generator circuit board plugs into exactly that same connector – instead of the loading resistor board. That same connector is used to either add resistive loading OR as a place to inject white noise. When you are finished with the White Noise Generator, just unplug it and replace it with your choice of resistive loading. There is no added complexity on the main Phono Block board.

GROUNDING OPTIONS:

Sometimes ground loops can cause hum in a phono system. Breaking ground loops can be easy or it can be a nightmarish frustration. In the difficult situations, grounding options can save the day.

For product safety and electrostatic shielding purposes, the metal casework of the PhonoBlock is electrically connected to the ground lead in the IEC power cord.

There are, however, options on the audio circuit’s ground reference. Each mono chassis has three grounding options. They are selectable by moving a gold-plated shunt.

• Audio ground can float with respect to the chassis

• Audio ground can tie directly to the chassis

• Audio ground ‘softly’ connected to the chassis thru a 50 Ohm resistor

 

GAIN/LOADING OPTIONS:

One gain/load configuration will be optimum for a given system. There must be a mechanism for finding and installing that best choice.

The common way puts every conceivable option on the circuit board. Then only one of the available options is selected using some sort of switch. That approach is conventional, convenient and it works.

Some products even have remote control to select configuration. On the down side, the circuit board layout is compromised with the clutter of fitting in all option components. Signal path must wander thru the selector switch and the pile of unused option components. Sometimes the selector switch is of high quality. More often it is a cheap DIP rocker switch – the sort for setting digital signals. Not at all appropriate for passing the minute analog voltages from a phono cartridge.

To keep the signal path tight and uncluttered, the PhonoBlock uses plug in configuration boards. Gold plated sockets for the configuration boards are located on the main circuit board very close to the associated circuitry. Signal path length is kept short and direct. Only the one, optimum value component is applied to the signal path. The PhonoBlock comes with 4 gain options and 7 cartridge loading values.

In addition, blank plug-in boards are included for fine tuning with custom values. You are not limited to standard values. Options are unlimited – but only one is in the circuit.

Specifications:

Cartridge Loading:

  • 50 Ohms
  • 100 Ohms
  • 200 Ohms
  • 475 Ohms
  • 1k Ohms
  • 10k Ohms
  • 47k Ohms
  • blank card, can be configured for 1 to 47k Ohms plus capacitance

Gain settings

  • 45 dB
  • 50 dB
  • 55 dB
  • 60 dB
  • blank card, can be configured for 40 to 70 dB

SIZE: 17” wide x 17” deep x 3.25” high

SHIPPING BOX: 24” wide x 24” deep x 11” high

WEIGHT: Net 21 lbs each Shipping 26 lbs each

POWER REQUIREMENTS:

110 – 120 VAC, 10 watts, each

220 – 240 VAC, 10 watts, each

Ron Sutherland is a very talented man in every sense. Culturally sophisticated and musically aware he realises an almost Japanese Zen sensibility in his designs.

There is a calmness and rightness about the sound of his PhonoBlocks. Nothing more, nothing less than the music itself. Sublime in every way.

Saying that Sutherland Engineering builds a nice line of phono stages .

The Phono Block, too, represents a stripped-down, optimized, no-compromise design that maximizes separation and eliminates crosstalk.

Each Phono Block itself comprises two heavily shielded, individual subchassis, linked by the front and rear panels. The right-hand subchassis is the power supply, which Sutherland says is key to the Block's performance.

The left-hand subchassis is the audio side, comprising the final power-supply filtering and two gain stages. The first is a low-noise instrumentation amplifier, which acts as an input stage to load the cartridge and supply the initial gain. For the second stage, Sutherland uses an op-amp to accomplish the RIAA equalization and to supply the output current. Rather than use coupling capacitors to eliminate any DC, as he has in some of his other designs, Sutherland wraps both of each Phono Block's amplification stages in a DC servo loop.

Brian Dramkroger of Stereophile wrote "Music comprises five elements: pitch, timing, loudness, timbre, and location. As soon as more than one instrument or voice is present, all five, together and separately, take on a choral quality. On album after album, regardless of musical genre, scale of work, or vintage of recording, the Sutherland Phono Blocks unfailingly reproduced all five elements and their combined nature no less than brilliantly. In short, they played music—or, more to the point, they got out of the way to let the music play. Each time I thought I'd taken the Phono Blocks' sonic thumbprint, I'd change something else in my system or play a different recording, and whatever wisp of identity I thought I'd captured would vanish. No electronic device is perfect, but the Phono Blocks were close enough to perfection that I could find no trace of them in my system's sound."

Having used the Spiral Groove table to write his review we can wholeheartedly agree he "got" the "sound" of the Sutherland or rather the "absence of sound" right.

Beyond the superlative measurements Sutherlands are respected for it is the musicality that wins out every time.

Race these up against similar priced European or Japanese alternatives and Sutherland shows a clean pair of heels. That he can stand proud against his USA brethren is beyond doubt.