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Arkless Electronics Transconductance Phono Stage

Discussion in 'trade discussion' started by Arkless Electronics, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Arkless

    I've copied an amalgam of the posts in "Trade Announcements" and deleted the second post in that thread as "Trade discussion" is probably more appropriate and allows fishies to discuss it and ask relevent questions :)

    The prototype is sounding bloody marvellous and I'll be making a demo unit available for audition probably early in the new year. Price TBC but in the £1000 - £1500 area.

    MC only.

    This uses the transconductance principal, previously used (to the best of my knowledge) only by "The Paradise" (no longer available) and Pink Triangles very rare "The Pip", which was made only in small quantities and many years ago now. (It's possible/probable that top of the range LFD stages use the technique but I've not been able to verify this).

    I expect this to set a new standard for performance at the price point and indeed at 2 or 3 times the price

    Sounding stunningly good here feeding an Arkless Electronics class A power amp via a passive pre.

    It's a two box phono stage with the linear regulated PSU of course taking up the second box. Further linear regulators are utilised within the actual phono stage, a pair per channel.

    It is entirely discrete (other than an op amp in the DC servo which is not in the signal path), 24 transistors per channel are used to allow the main signal path to have just 4 transistors and 2 resistors up to the output buffer stage, which is of course all discrete.

    All the amplification is carried out in just one stage.

    It has passive RIAA EQ, which due to use of the transconductance principal is entirely free from the headroom problems usually seen with passive EQ in solid state phono stages.

    No feedback whatsoever is used.

    Loading for different MC cartridges is by loading plugs, as in all Arkless Electronics phono stages. Whilst not as convenient as DIL switches it allows an infinite range of loading options rather than just the usual 3 - 5 values and gives a much more reliable large contact area.

    A bake off against a "full house" Paradise the other week was very interesting :)
     
  2. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    It was more than interesting.
     
  3. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Arkless

    There's nowt like an in depth review....:D
     
  4. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    You've gotta tease some...
     
  5. slawekt

    slawekt pfm Member

    What's the outcome of that bake off then
     
  6. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Arkless

    At this time the only person to have heard it other than myself is Si (sq225917) who is of course kind of "Mr Paradise phono stages" at least in the UK, and who brought round his own Paradise which we compared to my new model at some length using a variety of records and musical styles.

    The obvious issue here is anything nice I say about mine will likely be met by "well you would say that...". It could also be said that after all the blood sweat and tears Si has put into building Paradises that he could be forgiven if favourably biased towards the Paradise...

    The Paradise, if made available as a commercial product, would be around £5K and my aim in building this was to offer a Transconductance phono stage, to come close to the Paradise, at a much lower price. Not to match or beat it in every area at this much lower cost.
    However, my recollection is that we found them pretty evenly matched and surprisingly similar overall.

    Differences? Pros and cons?

    The Paradise is incredibly quiet in its background hiss, far quieter in fact than any other MC stage I have ever heard, and still beats the Arkless here. I can considerably reduce the noise from mine but I was not aiming to match the Paradise in this area. The noise from mine is well below normal "vinyl roar" level and I would say is par for the course by quality MC phono stage standards.

    As far as actual sound quality goes well pretty close, with the Arkless winning in some areas and the Paradise in others... the similarity was marked which as they are both Transconductance units with passive EQ and no feedback was not that surprising really.

    I would say the Arkless nosed it on bass, dynamics and PRaT whilst the Paradise had a nose ahead in soundstaging and image specificity but must stress that we are talking Nth degree differences here. Their similarity was more apparent than their differences....
     
  7. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Over the past 3 years or so I've heard a lot of very decent phono stages, many of which have been way more costly than a Paradise. That said There's only been one potential Paradise customer who stuck with what he had, and 25 who decided to upgrade. Now admittedly, the Paradise isn't really a commercial product, and as such it's vastly underpriced for the amount of time and cost of parts that go into it. There's 50 parts in the dual mono PSU alone, and a couple of hundred per channel for the main board and output buffers. So the parts cost is high, the level of parts selection borders on the insane, but the result is more than worth it. The general agreement on it from those who's herd it and those who own it is that it's a 5k phonostage in all but sticker price.

    So, how does Jez's stage fair against it, well on the basis of how it sounded at Jez's, very well indeed. I'd agree with Jez for the most part, while his stage isn't quite as quiet and looses out a little bit in terms of soundstage precision they are very definitely cut from the same cloth. The Arkless Transconductance phono does did nudge ahead in a couple of areas. I'd say it slightly edges it in the bass dept, there's that little bit extra texture available on the lowest notes. A bit more body and resonance to kick drum and a touch greater definition to the bottom strings on bass guitar. For me though where there really was clear daylight was in terms of dynamics. Jez's phono offered quite simply the best dynamics I've ever heard from vinyl, within the limitations of his system. It has remarkable stop / start ability with percussives and really captures that sense of dynamic interplay and timing between musicians as a result. I absolutely can not wait for him to complete hsi first production sample so I can hear them once again, this time in the familiar surroundings of my own set-up.

    While I don't think my Paradise sounded as good at Jez's as it does at home that doesn't in anyway take away from how good his new transconductance phono stage sounded in comparison; quite simply it's stunningly good. If he can make it available in production form for anything like £1500 I think he'll be rushed off his feet with orders. It's a brilliant bit of electronic engineering that really does show the value of Jez's experience and his methodical approach to design. If he can squeeze any more out of it between then and now I'll have to give serious consideration to making some permanent shelf space available to it after Xmas.

    Well done Jez.
     
  8. Mynamemynaim

    Mynamemynaim pfm Member

    Put me down for a trial of the demo unit please
    There...I got in first!!
     
  9. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Arkless

    Some of the Sheffield crew will no doubt have first dibs but after that yes indeed it will be available for home demo on the usual basis.
     
  10. mikeyb

    mikeyb pfm Member

    Really pleased to read this, sounds very promising, and two very good reports.
    Wish you well with sales Jez, I have a decent stage of my own and it would be good to compare them at some point as I am, always looking to get the best out of my system and thought about buying a Paradise a few months back.
     
  11. Ali T

    Ali T pfm Member

    Nice one Jez, would like to have a listen at some point too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017 at 8:53 AM

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