Reviews and Testimonials
CALIFORNIA QUDIO SHOW 2014
September 2014 'Part-Time Audio' review of Electra-Fidelity amp with Fritz Speakers http://theaudiotraveler.com/2014/09/08/cas-2014-electra-fidelity-and-fritz-speakers/
ELECTRA FIDELITY A3-500 MONOBLOCKS
Review by Mal Kenney in PartTimeAudiophile from 2015 California Audio Show of Electra-Fidelity, ElectraPrint Audio and Fritz speakers.
PROTOTYPE SINGLE TUBE AMP
PROTOTYPE SINGLE TUBE AMP
review from Jonathan
Its as if the amp wasn't really there at all.
On the Freddie Freeloader track, when John Coltrane's saxophone, and then Miles Davis' trumpet, suddenly exploded out of the mix, practically tearing out my heart and imploding my eardrums, then I understood that we were mistaken in surmising that the amp was a bit underpowered in my system.
The explanation is that the system is now running so clean that it is actually 'playing louder without sounding louder.' A sound pressure meter would tell the tale.
With the re-powered DAC directly coupled to Jack's one pentode amp driving my now full range array of drivers, the system has a new found ability - unprecedented in my experience - of correctly reproducing both macro and micro dynamic contrasts.
Only on those recordings that are less compressed, with a close to natural dynamic range, is it obvious that the power is there in abundance! It is just waiting to be called upon.
Not even the subtlest hint of clipping has manifested itself so the amp and speakers are operating in an ideal 'audio goldilocks zone' as they interact electrically.
High Water�s Customary High Marks
SEREOPHILE By Jason Victor Serinus � Posted: Apr 29, 2014 ￼
Paddling all the way from NYC, Jeffrey Catalano's High Water Sound, aka �2 channel with attitude,� featured the premieres of Hornning Hybrid Systems Eurfrodite Mark IV Ellipse loudspeakers ($30,000/pair) and Tron-Electric�s flagship Syren II GT preamplifier ($55,000) and Seven phono/mono ($15,000). The speakers have eight 8� bass drivers in push-pull configuration, a back-loaded horn, and a PM 65 Lowther midrange, all of which help account for their 98�99dB sensitivity. Jeffrey called the Tron preamp �a work of art,� with an outboard power supply, �all-silver everything,� and proprietary caps and transformers.
The sound through a TW-Acustic table with Ortofon cartridges, Electra-Fidelity 300B SE monoblocks ($10,000/pair), and other products from Silver Circle Audio, Silent Running Audio, Symposium Acoustics, Zen Sati, and Tel Wire was distinguished by a beautiful midrange and a very high and wide presentation. The system did an especially beautiful job with the sound of a piccolo, which realistically projected up and out from the orchestral canvass. Highs were a bit muffled, no doubt due to the room.
May 9, 2013
Stereo 45 amp and MC Step Up (SUT-1)
Tony/Jack.......just wanted you to know that the amp and SUT arrived safely.
Both pieces are beautiful. I did get them into the system last night. I know there is a long break in period that's required before it sounds it's best, but my initial impression it that the music I'm hearing thru it (compared to what I had ) is much more detailed; everything is much clearer, like I just cleaned a dirty window, and can see right thru it.......does that make sense?�
I don't really an audiophile vocabulary....I'm just hearing more of everything.and the amp easily drives the Tonian speakers; great, detailed, relaxed sound....zero harshness......It's a sound I really enjoy hearing .......and very different from most of what I recently heard at the New York Audio Show..most of those rooms had a sound that i could not stand.......but what I now have is what I've been looking for.....a system for the enjoyment of listening to music for hours on end. Thanks guys.
I'm glad that Paul Jeremias pointed me in your direction..I think he'd also like hearing this system. I'll write more as I get more hours on the system.....
Positive Feedback ISSUE 59 january/february 2012
Silver 45 SE Integrated Amplifier as reviewed by John Hoffman
Tourists from around the world are drawn to a city in the desert called Las Vegas. Perhaps it is the lure of the opulent casinos and the promise of a big payoff at the roulette wheel or slot machine. For others, the incredible shows and performers are what they come to see. The acrobats in the Cirque du Soleil shows are fantastic, as are magicians such as David Copperfield or Criss Angel. The nightlife at the clubs of Las Vegas is a sirens' call to many, and this is a place where the rich and famous of American society can be seen. Even the audiophile can be drawn to Las Vegas. Every January the Consumer Electronic Show is held in the Convention Center, the Hilton, and the Venetian. There is one more site of interest to the avid audio hobbyist in Las Vegas, and that is Electra-Print Audio.
Jack Elliano founded Electra Print-Audio in 1977, and became firmly established in the market place due to his skill of winding custom transformers. The black art of producing an exceptional transformer is a long protected secret, which only a select few are privy to the inner details of this craft. Paul Bennett taught
Full review is available at this web site: electrafideltiy.com -> Product Reviews
This review of the Silver 45 SE resulted in a PFO award! Congratulations to John Hoffman.
Electra-Fidelity - Enjoy the Music: Electra-Print 300B DRD Audiolics Anonymous, Chapter 40, Product Of The Year
Article by Bill Gaw
Product of the Year 2002: Electraprint Audio DRD 300B Amplifier
If you have been reading my column for a while, this year's best product will probably bring on feelings of deja vue. Why? Because I chose the previous incarnation of this amplifier as one of my picks for Product of the Year in January 2002. With all of the products now available, how does it show up again? Simply because I had Jack Elliano, the founder and main man of Electraprint build for me my sixth amplifier of his design. This is a new stereo 300B SET amplifier using his DRD circuit with the improvements made in cosmetics, ease of use and sound. The new amplifier sounds and looks even better than his previous ones plus it is better than any SET amplifier I have heard at close to his asking price.�
I will not go into the whole story of how Jack became involved in building amplifiers as this have been covered before in AA Chapters 27, 28, and 30. Suffice it to say that he started off designing chokes and transformers for tube �
Full review is available at this web site: electrafideltiy.com -> Product Reviews
5-August-2012 from Joe B.
I have to tell you that those amplifiers are GREAT. I listened a couple of hours over the past 2 days to cd's I am very familiar with and was amazed. �Those amps are finely detailed,�super clean and retrieve suttle information that �the other amps I have can't do and the imaging is fantastic. Any body that says most amplifiers sound the same don't know shit !!! I have a pair of Cary 300b monoblocks and while they sound ok that 50 tube destroys it. I have the amps hooked up to Lowther dx4's withs subs that are biamped for now till�I complete the horn system.I can only imagine the detail I will hear then.
18-April-2012 from Dimitry
Jack, Wow! We are the #1 in Russian Top High-End now! We are the winners in The Product of the Year Award as the best acoustic system of the Russian producer. It was very responsible, honest and important choice of the highly advanced experts from the most popular hi-end magazines and internet portals. You can see it here: http://premiumhifi.ru/premium/awards/ Sorry, it's only in Russian yet. There were nine experts that tested each nominated system for 2 days. As the result our company named as the winner. Everyone from the jury noticed the natural, delicate and refined sound of our system. So, we'll have many publications and reports in the magazines. And we hope it will help us to increase the sales. We are very glad to congratulate you because your product is the most important part of our audio system. At the Moscow Premium HI-FI and Home Theatre show everyone could hear the magic sound of our system and amplifiers based on the Electra-Print transformers and chokes and evaluate the natural and amazing reproducing of life music. We had possibly near hundreds of visitors at the both stands - room and VIP salon and many of the listeners were shocked and told us that they never have heard anything better. They couldn't imagine that the music from our audio system could sound as a live music of the real instruments and the voices of singers were hypnotically beautiful. We would like to congratulate and to thank all the Electra-Print Audio Team and especially you, Jack, for your excellent work and the products of the highest quality! We will send you photos and reports from the show as they will be published in media. Best regards, Dmitry and Starlingbox team
23-Nov-2004 from David Torrey, DRT Mastering
I've lived with these DRD amps for 8 months now, and compared them to truly excellent custom-designed solid state and tube designs. I'm familiar with euphonic colorations, the SET mystique, and the tweak audio hype. I've mastered records for a living for the last ten years. I need a straight wire with gain that you can listen to at moderate levels, for extended periods, without tiring. It has to resolve the 1/2 dB EQ and compression steps that are common to mastering gear, and let you listen into 24/96 source material to hear the problems and strong points. In other words, a reference instrument. If you're looking for that, buy these amps. Spring for the gold transformer caps because they'll make you smile every day. Keep the speaker leads short. You will like you hear. Thanks, Jack!
Electra Print 300DRD by John Hoffman
13 wpc at full output
1.4 volts for full output
freq response 10hz to 40khz
distortion .5% at mid power
Output tube 300B
Driver tube 6an4
In 1906, American physicist Lee DeForest invents the audio tube, which is a three-electrode version of John A. Fleming�s electronic valve. The audio tube was often referred to as the DeForest valve, but today is known to audio enthusiasts as the triode. The patent for the audion tube was sold to AT&T, and in 1907 DeForest founded the DeForest Radio Telephone Company. In the years that followed, Lee DeForest broadcast radio events from exotic venues such as the Eiffel tower, and the New York Metropolitan Opera House. By the 1920�s audio tubes had made the transmitting of radio signals and home radio receivers a common item in the American household.
The very first tube amplifier designs were quite simple, and used a single output tube to amplify the input signal. This circuit design was the mainstay of home electronics for many years. In 1947 the Williamson circuit was invented, and became the dominant circuit for commercial and home audio amplifiers. But in the 1990�s an interesting event happened. A small group of tube enthusiasts rediscovered this early amplifier circuit, and started to tout the benefits of this design. Amplifiers based on this circuit are now known as single ended triodes, or by the acronym of SET. Eventually through the efforts of fanatics such as Harvey �Gizmo� Rosenburg SET amplifiers came out of the shadows and have taken their place in the audio landscape. Because of this audio renaissance we have seen many older tube types come back into production. For example, today we can purchase 300B, 2A3, and PX 25 output tubes from a wide variety of manufacturers.
The strength of SET amplifiers comes from the simplicity of the circuit design. These amps contain fewer parts, have a shorter signal path, and are quite often hand built with point to point wiring. Since fewer parts are used, each one will have a significant input on the overall sound of the amplifier. It is generally agreed upon that the most important parts in a tube amplifier are the output and power transformers. These transformers are literally the foundation for everything that will occur in a tube amplifier. If you are lucky enough to be around a grizzled veteran of tube amplifier construction, you will have to listen to him go on and on about how important �good iron� is for an amplifier.
Over the years the have been several companies that have excelled at the black art of winding transformers. If you get a group of amplifier builders together, I can guarantee you they will go on all night discussing the merits of transformers from companies such as Hammond, Magnequest, Electra- Print,Sowter, and Tamura. Electra-Print Audio was founded by Jack Elliano, and over the years has gained a reputation of being one of the premier winders of transformers. Apparently this is not a well kept secret, because companies such as DeHavilland,Wellborne Labs, Cyrus Brennan, and Modwright use Jack�s transformers in their products. But Electra-Print produces more than transformers. They offer custom built amps that are based on Elliano�s Direct Reactance Drive circuit. For the last few months I have been listening to a pair of Jacks 300DRD amplifiers, and want to relay to you my experiences with these amps.
The 300DRD amplifiers occupy a good deal of real estate in my listening room. Each amplifier has an 18-inch by 12-inch footprint, and weighs approximately 40 pounds. The up side of having such a large chassis is the amount of room the designer has to lay out parts and minimize electrical interactions. The frames are built out of solid black walnut, and the steel top plate, transformers, and capacitor are finished in gloss black. There are only 2 tubes in each amplifier. Output duties are handled by a TJ 300B Meshplate, and the pre driver tube is a Sylvania 6AN4. The overall appearance of the 300DRD is very pleasing; with a classical look to them that all tube aficionados would appreciate. I asked Jack Elliano to give me a simple explanation of the benefits of the design choices he made in this amp. Jack touted the benefits of direct coupling of the output tube. Also that solid state rectification in the power supply results in the lowest amount of voltage variation during bass notes. Finally, the Ultrapath circuit eliminates any audio path through the power supply, and is responsible of the amplifiers ability to reproduce a high level of musical detail. Since I have an extremely limited knowledge of electrical design, I believe it is safe to say that I could not recognize a DRD or Ultrapath circuit if it bit me on the leg. But I can judge an amplifiers overall performance, and will take Jacks word on why his amplifiers sound the way they do.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, it is time for the main event. The Electra Print amplifiers are fed from an Electra Print PVA pre amp. Source duties are taken care of by a Sony SCD-CE595, which has been modified by Tube Research Labs. A pair of Cain & Cain Abbey�s fills the speaker slot. Finally, Tara Labs Air 3 and Master cables connect everything together.
As a general rule, single ended triodes are known to excel in the areas of midrange reproduction and the ability to put performers in a believable acoustic space. I can tell you that the Electra Print amps have the magical ability to create the illusion of a musical performance. Most importantly, these amps also have a very even tonal balance that has just a hint of extra warmth to it. The 300DRD are capable of reproducing all of the midrange detail in a recording, but do it in such an easy and relaxed manner. It can be a bit of a mind altering experience when you first encounter a good SET amp, and experience this dichotomy of detail and smoothness. A 1994 recording released by John Gorka, entitled �Out of the Valley� is an excellent disc for illustrating this point. Gorka has a distinctive baritone voice that is capable of being rich and resonant, and at other times has a surprising ability to convey the emotional content of a ballad. A good amplifier will highlight his vocal abilities, while an average one will lose the little details and smooth the sound over. Well the Electra Prints are good amplifiers, matter of fact they are one of the most capable amplifiers I have heard for reproducing a performers voice. The title track �Out of the Valley� is an emotional ballad that portrays the struggle of young people living in a small town, and attempting to leave it for a better life. It is a song that contains poignant lyrics, expressive guitar playing, and a vocal performance that lets all the emotion of the writer flow through. The 300 DRD amps let you experience this in a manner that few traditional amplifiers are capable of. This is the primary strength of a single ended triode amplifier, its unique ability to portray all of the music in a manner that lets the listener experience a performance and not just a song. Another cut; �Flying Red Horse� features Mary Chapin Carpenter as a guest vocalist. Her dark and smokey vocal style is an excellent addition to Johns, and their individual styles highlight and compliment each other�s strengths. The 300DRD amp does a stunning job of letting each vocalist�s performance stand on its own merit. The amps have the rare ability to present the individuality of both vocalists, and to contrast their different vocal gifts. At the same time these amps can show how smoothly their voices blend together and harmonize, creating a unique auditory experience. This level of vocal realism is very difficult to achieve, and is what makes these amps worth owning.
Single ended triodes have the ability to create the illusion of acoustic space in a manner that few solid state or conventional tube amplifiers are capable of. In more than one instance I have heard various SET amps coupled with high quality horn speaker sys- tems that had all the speed and transparency of electrostatic, or ribbon speakers. And they had dynamic range, and extended bass response that dipole speaker could only dream of. The Electra-Print amps have this ability to create a believable soundstage, and to properly place the performers within it. These amplifiers are present a wide stable soundstage, and have very good front to back depth. On Ellis Paul�s release �Say Something� the track �Thin Man� highlights the Electra-Print amps capabilities in regards to creating a believable soundstage. This is a minimalist recording that consists only of Ellis Paul, his acoustic guitar, and you the listener. The Electra-Print amps not only create the illusion of Ellis Paul in your listening room, but they also allow you to hear the acoustics of the recording venue. It becomes very easy for the listener to close his eyes, and imagine being seated in a small, dark club, just a few feet off of the stage. When paired with the right speakers, the 300DRD amps can be holographic in its ability to recreate performers and their instruments.
The high frequency performance of the 300DRD amps portrays a classic tube heritage. The treble reproduction is smooth and refined without any hint of glare or harshness. Although the amplifiers sound relaxed in the upper registers, they do not artificially roll off the high end frequency response. Sony has released several songs on SACD by The Bangles, including �The Hazy Shade of Winter� The opening tambourine sequence is so clearly reproduced that I felt that if I tried hard enough, I could count the exact number of metal cymbals in the tambourine. The accompanying guitar work was so quick and precise, with the decay of individual notes occurring so quickly that they appeared to just vanish. But most importantly, the Electra-Prints did not alter or cover up the tonal balance of the recording. It still remains obvious that this is a commercial recording, and it has a distinctive sound that is often associated with pop music.
Bass performance and dynamic range are the two main areas that people find fault with single ended triode amps. This is quite understandable since the majority of SET amps bring less than 15 watts to the table. The 300DRD has competent, but not exceptional performance in the lower registers. These amps have quick and tuneful bass, that never gives the impression of being bloated or euphonic. But the champion of deep bass response in the 13 wpc weight class is the Art Audio Diavolo. The Diavolo has an iron fisted control over a speaker�s woofer, and is capable of creating bass that drive other SET amps green with envy. Quite simply, the Electra Print cannot match the Diavolo in this category. But that�s understandable, because I have yet to hear another amp based on 300B tubes that could. I found that acoustical bass instruments, such as cellos, tubas, or kettledrums were reproduced with plenty of weight and extension. On Aaron Copeland�s �Fanfare for the Common Man� the opening percussion lines had substantial weight and authority. But when you changed genres to modern electronic music such as techno or trance, the 300 DRD tended to run out of steam before the music could reach dance club levels. Although, with careful selection of speakers, any perceived bass response issues could be minimized.
At the end of the day it is time to tally up the scorecard for the Electra-Prints and determine if they are worth your hard earned money. With a retail of $2500 these amps are not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. Although this pair of amps were acquired from the used market for approximately $1100. Objectively speaking, these amps have an excellent tonal balance, the ability to extract large amounts of inner detail, and throw a wide and deep soundstage. But there is more to the single ended triode experience. The 300DRD amps allow the emotional experience of the music to flow through your speakers, and take up residence in the listening room. When people encounter a properly matched SET system for the first time, quite often they are literally blown away by intense connection they get to the music. And that is what these amps are capable of. The Electra-Print 300DRD amps are inherently musical, and can be the cornerstone to a very satisfying audio system.
Interview with Jack Elliano of Electra-Print, By John Hoffman
This month Affordable Audio readers are in for a real treat. Jack Elliano has agreed to take some time from his busy schedule and give us his views on a variety of subjects. This interview covers a lot of ground, and I believe that every reader will find something interesting within this piece. Up front I will say that Jack is one of the good guys in the audio world, and he is going to tell you what he believes in very straightforward manner. So let us see what the man behind Electra Print audio has to say about the world of two channel audio.
A$$A: When did you become interested in audio gear?
JE: Early in the 60's I was a moderately successful musician, which means that at least I was working every week. When we did studio work I noticed how impressive the playback was from the studio monitors. Those Hollywood studios we recorded at were in heavy competition therefore the playback was well done. Early in the 70's I went into the recording business, as the performing arts began to diminish for us. My job was all electronics -- mixers, recorders, playback amps, monitors, microphones and the complete wiring of all of the above to perfection. Much had to be learned to survive in that environment. I'll have to admit that what we had put together was very good sounding. The equipment we used have us proper direction as to what full sound reproduction was all about then and now, such as Altec Lansing, Langevine, Cinema, Ampex, McIntosh, Western Electric, Electrovoice, Sony plus all tube mixing consoles. At this time the industry in Hollywood was friendly and supportive. We never had any problem making it all work. The only downside was the drugged up musicians we had to nurse through recording sessions.
A$$A: How did you obtain your education?
JE: My basic electronic education started when I was in my early teens and I received my Ham Radio license. In those days we were familiar with tubes and tube circuits because we built and used our own equipment. After high school I went to work at the phone company because of my Ham Radio skills. Then I, like many Ham Radio enthusiasts, went to work for aerospace companies during the 60's and 70's plus taking college classes and working in recording studios at night. I rose to be an Engineer during the Project Gemini period doing research and circuit design in Radar and Tracking Systems. Thanks to the space race with its government funding I received a rounded education. The passion for Ham Radio and the building and design of my own equipment (no money for new stuff) probably was 70% of any electronic knowledge that sunk in.
A$$A: What people in audio have influenced you or work you admire?
JE: One person who stands out is Paul Bennett, noted transformer designer, who's audio engineering skills started during the 20's in the radio broadcasting field and extended through World War 2 with aircraft communications and instrumentation. Eurcell Harrison was Paul's best friend, and Eurcell developed output transformers for Telefunken for high fidelity radios, such as Grundig Majestic. I think the first wideband SE output was designed into these radios. Paul later became a consulting engineer for Zenith, Electrodyne and other companies as a transformer designer. Paul also worked for Jim Lancing working with speaker designs. When Cy Brenneman and I met him, he was in his 80's. Paul patiently taught us the fine art of wide bandwidth audio transformers. I still build his SE output designs to this day. As for whose work was most admired, the people remain unknown, but the professional audio equipment, as described earlier, they created was studied and taken seriously as to why they did it that way. It, in no way was built like the standard, profit driven commercial HiFi gear in the 50's, 60's and so on. Finally, some of the best people were the anonymous authors found in books such as Ed Tilton, Fred Terman and Howard Tremaine.
A$$A: How was Electra-Print formed or where did it come from?
JE: Electra Print was established in 1977 and was a division of International Time Recorder Co. This evolved into transformer design and rapidly grew after overwhelming response to an article we put in an early edition of "Sound Practices".
A$$A: Can you explain how a transformer is wound and what are the critical parameters?
JE: Actually I would need a month of your attention. Transformers for full bandwidth audio application all have one thing in common and that's proper coupling within its build for the circuit needed. These are the most complicated and can be said that they are a blend of many disciplines. Power transformers are completely different as they only operate at one frequency. Chokes (reactors) and inductors are singular in operation and are not transformers. They use the expression of self inductance to create a useful action within the circuit and those used in audio have to be wound with the least gradient capacity.
A$$A: Do you consider SET amps superior to P-P and why?
JE: Single Ended Transformer amps can reproduce more accurately than other types because the output stage is just a large common voltage amp. The voltage motion that develops power, without feedback, and is very close to natural live sound motion. The SE output transformer is larger due to the need to magnetize most of the core. Therefore the flux variations (audio) rides within a linear (straight portion of BH curve) or magnetic bias. This feature will not allow the audio through zero, as in P-P, but only to saturation or maximum transformer core limits. P-P always has to divide audio into two deliveries and cross through the transformer core to alternately remagnetize at waveform zero. This is notch distortion and can only be reduced by feedback (except for unity coupling). Feedback is frequently used to improve performance but this is like driving a car with the gas to the floor and controlling the speed with the brake. Now to add salt to the wounds, P-P will cancel even order harmonics but will add or emphasize the odd order. To illustrate this, one experiment that still intrigues me is when we took two audio frequencies and mixed them to one waveform which measured as 80% distortion. It then passed through a very good quality commercial P-P amp where the output waveform measured about 50% hmm! But when we then passed it through a SET amp and its output measured 80% just like the original. What Happened to the other 30% within the P-P amp? It appears that there are occasions that some audio signal complexities may also cancel or change structure from the original as well as the P-P tube transfer characteristics on even order harmonics.
A$$A: Can you explain in layman's terms what your circuit designs do differently than other companies?
JE: I've developed a number of designs, the first circuit design we revealed was using the cancellation of harmonic distortion of two consecutive stages of amplification by the use of each tube's matching transfer characteristics (look it up). They then would vector out there operational curves resulting in a very low distortion. An example is the grid of the power output tube was measured 4% from its driver tube, then a measured power output of less than 1%. This effect was first published by Sylvania in the late 30's then again in the 50's; it was lost until Cy Brenneman revealed it in our first article in Sound Practices as a very useful effect for this type of audio amp. Second circuit design was the UltraPath or complete tube coupling to the transformer. We later found it to be common practice with Western Electric telephone repeaters dating back to the 30's. It is a very good and efficient way to reproduce high quality audio. We also saw this arrangement in one of the studio line amps. Third was the Direct Reactance Drive or DRD which is an improvement on the old Loftin White. The circuit uses a minimum of parts and absolutely no encumbrances of coupling. The result is a very accurate power amp with a measurable increase of power level over the original Loftin White using the same tubes. Fourth is a simple means to match an opamp to a grid. A very efficient nickel transformer design forces the opamp to deliver current instead of a voltage. In other words when you connect up to a CD player normally you are hearing the voltage of the opamp with no current flow to speak of, but when the CD players opamp output must now see a DCR of less than 1 ohm but and impedance held steady by a load resistance on the secondary. A voltage now appears on the transformer secondary load resistance as a result of opamp current. This current from the opamp is much closer to the published specs and it will usually perform more accurately. We called this the PVA or "Passive Voltage Amplifier". All of the above circuits, to the best of our knowledge, are not used by anyone, other than who we given permission.
A$$A: What speakers do you use and what parameters work best with your amps?
JE: We like to use very sensitive speakers with 100+ db SPL. We have used Edgarhorns because they would reveal everything and I mean everything. We now use D'Appolito designs plus Klipsch and mini-monitors, so we can get a good view of most other speakers. I also ask customers what they are using as far as speaker sensitivity to see what results they may get. If they are building or buying a 2 watt amp and they have 85db speakers we recommend a brain scan. To hear detail or high number harmonics that will structure the original waveform you must have a very sensitive speakers system that will wriggle with the milliwatts. After you analyze the typical "I have a 400 watt solid state amp and I can hear everything", please get back to me and tell me what they are talking about.
A$$A: Are there any trends in audio that concern you? What is your opinion of the overall health of the hobby?
JE: There is one primary concern, notice I use the word primary, and that's the number of people who are influenced by price and looks as that being the reason for best reproduction of music. This person invariably will hear a more accurate sound from an amp a fraction of the cost and have a change of mind about this hobby. The hobby should be based on circuit performance, proper construction and correct application.
The other concern is the ever growing computer programs for circuit and component design. It is a daily battle with people using computer generated parameters to order transformers. It is a wonder that a computer programmer, who has never plugged in a soldering iron in his life, comes up with a perfect mathematical set of parameters for a transformer and the person who purchased this program expects me to build this thing!! He is usually disappointed after I tell him about the real world.
As for the overall health of the hobby, it appears to be good as it is following the pattern of the old Ham Radio hobby. We used to build most of our equipment, get it working and talk to someone down the block or in another country. The pride expressed to the listener of the very device conveying his voice around the world that he had built, usually made the listener, listen and learn. This was a crude Internet of these days from the 30's to today. The problem now is that most Ham equipment is store bought and as you listen to conversations it is obvious that the users have no idea why they can hear a signal from around the world instantly. Point being is that if everyone stopped building and stopped learning why it all works, we hear questions such as "Which color interconnect sounds the best". There is no better feeling than when friends compliment you on how real the sound sounds and "you built that?" It must be true that a curious, well balanced person who establishes himself properly into society needs an expression of accomplishment. This hobby can be that.
A$$A: What trends or products in today's audio really excite you?
JE: What really excites me is a royal flush! But seriously, what does makes me feel good is when I get a phone call from a customer that completed his project and it works beyond his wildest dreams and the "thanks for the help". As far as audio products- I'm amazed that some of them sell! I am encouraged to see more tube powered equipment than in the past. This shows an increased acceptance by customers.
A$$A: Are you teaching a protege your skills of transformer winding and electrical theory?
JE: At Electra-Print Audio we do have one that is receptive, inquisitive, dedicated, punctual and loyal protege. His attention is admirable concerning all the winding and fabrication going on and always pays attention throughout the working day. His name is Stanley, he is my shop cat. If I can find someone just like Stanley to carry on the tradition I will be more than happy to teach him, provided he buys the company also.
A$$A: What do you feel the future holds for Electra-Print?
JE: The future of Electra-Print is probably the production of amplifiers of quality and unique design. The time left would be best used doing what I love most and that's building and designing this type of equipment. Of course I'll keep working with transformers because they are the heart of my products.
A$$A: For someone designing or buying an amp, what are the most important specs to pay attention to?
JE: The only specs to be aware of are: frequency response (+/-1db 20-30 Hz to 20 k Hz), harmonic distortion less than 1% midband at midpower, input sensitivity (about 1v to full output), and power needed for speakers used. These specs cover just about everything. If any one of these is compromised, the amp will not perform correctly. All other added specs mean very little and are usually there to confuse the customer and drive the price up.
A$$A: What do the various types of distortion sound like?
JE: Distortion is any modification of the original signal wave shape. As far as what they sound like, it really can't be objectively described. However there are many who think they can! Here is a list of several different kinds of distortions. *Even order - 2^nd , 4^th etc.* This is found when a sine wave has dissimilar shapes on each side of the waveform. *Odd order - 3^rd , 5^th etc.* This is seen when a sine wave has the same dissimilar shape on each side of the waveform. *Intermodulation* This is the resulting heterodyne, sum/difference, or beat frequency of two frequencies and usually results from an even number frequency and an odd number frequency. *Amplitude or "linearity"* The increase or decrease of a voltage or power level that does not correspond to the same speed of the increase or decrease of the original signal. This can result in compression or expansion is amplitude distortion. *Phase* This occurs when the voltage and current of a given waveform arrive at the load at different times, the result is roll off or power decrease. *Harmonic amplitude* When capacitor coupled (C-R) circuitry is used, the capacitive reactance of this capacitor will have a different reactance or resistance to the fundamental signal and about half the resistance to its 2^nd harmonic. Therefore the resulting waveform will be dissimilar due to the 2^nd harmonic now is twice the amplitude. (Actually the 2^nd harmonic is really the first harmonic of the fundamental but no one acknowledges this fact. It is the confusion of the word "first" being a double of the fundamental or 2 times the fundamental therefore 2^nd prevails.)
A$$A: What methods do you use to test your amps? Measurements or listening test?
JE: All of our tests are done with measurements and with qualified professional test equipment from HP and Tektronix. If the equipment under test meets the specs mentioned earlier, it will sound and work well. After the objective testing is completed its time for some subjective listening because it is necessary to hear a full system together because occasionally, much as I hate to admit it, products don't sound that well. As for listening tests only, this is for people that have no test equipment and like to sound important to others by displaying there inability to figure out why it sounds good, bad or otherwise. How can one believe what is stated from someone who has had the sound enter his ear, stimulate his nerves, send it to his brain, which can be in any number of conditions, such as emotional, political, drugged, drunk, tired, pissed off, undersexed, psychotic and so on, then out of his mouth an "opinion"! Test equipment cannot do this.
This has been one of the most interesting audio projects I have been involved with for Affordable$$Audio. We have covered a lot of ground in this interview, and in my opinion Jack�s thoughts on many of these subjects are quite refreshing. As you can see, this is not the standard song and dance given out by most audio companies marketing departments. I sincerely hope that every reader of Affordable Audio will find something of value to take from this piece. If there is anything that Jack has said that sparks your interest be sure to give him a call at Electra Print. Just be sure to have an open mind, and more than a few minutes to devote to the conversation.
All The People Of Audio
Article By JJ Wyckoff
Note: Writer, sadly, passed away due to Hepatitis C
Note Article: In Memory of John Wyckoff
I've always considered my tiny electronics workshop a private sanctuary. My place to be alone with my ideas and my tools. When I enter my shop, Im ready to give my ideas form and follow the course which, with luck, will prove to me that my thoughts were clear, my theory sound. When I sat down at my bench a few weeks ago, to begin a new project, I discovered I was not alone. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of people right there on my bench. The parts I had arrayed before me represented the multitudes there with me.
I looked at the tubes I planned to use and thought of the people they represented. People like Edison, and unknown glass blowers who worked for him. Beside Edison were the scientists and engineers from the Western Electric labs who brought the tube from a crude, fragile curiosity to a robust and reliable device that changed the world. Sitting near these people were the copper miners, the metallurgists, the petroleum engineers and the guy who first thought plastics could be used in capacitors. It is because of all these humans that the modern audiophile can argue on the Internet about the merits of certain component parts and technologies and topologies.
While pondering the work of all these people, I suddenly recognized a friend sitting on my bench (A friend, who makes much of my work possible). There he was in my shop, on my bench: Jack Elliano. For those of you not familiar with Jacks work, he is the brains and hands behind Electra-Print Audio. Jack is an astonishing transformer designer and winder. While there are many other excellent winders, Jack is always the one I turn to when there is nothing "off-the-shelf" that suits my needs. Last spring, Jack extended an invitation to visit him and wind some transformers for myself. Not wanting to prove my mothers child rearing techniques resulted in a fool, I accepted.
Ive never felt quite as immediately at home as I felt in Jacks workshop. This is not some sanitary modern facility run by CAD programs, but rather it is very much like a violin makers shop, or a 19th century gunsmiths shop. In here were sights and smells and activities wonderfully anachronistic. The stains around the varnish dipping pots were like the stains around my hot-glue pot in the stringed instrument shop where Id once worked. The stacks of laminations and wire poking out of every corner reminded me of my old obsolete ammunition reloading shop, which was full of supplies for 0.577 Nitro Express, 25-35 Stevens and 40-82 Winchester. In place of my many reloading presses were marvelous hand-built winders. My romantic reverie was cut short when Jack sat me down at a winder and told me I was going to have to work for my supper (Actually, I also cooked our supper). I sat, in nervous fashion, trying to focus on the instructions I was receiving. Before I knew exactly what was expected of me, I was winding a 1:1 inter-stage transformer. Fortunately for me this is Electra-Prints simplest designs.
On completion of my assigned task, Jack walked me through the lead attaching, the testing of the coil, and hot-goo dipping. I sat at the winder once again to create a mate for my very first transformer. While winding, it dawned on me that I really didnt need any inter-stage transformers, but what the heck, it was a good starting point. When the mate was also completed, Jack told me we would insert the laminations and bolt on the end bells the next morning, test one more time, then ship. Ship! Waddayamean ship? "Oh", says Jack, "These are for a customer."
Well, there I was a new force on the audio transformer front. A winder is born! Provided its a transformer, only slightly more complex than a single-wire inductor. I tell you, it was great when Jack told me my first transformers exceeded bandwidth spec., I thought I might even be gifted. That is, until Jack explained to me that my less than perfect technique (i.e.: a little loose) was good for this design, it could prove fatal with more demanding designs. In an instant I fell from the heights of gifted, to the foibles of a lucky idiot. Damn!
Over the next few delightful days, Jack introduced me to all sorts of design theory, winding techniques, and the characteristics of some of the materials used. I got to watch Jack wind a pentafilar transformer. He held the five wires in a perfect ribbon as he wound them! That transformer makes a McIntosh, interleaved bifilar wound transformer, look like a simple proposition.
Some of the most interesting facts I learned from Jack were about the history of the audio transformer: How bandwidth slowly grew wider. How modern insulation materials made transformers more reliable. Why many of the famous commercial designs of the past were not what they could have been, because of the accountants in the head office. All that I learned was integral to Jacks no compromise philosophy. If a transformer design requires more wire and more laminations to achieve inductive balance, he uses it. If he needs to learn new methods, he does. Jack can, and does, build nostalgic transformers, with utterly liquid, vintage sound. That is not where his passion lies. Jack is on a quest to build the perfect transformer: To understand transformer design so well that he sees it as a language in which he is fluent, and, therefore free to create. In many ways it is like being a writer: Until you can toy with the written word, and still remain within an understandable structure, you are not really a writer. Words on paper for the purpose conveying pertinent data is not writing. To wind transformers, is not to create a new design or approach.
Do I now have a winding machine in my shop? No. When I need a transformer I still call Jack. Ive got a lot of other audio questions of my own yet to answer. My own language to learn. Im glad Jack has relieved me of the need to understand transformers, in all their complexity.
In Japan, they have a system, whereby people who keep traditional crafts alive are accorded National Treasure status. These "Treasures" are allowed to pursue their craft, and to pass it along to the next generation, without worrying about a pay check. I think audio should have such a system (At least the honor part.). I nominate Jack as a charter member. There are many others in audio who also deserve such an honor. Id love to know whom others would choose as their nominee. Let me know your choices, past or present.
I'll never get to meet the great folks who made electronics an engineering pursuit in the beginning, so I intend to really appreciate the dedicated people pushing the limits we have today, and: All the people of audio.
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