Category Archives: Audiophilia

Black Gate capacitors and “snake oil” in home audio

L1090579sm

Having nothing better to think about, I was trying to remember when and why did I fell in love with Black Gate capacitors. I must have learned about their existence from reading audio-porn at DIY or some audiophile site. Black Gate caps were the top-shelf audio-grade electrolytics produced by Rubycon. Quite expensive while in production, outrageously priced nowadays, the name should not be mentioned at any respectable DIY forum. The consensus seems to be that the specs of modern-day electrolytics far exceed those of Black Gate caps. This may be so, but not quite conclusive for me because specs alone do not tell the whole story. The specs of any $50 CD player are the same as those of $100k+ dCS stack and always better than the specs of Continuum Caliburn turntable, unless you actually listen you never know Continue reading Black Gate capacitors and “snake oil” in home audio

Balanced Sennheiser cables for PONO player

L1080045b
I presume that you have already upgraded Sennheiser cable and have the original one to play with.

The first thing to do is to cut off its 3.5mm (or 1/4″ on HD-650) stereo plug. At this stage cable may be shortened to the desired length: Sennheiser cords are not of the best quality (that’s why we have so many aftermarket cables) so the shorter it is, the better.

Continue reading Balanced Sennheiser cables for PONO player

Why Discman?

Who would want a Discman in the age of iPhones?  No one walks out of the door without a cell phone, and earbuds is all you need to have “portable” music.

Better sound quality on the Go? Hi-Rez player  from Questyle, A&K, Pono, or even iPod with portable headphone amplifier usually cures this fit of audiophilia.

Some Discmans do sound better than iPods/iPhones, but all such players are the 1st and 2nd generation of Discmans and they are anything but portable.

L1090492sm

So, who would want to invest time and money into decent Discman? Folks like me, the Lazy ones. I ripped a few hundred  CDs onto iTunes, now have just a few more thousand CDs left. My progress is slow, plus the flow of “incoming” CDs overwhelms my skills of ripping them. Continue reading Why Discman?

Sony D-90

Sony D-90 is a very special Discman.  In 1990 this model was selected for an “upgrade” with 1-bit DAC,  Discman D-99 was born.  Once cheap 1-bit DACs found their way into CD players, it was a matter of months before the race for the “most affordable” player began. We all know how it ended. Opening the way to the slippery slope of ultra-affordable digital, D-90 symbolizes the end of “Classic” Discmans and the end of quality sound reproduction in portable devices. Audiophiles of the 80-ies thought that CD introduction was the beginning of the Dark Ages of home audio. They were right,  it was just the beginning, then came MP3, free downloads and “most folks cannot hear the difference” brainwash.

Another unique characteristic of D-90 is its short life-span. With some luck there is still a chance to get D-50, the very first Discman, in perfect working condition.  But ALL original D-90 are dead by now. 100% of surface-mount electrolytic capacitors failed at some point between 1990 and 2015. Bad batch of SMD electrolytics? Probably…

One weird technicality not found in any other Discman is that Right channel has 4.7uF/16V “thru hole” electrolytic capacitor in the signal path, but Left channel has 4.7uF/35V surface-mount cap. This SMD cap (C220 on schematics) fails first. When restoring D-90, I always substitute failed C220 for “thru hole” 4.7uF/16V Rubycon electrolytic. I do not care if I can hear the difference or not, both L and R channels must pass through the same parts.

Below is a step-by-step Resurrection procedure for D-90.

this is the first thing you see once you pop up the hood:

L1070175sm

desolder six CD transport wires (spindle and sled motors and Continue reading Sony D-90