Turned Japanese - system tweaks and DIY projects

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by bjlefebvre, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    So I’ve decided that the next addition to my system will also be my first DIY project of any stature, a Tavish Design Vintage phono pre. I’ve done a few other very small projects in the past - made my own ICs and a few mono switch boxes (one now on sale on BT!), but nothing of this scale. But amp has gotten great reviews, the design uses a trio of 6SL7 tubes - something that interests me - and the scale of the job may be a little on the ambitious side for someone of my experience but not insurmountable. So out comes the soldering iron.

    Received the PCB this week with the JFETs already soldered on. I had briefly toyed with the idea of making this strictly an MM phono stage, but after studying how little difference there in how many parts were needed for the MC stage - the JFETs added $15 to the PCB board, and another maybe $20 in other parts from Mouser and Digikey - I ultimately decided to go for the full package. Buying this new would be $600 with the Sovteks or nearly $700 with Tung-sols. I’m hoping to keep it under $400 with the Sovteks and a better, custom chassis - either an all-aluminum from Landfall or a wooden chassis of my own make with an aluminum top-plate from Landfall.

    The schematics, item list and finished parts-placement diagram are well done on the Tavish instruction sheet. I’ve gotten all the electronic bits in Mouser, Digikey and Amazon carts and will ordering in two or three chunks to make sure I don’t misplace parts.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  2. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    PCB board came in earlier this week - nice and solid, and the silkscreen is very readable. I put in some ceramic tube sockets on one weekday evening, and today installed the resistors I got from Digikey. Will do the rest of the resistors once the first package from Mouser arrives.

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  3. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    All the resistors are now in save two trimmers that are on order. I see now what people were talking about when they said this board was packed a bit tight - some of the pads are tiny, making it a bit tough to position the soldering iron to make contact with both it and the part lead. Now waiting on the final box of parts to arrive from Mouser.

    Also bought some oak hobby wood from Home Depot to make the chassis. Slowly but surely....

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  4. MannyE

    MannyE Exterminate! Subscriber

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    Looking good!
     
  5. Splatter Pak

    Splatter Pak High-End Scrounger

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    Japanese or not, I have watched as my stack of components went from all silver to silver + black to black + silver to all black. The only silver thing left is a goose-neck lamp I use to read faceplate lettering in my dim listening room.

    The speakers I actually use are still American or British.
     
  6. MannyE

    MannyE Exterminate! Subscriber

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    But are they silver or black?
     
  7. Splatter Pak

    Splatter Pak High-End Scrounger

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    You mean speakers?

    Vandersteen 2C - black with oak trim

    Proton 300/301 - dark grey to black

    Mission 70 - black

    B & W wafflebacks - black grills, with "wood" trim

    KEF C25 - black grills, "wood" trim
     
  8. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Working a little bit each day on the amp and almost finished with the component soldering. Realized a pair of resistors were the wrong size for the PCB - way too big - and so bought a different brand/size of the same value resistors. The Mouser shipping fee was five times the cost of the parts. And the further I get into this project, the more I appreciate the Tavish build manual/ Web site. Everything is well explained, and the photo on the Web site really helps as well.

    While waiting for the resistors to get here I started on the enclosure. Front and sides will be 1/2" oak. Had to go back to Home Depot to buy a 1/4" plank to use for the back of the box, as 1/2" is just too thick for the RCA jacks et al. Will use MDF for the bottom and a Landfall aluminum top plate.

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  9. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    More than a month later, and FINALLY the last part I needed - a switch that was on back order for weeks at Digikey - arrived. I used the time to work on the chassis. I really need to get a drill press to make sure I put the holes in evenly, but nothing TOO bad this time around. The back panel is on the back porch drying its first coat of polyurethane. Once that's done, the next step is to solder the signal wires to the RCA jacks, connect the power wires to the switch and check the PCB board for shorts. That last bit is something I am absolutely dreading. I actually have to build a dim bulb tester first - lost the old one in the move.

    One thing I would do next time is build a slightly larger chassis. This one is a little too compact - only minimum room for fingers to adjust things. The board doesn't poke out of the back of the box - that's just a camera angle illusion - but it's right up to the edge.

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    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
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  10. onwardjames

    onwardjames Hoardimus Maximus Subscriber

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    Beautiful work.
     
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  11. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Finished the back panel. Drilled the hole a little too wide for the MM/MC switch, but other than that it's all good. Hey, these tube amps always could use an extra air vent, right? Eventually I have to figure out how I want to label all the jacks and the switch positions. I'm tempted to use the solder chisel tip to burn the letters into the wood.

    The set up passed the dim bulb test with no hitch. But for some reason it won't come out of stand-by mode. The tubes glow, the green "stand by" LED comes on, but it never switches to the blue "ready" LED even after a full minute. I'll check with the Tavish folks after Christmas - hopefully it's not a big problem.

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    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
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  12. mattking52

    mattking52 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Any feedback from Tavish on your stand-by issue? Keep us posted!
     
  13. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I actually fixed it on Monday via a pointer from an AK member - seems I had failed to properly connect one component. That was a real quick fix and the amp started working. I've been listening to it since then and va-va-vooom. More heft than the Parks Budgie - more meat on the mids and bass - so more musical. If the top-end opens up a little, we're good to go. I'll post a final photo once the aluminum top plate arrives. I already sold the Budgie, which is still a good box. But with these Yamaha speakers, things were still a little too neutral on my system.

    Next project is going to be a DIY RCA switch box.
     
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  14. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Inspired by @stoutblock (thread here), I started building my own switch box. Having one became important to my set up as the Mini Torii only has two inputs and I need three, and frankly constantly plugging/unplugging my tuner and DAC was getting to be a PIA. But after shopping around, I couldn't believe some folks are charging like $400-$600 for these things. To build one as a DIY project, all one needs is a Hammond box, a rotary switch and knob, RCA jacks, and some wire. I had some scrap wood left over from the Tavish chassis build and decided to use a couple of 1/4-inch oak slats as front and back plates. The total came to less than half that, and that included shipping. The only tools needed are a drill and soldering iron. It could have been cheaper if I went with less-expensive wire- I used Cardas, as the vendor I went through had it on sale (then again, it could have been more expensive, as I had a few spare pairs of RCA jacks to use). The single largest cost - more than half the total - is the rotary switch. The vendor I bought the wire from also had Seiden switches on sale - we'll see after it's delivered whether it's as user friendly as the Gold Point switch.

    Speaking of switching...I kept changing my mind as to how big a box I was going to use. Stoutblock used a larger one, which I had originally planned to also buy, but the lead time was about a month and the price twice as much as the Hammond box I eventually settled on. The bad news? It technically fits four inputs and one output, but man is it a tight fit.

    The Seiden and wire is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have time to finish this over the weekend. I've got the back-half set up, though there's still some tweaking to do. As mentioned earlier, it's a tight fit:

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  15. stoutblock

    stoutblock If it sounds good, it is good... Subscriber

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    What switch did you decide on?
     
  16. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Seiden 32006. There's not a lot of info on it besides the specs here. But it is 2 pole, 1 deck and 4-6 throws, so it's got what I'm looking for. It was also $10 cheaper than the Gold Point, plus from the same vendor from which I bought the wire and a couple tubes, so no extra delivery cost.
     
  17. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Seiden rotary switch and wire came in today. Did a quick mock up to make sure everything fit together fine. Had to take a pair of pliers and straighten out a lug on the front of the Seiden to make sure it sits flush enough against the face plate for the switch to clear the hole. The toggle switch to the right will be to change between mono and stereo output. I'll wire the jacks tonight, then once a second quote of polyurethane dries on the wood, I'll connect up the switches.

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    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
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  18. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Ok, got this thing soldered up last night. Works like a charm. The only thing I'd do different is use the Neotech copper wire instead of the Cardas. The latter is "litz" wire, which is a pain to work with (look it up). Each individual copper strand is wrapped in polyethylene, which meant I had to add a step for each connection of burning the clear plastic off so the wire could make a connection. Took forever until I kinda got the hang of it. After that, it only took half-a-forever to burn off the plastic then check each wire with a multimeter.

    Anyway, here's the finished product. Have to wait until the kids go to bed and the house quiets down before I can check that the mono switch is working as it should, but I suspect it's fine. The wiring is the same as mono box I made earlier.

    And wanted to thank Stoutblock again - his thread really inspired this. It's a fun project and has already made my life easier when switching sources.

    In other news - stand alone mono box for sale!

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  19. bjlefebvre

    bjlefebvre AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    And the last DIY project comes through - home made speaker stands. Shades of college dorm life here, but heck, you don't really see them when the speakers are placed on top. The NS-690s just gained a few degrees of accuracy in staging. Now I have to figure out if I want to paint these or just apply a coat or two of polyurethane.

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  20. onwardjames

    onwardjames Hoardimus Maximus Subscriber

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    That's some beautiful work, bjlefebvre. Just beautiful. Makes me want to take my NS690III's out of storage.
     
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