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Sound Practices Magazine Online!
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Casual Reactions
Article By Herb Reichert of Eddy Electric
From Sound Practices Issue 3, Early 1993

The Need To Party = Potential Difference

About ten years ago, I decided to try to learn electronics so I could build my own amps. I bought a book called Electronics Made Simple. A week later, I had to buy a book called Mathematics Made Simple. It seemed I couldn't learn electronics without mastering some math concepts. Woe to a misspent youth! If I could have bought Kenn Amdahl's book There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings, I would have known that an amateur can understand electronics better than a pro-without doing a single calculation.

When someone suggested that I review a book where the tireless "need to party" of imaginary beings called "little greenies'' represented voltage, I thought I was hitting a premature journalistic bottom. To my surprise, I learned an amazing amount rethinking what I already knew, things that I had learned the hard way.

It works like this: the chicks buy the kegs of beer and turn up their radios. The brothers hear that rock and roll, get in their little green cars, and motivate toward the music. That's current. If there are a bunch of greenies cruising down a wire, you can bet they are heading for a party. Now that you have the concepts of voltage and current, you can read on to discover resistance (traffic jams), heat, work, circuits, swimming ducks (magnetism), pale skinned magicians, jargon, and the beautiful and sensuous Belinda.

This book uses wonderful stories to elucidate difficult concepts. At the end, the reader "owns" these electrical concepts. More importantly, a person in possession of the author's conception will find the world more exciting and magical. There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings by Kenn Amdahl, 1991, 321 pages, $12.95 (ISBN 0-962-7815-9-2) is available direct from the publisher:

Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc.
PO Box 1153
Arvada, CO 80001

 

Mikey Says "Whodunit?"
With audio mags I always read the ads and manufacturers' comments first. Maybe it's like finding out "whodunit" before starting the book, but it's fun. In 1992, Audio Note "done it" with their ads in the back of Hi-Fi News and Record Review. Silver foil caps at $1400 and Black Gate caps at $100! Everybody must have stopped there for a minute. What's next though is just as wild -- oil and paper caps at $7 and single-ended output transformers for around $160! Compared to Vitamin Q and Tango this seemed a bit on the cheap side. Could they possibly be any good?

I was happy with the Tango and Black Gate products I had been using for years, so I decided to wait until somebody else tried the Audio Note products. Why should I be the first sucker? Here's why -- I have a SE amp that allows me to change transformers and coupling caps as quickly as I can change a record. I also have an SRPP passive EQ preamp set up so that I can change caps while the music is playing. That makes me "Mikey," as in "Let Mikey try it: he'll try anything."* Well, in case you were wondering. . . the editor sent me some Audio Note paper-in-oil caps and a pair of A.N. 300B SE outputs.

I compared the oil caps to my reference: Component Research Teflon caps. I also compared them to MIT Multicaps (RTX), RT Re1 Caps, Roederstein MKP 1845s, and Sprague 192P Vitamin Qs. I auditioned them at both low (preamp) levels and high (power amp driver stage) levels.

In my experiments, I've found that caps usually add a "flavor" consonant with the material of their dielectric. That is, if I were to make little bells out of Teflon, polypropylene, polystyrene, and oiled paper, the sound of each would be similar to the coloration each adds to the musical tones. This leads me to speculate that the AC signal is an electromechanical shock wave that excites the resonant quality of the material it passes through. "Well," you say, "the paper and oil probably adds the least to the sound. Those oiled paper bells don't ring too loud." Sure enough, I applied a lot of energy trying to ring them but they simply absorbed the energy from my wrist.

What I mean to say is that oil caps like Vitamin Qs used at low signal levels always' gave me dulled transients, a loss of information, and a reduced sense of pace and timing. Tired musicians? But oil caps also provide a beautiful, easy, relaxed quality that is very seductive and "natural." They work well at amplifier signal levels but for preamps, forget it. Death.

Plastic caps always sound like plastic. Polypropylene sound best at high levels and polystyrene at low levels. Teflon almost disappears at any signal level. So I often use Teflon at low levels and oils at high levels, working for a pleasing balance. At retail, both of these types cost $20-$40 each. I found that the Audio Note paper-in-oil caps have the speed, transparency, and vanishing qualities of Teflon combined with the natural ease of oil caps. Plus, they work everywhere. Mikey likes them. Finally, an oil cap with life!

I liked the single ended 300B/2A3 outputs too; in fact, the caps and the transformers seemed to have been made by the same hand. They both have the best qualities of what we sometimes call "the UK sound." If you have a Limn turntable or a pair of LS3/5As, you already know the character of these outputs. In fact, I'd bet the Linn deck, LS3/5As, and 300B SE amps with the Audio Note trannys would make a great little system. To be more specific, the AN transformers were extended but definitely light in the bass, a little bit thin through the mids, almost perfect in the highs, and outstanding rhythm masters overall. As the Brits say, "Very tuneful." As the Americans say, "Best buy."

Audio Note
Unit 1, Bock C
Hove Business Center
Fonthill Road, Hove BN3 6HA, UK
Voice 0273 220511  FAX 0273 73 1498

Angela Instruments
10830 Guilford Road
Aaanpolis Junction, MD 20701
Voice (301) 725-0451   Fax (301) 776-2892

 

* Interesting hobby there, Mikey.

 

 

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