Vacuum Tube Valley VSAC 2003 Show Report
The motion blur is no Photoshop trick - the picture was taken with ambient room light at about 1/15 of a second with a F/1.4 lens (yes, analog technology for the photos too). Seeing that wonderful LP spin is more fun than watching the numerals change on a SACD player, isn't it? Just like vacuum tubes, you see music being made right in front of your eyes. The Teres 340 phonograph sounds good too - the all-hardwood platter, base, and record clamp make a difference. Don't let anyone fool you, materials count.
Like ancient Gaul, the original Internet Teres project has split into three parts: Teres Audio, Redpoint Audio Design, and Galibier Design. All worth a visit, and as you can see, all made of different (and quite exotic) materials, with different sonics. Nothing modest about these turntables - exotic hardwoods, teflon platter mats, NC-milled aluminum billets, even a choice of massive machined-aluminum or Rosewood, Monkeywood, Bloodwood or Cocobolo record clamps!
For a design and build-it-yourself perspective, visit the Teres Forum, the place where it all started. Just visiting these Websites is an education in turntable design, and there's no disputing how they look - the pictures you see here don't begin to do them justice. When they're playing a record, these turntables are one of the most beautiful sights in all of hi-fi. The Hollywood guys are missing a bet not featuring one of these in a movie - it would steal the scene.
This seemingly random collection of parts is more interesting than it appears at first glance. First off, the reknowned S&B Transformer Volume Controls are on the lower left, along with the recommended Seiden Switch just above. On the upper right, there is the Bent motorized remote control for DACT, Seiden Switch, or very possibly other switches suitable for switched attenuators. This might sound like small change, but other remote controls have seriously degraded the sound thanks to mistracking attenuators or low-fi digital signal processors (as in Home Theater receivers). The Bent remote control lets you keep your favorite attenuator and add a remote - without going backward in sound quality.
Bent Audio also has a top-of-the-line 2 to 8 channel Transformer Passive Preamp (TAP) that applies relay control to the S&B TVC (not pictured here, but quite spectacular looking, and visible across the room as a row of illuminated bars). What is visible is their new FAL flat loudspeaker driver imported from Japan, with an efficiency of 95dB/metre and flat response from 50Hz to 10kHz.
I can already hear the objections from the peanut gallery - "Hey, if it's passive, how can it be a preamp?" Well, if the control is resistive, there are clear limits on how long the cable between the control and the power amp can be. Audio cables sound best when they are driven from a low impedance, and a passive control typically raises this 10 to 50 times. A stepped transformer like the S&B TX102, though, is different. Rather than inserting resistance (in the form of a voltage divider), the turns ratio is changed, which actually decreases source impedance as the volume is lowered. In other words, more current is available to drive the cable capacitance, not less. This is the opposite of what happens with a resistive volume control (either switched or continuous). As a result, a TVC can drive long cables with ease, thanks to its current-multiplying ability.
All Text and Photographs © 2003 Lynn Olson.