Barclay Digital - the biggest scam of the 90s ?

Elberoth

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Those of you who have been in this hobby since the 80-90s, probably remember the company called Barclay Digital. They used to make probably the most expensive CD transports of the era, costing up to $30.000.

$30.000 maybe not be shocking today, but back in the 90's ... that was over twice the price of the Levinson reference No. 31 CD transport!

Barclay transports have always looked very impressive. From the corian made Cabernet CD transport:



the acrylic M1:



to their most expensive model from the mid-90's, the Barclay Digital F1:







I remember drooling over this transport back in the 90s.

Not only the manual claimed that this was 'the finest CD Transport available' and a 'cost no object' design, but they even called it 'F1 Super Transport'. Not just a regular, mundane 'transport'. A Super Transport!



I have always been wondering how this transport was designed - after all, the ML No.31, which was 50% cheaper, looked like this:





It was built like a tank, had acres of PCB stuffed with custom Xilinx chips, dual PSUs - basicly everything about this transport was state-of-the-art.

The ML engineers even used tricks like reclocking circuits with suspended clock to minimise vibrations and improve performance:



The ML 31 was ultra expensive, but at least you knew what you were paying for.

I was always wondering, what else one can get for twice the price. What kind of NASA space ship technology one can get for $30.000.

Unfortunately, the company folded soon after. Not many of those transports have been sold and I have never seen one opened ... anywhere.

Recently, a friend of mine who runs a reputable shop called Retro Audio (he is a renowed Luxman specialist), have called telling me he just got a Barclay Digital F1 transport for repair. He told me he HAS TO show me what he have found inside after opening one ...


TBC
 
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bonzo75

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OPPO?
 

Elberoth

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When I got there, the transport was already in parts, waiting for ultrasonic cleaning. The trasport looks gorgeous. It is basicly entirely CNCed from slabs of aluminium. Nothing unusual in 2018 (chineese would do the complete casework for less than $500-700 now), but that was back in 1995 and CNC work was expensive (although not $30.000 expensive ...).

Each foot weighs about 2kg (4lbs):



Dimmed glass front panel hides a generic Philips display:





Back panel:



please note the F1x Super Transport part!



The drive gave some initial hopes of beeing the CDM-Pro drive from Philips:





but soon turned out to be the cheapest Philips drive, from the very bottom of their parts bin:



And from there ... it got only worse.

If you hoped to find some NASA technology PCBs inside (remember the $30.000 price tag), you would be sorely disappointed. The whole transport turned out to be ... Marantz CD63mk1 in disguise ! Yes, the $299 CD player in nice aluminium case.

Compare the original Marantz innards:



to the PCB in the Barclay (pls notice the exposed Marantz logo on the HDAM modules!):



They actually put a complete, unmodified Marantz PCB inside. You could make a CD player out of the Barclay F1x Super Transport - just istall two RCA sockets at the back panel, wire the cables to the PCB, and viola! Your $30.000 Barklay F1x Super Transport just became a CD player ! I'm sorry - a CD SUPER player.

Not even the premium $499 Marantz 63 KI, with many premium parts, but the regular CD63. At this point, one starts to wonder, why they haven't used the $249 Marantz CD53 - afterall, the only part that was missing were the HDAM modules in the analog output stage, which were not used anyway ... I guess, they were cheap, but not that cheap , lol.

The first question I have asked was if there was a digital output board. Afterall - you could use the PCB of an exisiting CD player (the question would remain - why the cheapest one, and why in the $30.000 product, but still ...) just to source the SPDIF (digital) signal from and then add your super duper digital output baord, with multiple reclocking techniques used, NASA clocks, FIFO buffers which could produce the best, cleanest SPDIF signal in the world.

Then you could just laugh in the faces of Levinson engineers, that spent their budget developing the wrong part of the transport.

BUT, the SPDIF signal was sourced ... directly from the PCB. That is right - no speacial digital output board, no reclocking, no NASA clocks, no FIFO buffers. You know - the stuff that Levinson put in their CD transports.

The RCA SPDIF out on the back panel was directly wired, with a pair of twisted pair cables, from the PCB, from the place they had removed the original Marantz RCA SPDIF output socket:



There was a small doughterboard attached to the back panel, but it was only needed to create the ST and AES/EBU signals. There was no signal regeneration.





The only modification that Barclay actually did to the original Marantz CD-63 CD player, was replacing the original transformer with 3 separate transformers. That is right - no 3 new PSUs (with rectifiers, capacitors, super duper voltage regulators etc) - but 3 new, $20 each, encapsulated toroidal transformers that they have wired to the original Marantz PSU on the PCB:





$30.000 for a $299 CD player in an nice aluminium box with $60 worth of extra PSUs ?

That is a scam in my book.

MBL did a similar thing back in the 00s, when they put a Marantz CDP inside one of their CD players (CDP-2 if I'm not mistaken). But for one, that was a $2000 CD player, not a $30.000 one, and at least they have used not the regular, but the far more expensive, special edition version of the player (6000 OSE).

MBL:


Marantz:


Still, probably not sth MBL is proud of ...
 
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May 30, 2010
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There was a small doughterboard attached to the back panel, but it was only needed to create the ST and AES/EBU signals. There was no signal regeneration.



Adam,

Looking at this board I would risk that they were adding some kind of deliberated electronically introduced jitter - probably derived from the beat frequency of the two LM555 analog oscillators or similar. This way they could be sure the CD transport would sound different from other common transports. But only close inspection and measurement can confirm it or deny it.
 

Elberoth

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The RCA digital out was wired directly from the Marantz PCB, from the place they had desoldered the original RCA digital out socket. Signal went directly from the PCB to the socket with that black and blue cable.

The digital output board sourced the signal from a different place on the Marantz PCB - just a few cm down. So the signal that went to RCA and AES/ST output was a bit different - I would guesstimate that the signal at the RCA output was terminated to ~ 75 Ohm so they just sourced the signal for the AES/ST board just before that point.

All that is mute, as we all can see that this is a complete scam. Just compare that to Theta, Vimak, PS Audio, Wadia and other transports from the mid-90s (not the late 80s early 90s as those early transports often also had been Philips or Teac based) and the level of engineering those companies put into their products.
 
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DaveyF

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#7
What is truly scary, IMO, is that I am fairly certain that there are still a ton of folks out there in this hobby who are still doing exactly the same thing, as in your example. These unscrupulous folks know very well that most a'philes buy with their eyes and not with their ears! Add to that the fact that the higher the pice, the higher the desirability- and we can see why Barclay digital sold product! BTW, I happen to think the old Marantz CD63 wasn't a bad sounding piece. I still own a Philips CD80 ( used as a transport) and it has seen off many a newer design.( of course i didn't pay but a fraction of the price asked for the Barclay!)
 

Elberoth

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Not really. 2018 is not 1995. You have the Internet now. Back in 1995 there were no audio forums, no online reviews - I'm not even sure google was already there!

IMO the only field where stuff like this could still happen is cable biz.
 
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Elberoth

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That said ... make the price high enough, and the chances that someone will open the stuff up decrease significantly.
 
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DaveyF

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#10
Not really. 2018 is not 1995. You have the Internet now. Back in 1995 there were no audio forums, no online reviews - I'm not even sure google was already there!

IMO the only field where stuff like this could still happen is cable biz.
I think you may be very surprised! As you noted, the price back then was an anomaly...today sky high pricing is pretty much the norm in this hobby. As you pointed out, how many folks are opening up their StahlTek stuff, or looking at the insides of a Soulution or a Ypsilon?
Is the inner workings of a MSB DAC that much more advanced than a Bryston BDA3 DAC ( or even as sophisticated???), you tell me??? What is indisputable, is the difference in price!
 

Elberoth

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DaveyF

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#12
Please surprise me.

MSB, Soulution, Ypsilon - they have been very open about the design of their stuff. You can find the pics online with ease.
Are you saying that there are no more folks out there with the exact business plan that you just exposed with the Barclay gear....simply because they have more exposure on the web and due to the fact that the public is more aware?? I'm not saying that the three companies that I addressed are doing anything of the kind, but i am saying that if we look at the cost of the parts of many of these pieces, I would be very very surprised if it made up a mere fraction of the asking price. Whether this applies to these companies I have no idea, but please don't tell me that this same scam isn't being played today. I will repeat what you stated, how many folks are going to open up their ultra pricey gear to look inside and see exactly what they paid for? I doubt even a handful!!!!


BTW, have you opened up the inside of your Lampi??? Some folks have suggested that this is NEVER a good idea, LOL.
 

Elberoth

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Yes I did. I have even posted images. The new Lampis look very different inside than the first (hardwired) ones.
 

Elberoth

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Are you saying that there are no more folks out there with the exact business plan that you just exposed with the Barclay gear....simply because they have more exposure on the web and due to the fact that the public is more aware?? I'm not saying that the three companies that I addressed are doing anything of the kind, but i am saying that if we look at the cost of the parts of many of these pieces, I would be very very surprised if it made up a mere fraction of the asking price. Whether this applies to these companies I have no idea, but please don't tell me that this same scam isn't being played today. I will repeat what you stated, how many folks are going to open up their ultra pricey gear to look inside and see exactly what they paid for? I doubt even a handful!!!!
Those are two different things. You are arguing, that the prices in hi-end are too high (in general). That is 'cos the volume is small (and decreasing). If the trend does not change, the prices will continue to go up.

The cost of the final product in hi-end is no longer (if it has ever been) based on the cost of parts + constant markup model. Rather, the companies calculate how much does it cost to run the company divided by the numbers of the units sold.

That model is used by ALL hi-end companies - even the engineering driven ones, like the aftermentioned Mark Levinson.

But we can still see the difference, between the proper hi-end stuff, and blatatnt scam, like the Barclay stuff.
 
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Kal Rubinson

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#15
Not really. 2018 is not 1995. You have the Internet now. Back in 1995 there were no audio forums, no online reviews - I'm not even sure google was already there!
We had "The Audiophile Network" {TAN) way before 1995 and a lively BBS it was!
 

DaveyF

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#17
Those are two different things. You are arguing, that the prices in hi-end are too high (in general). That is 'cos the volume is small (and decreasing). If the trend does not change, the prices will continue to go up.

The cost of the final product in hi-end is no longer (if it has ever been) based on the cost of parts + constant markup model. Rather, the companies calculate how much does it cost to run the company divided by the numbers of the units sold.

That model is used by ALL hi-end companies - even the engineering driven ones, like the aftermentioned Mark Levinson.

But we can still see the difference, between the proper hi-end stuff, and blatatnt scam, like the Barclay stuff.
If the trend does not change, the prices will not continue to go up, instead the hobby will cease to exist! IMHO.:oops:
 

cjf

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#19
The RCA SPDIF out on the back panel was directly wired, with a pair of twisted pair cables, from the PCB, from the place they had removed the original Marantz RCA SPDIF output socket:



...
Hey give them a break. They at least deserve some credit for bothering to attempt and twist the wires for the SPDIF connection :D
 
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asiufy

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Cool thread, thanks Adam!
The only such case I've heard/read about before was the Goldmund.
 

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