Next steps with Soundsmith Fixed Coil cartridges

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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During the last month my main Cartridge in use was the

- Soundsmith "The Voice"

After a comparison of some other cartridges in this price range, finally "The Voice" played mostly, so I sold the other carts of the comparison, which I described in this thread:

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/thre...9-tt-ortofon-windfeld-ti-air-tight-pc1.28733/


Peter Ledermann has grouped his cartridges in low, medium and high output versions, you can have his carts in low, medium and even high compliance version, for some of them even different diamond versions can be specified. On top of all, he offers Strain Gauge based Cartridges (which will be not part of this thread)

The Voice is a high output cart with high compliance for light o medium weight tonearms and MM Phonostages.

As most of my tonearms are in the heavy range, I decided to find a matching Soundsmith Cartridge.

During last years Munich high end fair I discovered, that Peter has updated the most carts of his portfolio, presenting them in a new chassis, which can be resonance optimized.
In combination with his different material/weight selection of headshell screws an optimization to the individual tonearm is possible. The new chassis can also be Azimuth adjusted

I would say, that the new housing is very nice for all customers using fixed headshell tonearms (like Kuzma, SME V, Frank Schroeder, Rega and so on).
Some of this tonearms do have no Azimuth correction, so good for them.

Resonance optimization has an immediate effect on performance,
as all of my tonearm have exchangeable headshells and I am using Azimuth adjustable wood or titan or magnesium headshells in different weights,
I believe, even the former versions of the Soundsmith carts will fit my needs.

With every model change some distributors like to update their stock, so I had the chance to buy the "last years" versions for a fair price, so I selected out of the Soundsmith range the following:

- Soundsmith Paua
(low compliance , low output, low VTF, impedance 1kohm or higher)

- Soundsmith Hyperion OCL
(low compliance, low output, standard VTF, impedance 400ohm or higher)

- Soundsmith Hyperion OCL Signature Version (very rare)
(low compliance, low output, standard VTF, impedance 400ohm or higher)


The cartridges arrived last week, so I started to fit them and to compare them.

My Boulder 2008 has 5 phonocards and I do have a selection of resistors to choose the "best" values.

For the start I switched all of the inputs to 47kohm and the matching gain, than I played just some hours music to get them burned it a little.

Finetuning is more easy after having done this :)

I will write about the fine-tuning and my listening pleasure later the weekend.


IMG_2495.jpg IMG_2486.jpg IMG_2488.jpg IMG_2500.jpg IMG_2498.jpg IMG_2503.jpg
 

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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Cologne, Germany
We have a stormy and rainy weekend in north/west Europe, which means time enough to play with new cartridges.

In my set up the Soundsmith Cartridges do prefer wood headshells and if a heavy headshell is the better choice in a particular tonearm, the Soundsmith screw set has the answer with >6gram screws .

As I do not have enough full wood headshells at home, (just ordered the original Soundsmith headshells)
I had to try other materials as well. And the Screw set was again helpful. The Nylon screws added some kind of damping to the Yamamoto Titan headshell.

So finally, all 4 Soundsmith cartridges were fitted in an appropriate headshell, looking to the mechanical fitting only.

But I had a mix of Copper, Platinum and pure Silver leads in my Headshells and while swapping around the headshells, it became clear, that the low output Carts definitely like copper more. The high output 47k "The Voice" likes copper as well, but played best with the platinum wires (may be the already 47k impedance was better compensating the higher resistance of the platinum cable?)

The effect of the silver cables was close to choosing a higher impedance on the phono stage.

I started listening with 47kohm impedance on all Carts, as wanted to know the character of the Carts on very high value impedance.

It was obvious, that this is the correct impedance for "The Voice", but all others played also in a good audible way. Just a little over the top in the high frequencies but with very good and precise reproduction and specially a very precise lean bass.

Some Ortofon Anna lovers will like this way of interpretation.

Using "The Voice" as tonal reference, I tried different resistors in the Boulder Phonocards. The Soundsmith Cartridges do respond on impedance changing very good and it is easy to change them from "precise" to "dull".

Now I understand, why I have listened to so many different quality presentations of Soundsmith Carts and why I heard so many different oppinions about the. Some saying "to warm, to dull, no resolution", some saying "sharp and not natural at all", some saying, that the "Hyperion" is the best Cartridge they ever heard in their live.

My Soundsmith "Paua" is fitted in an Ikeda 345 Steel Armwand version Tonearm with JPS Tonarmcable. The JPS cable is a more analytic cable with shiny highs. The old Ikeda Arm is more close to the old FR64s , than to the current Ikeda ally arm wand tonearms.

Peter Ledermann recommends on my "Paua" a value higher than 1kohm. A reviewer even recommended 2,8kohm as best.

For 2,8kohm I do not have the resistors available to solder this value, but 1k is a standard and works fine, but still a little too much shine in the highs for my personal taste (which is driven from preferring japanese carts like Koetsu und Air Tight over the northern style like Ortofon Windfeld Ti or Anna)

So I tried a little lower impedance, I had resistors for 860ohm available, which is just the little less, which makes the "Paua" sing in my set up (will be different in other set ups and with other personal taste)

I am sure, that the next level of fine-tuning VTF and VTA after more hours of boring in the carts might overrule this choice, which is a snap shot "best choice" for the current hours playing time.

The "Hyperion Signature" is fitted in a SME 3012R Tonearm with a Phasemation Tonearm cable, which is a neutral to warm sounding copper cable.

Peter Ledermann recommends 400ohm or more impedance match for the Hyperion. Looking to the available resistor values, I have chosen 500ohm, which makes the Hyperion playing a little, very little warmer the my current "Paua" set up.

It is very difficult for me to set up the Hyperion, even with 47kohm it plays like out of this world. And changing the impedance value is not only changing the tonal balance, also the energy the cart is sending the rest of the gear is changing. I tried the 860ohm I am using on "Paua" and to my surprise the Hyperion plays a kind of wrong, going back to 500 or 47k and ist better (but very different in character).

My current best choice is the 500ohm, as the Hyperion OCL Signature does play very natural.
And very very clear, without becoming analytic.
So you have all the information you can dream of, without changing the tonal balance in the way, that you have prominent highs to feel information.

As said for "Paua", I might change the value a little, after my final run on VAT and VTF, not forgetting the Azimuth.

Comparing the carts right now shows, that they are all from "Soundsmith", so all have a similar family approach.

But the better is the better...:

Listening a lot today to Ben Webster, I started to focus on the snare drum .

With "The Voice" I can follow , which snare the drummer is playing.
With "Paua" I can better follow, the strength and power of playing the snare
With "Hyperion" I was able to "see" the position , where the drummer is playing the snare drums.
If he was doing "circles" on the snare, with the Hyperion you can follow this up.

This level of Micro Detail is not important in its own matter, but the feeling of joining a real jazz concert is driven by the availability of this micro details. This very clear reproduction of music is fascinating, as it goes along without any sharp "s" Sybillants effects, which I know very well form my time with the different vdh Colibri carts.

I do love the vdh Master Signature, but I never reached the level of satisfaction of listening to music I do have right now with a 80 to 90% correct fitted Hyperion Signature.

I am looking forward to bring the Hyperion to the 100% of fitting and fine tuning level, while I am listening to music with a lot of fun :)

All listening was done with the TechDAS Airforce 3 premium turntable.

To crosscheck I installed my other Hyperion cart on the J Sikora Reference turntable, knowing that 500 ohm is a good value for the Hyperion, as the Polish Sikora turntable is connected with my Lampizator MC1 phono stage, which has 500ohm available.

The Hyperion liked this combination as well, so the carts played good on the installed Lampizator Step Up.

But the level of resolution and "clearness" the Boulder 2008 can provide with the "Hyperion" is a class of its own.
The Hyperion with a matching impedance value does not need the shine of a tube to fascinate.

But depending of the record, it is the record mastering, which sometimes need the tube glow :)

Good to have currently the choice .


Extending the level of "clear music reproduction" ,
may be a Straing Gauge System from Soundsmith will be an alternative for me, who knows, I have to try :)

Hyperion Signature with Boulder 2008 versus a Soundsmith SG set up sounds like fun for a comparison....



Some pictures to illustrate the different Headshell, Headshell screw installations.
 

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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Standing by w the pro Straingauge comments Lol.
 

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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The Soundsmith Hyperion OCL Signature has now some hours more, so I started to do some fine-tuning on VTA and VTF.

Starting point is parallel and 2g force.

At first I went up with the Tonearm with the typical effect of more resolution due to extended high frequency and leaner bass.
But the Hyperion character became (for my taste) too thin. Even by increasing the VTF accordingly up to the possible 2,1g does not bring the natural balance back.

I was listening to the last Leonard Cohen record. If everything works fine, the voice has a clear contour, no sharp "s" sounds at all
and can make you cry for the music.

Going back to parallel and down and back to parallel made clear, that the Hyperion seems to be precisely manufactured with the 2degree angle of the stylus diamond and a parallel Headshell to the record.

Adjusting the VTF showed, that going down a little from 2,0g to 1,95 / 1,97 (depending on the tolerance of measurement tool) , gives the best result.

On this base I tried to adjust the antiskating in a way, that the Leonard Cohen voice is razor sharp with no "shades" on the left or right side of the voice. The best result was given by a very small level of antiskating, even with the high level of voice dynamics given on this particular record. Antiskating is on the second line of the SME 3012r, which is like 0,5 to 0,7.
So very similar to my vdh Colibri , which sound best with 1/3 Antiskating of the VTF value.


All my visitors in the last days were fascinated of the clear and natural sound of the Hyperion (and the Boulder 2008),
so it really makes fun :)

And as some readers might imagine ,
I could not resist to get the comparison of Hyperion OCL Signature and the Strain Gauge realized at my place. So a SG 210 is on the way :)
 
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spiritofmusic

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Shakti, you REALLY need an LPS on the Straingauge to hear it properly. Problem is, I think both R and L channels may need different voltages, hence my bespoke true dual mono supply. I think SBooster have experience, Straingauge LPS mentioned on their website.

The uptick is not subtle.
 
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shakti

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Shakti, you REALLY need an LPS on the Straingauge to hear it properly. Problem is, I think both R and L channels may need different voltages, hence my bespoke true dual mono supply. I think SBooster have experience, Straingauge LPS mentioned on their website.

The uptick is not subtle.

thanx for the hint, I found the Audiogon thread regarding the Strain Gauge PSU update.
As I am using already Keces P3 and P8 PSU in my set up , I am planning to a get 2x Keces Ephono or 2x Keces P8 with 24vDC for my SG210.

But the start will be done with the standard Soundsmith PSU..
 

spiritofmusic

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Shakti, do check both channels are 24V. My old Red Wine Audio batt psu regularly tripped the energiser box, Vinni Rossi believed it was due to a slight discrepancy btwn the channels.
 
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shakti

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May 9, 2015
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my personal comparison of SoundSmith cartridges goes to the next technical level,
as my first Strain Gauge Cart is arrived.

- Soundsmith SG 210 with SGS -6 OCL cantilever (and optional SGS-5 )

A Strain Gauge system needs an external 2x24v DC Power Supply, the Cartridge principle is based on the change of the resistance of a Strain Gauge in a way, that the resulting current change is nearly matching the reverse RIAA curve.

As with DS carts, a Strain Gauge based Cartridge needs a unique Phono Stage, which is supplied as standard from Soundsmith.

My Version includes a variable and a fixed output and is the SG 210 called.

The most Soundsmith carts do like more heavy tonearms , so I fitted the SG 210 in an Ikeda 407 (steel arm wand) tonearm, using a Yamamoto carbon Headshell.

But I will exchange the Headshell to a wooden Headshell soon (hopefully when the postman rings th next time)

My other Soundsmith carts do like the wooden headshells more than my Titan or Magnesium versions, so I assume, this will be similar for the SG 210.

I have chosen the SGS-6 cantilever to be more close to my Hyperion OCL, so the comparison of this two carts can happen with a similar cantilever (no cactus an SG carts)

The Hyperion is connected with my Boulder 2008, the SG cart with their matched SG210 phono stage .

Cables are both JPS Aluminata.( XLR and RCA versions)

The first impression sees the Hyperion OCL Signature / Boulder 2008 combination in front of the SG210, but the Hyperion has seen around 30h more than the SGS-6. And , more important, I already did some fine tuning in Hyperion.
I will do the tweaking on SG 210 after some hours of playing, at the moment VTA and Azimuth are just adjusted "parallel" and VTF is on the starting 2,3g.

Looking forward to proceed comparing. Such a rare chance to have both carts on one turntable :)

( Unfortunately I do have not the same tonearms available, so I will have an overlay of SME 3012R IMG_2570.jpg IMG_2572.jpg IMG_2573.jpg IMG_2574.jpg and Ikeda 407 comparison)
 

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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After having spent some more hours with the SG 210, doing some fine tuning on VTA, VTF and Azimuth I did some more comparisons.

The SG 210 is able to do something very unique in the midrange, very clear and smooth. Even with the SGS -6 OCL cantilever there is nothing sharp or hard.

Comparing the SG210 (recommended retail price incl VAT in Germany is 11.5k) with a Sussurro MkII (Retail in Germany 6K) and a Audio Flight Phonostage (Retail 5K) shows, that the Strain Gauge concept is far better in all matters.

I have some other Carts in the 4 to 6k range and also some other phono stages between 4k and 8k
(like Lampizator, RCM, LAB12 Phonostages), but the SG210 set does outperform them by ease.

But my current best combination, the Soundsmith Hyperion OCL Signature / Boulder 2008
( retail in Germany was 50k together) pairing again outperforms the SG 210.

The Boulder / Hyperion does show a much better and precise resolution in the lower end, where the SG210 is more limited in resolution and punch.The midrange does show a different interpretation of "clear and natural" , the higher end again has more substance and power with Hyperion and Boulder 2008.

In the next weeks, I will get 2 different 24v DC powersupplies for the SG210, as I believe, that a part of the bottleneck can be found there.
I also waiting for the shipment of more wooden headshells. The Carbon headshell, which I use with the SG 210 eats a lot of energy, may be too much for the SG 210 Cartridge body.

I believe, that I have not reached the end with SG210. Already now, it does play without any competition in the related price class of Cartridge / Phono Stage sets.
 
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gian60

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I had interest in Strain gauge
But having CH P1 with X1
Will be better Hyperion?
 
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shakti

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Both ;)

Hyperion will not play on current gain phono stages,
So your CH P1 should have the voltage gain stage as well.
( I believe standard, but not sure)

Strain Gauge is always Single Ended, so the quality depends on your Pre as well.

My Jeff Rowland Criterion PreAmp is using input transformers on RCA and XLR inputs, no quality difference in using RCA or XLR inputs.
This was completely different with my Grandinote Genesi, just not accepting RCA for a high quality reproduction of music.

Having had the CH P1 , I believe Hyperion will be a nice match.

But listening with Strain Gauge can give you an inside of possible midrange reproduction which is a quality in its own.

If you only have access to only one alternative, I would go for Hyperion OCL on CH P1.
(you are well connected, you might have access to a "selected by Peter Ledermann" Cart)

Hopefully, we can discuss with Peter the status of his Frank Schröder designed Soundsmith "Alto " tonearm,
to host the Hyperion in the best way.

https://www.sound-smith.com/tonearms/alto-tone-arm-designed-frank-schröder
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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After having spent some more hours with the SG 210, doing some fine tuning on VTA, VTF and Azimuth I did some more comparisons.

The SG 210 is able to do something very unique in the midrange, very clear and smooth. Even with the SGS -6 OCL cantilever there is nothing sharp or hard.

Comparing the SG210 (recommended retail price incl VAT in Germany is 11.5k) with a Sussurro MkII (Retail in Germany 6K) and a Audio Flight Phonostage (Retail 5K) shows, that the Strain Gauge concept is far better in all matters.

I have some other Carts in the 4 to 6k range and also some other phono stages between 4k and 8k
(like Lampizator, RCM, LAB12 Phonostages), but the SG210 set does outperform them by ease.

But my current best combination, the Soundsmith Hyperion OCL Signature / Boulder 2008
( retail in Germany was 50k together) pairing again outperforms the SG 210.

The Boulder / Hyperion does show a much better and precise resolution in the lower end, where the SG210 is more limited in resolution and punch.The midrange does show a different interpretation of "clear and natural" , the higher end again has more substance and power with Hyperion and Boulder 2008.

In the next weeks, I will get 2 different 24v DC powersupplies for the SG210, as I believe, that a part of the bottleneck can be found there.
I also waiting for the shipment of more wooden headshells. The Carbon headshell, which I use with the SG 210 eats a lot of energy, may be too much for the SG 210 Cartridge body.

I believe, that I have not reached the end with SG210. Already now, it does play without any competition in the related price class of Cartridge / Phono Stage sets.
Shakti, the LPS will transform the bass performance of the SG, while cleaning up the hash that you'll be aware of in retrospect when the stock SMPS is replaced. I think you'll be v pleasantly suprised.

I've run 3 successful carts in my time, and the LPSd SG combines the lush, smooth musicality of the Lyra Parnassus, the dynamic snap of the ESCCO-modded Zu Denon 103R, and the neutrality/transparency of the Transfiguration Orpheus.

My biggest test for cart low end performance is not the usual bass torture lps, but a much more subtle challenge. Miles Davis "Live At The Plugged Nickel" Mosaic label 10-lp boxset. When I initially bought and listened to this a decade ago, my Orpheus struggled to establish any level of bass texture, and my Zu 103 roughened any subtleties. My stock SG revealed bass harmonics and natural warmth missing w the other two carts. And going first to battery psu and now overspecced LPS, has filled out density and a really natural balance of warmth and speed. Listening to these Miles lps, the vinyl has gone from frustratingly thin and astringent in the bass w previous carts, to warm, filled out, and highly articulate. If you know this boxset, you'll know how challenging extracting anything meaningful in the bass is. SG masterful here.
 
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ALF

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Shakti, the LPS will transform the bass performance of the SG, while cleaning up the hash that you'll be aware of in retrospect when the stock SMPS is replaced. I think you'll be v pleasantly suprised.

I've run 3 successful carts in my time, and the LPSd SG combines the lush, smooth musicality of the Lyra Parnassus, the dynamic snap of the ESCCO-modded Zu Denon 103R, and the neutrality/transparency of the Transfiguration Orpheus.

My biggest test for cart low end performance is not the usual bass torture lps, but a much more subtle challenge. Miles Davis "Live At The Plugged Nickel" Mosaic label 10-lp boxset. When I initially bought and listened to this a decade ago, my Orpheus struggled to establish any level of bass texture, and my Zu 103 roughened any subtleties. My stock SG revealed bass harmonics and natural warmth missing w the other two carts. And going first to battery psu and now overspecced LPS, has filled out density and a really natural balance of warmth and speed. Listening to these Miles lps, the vinyl has gone from frustratingly thin and astringent in the bass w previous carts, to warm, filled out, and highly articulate. If you know this boxset, you'll know how challenging extracting anything meaningful in the bass is. SG masterful here.
Yep, SOM is spot on...

Me, I am wild about my EMIA SG...thinking seriously about adding the new SS Hyperion Mono.

Thanks Shakti for this wonderful thread!
 
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spiritofmusic

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Ooh, Emia SG...say more.
Not on their website anymore.
You and I love that speed/texture balance. Like the real thing, addictive.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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ALF, can you elaborate a bit on yr Emia SG?
I believe it uses a NOS Panasonic cart/stylus and a tube-driven energiser.
 

defride

VIP/Donor
Mar 28, 2013
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Shakti, many thanks for sharing your experience.

I do have a complaint... you took all the Soundsmith from the dealer in Scandinavia advertising on audio-markt!? How rude, I had my eye on that Hyperion :mad: congratulations :)

Another modestly priced cart that would be worth investigating if you've not already is the Hana ML. Coming from AT's PTGii I debated whether to try the ART9 but plumped for the Hana in the end, very happy with it. I've only compared it with the AT and a Denon 103 both of which it transcends in my system. Others I know have compared it favourably with the likes of top Shelter and preferred it in their system.

Will look forward to hearing how this group of carts and your system develop
 

bazelio

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Sep 26, 2016
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Great to see Soundsmith getting more exposure. For what it's worth, Dave Slagle does allow demos of the Emia strain gauge unit, I believe.
 

spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
14,587
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Bazelio, it's really perplexed me how invisible Peter Lederman's creations are on this forum. I don't know if it's the competitive pricing, or Peter's profile, or his quite frankly manic website Lol that means Soundsmith is not in the top half dozen of most talked about carts, but whatever the reason, it's a bit of a shame. I've regularly mentioned my Straingauge in my mad ramblings, but only a few have taken the bait on wanting to discuss further.

Shakti as a hardcore experimenter is maybe a better person to generate a discussion. Certainly if his delving into LPSd Straingauge goes as well as I suspect it will, and properly rivals his >3x pricier carts/Boulder phono, that'll be a massive feather in the cap of designer Peter.

Undoubtedly a marketing truth that will always hamper the Straingauge is it's absence of need for phono. For me, that was a big selling point, releasing funds from sale of my Tom Evans Groove Plus SRX phono contributed 1/3 of funds for the SG.
But for those wedded to tubes or wanting to expt w phono stage flavours, the SG is out.
 
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