Zero Distortion: The General's System - Pnoe, Thomas Mayer, Vyger, Original LPs

bonzo75

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#1
http://zero-distortion.org/pnoe-horns-with-aer-bd4-5-drivers-vygerthomas-mayer/

This article is for vinyl junkies, some digital only guys will not relate, but it is about my top 3 rooms, and insight into original pressings at one, if not the largest collector and reseller of vinyl in the world, who luckily lives in the city and I can visit regularly

Notes on:

  1. Pnoe horns with the costliest drivers in the world, the full range crossoverless 120 db. BD5 from AER (now around 50k GBP for the pair), and comparison with the lower model BD4
  2. Thomas Mayer phono vs Vyger phono, Thomas Mayer 1.25 and 3w amps with a valve called the 46 (valve rarely made after the 1940s), Thomas Mayer 211 amps, and NAT Magma compare
  3. Further notes on the Vyger Indian signature and Atlantis with the Red Sparrow
  4. Comparison of recording engineers, verticuts and ortofon Lyrec cut LPs with other cuts.
 

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Ron Resnick

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#2
I saw Kedar’s post here as I was driving home, and I literally pulled over to the side of the road to start reading his blog. While I was reading his blog he texted me to let me know that he had posted the thread.

So instead of posting my comment privately, I will post it here.

This, Kedar, is a truly educational and enlightening report! Thank you!

This report synthesizes a lot of the bits you have explained to me over the last few months.

But it creates a conundrum. Do you now plan to go in this pure direction to assemble a system whose transparency and authenticity can be capitalized on by only the finest curated pressings? (Should we all throw away our existing systems and start over with Pnoe horn/Mayer SET purity as the divining rod?)

But what is the point if such a system sounds transcendental only on pressings we cannot afford? So the question becomes: how does the General’s system sound with garden-variety original pressings and ubiquitous reissues?

And how do you draw the indifference curve? If you pay up for good curated originals, but not the very best originals, what fraction of the purity magic do you achieve?

How would you compare the sound qualities of the General’s system to something like Tune Audio Avatons driven by amplifiers like the Trafomatic Elysium? What fraction of the purity magic you hear from the General’s system could you achieve from a more conventional horn/SET system?

How does the bass information you hear from the General’s system compare to the “waves of bass” which so enthralled you from Henk’s Apogee Grands?

Would I be correct in assuming that the General does not go in for tweaks or fancy cables (which I assume he would consider to be impure additions)?

How do these revelations affect how you think about the system you intend to buy someday?

PS1: Why does the General even have a digital playback system?

PS2: My philistine breadth of musical knowledge makes the fanatically-curated, ultra-expensive original LP approach somewhat plausible for me, because I would have to acquire only about 15 classical titles and 5 to 10 jazz titles. But I sure wouldn’t be able to effectuate my policy of purchasing multiple copies to insure a lifetime supply.

PS3: My fascination rose when I read that the height of the Pnoes yields a “planar-like” quality. This is one of the effects for which I liked so much the Tune Audio Avaton.

PS4: I cannot believe that, after living in London for two years, I learned about the General only after I left!
 
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spiritofmusic

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#3
Ron, there's no doubt that if there's a sting in the tail in our hobby, it's this v concept.

That the more refined and resolving a system, esp the spkrs, whilst many pressings will have a dreamlike quality impossible to achieve on lesser systems, so many recordings will become challenging, unrefined, hard to enjoy.

For the first time I've got to a point in my system evolution that I'm hearing way more, both deep into the soundfield, and whole levels more of ambient low level detail and microdynamics.

A function of way better room acoustics, leading me to better gear setup, SQ maxxed further w the right tweaks, and critically an analog set up where I really can for the first time hear variances in VTA changes etc.

A whole bunch of lps have gained major lease of life. But I'm aware of a lot where I really can hear their limitations.

I hear this also on Blue58's extremely impressive Aqua Formula XHD/SGM/custom 45 tubes/AG Duos horns system. A lot of my material, mainly 70s prog and fusion is mercilessly pulled apart, whereas his choices of Golden Age jazz vocals and well recorded singer songwriter small group are simply delectable.

Would I swap back to my old sound, a more homogenous sound where most stuff sounds ok, some great?

Or my current sound, stellar on more, but a lot that makes me wonder about choices made in those 70s studios and mastering houses?

It's a big reason why I'm unlikely to ever go to horns where the forensic effect on my choice of music will be a day to day sticking point. Even with a more transparent presentation, my choice of music is best served by my current gear.

I couldn't imagine living day to day w The General's system pulling apart every thread in my less than pristinely recorded music.
 
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bonzo75

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#4
Thanks Ron.

To answer your PS, The General does not have a digital playback system.

What you learn from here is to respect transparency to recordings. One need not have a Pnoe with Thomas Mayer for that. I prefer Devore Orangutan O96 to Wilson, Magico, and such much more now because with a simple integrated SET amp they let me enjoy performances much more rather than just a bit of oomph in a woofer that sounds impressive initially and bores me by the time I put on the 4th LP. Horns obviously do both, and of two horns I liked, I recently eliminated one because it sounded two consistent on recordings. You will also find phonostages that color recordings - I have stopped looking at bass, stage, layout. These exist on good recordings done by good engineers. If you let them show, you will get the soundstage etc. I cannot stress how much musical enjoyment goes up when this happens.

The general's system might not sound good on digital, I cannot say - Pietro's sounds very good on digital and reissues. The general's system is made to play the purest vinyl - he has set it up that way, so naturally the compression and the tweaking done by Classic records and Speakers Corner will show through. That's his life.

So, should somebody who plays CDs and reissues buy the pnoe? I do not know the answer to that. If I had the budget for the horn, I would have the budget for a 1000 good pressings. Then the question is what is a good number of superb LP pressings you want, how many average pressings (there are some good reissues) are you willing to have for the music you care about less, and how much are you willing to stream. You along with Bill know best my transition from I don't care for analog to now.

Look at the analog only systems around you, you will see a lot of Sets, if not with horns, then with Devore, AN E (I still don't like them), etc. There is a reason for this.

Another way to look at it is, If after trying 5 records your system is not showing differences it is not set up for analog, something needs to change in the chain, that is a way to identify an issue.

I am sleeping now so won't reply till morning
 
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#5
Great and enjoyable narrative Ked. It confirms that stereo is an evolutionary system and our own preferences and emotions are the major guides. It looks that the enthusiasm for concert hall realism for the largest orchestras is being faded by new experiences ...
 

Ron Resnick

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#7
Thanks Ron.

. . . The General does not have a digital playback system.

. . .
That is a relief!

I agree — you do see SETs in a lot of systems. Which circles back to one of our other long-standing conundrums: Do you select the amplifier and then choose the speaker to match, or do you select the speaker and then choose the amplifier to match?

(I selected the speaker — and then i spent two years researching high-power SETs because I know I like SETs — but then chose the amplifier to match.)

I also wonder about the datapoint curve of of SET purity of sound plotted versus output power. In other words if the 3 watt Mayer 46 is at the purest end of the purity spectrum where do single tube 845/211 SET and then single tube 833 SET and then parallel SET and then push-pull amplifiers fall on the spectrum? Is a parallel SET (e.g., MasterSound PF100 litz edition) amp more pure sounding or less pure sounding than a single tube 833 (e.g., Wavac) or GM-100 (e.g., NAT Audio Magma New SE) amplifier? How “impure” has the sound become when you get to the other end of the spectrum with push-pull Class AB?

(I believe the General has auditioned virtually every tube amplifier available so he could probably plot the dots on this purity spectrum for us, or at least let us know if, in his experience, PSET is closer to SET or closer to push-pull Class AB, and how much purity you lose going from a 3w 46 to a 150 watt 833?)

This report rescussitates my interest in experimenting someday with high-power SET or PSET on the Pendragons.
 
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Tango

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#9
That is a relief!

I agree — you do see SETs in a lot of systems. Which circles back to one of our other long-standing conundrums: Do you select the amplifier and then choose the speaker to match, or do you select the speaker and then choose the amplifier to match?

(I selected the speaker — and then i spent two years researching high-power SETs because I know I like SETs — but then chose the amplifier to match.)

I also wonder about the datapoint curve of of SET purity of sound plotted versus output power. In other words if the 3 watt Mayer 46 is at the purest end of the purity spectrum where do single tube 845/211 SET and then single tube 833 SET and then parallel SET and then push-pull amplifiers fall on the spectrum? Is a parallel SET (e.g., MasterSound PF100 litz edition) amp more pure sounding or less pure sounding than a single tube 833 (e.g., Wavac) or GM-100 (e.g., NAT Audio Magma New SE) amplifier? How “impure” has the sound become when you get to the other end of the spectrum with push-pull Class AB?

(I believe the General has auditioned virtually every tube amplifier available so he could probably plot the dots on this purity spectrum for us, or at least let us know if, in his experience, PSET is closer to SET or closer to push-pull Class AB, and how much purity you lose going from a 3w 46 to a 150 watt 833?)

This report rescussitates my interest in experimenting someday with high-power SET or PSET on the Pendragons.
Dear Ron,

Please hold my opinion just as "noise." I think you are standing half way on a bridge. You have a Pendragon that imo should mate better with excellent high power SS amps. While you like the magic of SETs that don't do high power. I also don't think you can extract the true intended magic from tube with higher power tube amplifiers. If you do high power tube amps you will be compromising its true nature. All in all, your system could stand in the middle of somewhere compromising not heading north, south, east or west. MikeL went all they way in one direction. And you just read theGeneral went all the way in the other direction. I am going all the way in one direction too. I don't think you can have it both way. This case your speakers dictate where you should go and you are stuck with sunk cost. Once again I am just making "distortions" if you will.

Kind regards,
Tang
 

bonzo75

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#10
Dear Ron,

Please hold my opinion just as "noise." I think you are standing half way on a bridge. You have a Pendragon that imo should mate better with excellent high power SS amps. While you like the magic of SETs that don't do high power. I also don't think you can extract the true intended magic from tube with higher power tube amplifiers. If you do high power tube amps you will be compromising its true nature. All in all, your system could stand in the middle of somewhere compromising not heading north, south, east or west. MikeL went all they way in one direction. And you just read theGeneral went all the way in the other direction. I am going all the way in one direction too. I don't think you can have it both way. This case your speakers dictate where you should go and you are stuck with sunk cost. Once again I am just making "distortions" if you will.

Kind regards,
Tang
This. Exactly.
 

Ron Resnick

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#11
Not distortions at all, Tang! Thank you for your thoughts.

But I’m not sure what you (and now, I see, Kedar) are talking about?

Aren’t you both doing the same kind of speculative theorizing that Kedar sometimes criticizes me for?

I think the proposition that lower power SET is good and high-power solid-state is good but high-power tube is in the middle and this bad is ideological and not obviously logically or sonically valid.

David Wilson (now the Wilson family) still has high-power push-pull (VTL Siegfrieds) in the main listening room with the Master Chronosonics. By so doing was David compromising in the middle?

Was Andy Payor comprising in the middle when he used high-power push-pull on the Arrakis?

I really don’t understand on what you’re basing your proposition.

I would argue that high-power tubes is a fine and cosmopolitan compromise: some of the magic of tubes combined with some of the oomph of solid-state.

In any event you know how I feel for myself in my own system about solid-state. Show me a solid-state amp you like, and I will show you a hybrid amp or an all-tube amp I like the sound of better.
 
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bonzo75

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#12
That is a relief!

I agree — you do see SETs in a lot of systems. Which circles back to one of our other long-standing conundrums: Do you select the amplifier and then choose the speaker to match, or do you select the speaker and then choose the amplifier to match?

(I selected the speaker — and then i spent two years researching high-power SETs because I know I like SETs — but then chose the amplifier to match.)

I also wonder about the datapoint curve of of SET purity of sound plotted versus output power. In other words if the 3 watt Mayer 46 is at the purest end of the purity spectrum where do single tube 845/211 SET and then single tube 833 SET and then parallel SET and then push-pull amplifiers fall on the spectrum? Is a parallel SET (e.g., MasterSound PF100 litz edition) amp more pure sounding or less pure sounding than a single tube 833 (e.g., Wavac) or GM-100 (e.g., NAT Audio Magma New SE) amplifier? How “impure” has the sound become when you get to the other end of the spectrum with push-pull Class AB?

(I believe the General has auditioned virtually every tube amplifier available so he could probably plot the dots on this purity spectrum for us, or at least let us know if, in his experience, PSET is closer to SET or closer to push-pull Class AB, and how much purity you lose going from a 3w 46 to a 150 watt 833?)

This report rescussitates my interest in experimenting someday with high-power SET or PSET on the Pendragons.
Hi Ron, yes, he chose the type of amps and then the speaker. In some ways, he already knew he wanted a full range crossoverless speaker with the highest sensitivity possible, to drive it with 2a3 or 45. At some point he chases Thomas to produce a 46 amp for him. I believe he took a punt on the pnoe/AER based on its design, and then worked towards upgrading the Pnoe-Mayer combo. Readers should know there is another Pnoe, made in Greece, which is different sounding. This one is from Germany.

Regarding tubes - it depends on the speaker application. Most horns cannot be driven by SE 2a3 or 45s. Even by PSETs. So you need 211 or 845, and yes you would lose a bit of speed and nuance. I rotated some amps on the Universum, and then we put in the AN Empress 2a3 of 6w. This was sounding tonally the purest with greater speed and detail of the inflections, but unfortunately it was getting shrill every time the volume went up, and it could not do much else on that speaker - would be quite different if you put in on AN E or horns fp 10m, or of course the Pnoe. That said, I personally would never buy the AN E or the horns fp10/15 over the Universum and some other horns just because I could run lower wattage amps. It would then have to be this Pnoe. So yes lower wattage is the right direction but the speaker will drive how low you go, until you can find the right speaker for the lowest wattage amp, like the General did.

I recently compared the NAF 2a3 12w to Jadis integrated 100w, Silvercore 833c 20w, and a 550 valve 20w German amp - I preferred the NAF 2a3 the best. Yet I don't think NAF is a good 2a3 amp, but it was better than the other amps on the Orangutan O96. On the Lansche, the dynamic range was highly compressed with the NAF and the Jadis sounded the best. The Lansche did the best overall balance of bass and mids if you wanted consistency across LPs, but the Devores were just more transparent to the recordings and for me, more musical, and played best with NAF.

Wavac and NATs and KR are to be used for for applications where you want to drive cones with SETs - withthe right match it would be more pure than some other amps that can drive such cones, but there is no point comparing them to a 2w 2a3 amp as you just cannot do that comparison on the same speaker. But you will hear much more from the 2w on the Pnoe than you will with the 100w SET on an appropriate speaker. And I would buy that cone with the Wavac or NAT or KR instead of an AN E with a 2a3. So you have to go back and forth on a case by case basis.

I think Thomas himself makes 845 for higher powered requirements. I haven't heard that or the Wavac, but for cones I have heard the KR VA 200 sounding better than some SS. I will write a report on that later.

There could be exceptions of a freak ultralinear circuit with Pentodes sounding good somewhere, but these might exist on a highly modded DIY basis rather than the usual commercial stuff.
 

bonzo75

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#13
David Wilson (now the Wilson family) still has high-power push-pull (VTL Siegfrieds) in the main listening room with the Master Chronosonics. By so doing was David compromising in the middle?
Having heard VTL s450 with XLF, not something I would go close to.
 

Lagonda

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#14
Not distortions at all, Tang! Thank you for your thoughts.

But I’m not sure what you (and now, I see, Kedar) are talking about?

Aren’t you both doing the same kind of speculative theorizing that Kedar sometimes criticizes me for?

I think the proposition that lower power SET is good and high-power solid-state is good but high-power tube is in the middle and this bad is ideological and not obviously logically or sonically valid.

David Wilson (now the Wilson family) still has high-power push-pull (VTL Siegfrieds) in the main listening room with the Master Chronosonics. By so doing was David compromising in the middle?

Was Andy Payor comprising in the middle when he used high-power push-pull on the Arrakis?

I really don’t understand on what you’re basing your proposition.

I would argue that high-power tube is a fine and cosmopolitan compromise: some of the magic of tubes combined with some of the oomph of solid-state.

In any event you know how I feel for myself in my own system about solid-state. Show me a solid-state amp you like, and I will show you a hybrid amp or an all-tube amp I like the sound of better.
I have to ask again Ron, what was the amp you heard your speakers on in Denmark before buying? You must have liked the presentation. If not what
was lacking ?
 

bonzo75

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#15
Answers to some of Ron's queries



And how do you draw the indifference curve? If you pay up for good curated originals, but not the very best originals, what fraction of the purity magic do you achieve? - Good originals are very good. They should not have loads of noise or brightness

How would you compare the sound qualities of the General’s system to something like Tune Audio Avatons driven by amplifiers like the Trafomatic Elysium? What fraction of the purity magic you hear from the General’s system could you achieve from a more conventional horn/SET system? - General's is better. The Tune Audio Anima, because of the horn material, has a very good timbre. Actually there are a couple DIY horns with big 18 inch woofers, sometimes two for either speaker, in a Voice of Theatre big open front loaded horn configuration, that I love for midbass and bass. They play big powerful bass in the open vertical space like Apogees, with more efficiency and sensitivity. They cannot do nuance and highs as good as Pnoe, and I need to revisit them with some quality recordings. With CDs, I might prefer them. The reality is that all these sound very different from each other, and music taste and quality of software, apart from perference, will further influence choice. So I always recommend a horn tour. But, the problem with such a tour is, you will then fell you need to revisit the other speakers with what you have learned from listenong to the PNoes.

How does the bass information you hear from the General’s system compare to the “waves of bass” which so enthralled you from Henk’s Apogee Grands? - I have said before on the forum, someone should buy the Yamamura or the Pnoe and put them on one side of the room and Henk's Grands on the other - 40 to 50 feet length required. Same source, different amps

Would I be correct in assuming that the General does not go in for tweaks or fancy cables (which I assume he would consider to be impure additions)? - Well he has a Shun Mook rack and the big Shun mook thing between his speakers, with his bad suspended floor DIY speaker footers to reduce resonance, but yes to no fancy cables. Also he hasn't done room acoustics but he is building another room for better acoustics
 

kodomo

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Apr 26, 2017
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#16
This was a great and enjoyable read for me. I have the deepest respect for the general and the time and effort he puts on. He should have been on one of the chapters in Recording Angel by Evan Eisenberg, he would fit!

ps. If there is anyone who has somehow missed this book I refer to, then they are bound to read it!
 

Ron Resnick

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#17
Hi Ron, yes, he chose the type of amps and then the speaker. In some ways, he already knew he wanted a full range crossoverless speaker with the highest sensitivity possible, to drive it with 2a3 or 45. At some point he chases Thomas to produce a 46 amp for him. I believe he took a punt on the pnoe/AER based on its design, and then worked towards upgrading the Pnoe-Mayer combo. Readers should know there is another Pnoe, made in Greece, which is different sounding. This one is from Germany.

Regarding tubes - it depends on the speaker application. Most horns cannot be driven by SE 2a3 or 45s. Even by PSETs. So you need 211 or 845, and yes you would lose a bit of speed and nuance. I rotated some amps on the Universum, and then we put in the AN Empress 2a3 of 6w. This was sounding tonally the purest with greater speed and detail of the inflections, but unfortunately it was getting shrill every time the volume went up, and it could not do much else on that speaker - would be quite different if you put in on AN E or horns fp 10m, or of course the Pnoe. That said, I personally would never buy the AN E or the horns fp10/15 over the Universum and some other horns just because I could run lower wattage amps. It would then have to be this Pnoe. So yes lower wattage is the right direction but the speaker will drive how low you go, until you can find the right speaker for the lowest wattage amp, like the General did.

I recently compared the NAF 2a3 12w to Jadis integrated 100w, Silvercore 833c 20w, and a 550 valve 20w German amp - I preferred the NAF 2a3 the best. Yet I don't think NAF is a good 2a3 amp, but it was better than the other amps on the Orangutan O96. On the Lansche, the dynamic range was highly compressed with the NAF and the Jadis sounded the best. The Lansche did the best overall balance of bass and mids if you wanted consistency across LPs, but the Devores were just more transparent to the recordings and for me, more musical, and played best with NAF.

Wavac and NATs and KR are to be used for for applications where you want to drive cones with SETs - withthe right match it would be more pure than some other amps that can drive such cones, but there is no point comparing them to a 2w 2a3 amp as you just cannot do that comparison on the same speaker. But you will hear much more from the 2w on the Pnoe than you will with the 100w SET on an appropriate speaker. And I would buy that cone with the Wavac or NAT or KR instead of an AN E with a 2a3. So you have to go back and forth on a case by case basis.

I think Thomas himself makes 845 for higher powered requirements. I haven't heard that or the Wavac, but for cones I have heard the KR VA 200 sounding better than some SS. I will write a report on that later.

There could be exceptions of a freak ultralinear circuit with Pentodes sounding good somewhere, but these might exist on a highly modded DIY basis rather than the usual commercial stuff.
This all makes sense. Thank you.
 

Ron Resnick

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#18
Having heard VTL s450 with XLF, not something I would go close to.
That is totally fair enough. I consider David Wilson’s personal system a valid data point.

Thank you very much, Kedar, for all of the very thoughtful and detailed answers! I appreciate it!
 
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Ron Resnick

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#19
I have to ask again Ron, what was the amp you heard your speakers on in Denmark before buying? You must have liked the presentation. If not what
was lacking ?
Flemming was driving the Pendragon panels with a Mephisto stereo amp. Nothing was lacking. I thought it sounded great!

But I have always preferred high power tubes on panels (Magnepans, Martin-Logans, Genesis Technologies).
 
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bonzo75

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#20
Ron, is the VTL the only amp in the Wilson room or is this one of many?
 

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