Friday, December 22, 2017

Oyaide Armored Series IEC / AC Plugs

Introduction

Oyaide has just released a new line of AC and IEC plugs. It's been more than a decade since they launched their original lineup of premium AC and IEC plugs, so it is nice to see that they are not resting on their laurels.

The three model lineup consists of the AP/C-004, 037 and the 029. Sharp eyed readers will notice that two models models has been omitted, the 046 and 079. So, that leaves you with the two choices of plating, silver / rhodium, and platinum / palladium.

Here is a quick comparison table :-

Model  Blade Material       Plating

029      Brass                     None
037      Phosphor Bronze  Silver / Rhodium
004      Beryllium Copper  Platinum / Palladium

Oyaide and their local dealer X-Audio were kind enough to supply me with their new plugs, as well as the original versions for comparison purposes, and enough bulk cable (Oyaide Black Mamba V2) to hook everything up. Me old fingers will take a while to strip and terminate everything, so please be patient in the meantime.


Comparison of the armored AP-004 (top) with it's predecessor, the P-004
Teardown of the AP-004

A close-up view of the front housing

The new "floating" cable clamp
Cable clamp of the P-004

Rear housing




AP-004 (left) vs P-004 

Initial Impressions

Readers expecting the new plugs to be massive machined pieces like some of the competition out there will be sorely disappointed. Weight wise, there isn't any noticeable difference. The AP-004 weighed in at 65 grams vs 60 grams for the P-004.

Visually, the star-shaped terminal clamp is much thicker. The three piece body also feels more sturdy, with the pressure exerted by the screws more evenly distributed. Both the front and rear screws are secured through the metal insert in the midsection. A quick test with a multi-meter confirms that the plugs when assembled, the screws are fully conductive from rear to front screw. The next surprise is that the plastic body is conductive too. A quick check on Oyaide's website confirms that the polycarbonate is actually metal film deposit infused. It is not connected to protective earth though.  

A big thumbs-up goes to the "floating" cable clamp. The previous design had an annoying habit of pushing the cable off-center, and putting unnecessary pressure on the cable and weakening the mechanical connection between the star-shaped terminal clamp and the bare wires. I never really tightened down the cable clamp on the old design for that reason. The new cable clamp "floats" and is therefore self-centering.

You may also notice that the cut-outs for accessing the terminal clamp are larger now, and the clearly labelled as Earth, Live and Neutral. Hardcore DIYers have such information etched into their brain and can recite this in their sleep, but it is a nice touch nonetheless. Even nicer is the supplied instruction manual that is so detailed that it lists maximum torque for tightening each screw, and even recommended screwdriver sizes and brands. You really can't get more detailed than that !

004

Luckily for users, the double "0" does not refer to a licence to kill - we all want to enjoy our hobby for many years to come. The original 004 was a bit polarising, you either loved it or hated it, thanks to an extremely unforgiving level of resolution coupled with a slightly cool / analytical tone.

The AP/C-004 on the other hand is a much more likable plug. It does not sound drastically different from the P/C-004 but improves on it's resolving and focussed character. The Armoured plugs go deeper and tighter in bass notes, while mid-bass has a subtle sweetness and fullness. This was very obvious on the Oyaide Black Mamba V2, but not so obvious on the Acrolink 4030 Anniversario power cord. Midrange has a softer and gentler character, while high frequencies are both neater and more refined. I always considered the P/C-004 to be a poster child for neatness - very tidy imaging and soundstaging - everything being neat and stable. However, the Armoured plugs just go that extra mile and bring noticeable improvements in those areas !

It's difficult going back to the P/C-004 after hearing the benefits of the Armoured plugs. Well worth the extra expense in my opinion.

M1 / F1 dethroned ?

Does this mean that the M1 / F1 is no longer the king of the Oyaide castle ? Surely, Oyaide will have a new and improved version of the M1 / F1 soon ? Curiosity never did kill this cat, so I decided to terminate some Mamba cable with my personal set of M1 / F1 plugs.        

To be continued ...

Friday, November 10, 2017

USB Cable Length Test

Have you ever wondered what are the effects of your USB cable length on sonics ? Let's find out.



I assembled three audiophile USB cables in different lengths.

1. Curious Cable (1.2m and 0.2m)
2. Wireworld Platinum Starlight Series 6 (2m and 5m)
3. Blackcat Cable Indigo Prototype (1m and 0.5m)

Since my Melco NAS is placed a distance away from my DAC, I tested the Curious Cable and Blackcat Cable Indigo Prototype by hooking up my Melco NAS via a 2m WIreworld Platinum Starlight Series 2m cable to a SOtM tx-USBultra USB hub / regenerator, and then the cable in question to my Totaldac DAC.

For the Wireworld, both cables were long enough to reach my DAC, and I ran the cables directly from the NAS to DAC (the Melco has a USB port).

Listening to the various cables on test, it was hard to believe that length had such a great effect - not quite the results I was expecting.

In the case of the Curious Cable, the 0.2m cable had drier and smaller images, while the 1.2m had a fuller sound with the dimensionality that I liked so much from this cable. Coming to the Blackcat, the short tailed cat had a leaner tonality with a sharper leading edge, while the long tailed cat had a more relaxed sound and a subtly sweeter tone. Both cats were highly detailed and were equally resolving.The Wireworld had the most stark difference - the 5 m Wireworld could be described better as "Waterworld", with a rather vague and watery tone. The 2m Wireworld had it's feet planted firmly on solid ground, with a solid and punchy tone. In all cases, the shorter cables had a closer soundstage presentation compared to their longer twin.

These kind of tests are by no means scientific, but I felt that the shorter cables had a greater sense of immediacy and edge, while the longer cables tended to emphasize the characteristic of the cable itself. In the case of extremely long USB cables, I did not like the effect at all, with the sound becoming too distant and vague. So folks, we have been getting wrong all along - length matters !






Monday, October 9, 2017

Press Release - Nagra HD Preamp

Audio Technology Switzerland is proud to announce it is releasing its most ambitious preamplifier ever: the new NAGRA HD PREAMP.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Denver, USA - Friday the 6th October 2017. The Swiss company announces it is releasing a new preamplifier to compliment the HD range, that will be simply called the HD PREAMP.  

Nagra is demonstrating the new HD PREAMP at the RMAF in room 1030.
_________________________________________________________________________

World announcement of the NAGRA HD PREAMP, almost twenty years after the NAGRA PL-P preamplifier was released on the high-end market.

In 1998, NAGRA Audio division introduced its very first high-end consumer product after more than 40 years of continuous success in the professional recording market. The PL-P preamplifier was a class A triode-based line and phono preamplifier that immediately set new standards in sound reproduction.

In many ways, the HD PREAMP’s design started from a white page. Every aspect and step in the design process involved research to find the most elegant solution to accurately and faithfully convey the music from your sources to the amplifier. As a result, the HD PREAMP includes several patent pending technologies that are taking the music listening experience to new height.

Nagra unique approach to designing audio products takes advantage of 65 years of experience in the field, a large and skilled R&D group as well as extensive listening sessions; the result is often very organic and natural sounding. In order for the final product to be faithful to the theoretical work, custom made high-end components are carefully selected. The unit includes in-house custom-made components like audio transformers.

The volume control is a patent pending technology that allows perfect level matching with a much more transparent sound compared to potentiometers and switch resistor technology, because there is no attenuation of the input signal, just an automatic selection of a tap on the Nagra custom output transformers.

As expected with such high quality electronics, the sophisticated power supply will be located in a separate chassis. Like the audio circuit, it uses utmost quality components that are specified for extreme applications. Very much like the PL-P made use of batteries to isolate the unit from external interferences, the HD PREAMP’s power supply uses a unique virtual battery technology that offer superior result to a conventional battery, without the inconvenience of dealing with charging time and battery life. Consequently, the noise floor level at the preamplifier reaches uncharted territories; it is the lowest ever measured with a NAGRA product (See attached).

The construction of the chassis of the HD PREAMP and its power supply gets rid of the influence of external disturbances (vibration and electrical) and drastically reduces proper resonances. As a result, the HD PREAMP promises to set new standards for preamplification as did the PL-P twenty years ago.
First units will be delivered by the end of November. The suggested retail price list in the USA is 59’500 US$.


Contact
Matthieu Latour, Marketing Director, matthieu.latour@nagraaudio.com

About ATS - Audio Technology Switzerland
Founded in 1951 by Stefan Kudelski, NAGRA has been designing some of the most influencing equipment in the audio industry. From the Oscar ® Awards winning NAGRA professional tape recorders to the rewarded NAGRA HD electronics, the company has continuously perpetuated the utmost excellence in electronics design and manufacturing. In 2012, Audio Technology Switzerland S.A. formerly Nagra Audio division is created. Still largely owned by the Kudelski family, Audio Technology Switzerland designs, manufactures and market NAGRA professional, high-end audio and security products. It is continuing the tradition of sophistication and originality that has established the prestige of the NAGRA brand all around the world for over 60 years.








By the way guys, if that didn't get you all excited, you should get professional help from your nearest audio clinic or dare I say, Nagra dealer.