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Jul 20 2013

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DENON DCD 1450A – modified

Top view - tube side ...

Top view – tube side …

DENON DCD 1450A  modification – A major  modification and rework …

… has just been completed, for a friend of mine.  I consulted my friend, who obviously has a DIY inclination, but is only just learning, on how to conduct a major rework of a factory grade DENON 1450 A   compact disc player.

The rework has proven to be a complete success.  He is now sitting and enjoying the new sound, which has not too much in common with the “original” Denon sound, that you get “out of the box”.

As it appears that the results are satisfactory, we came to the conclusion that it may be worthy to write about these modifications, just in case you are interested.   As soon as I get some nice photos from the happy owner of the

DENON DCD 1450 A  MK II ZJJ_WWA signature  {  ;)   }  – I will return back to you with a detailed photo – report on how we turned that feeble 7,5 kilograms of a CD player into a 15+ kilograms BEAST.

 

Top / front view - a miniature power plant visible on the left ...

Top / front view – a miniature power plant visible on the left …

Top view - central / front

Top view – central / front

The right hand side view - tubed section

The right hand side view – tubed section

 

OK, so here they come … I guess that I shall let the photos do most of the talking.  Let me get them uploaded first, then I will add some explanations in the captions under the drawings, … and then I will tell you the whole story …

 

.. As they come from the factory,  prior to the rework project

.. As they come from the factory, prior to the rework project

Disassembly of the modules ...

Disassembly of the modules …

.. nearly empty ...

.. nearly empty …

... some damping goes inside - let's get rid of those vibrations ...

… some damping goes inside – let’s get rid of those vibrations …

... some more damping ...

… some more damping …

... yet some more damping

… yet some more damping

... putting back the modules ...

… putting back the modules …

... putting back some more of the modules ...

… putting back some more of the modules …

... Damping project "finished" ...

… Damping project “finished” …

 

Ok, so the story is as follows.  This friend of mine, who lives hundreds of miles from where I live, starts a private discussion on the “upgrade project” that he has implemented by himself, the results of which are presented above …
This friend of mine is only just starting his adventure with DIY and audio, and has chosen the route of putting “damping” material into the chassis, as such a strategy is supposed to enhance the quality of the player’s sound.

OK, I say, each and every little bit helps, I respond to that … But did you actually look into the schematics of this device ? Electrically like ?  Maybe there are some things that can be done from the ‘electrical’ side – kind of like modifying the ‘circuits’ ?

Well, Ok, yes, he admits, He was thinking about adding a tube buffer module for the analog output side of the DAC chips that sit inside the the device. From word to word, it turned out that soon afterwards I was building, powering-up, testing, and finally shipping such a ready “tube buffer” subassembly to my friend.

I genuinely thought, that this is the end of “this adventure” … Boy !  Was I wrong.  It only just begun.

Soon after the delivery of the package to the addressee, it was a natural thing for me to inquire about how are things proceeding. A little consultancy here and there, regarding the topic of “where to mount the modules” and “how to electrically connect them”.  A natural thing.  As we were discussing the issue of “where to steel” the signal from the DAC chips, so as to route it to the tubed buffer, it turned out that we need a detailed service schematic of the device, which we luckily found on the web. After looking at the schematic in search for the “signal snatching” points, I made the observation that someone in the organization was very actively limiting the ambitions of the DENON engineers in their efforts to create this device correctly. The hands of Mr. Cost Optimizing  were to be observed … here … there …. EVERYWHERE !!!!
Before you go any further, please be aware that I have a high regard for this machine, which was most probably conceived as a “cut-down” version, so as to fit the concept of a low budget, “entry level product” market positioning strategy. But still ….

Boy, Was I astonished when I looked into that service manual.  Imagine:  The analog side of the DAC chips is fed from exactly the same rectifier and central set of capacitors, as the DIGITAL  (i.e. NOISY) side of the DAC chips, as these have (or should have, to put it in clear text!) a totally separate, “DIRTY” set of power supply lines.   Ok, technically, we are speaking about a set of symmetrical supply lines, providing +5VDC, Common, and -5V.  I treat all three of them as a “supply route”.

So, imagine the blessed finance department’s ruling, that we need to make significant savings …

We shall save ONE US Dollar and reduce the amount of rectifying bridges used, by ONE piece..
We shall save ONE US Dollar and reduce the amount of filtering capacitors used, by TWO pieces …
We shall save ONE HALF of a US Dollar and reduce the number of secondary windings available in our custom made to order power supply transformer.

The result of these savings, is that the factory grade equipment had:

ONE and the SAME transformer winding that powers the digital supply route of the DAC, as well as a fair portion of other digital circuits, and THIS VERY SAME winding is used to power the analog supply route for the DAC chips. You do not need to be Einstein to feel, that HEY !! Something stinks here. Something here is terribly wrong !

Another result of the happy-go-lucky savings, as conducted (presumably) by the finance optimizing staff of the manufacturer, is that they use the SAME rectifier and the SAME smoothing filter capacitors for both of the digital and analog supply paths of the DAC.   Commentary – same as above (something “stinks”).

Now, OK, it can be argumented, that Hey, but there are these very cute sets of voltage regulators, which split off separately to the digital path and then separately to the analog path of power supply routes … that the regulators suffice to “separate” the CLEAN Analog Power supply paths, as used by the analog part of the DAC and the (cheap) op-amps, from the MEAN, NOISY and UGLY digital Power supply paths.

NOT TRUE.

Voltage Regulators have this tendency, that at reasonably low frequencies, they are very effective in terms of separating the regulators output and the regulators input from “noise” – passing in either direction. BUT,  with increasing frequency of the noise, the voltage regulator gradually looses this ability.  Up to a certain point, where it becomes TOTALLY transparent to any and all high frequency noise.

Noise, such as that generated by the multitude of digital chips that are powered from the digital power feed path of the device … And believe me, these fast switching digital chips generate load transients, that really have some nasty harmonics, ones that span high up into the range, where they freely penetrate the voltage regulator and go wherever they wish.  And they go to the analog side power suppy paths. Why ?  Because they CAN !!!!

Maybe, just maybe, if the bookie had not made an extra dollar saving on some of those smaller, suppression capacitors, shunt capacitors that are parallel to those electrolytic that they gave, good quality, polypropylene or polystyrene capacitors of say 0,1 uF,  then this digital noise would not penetrate so freely and in such vast quantities from the digital to the analog domains ….

But unfortunately, he DID make the saving. The ONE dollar saving. You ask how do I KNOW ?

That is simple. You look at the printed circuit board, as it comes from the proud factory, and you see that the engineers have made a desperate and diligent effort – they have even designed the PCB so as to PUT THOSE small little suppression capacitors in.  But, unfortunately, somebody said NO.  We shall NOT spend our valuable extra dollar, (cost-wise) in order to put them in.  So, the factory grade product has HOLES and DRAWINGS of the missing components. Everything is ready. But the components are …. missing.

So, … How can we deal with the challenges as described above ?  We can do it in two ways.

a). the SIMPLE thing would be to make an investment of a value of say, FIVE US dollars, purchase ONE extra rectifier  bridge, two extra electrolytic, a handful of those suppression 0,1uF/63 foil capacitors, snatch some AC directly from the secondary of the existing transformer (i.e. the one that is and would remain common for both digital and analog domains) … make a small little rectifier / filter board, provide some fairly clean power to the analog regulators, separate them from the noisy digital domain central capacitors … and be done with it. EASY.

But … since we are going into such a major rework effort, so why not push the idea into extremes ?

So that is exactly what we did.  The fourth drawing below shows a place that we found within the standard Denon voltage regulator board, where we cut off the digital and analog domains.  Hence – the analog part of the DENON is now totally without power. We need do provide the DENON DCD 1450A with a totally SEPARATE power, symmetrical, +/- 9V against an ANALOG common, which is totally separate from the DIGITAL common (not the case with factory grade Denon).

How do we accomplish this ?  We build a totally independent, clean and SILENT, analog power suppy path.

 

... insertion of the torroid that powers the tube buffer ...

… insertion of the toroid that powers the tube buffer …

insertion of a isolation sheet between toroid and the tube buffer rectifier and filter subassembly ...

insertion of a isolation sheet between toroid and the tube buffer rectifier and filter subassembly …

... the power circuits for the tube subassembly are now ready (on the left)

… the power circuits for the tube subassembly are now ready (on the left)

Here we shall feed in our independent, CLEAN power supply for the analog side power supply lines for the PCM dac chips.

Here we shall feed in our independent, CLEAN power supply for the analog side power supply lines for the PCM dac chips.

 

Ok, so on the picture above, we pinpointed (in red) a place, where we need to feed external power. Clean power. From a totally different world. We need to build it. But how is it supposed to look like ?   Well, that was the major question from my friend with this CD player, a few hundred kilometers from where I live … Now, I have a dilemma.  Should I sent him the “ready” schematic, and ask him to build it with no indepth analysis as to how it works et al ? Or, … maybe for the sake of the safety of his CD device, maybe I should “push” him a little bit so that he designs this power supply by himself ?  I chose the second option, which I could control and verify.  After several verification rounds and intensive discussions, my not-so-deep-in-electronics friend came up with this final design, which you shall find below.

PLEASE !!!!!!   Do NOT laugh.

This design outperforms the original design of what is inside of that Denon by a high margin !!!
Please bear in mind that this friend of mine is NOT in electronics.  (well, at least then he wasn’t :)   )

 

zasilanie 9V s

The NEW, totally independent analog supply for the analog supply path … (!!!)

zasilanie miejsce podpieca zasilacza s

… the red lines is the SAMURAI’s cut that separates the “ugly” digital supply domain from the “gentle” analog path, i.e. the one that we now shall take special care of …

 

So, In a nutshell, we cut off the whole analog domain from the existing power supply. We cut off the “plus 9V”.  We cut off the “minus 9V”.  BUT … !!!

Last but not least, or even most of all, we cut off the COMMONS line that is exactly in between them.  Then we proceed with feeding in the lines from a separate “equivalent” supply, totally a new creation of my friends totally independent, “own” design – a fact that is obvious when we look at the design.

Some photos below show the actual DIY module – the “remote” creation of my “remote” friend, and how it is all fitted nicely into the device …

 

The independent analog power supply module

The independent analog power supply module

... the analog power supply module is fitted to the back side wall of the device ...

… the analog power supply module is fitted to the back side wall of the device …

As can be seen, the module is a smart little DIY assembly, the very first electronic creation of a person, who had little or no contact with “electronics” per se.   It is smart, because it is “integrated” with it’s transformer, and the latter has a nice mounting frame, to be secured by two screws. These two screws are used to support both the transformer, as well as the whole module that is accompanying it. Cute.

 

the relocated DENON transformer (left) and the added new analog power supply module (right)

the relocated DENON transformer (left) and the added new analog power supply module (right)

 

Oh, by the way, did I mention the problem of physical lack of SPACE ?   Of sheer volume that is available within that chassis so as to “fit everything in” ? You have probably noticed earlier, that the toroid transformer for the tubes section went “underneath” the rectifier-filter block for the tube section, which went “on top” of it. You have probably also noticed, that this space was previously “occupied” by the original DENON mains transformer, which unfortunately had to be moved from this location. It has been fitted to the corner of the back wall of the device. Just adjacent to that, my friend has fitted his own module. Space is now very limited.

Regardless of the limited space, you can see that the whole device is clearly divided into a “dirty” section, to the left, where all the “power supply” aspects , or sub-assemblies reside, and the right hand side of the device, where the “clean” signal processing electronics are housed.   We arranged the mounting of our additional building blocks in such a manner, that this general subdivision of functions remains maintained.

A word needs to be said about the tube buffer. The preferred topology of the buffer stage has been suggested by my friend: a Common Cathode triode voltage amplifier stage, that is directly coupled with a Common Anode follower, so as to hammer down the output impedance.

A fairly straightforward tube stage configuration, powered off from 170VDC or so, without any High Voltage regulation, but with some very heavy filtering.  My two favorite rules apply here: Brutal Force and the Keep-It-Simple-and-Stupid principle (“KISS”). Sometimes it pays off simply NOT to complicate circuits. The less finesse they are, there less there is that can break down. At turn-off, the anode voltage is taken off from the tubes, via a small little relay.

At the same time, the same relay drops off all the energy stored in those giant filter caps of mine (dual mono: 2 x 4500 uF / 250V ), so that they don’t kill someone that starts poking around the insides of cabinet shortly after the mains cable is disconnected from the wall socket.

The tubes used are of the Bungle Boy variety, and they provide a sound that is pleasing to my friend.   He actually rolled over a few kinds of the E88CC similar tubes, but kept returning back to the Bungle Boy.

Now, as far as my personal tastes apply, I would have used a totally different topology for this stage, the Shunt Regulated Push-Pull, one that has it’s drawback’s and issues in terms of output impedance and interactions with the “load”, but at the same time, one that is so linear and wide band, up to very high frequencies even, that all the other topologies are far behind.

On the photos below you see that the tube stages are mounted on the right side of the device, the “silent” side, far away from the high power circuits of all the voltage supplies. The stages are mounted to a thick piece of metal “wall” – one specially prepared for this purpose by my friend.  It just so happens that this wall also serves the purpose of screening the “tube” area from the noisy left hand side area.

Output capacitors from the tube stages were left to the discretion of my friend’s personal tastes.  For the sake of completeness, I provided him with a decent compilation of a mix of parallel connected:  ERO Roederstein, MKP, the 1839 series, of about 4,7 uF;   An ex-military metal cased Polish capacitor, of the Paper-In-Oil type, of about 1uF; Additionally space was provided for a Jantzen Superior Z-Cap (red series) of something like 2,2 uF, that my friend had laying around.

Oh, by the way. Since we have a tube stage, we obviously need to provide it with some signal. We stole the signal directly from the DAC chip outputs.  These are the chips of the type PCM1702P-L.  These chips are equipped with a current source output type.  So, we need to disconnect any and all opamps that follow this chip, take the current and conduct a passive conversion of the current into voltage, using special quality conversion resistors.

If you want high quality resistors, you have to make them yourself.  Not going into the details, let’s just wrap this one up with the following statement: a graphite rod of a fairly high cross section exhibits low noise, due to the low density of current flowing through it’s cross section.

It is of a very low inductance, due to the fact that it is a straight piece of rod, with no “coils” cut on its surface, or similar misunderstandings.  It is of fairly high mass, so that it is very competent in terms of power handling (even high power, to be precise). Here, we do not need high power, but we DO need the comfort of a constant temperature of the resistor, a temperature that does not fluctuate to the rhythm of the bass guitar, for example.

If you happen to live in the Czech Republic, than you are a very lucky person, because you have the production facility, producing those graphite rods at hand, so they are cheap and plentiful.    The following diagram show the exact place, where we “steel” the signal from the DAC chips, as well as the place where we “cut off” all the legacy, cheap, silicon (yuk!) op-amps that used to “do” something with the sound, prior it even had a chance of reaching the sunlight of the Ouput RCA Jacks.

 

... the analog power supply module is fitted to the back side wall of the device ...

… the analog power supply module is fitted to the back side wall of the device …

DSC_1671 s

.. a view of the tube buffer modules, as mounted on the “partition wall” …

DSC_1670 s

The tube buffers – once again …

DSC_1689 s

The tubes – yet again

DSC_1640 sThe screening partition, separating the dirty “left” side from the clean “right” side of the device. At the same time, this wall serves as support for the tube buffer modules

 The power supply voltage regulator PCB “upgrade”

A word needs be appended on the subject of ‘factory grade’ electrolytic capacitors.  Obviously, they were potential culprits, guilty of the way that the factory grade sound sounded.  The majority of the electrolytic in the “Denon” digital supply paths has been replaced with ELNA Silmic’s – just for the sake of feeling more comfortable when you look at the module. Besides, all of the significant electrolytic capacitors have been additionally bypassed, as can be seen on one of the photos, with the small little red WIMA MKS, MKS2, or  MKS4 polystyrene foil capacitors.  Small values, something like in the range of 10nF ~100nF, that can easily fit from the PCB’s back side, soldered directly to the Silmic electrolytic capacitors that were being inserted in place of the older ones. My friend purposefully cut their wires a tad longer, so as to gain comfortable “soldering posts” for the red WIMA darlings. These little red WIMA add-ons turn the ELNA Silmic Capacitors into “Super Capacitors” – capable of shunting noise signals, ranging up to very high frequencies. The overall effect – the whole power supply subsystem is not as noisy as it used to be.

Needless to say, it is a good practice to shunt high frequency noise on EACH AND EVERY SINGLE digital chip within the device, providing a direct shunt (the red WIMA’s) between the power supply pin of the IC and the commons connection pin of the IC.   Provide special attention so as to keep the length of these connections AS SHORT as POSSIBLE.

Regarding the “Jitter” department.  We decided, that as this is only but a “begginers” project, we shall not do any major fiddling with external clocks, etc.  BUT, we did one major improvement in this department.  There is this chip which controls the oscillations of the quartz that is responsible for supplying a clock for the whole digital domain of the DENON CD player.  The quality of this quartz is crucial for the quality and stability of the clock.

So, needless to say, we changed the small feeble looking quartz, in to one of those that Lukasz Fikus recommended time and again: a good old Polish OMIG Quartz.  It is sort of big.  Big as a barn. But it is good.   The chip that controls the oscillations of the quartz has enjoyed some extra special care from our side, specifically in the power decoupling and Hi frequency shunting of the power supply pins department.

Now, just a comment of the other photos you see below:

A front side view of the Denon is presented.  You can see that it’s guts are almost “spilling out” – due to the limited space available for DIY expansion with that cabinet.

A “Collage” – This artwork is a conceptual representation, or summary, of the major things that have been modified within the device.

 

opamps  s

… these are the places where we “stole” the signal …

 

DSC_1696 lampy w pracy1 s

… you can see that the tubes really glow …

 

An artistic representation, as delivered by the happy owner, of the main areas of modifications …

 

… just started exchanging those electrolytic caps, and using their long feet as support for the small bypass WIMA caps …

 

.. two extra openings from the back side. Two new RCA connectors – the tube buffer output’s…

 The sound ….

Here I will just paste, for your information, a translation of the email that I received from my friend – who has just had a few hours experience of listening to the newly rebuild Denon.

“… I owe you a general report on the sound of the modified Denon. So the first modification, comprising of the insertion of the tubes buffer – this alone caused the device to “sing” at least twice as better than the original factory grade device. I wrote to  you before what has changed, but to recap – the overall improvement of sound was great. The unit played a little this weekend, but then I proceeded and replaced the capacitors around the DAC chips, I inserted the Elna SILMIC capacitors, and then added the totally independent +/-9V power supply, pre-regulated, to be fed into the +/-5V analog regulators. The improvement was immediately audible, but much less of an impact, than the sheer shock after the “surgery” with the insertion of the tubes.

Now, proceeding forward, I also changed all the rectifier diodes, to better quality, fast, schottky ones, the whole power conditioning section has been cap-upgraded, except for the digital section. I put in the by-pass shunt capacitors, the small WIMA ones, put them in in several places, and then got rid of the op-amps, by separating their power supply pins from the supply lines. As a pure aesthetics add-on, I corrected certain aspects of the spatial installation, the way some cables / paths are routed, the commons, etc. I made additional dividers so as to “split” the commons / ground connections, so that they are routes as per the “star” concept. Respectfully I tightly twisted all the AC cables, put in screened coax here and there, Cut the cables so that their lengths are just enougth to reach their destinations, with no slack, but frankly speaking – I was only playing around at this stage. For me, it was only but just “cosmetic” changes. I would have sworn that these changes, in theory, should have proven to deliver the lowest impact in comparison to all earlier rework conducted thus far.

I was expecting a rather small changes in the sound. But Boy! Was I astonished!

The effect exceeded my expectations – the sound improved in almost every aspect and not by just a small placebo amount. The change was MEANINGFUL.  First: the stereophony – lots more into the breadth of the sound, and the depth of the sound scene. More than that, the sound “breaks away” from the speakers and fills the entire room. The “disappearing speakers” effect, about which I thus far heard about, but couldn’t actually “hear” it.

You can hear a lot more detail. For example, I have an album recorded by an amateur, who is  playing gongs and percussions – I use this recording regularily, whenever I want to test the check the reality of the percussion drums, plates, the sustained vibrations, etc. I let this recording play, and suddenly I hear that before every single beat of those gongs, that you can hear the sound of the actual friction of the guy’s shirt sleeve against the instrument, just prior to impact! The recording conditions were in a basement somewhere, a less than perfect studio, so to say, so it is not surprising for me that such an imperfection of the recording has actually registered, but, I must admint, I have never heard this small little sound before. In fact, if not for one minor drawback of the “new” sound – I would be perfectly content and stop looking for anything further. Unfortunately, as far as it concerns the electric guitars, which is great,  and the male vocals are good, the female vocal are just a bit hissing. As soon as the lady utters a word with the letter “s” is immediately obvious, that this “s” is slightly highlighted.

But then again: relax, I say to myself. It is only just a few hours of burning in, the caps and all, so during the next 100 hours or so it is bound to change to the better.

I tried different variations of the tube “make”, trying to remove the hiss for the time being. Surprisingly, improvements could be herd by replacing the Bugle Boy’s with a TESLA. I would have thought that a Tesla tube is inferior to a Bugle Boy, in every respect.

Meanwhile the hiss has dissapeared (probably masked only). The differences are not large, but I guess that the Tesla is something like 10% worse in overall, about 50% worse when it comes to bass control, and about 30% when it comes to the “flavors”, such as the sounds from the background, decay, etc. But for now, I am happily burning the device in while listening on the Tesla’s, and the overall cummulative effect, the scope of change as in comparison to what I “had” before is simply devastating.  Besides, for Bass – I do not care so much, especially with the type of music that I listen to:  Dylan / Kaczmarski, some classical stuff, rock occasionally, King Crimson, etc.).

I also played around a while with the output capacitors ( I prepared special cap-rolling posts, something like 5 cm long, so as to have easy access and ease of experimenting, so now I can change them without unscrewing anything – in less than 10 seconds). The Jantzen capacitors faired worst.  The Polish Miflex brand – weak. After testing a few variations and combinations I ended up with 2.2uF ERO  Roederstein MKP, 1839 series.  These sound quite well. Perhaps, when paired with the ex-army Paper-In-Oil stuff, they play even better …  much more fun, but then the sss sounds start to be noticeable.

I then went into the effort of replacing the “normal” resistors, acting as current-to-voltage conversion, into those graphite pencil ones – my highest regards for that one – the sound changed yet again, the hissing subdued by a major margin (50%?)

So finally, now I am listening to the TESLA tubes, using ERO capacitors, and the pencil conversion resistors – there is virtually no hiss. After the unit burns in for a few tens of hours – I shall then return to those Bungle Boys.

Anyways, I am quite startled, that the unit started playing so good straght after switching it on. That was not the case when it came to my tube amplifier. The first two weeks of playing of my newly purchased tube amplifier – it sounded like crap. No bass at all (I even already talked to the reseller and complained about it). The lack of bass was so great that even the membrane of the woofer speaker seemed to not move at all – even after the amp was burning in for some 15 hours. Only after two weeks did it sort of open up, or warm up, and the bass “appeared”. It’s such an eye opener. I myself was a witness, that there is no merit to the claims of those saying, that there is no such thing as “burning in of capacitors”. I heard it. If they believe that it is just a purec placebo, with the ears getting used to the “new sound”, so be it. That is their belief and their problem

…”

( 3 hours pass by ) …

“Wow !” …  he screams into the telephone. He actually got rid of the hissing sibilants. It turned out that the problem was not in the Denon, (well, partly), but formerly in the high voltage rectifier of his tube amp.   After applying the high voltage capacitors in parallel to each diode of the rectifier bridges, the problem completely disappeared. He simply forgot to take care of this item, although I signaled it to him somewhere along the way.   A similar treatment was instantly applied to the diodes within the Denon ( all the rectifiers ) … and the problem simply disappeared.

The small little red WIMA caps soldered straight on top of all of the rectifier diodes - and I rest my case.

The small little red WIMA caps soldered straight on top of all of the rectifier diodes – and I rest my case.

Now he is back to his beloved Bungle Boy tubes, and it seems that they will now live happily ever after …

…. for a while at least.
Regards,

zjj_wwa

 

 

 

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