SINGularity

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SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-22 03:05

OK, so the cat's out of the bag after Thomas O'Keefe's clips in the playground thread.

Early next year, I will release my first MC stage. The project started in 2011, when I tested an idea I had of an extremely sensitive linear input stage - the first circuit that the signal from the MC cartridge meets and therefore the most crucial part for the overall quality of any phono pre amplifier. And for vinyl listeners, the second most important part of the HiFi system after the turntable itself.

I didn't have the necessary skills and knowledge back then to complete the original design, which was put on the shelf in 2012, after many failed attempts at filtering out faint radio signals that could sneak in through the tonearm leads. I did various attempts in the next couple of years, but the very high gain input stage lost its musical magic whenever I got it completely quiet.

In 2016, I had learned some new tricks and felt certain I could tame the beast. The first public demonstration of a Slipsik-sized MC unit with the super high gain input stage was played at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in 2017, where it raised quite a few eyebrows and was frequently and favorably compared to a well established LP12-specific MC stage.

I had already made other plans, however. In the lab back in Uppsala were several machined-from-solid pure copper cases being tested. Machining copper blocks is a pain - one needs to do it very slowly because the copper acts like a chewing gum when it's being cut, breaking the tool if it moves too fast, and this makes it very expensive. The copper also needs to be of the highest possible purity, which required some research and the vital assistance of a friendly metal distributor. I also found a skilled partner who didn't consider me crazy and was willing to manufacture the prototypes. We made thin walls, thick walls, ridges and crosses and braces in various positions - all of which sounded considerably different. We also did the case in few big parts and many small, screwed together with torques being optimized by listening. It turned out that the optimal solution is to cut the entire bottom out of one piece and then add only front panel, back panel and lid. And the parts need to be tensioned against one another so that the finished case rings like a bell in a single true tone. Then when you add the main board, two power supplies and place it on its feet, it should ring with a sweet and slightly damped tone.

While I was working on the cases - did I mention they became two, in Mono, as this was superior to having both channels in the same box? - my intern Måns was measuring and selecting every electrical component in the circuit and arranging them in labeled bags. For many months! I then listen to every combination of these selected variations to find the most musical combination. On a few components, we were lucky to find that the main value, of which there were plenty, was optimal. On others it turned out that fringe values were the best. The most extreme case is where he only found 12 specimen out of 1000 measured. Luckily only one is needed for each main board, so we have enough to make six pairs of SINGularity out of those 1000. The second most extreme was 24 out of 1000, again luckily only one per main board. Etcetera.

When my first pair was completed and tested - I had a lot of fun going through my record collection at home, finding in particular those records where I thought only one song was really good to be impossible not to listen all the way through to the end - I had only the exterior finish of a rather brutal looking pair of half width (standing side by side with 1 cm in between they are as wide and high as one Sagatun or Tundra) copper boxes to take care of. After trying various finishes made by two different companies, I found a man who could blast the pieces with the finest glass particles until they get a matte, satin copper finish. They look absolutely stunning, like nothing I have seen before, in this finish. Being copper, they will slowly darken with age and need to be handled with supplied cotton gloves at all times. It's possible to polish them and I ordered and tested every copper polish product I was able to find. The best one is supplied, but my advice is not to use it unless absolutely necessary - it's quite a procedure.

I sent Thomas my first pair for evaluation and they have just returned to the lab. His raving texts have convinced me they're ready for release. SINGularity is made to order only and it might take a while as they are a challenge to build - it takes weeks just to complete the boards. The electronics are hand soldered by me, with temperatures optimized for each component. The input stage is tuned for the final working temperature inside the closed case, which is reached a couple of hours after switch on. Cartridge load can be fine tuned to almost any value with the help of a qualified retailer - after the optimal values are found by ear using switches, the chosen components are moved and soldered at the input. For some cartridges we have already established the optimal load, so tuning by ear then becomes unnecessary.

SINGularity will cost approximately SEK 180 000, USD 20 000, EUR 18 000, GBP 16 000 per channel. You need two for stereo.

Despite the length of this post, I've probably forgotten to mention a fair number of details. But I will of course be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by maffe » 2018-12-22 08:22

Love to see some pictures of this pieces of art?
Any demos booked?

Merry Christmas!

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Re: SINGularity

Post by sunbeamgls » 2018-12-22 14:43

Sounds like a lot of thorough work Fredrik. For the lucky few to enjoy.
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Re: SINGularity

Post by HIDDENSYSTEMS » 2018-12-22 20:47

Are are Mr Bond - raised the numbers :-0

https://youtu.be/H9fyOFefirQ

I wish you well and sounds like an epic journey
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Re: SINGularity

Post by Matteo » 2018-12-22 23:20

Congratulations Fredrik

M
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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-22 23:23

Congratulations Fredrik,
according to Source First the right phono stage for an Uber-LP12.
But where is it?

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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-23 11:43

maffe wrote:
2018-12-22 08:22
Love to see some pictures of this pieces of art?
Any demos booked?

Merry Christmas!
matthias wrote:Congratulations Fredrik,
according to Source First the right phono stage for an Uber-LP12.
But where is it?

Matt
Thank you!

Hamburg will likely be the first public appearance (see the thread 'Events').

The plan is to take really good pictures when number 3 and 4 are built. At the moment I have only phone shots and they don't make them any justice.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-23 12:41

sunbeamgls wrote:
2018-12-22 14:43
Sounds like a lot of thorough work Fredrik. For the lucky few to enjoy.
Indeed. It's a mad project. Mad.
Matteo wrote:Congratulations Fredrik

M
Thank you!
HIDDENSYSTEMS wrote:Are are Mr Bond - raised the numbers :-0

https://youtu.be/H9fyOFefirQ

I wish you well and sounds like an epic journey
It was not my intention to raise the numbers! I just wanted to see how far I could take this.

The biggest cost is the copper case, which does raise the numbers dramatically. But it also has a very special musical character - compared to machined from solid aluminium, copper has more weight, yet is still very gentle and easy flowing. The notes also ring more true (as if an annoying metallic vibration is removed) and have a long, natural decay.

I did also experiment with pure silver, as it has 5% less resistivity and is 5% better at transmitting heat (both of which are important parameters of the case). This experiment failed completely, apparently due to its resonance characteristics, which were quite unpleasant musically. Luckily I could return all the silver and only had to pay a modest, fixed price for the cost of machining it.

To make the silver experiments a bit more complicated, I later met a professor in metallurgy at a party and discussed the matter with him. He explained that pure silver has the funny property of becoming very hard as soon as it's being worked (something that my mother who is a silversmith taught me long ago, but I'd forgotten), so he suggested the silver being repeatedly annealed and cooled (which is how you make it malleable) at certain intervals during the machining process. Apart from this seeming extraordinarily complicated, the truly staggering cost of a pure silver case kept me from any further experiments with that metal.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-23 15:40

lejonklou wrote:
2018-12-23 12:41
The biggest cost is the copper case, which does raise the numbers dramatically. But it also has a very special musical character - compared to machined from solid aluminium, copper has more weight, yet is still very gentle and easy flowing. The notes also ring more true (as if an annoying metallic vibration is removed) and have a long, natural decay.
Fredrik,
reading this I think copper must be a much better material for an LP12 sub chassis than aluminium.
IIRC your first comments about Linn Keel I have got the impression that you are not 100% satisfied with the performance maybe because of the musical character of aluminium.
So what about a copper sub chassis for LP12?
Such an LP12 should be a much better match for SINGularity.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-23 23:08

matthias wrote:
2018-12-23 15:40
lejonklou wrote:
2018-12-23 12:41
The biggest cost is the copper case, which does raise the numbers dramatically. But it also has a very special musical character - compared to machined from solid aluminium, copper has more weight, yet is still very gentle and easy flowing. The notes also ring more true (as if an annoying metallic vibration is removed) and have a long, natural decay.
Fredrik,
reading this I think copper must be a much better material for an LP12 sub chassis than aluminium.
IIRC your first comments about Linn Keel I have got the impression that you are not 100% satisfied with the performance maybe because of the musical character of aluminium.
So what about a copper sub chassis for LP12?
Such an LP12 should be a much better match for SINGularity.

Matt
I doubt this is a good idea. Copper is much too heavy, requiring a different set of much harder springs. If one could find those, copper is rather soft and easily damaged. I'm unsure whether the transfer of energy between main bearing and tonearm is better than with aluminium, which must be a primary objective of a subchassis.

I suspect this task is completely different from housing sensitive electronics.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-23 23:47

Just a short remark because a bit OT in respect to SINGularity.
Pure copper is not appropriate as sub chassis but certainly an alloy copper/tin or copper/alu und it should have the same weight as the Keel.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-23 23:58

matthias wrote:
2018-12-23 23:47
Just a short remark because a bit OT in respect to SINGularity.
Pure copper is not appropriate as sub chassis but certainly an alloy copper/tin or copper/alu und it should have the same weight as the Keel.

Matt
Possible, but many alloys have worse properties than pure aluminium and copper. For instance, many copper alloys were found to be easier to machine, but had much higher resistivity than pure copper - which is important for SINGularity, as the chassis carries ground.

So it could be a bit complicated.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-24 00:05

Fredrik,
no discussion that pure copper is the best for SINGularity, alloy for sub chassis only!

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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-25 15:31

Merry Christmas to all!

Fredrik,
do you have plans to extend the SINGularity concept to preamps and poweramps?
Thanks

Matt
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Re: SINGularity

Post by ThomasOK » 2018-12-26 05:15

I wanted to add a bit to this discussion but my last three days have been full of cooking, cleaning and socializing with family and friends. Not much time for Hi-Fi except for listening to holiday music.

But I do want to wish everybody here a Merry Christmas before the day ends here. And I hope you all have a great 2019!
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Re: SINGularity

Post by sunbeamgls » 2018-12-26 13:52

First album to play on SINGularity?

https://www.discogs.com/Jon-Hopkins-Sin ... er/1357752
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Re: SINGularity

Post by ThomasOK » 2018-12-27 04:17

So now that the cat's officially out of the bag I thought I'd add a little bit to my earlier comments (on this page https://www.lejonklou.com/forum/viewtop ... start=1300, titled: A tale of two clips! Part 3. The REVEAL! I gave my impressions). I also thought I'd add a bit to Fredrik's description, as well as address a concern or two.

I found the new thread "Separate But Joined Up?" pretty perfectly timed. sunbeamgls' description feels quite familiar: “Sat here listening the Presence's album version of the track 'Sense of Danger' and I'm trying to work out how so many disparate sounds (can't call them instruments) and complex layers of rhythm and tunes can be so clearly separate and yet they gel into a continuous musical whole?" This could easily have been written about the SINGularity. It presents much more information than I have ever heard from my LP12 before but it doesn't pull things apart making them sound somewhat unrelated and threadbare. Instead everything gels into a more musical performance than before while still allowing you to hear and focus on any part of the perfromance. I think this capability is really one of the special things about all of Fredrik's equipment, but the SINGularity brings it to a whole new level. It is really the most musically stimulating perfromance I have heard from any Hi-Fi system, period!

A couple of comments having to do with pricing and the cost of building this. Fredrik explained the complexity and cost of the pure copper chassis but he did leave a part out. When the machining is done on the inside of the cooper, because of its softness and absorption of heat, the outer dimensions shift. So the inside has some very complex machining work, as you saw in the teaser image, but after that is complete the outside has to be machined to get it down to final dimensions. This also means starting with a little larger billet than the size of the finished product. Just some other things that add to the cost.

Interestingly, the November issue of Stereophile has an editorial titled "Conspicuous Consumption?". It questions the upward spiral in audio equipment prices and quotes a manufacturer who states that there are two methods of deriving the price of an item: what is referred to as "markup" where the costs (materials, labor, packaging, expected warranty costs, etc.) are calculated and multiplied by "some constant gross margin" to get to dealer cost, and what they called "contribution pricing" where materials cost is not the driving factor. In this system the manufacturer figures how many they think they will sell and how much they have to price it at to make money selling them.

"Contribution" pricing makes this sound all business like and acceptable. To my way of thinking the "contribution" model means that they set a price figuring they might sell five at these exalted prices and if they sell 10 they are in the gravy. But "contribution" pricing has other names that may be more accurate for what is going on. It would appear that many Hi-Fi manufacturers, and especially those who specialize in only expensive gear, are chasing after the 1% of the people in the world with most of the money. In this group exclusivity is also an important factor in their buying decisions. So pricing things astronomically and selling very few may make them more appealing. This leads to what is called "perceived value" pricing where the price has little to do with the cost of designing and making the thing and much to do with how the company wants the product perceived. Another term for it is "whatever the market will bear", but that doesn't sound very good in a Hi-Fi magazine editorial.

The reason I bring this all up is that the motto of Lejonklou HiFi is "Honest HiFi" and that hasn't changed with SINGularity. Fredrik has felt for some time that a number of the Hi-Fi companies that many of us viewed as musical leaders had gone to "perceived value" pricing, which he is not fond of (nor am I, in case you hand't guessed from the above comments). The price of SINGularity is strictly based on the actual cost of making them and the markups for Lejonklou, the distributors and the dealers are the same as for other Lejonklou components.

This brings up another line of thought that is connected to this post:
matthias wrote:
2018-12-22 23:23
Congratulations Fredrik,
according to Source First the right phono stage for an Uber-LP12.
But where is it?

Matt
While it may be nice to fantasize about an Uber-LP12 (or maybe not depending on your point of view) I don't see it as having anything to do with the SINGularity being hierarchically correct. It is important to realize that neither actual quality, nor the hierarchy, has ever been defined by price alone. It is solely about the musical qualities of the devices involved and which ones in the chain are most important. In my experience pricing of the individual parts has never flowed equally with musical importance of the hierarchy. Some simple examples: the Ekos SE/1 at $4950 (all prices US) and the Kandid at $4710 are both more expensive than the Radikal at $4250 and the Keel at $3250, both of which are more musically important. Indeed the Ekos SE/1 and Kandid are each more expensive that a complete Majik LP12 which incorporates the Cirkus bearing - the most important part of the LP12 that only runs about $700. This is also true historically: Ekos 2 $3000, Akiva $3610, Lingo 2 $1810, original Cirkus including subchassis and armboard $750, etc.

Obviously this runs all the way down the chain. How could anybody buy Komris at $47,000 when the fully loaded LP12 was only $17,000 or $25,000? Or a stack of 8 Klimax Solos to drive then actively at over $100,000? I'm sure you see where this leads. If the LP12SE is the most musical turntable in the world, which many of us believe it is, and if the SINGularity allows even more music to make it to the preamp than other phono stages do, which is my experience, then the price has no effect on the hierarchical correctness of a system with them both. Indeed, the hierarchy will tell you that a LP12 SE into a pair of SINGularity through a system ending in good $5000 speakers (or $1766 speakers as an alternative) will be musically superior to one with a Urika ending in Komris! That doesn't mean that the price is affordable for most of us, or that we all consider it reasonable - value decisions have to be decided by the individual. But don't be surprised if once you hear a pair you want them.

Finally, I think it is fair to say that Fredrik doesn't really like making products this expensive. But all that has been learned from this very extensive exercise will be used to improve some other products, indeed the Slipsik 7 has already benefited from this research. Is there anybody here who doesn't believe that Fredrik will bring out a much less expensive stereo MC phono stage that keeps as much of the goodness of SINGularity as possible? But don't expect anything like this to come out next month!
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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-27 09:14

Thomas,
thank you for your very interesting insights.
I am sure after listening to SINGularity there is no going back
or
beware of listening: You will be hooked!

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Re: SINGularity

Post by nmakowsk » 2018-12-28 19:21

Fredrik/Tom, What are your findings on how an LP12 sounds now that there is no mass of an Urika unit mounted in the chassis of your unit while using SINGularity? Is there any sound quality gained or lost by not having that square Urika case there since it is no longer neccesary? Thanks just wondering. I suppose It would be interesting if a slipsik model could be made to fit inside the chassis like a Urika and maybe there is some benefit to that other than saving space on an audio rack.
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Re: SINGularity

Post by ThomasOK » 2018-12-28 22:54

nmakowsk wrote:
2018-12-28 19:21
Fredrik/Tom, What are your findings on how an LP12 sounds now that there is no mass of an Urika unit mounted in the chassis of your unit while using SINGularity? Is there any sound quality gained or lost by not having that square Urika case there since it is no longer neccesary? Thanks just wondering. I suppose It would be interesting if a slipsik model could be made to fit inside the chassis like a Urika and maybe there is some benefit to that other than saving space on an audio rack.
I don’t have an answer for that and I doubt Fredrik does. When I tested the SINGularity I still had the Urika inside the LP12. I rigged it up so I could unplug the standard arm cable and plug in the Urika arm cable to switch back and forth. In the end I didn’t do a lot of switching as it sounded so good with the SINGularity I wanted to stay with it.

I doubt the weight of the Urika box makes much difference since it is outside of the sprung part of the LP12 and connected to the plinth through the Trampolin but you never know.
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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-28 23:16

matthias wrote:
2018-12-25 15:31
Merry Christmas to all!

Fredrik,
do you have plans to extend the SINGularity concept to preamps and poweramps?
Not really any plans so far, but it would be very interesting to make some tests!

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Re: SINGularity

Post by lejonklou » 2018-12-28 23:50

nmakowsk wrote:
2018-12-28 19:21
Fredrik/Tom, What are your findings on how an LP12 sounds now that there is no mass of an Urika unit mounted in the chassis of your unit while using SINGularity? Is there any sound quality gained or lost by not having that square Urika case there since it is no longer neccesary? Thanks just wondering. I suppose It would be interesting if a slipsik model could be made to fit inside the chassis like a Urika and maybe there is some benefit to that other than saving space on an audio rack.
There are two things to consider here.

One is how the Urika affects the LP12, by adding weight to the Trampolin base. This is the more important of the two, as the turntable comes first in the hierarchy. I haven't tested this, but would be surprised if Urika is actually beneficial to the function of the Trampolin. If so, they could have made a much heavier Trampolin (which came long before the Urika) to begin with, but they didn't. So my guess is that the LP12 benefits from not having a Urika inside.

The second thing is how well a phono preamp performs when placed on the Trampolin, rather than in a case of its own. This I have tested by placing an MM phono board on Trampolin and to my surprise it performed much better when housed in a separate box. The Trampolin position gave it a very soft sound and some experiments with how the board was fastened and the Trampolin feet made me conclude that the phono stage seemed to "want" a more firm connection to the shelf below it, such as the original small corner rubber feet of the LP12. But when using those the Trampolin is turned into a solid board without suspension, which makes the LP12 perform worse (unless the shelf below your LP12 is one of those that actually sounds better with a solid board than with a Trampolin, which is a well known but separate discussion).

So my guess here is that both the LP12 and the phono stage benefits from the separation.

The one thing that could speak in favour of having the phono stage inside the LP12 is that the leads from the cartridge become shorter than when a regular tonearm cable is used. This is an interesting question, as "common sense" will probably tell us that shorter must be better. But MC cartridges are insensitive to the extra capacitance that a longer cable brings and if one experiments with tonearm cables of different lengths, one finds the differences small. I think that the longer distance between power supply and phono stage (which the position inside the LP12 requires) could have a stronger negative impact than the positive brought by the shortening of the tonearm cable. In addition, I think that a well dressed tonearm cable inside the LP12 is beneficial to the movement of the subchassis, as it counteracts the pull of the belt from the motor and thereby reduces rotational instability. This is also what I was taught way back when I was trained to service the LP12 - that the tonearm cable was mechanically beneficial to the performance of the LP12.

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Re: SINGularity

Post by ThomasOK » 2018-12-29 01:01

Well, that's a lot more depth than I put into it. Very interesting information! Maybe once I get my own pair of SINGularity I can do a Trampolin with vs. without Urika comparison. I do think that's a good point about the tonearm cable and its effect on the suspension.
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Re: SINGularity

Post by bonzo » 2018-12-29 14:09

Congratulations Fredrik! I know you’ve been working very hard on this product. Forgive me, but have I missed photos of this wonderful preamp? I’m actually somewhat pleased at the retail for the mono pr as it’s not something I will be able to afford any time soon (2 teenage boys/college).. however I’m all for trickle down benefits! I’m so very excited to read people’s comments/reviews of their experience with this great product. BTW, I LOVE the name! Ever consider making a tonearm called The Event Horizon?
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Re: SINGularity

Post by matthias » 2018-12-29 16:12

lejonklou wrote:
2018-12-28 23:50
I think that the longer distance between power supply and phono stage (which the position inside the LP12 requires) could have a stronger negative impact than the positive brought by the shortening of the tonearm cable. In addition, I think that a well dressed tonearm cable inside the LP12 is beneficial to the movement of the subchassis, as it counteracts the pull of the belt from the motor and thereby reduces rotational instability. This is also what I was taught way back when I was trained to service the LP12 - that the tonearm cable was mechanically beneficial to the performance of the LP12.
VERY interesting!
I recall back in the 90s when I had a Naim Prefix inside my LP12. It was regarded as superior to the MC board in the 52 but I never did a direct comparison. But I think Fredrik is right. Two advantages for the external phono stage.

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