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Hardware Mods - the ugly story

Fitzcaraldo215

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#1
As if there weren't enough problems in audio, there is this fascinating story about the cottage industry of "modders". Our sptitual brother, Archimago, has just published some measurements of a tube-modded Oppo 105, considered a decent player/DAC in its day, which was not too long ago, as follows:

http://archimago.blogspot.com/2018/06/musings-thoughts-on-audio-device.html#more

If there were ever uglier measurements, I do not ever recall seeing them.

But, the underground modder business carries on with a certain cachet and perhaps even more hype than main stream audio manufactures. I know a guy, a musician who has even done a few video reviews here and there, but he would not even consider a device that has not been somehow modded in his own system. A mod here or there, everywhere a mod. Sorry, but that reminds me of people who must absolutely pick up the salt shaker and salt their food before even tasting it, home, restaurant or anywhere. What a mindset.

So, Archimago's measurements only confirm my worst fears. Of course, modders, like our old buddy John Swenson, have essentially no adequate audio testing equipment, so they cannot provide even the most basic audio measurements. And, even for total subjectivists, you ship your unit off, then weeks or months later you get the promised mod back for you to evaluate by ear, but against what, exactly? Your original unit is long gone. What a wonderfully sensible proposition to use in evaluating whether anything is any good or not?

I think I see a few of the irrational issues lurking in the minds of modders and their patrons. It seems to me that the idea is partly a reaction to big business and support of the enterprising little guy who is going to show those corporate automatons though tireless hard work in his garage how much better he can transform their stuff to sound. Real engineering doesn't matter, since "better" individual circuit devices can be cherry picked - a femtoclock here, a tube output stage there, elimination or substitution of op amps, better wiring, etc., etc.

Somewhere, there are possibly careful, knowledgable modders out there who might come up with someting better than the original. But, how can you tell?
 
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Wombat

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#2
Obviously needs cryo-tubes. facepalm.gif

Good post. :)
 
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restorer-john

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#4
Having been a member on a few audio sites since 2002, I have been often deeply pained with the utter butchering of competently designed and engineered audio equipment by ill informed people with bags of capacitors, 'magic' opamps and unfortunately, access to a soldering iron.

I blame the internet for the spread of misinformation masquerading as group-think fact and a me-too attitude to extolling the virtues of pointless modifications.

Bereft of test equipment, these basement clowns often turn laboratory grade CD players into AM transmitters, cause amplifiers to become oscillators and wax lyrical about the qualities of various aluminium electrolytics in their 50 year old BOTL integrated amplifier.

Some of the disasters I have seen would make your skin crawl. Giant cables tack soldered to equally giant binding posts haphazardly drilled in the rear panel of an amplifier. Some ridiculously large 'film' capacitors hot glued to a PCB. Oversampling filters bypassed, along with LPFs for that NOS sound...

I could go on, but I feel ill already. :)

For a really good laugh, head over to that Lampizator guy's website.
 

restorer-john

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#5
Oh wow, I just looked at one of the Oppo modding sites.

I want one of these:

Dexa Neutrino or Neutron Star Flagship clock upgrade. Sounds like Star Wars weapon.
 

Timbo2

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#6
Oh wow, I just looked at one of the Oppo modding sites.

I want one of these:

Dexa Neutrino or Neutron Star Flagship clock upgrade. Sounds like Star Wars weapon.
You made me go down the rabbit hole... I'm especially partial to the "Audio Magic Beeswax SHD Fuse" that one of these firms offered to install.
 

Superdad

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#8
Of course, modders, like our old buddy John Swenson, have essentially no adequate audio testing equipment, so they cannot provide even the most basic audio measurements.
Wow Fitz, you sure like to make up stuff to suit your agenda to defame. Seems to be a regular pattern of yours towards John and I (I could go back into the archives and quote a half-dozen examples but I have better things to do with my time).
Just to be clear for you an others regarding your latest falsehood:

a) John does not and has never offered any "modding" services to anyone.

b) He has designed and built from scratch a dozen+ analog and digital components over the years (aside from also engineering the bowls of some of the worlds most sophisticate ASICs--the sort in enterprise network gear).

c) The completely unique commercial designs he has done in recent years (for Sonore: the Rendu series, and UpTone: the REGENs, and the UltraCap power supplies) have not only combined sold millions of dollars worth, but have spawned a market of similar copycats and inspired numerous other firms to reconsider and explore several taken-for-granted aspects of computer audio.

d) His engineering lab (custom built with quartz countertops, isolated power systems, and ultra-low-emmisons lighting) is outfitted with over $65K worth of test gear, including a $27K 4GHz scope, a spectrum analyzer with both real-time and FFT storage capabilities, and an in-progress 32-bit high-speed A-D rig that may eventual surpass some specific Audio Precision capabilities for the particular work he is doing (Wavelet analysis to prove the impact of upstream clocking variations on the analog output of the DAC). In addition, his set up includes for prototyping a vapor-phase reflow oven (capable of mounting BGA and all other hidden-pad SMDs) and a pick-and-place machine (hand placing hundreds of tiny parts gets old!).

e) Plenty of measurements are made on every product we work on. That is how design is done! Some of those measurements we elect to publish, but, like most every other audio firm out there, we don't publish reams of basic measures since only a few are going to correlate to sonic end result. If/when John makes the breakthroughs he is looking for with regards to demonstrating how digital isolation and reclocking upstream affects analog output (first by showing a defined, artificial jitter marker getting through), then we will offer up plenty--and may again bust past a bunch of preconceived notions about things that matter in digital audio reproduction.
[Some of this last paragraph is in reaction to another post you just made--in the ISO REGEN thread--where you ridicule someone for purchasing our competitor's 3x the price product and call this whole segment of the market nonsense. How much research and engineering have you done Fritz? Does none now qualify you?

-Alex C.
 
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OP
F

Fitzcaraldo215

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Thread Starter #9
Wow Fitz, you sure like to make up stuff to suit your agenda to defame. Seems to be a regular pattern of yours towards John and I (I could go back into the archives and quote a half-dozen examples but I have better things to do with my time).
Just to be clear for you an others regarding your latest falsehood:

a) John does not and has never offered any "modding" services to anyone.

b) He has designed and built from scratch a dozen+ analog and digital components over the years (aside from also engineering the bowls of some of the worlds most sophisticate ASICs--the sort in enterprise network gear).

c) The completely unique commercial designs he has done in recent years (for Sonore: the Rendu series, and UpTone: the REGENs, and the UltraCap power supplies) have not only combined sold millions of dollars worth, but have spawned a market of similar copycats and inspired numerous other firms to reconsider and explore several taken-for-granted aspects of computer audio.

d) His engineering lab (custom built with quartz countertops, isolated power systems, and ultra-low-emmisons lighting) is outfitted with over $65K worth of test gear, including a $27K 4GHz scope, a spectrum analyzer with both real-time and FFT storage capabilities, and an in-progress 32-bit high-speed A-D rig that may eventual surpass some specific Audio Precision capabilities for the particular work he is doing (Wavelet analysis to prove the impact of upstream clocking variations on the analog output of the DAC). In addition, his set up includes for prototyping a vapor-phase reflow oven (capable of mounting BGA and all other hidden-pad SMDs) and a pick-and-place machine (hand placing hundreds of tiny parts gets old!).

e) Plenty of measurements are made on every product we work on. That is how design is done! Some of those measurements we elect to publish, but, like most every other audio firm out there, we don't publish reams of basic measures since only a few are going to correlate to sonic end result. If/when John makes the breakthroughs he is looking for with regards to demonstrating how digital isolation and reclocking upstream affects analog output (first by showing a defined, artificial jitter marker getting through), then we will offer up plenty--and may again bust past a bunch of preconceived notions about things that matter in digital audio reproduction.
[Some of this last paragraph is in reaction to another post you just made--in the ISO REGEN thread--where you ridicule someone for purchasing our competitor's 3x the price product and call this whole segment of the market nonsense. How much research and engineering have you done Fritz? Does none now qualify you?

-Alex C.
Yes, Alex, I do consider your entire segment of the market nonsense, as I am fully entitled, based on all the published evidence I have seen. I don't have to prove my qualifications in order to hold that view. The evidence speaks for itself.
 

Sal1950

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#11
c) The completely unique commercial designs he has done in recent years (for Sonore: the Rendu series, and UpTone: the REGENs, and the UltraCap power supplies) have not only combined sold millions of dollars worth, but have spawned a market of similar copycats and inspired numerous other firms to reconsider and explore several taken-for-granted aspects of computer audio.
And I eagerly await the posting of results from supervised bias controlled blind listening tests proving the audible value of any such products in any reasonably well designed system.
 

restorer-john

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#12
I do consider your entire segment of the market nonsense, as I am fully entitled, based on all the published evidence I have seen.
Based on the complete lack of evidence more like it.

It's nonsense, always has been. Great margin products for retailers however. That's how it all started, products we could stock, in order to claw back GP$ after discounting. Started with speaker cables, green pens, isolating feet, clock 'upgrades', special optical cables, magic rocks, cable elevators etc.

The entire segment is a pathetic joke.
 

Palladium

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#14
Based on the complete lack of evidence more like it.

It's nonsense, always has been. Great margin products for retailers however. That's how it all started, products we could stock, in order to claw back GP$ after discounting. Started with speaker cables, green pens, isolating feet, clock 'upgrades', special optical cables, magic rocks, cable elevators etc.

The entire segment is a pathetic joke.
Exactly, its waaaaaay past time the charlatan audio industry faces some well-deserved consumer blowback.
 

SIY

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#15
I will confess to doing mods on tube gear for money back in my grad school days when I was still a bit more credulous than I became later (in age, there is often wisdom). In retrospect, half of them did no harm (other than economic), the other half actually did fix fundamental design problems. I was often amazed at really obvious mistakes made by so-called professional designers.
 

restorer-john

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#16
the other half actually did fix fundamental design problems. I was often amazed at really obvious mistakes made by so-called professional designers.
Nobody would criticize design modifications where the goal was to improve actual measured performance, reliability, or correct clear design flaws. I've seen and performed many hundreds of such operations too.

I think the frenetic pace of releasing new models in the hey-day of Audio, meant sometimes, those poor frazzled designers in Japan overlooked or missed a few things. I don't hold them responsible thirty years later, I still marvel at their skills and use the benefit of hindsight to correct problems they could not have envisaged.

It's a terrible pity today's designers of audio equipment don't foresee the obvious and consequently gear has lifetimes measured in single years rather than decades.
 

SIY

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#17
I think the frenetic pace of releasing new models in the hey-day of Audio, meant sometimes, those poor frazzled designers in Japan overlooked or missed a few things.
Americans as well. I rebuilt a lot of conrad johnson and Audio Research stuff to fix design issues.
 

tomelex

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#18
Modding can be sensible, for example, in the old audio amateur days, the word POOGE was used for modding, with the goal of optimizing gear by applying more money or better parts than the price point the thing was made at by the manufacture. But these things can be taken too far. I recall during a McIntosh sponsored Spectral Fidelity test amplifier distortion test event you could bring in your amps and they would power them up and run them up to full power and with calibrated test equipment show you the THD etc. At one such event, a fellow brought in his higher end amp, that had been modded, and what the modder did was turn the front faceplate around and rebrand it with his logo, and on the inside increase the size (which equates to capacitance value with capacitors) of the power supply capacitance by like ten times. When the unit was tested it showed it was breaking into supersonic oscillations on the scope and his THD was in the several percent digits at even low powers, wihile my unit was like 0.043 or less at any frequency between 20 and 20khz at 350W and put his modded unit to shame, he skulked out of there muttering about measurments did not correspond to musicality....so there you have it. His unit was considered high end at the time, but the mods clearly did not pan out when measured for the most basic of tests to fidelity.
 

Sal1950

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#19
Americans as well. I rebuilt a lot of conrad johnson and Audio Research stuff to fix design issues.
Curious as to what you found in the realm of bad design issues with AR and CJ gear?
 
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