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Review and Measurements of Lounge LCR MKIII Phono Amp

restorer-john

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Wow, amazing archive. Had no idea this site existed!
I had posted the link a while back I thought. It's simply the most incredible repository of stuff we want to read.

That's gold! I haven't been able to find old Audiocraft before. A wonderful magazine!
There's everything. And I mean everything. Painstakingly scanned, OCR'd and cleaned up. You can download as much as you want and the site owner doesn't want anything in return. I offered to pay, but he's happy it being free.

1556173880114.png


Every Electronics Australia and ETI I downloaded and stored on my NAS. You can use Acrobat Pro to search the entire lot for key words even in ads. Go into Bookshelf and International>UK or >Australia for tons more.
 
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Definitely a "thing" in the vinyl world, unfortunately. "Warm" sound is trendy which means anything with rolled off upper mids, including speakers, cartridges, phono preamps, etc.
Since many albums nowadays are produced and mastered with too much energy in the harshness region, a piece of gear with a dip in the harshness region, and often followed by a peak around 10-12 kHz to retain some "sheen" or "air", will make these albums sound more pleasant, as my own experiments with an equalizer has shown. My speakers are fairly linear, and things like Diana Krall, Laurence Juber, etc. sound amazing and don't need any adjustments, but many modern albums do sound better when I equalize them.

As for the flowery prose, I'm wondering if this was a trend that was started by people who believed they heard differences, whether there were any or not, since the measurements often showed none. And to many readers flowery prose was easier to understand than the technical jargon. So the "romantic" reviewers felt justified in their writings, many readers understood it better (none of my friends who are into hi-fi really understand much of the technical aspect, and it's also difficult for me), and the manufacturers probably sold more equipment. Then in the end a larger percentage of the people into hi-fi were happy, although it came at the expense of the happiness of the people who understood the technical aspect, but at least nowadays, that's a minority of the people into audio.
As for whether inaccuracy sounds good or not, I think this Lounge phono preamp, as well as the Ayre Codex, and eXamplar Exception phono preamp, are good examples of people on this site who have bought these particular units and thought they sounded great, even though they were poorly made. Amir certainly didn't like the sound of the Ayre Codex, but the owner liked (at least until he saw the measurements), so ...
 

SIY

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Send it off to SIY so he can test it. Then have SIY send it to me. I will see if there are any repairs needed taking into account the data posted here and from anything SIY reports to me. Once that is all taken care of I will, with your permission, make it into a Gold unit sans the volume control and headphone jack. Then I will send it off to whoever you direct me to. Hopefully sooner than later, after it leaves my hands, someone will actually listen to it.
Could you please PM me with a shipping address? I asked over in my review thread and haven't gotten an answer yet, and your website gives no address or phone number that I can find.

Thanks.
 
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A friend pointed me to this thread. I am new here but probably know a few of you. Before I share my comments I will provide some background on myself.
  • I am an electrical engineer
  • I worked at AP for almost 13 years (and maybe even sold Amir his APx analyzer).
  • I worked for HP/Agilent before AP and have worked with other audio T&M companies after that
  • I am a past VP of the Audio Engineering Society and have presented at their conventions several times
  • I have written for AudioXpress, VoiceCoil and other industry publications
  • I have worked some of the biggest most well established manufacturers and the smallest high-end boutique ones as well
  • I sit on several audio standard committees
  • My design background is microwave engineering (mostly radar components) where EVERYTHING is a parasitic and must be accounted for
Dick Heyser a long passed AES Fellow and industry icon used to say, "If it measures well and sounds bad, you are measuring the wrong thing." He also said, "If it measures bad but sounds good, you're still measuring the wrong thing."

I used to be heavily into the objective camp before joining AP. Now I am less so. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in measurements, especially for establishing production consistency. It is just that I have become painfully aware of the limitations of sine wave testing using purely resistive sources and loads in simulating real world conditions. Music and sine waves have almost inverted PDFs (probability density functions) and the real world isn't purely resistive.

It is truly sad that with all the advanced DSP power available today, there are relatively few advancements in measurements to help correlate objective and subjective results. It is not a trivial task. Just look at all the years of work Toole and Olive worked to achieve such correlation in acoustic testing and yet there is still considerable debate regarding headphone target curves.

Anyhow, I am not in a position to defend the Lounge phono stage and I certainly can't decipher the adjectives people use to describe high-end gear. However, I will say, I have no problem with someone telling me that they prefer the sound of a particular product. In the case of Lounge, they don't seem to be claiming accuracy and they certainly aren't charging out the nose for something made from 103.6% pure unobtanium and assembled by Peruvian virgins.
 

SIY

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Delighted that you joined, and looking forward to your contributions!

Curious why you left AP- it seems like a great company. I've worked closely with some of the folks there and have found them universally smart and delightful people.
 
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Hi Stuart,

AP is a good company and I was very successful there. I left because I had an opportunity to do something more interesting.

Back to the original topic, I would add a few anecdotes about distortion "improving" sound.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album would not have been possible without the Aphex Aural Exciter, This device selectively adds distortion and was used to restore sparkle to a worn out master tape. Studios used to rent the early Aural Exciters by the hour because they were so expensive.

  • A manufacturer of modeling plug-ins had one of their products panned by beta-testers. After re-checking their transfer functions, the only differences they could find were the noise and hum from the original device. They added this to their model and the beta testers loved it.

  • A manufacturer of classic tube amps tasked an engineer to duplicate the sound of a popular model in solid state. As the engineer researched the transfer function he discovered the classic sound was caused by the loss of power supply regulation as amp was driven hard. Power supply ripple was the classic sound.

  • If you play electric guitar, the first pedal effect you experiment with is typically distortion.
I'm sure many will point out that the goal of a playback device should be accuracy. But if the market as a whole really demanded accuracy, we never would have had tone controls, loudness contours and ambiance effects built into stereos. Also, when one doesn't have a signal chain that is accurate in every stage, coloration from a component may be either complimentary or destructive to the overall sound.
 

Soniclife

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I used to be heavily into the objective camp before joining AP. Now I am less so. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in measurements, especially for establishing production consistency. It is just that I have become painfully aware of the limitations of sine wave testing using purely resistive sources and loads in simulating real world conditions. Music and sine waves have almost inverted PDFs (probability density functions) and the real world isn't purely resistive.
I would be interested in hearing more about why your opinion changed, a new thread might be best to explore this.
 

SIY

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Back to the original topic, I would add a few anecdotes about distortion "improving" sound.
I'll pretend to not have noticed the comment about Rumours (IMO, an absolutely unlistenable album- but I'm old enough to be nostalgic for Peter Green).:D

In any event, sure, sometimes one might want to dial in an inaccuracy- for example, EQ- especially in the music creation process. I don't know anyone who would dispute that. But the nice thing about explicit signal processors is that you can turn the effects off. With the Lounge, all the stuff that throws high levels of junk into the signal and causes tone to shift with level is inherent and can't be removed if the user wants a clean and undistorted signal.
 
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I would be interested in hearing more about why your opinion changed, a new thread might be best to explore this.
Just check out this presentation I gave at Rocky Mountain Audiofest several years ago

For those that don't want to watch the whole thing, here is a really condensed video that talks about distortion numbers.
 

amirm

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Anyhow, I am not in a position to defend the Lounge phono stage and I certainly can't decipher the adjectives people use to describe high-end gear. However, I will say, I have no problem with someone telling me that they prefer the sound of a particular product.
First, warm welcome to the forum. :)

On this point, I would very much agree with you if and only if that test for preference was controlled/blind. A story :)

I was teaching my two sons effects of parametric EQ on room acoustics. They were sitting next to me as I would create a filter and turn it on and off for them to hear the effect. On the first two instances they nodded when I explained what it was doing. The third time they just sat polite as I asked them if they could hear the improvement that filter made. So I look at the user interface and realize where I was clicking with my mouse, was not making a change at all to the EQ setting! Yet I thought for sure it was being turned on and off and one setting was superior.

In the case of this phono stage, I don't know how someone has done an AB test side by side let alone have that be blind and level matched. Descriptions of what has been heard is classic subjectivists remarks of someone reading fidelity into sound, not the nature of the sound itself.

By the way, I spent a year pleading with AP to let me advise them on providing psychoacoustics overlay on top of the measurements shown. Did not succeed. There is actually a lot we can do with sine wave testing.
 
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I was once talking with a friend that owns a large touring sound company. His father asked him for help choosing a hi-fi. He told his dad to set a budget and then go out and buy the best LOOKING system within his budget. He knew at his dad's age, critical listening was not possible and that if the system didn't look good, his dad ultimately wouldn't be happy. So while I agree with the science behind blind testing, in the real world, we listen just as much with our eyes.

I have no problem with people spending big sums on functional pieces of art. It is only when they tell me that their art is superbly accurate and that its special sauce can modify the laws of physics. Actually, I am OK with most goof-ball hypotheses as long as they are not presented as facts. This is where many audiophile charlatans make their fatal mistake.
 
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I hear this about every kind of audiophile product from power sockets to little dots on the walls. Heck I know someone who sells footers for $300 each that says they get you closer to the orchestra and has testimonials like yours. The claims there are even stronger after people spend thousands on these footers.

In this forum we love listening test results but they need to be in a controlled environment where you don't know which is which. Without it, all of us read your type of accolades into audio products even in cases where the sound has not changed or improved one bit.

I have tested these statements in the context of countless other products and never hear such differences and improvements.

On the other hand, when distortion products are as high as it is in this device, I usually hear harshness of high frequencies and loss of detail as measurements predict.
Amir, I really appreciate the time and effort you take measuring and testing HiFi audio devices. Sometimes I’m sure it can be a thankless undertaking indeed. Nevertheless it is much appreciated!
 
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Since many albums nowadays are produced and mastered with too much energy in the harshness region, a piece of gear with a dip in the harshness region, and often followed by a peak around 10-12 kHz to retain some "sheen" or "air", will make these albums sound more pleasant, as my own experiments with an equalizer has shown. My speakers are fairly linear, and things like Diana Krall, Laurence Juber, etc. sound amazing and don't need any adjustments, but many modern albums do sound better when I equalize them.

As for the flowery prose, I'm wondering if this was a trend that was started by people who believed they heard differences, whether there were any or not, since the measurements often showed none. And to many readers flowery prose was easier to understand than the technical jargon. So the "romantic" reviewers felt justified in their writings, many readers understood it better (none of my friends who are into hi-fi really understand much of the technical aspect, and it's also difficult for me), and the manufacturers probably sold more equipment. Then in the end a larger percentage of the people into hi-fi were happy, although it came at the expense of the happiness of the people who understood the technical aspect, but at least nowadays, that's a minority of the people into audio.
As for whether inaccuracy sounds good or not, I think this Lounge phono preamp, as well as the Ayre Codex, and eXamplar Exception phono preamp, are good examples of people on this site who have bought these particular units and thought they sounded great, even though they were poorly made. Amir certainly didn't like the sound of the Ayre Codex, but the owner liked (at least until he saw the measurements), so ...
Excellent points, sir. I could NOT have expressed my own view better than you have here!
 

restorer-john

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...But if the market as a whole really demanded accuracy, we never would have had tone controls, loudness contours and ambiance effects built into stereos...
Tone controls were around long before stereo, HiFi and the LP. Most console tube radios of the 1930s had four knobs: Power, tuning, volume and tone. It was there to help make broadcasts listenable in the face of all the technical limitations of the era. We no longer have those limitations.
 

Hypnotoad

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I'm sure many will point out that the goal of a playback device should be accuracy. But if the market as a whole really demanded accuracy, we never would have had tone controls, loudness contours and ambiance effects built into stereos.
Like when I looked at the schematic of a faulty NAD receiver I picked up cheap, besides the usual bass/treble, it had loudness, infra-defeat, bass EQ, soft clipping as well as several electrolytic caps in the signal path of the preamp. The owner said he loved the NAD sound, so as you say not everyone is after accuracy.
 

restorer-john

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Like when I looked at the schematic of a faulty NAD receiver I picked up cheap, besides the usual bass/treble, it had loudness, infra-defeat, bass EQ, soft clipping as well as several electrolytic caps in the signal path of the preamp. The owner said he loved the NAD sound, so as you say not everyone is after accuracy.
The default positions are flat and will strive for accuracy. E.g. NAD 7130/7140/7155 etc

Loudness: switchable
Infradefeat: switchable
Bass EQ: switchable
Soft Clipping: switchable
Tone controls: no effect at flat when correctly designed.
Caps in signal path: so what?

I've measured those models myself over the years and even though I am not a fan of NAD in general, they test extremely well. They are not a DC to daylight design but simply an honest, good performing group of receivers from the mid 1980s.
 

Hypnotoad

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The default positions are flat and will strive for accuracy. E.g. NAD 7130/7140/7155 etc

They may be switchable but if people did not want these sound altering circuits they would not be there. Take a look at the Bass/Treble controls (R624/R620) for me, are they out of circuit when set to flat? I'm not looking for an argument, I can get enough of those at home. ;)

NAD.png
 
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Hi Stuart,

AP is a good company and I was very successful there. I left because I had an opportunity to do something more interesting.

Back to the original topic, I would add a few anecdotes about distortion "improving" sound.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album would not have been possible without the Aphex Aural Exciter, This device selectively adds distortion and was used to restore sparkle to a worn out master tape. Studios used to rent the early Aural Exciters by the hour because they were so expensive.

  • A manufacturer of modeling plug-ins had one of their products panned by beta-testers. After re-checking their transfer functions, the only differences they could find were the noise and hum from the original device. They added this to their model and the beta testers loved it.

  • A manufacturer of classic tube amps tasked an engineer to duplicate the sound of a popular model in solid state. As the engineer researched the transfer function he discovered the classic sound was caused by the loss of power supply regulation as amp was driven hard. Power supply ripple was the classic sound.

  • If you play electric guitar, the first pedal effect you experiment with is typically distortion.
I'm sure many will point out that the goal of a playback device should be accuracy. But if the market as a whole really demanded accuracy, we never would have had tone controls, loudness contours and ambiance effects built into stereos. Also, when one doesn't have a signal chain that is accurate in every stage, coloration from a component may be either complimentary or destructive to the overall sound.
Good points :). I will also watch the long presentation you gave. The short video you posted was very helpful.
I also find that adding colouration, such as noise, hum or distortion seem to trick people into liking it more. Just as one example, I auditioned some speakers once, and the seller had plugged in a $15,000 Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD player. After quite a while I asked him if that heavy hiss (probably only -20 dB below the music) was due to the CD player. He was completely flabbergasted, as he clearly hadn't noticed this. He tried changing cables, amplifiers, etc., but nothing worked. Needless to say, he was a vinylphile due to its "natural" qualities. So maybe that's why he chose to sell a $15,000 piece of crap with heavy hiss that would make digital sound "natural".

One seemingly unrelated personal experience I've had might shed some light on all this:
I went to Death Valley in California once and went on a hike. I was completely alone on the trail and fairly quickly stopped walking as I realized something: There was utter silence there. No sound of traffic, people, birds, insects or even the wind - it was just utter, complete deathlike silence. It was the first and only time in my life that I experienced this, and it was a revelation for me, as I realized that this was what I needed in my life: silence.
But when I tell this story to people, many people say that my experience sounds scary. People don't like the idea of complete silence. A former girlfriend of mine also said that she sometimes had the TV running, as she then felt less alone. Other people also have the TV running constantly.
I'm wondering if this human need for "comfort" in the sense of lack of silence translates to audio as well - that hiss or hum is being perceived as "atmosphere". Although I haven't done it so much yet, I'm experimenting with playing identical sound clips for people, where on one of them I've added some hiss, either to make it sound like analogue tape or like vinyl.
So I would imagine that the vinylphiles partly hate digital because of it's lack of "atmosphere", meaning hiss and noise. And I have to admit that I actually sometimes also prefer the hissy version as it does somehow sound more "atmospheric" (I've always been fond of atmospheric music).
 
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