What are you upgrading?


Speaking of Bluetooth, I just got an Earstudio ES100 today. I just can’t get it to kick into LDAC through the V40. BT settings in Dev Options doesn’t help. I have no problems activating LDAC in the Note 9. Anyone got any ideas?

That being said, the ES100 is a fantastic little device. I think it might weight less than the last 1/3 of the Grado RS1e’s headphone cable where it’s dangling right now. It sounds at least as good as the V40 and gets louder too. I needed it to drive the LCDi4, and it does an admirable job. But, I stopped by Scheherezade in Seoul this past weekend and paired the i4 with a Hugo 2. I can’t stop thinking about that sound. This is exactly how my worst (best) decisions are made. Audio is like crack, and the first taste is free.


Make sure in Bluetooth Settings in android, that LDAC is enabled for that device.

You can also go to the Ear Studio app, click the Bluetooth icon and only select LDAC, unchecking the other options which can force it to use LDAC.

Also - Great choice. I love this little bluetooth amp. It does so much stuff and does it all well.


You’re my hero, @antdroid. That did it.

For the people from the future looking back at this post: pull down the Notification Shade, long press the Bluetooth icon, press the Gear icon next to your BT device, and change Connection Type from Most Stable to Best Sound Quality. It immediately changed to LDAC 32-bit, 96 kHz without having to do anything further. Confirmed in Dev Options.

Edit: Unchecking everything except LDAC in the ES app will put you into SBC if you don’t do the above first.


Finally added a turntable to my home-office rig (my primary turntable is in my speaker rig). Usually I like these things on display, but no space for that, so it’s tucked under the desk beneath my amps. As soon as I install some lighting under there, probably today, I’ll post a picture.

The table is the one I was running in my “day job” office. Specifically the latest iteration of the Rega Planar 3 (about as no-fuss as a proper table can get), complete with it’s RB330 arm, an Elys 2 cartridge (likely to become an “Ania” in the very near future), and then upgrade with the Rega Reference Belt, a GrooveTracer Reference Sub-Platter (and bearing) and their record weight - all fed by the newer Neo TT PSU.

Of course, I couldn’t leave that un-fiddled-with in the move, so I swapped out the phono stage for the Parks Audio “Puffin”. An interesting little device, not the least because it runs the output of the cartridge through and ADC -> DSP - > DAC chain, before outputting an analog signal again.

Theoretical sacrilege, I know …

There are some benefits though … one of which is a very precise implementation of the RIAA EQ curve. Another is the ability to tweak all manner of settings that otherwise would not be possible (e.g. tube simulation, tape simulation, and various other adjustments). And interestingly, just playing with the little box with other table/cartridge combinations … the signature of the source is clearly there - so transparency is very good.

Mostly it means I can listen to vinyl in my office without having to do a needle drop first (time consuming, and annoying, especially when I just want to relax and listen to a new album).

As much as I like a nice tube-phono-pre, especially conceptually, I’ve been using a digitizing phono-stage forever (built-into the Linn DSM unit I run in my speaker rig). Actually hoping Linn will come out with a version of their Urika II digital phono-stage that will work with tables other than the LP12.

Then I did a major storage upgrade, adding another 75 TB (usable space) … ready for a new batch of said-annoying-needle-drops as well as the major influx of new music I inevitably wind up buying en-masse at this time of year …


I am both very intrigued and confused about the Puffin phono. Intrigued because of all the tweaking you mention that is possible and confused because some people will spend over $2000 on a DAC, like the Schiit Yggdrasil A2, specifically to get a more analogue sound, one resembling vinyl playback. I am curious as to what other phono stages you have used and how this compares, in terms of maintaining the analogue sound so many desperately seek.

With my Rega RP3, I am currently using a Graham Slee Reflex Era Gold, with the external PSU1 but I would like a phono that allows me to add gain and that can also be used with an MC cart. I wonder if this might be an eligible alternative.


I can’t speak for others, but I’ve never tried to get a DAC to sound like vinyl replay. Some have a more “analogue” presentation to them, which is really about smoothness and coherence and lack of digital “hash” or “glare”, and I find that desirable - but I don’t really liken it to actual vinyl.

I have an Yggdrasil Analog 2/USB Gen 5 sitting right under my desk and while it certainly has a more analogue sense to it’s delivery than many comparable DACs, again, it doesn’t sound like vinyl (in many ways, particularly technically, it’s superior).

Playing a properly-done needle-drop through a smooth-sounding DAC sounds more like vinyl replay, from the source in question (e.g. my personal turntable), than any CD or download I’ve played through the same DAC.

Which is really just saying that a good DAC, playing a good needle drop is as close to transparent as matters - and while it will impart its own signature on top of what was captured, along with what the ADC and input stage contribute, it’s a relatively small divergence compared to the natural signature of vinyl in the first place.

As for the Puffin vs. the GS Reflex Era Gold, I wouldn’t expect the Puffin to beat it out sonically. I could see the Puffin having a more accurate RIAA EQ implementation, but I would expect the Graham Slee unit to be a little ahead on noise performance.

As to which sounds better overall … I can’t say without having them side by side. Some of it will depend on what cartridge you’re running (or planning to run) as well.

Fundamentally, what I’m getting through the Puffin still sounds like vinyl. And I like it a bit better than the Schiit Mani (recent version - as it seems there may have been a silent revision there, as the one I have sounds different to the one I had before). But that’s reasonable given the rather large price difference.

Beyond that …

I’ve used a number of phono stages over the years, including things like the Pro-Ject Phono Box MM, Mani, Tube-Box, Musical Fidelity V-LPS, RSA Nighthawk, Phono-Box RS, Lehmann Black Cube SE II, EAR 834P, and the various Linn phono-stages (some dedicated, some built-into integrated amps, most recently those in the DSM product line). And of all of those, the only one that really gave me pause before committing to the built-in stage on my current DSM was the EAR. I think that was more down to the effects of the tubes than it being more accurate or resolving or anything.

But with my main tables, once I switched to a Linn DSM unit as my primary source (and “pre-amp”), I’ve been using it’s built-in phono-stage, which uses discrete solid-state analog circuitry for the initial gain stage, and then the output from that is digitized via the very-high-quality ADC in the Linn (which is also used to digitize any other analog input it is fed*). And that has accurately and readily reflected every tweak or change I’ve made to the table, be it different arms/cartrigdes/tables, or just tweaking VTA, VTF, zenith, azimuth, overhang and RPM for a specific cartridge - to a greater extent than any of the pure-analog phono-pres I’ve used.

And it has, again, always sounded fundamentally like vinyl.


It’s worth noting that the Puffin is not “just” a phono-preamplifier. In addition to things like tilt, bass and treble shelving, “air” adjustments, as well as configuration for cartridge loading, gain and what EQ curve you want (it’s not limited to just standard LP RIAA EQ), it has some additional DSP functionality, including the ability to add a little 2nd order harmonic distortion - intended to sound a bit more tube-like, 3rd order - to sound more tape-like (and you can do both at the same time).

It can also be used with line-level non-vinyl sources by setting EQ: Off (you can still set bass/treble, filters and so on), Gain: 0 dB, and then using the transfer function settings to add the tube or tape 2nd/3rd order harmonics.

It’s quite a lot of fun as well as sounding very good.


Thanks for your response. This is indeed very interesting.

Is there a digital out, so that if one wants, conversion back to analogue can be done with a higher end DAC, such as your Yagy A2? And if not do think the Puffin would benefit from one or would that be moot because of the limitations of the ADC?

While I understand your point of vinyl sounding like vinyl even after AD/DA conversion, I guess I am trying to wrap my head around the idea of spending a great deal of money on a DAC for digital recordings, while throwing a modestly priced DAC/ADC into an analogue chain after spending a great deal of time and funds on a TT, probably as much time as funds setting it up properly.

Nonetheless, I am very intrigued and I think I will order one.


There’s no digital output on the Puffin.

I’ve seen a few comments from people asking for one (I think it’d be a great addition), and it’s been suggested that Shannon (the owner of Parks Audio) is considering adding one. The unit has a micro-USB port internally, which right now is used for updating the firmware, so it’s possible that such a feature could be added as a firmware update and utilizing that port for USB-digital output. Though personally I would suspect that if it was a feature they added it’d probably be accompanied by bringing such a connector out to the case itself so it was more readily accessible.

As to using something like the Puffin in my analog chain - my perspective is probably somewhat different to most. For one, I tend to be fairly balanced in how I set my systems up and where what portion of the “budget” gets spent:

A good cartridge is harder to engineer and manufacture (and is thus more expensive) than a similarly performant phono-pre-amp. As a result I don’t see (and never heard) a big enough benefit in putting, say, a $1,000+ phono stage with a $300 cartridge to bother. Not that it won’t sound better than a $200 phono-stage with the same cartridge, and certainly it’ll sound different, it’s just that I’d see a MUCH bigger improvement by putting the $1,000 in to the cartridge and going with a $200 phono-stage.

As it was, I had the Planar 3/Elys 2 paired with a basic Schiit Mani … and delivered a very nice sound, particularly given the all-up cost of $1,274. The fancy phono-stages had been reserved for my primary table (until I went down the Linn route there).

Then … my Rega Planar 3 is not my primary turntable. I bought it for occasional use at my “day job”. If it was my primary table, it’d have a much better cartridge on it (almost certainly moving coil, and very likely with a line-contact or shibata stylus on it) at which point I’d be a lot more critical about what phono-stage I would pair it with. As it is, I’m fairly sure the Puffin is not the weak link in that chain at the moment. We’ll see if that remains the case if I upgrade the cartridge (which will depend on how much I use the thing … if I wind up just going to my main rig to listen to vinyl anyway then there’s no need).

Either way, I personally wouldn’t put a $1,000+ phono-stage with the cartridge I’m running on the Planar 3 at the moment, and the Puffin was interesting enough, and inexpensive enough, to warrant picking up as a “look see” and because I found the features interesting. That it happens to sound better than the Mani (latest version), and the features are neat, it’ll stay. And since it has loading and gain settings suitable for even very-low output MC cartridges, it’ll at least get tried if/when I go MC on the Rega.


Want to buy a nice amp and dac…upgrade from mojo…possibly chord qutest or Gumby multibit…and for an amp the cavelli liquid platinum… for cans I just got some b stock Audeze lcd2c for cdn$672 shipped taxes in…also have HD 6xx…might try the focal clears next…I’m getting back into head fi but don’t wish to go too crazy.

For my living room in have the KEF ls50w w an svs sb2000 sub…for desktop am considering the new kef lsx


In one of my prior lives, SEMPTE was a client. While visiting there, I heard a long rant about the RIAA curve being only the latest one in a series of curves, beginning around 1940, before which there were many EQs applied by different companies. I think we now use an “enhanced RIAA” curve. I know I had some equipment once that had a knob with 3 or 4 different RIAA EQ settings. Was it a PAS-2 from Dynaco? Can’t recall.

Anyway fiddling with the RIAA appears to be a time honored tradition.


Quick and dirty shot now that there’s some light on the situation …

The Rega Planar 3 / Elys 2 combination with the Neo TT PSU and the Parks Audio “Puffin” Phono Pre-Amp (transplanted from my “day-job” office):

The “Puffin” continues to be very enjoyable.

Lots of curves … some for specific purposes/formats. Which is one of the nice things with the “Puffin” if you have a collection spanning several decades prior to the current “RIAA LP” standard - it supports Teldec LP, London LP, AES LP, NAB LP, Columbia LP, and then a whole bunch more for 78s.

I should give the “Puffin” a try with my main table …


I’ve been using the entry level Musical Fidelity V90 for a few years now. Can’t find anything wrong with it. Used it both with the AR table and Shure V-15 type III and with the current VPI/Ortofon 2M Bronze. The tone-arm/cartridge seems far more important, as you say. My old integrated amp, the Sansui AU-919, and the equipment I used before that had internal MM/MC Eq, so I didn’t use an external preamp. From what I hear, the old Sansui was considered pretty good - it was from the era when Sansui was trying to give Marantz a run for their money.


That’s a very nice shot. I prefer what appears to be a lacquer finish on your P3 to the matte finish on my RP3.

What you say about putting more funds into a cart/stylus than phono stage make sense. And as regards the Rega ® P3 even upgrading the subplatter first I think would also be a better investment.

Do you keep the Puffin on all of the time?


Yes, the latest (5th generation, introduced in 2016) version of the Rega Planar 3 has a deep, glossy, lacquer finish. It’s essentially an all-new table, using almost entirely new parts and design, though still following Rega’s light/rigid/stiff design philosophy. Like you, I prefer the appearance of the new table - even if I’ll always have fond remembrances of the “classic” finish on the earlier generations.

Regarding upgrades and their relative impact (at least in regards to the current model), the biggest was definitely the switch to the GrooveTracer reference sub-platter. Next was the addition of the Neo TT PSU. And then the Rega Reference Belt, and finally adding a record weight.

The Puffin is also proving to be a nice upgrade over the basic Mani phono-stage I was previously using with this table. I suspect the Elys 2 is holding that back some, though. So a cartridge swap is likely next, assuming I use this as much as I think I will.

So far I’ve been turning the Puffin off while not listening. The only component I generally leave powered on 24/7 is my Yggdrasil (Analog 2). And I’ll power my tube-amps on maybe 15-30 minutes before listening - if I’m doing something critical.


Personally I’m upgrading my DAC and my primary Tube Amp. While I’ve enjoyed my NFB 10ES2 I do feel I’m ready for something a little more resolving!

I’ll be dropping a RME ADI 2 Dac into my system here in the next month in addition to The Emotion from Sonnare. I heard the amp at AXPONA and it really impressed me! A lot more resolving than most of what I’d heard at the show under $2000 or so dollars, with the exception of some now out of production DNA Amps!!

As for what I’m happy with, I’m happy with my headphone collection! I’ve got a few more mid range pieces I’d like to get to help round out my reviews but other wise for TOTL stuff I feel my Eikon, HD 800, LCD 2 and HE 560 are quite good, nice well rounded collection of sound signatures and amping requirements! It’s likely going to be a while before I have any desire to upgrade beyond those as I’m only really interested in stuff like the LCD 4 or Utopia


Despite the best efforts of Chord, Bluebird Music (Chord’s US distributor) and several US Chord dealers (who will remain nameless) … I finally have my Chord Hugo M-Scaler …

Sadly I still do not have the additional Ensemble stand (with large legs) to properly set this up … so for now it’ll just have to be moth-proofed* … :wink:

Once I get through my review backlog, I’ll do a proper with/without comparison of the DAVE, Hugo 2 and Qutest and the M-Scaler.

*I.E. Sitting on little cedar blocks …


I should add that, when I get around to reviewing the M-Scaler … it won’t just be in the context of the Chord DACs that can accept it’s dual BNC output (at up to 768 kHz), but also with other DACs that can take a BNC input of up to 384 kHz.


Great to see it finally arrived!


Nice pic.