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View Full Version : still with the mods?



highdudgeon
2006-08-25, 05:51
Okay, I know that there is sizable cottage industry around audio and I am not out to insult those who make their living in this area. But, here's what I don't understand:

Going to, for example, the Bolder site, I find a $375 modification package for the SB3 along with a $750 (!!!) power supply. That's $1,175, plus $300 for the base unit, and we're at $1,525. Now, probably, this consumer will also be interested in an outboard DAC. Boom, you're not looking at $2,500...to run a Squeezebox. (I won't get into the Bybee filters and all that mentioned elsewhere).

Here's the thing: the Transporter is almost out. It comes with a trial period. On paper, it is one bad mofo piece of audio gear, with all the power supply, volume control, DAC, and good looks anyone needs, all in ONE box that happens to come with a warranty. For the one box. Oh, and you get an extra SB3 for kicks.

So, my question is this: why are people continuing to look at expensive mods and, presumably, why will they continue to do so? A lot of these things are matters of numbers that mean little. Look at JA's review: the SB, used as a transporter, is virtually (because he can't use an absolute) inditinguishable from a super kilo-buck transport. Ergo, if you're using an external DAC, why would you mod ANYTHING? It was good enough for Sphile, without power supplies and the rest.

Anyway. Half curious, half venting. I'm just amazed at the anxiety and cottage industry around this humble and wonderful device.

I'm not flaming anyone. I would like to engage in creative chat. I am far too tired to be flamed myself, so, if you have nothing pleasant to say about me as a human being, keep it to yourself or to a private email. Pretty please?

PhilNYC
2006-08-25, 06:01
So, my question is this: why are people continuing to look at expensive mods and, presumably, why will they continue to do so? A lot of these things are matters of numbers that mean little.

Because no one has heard the Transporter yet, and also because even tho the price is close, modding an SB3 is still cheaper.


Look at JA's review: the SB, used as a transporter, is virtually (because he can't use an absolute) inditinguishable from a super kilo-buck transport. Ergo, if you're using an external DAC, why would you mod ANYTHING? It was good enough for Sphile, without power supplies and the rest.

I recently had the chance to hear the Boulder power supply mod for an SB2, and there was appreciable improvement (using the SB2 as a transport to drive my DAC). I disagree with JA's view that the SB as a transport is virtually indistinguishable from a reference-level transport.

Robin Bowes
2006-08-25, 06:31
Well, I placed my transporter order yesterday.

Looking forward to a new toy on Sept. 18 - or however long after that it
takes to get to the UK!

R.

Patrick Dixon
2006-08-25, 07:34
Wot Phil said ^^^

Paper specs are all well and good, but most people will need to hear the Transporter for themselves before deciding whether it's good enough for them to live with.

You're just lucky that you can't hear the difference between any of this stuff ;-)

)p(
2006-08-25, 07:44
One good reason to mod a sb3 instead of getting the Transporter is imho the form factor...some like me dont want to see large ugly audio equipment boxes visible in our living rooms. The sb3 with its slim and elegant looks makes it perfect for this purpose with the added benefit of doubliong as a nice little clock when not in use.

Not that I ever want to mod mine. Its more the ok as it is :)

peter

joncourage
2006-08-25, 07:46
I think there are a few principles operating here.

First, there's the tweaker mentality that *enjoys* customizing and trying to wring a 1% improvement out of a device, at any cost. For them/us, it's a satisfying hobby.

Next, there's the "in-stages" approach to upgrades. Buying a SB then adding a better power supply, then upgrading internals, then adding a good DAC, etc etc, allows you to make improvements to your system in smaller budgetary chunks. Even if the end result costs more and may not beat what the single-solution Transporter offers, it's over a timeframe you can control. Probably helps with the WAF as well. Easier to slip in 10 $200 purchases over a year than one $2000. I've built a very nice system over the past couple of years and I don't think any individual piece cost $2k.

These two approaches, combined, allow you to swap bits in and out, at your own pace and with more granular control over budget/investment, allowing for comparisons btwn what works and doesn't work in a very individualized fashion.

There's also a bit of the hype machine operating, with each mod promising to deliver the most stunning improvement. Coupled with a lack of understanding and agreement in the general community over what many mods are actually capable of doing, many people are ready to lay out good cash for concepts that may not always have a sound basis in engineering. Then you have the fact that there are a ton of SB's already out there, and as said the Transporter hasn't shipped yet. There will probably spring up a cottage industry of mods for that as well.

Personally, I like the concept of a non-OS DAC, which I don't believe is an option with the Transporter, so I'd be paying for a DAC in the unit I might not use.

All said, the Transporter looks great and I'd love to have one. Eventually....

highdudgeon
2006-08-25, 13:33
I think there are a few principles operating here.

First, there's the tweaker mentality that enjoys customizing and trying to wring a 1% improvement out of a device at any cost.

Next, there's the "in-stages" approach to upgrades. Buying a SB then adding a better power supply, then upgrading internals, then adding a good DAC, etc etc, allows you to make improvements to your system in smaller budgetary chunks. Even if the end result costs more and may not beat what the single-solution Transporter offers, it's over a timeframe you can control. Probably also helps with the WAF as well. Easier to slip in 10 $200 purchases over a year than one $2000. I've built a very nice system over the past couple of years and I don't think any individual piece cost $2k.

These two approaches, combined, allow you to swap bits in and out, making comparisons btwn what works and doesn't work for an individual.

There's also a bit of the hype machine operating, with each mod promising to deliver the most stunning improvement. Coupled with a lack of understanding and agreement in the general community over what many mods are actually capable of doing, many people are ready to lay out good cash for concepts that may not always have a sound basis in engineering. Then you have the fact that there are a ton of SB's already out there, and as said the Transporter hasn't shipped yet. There will probably spring up a cottage industry of mods for that as well.

Personally, I like the concept of a non-OS DAC, which I don't believe is an option with the Transporter, so I'd be paying for a DAC in the unit I might not use.

All said, the Transporter looks great and I'd love to have one. Eventually....

Well said and perfectly summarized! And, Patrick -- I guess I am glad I "can't hear" the differences between these things. When there are no significant differences, well, I like being a realist.

konut
2006-08-25, 19:33
I can understand the reluctance and skepticism of people who question the modding of audio gear. I consider myself a cheapskate when it comes to buying ANYTHING. So a great deal of rationalization was brought to bear when I decided to purchase a Red Wine modified SB3. Firstly, I rejected the idea of using an outboard DAC. As well as the added expense, there is the whole SPDIF interface mess that complicates what is an otherwise elegant solution, inherent in the SB3's design. I know that different DACs will result in different 'flavors' and I was willing to throw in with the quality of the slightly better K DAC that Vinnie offers. Secondly, and correct me if I'm wrong, there seems to be almost universal agreement that a power supply upgrade offers a qualitative improvement in both the analog and digital outs. Having drunk the koolaid of the SLA battery crowd, it seemed to be an elegant solution to eliminating a whole slew of circuitry in the 'less is more' camp, and the concept of 'getting off the grid' appealed to my rebel mentality. I could never get over the fact that some are willing to pay triple the price of the SB3 for a fancy power supply. Seemed like putting the cart before the horse to me. Lastly, and most importantly, I picked up the phone and called Vinnie. Many times. Every conversation was enjoyable and we found much common ground. I was patient enough to delay delivery until Vinnie offered his revised mod 'package' utilizing the upgraded opamp, as I was using a passive 'pre' and needed the extra gain. He even agreed to use a different opamp, than the one he offered as standard, at no additional cost ( pm me if you're curious). I had bought the SB3 when there was the 'special' pricing and Vinnie offered his special pricing on top of that. So I figured I was 'saving' $100. So, in the end, I paid $778 for a modded SB3 that is completely unique. I'm very happy with it. Is it 'the last word' in digital sources? Absolutely not. But, I feel, you'd have to spend MUCH more to realize any significant improvement in quality. I'm sure the Transporter will be an improvement over what I have, but I neither require the myriad of in/out options it offers or can justify paying that kind of money for a digital source. Like I said, I'm a cheapskate.