Member Profile: Jack Philpot

Jack Philpot

Jack Philpot

Member Name: Jack Philpot

Location: South Holland, IL

Occupation: Jack is retired from AT&T. At one time, he was a frequent contributor to Audio Amateur. Jack’s articles appeared in several Audio Amateur issues including February 1978, February 1979, February 1980, January 1983, February 1983, April 1983, February 1986, February 1988, April 1989. He also wrote an article for Speaker Builder that ran in January 1982.

Member Status: Jack said he started subscribing to audioXpress when he discovered that it was a continuation of the Audio Amateur publication. He said he was hoping to find back issues that may contain an upgrade article on the Adcom GFP-565 preamplifier.

Audio Interests: Jack is very interested in home audio, both new and vintage.

Most Recent Purchase: He recently added a Cambridge DAC for for listening to high-resolution digital music sources and an Ortofon 2M Blue, designed for high-performance reproduction of analog records, to his home audio system.

Adcom

Adcom GFA-535 II power amplifier

Current Audio Projects: Jack converted two dual-mono Adcom GFA-535 II power amplifiers to mono blocks with dual-power supplies. He used an extra pair of outputs from spare modules and added them to each driver board similar to the GFA-545 II. He built the unit so that the output terminals are bridged for bi-wiring.

Q&A: Craig Bernabeu – Recording Engineer Introduces Innovative Designs

Craig Bernabeu

Craig Bernabeu used his audio knowledge to start his own professional audio company, SBS Designs.

SHANNON BECKER: What compelled you to start your company, SBS Designs, in 2011?

CRAIG BERNABEU: I was not really seeing audio products designed for a variety of applications with different approaches to record or play back music that would suit my needs. So in late 2009/2010, the former head engineer from Summit Audio and I started designing visionary gear. SBS designs makes my vision of US-made high-end designs with a left-field approach available to users.

SHANNON: How did you choose the name SBS Designs?

CRAIG: I have a sound company called SBS that designs custom high-end analog systems for different venues. SBS Designs builds custom speaker cabinets, consoles, and desks for mixing consoles and outboard gear. I had originally planned to call the company SBS Electronics. Due to legal trademark issues I could not use the name so I came up with SBS Designs, which works perfectly. SBS is globally known for the systems I have designed in the past so I wanted to incorporate the name into my new business venture.

SHANNON: Tell us about your company’s first product.

CRAIG: Our first product is the Iso-Q2, which is a three-band program equalizer with infinity cut, 15 dB of boost with five front controllers, three gain controls and two adjustable frequency potentiometers for the low and top end. Its I/O is balanced and unbalanced with a selectable effects loop. The Iso-Q2 is 115 and 230 V ready. It also offers a rear-panel output gain trim for perfect gain matching or it can be used to reduce gain for heavy-handed end users.

The Iso-Q2 is a solid-state three-band isolator/three-band program equalizer with five usable front panel controls (top). The Iso-Q2 can be used in an effects loop insert, mixbus, or main output of any console (bottom).

The Iso-Q2 is a solid-state three-band isolator/three-band program equalizer with five usable front panel controls (top). The Iso-Q2 can be used in an effects loop insert, mixbus, or main output of any console (bottom).

The Iso-Q2 enables the end user to sweep the low frequencies from 50 to 400 Hz with a front panel potentiometer. The high frequency is sweepable with another front panel potentiometer from 3.15 to 12.6 kHz, and it offers a frequency response from as low as 8 Hz to 100 kHz.

It’s primarily used in recording studios, and mastering houses; as live PA for mix engineers, electronic dance music (EDM) performers, and DJs performing in clubs or at festivals; or for sound reinforcement.
This Iso-Q2 can also be used as a performance processor to cut and boost on the fly, cutting out and isolating target frequencies from a song to get an audience excited in a live venue to take the energy to the next level. In the studio, the Iso-Q2 is intended as a program equalizer to sweeten up the source or equalize rough frequencies that need to be smoothed out.

SHANNON: What other products have you developed?

CRAIG: The SP-1 is the company’s first tube processor. The SP-1 is a unique design, offering features and technology that has not been previously developed. It is designed to warm up and improve the dynamic range. The SP-1 is a handmade hi-fi processor that will let you record and add dimension to music in ways never achieved.

The SP-1 tube device has two front-panel controls (top). The SP-1 offers a line level to phono level playback with a reverse phono curve to a line level source (bottom).

The SP-1 tube device has two front-panel controls (top). The SP-1 offers a line level to phono level playback with a reverse phono curve to a line level source (bottom).

With the SP-1, I wanted to put a twist on vacuum tube processing. From the original concept, it took more than five years to get it perfect. We designed a few different concept prototypes and then put the prototypes through years of testing in different applications including live, studio and even home hi-fi applications.

There were a few things with the prototype that I did not like, so I started redesigning it and our engineering experts said I was crazy, and that no company would put this kind of R&D into one product. We spent thousands of hours on the SP-1.

That’s what is different about SBS Designs. The product needs to be right and very unique so it really stands out. So we went back to the drawing board and made multiple changes until it was perfect. Now, the SP-1 is my vision of what it should be.

What is really unique about the SP-1 is its reverse phono curve option, which is a first of its kind of feature with full control with the front panel controls. The SP-1 offers a phono stage to use with turntables for end users who want to get the most from vinyl to sample.

I wanted to include a feature that enables users to put phono curves on line sources to attain digital or analog line sources as close as possible to the sound of turntables. It is really amazing how good you can get line digital sources to sound.

SHANNON: Can you share some of the other challenges involved with the designs?

CRAIG: One major challenge is coming up with unique designs to put a twist on audio by offering features not previously done or different to the last design I have already brought to the market. But the biggest challenge with this philosophy is offering features for the end user but not at the expense of the sound quality.

To ensure this process properly works, I design my products two or three years before they are available to the public. Then I can really test them in a variety of applications so I know they work how I intend them to and sound the way I expect. This is very tricky to do, especially when I need SBS Designs to have perfect synergy with other high-end brands.

I have never approached any SBS Designs product with the idea that it will be like anything else on the market. I have always wondered what I could do differently than others to get the most out of the source and give users innovative options that are fun to use. I want to bring the fun factor back to recording or playing back music.

SHANNON: What makes your amplifiers unique?

CRAIG: The S-series amplifiers, which range from the S1 to the S6, are uniquely designed with a high-end old-school approach. Attention to detail is our first priority. Everything from the board layout and circuit design to all the components on the board, right down to the heatsink and manufacturing, are made to our specifications so the amplifiers sound and reproduce amazingly.

Our head of engineering and I are sticklers about this. If it doesn’t sound and function a certain way, it does not get released no matter how long it takes to get done. I don’t operate with time restrictions just to rush it and get it out the door. If it’s not right, it does not leave the facility.

So I think what makes us different is that we ensure our products are the way we want them to be throughout the entire process. This attention to detail is understood day one.

This especially applies with our ratings. We don’t play the ratings game just to show impressive numbers and have our products fall short of their specifications or go with the 1/8 duty cycle rating like most amplifiers do. Our S1 and S2 amplifiers offer 50% true duty cycle full output loads at full frequency from 10 Hz to 100 kHz and the same goes for the way we specify our larger S3, S4, S5, and S6 amplifiers.

We also decided to offer two high-current amplifiers. The S5 is a pure Class-AB, 2-Ω stable amplifier. The S6 is a Class-AB +B that is 2 Ω stable and designed to work flawlessly with 2-Ω load-driven hard and passive speakers with difficult chokes. In these applications, the S5 and the S6 would work perfectly and sound amazing.

SHANNON: How has the audio community reacted to your products? Is the audio market a difficult one to enter?

CRAIG: The community has been very receptive to SBS Designs. I have received several compliments and our products have been selling globally.

It seems the audio community is really enjoying the twist I have been putting on audio by adding different features to get the most from a mix or a sound system and providing really high-quality sound, which allows the end product to be improved whether it is live or studio recordings.

It’s been great so far with a lot of successful engineers and producers getting behind SBS Designs with great results on a production or in a live application.

The S5 is used in several mastering studios and receiving praise from engineers such as Nick Moon at Tone Proper Mastering in Oregon. Moon is using the S5 on the road to mix and he recently used the S5 to mix Liv Warfield when she performed on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show (http://sbsdesigns.com/liv-warfield-mixed-on-the-jimmy-fallon-show-s5-amp). So the S-series amplifiers are really getting incredible praise and demand is growing as SBS Designs’s reputations spreads.

The audio market, as with any market, can be difficult when you offer a left-field approach so it can take a while to make an impact. But, if you’re determined, you can make it happen, and it will.

SHANNON: Tell us a little about your background. What did you do prior to starting SBS Designs?

CRAIG: I went to school in the 1980s in New York City and got a degree in recording. I worked in a few studios then I started focusing on high-end analog pro sound system designs. They sold globally via word of mouth, and my sound system designs won or were nominated for best sound system times from 2003 to 2011.

I also built studio reference systems and worked closely with many major manufacturers and their engineers to change their products to structure them to meet my needs.

After several years, I noticed some of the great audio components be replaced by cheap products. I decided to design my own high-end products and I came up with a concept for an entire line.

I approached Summit Audio with my concept and they were interested. The first product, a tube processor that took two years to develop, was released in 2002. Next, we developed the amplifiers and then a solid-state equalizer. I also became an investor in Summit Audio in 2004.

After working with Summit Audio, Summit’s former head engineer and I started developing an entire new line. That’s when I started SBS Designs. SBS Designs are now sold in retail outlets in the US and a few countries around the world. It is growing fast and amazing things are happening for SBS Designs in 2014.

SHANNON: What’s next for your company?

The SP-1 PRO includes seven usuable front panel controls (top) and it can be used in any fully balanced or unbalanced circuit without any drive loss (bottom).

The SP-1 PRO includes seven usuable front panel controls (top) and it can be used in any fully balanced or unbalanced circuit without any drive loss (bottom).

CRAIG: I have been working on my 2015 products for the last year and a half. My background is speaker design, and I have completed a full monitor line that I would eventually like to release.

For 2014, SBS Designs has two new designs—the SP-1 PRO and the SX-3. The SP-1 PRO is our second vacuum tube processor. It will feature seven front-panel usable controls, designed to really let the end user improve the dynamic range of any full-range source.

Similar to the SP-1, a carefully designed expansion process will bring out exciting detail that is so often masked by recordings that are compressed and engineered to be mono compatible. The SP-1PRO will also bring back incredible detail to digitally stored/processed recordings that were subject to data reduction processing.

SP-1 PRO also has a sub bass expander and an extended range of top treble expander. These expanders are top quality fully analog that don’t contain any noise or distortion generators. They add dynamic range by controlling the target frequencies with photoresistors.

When bringing a second vacuum tube processor to market, I had to be creative and provide features not previously used to help the end user receive more from the vacuum tube technology. (More information about the tube technology is available at www.sbsdesigns.com.)

In late 2014, we will release the SX-3, a two-way, three-way dual mono stereo analog crossover or a four-way mono. As with my other designs, I put a spin on it that you just don’t see on other crossovers, especially in the analog domain.

SHANNON: Do you have any advice for audioXpress readers who want to build their own sound systems?

CRAIG: Learn the importance of the physics of a cabinet design for a loudspeaker. Do not think you can build a speaker just any way and make corrections in the processing. This is a huge misconception in proper loudspeaker design.

Try to learn how to design a speaker so it can naturally reproduce music with as little processing as possible. Overprocessing seems like the norm these days, but the best, most amazing sound is the least processed with as little crossover points possible. A good speaker system effortlessly works with the least amount of gear in the signal chain and provides great results.

Before beginning a loudspeaker design, truly understand an amplifier’s specifications not just the watts per channel. Learn the Thiele-Small (T-S) parameters of a loudspeaker. Knowledge of room acoustics is also ultra important so there are no weak links in the chain. That way the end result will deliver as promised and maybe even more than promised.

Antelope Audio Displays Zodiac Platinum DSD DAC and Rubicon Preamplifier

AntelopeAntelope Audio displayed its new Zodiac Platinum direct-stream digital (DSD) DAC and Rubicon A/D D/A Preamplifier at CES International 2014 in Las Vegas. The demonstrations explored Antelope’s upsampling innovations and the role that superior clocking plays in an audiophile digital listening environment.

The Zodiac Platinum brings the digital-audio listening experience to a new level with its unique 256x DSD upsampling mode, which enables users to upsample DSD64 and DSD128 files to DSD256—unleashing the true potential of DSD.

In addition to the Zodiac Platinum, Antelope Audio showed its CES 2013 Innovations Award-winning Rubicon Atomic A/D D/A preamplifier—a DSD128, 24-bit, 384-kHz converter, phono stage preamplifier, and headphone amplifier with an integrated atomic clock. During the presentations at CES, the Zodiac Platinum and the Rubicon were connected to a pair of ATC SM100-AMT studio reference loudspeakers and there were A/B listening comparisons between analog source material and digital recordings using Antelope Audio playback systems.

www.antelopeaudio.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AntelopeAudio

Tascam’s High-End Master Recorder and ADDA Converter

Tascamda-3000_p_frIt is good to see new product launches from the TEAC group’s pro audio brand after its recent acquisition by Gibson, especially this upgrade to the legendary DV-RA1000HD recorder. The new Tascam DA-3000 offers the same famous Burr-Brown (now Texas Instruments) ADCs but it comes with a high-quality op-amp (NE5532), optimum condensers, and high-specification resistors for low-noise, high-accuracy, and high-heat capacity in a sleeker, more modern design. This new high-definition master recorder/ADDA converter is designed to fit in any professional or home recording studio, for recording, mastering, broadcasting, replacing a DAT machine, or for audiophiles who want to upgrade their files. This recorder supports high sampling rates up to 192 kHz pulse code modulation (PCM) and 5.6 MHz direct-stream digital (DSD), with the option of recording to SDHC and compact flash with support for USB memory playback.

Tascamda-3000_w_boThe high-precision TCXO fan-less design ensures pristine audio quality. The dual-monaural DACs help eliminate any interference. A balanced XLR I/O, unbalanced RCA I/O along with digital audio I/F AES-EBU, S/PDIF for PCM, and SDIF-3/DSD-raw for DSD is located in the rear of the unit. The DA-3000 warrants a clock frequency accuracy of 1 ppm by TCXO and uses a crystal direct system for low jitter.

The dual-monaural DAC is configured with Texas Instruments (TI) ICs (PCM1795) for each channel and uses TI’s PCM4202 on the A/D conversion, adding an E-I core power transformer with separated coils for digital and analog circuits.

TEAC Corp.
www.tascam.com

Digigram Researcher to Discuss New Automatic Gain Control Methodology at AES

AES135DigigramSturmelWebFrench company Digigram announced that its research project manager, Dr. Nicolas Sturmel, will present a paper and poster at the 135th AES Convention in New York City on Saturday, October 19, from 5:00 to 6:30 PM. The paper, “Automatic Analog Preamp Gain Control Using Digital Command,” addresses the problem of designing an automatic gain control (AGC) in the absence of dedicated hardware (e.g., voltage-controlled amplifiers).

Dr. Sturmel will discuss how Digigram overcame the challenges of fixed-gain steps and variable delay of the gain command to arrive at a proposed solution: a simple yet high-quality, digitally controlled automatic gain using only 10 MIPS of processing power from Digigram’s CANCUN high-end USB sound card, plus the built-in, high-end, digitally controlled mic preamplifier.

Dr. Sturmel is in charge of advanced research at Digigram. He holds a PhD in signal processing and was a postdoctoral fellow at Institut Langevin ESPCI in Paris and GIPSA-lab Grenoble. To learn more, visit www.digigram.com.

Lawo Introduces RAVENNA-Based Commentary Solution for Standard IP Networks

Lawo LCU_SetupWebLawo’s cost-efficient and flexible Commentary Unit (LCU) was developed in close cooperation with Host Broadcast Services (HBS), a Swiss company specializing in producing multilateral video and audio feeds for TV and radio from world-class international sports events. The fully digital system is based on RAVENNA, a real-time audio-over-IP networking technology that enables the use of standard IP networks to interconnect venues and devices, which provides savings in cabling while increasing the system’s flexibility.

“Good commentary plays a key role in the success of global events. The Lawo Commentary solution was developed in the very best interest of the Rights Holding Broadcasters of these events”, says Jörg Sander, CTO at HBS.

The LCU is designed to be easy-to-use for commentators, freeing them to focus on their tasks rather than managing the technology. It provides an intuitive user interface for up to three commentators per LCU. Lawo quality mic pre-amps and uncompressed real-time audio-over-IP (24 bit/48 kHz) ensure audio quality. All activity is indicated in a backlit LCD, indicating each control’s label and current setting. The unit also features three coordination lines, again with individual volume and pan settings. A Help key completes the user interface, giving commentators fast access to a support engineer. For emergency operation, the device provides an analog Mix Out and an analog input to feed the phones’ monitor mix. The Aux In can also be used to feed external sources (e.g., audio recorders) locally to the LCU.

The LCU is complemented by the Lawo Commentary Control Software, which replaces the commentary control units usually associated with two-part commentary systems, providing an integrated user interface to operate a complete commentary installation. The software is optimized for touchscreen operation, offering easy and efficient support for up to 20 commentators per screen. It shows the real-time status of all connected devices and manages all LCUs within the network, as well as the system’s DALLIS frame, which is Lawo’s modular I/O system for interfacing the commentary installation to the outside world. The software also enables a support engineer to listen to any signal of any LCU. Its remote-control facilities mean that most help requests can be resolved with a mouse click. To learn more, visit www.lawo.de.

ADLINK Introduces a Signal-Acquisition Module

Adlink-USB-2405

ADLINK’s USB-2405 supports four analog input channels.

ADLINK Technology now offers the USB-2405, a four-channel USB 2.0 dynamic signal-acquisition module. The module’s built-in IEPE excitation current source provides 2 mA on each AI channel. BNC connectors enable the USB-2405 to provide high accuracy and excellent dynamic performance for microphone and accelerometer measurement in vibration and acoustic applications.

The USB-2405 offers a portable solution for time-frequency analysis and research that includes accuracy with low temperature drift, built-in anti-aliasing filters, support for flexible trigger mode, and a USB power.

The USB-2405 supports four analog input channels simultaneously sampling up to 128 kS/s. It delivers 100-dB dynamic range and –94-dB THD of dynamic performance. Built-in anti-aliasing filters enable the filter cutoff frequency to be automatically adjusted to the sampling rate, suppressing out-of-band noise and avoiding measurement distortion.

ADLINK’s USB-2405 also supports auto-calibration for ensured accuracy and minimizes temperature drift in the field. The USB-2405’s low DC measurement drift, along with temperature deviation, optimizes accuracy in spite of the environment.

The USB-2405 provides a lockable USB to enhance connectivity. The included multi-functional stand fully supports desktop, rail, or wall mounting. ADLINK’s easy-to-use U-Test software is included at no extra charge. With no programming required, the USB-2405 delivers fast, easy instrument setup and quality data acquisition. The USB-2405 supports Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows XP OSes and is fully compatible with third-party software (e.g., LabVIEW, MATLAB, and Visual Studio.NET).

For more information, visit www.adlinktech.com.