A / V Solutions
7450 Hillsdale Drive Pleasanton CA 94588 (925) 425-0450 http://www.avsolutionsca.com/
Brooks Berdan Ltd.
110 West Olive Avenue Monrovia CA 91016 (626) 359-9131 http://www.brooksberdanltd.com
300 Brokaw Road
Santa Clara , CA 95050 (408) 727-2610 http://www.groovetracer.com
Upscale Audio Inc.
2504 Spring Terrace Upland CA 91784 (909) 931-9686 http://www.upscaleaudio.com
6454 NW 93rd Drive Parkland FL 33067 (954) 816-3888 http://www.legendaudioandvideo.com
Let There Be Sound, LLC
Oswaldo Martinez/President Weston FL 33326 (954) 465-5040 http://www.lettherebesound.com
8078 David Ct. Avon, IN 46123 (317) 490-0005
5000 St. Claude Ave. #109 New Orleans LA 70117 (850) 272-4700 http://www.audiowood.com
Bob's Devices Inc.
302 South 27th Street Billings MT 59101 (910) 612-8666 http://www.bobsdevices.com
4310 Cameron Street Suite #5 Las Vegas NV 89103 (702) 419-0220 http://www.lpgear.com
Beauty of Sound
13 Country Lane East Greenbush NY 12061 (518) 852-9183 http://www.beautyofsound.com
66 Clark Street #2R Brooklyn NY 11021 (646) 625-8603 http://www.livingacoustics.com
916 SW 40th Street Moore OK 73160 (405) 795-3462 http://www.referenceanalog.com
Audio & Video Expressions
804 Second Street Pike South Hampton PA 18966 (215) 354-1500 http://www.audiovideoexpressions.com/
The Cable Company
125 Union Square New Hope PA 18938 (215) 862-4870 http://www.thecableco.com
Quest for Sound
2307-R Bristol Pike Bensalem PA 19020 (215) 953-9099 http://www.questforsound.com
6303 Roosevelt Way NE Seattle WA 98115 (206) 522-9609 http://www.hawthornestereo.com
1549 Sixth Street Green Bay WI 54304 (920) 494-8999 http://www.hifiheaven.net
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Phoenix Engineering LLC
I started a company in 1990 that manufactured high end transceivers for Public Safety users such as the US Military, Police and Sheriff's departments and fire fighting agencies. We did all of the development work and manufacturing in Huntington Beach CA. In 2010, I sold my interest in the company to my business partner, who continues to run the company today, and moved back to Wisconsin.
I have been involved with high end audio for several decades and have designed and built many of the system components I use today, including tube amplifiers and ESL hybrid speakers. In 2013 I purchased a Music Hall Cruise Control for use with my VPI turntable. I was disappointed in the performance, so I did some measurements on the bench and was even more disappointed. Disassembling the unit, my impression was that it was a minimalist design and was grossly under-powered to drive my turntable motor. I also found the speed adjustment to be far too coarse, as I was never able to get speed spot on, and found that platter speed was sensitive to belt tension, slippage and position on the pulley. I had already designed my own tachometer because I could not find anything available with the necessary resolution. Strobes were only indicators of fast/slow and provided no measurements without tracking the drift for several minutes and punching numbers into a calculator. I decided to build my own PSU that would overcome the many limitations of the Music Hall Cruise Control and Pro-Ject SpeedBox II. Both of those devices use a technique called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to generate the output waveform. PWM is a cheap and cheerful way for generating sinewaves, but suffers from poor resolution, the output frequency being a rough approximation of the desired signal. VPI uses a PLL circuit in their SDS power supply which has better frequency accuracy, but PLL circuits can have stability issues (see our videos regarding this Here). The Falcon PSU uses Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) to generate the sinewave. Not only does it produce a lower distortion waveform, it does so with accuracy that is HUNDREDS of times better than PWM or PLL circuits (the frequency resolution of the Falcon PSU is ~35µHz or 0.000035 Hz). The output is adjustable in 0.1 RPM steps for "tempo" control, but has a calibration mode that allows you to precisely adjust the output in 0.01 RPM steps. The output voltage is automatically reduced once the platter is up to speed to reduce motor vibration. As a final refinement, the Falcon is able to receive speed information from the RoadRunner and adjust the output frequency to synchronize the platter rotation to within ±0.005 RPM, regardless of belt tension and other variables. Continuing with a tradition that started with my last company, all of our products are designed and built in the USA. All of the products are designed using primarily surface mount components and are assembled on robotic pick and place machines by a contract manufacturer. The devices are 100% QC tested using custom fixtures designed by Phoenix Engineering.
While the Falcon PSU, Eagle PSU, RoadRunner Tach and associated components are the only products we produce today, we look forward to bringing other advanced designs to the market. Currently, we are looking at a DC motor controller as well as producing a stand-alone Brushless DC motor assembly with controller.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need a synthesized power supply? Why do I need a high resolution tachometer? What are the benefits of using both? Which tables will the Falcon PSU work with? Which tables will the Eagle PSU work with? Which Tables will the RoadRunner Tachometer work with? Can the Falcon/Eagle and/or RoadRunner be used stand-alone? What is supplied with each unit? Do the Phoenix products work with 220VAC mains supply? Can the Falcon/Eagle work with a 50Hz motor? Can the Falcon/Eagle work with a 250/300 RPM motor? On which pulley spindle should the belt be installed?
Why do I need a synthesized power supply?
Most modern turntables use AC synchronous motors to turn the platter. By design, AC synch motors are locked to the driving frequency of the line voltage which should make speed control fairly straight forward. The problem is the line frequency from the wall is 60Hz, but only accurate when averaged over a long period of time. The frequency can fluctuate above and below 60Hz almost constantly and therefore the speed of the motor will also fluctuate, changing the pitch of the playback and causing wow and flutter. The mains voltage also fluctuates and is not a clean sinewave. If you were to look at the line voltage on a scope, it will be distorted with lots of high frequency noise superimposed on the signal. All of this adds up to increased vibration and noise from the motor which can be coupled into the cartridge and heard in the playback of LPs. Even if the line frequency is exactly 60Hz, the motor may be at the correct speed but that doesn't guarantee that the platter is on speed. Variables such as pulley tolerances, belt tension, diameter and slippage can all affect the actual speed of the record. This is why some pulleys are tapered in order to allow the user to adjust the speed of the platter, however, this adjustment mechanism is much too coarse. A synthesized Power Supply like the Falcon or Eagle provides a clean, stable signal to drive the motor. The frequency is crystal controlled so it does not fluctuate like the wall power can. The signal is a pure sine wave with <0.5% distortion and virtually no noise or high frequency artifacts. To compensate for variables like pulley dimensions and belt tension or slippage, the PSU frequency is adjustable in 0.01RPM steps to precisely dial in the platter speed. The result is a more dynamic playback, with wider and deeper sound stage, with reduced pitch variance especially noticeable on single notes played on a piano or other string instrument with long sustains. Bass response becomes tighter with more impact and highs are clearer.
Why do I need a high resolution tachometer?
It is universally accepted that accurate platter speed is important for high fidelity playback of records. In the past, strobes have been used as the standard for setting platter speed. The problem with strobe disks is they lack resolution. A platter speed error of 0.01 RPM means the edge of a 12" platter will drift ~0.011" (about the thickness of card stock paper) per revolution which takes 1.8 seconds at 33.3 RPM. If the strobe disk is a smaller diameter than 12", the drift will be proportionately smaller. This is nearly impossible to see with the naked eye, so it must be tracked over a period of minutes and then calculated by dividing the total drift by the elapsed time. This is time consuming and cannot be done while listening to the record. The RoadRunner tach produces a digital readout of the speed within 2 revs (while listening to the music) and updates on every revolution afterwards with 3 decimal places of resolution using a temperature compensated crystal reference that is accurate to ±0.00025% (2.5PPM). Belt drive turntables suffer from speed accuracy because of tolerances in pulley and belt dimensions, belt tension and slippage, needle drag and other variables that are difficult to control or eliminate. Even if the speed is precisely dialed in using a synthesized power supply, the table is prone to long term speed drift as the belt and bearing oil warm up over time. This is especially noticeable when when switching back and forth between 33.3 RPM and 45 RPM records. By connecting the output of the tachometer to the input of the Falcon or Eagle power supply, the speed can be compensated over the long term to correct minute speed drift before it becomes audible. By utilizing the feedback between tach and PSU, a belt drive turntable can provide the speed accuracy of a Direct Drive turntable, while still providing greater isolation of motor vibration via an elastic drive mechanism.
What are the benefits of using both?
There are 4 issues with belt drive tables that are corrected by using both devices: 1. Platter speed stability. The wall power is only accurate when averaged over a long period of time; the frequency and voltage are constantly fluctuating and there is a lot of high frequency noise present. This is most noticeable on single notes with long sustains like piano, woodwinds and even vocals. The Falcon and Eagle PSUs are crystal controlled so the drive signal to the motor is hundreds of times more stable.
2. Platter speed accuracy. Even if the motor is running at the precise speed, the platter may not be because of tolerances in the pulley, belt and platter. If the platter is off speed, so is the playback and you don't need perfect pitch to hear the effect. Sound stage image is affected by the interaction of individual frequencies and their harmonics; change the pitch even a little, and you change this relationship. It is important to be able to adjust the frequency of the PSU (either manually or automatically via the tach feedback) to accurately set the speed of the platter.
3. Motor vibration. The motor requires a lot of torque at start up to overcome the inertia of the platter. Once on speed, the amount of torque needed to maintain that speed is much less. Reducing the voltage to the motor once the platter is up to speed will reduce motor vibrations that can be coupled into the cartridge pick up and smear the music.
4. Long term drift. Even if you manually adjust the platter speed to be accurate at start up, belt drive tables increase in speed over time as the bearing and belt warm up. This effect plateaus after 30-45 minutes. If you warm up the table then adjust the speed, it will be slow the next time you do a cold start. Moving the motor, changing the belt position on the pulley or platter will affect the platter speed. There is a measurable difference between stylus drag at the beginning of a record vs the end. All of these anomalies can be corrected automatically with feedback from the tachometer. The corrections are done slowly while the errors and the correction are small and completely inaudible. No other system can anticipate or correct for long term drift as these products do.
Which tables will the Falcon PSU work with?
The Falcon PSU is designed to work with turntables that utilize an AC synchronous motor that draw 5 Watts or less. It will function with AC induction motors (as long as they are less than 5W), but the speed stability will not be as consistent as with a synchronous motor. It will not work with DC motors or tables that have an internal AC supply (ie VPI Traveler, Linn LP12 with Valhalla power supply, etc.) without bypassing (removing) the internal AC supply. The output of the Falcon is 115VAC nominal (adjustable down to ~85VAC) but can power lower voltage tables by plugging the wall adapter for the motor into the output of the Falcon. To use the Falcon with a 220VAC motor, you must supply an appropriate (low power) step up transformer such as a travel converter
Which tables will the Eagle PSU work with?
The Eagle PSU is designed to work with turntables that utilize an AC synchronous motor that draw 25 Watts or less. It will function with AC induction motors (as long as they are less than 25W), but the speed stability will not be as consistent as with a synchronous motor. It will not work with DC motors or tables that have an internal AC supply (ie VPI Traveler, Linn LP12 with Valhalla power supply, etc.) without bypassing (removing) the internal AC supply. The output of the Eagle is jumper selectable for 115/230VAC nominal (adjustable down to ~85/170VAC) but can power lower voltage tables by plugging the wall adapter for the motor into the output of the Eagle.
Which Tables will the RoadRunner work with?
The RoadRunner Tachometer will work with any turntable, provided there is enough clearance for the sensor PCB/magnet, which requires at least 0.25" (6mm) between plinth and platter.
Can the Falcon/Eagle and/or RoadRunner be used stand-alone?
The Falcon/Eagle PSU and the RoadRunner Tach can be used stand-alone or together. You can use the Falcon/Eagle PSU to power the motor and use a strobe (or some other device) to aid in setting the speed. The RoadRunner can be used in the place of a strobe, with or without the Falcon/Eagle PSU. They can also be used together, but not connected (use the PSU to power the motor, monitor the speed with the RoadRunner and manually set the speed on the PSU). If connected together, the speed is automatically adjusted by the PSU, based on information received from the RoadRunner.
What is supplied with each unit?
The Falcon PSU comes with a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter and has a NEMA 5-15 (North American 3 prong socket) on the end of a 3ft cable for the output. It can be ordered with an IEC 60320-C13 output socket that plugs directly into some turntables or stand-alone motor assemblies (ie VPI). The Eagle PSU comes with the control unit, the amplifier, a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter w/6ft power cable, a 6ft cable that connects the control unit to the amplifier and has a NEMA 5-15 (North American 3 prong socket) on the front panel of the amplifier for the output. The RoadRunner comes with a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter, sensor assembly, miniature magnet that attaches to the platter and cables that go between the sensor/tachometer and between the PSU/tachometer.
Do the Phoenix products work with 220VAC mains supply?
All of the products have universal input (100-260VAC 50/60Hz) wall adpaters that power them. The output of the Falcon PSU is 115VAC only so it would require a low power step up transformer (travel converter) to drive a 220VAC motor. The Eagle is jumper selectable for 115VAC/230VAC output and can drive a 220VAC motor without a converter
Can the Falcon/Eagle work with a 50Hz motor?
There is no difference in the motor that works from a 50Hz or 60Hz line voltage, however they will spin at different speeds because of the drive frequency, therefore they will have different sized pulleys to ensure the platter spins at the correct speed. Both the Falcon and Eagle are front panel programmable to work with either 50Hz or 60Hz pulleys.
Can the Falcon/Eagle work with a 250/300 RPM motor?
The Falcon and Eagle PSU units will work with 500/600 RPM as well as 250/300 RPM motors subject to the power requirements above and as long as the motor is fitted with the correct pulley. A 250/300 RPM motor still requires a 50/60Hz frequency supply, but turns at half the speed of a 500/600 RPM motor so the pulley must be twice as large.
On which pulley spindle should the belt be installed?
The Falcon is front panel programmable to work with either the small or large pulley spindle, but tests have shown the best performance is obtained using the smaller (33.3 RPM) spindle and is shipped from the factory with this selection enabled. The Eagle PSU uses a transformer in the output stage and is restricted to certain output frequencies. Therefore the Eagle is only programmable for 50Hz small spindle or 60Hz small spindle and the belt MUST be installed on the small spindle of the motor pulley.
Harry Weisfeld, VPI Industries
The Falcon is amazing and is a very real upgrade for any low to mid range VPI table. I would highly recommend the Falcon for any Scout, Scout JR, HW-19, Nomad, original traveler (without power supply). etc., you will really hear the difference. Nice job!
Sam, New York
The Eagle has landed! After using the Roadrunner to monitor my Scoutmaster table speed for the last month, I finally decided to bite the bullet and go for the Eagle PSU. Without the PSU, it was quite evident that speed fluctuations were/are common with a belt driven stand alone motor setup. Move the motor a hair, and the speed changes. Clean and powder the belt, and the speed changes. I'm sure that other things such as bearing grease, tracking, etc., also contribute to speed changes. Even when I zeroed in the speed perfectly, by the time one side of the record was over, the speed had fluctuated above or below the 33.3 or 45 rpm setting. It was minor, going between say 33.000 and 33.375, and that's after getting the distance between the motor and platter right on at the start of a listening session. I was tired of having to check and adjust for speed all the time. In comes the Eagle PSU. Well made, dual box design to handle most high power motors up to 15 watts. Easy setup and then I pushed the button and watched it go to work. After about 8 seconds, the roadrunner indicated a speed of between 33.332 and 33.336. And it stays in that area for the entire side! Love it. No more measuring and adjusting speed. Fully automatic. Now onto the sound. Did I hear a difference using the Eagle vs the Scoutmaster going directly to the wall? I put on my Classic Records 45 rpm of Crosby, Stills and Nash self titled pressing. I played "Helplessly Hoping." I listened twice fully through and it sounded great. I then took the Eagle out of the chain and listened again. Here's where you notice a difference. Soundstage width had shrunken. Clarity of voices had also diminished somewhat, everything being somewhat homogenized together as opposed to separate entities within the soundstage. This happened record after record. Once you hear the clarity of separation with the PSU in place, you won't want to take it out. I can only assume that this is the result of the motor ramp down voltage after the motor gets the table up to correct speed. Less motor vibration, I would imagine. Of course, notes such as those coming from a piano had fantastic decay with no speed fluctuations noticeable. All in all, I'm very happy at what I am hearing. I can't comment on the SDS from VPI as I never owned one. But the sound here is good and I never have to worry about checking speed again.
George, Poros Island, Greece
Just got my Phoenix Engineering Falcon and RoadRunner; they get my highest recommendation. Excellent build, working perfectly and can be adjusted to almost anything with high resolution. I think it's the only controller with all these features. The only thing is that it can output only 110V, so for the rest of us on 220V, you need a step up transformer. I built one in an outside box with an A/C voltage indicator so I can monitor it, as output voltage is adjustable. Sound improved considerably. A big stepup for my system. Also thanks a lot for the excellent support.
Ron, Jersey City NJ
I recently purchased the Phoenix Engineering Falcon and RoadRunner PS and Tachometer for my VPI Classic. The Falcon replaced the Music Hall Cruise Control 2.0 that I was previously using for my VPI. The Cruise Control had one major problem that drove me crazy and that's the fact that in 45 RPM it could not build speed on its own. I would had to give the platter a strong push to get it up to speed. The Cruise Control was able to keep the spin once the platter was up to speed. Even when picking up the LP to change sides the platter would slow down without the CC being able to spin it without assistance. I suspect the CC is severely under powered for the VPI Classic and as a result does not provide enough power to the motor. In comes the PSU/Tachometer set from Phoenix Engineering. The first thing you notice is how small these devices are. If you combine the two boxes they are actually considerably smaller than the Music Hall CC. Both are powered by an external wall wart power supply. The one that comes with the Falcon PS is multi voltage and will work in both 110v and 220v countries. The one that comes with the RoadRunner is 110v only but any 9v DC power supply will work and these are readily available. I used a power supply I had laying around the house since I needed one that works at 220v. I have no idea why Phoenix Engineering chose to use a 100v only wall wart with the RoadRunner but its not a big issue. Setting up the Falcon and RoadRunner was a snap and I was up and running with both in 45 minutes, 20 minutes of which was choosing a place to attach the small magnet to the platter and another 15 minutes to route the cables. When I say small magnet I mean SMALL. You can lose it in a second if you are not careful. When both units are working together there is a cable that attaches the two together and provides continuous speed feedback from the RoadRunner to the Falcon. This enables the Falcon to correct speed with no user intervention. Its amazing how great this system works. Out of the box when the Falcon was set to 33.3 RPM the VPI was about 0.8 RPM slow. As soon as I connected the cable between the two units speed was gradually corrected and after 6 or so rotations was with in 0.004 RPM of the desired 33.3 RPM speed. You can actually see the RoadRunner constantly correcting speed as a result of changing stylus drag during playback. The increments are extremely slow and are in no way noticeable. Now to the sound... The biggest noticeable improvement when I moved to the VPI Classic was its speed stability. Before having the VPI I never gave too much thought to the effects of speed stability however the VPI quickly made it clear how important this is for micro dynamics, focus, bass weight and solidity of soundstage image. When I used the Music Hall CC I did not notice any significant change in sound. I used it mainly for the convenience of speed change. I do not like to have to touch the belt every time I want to change speeds. The Phoenix Engineering duo the takes this a clear step forward with even better micro dynamics, weight and focus. A great feature of the Falcon PS is that it can reduce the voltage to the motor after the motor is up to speed and thus reduce motor vibrations. After setting this feature to reduce the voltage to 85v from the standard 110v there was a clear reduction in rumble that resulted in a lower noise floor. Putting the stylus on a blank record, I had to turn the volume up 4-6 DB higher on my preamp to hear any noise from the stylus. This is really impressive! Overall the when using Falcon/RoadRunner duo the sound gains in so many ways it was an eye/ear opener. I have many Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday 45 RPM classics. The vocals on these recording were so lifelike its breathtaking. You can hear every nuance of their voice, every breath and diction. Makes you appreciate just how talented Ella and Billie are. Listening to Count Basie big band, the soundstage was never this expansive. I might be imagining things but I think SS depth has also improved somewhat. Great piano recordings such as the Oscar Peterson Trio "We Get Requests" sound absolutely stunning. I have this recording on a 33 RPM remaster and the piano sounds more lifelike than ever before. All in all as you can tell I am extremely happy with the Phoenix Engineering duo. I have never tried the VPI SDS power supply but at less than half the price this duo does a phenomenal job and you have the advantage of automatic realtime speed correction.
The Phoenix-Engineering RoadRunner Turntable Tachometer arrived yesterday. It is a very compact digital display device and an even smaller sensor and magnet used to trigger and acquire the rotation data. The RoadRunner digital display is small enough to be placed almost anywhere. In my case I was able to tuck it on the shelf under the Boos maple butcher board that sits on four Symposium Fat Padz with my Michell Gyro SE turntable on top. Setting up the RoadRunner tachometer can be easy or difficult based on the design of your turntable. As it turned out the Michell Gyro SE was a challenge because the platter is not close to the bearing support frame. There was no way to place the magnet that triggers the sensor on the bottom of the platter and have it work. The magnet must pass within 1/8" or less of the sensor to work. I was uncertain about where to locate the sensor so the magnet could pass by the sensor as close as necessary. I wound up attaching the magnet to the outer bottom edge of one of the brass weights under the platter and attaching the sensor circuit board to the inside rear suspension spring cover. The sticky tape on the back of the sensor board made it easy to mount once I determined a location that would work. From the front of the turntable you cannot see the sensor board and you would only notice the magnet if you knew it was there when the platter is rotating. The rest of the RoadRunner tachometer installation was easy, just plug in the wall-wart power supply transformer and plug the cable from the sensor board to the back of the digital tachometer. Once all of the connections were made I turned on the RoadRunner tachometer with the small white push-button on the rear of the tachometer enclosure. The display lights up with dashes. If no rotation is sensed, the display will turn off after a period of time. Once the turntable platter begins rotating and two full revolutions have past the magnetic sensor the digital read out displays the platter rotation speed. Since my Michell Gyro SE is powered with the Michell Never Connected power supply I am able to adjust the rotation speed with an adjustment screw on the power supply. I was surprised to discover my initial speed was 31.76 RPM. I adjusted the speed as close as I could to 33.33 RPM. What I then discovered was their is a speed difference with and without the phono cartridge tracking a record. As it turned out, the weight of the tracking force and stylus friction of my Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge reduced the platter speed approximately 0.07 to 0.08 RPM. I fine tuned the speed adjustment on the Michell Never Connected power supply while the cartridge tracked an album to ensure playback rotation was as accurate as possible. This resulted in a typical platter speed that was higher than 33.33 RPM when the cartridge was not tracking a record groove. The RoadRunner turntable tachometer is a very useful tool for checking platter rotation accuracy. Having a power supply that allows speed rotation adjustment is a definite plus. Additionally, the RoadRunner tachometer can also be paired with the Phoenix-Engineering Falcon PSU (power supply unit) if your turntable uses a 120 volt AC synchronous motor. With the RoadRunner tachometer connected to the Falcon PSU, the tachometer rotation information governs the Flacon PSU to control the speed you select. When I first saw photos and read about the RoadRunner tachometer my initial impression caused me to think it was a toy. After installing the RoadRunner tachometer and actually using it my impression has changed. It is a well conceived and made tool for the vinyl enthusiast who is concerned with getting the best speed accuracy from a turntable. Even without a power supply that allows speed adjustment the RoadRunner tachometer will still provide you with accurate platter speed information. Using the RoadRunner tachometer with your turntable is a great way to increase your enjoyment and improve the quality of vinyl playback. I like it.
Ivan, Parkland FL
I installed the RoadRunner on my ClearAudio Innovation Wood today. Talk about a super slick install, looks like this was custom made for this table.
Bill Stevenson, FLModel: Eagle/Roadrunner
Category: Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Suggested Retail Price: $760.00
Description: Regenerative power supply and techometer for turntables
Review by firstname.lastname@example.org on December 07, 2015 at 12:44:52
As promised here is my review of the Eagle and Roadrunner combination. The Eagle is a regenerative power supply and the Roadrunner is a highly accurate tachometer, accurate to 0.001 rpm. As this is written, there is a very interesting thread in the Vinyl Asylum concerning speed accuracy and consistency. The question in that thread is how important are these variables with a lot of speculation in grappling with the answers. Since I just completed this evaluation, perhaps these comments can add insight to the discussion. I used two turntables: A VPI Prime, and for reference a KAB modified Technics SL1200. On the SL1200, because it has an internal controller, only the Roadrunner (i.e. tachometer) was used to check speed accuracy. After a short warm-up (~5-10 minutes) my SL1200 settled at 33.334 rpm with little or no variation always plugged directly into the wall. It is fitted with the KAB power supply. By contrast, after warm-up the Prime speed varied from day to day with ~33.500-33.525, as an example yesterday, but two weeks ago it varied from 33.595-36.605. This variation reflects that power coming right off the grid has some variation from day to day or week to week. This is typical. The AC voltage and frequency are nominally consistent, but there is noise and momentary fluctuations as demand changes and plants come on and off line and so forth. I know this could be questioned so let me explain that I spent 20 plus years working in the power industry as an engineer and this micro level variation is perfectly normal. That is where a regenerative power supply like the Eagle has merit. In essence it takes a dirty sine wave from the wall and cleans it up and then amplifies it for use by the turntable motor. The Eagle/Roadrunner combination is very sophisticated. The two pieces connect to each other such that the Roadrunner provides feedback so that the Eagle stays at the desired speed. It also ramps up power upon startup to ease the load on the motor and saves the belt from premature wear. Once up to speed the voltage ramps down on the Eagle, which allows the motor to run quieter and cooler. If the separate motor on the Prime is moved relative to the plinth it will affect platter speed, but the Roadrunner will measure that change and adjust and control the Eagle to keep the platter at a constant speed. As the bearing lubricant changes/diminishes or the belt wears and stretches the Roadrunner/Eagle with automatically adjust. In the end there will be no worries regardless of changes in the condition of the power on the grid, or wear and tear, or even changes from record to record (more on that anon).
When I first received my new Prime I could not get it to sound right. Or I should say it sounded different from my SL1200 and not in a favorable way. In private correspondence with John Elison, he mentioned the Eagle/Roadrunner and it was like a light bulb lighted. I ordered these items from Bob's Devices right away and could not have been happier with the result. But I am getting ahead of myself. First I hooked up the Roadrunner on the Prime and ran the turntable with just the tachometer connected. I found out that my Prime was running a bit fast as reported above. Then I connected the Eagle and the speed corrected and all of a sudden everything got better. Then I spent quite awhile figuring out how to install the extra sensor and magnet on the SL1200 for comparison (the magnet is on the top edge of the platter on top of strobe buttons and the pickup card is mounted upside down above it, made possible with the magic of several layers of mirror tape. Now it was possible to use the Roadrunner and measure the speed accuracy of the SL1200 and more importantly, to see. to a high level of accuracy in real time, if the turntable was hunting or constantly adjusting to maintain that speed. It was not. I think this puts to bed once a for all the theory that SL1200s have cogging issues. They do not.
Anyway, how about the sound? Mikey Fremer in his review said that the improvement was not subtle. I invited a friend over to help conduct single blind tests. By that I mean he made the adjustments so I never knew what I was hearing. All tests were done on the Prime with the only variable being the insertion or deletion of the Eagle/Roadrunner. All tests were done with the combination of the Eagle and Roadrunner connected to each other. A variety of jazz and classical music was used, some new recordings, some old, some audiophile quality reissues. My score, arrived at without any strain at all was 10/10. In other words, I was able to consistently tell the difference between the Prime with the Eagle/Roadrunner in the circuit and when they were not. It was not hard to do. As an aside, I am 67 years old with excellent hearing for my age. I do not have perfect pitch, but can readily hear sharp/flat against a standard such as a tuning fork. What was the effect of the Eagle/Roadrunner on the Prime? Bass was stronger and better defined. The sounding board on a well recorded piano has appreciably more vibration for example. Sound stage was consistently wider, and usually deeper. Take this test: Close your eyes and listen to an instrument on the outer edge of the orchestra, then point your finger to where it sounds like it is. Then do it again set up the other way. If there is a difference make a note. I used the Analogue Productions re-issue of Rhapsody In Blue, Earl Wild playing with the Boston Pops on Living Stereo, recorded in the 1950s. The snare drum is way to the left, in the back row. With the Eagle/Roadrunner it is well to the left of the speaker as well as where it is without them. On an Oscar Peterson recording on MPS (1977), on one of the "Exclusively For My Friends" records, he is playing an absolutely fabulous Bosendorfer piano. Sam Jones on bass. Listen to the piano, listen to the bass, feel the vibrations. Close your eyes - these guys are in your living room. I mean their presence is palpable. Without the Eagle/Roadrunner not so much. Oscar Peterson played fast and aggressively. He normally played a Baldwin in those days. Bosendorfers have a soft quality as the hammers hit the strings, but a huge, rich sound with a lot of complex harmonics. Baldwins have a sharper attack, and play loudly, but do not have an equal complexity of tone. You can hear Oscar exploring as he played, and you can hear him bringing out his best on this instrument.
I could go on, but my point is made, the Eagle/Roadrunner works and brings the Prime up to a whole new level. Finally, addressing the point of the thread mentioned at the beginning of this review, the need for absolute speed is not there in my opinion. With the Prime plugged directly into the wall, the sound of the instruments was not markedly different, not sharper really, not edgy. If I compare the Prime with and then without the Eagle/Roadrunner there is not a noticeable change in timbre or anything like that. But, the transients, the definition in the bass, the breath tones, all the little details were really brought out. One of my favorite musicians is the late, great Joe Morello of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. On their album "Time Further Out" (1961) he was playing set of Ludwig drums and the bass drum was a large (for small group situations) 22"x14" and Joe hits it more than once with great force. The mic must have been located right above the drums. With the Eagle/Roadrunner it is possible to hear the air passing through the vent hole on the top center of that bass drum. Without the Eagle/Roadrunner, the tone of the drum and overall impact are the same, but I can't hear the air anymore.
Product Weakness: None
Product Strengths: Improves inner detail, transients, bass definition
Easy to set up
No worries as things break in and age
Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Conrad-Johnson ARTsa
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Conrad-Johnson ET5
Sources (CDP/Turntable): VPI Prime; Technics SL1200 KAB
Speakers: Sony SS-AR2
Cables/Interconnects: Blue Jeans
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, Classical
Room Size (LxWxH): 30 x 16 x 12
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 month
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Rob Ono, Honolulu HI
Phoenix Engineering Product Review
The Phoenix Engineering Road Runner Tachometer (RRT) and Falcon Power Supply Unit (FPSU) are a duo of products intended to optimize turntable performance by reclocking the AC line for absolute stability and precision. Since all AC synchronous driven turntables obtain speed consistency by locking motor RPM to the 60Hz line frequency, it makes sense that the more stable the frequency, the more stable the platter rotation. The RRT tach provides feedback to the FPSU supply insuring rotational accuracy. The pair also offers the advantage of adjusting the speed between 33 and 45 rpm, eliminating the need for manual belt pulley changes. The FPSU features a speed “ramp-up”, minimizing belt “burn-out” and prolonging belt life. In total, a very well thought out and precision product.
Having seen several competing products, the RRT/FPSU is quite startling. Small compact, and elegant, about the size of a couple of stacked Altoid tins. My evaluation set included all cables, power supplies, and manuals, very well packaged and professional. I received a near-production prototype, but except for the tach-to-supply cable, it appeared completely ready for primetime. Looking at the published specs, it appears that the system components are closer to lab grade test equipment rather than an audio component. It can be argued whether this degree of precision is really required, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
The system was evaluated with the three tables I had on hand, all custom built, Rega variants, using the original 110v Premotec motors. Table 1 looks like a stock P3, 19mm MDF base, stock subplatter, ceramic bearing, 10mm acrylic platter, Herbies Donut mat, Rega R200 tonearm, Ortofon OM5E. Table 2 is a bit upgraded with an 19mm MDF/12.5mm Baltic birch laminated base, stock subplatter, ceramic bearing, 10mm acrylic platter, Herbies Donut mat, Rega RB300 tonearm, Ortofon 2M Red. Table 3 uses a 37.5mm Baltic Birch base, alloy machined subplatter, ceramic bearing, 24mm acrylic platter, Herbies Donut mat, Rega RB250 tonearm, Ortofon 2M blue. Ancillary equipment consists of several past DIY projects: 12AX7 based active feedback RIAA EQ phono stage. 6021 based line level preamp. 5891 PP tube poweramp. Scanspeak Revelator based monitors, with an active sub. I also plugged in a few pieces that I have been finishing up for repair/refurb; Cary CAD300SE 300B monoblocs, Thorens TD-125/SME 3009/Denon 103D, Dynaco Pas 3, Dynaco ST-70, Dynaco A-35.
The RRT requires the user to attach a tiny (approximately 4mm dia x 1mm) neodym magnet to the underside to the platter. I dislike the idea of introducing anything that can upset the balance of the rotating assembly, although this would later prove to be a non-issue. But to minimize any such problems, I elected to place the magnet on the subplatter, reasoning that the smaller the radius that the magnet is mounted from the spindle, the less likely the magnet mass would be an issue. I also thought that any magnetic induced field on the cartridge (both for induced signal and magnetic attraction tracking weight variances) would be minimized if the magnet was located under the record label instead of the grooves. Probably not a real world issue, but this did make me feel better. If the system was running a 2” thick platter, this will likely never be a problem, but with a 10mm acrylic platter Rega? The magnet was attached using thin double-stick tape, to make it easily removable and transferable between tables. I could have used CA or some other type of adhesive for a more permanent mount, but I think I will eventually drill and press fit the magnet into the solid subplatter, reasoning that the removal of material will, at least partially, offset the mass of the magnet. On the tables with the stock Rega subplatters, I mounted the magnet on the inside rim, presenting the magnet field 90 degrees offset from normal. Sensor placement became a bit more fussy, but it still worked just fine.
Hookup and operation is very straight forward. All jacks are clearly labeled so hookup is quick and easy. Some of the display functions may require a quick read of the manual, like what the blinking decimal point means, but everything appears to be well thought out and logically functional. This is truly a set-then-forget product. It should be noted that the FPSU can operate stand alone, but setting this with a strobe disk will not provide the accuracy that the supply is capable of (but you still receive the sonic benefits). Since the pair was sent to me for review, I did my best to try to blow it up. I tried rapid power cycling, running them unloaded, ramping up voltage on a variac, and it never faltered. The one thing I did do that got the system a bit distressed was to operate it on the 45rpm pulley while adjusting for 33 rpm. With this, the motor got noisy which was audible in a quiet room (the manual does specify using this at the 33 rpm pulley size)
Having gone through the Linn LP12 Valhalla and Lingo upgrades, I somewhat knew what to expect and listen for, and the RRT/FPSU did not disappoint. The first think I notice is an increase in dynamics and “aliveness” that Linnies refer to PRaT (pace, rhythm, and timing) I think this is generally caused by an increase in dynamic range, allowing you to hear details with greater clarity. It’s been awhile since I’ve done the Linn mods, but I would place the RRT/FPSU as an equivalent improvement to that of the Lingo (which I think was in the $1500 neighborhood back then) My test table 1 was always a bit dull and listless, which I always attributed to the MDF base. But the RRT/FPSU made the greatest difference that I heard of the 3 test tables. The 2nd item that I’ve listened for and heard was a much broader and deeper soundstage. Image width easily extended beyond the speaker edges, central image steps forward, and the sense of recorded hall ambiance becomes larger and more defined. I’ve often wondered how/why a system would be capable of imaging beyond the speaker edges. I used to think it was transient response, or maybe just HF resolution. Back in the 80’s all speakers based on an Audax HD-100 tweeter (a particularly sweet but slow sounding tweeter) could never image outside of the box. But then out came the Spica TC50 using this same tweeter that had a huge image. Obviously it was something other than HF resolution or transient performance, maybe phase relations in the upper midrange. I’m not at all sure why this could be affected by a turntable; lower speed fluctuations = greater midband purity? In any case, the image width enhancement with the RRT/FPSU was distinct, pronounced, and measurable (how?) With the RRT/FPSU removed from the system, play an album, close your eyes, and listen for an instrument playing to the extreme left or right. Point directly at it, then open your eyes. Chances are you will be pointing directly at a speaker. Insert the RRT/FPSU, and repeat the procedure, listening for the same instrument. When you open your eyes you will be pointing at a wider point, almost guaranteed. (Unless you are listening to an old pair of Audax HD-100 based systems). One thing the Spica TC-50 did was to surround the tweeter with a thick felt blanket to eliminate diffraction and the resultant “time smearing” of the delayed/diffracted signal. I theorize that the RRT/FPSU also reduces the time smearing effects, perhaps due to lower motor cogging, which may also be the reason that the effect is most prominent on the lightest platter version tested (most susceptible to cogging). Listening to the RRT/FSPU on tables 2 and 3 was interesting. Table 2 (which used the same drive mechanics to table 1) yielded almost identical results and benefits, but less so with table 3. Dynamics increased, but less than tables 1 and 2, and ultimately I think that table 2 with the RRT/FSPU sounded superior to table 3 with the RRT/FPSU. I really scratched my head over this one. Table 3 has a superior subplatter, with a platter mass twice that of table 2. Prior to receiving the RRT/FPSU, I’ve always thought that table 3 sounded superior. I even swapped the 2M red and blue styluses to keep everything the same (2M cartridge bodies are the same, only the stylus is different) Not sure what to make of this. I’m going to swap the cartridges to see if there is some sort of “symbiotic relationship” going on here. It may be that I am hearing the immediate degree of improvement, and confusing this for the ultimate net performance. Not sure, but I don’t think so. For now, all that I can conclude is that cheap tables receive greater benefit from the system. This issue bothered me enough to take the RRT/FPSU to a friend's house for a listen. He has a pretty decent system consisting of an early generation Sota Saphire/Premier MMT/Koetsu Black, Audio Research SP3A/D76, and a pair of Quad 63 ESL speakers. The RRT/FPSU seemed to provide more bass, and HF extension, but did little for the image width or depth (although this was already pretty good) Overall, I would classify the improvement in performance as noticeable but marginal. Just for fun, I installed the set on an old Dual 1229Q that I just got on Ebay. Wow, what a difference. Maybe this is the optimum accessory for an idler drive table. Wish I had a Lenco lying around. One sonic aspect of the supply is the apparent alteration of tonal balance. I say apparent because I am not 100% sure if I hear a difference in tone, or if it is only a perceived effect due to something else. It seems to get a little brighter, with a little less bass, although tighter with greater impact. When running the FPSU, I always felt the need to turn up the sub level a bit, but generally left it alone because it is only a temporary effect that you perceive immediately after installation. This was also not consistent with every table I ran them with, primarily tables 1 and 2.
Reclocking power supplies for turntables are an indispensable component for the serious vinyl enthusiast. Ironically, the more modest your table, the more you need one. While I did not test the RRT/FPSU on a modern high-end table like a VPI or Clearaudio, I assume the benefits would be somewhat subtle. But put this on a Rega P3 or Pro-ject Carbon and get ready for high-end performance at budget costs. As a testament to the product, I’ve decided to keep the review sample.
The Falcon Power Supply Unit (PSU) is a microprocessor controlled digital regenerative AC power source used for accurate speed control of a turntable motor. The PSU uses Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) to create an extremely accurate and clean sine wave that improves motor speed stability and allows the user to precisely adjust the turntable platter rotational speed. The PSU is extremely easy to use and set up. All of the operating parameters are stored in non-volatile memory and the device always power up with the last used speed and frequency offset displayed. The PSU is powerful enough to start up in either speed selection, so there is no need to start in 33 RPM, then switch to 45 RPM as in other units. The Falcon PSU can be connected directly to the RoadRunner digital turntable tachometer via a 3 wire serial cable in order to synchronize its output with the direct measurement of the platter speed. Operation is completely automatic with no user intervention needed. The tachometer outputs the speed reading once per revolution. The PSU compares this reading to the speed on the display and can make micro-fine adjustments to the output frequency to lock the turntable speed to within ±0.005 RPM. The adjustment is done slowly and evenly over the entire next revolution and is inaudible to the listener (in most cases, the adjustment is <0.0005 RPM per step). The turntable remains on speed independent of the belt tension, bearing oil viscosity, drag from the needle or any other variables that cause the table to drift over time. Tha Falcon comes with a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter and a standard NEMA 5-15 (North American 3 prong) socket on the end of a 3ft cable for the output.
Download Falcon Data Sheet
Download Falcon Owners Manual
The RoadRunner is a microprocessor controlled digital tachometer used for monitoring turntable platter speed to 3 decimal places of resolution. The internal time base is a temperature compensated crystal oscillator (TCXO) accurate to 2.5 PPM (±0.00025%) with less than 1.0 PPM aging per year. The RoadRunner Tachometer provides a direct digital readout of the platter speed after only 2 revs and updates the display on each revolution afterwards. This provides a significant improvement over strobes and other devices (i.e. Sutherland Timeline) that are only indicators of fast/slow, not a measurement device. Strobes also lack resolution; often you need to track the “drift” of the marks over several minutes and compute the speed using a calculator. At 33 RPM, a speed error of 0.01 RPM represents a drift of 0.0113” per revolution (about the thickness of card stock). The tachometer uses a Hall Effect sensor and a small magnet attached to the underside of the platter to sense the platter rotation. The sensor requires approximately 0.25” (~6mm) of clearance to be installed properly. The magnet/sensor assembly can be installed under the platter at the edge or under a sub-platter assembly if present. The RoadRunner Tachometer can be connected directly to the Falcon digital Power Supply Unit via a 3 wire serial cable in order to synchronize its output with the direct measurement of the platter speed. Operation is completely automatic with no user intervention needed. The tachometer outputs the speed reading once per revolution. The PSU compares this reading to the speed on the display and can make micro-fine adjustments to the output frequency to lock the turntable speed to within ±0.005 RPM. The adjustment is done slowly and evenly over the entire next revolution and is inaudible to the listener (in most cases, the adjustment is <0.0005 RPM per step). The turntable remains on speed independent of the belt tension, bearing oil viscosity, drag from the needle or any other variables that cause the table to drift over time. The RoadRunner comes with the display unit, a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter, 3/16"D x 1/32"H neodym magnet, sensor PCB and cables to connect the sensor to the tachometer and the tachometer to the Falcon PSU.
Download RoadRunner Data Sheet
Download RoadRunner Owners Manual
Spare Sensor PCBs
The sensor assembly and magnet need to be firmly attached to the plinth and platter in order to work properly, and each of them come with pressure sensitive adhesive for easy installation. While the adhesive is removable, it is not advisable to reinstall either the magnet or the sensor multiple times. For users with more than one turntable, we offer spare sensor kits so only the tachometer and wall adapter need to be moved between tables. The kit comes with the sensor PCB, magnet and both cables (tachometer-sensor and tachometer-PSU)
300 RPM Motor and Pulley for VPI Tables
The original AC Synchronous motor used in a lot of the VPI turntables was a special version 600 RPM Hurst motor that required ~5.5W and works well with the Falcon PSU. However, the VPI 300 RPM upgrade motor is 7.5W and will cause the Falcon PSU to run hot and is not a motor combination we recommed. For those VPI turntable owners who have already upgraded their motor to 300 RPM for lower vibration, Phoenix Engineering has sourced a footprint compatible 300 RPM motor that draws only 5W and works perfectly with the Falcon PSU. Installation is fairly easy, but involves disassembling the motor assembly and replacing the motor and phase cap which is secured by wire nuts. If you already have a 300 RPM pulley (twice the size of the standard 600 RPM pulley) it will fit onto the Phoenix motor shaft. For those VPI turntable owners who are thinking of upgrading their motor, the Phoenix 300 RPM pulley is also required. Both are available at substantial savings over the VPI upgrade. The pulley is compatible with VPI turntables that use an 11.5" platter (Scout, Classic, HW19 etc.).
Download Motor Data Sheet
The Eagle Power Supply Unit (PSU) is a microprocessor controlled digital regenerative AC power source used for accurate speed control of a turntable motor. The PSU uses Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) to create an extremely accurate and clean sine wave that improves motor speed stability and allows the user to precisely adjust the turntable platter rotational speed. The PSU is extremely easy to use and set up. All of the operating parameters are stored in non-volatile memory and the device always power up with the last used speed and frequency offset displayed. The PSU comes as two pieces: The Controller contains all of the frequency generation, logic, display, user and tachometer interface, and the remote amplifier boosts the signal from the controller to the mains voltage level (jumper selectable output of 115VAC/230VAC). The Eagle PSU works with turntables fitted with a 50Hz or 60Hz pulley (front panel selectable). The Eagle PSU can be connected directly to the RoadRunner digital turntable tachometer via a 3 wire serial cable in order to synchronize its output with the direct measurement of the platter speed. Operation is completely automatic with no user intervention needed. The tachometer outputs the speed reading once per revolution. The PSU compares this reading to the speed on the display and can make micro-fine adjustments to the output frequency to lock the turntable speed to within ±0.005 RPM. The adjustment is done slowly and evenly over the entire next revolution and is inaudible to the listener (in most cases, the adjustment is <0.0005 RPM per step). The turntable remains on speed independent of the belt tension, bearing oil viscosity, drag from the needle or any other variables that cause the table to drift over time. Tha Eagle comes with a universal input (100-260VAC) wall adapter with 6ft AC power cord, a 6ft cable to connect the controller to the amplifier and a standard NEMA 5-15 (North American 3 prong) socket on the front panel of the amplifier for the output.
Download Eagle Data Sheet
Download Eagle Owners Manual