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Henry Tang - Coherent Modification

These solid state monoblox power amplifiers designed and implemented entirely by Coherent Audio Systems are as far as I know unique and one of a kind, or should that be two of kind? The heart of each power amp is based around a Tripath switching amp module (variously also known as PWM, digital or Class-T technology). The amp modules (albeit with one or two component substitutions) are the only off the shelf components in these amps, the rest has of the supporting cast been custom designed and built in order to get the most out of these amp modules. Particular attention has been paid in the areas of power supply regulation and minimising RF interference, two areas that Coherent Audio Systems felt to date no manufacturer implementing amps using this type of technology had bothered to optimise anywhere near enough in order to realise the full potential of this technology. Attention has also been paid to micro-phony as is evidenced by the amount of case and component damping applied internally. The list of custom components inside includes custom hand wound transformers, hard wiring with specialist cable (the same wire as that used in Coherent’s range of cables), and some very unique power regulation circuits. All in all, this is a hand built project implemented from the ground up with many hours of fine tuning and listening performed in order to select the right components which to go make up the final product.

So how do they sound? A straight wire with gain comes to mind as the most succinct description I can think of. This is, in my opinion is how solid state should be. The sound here isn’t euphoric, nor is it stark and analytical in the way that a component designed to solely to analyze what’s wrong rather than what’s right with the incoming signal; it gives you whatever the source is presenting to you but also allows you select whether to bask in the music making as a whole or to follow each individual musician’s contribution. There is a noticeable lack of hash and grain to the sound which you suddenly become aware of only when you realise how much louder you’re able to play a lot of recording you previously held the volume back on due to them being a brash, sibilant or just generally nasty at high volumes. The headroom available on these amps seems just about limitless, but then with almost three-quarters of a kilowatt of available power from each amp feeding into the 88dB/w efficient speakers that I own, one might not find that conclusion all that surprising. One of the upshots of all this dynamic headroom is you start to notice the dynamic limitations in the recordings you feed the amps, such as when too much compression or limiting be applied in the recording process albeit this not in an out and distracting manner, or on the flip side with the right recording how much more impact and snap you can get from the drum kit on a favorite album you’ve been playing for years. All this power without ever breaking into a sweat too, yes these amps don’t ever get any more than lukewarm regardless of whatever levels you’re playing them at due to the technology used in the amp modules being inherently over 90% efficient with their power input.

You might think that with all this power on tap that these amps are not able to handle the grace, delicacy and subtlety required for less visceral music making, but surprising they do just as well here too. Ambient clues, recording venue acoustics and image placement are revealed very well by this amp, yet the sound also remains palpably rock solid and cohesive. There was also more insight into bass lines and in general what was going in the bottom octaves compared to a pair of well known Tripath based monobloc amps I was using before, which by comparison was less well resolved both in the tune as well as the rhythm departments. Further up the audio range, vocals whether they be solo or ensemble have just the right amount of presence, clarity and diction; whilst the top-end brings out texture, shimmer and extended decay without being overtly silky in the one extreme or stridently searing in the other.

In summary, these amps are great all-rounders in every way whatever your musical preferences, are compatible with a very wide range of speakers and appear to be quite unique in the attributes they are able to offer compared to what else I’ve heard available with a 4 figure price tag. In fact, I really think these amps share attributes I’ve heard from one or two well respected solid-state and non-colourful valve amps that I once aspired to own should I ever win the lottery!

SYSTEM

Wadia 860x CD player
Michell Orbe / SME V / Van Den Hull Frog turntable
Bel Canto Pre1P phono stage
Meadowlark Audio Osprey speakers (modified by Coherent Audio Systems)
Audio Magic Eclipse mains conditioner
Coherent Audio Systems Connoisseur mains, speaker and interconnect cables
 
Date of Posting: 08 May 2007
Posted By: Henry Tang Exeter
I am delighted to report that I have found something that has made a worthwhile and significant impact on my system: a set of speaker cables, two power cords and a mains conditioner from Coherent Systems.

When combined these items produce an extremely engaging, grain free sound. The first thing you notice is the improvement in the system’s transparency. It really seems like a veil has been removed from the speakers. There is a noticeable improvement in levels of detail as well. Micro detail, gone unnoticed before, suddenly appears from every corner of the soundstage. Instrument separation also improves. What seemed acceptable before now seems just a little muddy and muddled by comparison.

Music appears more alive/exciting, dynamic and certainly more forward but not in a bad way. The sound is never harsh, thin or overly aggressive - there is lushness and texture to everything which is really very appealing especially with jazz and ambient music. On quicker music, such as rock, leading edges are crisper and bass timelier. Guitars and drums carry more weight and impact. Things speed up. The foot definitely taps.

Nothing in the Coherent sound is over emphasized. The music just seems to have a balance and inherent rightness to it which makes for a far more involving musical experience. In my opinion this is quite an achievement at any price point let alone the ones offered by Coherent. I believe I would have to spend a lot more money than I did with Coherent on a CD player or an amplifier to get a similar upgrade in sound. In my opinion that makes Coherent products good value for money.

I would certainly encourage anyone considering a cable or system upgrade to give Tony a call. His products have made a worthwhile difference to my system.

Coherent products:

Coherent Systems Power Master 2
Connoisseur speaker cables and power cord
Cuirve Profond power cord


System:

Wadia 16
Bel Canto 2i
Meadowlark K2


Other cables tested:

Chord
Van den Hul
Acoustic Zen
Gut Wire
Shunyata
Virtual Dynamics
Nordost
 
Date of Posting: 27 April 2007
Posted By: Andrew Bechgaard London
Dear Tony…Just a brief word of thanks for the first class service and progress to date.

Like many, I bought my first system through the UK's dealership network and was fortunate enough to receive decent advice on component matching. Although basic, this system served me well over the years with a few tweaks and minor upgrades. At the time, I could not afford (what I thought was) the ultimate turntable based set up. A few years back I decided to upgrade the basic system and bought the system I wanted. It was much better although something was missing somewhere - two dimensional sound, grey-ness and a seat in the upper circle for most performances. So, costly cables, power supplies (even a sub woofer) and mains conditioners followed. The music was better although despite careful set up - it sounded sterile and bereft of any passion or involvement. It was difficult to pin down as I was convinced I had a well matched set-up and it certainly produced better results than I had heard before. And of course it was reassuring to know the brands were reputed to be world class. Maybe it was my hearing (advancing years) but there was still something missing.

Shopping around for components or buying and selling bits and pieces looked to be a lengthy and costly route to something better - without any guarantee of solving that "missing" puzzle. It was in fact the way many people "upgraded" There is certainly no shortage of advice and tempting world class components out there to play with.

Our first conversation started by me commenting it was encouraging to hear music in the background when you called. I was also impressed by the quick "out of hours" response. Much of that first call was about our shared passion for music and an elusive "rightness" in its reproduction. The first meeting at Malvern was a revelation for me in terms of what was possible. It also starkly convinced me to migrate to a new well founded and balanced system rather than continue to "upgrade".

I realised during our demonstrations that it was not a question of what was missing from the music - more a case of what was getting in the way. Coherent has already invested all the hours and expense that I was facing without the know how to get anywhere near the same result. From then on, the solution became simple and parting with my cherished dream system (mostly funding its replacement) became easy.

tape), amp, loom and speakers have all seemingly vanished. There is just the big invisible center speaker along with the correctly positioned and textured band, orchestra or vocalist in the room. My wife sits and listens (a first) and my two year old looks around to see who was singing. I know you will tell me there's another 30% to get from it but that can wait …at least until the music stops... Right now, the system is pure joy. The original source components (CD, TT and Thank you again.

Regards Peter
 
Date of Posting: 21 April 2007
Posted By: Peter Stein South Gloucestershire
Henry Tang - Coherent Modification

I’ve now been witness to quite a number of before and after comparisons of Coherent Systems modified equipment, this has included several pieces of kit that I have already owned for quite some time and therefore have been more than familiar with before having them submitted for treatment. Each time, I’m always taken aback by in my view how unsubtle the changes and improvements are. Perhaps most surprising of all, is that even top-of-the-range high-end components can still be further improved upon, a prime example being an Accuphase DP90 CD transport that I sent to Coherent which had a Trichord Clock 4 and clock PSU modification fitted as well as a few other goodies added for good measure.

The best way of describing what kind of sonic improvements you can typically expect from a package of modification is that you will get more of what you already had (the good aspects obviously). The direction and goal that you’d like to take with your particular package of modifications is entirely up for discussion with Tony at Coherent, you tell him what you currently do and don’t like so much about your component (or system) and he’ll work out with you a tailor made package that in my experience should nicely achieve or exceed your initial expectations. After all, if you’ve found a component that nearly fits your requirements in every way but have been disappointed by constant long term equipment changes only to move sideways each time, then customising and tweaking what you already have to your own specific requirements is certainly the way to go.

Very recently, I sent along my Wadia 860x CD player to Coherent to have a set of very extensive modification done on it. I took the plunge after hearing Wadia 850 and 861 CD players treated to similar modifications before, so already had an idea of what to expect from the finished article. Tony at Coherent kept me fully informed at each stage and also provided a photo diary of the modification process. Modifications included changes/upgrades to all capacitors, substitutions to the op-amps in the analogue output stage, addition of By-bee Quantum filters in various strategic locations, extra mechanical damping surrounding and applied to the supporting structure of the CD transport mechanism and extra RF shielding material wrapped around signal cabling.

So, before saying what areas of performance had been improved upon after the modifications perhaps I should first of all mention what I thought I felt needed to be addressed and improved upon in the first instance. Well, before the 860x I had a factory standard 850 CD player from Wadia but wanted to change up to an 860(x) as I wanted digital input/output facilities that weren’t available on the 850. Comparing the standard 850 against the standard 860x, I felt that the 860x offered a much cleaner and detailed top-end as well as more presence and realism to the mid range. However, I was rather disappointed with the bass on the 860x compared to the 850 which just seemed rather ponderous and lethargic compared to the 850 – the 850 had more get-up-and-go and grooved better if you like. A case of wishing you could mix the good traits from both pieces of equipment. Well, post modifications this is exactly what we have ended up with in the 860x, it has now gained tunefulness and fleet of foot in the bass that the 850 had, and the positive attributes of the mid range and top end have been retained and enhanced to boot as well. The noise floor has dropped considerably so that there are now blacker silences (especially between the notes), more detail, less grain, hash and glare, more cohesive imaging and more ambient clues. It’s also possible to listen louder with less fatigue and musically as it’s as if the player has spent time on a health farm and received an extra shot of adrenalin in its musical stride. Having said all that about the pace and speed this player has now gained, it’s not necessarily about boldness and liveliness, it should also be mentioned that the player is also equally at adept with soothing and relaxing musical genres as well.

The 860x was also a second-hand purchase, so what with the money spent on the original player and the modifications together; the whole in my opinion would appear to be greater the sum of the parts compared to an equivalent priced commercial CD player in standard form.
 
Date of Posting: 09 March 2007
Posted By: Henry Tang Exeter
I’ve know Tony for a number of years now and have been consistently impressed with the progress and sonic improvements he has been able make to his own personal audio system upon each visit since he started R&D into the ideas and products which have now become available through Coherent Audio Systems.

Among the first beta products I tried out and evaluated in my own system as a result of the early development efforts were a range of digital interconnects which I compared to some much pricier ones that I already had in situ. Needless to say I replaced the cables I already had with the very ones that Tony gave me to evaluate. Then some time later came some speaker cables which I was immediately impressed with yet again, another immediate purchase.

Having worked my way through cables top of the range cables in the past from the likes of Siltech, Yammamura-Churhill, Nordost, Acoustic Zen, and Townshend Audio I’ve found the Connoisseur range of cables from Coherent Audio Systems to have a rare and uniquely balance of both sonically and musically excellent attributes. Also, the price of Coherent Audio Systems’ cable in my own personal opinion offers good value for money in comparison to the equivalent competition.

Apart from cables, Coherent Audio Systems also offer a custom equipment modification service and great impartial upgrade advice. You basically discuss your requirements and a unique package is agreed according to your aims and cost criteria. I have been very pleased with improvements wrought out from an Accuphase DP90 CD transport, and the Meadowlark Audio Osprey speakers that are still a part of my current system.

I have also been a very satisfied owner of the Mk I version of the Power Master mains conditioner from Coherent Audio Systems which is a comparatively simple yet very effective little box of tricks. It is my personal opinion once again that this puts some of the more expensive competition to shame. Have yet to try the Mk II version yet, although I’m assured it gives the Audio Magic Eclipse I have something to think about!

Knowing what can be achieved through past listening demos using very similar equipment to which I currently own, I’m very much looking forward to the custom set of modifications which are about to be carried out to my equipment by Coherent Audio Systems.

System: Wadia 850 / 860X CD player (soon to be modified by Coherent Audio Systems) Michell Orbe / SME V / Van Den Hul Frog turntable Bel Canto Evo 200.2 power amps (soon to be modified by Coherent Audio Systems) Bel Canto Pre1 Phono pre amp (soon to be modified by Coherent Audio Systems) Meadowlark Audio Osprey speakers (modified by Coherent Audio Systems) Coherent Audio Systems Connoisseur range of interconnects, speaker cables/jumpers and mains cables Audio Magic Eclipse mains conditioner Stillpoints isolation devices
 
Date of Posting: 23 November 2006
Posted By: Henry Tang Exeter
The following mods were undertaken by Coherent Systems to a stock Musical Fidelity X-Ray V3, and PMC GB1s:

X-RayV3:

Trichord Clock 4 crystal oscillator fitted.
Trichord dedicated clock PSU fitted.
5 Volt digital supply replaced with custom super-regulator.
All decoupling and bypass capacitors upgraded.
Main power supply through-hole smoothing capacitors upgraded.
Furutech Rhodium-plated IEC inlet socket fitted.
WBT "Nextgen" digital output socket fitted.
Digital wiring replaced with Coherent Systems "Connoiseur" wiring.
PLL Filter upgraded with metal-film capacitors and precision resistors.
Power-supply wiring improved.

The mods reflect its use as a dedicated transport.

Used with X-DACv3, X-10v3 tube buffer biamped with X-150 and X-P200 amplifiers - initially via stock Tannoy 609s, later with Coherent-modded PMC GB1s.

Result: even before running-in, the lift in performance was dramatic and immediate. Even through the (temporary) Tannoys the modded CDP immediately outperformed the unmodified setup, with a musically more cohesive performance. 250 hours of run-in time later and the performance is massively bootstrapped - as much as two price-classes above its previous capability. The X-Ray remains a neutral and detailed player that simply plays the music without sanitising it, while the vital "Believability Factor" has leaped-up!

In my experience, you would need to spend at least £1500 new to improve on this sound, and I have heard CDPs retailing close to £2500 that do not sound better to my ears.

PMC GB1s:

This job involved an upgrade to the crossovers. All capacitors and resistors were significantly upgraded with carefully-selected high-grade components.

Result: stunning: WOW! Before, the PMCs "presented" the sound, not unpleasantly, but not neutrally either. Now they "communicate" it. All definable areas have improved, so seamlessly that it is my pet-fave, that Believability Factor that once-again sums it up best - everything, very simply, sounds more real. Cost of the upgrade was £175 and I'd be looking to spend at least £1500 to even *equal* the modded GB1s.

There is always the possibility that DIY mods can put a system out of synergy unless painstakingly chosen items, based on thousands of hours of experience, are used. Using Coherent's expertise has avoided that pitfall, and yielded a result that comfortably exceeds the sum of its parts. I consider this work an absolute bargain, and commend it to anyone who is approaching where they want to be on their upgrade path, and who wants to increase their system's performance without losing either its fundamental character nor the approval of their nearest and dearest!
 
Date of Posting: 11 July 2006
Posted By: Paul Jeffery Oxfordshire
I have used various different mains treatment devices from isolation transformers to capacitor/inductor filters.

When I had the Coherent Systems PowerMaster on trial it was a very large eye (ear!) opener. It rendered my previous mains treatments obsolete immediately. I'm not sure how it does it but it works very well. In my system the main attributes it gives are, a much lower noise floor, cleaner highs, better defined bass and a more prominent midrange. Along with these improvements came a much wider soundstage, this necessitated moving the speakers farther apart and along with that came a deeper stage as well. It is now much easier to hear each instrument and its ambience, vocals are cleaner and better placed. All this is without loosing any musical integration, not clinical in any way. It has none of the bad attributes of some other types of mains treatment, for instance, I found that capacitor/inductor filters can have a detrimental effect on dynamics. The Power Master has no effect like this at all, in fact I believe that due to the lower noise floor, dynamics now have way more punch and almost seem faster.

The unit itself is very small considering it has six power outlet, this makes it a doodle to hide behind your rack and helps keep things tidy. I would recommend anyone who wants to eek out more from their system gives this unit an audition, but be sure you have the cash as I doubt you will want to return it!.

System -- Raga Jupiter CD player. Scheu based DIY turntable, modified Raga RB300, DV10x5 cartridge. Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid Pre-amp (Modified) Bel Canto Evo4 power amp Meadowlark Kestrel Hotrod2 speakers. Supports - Seismic sink under CD player and power amp. Other items on marble and spike combo.
 
Date of Posting: 06 May 2006
Posted By: Andrew Penance
A quick note on the customer service provided by Tony at Coherent Systems. I've known Tony for several years and have been extremely impressed with the service he's provided over that period. My first contact with Tony was after upgrading my DAC and finding that the resultant tonal balance of my system was too bright. I'd contacted Tony to take advantage of the 14 day trial offer on his cables with the intention of trying to tame the brightness by changing my interconnects. Tony was more than happy to pay a personal visit in an effort to cure the problem and given that he was making a 170 mile round-trip I was more than a little concerned that I would be under pressure to buy whatever products he was bringing along to try and cure my problem. To my surprise there was no 'sales' pressure whatsoever, Tony was clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about his subject and after explaining my problem proceeded to swap cables in and out of my system while I sat and listened to their effect, and what an effect they had! It was difficult to believe I was listening to the same system! Each change of cable built upon the last until finally I had what he called a 'full loom', a digital interconnect between the transport and d/a converter, analogue interconnects from the d/a converter to the amps, bi-wire cables from the amps to the speakers and a power cable on the transport, d/a converter and on each mono bloc amp.

At this point the sound-stage of my system was incredible - considerably wider, deeper and taller than with my original cables, also, the replacement cables had reduced the effect of the system brightness by significantly reducing the edginess and harshness in the treble that I hadn't really noticed had been present until now. The last trick Tony did was to plug the transport and d/a converter power leads into one of his Power Master mains conditioners, this moved the system up another notch, with another increase in sound stage width, depth and height, with a further reduction in the edginess and harshness in the treble.

At this point I was completely shocked, it was like all the components in my system had been upgraded to something much more expensive. Over the ensuing months I purchased the various cables piecemeal as funds became available and just recently took delivery of my latest purchase from Tony which were a pair of custom re-engineered mono bloc amplifiers based around Bel Canto Tripath digital technology and a customised version of his Power Master III power conditioner. The amps are absolutely stunning, a significant step up from my Krell MDA 300 mono blocs with the bonus of drawing much less current than the Krell's allowing them to be used with the customised Power Master III mains conditioner, which has now resulted in the reduction of edginess and harshness in the system to the point where it's virtually non-existent.

Equipment:

 
Date of Posting: 22 January 2006
Posted By: Gary Griffiths West Midlands

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