tests/21-05-13_soundsmith
 
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Soundsmith Strain Gauge plus Sbooster MKII

27.05.2021 // Dirk Sommer

When I come across a plug-in power supply, I instantly think about a better alternative - regardless of whether it feeds an analogue or digital component and whether there is a switching or linear power supply in the plug housing. As soon as I unpacked the splendid Soundsmith Strain Gauge, I knew I was going to give it a try with a power supply upgrade.

In case you haven’t read the review about the Strain Gauge: This cartridge operates neither according to the moving-magnet, the moving-iron nor the moving-coil principle and doesn’t need an equalizing preamplifier, but a preamp unit that draws its voltage via two sockets. As already said, I react almost reflexively to plug-in power supplies. That's why I ordered two power supplies from Ferrum shortly after the Soundsmith arrived. But they were left out for the time being, while the Strain Gauge kept enchanting me with its enormously coherent and homogeneous sonic image as well as its dynamics, resolution and spatial imaging. Shortly before putting this rather euphoric statement on paper, I wanted to try out the scope of sonic possibilities with the two external hybrid power supplies. So I first hooked up the two Ferrum Hypsos to the SG-200 preamp without any cartridges connected. No matter which power supply I switched on first, as soon as the second one was added, the green LED above the minus sign switched off. In order not to endanger either the SG-200 or the power supply units, I stopped my experiments and concluded the testing procedure.

The SBooster power supply units feature a plastic housing: neither this nor the negative pole of the direct current are connected to the earth of the mains
The SBooster power supply units feature a plastic housing: neither this nor the negative pole of the direct current are connected to the earth of the mains

I then tried to find out why the Soundsmith did not work with the Ferrums. A friend of a colleague and owner of a Strain Gauge had reported that an additional power supply with a Y-cable to the two sockets of the Soundsmith preamp had not worked for him either. With two SBooster power supplies, however, everything ran smoothly and he liked the sound of his Strain Gauge even more. Eventually, on the website of the Dutch power supply specialists, who have their gear produced in Bulgaria, I then found a special set with two SBoosters, each of them providing 24 volts. So I called Wiebren Draaijer, the developer of the power supplies and head of SBooster, to find out which kind of particular circuitry lets his designs harmonise with the SG-200. He assured me, however, that the SBooster recommended for the SG-200 boasted no special features. As with all models, the negative pole of the direct current is not in contact with the earth of the mains. In a conversation with Frank Schröder, a designer of tonearms and accomplished connoisseur of Soundsmith cartridges, I got to know that the two channels of the cartridge are supplied with inverted voltages. With an ohmmeter I then found out that the middle pin (+) of the right socket, when seen from behind, used for connecting to the power supply is connected to the outer contact (-) of the left socket and both are connected to the earth terminal intended for the turntable. In this case a Y-cable can't work of course.

The Strain Gauge as seen with its SG-200 preamp supply unit
The Strain Gauge as seen with its SG-200 preamp supply unit


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