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Pete68's picture
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Arcam upgrades

I have been working with Fidelity Audio to design and build them a new website which will be rolled out in a couple of weeks.

As a part of the deal I will be getting some 'no holds barred' upgrades on my old Arcam Alpha 9 amps and CD player by Brent at Fidelity Audio, so I want to use this thread to post reports on some of the work that will be undertaken and the results of the upgrades.

I have the Arcam Alpha 9 integrated amp with the 9P power amp which I use in a bi-amp set up powering a pair of Acoustic Energy AE 120 floor standers. The CD player is the Arcam Alpha 9 with the DcS ring DAC, a great CD player even by today’s standards.

Along side these upgrades I will be tweaking the AE120’s myself. I believe What Hi-Fi gave them a 5 star review back in the day and speaker technology hasn’t really moved on to much at this pricepoint. Seeing as they only have a resale value of about £50 to £100 I feel I have nothing to loose.

The cabinets themselves are really well built and on the whole I like the sound that the speakers produce, although there are a couple of issues that I would like to address, i.e the boominess of the cabinets themselves and a slightly recessed top end which I think may come down to the age of the caps (and the Arcam amps)

I noticed that although there is plenty of internal wadding in the speakers the insides have no lining so the first thing I’ll do is line the insides with some 3mm ‘Dedsheet’ paneling. To further reduce cabinet resonance I will also put in some internal bracing.

I will be replacing/upgrading the crossover’s capacitors and possibly replace the internal wiring and maybe the binding posts. The only other thing I will consider doing is replacing the tweeter but I will see how the other, more cost effective tweaks go first.

If I am happy with how it all ends up then I will re-veneer the cabinets  in zebrano wood, (those Spendor SP1’s look the bomb!)

I’ll post pictures of the project as it goes along is anyone is interested.

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

The work on the Arcam Alpha 9P power amp  is now complete and Fidelity Audio have told me that they have been pleasantly surprised with the results of the upgrade. I will get it back next week and see for myself but one thing that has been discovered is why the Arcam has such a warm characteristic.

Apparently the Arcam sounds very bright, too bright - so what they do is put an attenuator in to tone down that brightness making the amp sound warm. This warmth is actually quite nice but it can seem to put a blanket over the music.

Anyway, Fidelity Audio have removed the attenuator and replaced the parts that make the amp sound bright. They have also done some other bits and bobs, more details to follow. I look forward to hearing the results next week.

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

12Designs wrote:

The work on the Arcam Alpha 9P power amp  is now complete and Fidelity Audio have told me that they have been pleasantly surprised with the results of the upgrade. I will get it back next week and see for myself but one thing that has been discovered is why the Arcam has such a warm characteristic.

Apparently the Arcam sounds very bright, too bright - so what they do is put an attenuator in to tone down that brightness making the amp sound warm. This warmth is actually quite nice but it can seem to put a blanket over the music.

Anyway, Fidelity Audio have removed the attenuator and replaced the parts that make the amp sound bright. They have also done some other bits and bobs, more details to follow. I look forward to hearing the results next week.

That's a great project. Merits a new thread on the 'your system' forum, no?

I'll be really interested to hear your report on the modded Arcam boxes' SQ. I'm very happy with my modded Sonos ZP90. In fact, I'm tempted to get another one done for my dining room.

Matt

The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves ...

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

Arcam's original use of the the attenuator sounds like a bit of a bodge to me.  Wouldn't it have been better if they'd got the design right in the first place?

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

matthewpiano wrote:

Arcam's original use of the the attenuator sounds like a bit of a bodge to me.  Wouldn't it have been better if they'd got the design right in the first place?

Hopefully, that's what the mods will address, but then there will be difficulty in judging the results unless access is available to a pre mod unit.

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

Hi Matt

Yea, Brents a great guy and very knowledgeable too, I am very happy for him to being working on my gear.

I will keep this post updated as things unfold.

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

I do have the Alpha 9 integrated so I will be able to make a direct comparison with the two amps before I send the integrated off for the same treatment

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

.

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RE: Complete modification of an Arcam Alpha 9 system

matthewpiano wrote:

Arcam's original use of the the attenuator sounds like a bit of a bodge to me.  Wouldn't it have been better if they'd got the design right in the first place?

 

Exactly what Fidelity Audio said.

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RE: Arcam upgrades

I will be interested to hear how it sounds when you get it back, bet its nothing like an Arcam anymore.

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RE: Arcam upgrades

Have received the Arcam power amp (Alpha 9) back from Fidelity Audio today. It has had some modifications (details on exactly what to follow).

So, I plugged it into the unmodified Alpha 9 integrated to be able to test one against the other. I'm not sure what I was expecting but sure that the changes would be subtle as the modifications only came to the tune of £350. The source was just an ipod playing WAV files with no DAC, as my usual source (Arcam Alpha 9 CD) isn't back from Fidelity Audio yet.

I tested the new amp with three pieces of music; Wynton Maralis - Stardust (from the album Hot House Flowers), Rush - Distant Early Warning (from the album Grace Under Pressure and Erykah Badu - Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long (from the album New Amerykah).

At first I could tell that there was a difference especially around the upper mids and top end but as I went back and forth between the two amps the differences became a lot more apparent. The modified arcam was a lot more revealing and the presentation was crystal clear in comparison to the unmodified amp, and it wasn’t just the top end but throughout the entire spectrum.

The unmodified Arcam makes a pleasant enough sound but the modified one separates the different instruments in the music, and presents them very well, not harsh at all may I add. A lot more detail, snare drums sound much more realistic, bass notes sound  as though they are coming from an instrument that is being plucked rather than kicked and voices are now amazing. Yes, I am hearing new stuff in the music, the emotion of voices especially but also subtleties that have up until now, been buried under a layer of mush.

All in all I am extremely happy with the work as well as a little surprised by the results. Now to send off the Alpha 9 integrated for the same treatment and a little more around the pre amp section.

CD player should be back next week, it has had nearly 2k worth of modifications on it so am expecting something quite special.

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RE: Arcam upgrades

Pete68 wrote:

At first I could tell that there was a difference especially around the upper mids and top end but as I went back and forth between the two amps the differences became a lot more apparent. The modified arcam was a lot more revealing and the presentation was crystal clear in comparison to the unmodified amp, and it wasn’t just the top end but throughout the entire spectrum.

The unmodified Arcam makes a pleasant enough sound but the modified one separates the different instruments in the music, and presents them very well, not harsh at all may I add. A lot more detail, snare drums sound much more realistic, bass notes sound  as though they are coming from an instrument that is being plucked rather than kicked and voices are now amazing. Yes, I am hearing new stuff in the music, the emotion of voices especially but also subtleties that have up until now, been buried under a layer of mush.

Pete, that sounds excellent. Are they upgrading the PSU in the CDP for you? 

Matt :cheers:

The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves ...

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RE: Arcam upgrades

Pete68 wrote:

CD player should be back next week, it has had nearly 2k worth of modifications on it so am expecting something quite special.

 

£2,000 on the cd player what are they doing to it? Ive seen mods upto £1,400 but not £2,000. Be interested to see it compares with a decent cd transport with a DAC like the Metrum Octave Mk2.

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RE: Arcam upgrades

Thanks Matt.

 

Brent has put 2 new PSU's in, much bigger than the original. The only thing the original is doing now is powering the LED display on the front of the unit.

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RE: Arcam upgrades

BigH wrote:

Pete68 wrote:

CD player should be back next week, it has had nearly 2k worth of modifications on it so am expecting something quite special.

 

£2,000 on the cd player what are they doing to it? Ive seen mods upto £1,400 but not £2,000. Be interested to see it compares with a decent cd transport with a DAC like the Metrum Octave Mk2.

Here are a couple of photos of the first stage of the upgrade. Two new PSUs and six low noise voltage regulators on a custom board. I will have more details soon.

I decided to run with the DcS Dac that was already in the machine rather than go for an external Dac. The Alpha 9 has a sweet sound to my ears.

PSU

noise regs

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RE: Arcam upgrades

Very nice work, Pete! Those guys know what they're doing.

Matt

The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves ...

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