Ideology of the good sound

MARKANIn the “Articles” section you can find a lot of information that, from one or another angle, illuminates my views on life on many technical issues. Unlike articles, which constitute a formed information “portion”, this section of the site is considered by me as an open, constantly changing resource, which I do not plan to give to the appearance of a complete literary work, I will allow myself to present and add information without worrying about its smooth transitions from one themes in another.

Here I will try to focus more specifically on technical issues and approaches to the design of the MARKAN technique.

Some aspects of the MARKAN ideology in sound reproduction.

There is a simplified division of audio equipment into “audiophile” and “music lovers”. The first category characterizes the most accurate approach to the reproduction of the sound content of the transmitted musical event, the second category states the concept of the most careful attitude to the emotional component of this, the musical event reproduced by the equipment. I allow myself to limit myself to such a conditional division into categories and I will not go deeper into their descriptive characteristics – I mean that once you are here, you already have some life experience in the issues of sound reproduction and understand well what is at stake. Please, remember – the MARKAN technique refers to precision equipment and is not designed for “novice” audio enthusiasts.

The division of technology into “audiophile” and “music lovers”, of course, completely conditional, has no boundaries and “pure” manifestations of these characteristics. The operation of any audio device can be described using terms of these categories. It is the combination of these or other properties from these categories that gives each audio device its unique style of sounding (we are not yet talking about MUSIC). Confident and purposeful use of these properties makes it possible to talk about the recognizable style of sound delivery by one or another manufacturer of equipment.

So, what makes the style of sound delivery of MARKAN technique so recognizable.

The heart of any digital audio source  is the DAC chip (a chip that performs digital-to-analog conversion). This unit is the most “thin link” in the long chain of construction of any digital device. I propose to consider this unit from this point of view:  the rest of the path following the DAC chip, reproduces only that it was able to generate a DAC chip from the incoming digital data stream. In this case, the process of DATA TRANSFORMATION in DAC chip will ALWAYS be defective (with losses) in relation to the information content of the digital data stream arriving at it. Proceeding from this position, it is incorrect to say that this or that DAC chip sounds good or bad – they ALL result in losses and distortions of the signal coming to them in digital form. We can only choose for our tasks those types of DACs, which least distort the important for us SOUND signal characteristics, which we already choose from the “audiophile” or “music” categories considered above.
Digital designs of MARKAN use DAC chip TDA1541, which I regard as the most HUMAN-sounding DAC chip of all time. That is, its internal structure minimizes (in relation to all other brands of DAC chips known to me) phase-time relations of complex signals responsible for the transmission of the emotional component of music. If you prefer other types of DACs for some reasons, I can recommend viewing any of the  forums on these issues – 95% of the information is dedicated to the TDA1541 DAC chip.
There are more precisely working DAC chips, which make it possible to easily obtain beautiful formal sound characteristics. But, at the same time they are incorrigible “crackers”. My position on this issue is: if emotions in music die with these chips, then why do everything else?
To provide “champion” formal sound characteristics (sound stage, scale, resolution, etc.), DAC MARKAN uses extensive engineering solutions, including: the use of 8 power transformers, built-in power network filter, 29 voltage regulators,  etc., carefully selected element base and honed with years of design topology.
How does this all relate to each other? I believe that the sound should be like in figure skating: first there is a mandatory program (submission of formal sound characteristics) and only then you can go to an arbitrary program – go to the consideration of emotional indicators. First you need to learn at least to convey the precise sound stage well and only then talk about the transfer of much more complex phenomena – MUSIC. But, after all, that is the ability to convey the emotional components of MUSIC made MARKAN technique so popular? Yes, all right, because good formal sound indicators are not uncommon for expensive commercial technology, it is always necessary, but absolutely not sufficient condition for an expensive device to “catch on” in the home audio setups. Perfect formal sound indicators and a full-blooded emotional filling in the sound of MARKAN technology – on an unattainable level for commercial technology.

A few words about the current situation in the field of commercial audio equipment. There are two main types of DAC chips: one-bit (delta-sigma) and multi-bit. In the “Articles” section you can find information about the unconditional priority of multi-bit DAC chips before one-bit delta-sigma defective ones. To date, 95% of commercial audio equipment is based on single-bit delta-sigma DAC chips and only multi-bit DAC chips are used in individual designs (usually very expensive). DAC chip TDA1541, used in DAC MARKAN – of course, multi-bit.

Each DAC MARKAN has a “junior” power cable MARKAN, without which it is impossible to disclose the entire sound potential of the MARKAN equipment. For many enthusiasts, the need to use specialized audio power cables for powering  is still a mystery. I’ll try to share my thoughts on this.

Any electronic device ABSOLUTELY ALWAYS is a kind of CONTROL DEVICE (modulator) of a power source. What quality of power – this is the end result, plus the characteristic features of the “steward” (modulator). By feeding an electronic device from an electrical network, we hope (most often unconsciously) that that wild, primordial energy of falling water, burning coal, a fissionable atom that participates in the production of electricity, will give us some of its ENERGY structure, in our case – will serve as the basis for the mysteries of the transformation of the flow of electrons (or something else …) into EMOTIONAL structures that allow us to touch the most intimate aspects of the performing skills of great musicians. But still nobody knows what ELECTRIC CURRENT is! Why is there an electromagnetic field around the conductor with current, what does it consist of, why does the current in the conductor propagate at a speed incommensurable with the speed of the electrons movement? These and many other questions remain outside the barrier of the evidence of modern science. The Maxwell equations system is constantly expanding, but many simple questions still remain without an exact answer. Therefore, I do not claim in my descriptions for “scientific” accuracy with a lean face – I simply share my life experience, the results of which anyone can easily check.

Passing a thousand-kilometer path from the dark depths of the “Electric kingdom”, electricity ceases to be in the form of an electron-ordered motion, becomes contaminated (as well as the usual sound signal) and acquires some chaotic physical properties. If we use a “good” audio power cable, it is understood that the conductor of this cable has a more or less clean and more or less ordered crystal lattice (internal structure). Passing the final segment of its path through our considered “good” audio power cable, before the entrance to the audio equipment, electricity passes through an ordered crystal lattice through a kind of filter, electrons and other carriers (!) regulate their movement and trajectory – and this inevitably affects the sound. The longer the length of the specialized “good” cable and the better its sound properties – the more noticeable this effect is.

I can give another analogy – turnstiles in the subway. On the street there may be a disorderly crowd of passengers, and to the trains passengers arrive in orderly rows and columns. Absolutely all the passengers from the street come to the trains. There are no delays – the formless crowd will still not be able to leave faster than the streams ordered by turnstiles. But, the degree of internal order and the optimality of the functioning of all services of the subway are provided by turnstiles.

In a good power cable, the role of such turnstiles is played by the internal ordered structure of the conductor. The device still receives the same “amount” of electricity as with the “usual” cable, but here the quality of this very electricity is completely different – the sound will be completely different.

The length of the power cables MARKAN is 2m18cm (according to the conductor). This value is long enough for the effective manifestation of the phenomenon described above, and the specific length was chosen from the values ​​of the “magic” cable lengths, voiced by NORDOST, which was revered at the time. Is it really true – I did not think about it and did not experiment, I just used the specific recommendations of this company.

MARKAN power cables give the consumer one more possibility of influencing the sound by spreading the “sleeves” of the cable in space. This gives additional openness and freedom to sound. There is nothing easier to experiment independently and be convinced of all this.

I never tire of recalling the factor of optimal phasing of all power network plugs of equipment, which is extremely important for a serious sound reproduction. The higher the level of sound reproduction the audio setup claims, the more noticeable is this factor. For the MARKAN technique, the optimal phasing of the mains plugs of the entire path is very relevant and is described in detail in the instruction manual.

The effect of “ordering” any electrical signal when passing through an ordered crystal lattice of a conductor is inherent in any cable in the audio path and the interconnect MARKAN cable demonstrates this phenomenon to the maximum extent. In the audio periodicals, when testing interconnect cables, it has been repeatedly noted that sounding with an expensive cable is much more interesting than using a jumper of zero length. In active cascades of audio equipment, the sound signal acquires a considerable “chaotic” component, which is eliminated when the signal passes through the ordered crystal lattice of the conductor. Most likely (I adhere to this opinion), the sound properties of the cable conductor are completely determined by the degree of homogeneity (the purity of the metal) and the spatial ordering of its crystal lattice (in other words, its internal structure).

The MARKAN interconnect cable is made of a conductor obtained by manually assembling the required cross-section of a wire with a diameter of 20 microns (for reference: the diameter of a human hair is, on average, 50 microns). This wire was obtained by drawing a single-crystal conductor from the copper melt. For such technological aimes, only the purest copper goes. This method of non-ferrous metallurgy was repeatedly mentioned in the audio periodical as a method of the Japanese professor Ohno. The wire for the interconnect MARKAN cable was manufactured in the 70s of the 20th century in the bowels of the domestic defense complex, where nobody heard about this Japanese professor. None of the commercial cables known to me use conductors of such a small diameter, which makes it possible to obtain the most ordered crystal structure. The metal of ultimate purity, which goes to similar tasks, acquires completely different properties, related precisely to the properties of its crystal lattice – pure metals begin to exhibit the properties of crystals and are less similar to metals. Bank ingots of pure gold are covered with tiny crystals of this metal, visible even to the naked eye and forming well-distinguishable domains on the surface of the ingot. Everyone knows that gold is an extremely plastic metal, which has nothing in common with “habitual” crystals. When the metal becomes pure, it begins to exhibit crystalline properties, which are just used in audio engineering.

New connectors for interconnect cables MARKAN also support the concept of the struggle for sound at any cost. Contact made of pure silver is the most optimal choice of material – very often this metal serves to cover high-frequency connectors and conductors, works in contact groups of precision relays, even audio cables are made of it. From my life positions – this is the optimal choice of metal for contacts. The known silver darkening effect is associated not with oxidation, but with silver sulfation in an atmosphere containing sulfur. For this, the metal must blow out large volumes of air. In the conditions of the closed connector this does not happen. Unlike oxides (copper, for example), sulfation does not lead to the appearance of a semiconductor effect, i.e. does not interfere with the conductor’s work.

The contact unit of the RCA connector made of wood is also a very courageous step in the struggle for YOUR sound. The search of different materials for this site demonstrated the undeniable advantages of the wood – again, natural plant fibers and air between them. It remains only to optimize the production process for this difficult material (try to cut the thread M12 step1 on the wood!), And the result is obvious. The tailings of the connectors are made of ebonite (this, in fact, is also a natural material obtained by vulcanization of natural rubber with sulfur) – this is already for a good “snagging” of the connector.

The combination of silver and wood eliminates a well-known “silver” hue in the sound, these materials simply perfectly complement each other in their sound properties and the sound result is very neutral in balance.

So, let me remind you the main provisions in the construction of the MARKAN interconnect cable: a set of cable conductor based on the principle of a litz from a wire with a diameter of 20 microns, made by drawing a single crystal of copper from the melt; the absence of synthetic dielectrics in the cable construction; the spatial spacing of the conductors of the cable; the use of connectors with contacts of pure silver with the minimum volume of metal in the connector. The result is an unprecedentedly clear sound and an unreachable interpretation of MUSIC for commercial cables, from where the most subtle nuances of performance, intonational accents and expressive pauses suddenly appear.

Well, well … In the heat of the battle for the most top-notch sound, we had to sacrifice, so to speak, the “design” of all cables produced. The design for cables is a piece of conditional, they still can not be seen in real operation – the design is only needed at the time of purchase to attract the attention of the buyer. MARKAN cables have something to attract attention – a sound result. Therefore, my position regarding cable design can be formulated simply: No “design”! Only sound! Everything is done extremely accurately and soundly. If you need a “design” – there are a lot of designer finds in the cable market, if you need a sound – then this is towards us, there is no such sound anymore! Not for any money!

The principle of galvanic separation of units and devices is well known in the field of analogue sound engineering. Typical representatives of this approach are cascades (and devices) with a transformer coupling. Professional audio equipment often uses this type of connection (balanced interfaces). Cascades and devices with a transformer coupling have a pronounced nature of the sound, due to galvanic separation of blocks – the sound is more open, large and free. Personally, I consider such approaches as the most optimal and promising in both analog and digital domains.

Recently, the concept of synchronization of several external digital devices from one common generator has become popular in digital sound engineering. I want to warn you against pursuing this approach. In DAC MARKAN, this technical approach is partially used in the INNER site of the reclocking. The master built-in generator performs the resynchronization of audio data at several stages of their advancement within the device. In fact, I do not advocate the use of hard synchronization, both inside the device, and, especially, in the configuration of several stand-alone devices. As can be inferred from all the information I provide, I consider the DIGITAL sound signal simply as a kind of ANALOG sound signal and prefer to treat them equally gently. In the domain of analog audio signals, the vast majority of audio enthusiasts prefer to deal with equipment that does not use Negative Feedbacks. Tube audio technology supports this concept to the maximum extent. In transistor technology without Local Negative Feedbacks it is almost impossible to do, here the main task is to try to do without the General Negative Feedbacks.  I prefer audio equipment without feedbacks (tube ideology). External synchronization of digital blocks, I regard as a rigid (deep) General Negative Feedbacks within several devices. I believe that the stream of sound data should flow cheerfully, easily and freely, as an analog signal from a vinyl player (no one is sending a signal from the phono stage to somewhere else in the player). In contrast to the “soldier’s march” under the command of an external generator. The use of a synchronization node in the DAC MARKAN is accompanied by engineering approaches, which make it possible to avoid unnecessarily tightly tying the synchronized blocks to each other and to the master oscillator – we are talking about the analogue nature of the MARKAN sound. In a nutshell: if you like hardware with Deep  General Negative Feedbacks – you will like the concept of external synchronization in a digital domain. If you prefer audio equipment without General Negative Feedbacks (tube ideology), it’s better to be a “conservative” in the digital domain.

According to the tube output of the DAC. “Tube Sound” is the eternal dream of most audio enthusiasts. Tube constructions are ideal for sound – I myself fully agree with this. “The tube cascade should ennoble the dry nature of the digital sound!” – there are often cries of “the tube exhaust in the DAC is our everything!”.

I also passed this stage of evolution and completed it somewhere in the region of 2005. The tube output in DAC means practically the only way to organize the current / voltage conversion unit (I / V) – on the resistor. And here exactly all ambushes with sound begin. Let’s once again: not with the use of tubes in digital devices, namely with resistive I / V converters, which are the only reasonable condition for the use of tubes in digital designs.

So what’s the problem? Many home-builders like to use resistive I / V converters for and without reason, referring to the eminent brands Audio Note and Kondo, which also propagated this idea. And the problem is simple – the ideology of sound. Remember, we always talked about “goosebumps” when listening to music through the products of MARKAN? The whole point is  in these “goose bumps”, i.e. when the conscious aspects of a person enter into a certain resonance with the semantic non-verbal content of music and it responds in the form of some physiological reactions of the body. “Goose bumps” or there are or they are not – the resonance of a person with music or is or is not. If you use a resistive I / V converter, then this resonance will never and never will be. It’s all about the energetics of sound.

The point is that the resistive I / V conversion method is alien to the nature of the ideology of constructing multi-bit DAC chips (ie, the only type of DAC that it makes sense to talk about with a serious sound). The overall sound output when using resistive I / V does not get that energy fullness that can move a person’s state towards his resonance with music. I repeat – all this I was going through many years ago and there is nothing to catch here. The resistive I / V and the tube output stage allow you to EASILY GET THE FIRST GOOD SOUND, but, this is infinitely small to start talking about a really serious sound.

The sound of digital devices with a tube output stage turns out to be “watery”, a kind of sweet water for those suffering from sexual impotence. Very good for very old remastered recordings, soft vocals and … all on it. DAC MARKAN uses an analog part on discrete FETs (without any kind of general negative feedback), which wins with a score of 5: 1 in a head-on collision with the tube output stages. DAC MARKAN is able to change the mental state of the listener; devices with tube output stages – too weak for energy for this. Energy is not just some kind of “power” (power – it goes without saying, it would be too simplistic), it’s rather “swing”, “flight”, “pushing the boundaries”, “lack of conventions,” “feeling of belonging “, well,” power “and “huge scale “, of course.

Let’s once again: the use of tubes at the output of multibit DACs leads to a depletion of sound in the energy sector (that’s why I do not use them here); in all other cases, tubes are always better than transistor technologies (we still do not touch the powerful output stages of amplifiers).

Once again I repeat my position: you can easily verify all this in your own way. It is for this purpose that the program of real acquaintance with MARKAN sound is offered.

Sincerely, Andrey Markitanov.

MARKAN – always in the center of the sound!

Consumers of MARKAN audio products know more about happiness than others. Be happy!