Brent Feorene is a passionate audiophile. He is committed to understanding the subtle nuances of building a system based on component synergy, and has spent a great deal of time and energy asking questions, listening, and making careful evaluations. This journey has led Brent to source, tweak and modify his tubed electronics, optimally dial-in his analog front-end, and recondition a pair of vintage Genesis IM-8300 loudspeakers.
Brent is a proponent of acquiring high-quality gear in the aftermarket, and then allowing a trusted modification expert to improve the performance further with better parts / tweaks. He believes this strategy, when the goal is to own equipment for the long-term, is a high value approach.
As a percussionist who played classical and jazz music though college, Brent enjoys most music genres. However, his passion is for jazz, in all its forms. He feels “vinyl and glass” is best, though often the most maddening path to truly immersing himself in this uniquely American music tradition.
After a very positive experience in an extensive “V-Cap” mod of his phono stage by Bill Thalmann, Brent recently undertook an extensive modification project (again, performed by Bill) on his Sonic Frontiers Line 3. Brent sent these detailed comments to me periodically, as he moved through the burn-in process:
Received the Sonic Frontiers Line 3 back from Bill Thalmann of Music Technology. It is a two unit line stage with separate PS. After mod and bench time, the line stage has about 25 additional hours on it in Bill’s home system. Chris Johnson had previously done his SE+ mod (best mod) on the unit. I had about 800 hours on the C.Chris Johnson modded unit – included 400 hours of burn-in for the TFTF caps .
I told Bill he had an open checkbook to take this line stage as far as he could. Bill performed many changes – too many to describe – three pages from Bill. Because the check book ended up not to be totally “open” :-), we chose not to replace all the RCAs and XLRs on the rear, in a cost saving step.
Among them, Bill replaced the TFTF caps in the four most critical positions and Mundorf Supreme in the ”lesser” positions (C. Johnson’s arrangement) with Bill’s recommendation of CuTF in the four critical positions and TFTF in all other positions. DH Labs Cu hook-up wire was replaced with VH Audio 21 AWG AirLok Cu hook-up wire at Bill’s insistence – who am I to argue? The six pair of Reflektor 6922 tubes from C. Johnson's mod were replaced with Siemens 1960s CCas (1 pr), Siemens 1970s CCas (3 pr) and Siemens 1970s E88CCs (2 pr). The power supply unit was completely rebuilt by Bill – we are talking two weeks of labor on the PS alone. No further details.
Note: to reduce hours on these premium NOS Siemens tubes, I ran the line stage with the Reflektors for Days 1 – 17. It wasn’t until I had 400 hours on the caps that I inserted the Siemens.
1) emotion/humanness - it is soooo close to the live event; vocals are out of this world, almost eerie
2) quiet - my system is dead quiet now; no humm, no hiss, nothing
3) clean & detailed - not etched or in your face, but reflective of what the record is capturing; couple the clean & detail with the quiet and the microdynamics emerge to paint a wonderful picture of the music's nuances. What was particularly amazing is how quiet everything is - really, really quiet. When I started to listen, I kept my SUT (step-up transformer) arranged as is usual - the phono cable goes in at the 12 ohm tap. This is not a perfect match for my cartridge, which prefers a 35 - 40 ohms tap, but I needed the extra 2 - 3 dB gain the 12 ohm tap offered to get past the tube noise. As you know, when you use too low a resistance in an SUT you do sacrifice dynamics a bit, particulary at the frequency extremes. Well, everyting was soooo quiet, I decided to switch to the 40 ohm tap, lose the 2 - 3 dB and see what's what. I had to increase the gain on the line stage a bit to compensate for the lossed dBs, but let me tell you - just as quiet, but I picked up the dynamics.
The difference between the SE+ mod and the Bill Thalmann V-Capped "all-out assault" versions (save for the RCAs and XLRs) of the line stage are:
Most importantly, there is this undefined sense of involvement, intimacy and seduction. The SE+ sounded awesome - really. However, the Bill Thalmann V-Capped version seduces you, and you don’t even realize you are being seduced until you look at the clock and figure out how long you have been listening.
- Brent Feorene