The Sutherland Clubhouse

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by displayname, Mar 29, 2018.

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  1. displayname

    displayname Well-Known Member

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    You can't come in without the secret password!

    Shhhhhhh, it's "Sutherland"


    I think we have enough people and Sutherland threads floating around that we can make it easier to find for anyone interested.

    If we want I can build up a list of who has what on post 1 - similar to the MoFi TT thread, but for now we'll just start with a quick role call of known Sutherland owners and people who have demoed.

    @HiFi Guy @Juiceless @Slimwhit @Tanqueray @Tyr @AnthonyI

    So feel free to ask questions, post reviews, troubleshoot if issues come up, talk settings, etc etc.
     
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  2. Tanqueray

    Tanqueray Well-Known Member

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    Hahah nice :)
     
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  3. Chucktshoes

    Chucktshoes Well-Known Member

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    The envy is real. I’m not a member of this club, but I sure wanna be.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
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  4. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Well-Known Member

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    Very cool idea. The thing people don't get if they haven't heard a Sutherland is that we aren't talking a "splitting hairs" difference. It's pretty profound actually.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
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  5. displayname

    displayname Well-Known Member

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    First impressions with the 20/20

    Biggest Differences from the iPhono2:
    1. It's insanely quiet. This truly rivals digital for background silence. I have to turn the volume well past a comfortable listening level to hear any background noise.
    2. The soundstage more 3D. I don't know that it's wider, but it certainly feels like their is more front to back depth. Imaging also greatly improved, especially on dense mixes. It becomes less of a wall of sound and more like a group of sounds.
    3. Midrange is more forward, and bass is less boomy. To clarify, the bass is not missing, it's just much cleaner. It's a different sound, but it comes across much more natural. It makes everything feel clean and smooth.
    4. Pops, clicks and static are somehow greatly reduced. The sound feels much less analytical. The 20/20 seems to be more forgiving overall, and that allows the whole system to get out of the way.

    The physical unit is heavy. I know higher end electronics are normally heavy, but I still was a little caught off guard. Maybe it's old fashioned in 2018, but I still view that as a sign of a quality component. I do like that it's a full rack mount width. It was also a reminder of how hilariously small the iPhono2 actually is. If you want a unit that hides, the iPhono2 does that well. The 20/20 on the other hand is a piece that earns a visual seat in your gear rack.
    Set up is super easy, but probably isn't the best unit for anyone that likes to tinker and cart swap regularly. If you like to keep multiple carts in rotation, you'd probably get annoyed with the fact that the jumpers are under the lid. Luckily I'm not that guy.
    The wire layout isn't complicated, but two power cords might be a factor for some people. This really wasn't a big deal at all for me, but one extra power cord, and one extra power converter... it is one more plug and one more wire to wrangle.

    Now for the big deal, my initial impressions of the sound!
    Actually let's start with the lack of sound, because this thing is quite! So quiet it's almost confusing. I was waiting for some type of very minor hiss at a higher volume. I thought I could hear something, but it wasn't coming out of the speakers... it was the lights over my dinning room table. That's how quiet this is. When I was listening very closely for any sound, it made me notice sounds from other electrical devices in my house. That is truly quite.

    For my music selection I've been building a list of reference material that has a pretty good variety of musical styles for my listening taste. I've been doing this so that when I go to audition a new TTs someday, I will take a few albums with and listen to select tracks/sides. This list isn't my most perfect records, but it's material that I'm very familiar with and has elements that give me the big "ah ha!" moments. Interestingly a big chunk of them are VMP picks, so good job VMP. I normally listen at upper 60db with spikes into the low 70db range. So here we go...

    Gorillaz “Demon Days” – Side C
    This is an album I will also use for testing tracking, and we all know why. It's also obviously a big test of bass, but the big ah ha moment here was when I was dialing in the iPhono and playing with the loading options, I remember suddenly noticing some background strings that I had never noticed before. So this makes it into the test.
    Bass was significantly cleaned up on this test. Much less boomy, which helps make the rest of the music more discernible. All of the midrange elements are there, everything is super clean and things seem more balanced overall. I don't feel like the bass was turned down, but I do feel like it's not attacking my face the entire time anymore. And this matters because it's much less fatiguing.

    Fiona Apple “Tidal” – Side B
    I love this album, and VMP did such a great job with it. Side B is chosen because it's two very different representations of female vocals and song styles. Criminal is so aggressive, and has such big bass lines with strings and acoustic instruments in the mix that run the risk of being drowned out if the mix isn't balanced. Slow Like Honey then slows things down with a less dense mix, and all natural sounds. Great test of piano.
    These tracks where very telling of the differences between the way the iPhono and the 20/20 represent sound. Everything was much more natural, and the midrange really comes forward. The bass seemed reduced here, but it likely wasn't. Probably just more balanced into the mix, and above all less boomy. It's still there, but just feels like it's less of a focus now. Slow Like Honey was the first taste of the deeper soundstage the 20/20 offers. This felt much more like a room than a flat span over a wide space. A little hard to describe, but very easy to tell once you hear it.

    Panda Bear “Person Pitch” – Side C
    This album is low fi and very synthetic, but the mix is incredibly dense and the imaging is very intentional and used differently for each layer of sound. This was probably also the biggest difference in sound between the iPhono2 and the 20/20. If someone wanted a very quick "are they really that different" - this is the track I'd pull out to show them.
    Every layer is easily identified and again, the bass is less overwhelming. The 20/20 almost makes the mix of sounds more chaotic because they are so easy to pick out. But that also makes it so much more interesting to listen to because you can hone in on each sound. And given that so much of this album is actual sounds instead of traditional music, there is a lot to discover.

    Dave Mathews “Crash” – Side A
    This is a well recorded and well mastered album. I remember expecting so much less and was very pleasantly surprised. This one was always well represented on the iPhono2, and continues to be with the 20/20. It's a great show of how natural strings can sound in a system. The biggest different here was the sound stage. Again, it seems equally wide, but seems deeper. The imaging feels less like "Who's standing the to left/right of each instrument" but more like "who's standing left/right, and on which row." Less of a stark contrast between each phono stage, but still very well represented.

    Black Sabbath “Master of Reality” - Side A
    I pick this album because I love the drum work. Plain and simple. Compared to the iPhono, the drums are wonderful as usual. But the guitars actually are where the 20/20 stood out. The highs are much less abrasive and piercing. Things just feel smoother and more manageable. This is where the 20/20 really felt less analytical. The way it handles highs, especially fuzzed out, loud synthetic highs, is much easier than it is with the iPhono. Not that the iPhono is bad at all. But this is just MUCH better.

    The other note on the sound, is the 20/20 is somehow much more forgiving of pop/clicks, but doesn't give up any detail. I have no idea how this happens, but it does. Each little speck of dirt used to feel like a big black spot on a perfectly white sheet. Any surface noise feels more like a soft blend then a giant stain on the music. It makes things much more laid back and easy to listen for longer periods.

    I'll be home tonight to finally get some more full albums in, but the 20/20 has a real chance of being the last phonostage I buy over the next 10 years.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
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  6. mcherry

    mcherry Spam Slayer ☠️ & Moderator Extraordinaire

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    I want to join! Maybe in like a year.
     
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  7. displayname

    displayname Well-Known Member

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    Keep an eye on the used market. I was really hesitant buying something like this used, but now that it's here I realized a couple things. 1, people buying this level of niche gear know what they are doing and how to take care of gear. 2, the 20/20 is so well built I think you'd have to actively try up damage it.
     
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  8. Juiceless

    Juiceless Well-Known Member

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    And because there are no moving parts, wear and tear isn't going to cause any ongoing damage.
     
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  9. Corycm

    Corycm Well-Known Member

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    This is what I'm planning on. Hopefully somewhere in the next few months I'll be able to prey on some audio addict's FOMO when the next latest-greatest thing drops and they can't resist.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
  10. Tanqueray

    Tanqueray Well-Known Member

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    Solid review . Great job . Enjoyed reading it . Based on what I experienced when I demoed the Sutherland Duo I’m not surprised in your glowing review. Sutherland’s Gear seems to hit it out of the Park everytime .
     
  11. wooha

    wooha Well-Known Member

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    Me too! I'm feeling lonely as I remain sitting here in a dark corner of the PHO-8 Clubhouse.
     
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  12. mcherry

    mcherry Spam Slayer ☠️ & Moderator Extraordinaire

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    I still have my Vinnie! We’re the original cool kids!!
     
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  13. kvetcha

    kvetcha Well-Known Member

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    Give it a couple years. It'll be something else.
     
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  14. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Well-Known Member

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    I'm starting to really wonder about the differences in power supplies and their relationship to sound quality.

    The Vibe has the same outboard 48 volt power supply as the 20/20 but obviously a single vs a pair. The Insight appears to have the same onboard power supply as the Duo, again single vs a pair.

    I really liked the bass definition of the Vibe, but I found it lacking in bass quantity. This is especially important when running Maggies. I needed a bit more bass, and I was hoping the Insight would give me that, and it did. I'm wondering if the Vibe and 20/20 have a similar sonic signature and the same with the Insight and Duo.

    With the Insight, I've also noticed that surface noise is less noticeable. It's very quiet as well and very balanced bottom to top. These two traits were the big improvements over the Vibe.

    The Vibe? I really see it as the gateway to the rest of the line. It's a great value, but not a "forever" phono stage. Even though the jump to the Insight is $504 at retail, it's worth every penny and then some.
     
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  15. Corycm

    Corycm Well-Known Member

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    Answering my questions before I ask them, right here.
     
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  16. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah and you got a performance boost going from the A/T to the Pioneer.
     
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  17. displayname

    displayname Well-Known Member

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    Don't feel lonely! The Pho-8 should still be top in it's class. And remember how much more you have to spend on records than I do after I dove into this clubhouse, haha.
     
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  18. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Well-Known Member

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    My record buying has slowed substantially. It's not a money issue. I'm just having too much fun listening to my current collection. It's like hearing my albums for the first time.
     
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  19. displayname

    displayname Well-Known Member

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    That's a great point about the power supplies. Luckily for me with 2 big JBLs and an SVS, I've got bass for days. A few tweaks and I could probably break something from vibration in the house. Plus I can just turn up the sub if I wanted to.
    I actually tinkered with the sub volume a little and it felt off with what I had on. I'll try again later with my dearest Fiona.

    But the fact that the Insight and the Duo are newer products (I think that's right), it's totally possible Ron made that change to address that theme in reviews.
     
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  20. AnthonyI

    AnthonyI Well-Known Member

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    In taking the step from the various stages (Vincent / iPhono / Vibe / Insight) as I mentioned in a previous post, the pre Sutherland units had pluses and minuses based on flexibility, budget and how those $$ differences translated to what you heard. The pre Sutherland group is very solid, but now I can say it's very much based on personal opinion/budget. When you get to the entrance of the Sutherland products its a clear and definite jump in sound quality, which it should be because of the increased cost.

    From Vibe to Insight, I agree with @HiFi Guy , I was literally floored when I fired up the Insight for the 1st time and can unquestionably say that's the 1st time I had no reservations about the increased cost being well worth the jump in sound quality.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018

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