" Triple Gain"
Colors of the product in the picture are not representative. The official Clinamen color is ‘Blackstrat Black’ (glossy, metallic, glitter)
The feet are the same shape as in the picture but they are made of yellow anodized ERGAL
The design target I set myself with the ‘Triple Gain’ SUT model has been achieved by focusing on five areas:
- Usage flexibility
- Combatting mechanical vibrations and electromagnetic interference
- Design and ergonomics
- Optimization of electrical interfacing
- Quality of listening experience offered
The ‘Triple Gain’ SUT unit has been designed as the ideal proposal for those who need to have high usage flexibility, that is to be able to correctly interface cartridges which are very different in gain and internal impedance. We need to specify that ONLY one cartridge at a time must be connected to the chosen input terminal.
In the ‘Triple Gain’ the three available gains are obtained each with a dedicated primary of the transformer, INDIVIDUALLY connected to an RCA socket. This is done to avoid the mounting of mechanical switches on the signal path, but most of all because with the traditional switching series/parallel of two semi-primaries you can only obtain two gains. With the ‘Triple Gain’ I was looking for total versatility; hence the choice of independent primaries was the obligatory choice.
Combatting mechanical vibrations and electromagnetic disturbances:
Let’s start from the observation that all passive transformers (such as thermionic valves) endure the problem of microphonism: mechanical vibrations that generate a component of random electrical signal that overlaps the audio signal. Hence it is a real random electrical disturbance created through mechanical means. At such low signal levels (a few hundred microvolts, which is the average signal level of a moving coil cartridge) the effect of microphonism is a very important element that affects the quality of the final result. This is why in the whole Clinamen SUT line one the main focuses has always been the restraint of microphonism.
For the ‘Triple Gain’ SUT we designed a beautiful and practical CNC made box of ERGAL, whose sides are 12mm thick. The significant mass of the box together with the fact that the transformers are confined inside it make them immune to these issues of acoustic waves feedback which can induce microphonism. Likewise, the significant mass of the box helps dispersing the vibrations intruding from the outside environment.
Immunity to external electromagnetic disturbances can be achieved in two ways:
- By enclosing the element to protect within a high magnetic permeability material (soft-iron or even better high content nickel alloys, such as Mumetall, Vacoperm, Supermalloy). Here the perturbing lines of magnetic flow find an easy travelling path in the high permeability shielding material.
- Magnetic shielding can be achieved through non-ferromagnetic materials (such as the ERGAL of the ‘Triple Gain’s’ box). Here the shielding effect is achieved ‘via Foucault’s eddy currents’. The inducing perturbing magnetic field produces eddy currents in the great conductive thickness with extremely low resistance (12mm thickness) of the box’s material, which in turn produce an induced field that opposes the perturbing magnetic field.
In the ‘Triple Gain’ unit we exploit both shielding principles mentioned above; indeed the thick external ERGAL 7075 box supplies, on top of the above mentioned insensitivity to the mechanical vibrations, a magnetic shield to eddy currents. Furthermore the two transformers inside the ERGAL box are also encapsulated into two individual Mumetall containers, a very high magnetic permeability material which ‘forces’ any potential residual perturbing field lines to travel in the perimeter outlined by it, leaving the inside space, seat of the transformer, clean from any disturbance.
Listening to the signal of your cartridge with a SUT like the ‘Triple Gain’, built with attention to these details in order to maximize the signal/noise ratio will be a new experience. Music will appear contrasted, crystal clear and standing out against a totally black void, because we got rid of any noise influence that might alter it.
Design and ergonomics:
The special shape of the ‘Triple Gain’ SUT unit stands out. I like to describe the appearance of my products as functional and serving the purpose they are intended for. Once the first fundamental task of functionality is completed the achievement of ‘beauty’ is of vital importance to me, because I believe that a captivating listening experience also needs to engage the other senses; hence the shape and feel cannot be neglected.
Some of our customers have compared the shape of the ‘Triple Gain’ to a grand piano; the point is that with such a sinuous and refined appearance it will stand out in your sitting room, gifting you with wonderful hours of great Music.
Moving on to a more technical aspect, the structure of the ‘Triple Gain’ is made from a billet of ERGAL 7075 in three parts: main body, bottom and back panel. The total weight is around 3 Kg. On the back you will find all connections, input and output. The laser engraved Clinamen logo made of AISI 304 is mounted on the front while on the top you will find the SET connectors for the harmonizing network.
I chose an elegant and unique shade of black, which I call Blackstrat black (because I first used it in my phono preamp with the same name). It is glossy, metallic and subtly glittered, which is visible only when it is directly illuminated by a light source.
For the feet I chose the Yellow Clinamen ones made of ERGAL alloy (in the pictures you can see bronze feet which are no longer available); the finish is yellow chemical anodization. Their shape and height gives the product a slender profile, giving it an extraordinary look, enhancing its qualities.
On the subject of ergonomics an interesting characteristic is in the back panel for the electrical connections, which is inclined to make inserting the cables easier. The screen print labels (laser stamped) are rotated by 180° to make it easier to read them when looking from the front of the SUT whilst inserting the cables. The RCA sockets are exquisite rhodium plated CARDAS.
At the bottom of the device there is a plate clearly displaying the available gain values and the relative impedance. Gone are the times when in order to know the data of our SUT we had to email the designer or go to a lab to carry out measurements! Here it is, in black and white.
Optimization of electrical interfacing:
In the "Triple Gain" the SET connectors, placed in a recess milled on the top of the device, are connected in parallel to the SUT’s output and therefore they work not as a load for the cartridge but as ‘harmonizing networks’, which optimize the electrical interface of the step-up in relation to the audio chain in which it will be working.
For the specialists, we can say that in the harmonizing networks there are some Zobel networks carefully calculated for the univocal triad cartridge/SUT/phono preamp, where the SUT will work. The ideal load to the cartridge will be supplied in the traditional way, that is through the input impedance of the MM phono preamp reflected on the primary of the SUT, through the square of the transformation ratio.
These fine calibration elements, which we make available as optional, are designed using as input data the source impedance of the cartridge and that of the phono preamp (resistive and capacitive components). The harmonizing network is used to make the response to the transients as regular as possible.
The "weight" in the listening experience of the harmonizing networks is much greater when there is a less than optimal matching between the cartridge's input impedance and the chosen transformation ratio. In the case of well thought and optimal couplings, the influence of these networks is quite limited, given that the SUT is inherently very linear. For this very reason, we do not provide them as part of the package.
It will be my duty to supply the customer with all the necessary information to use the ‘Triple Gain’ SUT at its best with the various cartridges he has available, as well as to advise if and when it is convenient to use a harmonizing network.
Pair of harmonizing networks to insert in the designated RCA marked with the word "LOAD"
Quality of listening experience offered:
The final quality of listening is the logical consequence of all the choices listed above. First and foremost it is obtained thanks to the high quality of the Clinamen transformers, which are described in detail at this link.
In addition to the CNC box previously described, the final high quality result goes through the meticulous electrical wiring. It uses Teflon coated twisted silver plated copper cable and state of the art soldering with Jantzen 4% Ag eutectic point solder.
Finally, we do not neglect the ‘last effort’ the signal must perform: to go through the ‘discontinuity’ of the RCA connector.
On this topic, in the last few months I have carried out many listening tests and considerations, which have taken me to a new (to me) class of RCA sockets. They are superior from the electrical and sonic point of view, even though they are not as beautiful as the previous ones we used (CARDAS).
Many sockets are indeed made of brass. Its electrical conductivity is much less than copper. Furthermore they almost always undergo galvanic or chemical plating processes (gold-silver-rhodium). All these interfaces between metals together with the low conductivity of brass are certainly not the optimum from the electrical and musical point of view. Thus I tested copper RCA sockets without plating and I immediately noticed benefits to the listening.
Later I bumped into the beautiful datasheet of the RCA KLEI HARMONY sockets, produced by Keith Louis Eichmann and I concluded that using non solid contacts – as it is the norm – can actually bring further advantages. After these considerations, I decided to use the RCA KLEI HARMONY connections on the Triple Gain.
The RCA KLEI HARMONY datasheet is shown below, if you are interested.
Lastly, usage notes:
The ‘Triple Gain’ step up covers all the needs of ANY MC cartridge, offering a total versatility:
- The gain 1:12 ( 21,6 dB) is recommended for all cartridges with internal impedance between 15 and 50 Ohm
- The gain 1:22 ( 26,8 dB) is recommended for all cartridges with internal impedance between 5 and 15 Ohm
- The gain 1:34 (30,6 dB) is recommended for all cartridges with internal impedance between 2 and 4 Ohm.
The step up is wired point to point with silver plated copper cable annealed after wire-drawing and insulated with Teflon. Soldiering with 4% Ag WBT. We suggest at least 40 hours break-in in order to achieve around 70% of its final quality.
We recommend that you locate it at least 40 cm from other audio devices (avoid especially the proximity of devices with switching power supplies and large power supply transformers). In the instance of adverse locations that don’t comply with the rules mentioned above, try and rotate the device at various angles to minimize the noise received.
The SUT is delivered in an elegant 12 mm thickness cut and laser printed box made of beech.
- Gain: 1:12 ; 1:22 ; 1:34
- Primary impedance: 25 Ω (gain 1:12) . 7Ω ( gain 1:22) . 3 Ω ( gain 1:34)
- Secondary impedance: 3600 Ω
- Balanced windings , Mumetall cores
- ERGAL CNC box 12 mm thikness
- Net weight: 2,4 Kg
- Yellow Anodized ERGAL Clinamenaudio Feets
- KLEI HARMONY ( classic) RCA socket
- Point-to point hand wired
- Jantzen 4% Ag welding
- Price: 2800 euro , plush shipping cost .
- Standard finish: Blackstrat painting (glossy & metallized & glitter)
- Custom metallized painting: 220 euro
- Harmonizator network : 120 euro pairs
Below the review of the ‘Triple Gain’ with 99.99% AG secondaries written by Marco Benedetti, published on AUDIO REVIEW issue no. 405.
Recensione "Triple Gain " Audio Review issue no.405
I’d like to point out that at present the version with silver secondaries is not available, because its price equals the ‘El Misti’ line (3,200 Euros) whose performance is much higher.
Starting from December 2023 the ‘El Misti’ line will become ‘El Misti mk2’ which, in the face of a price increase to 3,900 Euros, will have transformers with primary coil made of Heptalitz wire and secondary coil made of 6N Cardas wire.