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  #1  
Old 29th May 2018, 12:55 PM
Mark Mark is offline
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Default Chinese Stepped Attenuators

Hi,

I am thinking about using a Chinese stepped attenuator for a headphone amp build as a change from the 'usual' Alps RK27 Blue Velvet. Do they sound better or different to a pot ? There are a lot of 23 step ones on ebay. Are 23 steps enough ? Do SMD resistors sound better than standard through-hole resistors ? Any preferred sellers ? Good/bad experiences ? Any comments /experience anyone would like to share please ?

Thanks

Mark
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  #2  
Old 29th May 2018, 03:13 PM
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Phil Y Phil Y is offline
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Default Re: Chinese Stepped Attenuators

Hi Mark,

I have no direct experience of stepped attenuators although obviously they are highly regarded, but what I have tried and sounds good to me is the Alps Blue shunted with a Charcroft Z Foil resistor. Worth considering at least.

I compared my home built Alps/Charcroft passive pre with a friends Tisbury Audio and there was really nothing in it in a brief comparison.

Regards, Phil.
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  #3  
Old 30th May 2018, 08:02 AM
snowman_al snowman_al is offline
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Default Re: Chinese Stepped Attenuators

I have used several of the 'valab' 23 way attenuators on projects in the past 6 or 7 years. (Years before that I made one of my own from one of the WAD articles. That cost a small fortune in relation and I cannot say it actually sounded better than the $20 valab.)

First time you try one is a bit of a shock if you are used to the volume pot working in the 8 to 12 o'clock range. The attenuator is still lowish volume at 12 o'clock (12 or 13 clicks) and then each extra click brings bigger increases. So often the 3 o'clock (15 / 17 clicks) position is where you are. You soon get used to it.

Does it sound better? Channel balance certainly is, but like all things it depends on the rest of the equipment. I have a couple in passive pre amps (20k and 100k) and they are ideal for Stereo 20s and the like. There they keep all the detail and do not muddle the treble. So yes.
If I need a little gain and use an active pre amp, I often like the Blue pot better.

Is 23 steps enough? Only just as above, but 40+ step switches are prohibitive in cost to 'try it out'.
Good value for money? Excellent, can you buy a 23 step switch for $20?
If you think you can get better resistors then replace the originals with your own better sounding ones...
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Old 31st May 2018, 06:47 PM
VantheMan VantheMan is offline
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Default Re: Chinese Stepped Attenuators

I have fitted them to my Sugden A21SE and my Creek OBH21SE phones amp, the former 50k Log and the latter a 20K one. They knock the Alps Blues into touch: resolution is the word I think, a veil of turgid background dross has been lifted etc. etc. allowing you to hear finer detail and nuances within notes. I was recommended them by a friend who has used the basic Valab pot and he says there is no difference. I couldnīt believe him when he told me the Alps Blue was holding my system back
Only one drawback, maybe quality control ? I had to replace one of them because it suddenly went extra loud on one channel, presumably something to do with bum surface mount soldering. Dunno, no problems whatsoever otherwise and at 18 euros each with free postage from, a no-brainer. Highly recommended but maybe order an extra one, just in case..
Because I use 2 seperate pots on my Sugden to improvise a balance control ( my room is the pits) I actually find the steps much more useful than the no steps Alps - I know I need 2 "steps" difference to compensate for my errant central image. Deadeasy. And in my case I have never used my Alps remote
I find the higher volume (five past instead of 10 to) position on my Sugden less tiring than before - must be the dynamics and more marked difference between soft and loud.

Last edited by VantheMan; 31st May 2018 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 1st June 2018, 12:34 PM
Mark Mark is offline
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Default Re: Chinese Stepped Attenuators

Thanks guys. I will order a 23 step SMD Valab as soon as I have checked i have enough space. I couldn't find any dimensions on the eBay page so I have contacted the seller.
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  #6  
Old 1st June 2018, 01:17 PM
VantheMan VantheMan is offline
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Default Re: Chinese Stepped Attenuators

In my experience, if the Alps fits, this will too
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