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REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics Terra Firma Lite in a Marantz SA-8260 SACD Player (Modded)

Model: Terra Firma Lite in a Marantz SA-8260
Category: SACD Player (Modded)
Suggested Retail Price: 600 chf
Description: Diy modified sacd player with Terra Firma Clock
Manufacturer URL: Vacuum State Electronics
Model Picture: View

Review by stvnharr on September 06, 2009 at 07:58:22
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for the Terra Firma Lite in a Marantz SA-8260

I first heard about the Terra Firma Clock in the summer of 2008 while browsing on Joe Rasmussen’s website. I was immediately intrigued. Once Terra Firma became a product, earlier this year, I became more intrigued. And eventually I placed an order with Allen Wright for the Terra Firma Lite.
The Terra Firma replaced a Superclock 3 and power supply in my highly modified Marantz SA-8260. The player has the analog output stage completely replaced with the Discrete Output Stage, which can be found here: http://members.quicknet.nl/ra.vdsteen/index_en.html. Just scroll down to the SA 8400 or 7001 modifications, and also to the Discrete Output Stage. The analog and digital power supplies are also modified much as described, including a separate transformer for the analog psu, on the same modification page. All modifications have been done by me, including pcb design for the DOS.
As such, this is a very fine player on both sacd and rbcd. All I changed with the install of the Terra Firma was just the clock, thus any change I heard was due solely to the Terra Firma clock.

I performed the installation on a recent Sunday afternoon. It’s a simple installation, but does require a bit of space management, as space is limited for clock installations in the 8260. The TF-Lite comes with perforations on the pcb to allow separation of sections, if needed for space reasons in the player. I separated the oscillator section, connecting back to the rest of the main board with some Neotech wire. I will likely separate off the transformer section in the future, so as to shorten the longish connection to the oscillator section.

One thing one notices about TF-Lite is the Run/Delay toggle switch. This is still a mystery to me. But it comes preinstalled with very long wires and just needs for the switch to be mounted on the rear of the player. Once everything was all installed I duly followed instructions, waiting the requisite time and a little more, switched to Run, and all was fine.

Given that I have only one player, I could not do an A/B with, well anything. I thus have to rely only on memory. So, most of my initial impressions have been from discs that I have had for a long time, and that I know every note and sound quite well. It’s not as good as a proper A/B, but with the short installation time, it’s okay.

My experiences with modifying this player have shown that any time I have made changes that have lowered the noise floor of the player, music, mostly in the form of low level information and details, has emerged. This as been true for powering the SC3 from a separate psu rather than the player, and when I installed the DOS just one year ago. And this has again proven so with the Terra Firma.

I noticed right away two very prominent differences once TF was in play. Acoustic string instruments, whether a violin, guitar, or standup bass, were very much more “there” in the sense of more harmonic reverberation from the sound box of the instrument was getting through. Also, bass response is quite a bit better, as in louder. My speakers are not bass champions, with an F3 of 55hz. and an F10 of 38hz. Bass instruments are noticeably louder, including a cello in a string quartet. You can also hear the tympanis in an orchestra much better than before, when they were quietly in the background when struck.
One thing that seems to be so, although it is somewhat hard to be sure, is that it seems that I have had to turn the volume down a bit now as the music seems to be louder than before. I noticed this quite a bit in the first couple days of listening but not so much now.
Most of my listening is to classical sacds, but not exclusively so. I have found the above improvements to be essentially across the board, whether sacd or rbcd, whether classical, jazz, or folk music.

One thing I can confidently say is that in all the reviews and user comments on Terra Firma, nobody has overstated anything. And if anything, I have somewhat understated the differences I have heard with the TF over the SC3.

One thing I might add is that this is the first review, of which I am aware, of a non VSE Sony modified player with a Terra Firma. It is not a unit exclusive to Sony players or VSE modified players.
And lastly, I paid for the clock myself, did my own install, and have no connection to VSE or any of the VSE agents, other than constructing Joe Rasmussen’s Critical Q subwoofer from the design on his webpage. This sub is currently in another system in another location.

Product Weakness: None
Product Strengths: Extremely high performance

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Aspen Lifeforce 55
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Marantz SA-8260
Speakers: Custom design 2.5 way by Selah Audio
Cables/Interconnects: All DIY
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, Jazz, Folk
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics Terra Firma Lite in a Marantz SA-8260 SACD Player (Modded) - stvnharr 07:58:22 09/06/09 (18)


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