The Grail SB - Van Den Hul
User Manual
“The Grail SB”
Fully Balanced Phonograph Preamplifier
Contents
page
INTRODUCTION
3
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
4
INSTALLATION AND USE
5
Overview of the device
Connection of the preamplifier
7
Choosing the right input / Impedance matching
8/9
Accumulator driven power supply
10
Level matching
11/12
Some hints
13
PROBLEM SOLVING
14
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
15
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
2
INTRODUCTION
Congratulations with your purchase of the van den Hul “The Grail SB” !
With this product you are the owner of one of the most innovative and advanced phonograph
preamplifier's available at the moment. It delivers you fully balanced inputs and outputs.
“The Grail SB” is a really dulcet phonograph preamplifier, specifically designed bearing ultimate
performance and reliability in mind.
Featurelist:
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a specific designed Phonograph preamplifier section, unique in the world
fully balanced design for inputs and outputs
Phonograph RIAA - equalization with coils only, no sound impairing capacitors in filters
special printed circuit board material with gold conducting paths
the printed circuit board has a special seating to evade microphonics
special equipment foot made of selected wood avoids mechanical energy storage
low noise moving coil input stage, no annoying noise even with low-output cartridges
automatic adapting input stage for moving coil cartridges, no matching resistors needed
possibility to compensate phonograph cartridge sensivity (level adjustment)
cut out of coupling capacitors in the signal path as far as possible
strictly separated amplifier sections and circuit layout deliver a very natural soundstage
inputs: two phonograph inputs, one for MC cartridges, one for MD or MC high-output
a shielded transformer is placed in an external housing to avoid hum and EMI noise
power supply with Gyrators for each amplifier stage deliver very high noise cancellation
the external transformer is available for different mains voltages
Accumulator (Battery) driven power supply, no “warm-up time” necessary
Designed to provide high-end audio, “The Grail SB” will deliver you outstanding sound quality
with nearly every available modern phonograph cartridge.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
3
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Use “The Grail SB” phonograph preamplifier only for the designated application range
it was intended for.
If the mains power cable or the external transformer housing is damaged and/or inner
wires can be touched, do not touch theses cables and do not use the preamplifier!
Touching wires connected to mains live will harm your health seriously! In
case of this kind of damage, do not touch the preamplifier or it's transformer box and
unplug the mains plug immediately. Bring the preamplifier to an authorized service
point for repair.
To avoid risk of fire or electrical shock: do not use the preamplifier and it's external
transformer in rooms with high humidity or in other wet environments. It may be used
in dry places only. If any kind of fluids ( water, drinks, soapsuds etc.) runs into the
external transformer housing or into the preamplifier, please unplug the mains plug
immediately and bring the preamplifier to an authorized service point for inspection.
Do not allow children to play with the preamplifier and do not let them use it without
your supervision. Keep the preamplifier out of the reach of pets.
Keep away the preamplifier from hot surfaces and from open fire. Don't use it on top
of another audio system parts that emits heat.
The Grail SB is in conformity with the actual required standards in
accordance with 89/336/EWG.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
4
INSTALLATION AND USE
Frontside
Items:
1) Power on indicator (red LED)
during charging period the LED is dimmed. In listening mode
the LED lits up full.
Rear side overview
Details
Items:
1)
2)
5)
7)
Toggle switch MM / MC input selection
Ground connector for turntable ground signal (tonearm, motor-base etc.)
Power switch, toggles between “power on” and “power off + Accu charging”
Power supply connector, to connect with external transformer
( use no other transformer than the dedicated one for “The Grail SB” )
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
5
Items:
3) MC phonograph cartridge input (low/medium output level MC system )
4) MM phonograph cartridge input, also for high level output MC systems
6) Preamplifier output connectors
Remark:
Inputs and output are constructed for balanced and unbalanced connectors at one go. But you can use
only one type of connection at a time – that means, if you choose a balanced input you have to occupy
the balanced output too. A “mixed mode” between balanced and unbalanced signals is not possible, e.g.
“signal in” to balanced input and “signal out” from unbalanced output - and vice versa. Therefore, if you
insert a signal into the balanced input, you must use the balanced output as well.
Transformer box:
Items:
1)
2)
3)
4)
Power switch for mains power
Fuse holder (Fuse: 800mA slow acting for 230V version)
Mains power connector for standardized IEC power connector
Power supply connector, connect to “The Grail” preamplifier
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
6
Connection of the preamplifier:
Some words in front: “The Grail” is a high quality preamplifier that delivers you the finest
possible sound. But it can do this only if you use the right cables – using cheap, bad sounding
cables will seriously degrade the sonic benefits you can get from “The Grail”. Save your
investment - use the best cables you can afford, e.g. cables from the van den Hul cable line.
They will deliver you the best possible sound available at this moment.
Power supply:
Be sure the main switch of the transformer box is in position 'off ' ( symbol “o”) during the
installation process. Connect the transformer mains power connector with the power cable to
your mains wall plug. Take care: two versions are available, one for 115Volts and one for
230Volts. Be sure it matches to your mains voltage to avoid damages !
Now connect the round-shaped low voltage connector sitting at the end of the gray cable
coming from the transformer box to the preamplifier's rear side ( item No.7 of the picture of
the rear side of the preamplifier)
Audio signal connections:
Connect your high-level (control) preamplifier with a pair of high quality cables with balanced
XLR or alternative unbalanced RCA-Phonoplug (Cinch) connectors to the phonograph
preamplifier “The Grail”. The receptacles at the rear side of “The Grail” are named “Out” ;
connect them to a free high-level input of your control amplifier, e.g. “Aux” or “Line”.
Remark:
Inputs and output are constructed for balanced and unbalanced connectors at one go. But you
can use only one type of connection at a time – that means, if you choose a balanced input you
have to occupy the balanced output too. A “mixed mode” between balanced and unbalanced
signals is not possible, e.g. “signal in” to balanced input and “signal out” from unbalanced
output - and vice versa.
Connect the cables coming from your turntable either with the input connectors “MC” or “MM”
of “The Grail”. These are item No.3 or No.4 of the picture of the rear side of the preamplifier.
Also connect the common ground cable to the ground/earth connector of “The Grail”
(item No.2 of the picture of the rear side of the preamplifier). If you have more ground cables,
e.g. coming from your system rack, connect them to this ground connector as well.
Shift the switch “MM/MC” (item No.1 of the picture of the rear side of the preamplifier) to the
direction named same as your chosen input. Caution: turn volume to minimum before
switching.
Attention: please turn your volume control (level potentiometer) on frontside of your control
amplifier to the left side (“position quiet”). Now switch on your preamplifier “The Grail” with
the switch on the rear side of the transformer box. It will take about 15seconds and “The Grail”
releases the output signal. During this time all internal bias points are stable and the
preamplifier is ready for listening.
That's it! Put a record on your turntable, choose the desired volume and enjoy the music!
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
7
Choosing the right input / Impedance matching
Because of you have two inputs at the rear side of “The Grail” you have the choice between
them – but which one to take ?
There are various phonograph cartridges on the market. Roughly said, they divide into two
groups:
1) Moving coil (MC) cartridges
and
2) Moving magnet (MM) cartridges - to this group belongs also the “moving iron” (MI)
systems
MC cartridges again divide into two groups:
a) low-output types
and
b) high-output types
Examples:
a representative of the species b) is e.g. van den Hul “Grasshopper III-CHA” with 2.25mV/cm
output voltage - and a representative of the species a) is e.g. the van den Hul “Grasshopper
III-GLA” with 0.6mV/cm output voltage or the van den Hul “The Colibri XCP” with 0.4mV/cm
output voltage.
In practise:
for the high-output MC systems please use “The Grail's” input “MM”. Why? Now, this input is
more then only a plain MM system input – it is also dedicated to “high-output” MC systems.
This way you avoid any overdrive of your preamplifier's input.
If you have a low-output MC system please use “The Grail's” input “MC”. It was especially
designed for low and medium output MC systems. And this input has a remarkable
feature: it matches the input impedance for your MC cartridge automatically.
Simply connect your low or medium output voltage MC system to “The Grail's ” MC
input and forget about impedance matching and all the rest – just enjoy the music !
Impedance matching for high-output MC systems connected to the “MM” input
These lines are dedicated to the skilled users only – if in doubt, always consult your
dealer!
At first: in balanced mode this mostly is unnecessary – do yourself a favour and listen to it first
before unpacking your soldering iron – most the time high output MC Systems sound perfect
without impedance matching when running at the balanced input. But if it is necessary,
impedance matching is easy done: stick to the cartridge manufacturers recommendation for
your cartridge. If it says “recommended input impedance is 470 Ohms” for your high output
MC system use a high-quality(!) 470 Ohm resistor and solder it into the male XLR connector
(at the cable coming from your turntable) between Pin 3 and Pin 2. Do this on both XLR
connectors – because of you are listening to stereo sound and that means two channels.
Things can be quite different at the unbalanced input, here it is recommended to do a
matching:
In case you use the unbalanced input, solder the resistor into an empty XLR connector
between Pin 3 and Pin 1. Insert this XLR connector additional to the MM-Input (on both
channels). So both receptacles are occupied, the Cinch connector with the signal coming from
your turntable and the XLR connector with the connector keeping the matching resistor only.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
8
Impedance matching for MM and MI systems connected to the “MM” input
These lines are dedicated to the skilled users only – if in doubt, always consult your dealer!
What about the impedance matching of MM or MI systems? Normally, everything should be
fine. “The Grail's” input impedance is 47Kilo-Ohms (47000 Ohms), this is the standardized
value for MM/MI cartridge inputs. Just connect your cartridge and enjoy the music!
In very few cases the the input capacitance of the combination “ turntable signal cable +
preamplifier input ” is not high enough. As mentioned, this is rather uncommon. Normally the
input capacitance is just right or even slightly too high (if way too high, use a better and
shorter cable, ask your dealer!) But in case the input capacitance is to low, you may get an
aggressive and too “bright” sound. Here the same is valid as with the high output MC systems:
the matching is usually necessary at the unbalanced input only.
Remedy:
You can do the same as with the matching of the high output MC system – but this time you
use no resistors but instead high-quality(!) capacitors like Polystyrene type capacitors and
solder them into the connectors, just as described before. Reasonable capacitor values may
vary from 47pF up to 330pF (“pF” means “pico Farad” = 10-12 F). Always start with the small
values (47pF) and then listen to it for screening. If not satisfying, take the next higher value
(e.g. 100pF) and again listen to it. If even an additional 330pF will not bring the desired
results, take a look at the cartridge installation: is it proper mounted under your tonearm?
Check the alignment of the cartridge with a good alignment protractor. Also check the tracking
force, stick to the cartridge manufacturers recommendation for your cartridge.
Hint: keep in mind that your cable has an inherently capacity and the input of “The Grail” has
also a 50pF input capacitance. So you only have to add the missing part of the recommended
total capacitance, given by the cartridge manufacturer.
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The heart of “The Grail”: the “Coils-Only” deemphasis network
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
9
Accumulator driven power supply
“The Grail SB” has to be switched on with a small toggle-switch on the rear side of “The Grail”.
It toggles between listening mode and charging mode.
With full accumulators you may listen to your music for appr. 7 hours in a row! After this
period it is necessary to load the accumulators for at least 12 hours. Normally the
accumulators will be fully charged overnight. You can't overload: if you only listen, for lets say,
two hours and then toggle to charging mode, the accumulators will be recharged until they are
fully charged again – no harm to your accumulators will occur.
Important:
Do not forget to switch off your amplifier after a listening period! You can only listen
next time with charged-up accumulators ...
In normal use please do not turn off the external power supply (external housing
containing the power transformer). Only if the external power supply is permanently
switched on, the accumulators can be loaded.
Store the amplifier (for longer time periods) only with fully charged accumulators !
During the charging period the amplifier circuit is kept warm (driven at a lower power supply
level), so you have no “warm-up time” when starting the amplifier for a new listening session.
Anyway: to save energy, e.g. during a holiday trip (or for safety reasons in case of heavy
thunder&lightning), switch off the external power supply.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
10
Level matching
To compensate the various level differences between all your audio sources, “The Grail” gives
you the possibility to change the amplification factor.
This amplification factor variation is also meaningful, if you use a quite “super-low”output
voltage MC cartridge, or your high output voltage MC system is just at the “low side” of it's
kind and you would like to use it at the MM input of “The Grail”.
Also conceivable: your complete audio chain has a quite low amplification factor and you use
speakers with low sensivity.
In all this cases it is meaningful to adjust the amplification factor of your phonograph
preamplifier.
With “The Grail” this is easy done. Simply remove the four Allen key screws of it's top plate.
Remove the top plate and take a look inside of the preamplifier: you will find 4 small switches,
in form of a single DIP-switch. (DIP = Dual Inline Plug). Please take a look at the picture
below, it shows the mentioned DIP switch (color of the switch may be red or blue in your
amplifier):
Switch No.1 and No.2 belong to the right channel and switch No.3 and No.4 belong to the left
channel. Default position (delivery condition) is: all switches in position “off”. That means, the
basic amplification factor is for MC input : 56dB and for MM input: 33dB. Simply choose the
desired amplification factor by pushing the respecting levers to the “on” position.
Basically: the higher the “dB” figure, the higher the amplification factor and as a result the
louder the music signals will be.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
11
Amplification factors in depth – summary
For MM input
All switches off:
33dB (44.6 times) for both channels
right channel
switch 1 on
:
41dB (112.2 times)
switch 1+2 on :
50dB (316.2 times)
left channel
switch 3 on
:
41dB (112.2 times)
switch 3+4 on :
50dB (316.2 times)
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For MC input
All switches off:
right channel
switch 1 on
:
switch 1+2 on :
left channel
switch 3 on
:
switch 3+4 on :
56dB (630.9 times) for both channels
64dB (1584.8 times)
73dB (4466.8 times)
64dB (1584.8 times)
73dB (4466.8 times)
Don't overdo: choose only an amplification factor that is really necessary. Taking amplification
factors much higher then necessary will result in a reduced overdriving capability (headroom)
of the preamplifier. This may result in a harsh, kind of distorted sound in the loudest music
passages.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
12
Some final hints:
As all electronic audio devices, “The Grail” has a pre-aging period when bought as a brand new
device. Normally this ends after 50...100 hours of listening to music. During this time the
sonic quality raises to it's maximum.
If you have a holiday and you leave your house for days, switch off your preamplifier (as well
as the rest of your audio chain) completely. Safe energy for the future of our planet! In case of
a holiday trip you switch off your cooking plate too, don't you ?
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Portion of “The Grail's” power supply section – made of the finest available parts these days
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
13
PROBLEM SOLVING
In case of a malfunction, take a look at some things:
1) The power switch of “The Grail” is in “on” position? Is the proper mains voltage
available? Are all other amplifiers switched on (control amplifier, power amplifier)? Is the
corresponding input channel of the control amplifier chosen ? Volume knob is not at the
left latch?
2) Is the wiring of all components in the audio chain correct? No “fallen off” connectors?
3) Is the fuse in the transformer box of “The Grail” blown up? You can open the fuse
holder ( item No.2 of the picture of the rear side of the external transformer box ) and
take out the fuse. If it is blown, replace it with a fuse of the same kind and value. Fuse
type: 800mA slow acting, size 5x20mm (for 230Volt mains version). If this fuse blows
up again, please unplug the mains plug and bring the preamplifier to an authorized service
point for repair.
4) Are the two fuses in the preamplifier “The Grail” blown up? You can open the
preamplifier housing by removing the four Allen key screws of it's top plate. Remove the
top plate. Attention: the top plate is very heavy, don't drop it on your foot! The fuses are
located in the middle at the back of the circuit board, near the power supply connector
( item No.7 of the picture of the rear side of the preamplifier). Take out the fuses and look
if they are blown. If so, replace them with fuses of the same kind and value. Fuse type:
2pcs. 1.25A slow acting, size 5x20mm.
If these fuses blow up again, please unplug the mains plug and bring the preamplifier to
an authorized service point for repair.
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
14
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Mains power:
Power consumption:
available with 115Volts or 230Volts, 50/60Hz.
appr. 10 Watts
Temperature operating range:
from 15deg. Celsius up to 30deg. Celsius room
temperature. No condensing on item allowed
Use only in dry rooms
Max. undistorted output voltage:
25Vss (Accumulator driven version: 19Vss)
Output impedance:
330 Ohms (real resistive), 600Ohms at balanced out
Input sensivity values:
Signal to noise:
( given for 250mV RMS resp. 0,707Vss output level
on amplifier output)
> = 77dB
MM input:
Amplification factor 33dB:
Amplification factor 41dB:
Amplification factor 50dB:
Input impedance:
5,6 mV
2,2 mV
0,8 mV
47KOhm / 50pF
MC input:
Amplification factor 56dB:
Amplification factor 64dB:
Amplification factor 73dB:
Input impedance:
Weight:
0,4 mV
0,15 mV
0,05 mV
autom. matching from appr. 40 Ohms up to 400 Ohms
19,5Kg (appr. 43lbs) without the ext. transformer
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
15
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van den Hul®
Phonograph Preamplifier „The Grail SB“
16
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