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Positive Feedback ISSUE 46
november/december 2009


What a difference a clock makes - the Terra Firm Lite Clock mod
by Teresa Goodwin


This review of the internal Vacuum State Electronics (VSE) Terra Firma Lite (TFL) Clock modification is with a slight twist. The mod was performed on the Yamaha DVD-S1700 which I am comparing to an unmodified Yamaha DVD-S1800 that is it's successor I purchased as a backup player. In stock form the DVD-S1800 sounds slightly better than the DVD-S1700 and both universal players sound great whither playing SACDs or DVD-Audios.

VSE’s top of the line clock, "The Uber Clock", is an external box which connects via BNC to your player. VSE states the TFL will produce 2/3 improvement at 1/3 the cost of the "Uber Clock".

The Players - Yamaha DVD-S1700 and S1800

Internal view of the unmodified S-1700

Internal view of the modified S-1700

Read view of the modified S-1700

A "Delay/Run" toggle switch was installed on the rear of my player (see fourth photo above) Instructions for it's use were included with my mod. When first plugged into an AC outlet I put the switch in the "Delay" position for 15 minutes and then switched it to "Run" and turned the power switch of the player to "On". From then on the player is controlled by it's "On/Off switch" unless power in interrupted then I just need follow the easy steps again.

On the first day the modified player sounded excellent but still not as smooth and beautiful as I know the Yamaha is capable of so, it was too early to hear any improvements. Allen Wright told me the sound should be fine after just 24 hours. Most of the changes after that should come from the player getting back up to operating temperature not the clock breaking in.

I ran the Reference Recordings/XLO demagnetizing and burn-in tones CD repeatedly and played the player as much as possible. If you remember from my original review and follow-ups it takes a very long time to break-in the Yamaha player. And after receiving it back from Warren Gregoire I had to start all over with the break-in ritual.

After just two short weeks the smoothness of my DVD-S1700 was back! Now I could appreciate the great increase in resolution the Terra Firma Clock mod affords. The increase in realism with SACDs especially the Telarc DSD recorded ones was simply amazing! The detail in my system is more than I thought it could possess. I can now say with confidence that SACD playback is superior to LP playback in all performance areas in my system.

If after the mod your player sounds too bright, just wait a couple of weeks, could be that's how long it takes those evil op-amps to break-in again? Replacing the op-amps with discrete circuits may be my next upgrade?

I have spent about two months listening to most of my SACDs and DVD-Audios on the modified player before making the comparisons with the unmodified one as I wanted a "known" very reliable baseline sonic of both players to make comparisons more reliable and not just the enthusiasm for the "new" sound of the modified player.

The sonic improvement with SACDs is quite profound, with considerably more impact and power in the deep bass, warmer midrange, and smoother highs.  Also a larger and deeper soundstage, all of this just from a change from the stock clock to the Terra Firm lite clock.

The improvement with DVD-Audios was only slightly less profound, excellent deep bass when it was present, less warmth than SACDs however still a major improvement.

With DVD-Videos I didn't notice any improvement in video quality, however the stock Yamaha is excellent in that regard, perhaps with a larger sized monitor than my 24 inch flat-screen there may be a visual difference? However the deeper and more realistic bass the mod affords makes Adventure and Science-Fiction movies even more exciting.

I know some listeners would be curious how the mod improves CD playback, however never being a fan of that format, I don't own any. My original plan was to play the CD layer of some of my SACDs however I decided that would not be very much fun for me and would not be very fair as the results would be compromised by my memory of the superior SACD layer. What I did instead was check a few CDs of music I do not own in high resolution out of the library for the comparison tests.  The CDs checked out included those from Telarc, Chesky, Blue Note, and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab.

With CDs there was an improvement in the bass though not to the degree of the high resolution formats, while deeper they didn't sound quite real. I only heard small differences in the midrange and high frequencies. CDs were easier to listen to, only the most strident ones were unbearable. In short if you liked CD before with this clock mod, you may like CD even more. However if you don't like CD this mod won't likely change your mind.

As I have discovered, like all improvements and tweaks I've made, the finest recordings sound even more realistic however more warts are revealed on the sonically challenged ones. The further sonic improvement with the Terra Firma Lite mod especially when playing DSD recorded SACDs was the catalyst I needed to clean out some of my lesser quality SACDs as the sonic distance between them is now even greater.

Mods like this bring my equipment ever closer to the experience of live music, by extension it creates a craving for the finest recorded software.  I highly recommend this mod as it will bring you that much closer to the music you love. However, one may wonder of the wisdom of modifying a mid-fi universal player such as the Yamaha DVD-S1700 that sold for only $450 when new. The Yamaha has the advantage of being the first totally quiet SACD/DVD-Audio transport I've heard and it is very reliable, playing every SACD perfectly every time so far (knock on wood). Currently both the DVD-S1700 and DVD-S1800 are being cleared out for 1/3 of their original retail or about $150.  This bargain price might just help make the modifications more affordable.  This mod brings my player beyond the level obtained in any of my previous players including the tubed Xindak SCD-2 which retailed for $1699.  I have no doubt that the Terra Firm Lite Clock would bring any player to new heights and that a more expensive player would surpass the advances I heard with the Yamaha. In short no matter how inexpensive or expensive your SACD player is, a great clock such as this one should greatly increase the sonic realism and enjoyability of your finest recordings.

Here is a PDF file from Vacuum State that will give you all the details on both Terra Firma "ÜberClock" and the Terra Firma "Lite" including pricing information: 

It also explains why a good clock is so important especially in lowering jitter.