Author Topic: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?  (Read 1499 times)

Offline Jonesy

Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« on: June 08, 2018, 09:44:10 PM »
I've been trying to contact Schalk for while now but not getting a response. is he still trading?

My whisper hasn't worked for a while now (I think it's been almost a year). I live in the UK and took a chance on buying the Whisper from South Africa. I've finally got round to taking it to a recommended audio repair place but I'm looking for advice from him. The repair man said it looks as though the valves are bad in both the MM and the MC stages resulting in a large channel imbalance. I've never used the Mm stage, and the MC side had only been used for less than a year i think so it's a bit mystifying.

I asked if it could be a component had failed which the MM and the MC side both used to boost gain, but he said there were differences in gain levels for each side (taking into account the fact that the MM will overall less gain).

Anyway he's suggesting I buy some decent valves for both MM and MC sides (not from him by the way) so he can then eliminate the cause being the valves. That would be new 8 valves presumably costing at least 20 each possibly more.

What valves does the Whisper normally use?

I'm using Voshod Rocket valves at the moment?
Is it safe to use 6NP1 or the PCC88 / 7DJ8 with the Whisper (that's if I can ever get it fixed). I want a reasonable valve but don't want to spend an arm and a leg as it's already me 80 for the repair man to take a lot at it. I should imagine it's going to cost me a lot more to be actually fixed.

Many thanks.



Offline PierreM

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2018, 10:38:21 PM »
That's weird, all valves duff from the outset, from Schalk? Something doesn't quite add up, you sure that there wasn't some other damage incurred like it being dropped or damaged in transit? Could your repair guy not have tested the valves, for 80 one would have thought he could have at least done that before pushing you out the door. Perhaps your best bet would have been to send it to Valve Audio for repairs, I would imagine the warranty would now be void with the local telly repair guy poking around in it. 

Offline Ampdog

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2018, 11:28:32 PM »
Hi Jonesy!

As far as I (we) know, Schalk is still himself. We would undoubtly have heard if anything was the matter, seeing as how the man is popular over here.  But I will inquire and post here. Schalk is well known for meticulous attention to his clients, so it is uncharacteristic that you cannot get hold of him.

As PierreM said. Something is a little weird; perhaps the recommended audio place is not geared for valve amplifier testing? Even if he cannot test valves, operational conditions should show whether there is something wrong with the valves.

To answer your question in the meantime, perhaps you meant 6N1P for the valve? (6NP1 is not known.) There is a difference in heater voltage - 6N1p requires 6,3V and PCC88  7V. But the latter can be used at lower heater voltage (6,3V) to give lower noise. But in that sense 6N1p would not perform identical to 7DJ8 particularly regarding noise, although the difference would be small, if noticable.

That a preliminary reply. I am not familiar with the Whisper although the pre-amp is well-known around here. Let me try find out about Schalk.

Sorry for your disappointment. I am sure a solution will be found.
Audio must be the only branch of engineering where lack of basics' knowledge is considered a superior form of wisdom. (Anon)

Offline Jonesy

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2018, 02:56:13 AM »
Hi thanks for the replies. The bloke repairing the Whisper isn't a "telly repair man", I'm not sure where you got that idea from. He's a highly regarded audio repair man. Maybe I should have called him electrical engineer or something. He came recommended on an audiophile site over here called PinkFishMedia. Unfortunately I couldn't find one local to me, so I searched on that site for recommended repair men. Although it's probably not that far in comparison to some of the journeys you probably have to undertake in South Africa, it's about an hour away from me in a place called Bolton. Prior to purchasing the Whisper I was a little worried about support if anything went wrong, and I was assured that any good repair outfit would be able to fix it, and tok a chance and made the purchase partly based on the positive reviews on this site.

The repairer said tested the valves and he said the output is out and because the Whisper uses 4 for MM and 4 for MC he's going to select the 4 good ones and check it out.

As for the damage in transit. When I first received the Whisper was working perfectly albeit with a bit too much gain for my system. Schalke kindly made some resistor jumpers for me to connect between two points to reduce the gain.When I delivered it to the repair shop I delivered it myself in a box in the back of my car, so it wouldn't have been damaged at that time. I'll admit though I have never tested the MM stage. I only got the MM just in case I buy a decent MM cartridge in the future.

I can't praise Schalk enough for some of the help he's given me.

The problems started when I got new cases for the circuit boards at the back. I heard Schalk was making cases for the boards which would mean easier access to change valves. He then kindly sent me a set.

When I fitted the new cases one case in particular proved troublesome. When I screwed the screws into the pre threaded holes which go through the front panel just at the back into the case, it meant that the contact pins on the board barely made contact with the connectors situated on the front panel. I had to push the part with the pins towards the pin receptors, and even then I never felt as though they were properly in. The repair man has mentioned this to me also without any prompting saying the board should be 2 or 3 mm longer. However I think the new cases aren't made as precisely  manufactured as the old silver cases I had previously. Also when I put the screws back into the back panel near the RCA and XLr connectors one of the screw holes on the case was misaligned so I wasn't able to put that screw in. I managed to the other three screws in. Although it's only millimetres out because the back is hard plastic there is no give to allow any play in order to get them all in. That case when manufactured must have had the threaded holes made in slightly the wrong places, to allow the pins to go all the way into the back of the front panel. the screw holes one the case should have been 2 or 3 mm further back. Anyway I got it playing and tried a few different tubes but noticed that one channel was a lot louder than the other. I thought it was my azimuth or anti skating so Itried all sorts of adjustments but it still remained.

I contacted Schalk, and once again he was very helpful, and said he'd sort it out. He said he'd send me new cases. I've waited over 6 months now and hadn't heard anything. I realise he's a busy man and to be honest I'd heard the news about the political situation in South Africa and thought he's probably got more to worry about than one sale of a Whisper to someone in the UK.

I told him I was going to get it repaired in reputable repair shop, and asked if he could do just one favour  - send me a ground earthing knob, as I'd lost one when I was changing the cases over. I've searched high and low but can't find it anywhere. I can only think the missus has hoovered it up or something. Obviously I didn't expect it for nothing and I would pay for the ground knob.

I've not heard anything since. I've now tonight sent him details of the conversation I've had with the repairer as he might be able to give some advice that I can pass on to the repair man.

I wish I was rich enough to just go out and buy another phono pre amp to be honest, but I just don't have the money to do that, and with having a family I wouldn't do it even if I could because I'd feel guilty for doing so. I've had my turntable for about 20 years now, my speakers which were ex dem, for about 15 years and my integrated amp for about 12 years. I'm not the type to swap and change my gear, hence the decision to buy the Whisper. Based on the reviews I thought this is something that will last me out.

I am sorry now I just didn't send it back to Schalk for him to look at it, as I didn't expect the repair to cost so much. Schalke said it sounds like a HT Regulator had gone and that he could repair it, if it was that, in about 10 minutes, so I was a bit surprised when I got the bad news from the repair man. Again it's not Schalk's fault he only gave me that opinion based on what I'd told him, and obviously you can't troubleshoot by email.
I thought it would be cheaper to get it fixed here, than pay postage to SA and back, plus I didn't want hassle Schalk anymore than I already had. I could have maybe just sent the back cases with the circuit boards inside to save on the weight and postage.

I'm not having a go at Schalk in anyway, I've found him to be a most kind and courteous fella, but I'm worried sick now that it can't be fixed or it will cost a fortune to get it fixed. i just thought he may be able to give the repair man some pointers.

anyway thanks a lot for your advice, hopefully Schalk will be in touch soon to possibly provide some advice.


Offline Kent Kassler

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2018, 07:46:51 AM »
I would certainly never attempt to speak on behalf of Schalk but you mentioned in an earlier post that you have some numerous spare tubes....I would hazard a guess that you just have failing tubes causing imbalance....a simple switch over would confirm this.....I think the tubes all run regardless of use of the mm or mc section or not....they still "run"....all the best.
Audiophile Sound Sommelier Extraordinaire....aka Manic Depressive Temporary Void Filler Deluxe.

Offline Agaton Sax

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2018, 07:53:44 AM »
I am not saying this is so in your case but more than one ostensibly highly qualified person who disassembled  a Whisper got the critical connections between the modules and the boards skew, blowing regulators in the process. I had my Whisper  with my local repairer twice.  He actually studied the whole thing carefully before  refitting the modules with a big grin at  Schalk's demand for precision. My tech  warned me to never-ever pull and refit the modules myself.

The Whisper is actually  a hugely complex piece of kit  that should sell at ten times its price. Maybe that way people will handle it with the kid gloves needed. Because of this sort of thing Schalk has threatened to ditch the whole module thing  and fit it all on one board  in a simple case . Would that still be the iconic  Whisper then ?
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 07:56:48 AM by Agaton Sax »

Offline PierreM

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2018, 09:22:02 AM »
Hi Jonesy,
I think Agaton Sax sums it nicely and is what I was alluding to, that there must be something more to the story. It takes Schalk about a week of his full time labour to assemble a Whisper, it is the akin to making a Rolex from scratch. I don't know anyone that will do so much for so little return, do the maths and see if you can make a living off the profit from one Whisper a week to pay your bills. It is so good because it is made like a Swiss watch and anyone venturing to pull it apart is going to end up crying. I don't know any one on the planet that offers a better warranty than Schalk and I also don't know of anyone who puts more love and attention into his creations either. This all come at a cost to him personally and sometimes he cannot keep on doing things for free at the expense of himself and his family, he too needs to keep the pot on the boil. So imagine having to send stuff for free to a client who then blows it up? I too would go mute. If you complain about postage then view this from his point of view. I have no doubt that despite everyone's best intentions the fact that the Whisper is kaput is of your own volition. So best is you send it back and I'm sure Schalk would be able to sort it out, the alternative is to bin it because anybody that isn't an expert on the construction of the Whisper is just going to blow more components up. And I would think the right thing to do is to offer to pay for the repairs and the return shipping.

Offline AlleyCat

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2018, 09:53:47 AM »
I think some of the comments here could be blown out of proportion and a cooling down needs to take place.

The most important thing that has to happen is for Schalk to take charge of this whole situation, and only him.

Let's try and keep the rhetoric out of it this at this moment. The guidance given I am certain will be appreciated, however it could also make things worse. Let Schalk handle it and calm down guys.
"Not everything meaningful is measurable, and not everything measurable is meaningful" - Floyd Toole

Offline Jonesy

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2018, 01:45:12 PM »
Hi thanks again for the replies.
Again Pierre, I'm not sure how you can make an assumption that it is something I've done. As I said the way one of the cases had been made, meant that I couldn't get the pins of the circuit board into the "holes" at the back of the front panel. In my case I used the reverse end of a pencil which had a small rubber (eraser) on the top to have to push the pins in, and even then the pins only just went into the "holes" meaning the connection isn't as snug as it should be.
It could very well be that I've done something wrong, in fact it's quite possible, but if I have I can't help but feel the case problem didn't help.

I was told that swapping the cases was fairly easy as long as I took my time and followed the instructions which I did. As I say though I had terrible trouble with the one case which as I said was out in terns of the dimensions.

Thanks also for the advice about paying for the postage there and back and the repairs.
I'm not the type to accept charity from anyone. I offered to pay for the new cases, and begged Schalk for his bank details or paypal details but he wouldn't have it. When he made some jumpers with resistors to lower the gain a bit, I also offered to pay. If I had his details I'd have paid him some money regardless of whether he wanted it or not.
I know his is a small company and he has lots of overheads. One of the reasons I bought the Whisper is because these smaller companies often produce world class products for a better price, due to the lack of advertising costs and distribution costs.

I know you are defending Schalk, because he's a legend, and a very nice man to boot. I can understand that, but to have a go at me and suggest I've done something wrong or I'm trying to get something for nothing is out of order. If you knew me you'd know I'd never want that. I went to the repair man in Bolton, because I didn't want to hassle Schalk.
If I'd have known that any repairs had to be done to be done by the man himself, and not by any audio engineer I'd have possibly have thought twice about. In fact that was one of my questions before I bought it. I was assured that they could be repaired by a competent engineer, which is what the man I've taken to is.

The repair man is going to have another look on Monday. I'm not hopeful he'll be able to fix it, so I will send back to Schalk, if he's ok with that.

Anyway thanks again. I wish Schalk lived in the UK you are lucky to have him in SA. I took a gamble on buying long distance, and up to now it's not paid off, but if I get it fixed and I get it working for a good period of time I'll still be glad I bought it.


Offline Nirvana

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2018, 03:06:13 PM »
Don't will still get worry Jonesy,one way or another,the problem WILL get sorted out!

Don't blame you for the route you went,but it seems the best would have been to send back to Schalk straight away.
But,like you say,the poor man IS very busy ALL the time...

But a lesson learnt,and I'm sure you will still get MANY happy hours from a component that is very special!
Never b flat,never b sharp,always b natural

Offline Jonesy

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2018, 05:25:30 PM »
Thanks mate, it's much appreciated.
I'm just looking at the couriers. Trying to weigh cost and reliability. I've never heard of half of the companies available.
I want to make sure it's insurred. I might use DPD.
I'll have to wait to get the Whisper back to weight it. I've tried to find out how much it weighs to get an estimate.

Offline Hi-Phibian

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Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2018, 07:10:50 PM »
All those making harsh comments about not sending it here should get a quote for 2 way shipping to the U.K. of say 15kg.   

DPD is competitive from the U.K.   I use them for one of my uk sources. 

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Offline Jonesy

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2018, 07:38:17 PM »
Thanks mate. Cost of postage was a consideration,but my main concern was hassling Schalk.

When I send it to him do I pay for return shipping? Can I do it even though I won't know what date he can return it?

Also how do I avoid customs duty? I've already paid for it once when it was imported, so i don't think i'd be liable for it again would I?

Offline HB

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2018, 09:44:36 PM »
Maybe ScottulusMaximus (Scotts Shipping) could help answer that? PM him.
When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!            [Yogi Berra]

Offline Schalk

Re: Valve Audio Whisper - Is Schalk still around?
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2018, 10:06:47 PM »
Hi Mick, Guys,

I only stumbled on this now, been sort of out of circulation due to pressure. Maybe I've been too long at the Hotel California...

Mick, sorry I missed communication. I'll check mail in the morning and also my spam folder, have noticed that lately some safe mails also get gated that way.

Whatever you do, do not attempt to send the Whisper to me as it'll cost you close on 350 Pound. Sending just the module cases to you previously cost the princely sum of about 125 Pound from my side, the jumpers again was about 25 Pound. Sounds impossible but true. Imagine that the complete unit being shipped backwards and forwards might be a lot more. Granted, the cases and jumpers I sent via P.O. Mail. I have however sent many other units over the years to the UK via normal courier service and was always dismayed by the cost. It simply kills a deal.

My apology for the tough time you are having with this. I shall reply via regular email tomorrow, just need to take some Germany bound items to a dealer during the morning.

Talk soon