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March 2010 issue
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Guys. As the grateful recipient of your recent “Geek Chic” award by using a reel to real tape deck at the Whittlebury show, and then using a DAT Walkman at the A.O.S. bash, I have a question. To add to my eclectic collection I would like Elcaset and Minidisc. What are the most desirable home and also Walkman sized machines? I’m not averse to a bit of bling, direct drive motors, anything Sony/Technics and solenoids.
Dave Cawley


Sony EL7 Elcaset player - open reel tape performance from

Hi Dave - you're a compulsive gadget hoarder by the sound of it, so you're in good company here! The 1977 Sony EL7 was of course the favourite Elcaset machine of its day; a vast three head, dual capstan behemoth with build to put a Revox to shame. They're rare now, and most don't work, so expect to get the screwdriver out when you wrest one from the clutches of an eBayer! The slightly simpler, but physically almost identical Sony EL5 is also a fine thing to have.     MiniDisc wise, it's a case of the later the better; the ATRAC processors improved dramatically over the years. Decks before ATRAC 3.5 (circa 1996) are best avoided; ATRAC 4.0 really kicked off things nicely. The Sony MDS-JE500 was the first machine with this; I remember reviewing one in '97 and was amazed at its sound; very close to DAT, and much less fussy. These are now peanuts on eBay and are a great first step into MiniDisc. As far as the portables went, the Sony MZ-R55 was the Rolls Royce of that time; it's a fine sounding device and beautifully made with an all-metal case; a brand new iPod Classic looks cheap by comparison. These go for around £20 second-hand, and made in Japan, they've aged well.
There's also the Sony MZ-RH1; this is still current and available new for £230 approx. It's a Hi-MD, so plays old MDs plus newer high capacity ones; this one will do full uncompressed 16/44.1 digital recording in extremely high quality; it's a brilliant outdoor recording tool. Read the full review in our July 2009 issue. DP

I have built a second system which comprises a Beogram 8000 with SMMC20EN, a Beomaster 6000 (thanks Tim and Adam) and Arcam One speakers (I know, off the pace, etc.). CDs are played through a Pioneer DV-717 (off the pace again, I know) or a Beogram CD-3300.
I also have an as-new condition Revox A77 to transfer some difficult CDs onto tape to make them listenable...


B&O Beogram CD-3300, an elegant way to play CD.

I really like this system, to the point where I wonder whether it is not better than my Technics SL-1200/RB300/Expressimo/Goldring 1022GX, Hiraga Le Tube, Ampliton TS3000/GE 6CA7 all-valve setup with the same speakers)... plus it’s got remote! I am becoming a B&O fan, I’m afraid...
Anyway, what speaker cable should I use with the B&O/Arcam system? I was thinking DNM solid core, because my pockets are not too deep at the moment. Also, do you think the B&O DIN cables can limit the system’s abilities somehow?

Thanks so much for a really great mag I’ve been reading (and subscribing to) since august 1991!
Jacques Frantz

I'd go for Black Rhodium Tango cables; these are superb value at £12/m. Add some sexy shielded metal DIN speaker plugs at the amplifier end (available from Radiospares, 534-5392, £1.32 each), and you have the ultimate B&O cable loom! DP

I am need of your expertise as I have some questions regarding running a valve amplifier.
I have, for some time now, been interested in changing from my Primare A30.1 amplifier to a valve based amplifier. For a while I have listened to a few valve amplifiers and have been impressed with the way they present music from either CD & vinyl but am not sure how much “maintenance” they require.

I have been reading the various articles available about auto & manual bias adjustment and am a bit confused?
With manual bias, does this mean every few months I would have to attach a volt meter and readjust the bias setting for the valves or does it only need adjusting when new valves are fitted?

I am also a bit concerned about every reviews comments on the sensitivity of the speakers attached. I am using KEF XQ20 standmounts, which have a stated 88dB sensitivity. If I purchased a valve amplifier with a rating of 35/40 watts per channel would this sufficient to drive my speakers? I would also say that I don’t/can’t listen too loud (about 30-40 max displayed on my current Primare, but this is 100Watts per channel!) as my neighbours may take exception. With my basic knowledge I would assume that if a solid state of 30-40 watts can drive my speakers then a valve amplifier should also?
I have looked over many reviews and listened to a few examples and with the sort of money I can stretch to I would be looking at the following models;
Icon Audio Stereo 40 Mk III, the KT88 based integrated sold by WAD (although I would buy a completed one), Puresound A30 or ... looking over ebay for a few months I could purchase a previously more expensive type second hand such as the Audio Research VSi55 or similar.

Any answers you can give me would be greatly appreciated and would hopefully help me narrow down my options.
Thank you for any help you can give me with my query.
Andrew Burtchaell

What are known as 'fixed bias' amplifiers give a little more power but need regular re-adjustment, every few months. It isn't difficult, but you must have a voltmeter. They also need adjustment when one or both valves are changed.
Auto-bias amplifiers are most popular because they keep the valves balanced both initially, and as they age; no adjustment is needed.

Power valves have a life of a 2-3 thousand hours; small signal valves around 10,000 hours. Power valves like KT88s do a great job and are not overly expensive, hence their popularity. It sounds like the 40Watts or so available would be fine for your purposes. Curiously, valve amps sound more lively and dynamic at low powers than solid-state amps so will suit you in this respect.

Although the Audio Research VS55i is more expensive new I would not label it clearly better than the other models you mention. It is tight and punchy, though. I tend to favour good KT88s WAD or Icon Audio are the ones to audition I feel.

I reached hi-fi nirvana many years ago. My recipe is a good moving coil pick up and Quad electrostatic speakers. There is a huge choice of bits and pieces to put between them but, within limits, they make relatively little difference to the emerging sound. I do, however, have a very sweet spot for a pair of WAD 300B PSE amplifiers, but like the Quads they are large, ugly and difficult to position. I now have the amplifiers mounted directly behind the speakers which, at least, means one can do without loudspeaker cables.

Like many of your readers, I prefer to listen to vinyl but a scratched record remains scratched for ever and ever and it is difficult to live with repeating clicks. It is very simple to remove clicks once the record has been digitized but one ends up with a clean CD which disappears inside a box when you want to listen to it - this is not like vinyl which revolves for all to see on a beautiful machine.


Quad 2905 electrostatic loudspeaker offers hi-fi nirvana, says Christopher Cook.

I see the ELP Company who make a laser turntable also have a declicker box to go with it. It is quite expensive, but is it any good? Why aren’t there masses of declicker boxes on the market? Many years ago a turntable manufacturer (I believe it was Garrard) offered built in declicking but it was apparently not a great success. Why?
Christopher Cook

Hi Christopher. I am glad you are a happy man music wise. But I am a little surprised that tick and pops upset you so, and a quiet CD is a better proposition than a noisy LP. Play vinyl with a cartridge that does not emphasise highs (i.e. has no treble peak in its response) and they should be hardly noticeable. The hissy, fizzy sound that afflicts LP is usually down to this, as well as groove damage and dirt. The Ortofon Cadenza Black I review in the next issue produced little obvious noise. Groove noise during low level passages was always cited as a strong reason for using CD, but not everyone agrees, including Rafael Todes who, from his experience playing in the Allegri String Quartet, for the London Philharmonic, et al, says vinyl is more natural. So it isn't just audiophiles that claim vinyl is more natural; perhaps we are not all deluded after all!

Anyway, I did listen to the ELP laser turntable many moons ago and was terribly disappointed. Not only did it play groove noise and dirt, as widely reported (cartridge styli push muck out of the way) but it had the sonic properties of a poor CD player; the sound was coarse and flat, as if dominated by poor electronic circuitry. It made me realise how pure a moving coil cartridge is as a source, as you state.  NK

My search for audio nirvana is proving frustrating the constant pain in my frontal lobe coming from the continued banging of my head against a brick wall.

First things first, my system comprises the following; Technics SP10 MkII \ Slatedeck plinth \ SME V \ Denon DL304 \ Trichord Dino for vinyl duties, Esoteric X03se CD spinner, Linn Klimax Kontrol pre, AV5125 power running active Keilidhs. Cables are Linn Silvers and Chord Odyssey.
Now I've heard many systems that get close to what I want, the stand outs being Quad electrostatics driven by Quad IIs and a rig pieced together using old Exposure amps into Proac 1SCs both different but both very special. How do I get from where I am now to that spacious, rich, wondrous experience both these systems gave me? I have a maximum budget of £4000 and I don't mind buying used; my concern is I may need to ditch the lot to move forward. I should point out that the room in which this will be plonked is a small 4.5x3m, kind of rules out ESLs then. Any ideas?
many thanks,
Stuart Ainsworth

Hmmm! Linn's clean and precise sounding amplification and speakers are excellent for those who love that sound, but folk who like "spacious, rich" systems should not apply! I wonder how you came to own such things, with your seemingly opposite tastes? Don't ditch the lot; your turntable and CD player are superb. I'd do this in stages, looking to move to a pair of Icon Audio MB845 power amplifiers (£2,499) driving a pair of One Thing Audio modded Quad ESL57s (from around £1,500) as painlessly as you can. Start with the MB845s, retaining your Linn preamp. Then get the modded Quads, then when you've got some more cash shell out for a MF Audio Silver Passive Preamplifier (£2,400), and finally an Icon Audio PS3 (£1,500) phono stage. By this time, you'll have one of the biggest, warmest and most expansive systems known to man!

Comments (3)
Technics mods
3Wednesday, 25 May 2011 11:58
Dave Cawley
Hi Anton

We are SL-1200 modifiers and currently have a half page advert in Hi Fi World. I have tried very many combinations of arms and cartridges, both my own and customers. If the standard arm is new or not abused it can easily take an OC9 cartridge and you could live with that almost happily ever after. In my view, and we are all different, the Rega 300/301 is only marginally better than a perfect stock arm and as such we recommend going a bit further up market to the SME 309, which with an OC9 or AT33EV will give quite remarkable results.

The links Noel gives above are a good starting point.


Dave Cawley
Technics query
2Tuesday, 24 May 2011 11:55
Hi Anton,
Our usual advice is to go to -
or look up the Timestep forum at -
regards, Noel Keywood, publisher
Technics SL1200 arm?
1Tuesday, 24 May 2011 06:23
In Vinyl Quest DP says "There are a number of specialists who can do this (fit a Rega arm to a 1200) for you, and who advertise in HFW". I cannot see any ads on your site for this. Can you tell me these people?

thanks, Anton

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