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World mail     March 2010 issue   

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Letters are published first in the magazine, then here in our web archive. We cannot guarantee to answer all mail, but we do manage most!


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Your experts are -
DP David Price, editor; NK Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet); AS Adam Smith, reviewer; DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

I write with regard to the letter from Niels Ostergaard and the responses from NK and DP. While I do agree in principle with NK’s remarks about consumer laws, it should be noted that many of the Chinese brands do have E.U. distributors and I would mention A.A.A.V.T (www.aaavt.it) in Italy who distribute Yaqin, Yarland and Aria, among others.

Regarding DP’s remarks, while bowing to his obvious greater experience, his comments are highly generalised and certainly shouldn’t be taken to apply to all such brands. Many Chinese manufacturers produce products re-badged as much better known brands, e.g. Aria as Sophia Electric (Baby) and Korsun as Red Rose (Rosette). I myself have a Korsun U2, which I imported directly from Hong Kong and which I have found excellent quality, both for sound and build.


Korsun T2 amplifier, imported from Hong Kong by Stephen Murray. It has now become the Dussun T2.

I would point Niels (and yourselves) to some of the online sites, such as TNT Audio and 6 Moons which often cover Chinese brands and highlight in particular the good reviews that Yarland have been getting recently. I, like Niels, would welcome more coverage of such equipment and would be happy to accept the constraint that it had to be available from an E.U. source.

Finally, DP’s comment about the ‘noise’ that Niels is getting from his equipment cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. While, I hope, it may have been somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’ (?), I don’t think it is acceptable to criticise another enthusiast's choices or taste in this way, at least not without personal experience of the actual set-up. Even then, sound quality is highly subjective and ‘one mans meat . ..'  etc.
Stephen Murphy.

Hi Stephen - regularly visiting the People's Republic as I do (for reasons of friends and family), I get plenty of chance to see Chinese hi-fi 'at home', and talk to Chinese hi-fi buffs and indeed Chinese hi-fi salesmen when I visit the fast growing network of hi-fi dealerships there. I'm afraid their indigenous product is not universally well regarded. There are, as you point out, some very good Chinese brands, but most - as a number of Chinese dealers have told me (even those who sell it!) are poor. They're highly derivative of Western designs, and often they manage to copy the 'headline features' like chunky casework and huge toroidal power transformers, but miss the subtle things which are just as important to sound such as high quality passive components. Indeed, at the last Whittlebury Show Ken Ishiwata and I were comparing notes; he told me that they simply lack designers who can 'finesse' their products, fine-tune what's basically a box of decent bits into something half-decent. He believes they will moved forward, and in some cases have already done so, but it's (if you pardon the phrase) rather like 'the Wild West' at the moment. As such, buying blind off eBay (or wherever) is risky. It's great if you're tweaky and you want a project, but don't expect hi-fi heaven at a knock down price.

David Price drools over the AuraNote box in the Systems Shoot-out in the latest (well down here in Tassie anyway) issue. He cites all sorts of awards for the designer. But look at the thing ... a bloody box with a few shiny knobs on it. It looks like my old Alba record player from the 60s! I’ve seen nice design from Chord and Lecson and love the beauty of old SMEs and Stax arms. But function usually triumphs over form in our hobby. To think that box is wonderful.....come on. It was bad enough in the shoot-out but to follow up with your column....aarrghhh!


Auranote "looks like my old Alba record player from the 60s!" says Eric. "No, it's retro chic" says David, "like Sophia Loren"!

I admire your ears, Dave. They’ve brought me the truth on loads of gear over the years. But your eyes, mate, your poor eyes!
Eric McCormick

Hi Eric - well, as they say, each unto their own! This AuraNote is - to my peepers - a deliciously retro (think Sophia Loren, Beatles' 'White Album', Maserati Ghibli, James Bond!) take on a 'music box' and, importantly, beautifully built. It's certainly something a bit out of the ordinary, and along with my love of its style and build, I was delighted to hear that April Music had engineered it well on the inside too. I can see now that it's obviously not de rigueur in Tasmania, though! DP

I read the article on the Beatles re-issues with interest, and would like to produce a counter argument to some of the comments and views. I am a long term Beatles fan, and would generally applaud any initiative that improved the accessibility and quality of their back catalogue. For a wedding present I received the entire set of Beatles CDs, 15 years ago. Apart from the fact that the packaging was incredibly poor (over-enlarged copies of cover shots, no notes whatsoever - the exception being Sgt Peppers), I thought the sound was pretty good. Sure, these were 20 year old recordings re-issued at full price, but then EMI aren't a charity and have to please their shareholders.


Mentioning dodgy quality of the early Beatles stereo mixes, especially Rubber Soul, misses the point, says Peter Norrie.

I do, however, feel that they are really going too far with their recent releases in trying to fleece the public, by trying to get us all to buy them again! These are just re-issues, the cost behind the new transfers must be minimal. Even if they had to get a couple of engineers to work with them, why the full price? Furthermore, why muck around with the equalisation? I may be cynical but I am sure that this is similar to the old show-room trick of increasing the volume in A/ B comparisons. It sounds louder, it's better – must buy!
Secondly, the mono issues sound interesting, and probably worth a spin, certainly for the Hard Days Night to White Album period. To produce them as a stand alone full price set is really despicable.

By comparison, the really excellent 60s Beach Boys re-issues on Capitol include both the stereo and mono mixes on one disc, and I can see absolutely no reason why EMI didn't do this, except to try and extract more cash from their customers, once again. Perhaps this is one reason why the re-issues haven't really set the charts on fire, and if so it serves them right.

Your review highlights the dodgy quality of the early stereo mixes, especially Rubber Soul. I think this is missing the point - this is what the sixties sounded like. These are period pieces and not modern, multi tracked, digital stereo (which quite often sound ghastly anyway); listen to Run for Your Life on Rubber Soul, Lennon's vocals are blistering, miked up close, hissing out of the right speaker on their own. Staggering stuff!
I believe that recordings come out of copyright after 50 years. If so, I look forward to really creative re-issues from Naxos and Dutton Labs etc, at a decent cost and with full packaging!

Lastly, which ones should we buy? I don't think we should replace any of the original 80s transfers, which to my ears sound clean and dry, a bit BBC 3 in their balance rather than Classic FM, but none the worse for that. Anyway, the gullible amongst us will have to start saving up for the re-mixes, which are undoubtedly being worked on even as we speak, in the depths of Abbey Road. They will be issued at full price, trust me.
Peter Norrie

Hi Peter. I totally agree with your assertion that the stereo set is over priced. Both EMI and The Beatles’ estate are maximising income before the copyright on their works expires. Why couldn’t they have created a box set in the vein of Neil Young’s recent ‘Archives’ release, packed with value-for-money rarities and (Blu-Ray) video? Then again, maybe that’s to come...?

On purely sound terms, I would argue that, in fact, the eighties’ releases “mucked around” with the sound to a greater degree. They may be more benign but the new re-issues restore much of the clarity, drive and energy of the original master tapes. The eighties releases masked a lot of original detail. The problem is that, in my view, the stereo  ‘enhancements’ of the new reissues went too far in certain, but by no means all, areas.
As for the mono box set? No matter what the stereo box set provides, the mono box was always intended to be sold as an audiophile edition for purists and should be viewed as a separate entity. Think of it as a specialised Japanese collectable because, essentially, that’s what it is. Every major artist(s) has featured in similar sets sold, in the main, via specialist retailers for an awful lot of cash.

As for my comments on early 60s mixes? This is a perennial audiophile argument. Many original 60s stereo mixes were produced by inexperienced engineers on deficient equipment for playback on anaemic Dansettes and transistor radios. We now have the technology to restore that music to the artists’ original wishes. We should always take advantage of it. If you want a slice of the sixties, buy an original LP second-hand. PR

I have to say it's one disappointment after another with CD re-releases - certainly the ones I'm interested in. I think the record companies simply don't understand that compressing the signal and 'normalising' it right up to 0dB does not constitute an improvement in sound. Very often the packaging is also poor; the paper and/or cardboard might be good quality, shiny and with a nice new smell, but often the repro is bad, almost as if someone had put in on the office scanner! The Beatles boxset is sort of a nice idea (especially issuing the mono mixes) but done rather insensitively, methinks. I am now reading the same about the new Kraftwerk boxset release; 'The Catalogue', which only goes to depress me more... DP

My present listening gear is as follows: Naim CDX CD player, NAC 102 preamp with NAPSC power supply, NAP 180 power amp, B&W DM603 floorstanders. Although a sensible option might have been to upgrade my speakers next, I have decided to hold off on this and spend money in reacquainting myself with vinyl instead. Hopefully I can spend around £1500 on speakers later next year. But for now vinyl seems to have become a necessity. In fact vinyl already is a reality. I have been steadily collecting second hand vinyl and some new release stuff for some months now. I think as much as a genuine interest in the sonic possibilities of a good vinyl system, I have also yearned for some years to reacquaint myself with this aesthetically more pleasing, physically tactile medium; not to mention its connection to my own formative years of buying and loving music. I have spent some £400 and am now eagerly awaiting delivery of a Teddycap power supply which will act as a HI-CAP type power supply to the 102 and as a power supply to a Naim Stageline phono amp.


"How can I get LP to sound better than my Naim CDX?" asks Timothy Cook.

Next up I need to decide on a vinyl spinner/cartridge set up. I have to confess I am at a total loss. Most puzzling I think is even where to begin in terms of allocating money in a balanced way to the constituent parts of the turntable, tone arm and cartridge. And I am really unsure of what budget I should begin serious consideration of potential purchases at. My one over riding requirement is that this set-up should not be significantly inferior to my CDX CD player. And this has to remain true when I upgrade the speakers too. I don't suddenly want new loudspeakers exposing the weakness of my vinyl set up when compared to CD. I have considered partnering a Rega Planar 3, new RB301 arm with power supply, with a really good MM cartridge such as the Dynavector DV10X 52003 or even the Ortofon 2M Black. This would cost in the region of £800-£900.

Although I am aware that some claim that the Planar 3 is capable of shaming CD players far more expensive than itself, would I be right in assuming that the CDX would ultimately prove a substantially better all-round performer than this proposed set-up?

If that is correct how much more money would I seriously need to invest, in order to attain a level of vinyl playback which would not leave me feeling marginally disappointed? How about the Planar 5 with power supply? Is this a considerable improvement over the revamped Planar 3? The planar 5 with one of the aforementioned cartridges would be costing me around £1100-£1200 mark. To be fair I was hoping to keep my spending to under £1500. Is that realistic?

And although I have already allocated money for the Stageline, I cant quite fully decide whether I should go for a MM or MC model? Help, I am confused!

If I need to I am prepared to extend my budget to higher level decks if you feel anything less would sound a poor second to the CDX. More expensive decks which have caught my eye include the Rega Planar 7, the Roksan Radius 5 or the Avid Diva II. Could you advise me on the relative merits of these designs and how they might fit in with my present amplification?
Any advice at all in fact?!!! I am even prepared to look at second hand or ex demo models. I often see Linn Axis turntables without a tonearm selling on e-bay for £200 or so. Would partnering one of these with a decent new tonearm be a viable option?
best wishes
Timothy Cook

Okay, here goes! The best value new turntable on the market is, in my humble opinion, the Technics SL1200. The trouble is that its tonearm isn't great, so you'd need to fit a Rega RB301 (or suchlike) to get it to give of its best. There are a number of specialists who can do this for you, and who advertise in HFW. If you wanted an off the shelf solution, then the Rega P3 is surely the best at the price. It is an inferior turntable to the Technics, with a superior arm, all in a lovely sleek package. Fitted with an Audio Technica AT-0C9 MLII (although the MLIII is out next month), it will give a sweet, smooth, precise and musically engaging sound. In some ways it will be better than your Naim CDX, especially in terms of its musical cohesive and sweet upper midband and treble. The Technics/RB301 combo is an altogether more bombastic combo; with a massively powerful and punchy bass, a far more incisive and grippy midband and a cleaner (if not so sweet) treble.

However, if you don't want to go down the Technics route, but do want something better than the Rega, something that's comprehensively better sounding to the Naim CDX CD player, then I refer you to an answer I gave some years ago! Yes, I still think Michell's GyroDec is still the benchmark for 'entry level high end' vinyl playback. In its latest SE form, this deck offers a blissfully expansive and open midband, a deliciously subtle and sweet treble and a bouncy, propulsive bass. The build quality is superlative; some decks five times the price aren't as well finished; and the Gyro is easily upgradeable to near-Orbe spec when you're feeling flush. The Gyro, in my view, is the basic 'start point' for top notch vinyl. These days, some other rivals sound as good, or even better, in some respects, but its combination of qualities is still hard to beat. Were you to go this way, you'd make your CDX's laser last a lot longer! DP

Hi Timothy. I will make a few comments.
Firstly, the new Rega RB301 arm is very, very good – absurdly so at the price. The Planar 3 is a fine starting point, although it must be placed in a firm, vibration free surface as its mass and isolation are minimal.

In view of the quality of your system and your obvious desire to have the best, a Moving Magnet (MM) cartridge will leave you hankering for what you will know to be better – a moving coil or MC cartridge. The question is – which one? An Ortofon Rondo Bronze comes to mind, or possibly an Audio Technica AT OC9-MLII, both costing around £500. I'll note quickly that the OC9 will be upgraded to MLIII status soon.

And finally from me. I do not agree with the view that LP  'shames' digital. The two are different and good digital has its merits. I happen to prefer LP and with a top quality MC cartridge it is a lovely aural experience, natural, enveloping and deeply communicative. Digital is generally (and I am generalising) more pristine, colder and more mechanical, sometimes quite unconvincing. So I would not expect to 'shame' the CDX; it may just be however that you'll find LP a more convincing and fulfilling experience.

I have been a hi-fi enthusiast for more years than I want to remember, having started back in the 1950s in the era of DIY loudspeakers and even amplifiers. I have been an avid reader of magazines but only came to Hi-fi World comparatively recently. And a refreshing experience it has been!
I realise that I am probably not your typical reader, being twice if not three times his average age, and also listening solely to classical music. Recently I upgraded some aspects of my modest kit which has always been devoted to giving me the highest standard of music reproduction that I can afford. A Quad CDP2 CD player (connected directly into a Quad 606 power amp.) and Spendor A6 loudspeakers have done wonders for even my ageing hearing. But I have been wondering whether I am missing even greater things by not going in for downloading from the internet uncompressed files that can outdo even the high(ish?) standard of CDs. So I have spent much time searching for help to that end and have arrived at a position of complete bemusement. May I set out my needs and ask for your reaction as to whether I can satisfy them or whether I should just be content to soldier on with what is, after all, a modest but satisfying system?

My computer is in a separate room distant from my hi-fi set-up and this controls some of the following. The way I listen to classical music is to look at my rack of CDs and LPs and then decide which suits my mood at that moment. I take down the chosen disc whether silver or vinyl, put it on and sit rapt in the magical sound which results.

So I am not keen on storing my music on my computer for sending when needed to the hi-fi via wireless. What I really want to do is to download it off the net and make a disc of it in the computer for storage in my CD rack for future use. I thought I had found the solution to this from Oppo who were producing a wizard machine which would play almost anything (except FLAC for some reason) but they have now decided not to introduce their kit onto the UK market. So how do I now find a method of making a disc of superior digital quality onto which I can download the wonderful music out there from people like Passionato and others and then replay it on my hi-fi set-up?

Linn have something mysterious called DS but try as I might I cannot find that it will actually play discs.
Also, there is Squeezebox to which the same applies. There are DACs from Cambridge and others but they won’t play discs, will they? And of course down the road there is, or ought to be, the need for Blu-ray capability since that seems to be the obvious way to upgrade the CD format.
So I need to find something to play discs that I have burned myself as FLAC or WAV files, as well as those of any format such as Blu-ray, HD audio and all the others. Does such a thing exist? At a relatively reasonable price?
James Bruxner

Hi James. Denon make a Blu-ray transport that will play all discs, and you can buy the Oppo BDP83 in the UK from CRT Projectors, who will be legally obliged to provide support if it fails. You would have to ask them about this. It is a U.S. Region A player  but most Blu-ray discs are All Region or Worldwide so will play. However, this does not apply to commercial DVDs, which were generally zoned. The BDP83 works on 240V. A hack is available to make the player multi-region.

I have just learnt from Hi-Audio they are to import both a BDP83SE (£800) and something known as a BDP83SE NuForce (£1200). The latter comes from a tie up between Oppo and NuForce, both of which are Taiwanese. I'm told the respective MDs went to school together, are good friends and there's a lot of co-operation between Oppo and Nu-Force as a result. We hope to review the BDP83 NuForce very soon.


Blu-ray authoring is in its infancy, but TMPG Authoring Works 4 does the job and TMPG (Japan) say it will author audio.

Authoring music to Blu-ray is in its infancy and something I have limited knowledge of. Blu-ray write-once discs (BD-R) currently cost around £8 each and I've already turned many into coasters trying to author video to them. However, Panasonic BD-REs erasable discs are now available so this problem has vanished, as I can run test burns on an erasable disc first. This again has been successful, so the technology works! You will need a Blu-ray burner for your computer of course. I encounter no problems burning video (HDV) to Blu-ray in BDMV format using TMPG Authoring Works 4. This programme isn't the easiest to use for editing, but it is comprehensive in what it does, has a superb MPEG coder that delivers better picture quality and costs little. However, I have not used it or even tried to use it for audio authoring. TMPG, Japan, told me in response to this query that Authoring Works 4 in latest form handles 5.1 AAC compressed surround-sound and up to 20bit PCM at 192kHz sample rate. They aim to accommodate 24/192 in future issues. There is a two week free trial available on-line and instruction on its use on You Tube at   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n26AEkW00Zk&feature=related.

Alternatives are generally more expensive. Sony has Blu-print and the Vegas series, and Adobe has Premiere, but whether they can author audio to disc I am uncertain.  If any readers have experience  of authoring music to Blu-ray, please let us know.  NK


Hallo! I live in Norway and buy your magazine every month. I have been a reader of Stereophile, HI-FI News, Absolute Sound and many other Hi-Fi magazines but now I only by Hi-Fi World.


Marantz TT-1000 "plays very good but I wishes to do some tweeks" says Ragnar Philip Rosenlund from Norway.

I read that your editor David Price have a Marantz TT-1000 MKI. I also own this lovely turntable and I see in your issue for December that the editor's TT-1000 is recently been restored. I think my TT-1000 plays very good but I wishes to do some tweeks to make it play better. So I wonder if you can give me some advice on this matter. I use a SME 3009 Improved and an Audio Technica AT 1010 on my TT-1000. I also read that your reference system often uses the TT-1000, so it has to be a very good turntable.
Ragnar Philip Rosenlund

Yes, it is a very good turntable, one that compares well in sonic terms to every modern high end turntable I've reviewed for this magazine. Costing four times as much as a Linn LP12 when it first came out, it's an expensive device and durable too. Basically, it's a heavily tweaked Micro Seiki, which is a good thing as they're fairly straightforward to rebuild (as high end Japanese direct drives go)! My own deck was serviced brilliantly by Richard Peachey of Vantage Audio of Taunton (www.vantageaudio.com, 0845 4294643). DP

I have recently upgraded my Goldring 1042 moving magnet (MM) cartridge to a MC and was originally considering Denon DL-103R or Audio-Technica AT-OC9ML/II.

After deeper investigation into Arm Effective Mass and Resonant Frequency due reports that the Denon only being suitable for med to high mass arms I found that my Roksan Tabriz (standard model) at 11g mass would not be suitable. (cartridge/arm matching is very well explained @ http://www.theanalogdept.com/cartridge___arm_matching.htm)

My system consists of Meridian 502/557 pre/power amp, 507 24bit CD player, Sony ST-SDB900 Tuner, Manticore Mantra with Origin Live standard motor upgrade/Tabriz/ AT33PTG via Cambridge 640P phono stage and Wilson Benesch Orator speakers with Chord Silver Siren/QED Silver Anniversary cables and own made screen power cables and junction box. Part of the reason for the upgrade was due to a recent upgrade to the 502 with a MC board on board which replaced my existing 551 which had a MM board. I was going to swap the boards over but found out that they are a different fitting, the 502 MC being the same as fitted to newer G0 series.

I would imagine that the Meridian MC unit will sound a lot better than the 640P as the old MM fitted to my existing 551 sounded quite a bit better than the 640P does now, hence the upgrade. I know that there are better phono stages than the Meridian one but at this time upgrade finances are a little tight and I'm sure Meridian wouldn't fit any sub standard item, especially as the board alone costs £290 if purchased separately!

Getting back to the cartridge, after some research and due to price constraints I actually bought an Audio-Technica AT33PTG which from reviews was quite tolerant to mass/resonance and was better or at least as good as the AT-OC9ML/II. I was originally going to purchase the OC9ML for around £250 through Vinyl Engine membership but due to the recent financial crisis the price has risen to around £370 which is a substantial increase. I managed to buy the AT33PTG for £240 all in from a highly rated eBay seller in Japan. I do quite a bit of buying from auctions and selling on eBay to pay for salmon fishing trips and hi-fi so I know how to avoid the mishaps of buying through eBay.

It sounds superb and after being burned in sounds even better with great depth and separation, though one thing I will point out I have now installed a spacer under the cartridge seat which adds weight (5g) as I found that there was a slight bit of distortion/resonance which I presumed was due to lack of arm mass which has now been eradicated so maybe the ATs aren't quite so tolerant as first thought. This increases the arm mass to 16 grams and still leaves plenty of movement on the counter balance weight.

My system is situated in our L shaped living /dining room which measures 7 x 9 metres, the 9m being the depth into the L section which is 4m wide, the speakers are toed in and .5 metre away from the corners firing across the room as I work on my computer with my back to them in the opening of the L section. I listen to it all day most days, to the wife's annoyance!

My music tastes being most types of music except classical via Radio 2/4, CDs and Analogue as the mood takes me, I also now listen to quite a bit of Spotify Premium (320kbps) which I read about in your or one of the other magazines and find it excellent and very user friendly, the only drawback being no licence to access The Beatles music. Hopefully, this will change in the near future once enough of the Beatles re-mastered music has been sold.

Mainly as a trial I invested in a Hong Kong eBay purchased 24/192 DAC supposedly made by or labelled Onkyo in the Eastern market. I got an audio electrician friend to peruse over the specifications which he thought was very good considering the price of £95 all in. It arrived after a couple of weeks and works a treat and once again was very easy to install through my highly upgraded Dell Studio 17 laptop running Vista.

I have just read the letter from Steve Trowbridge Dec 09 and I too like to buy old hi-fi and have a fiddle, probably my best purchases being my current Manticore Mantra bought complete but with broken RB250 arm and very dirty for £6, a JR149 Subwoofer bought for £22 re-foamed and sold to a German hi-fi enthusiast for £380, a set of Quad II/Quad amp & tuner/Garrard 301/SME 3009/V15/Tannoy Lancaster corners bought for £185(!) and a QED A240 CD amp which I still have, as it sounds superb in my shed through my homemade LS5as.

As a matter of interest, in your opinion what would be the next upgrade step? If you say speaker cable, please note that they have to turn a few corners and measure 9 metres each and are bi-wire.
Keep up the good work.
Alan Vincent

Oh dear Alan! The notion that arm / cartridge matching is just about where low frequency resonance falls is overly simple and very outdated. Your Roksan Tabriz, at 11gms effective mass is actually just below the 12gms benchmark 'normal'' value nowadays and would suit an AT OC9 MLII well enough. Moving coil cartridges have lower compliance, higher tracking force and greater ability to tolerate massy arms, although nowadays even a large 12 incher like SME's 312S comes in at 14gms.


Arm resonance - Ortofon 2M Black cartridge in Rega RB301 arm. At 10Hz this is an octave above warps in the 5Hz region; the arm will ride warps, not read them.

Historically, cartridge manufacturers stopped pursuing high compliance in the cantilever hinge a long time ago, allowing arm effective mass to rise without arm/cartridge resonance sinking to dangerously low values (below 8Hz).  This means the pairing ride over warps and do not try and trace them as a signal, something that would introduce excessive cantilever movement. I measure arm/cartridge resonance and these days it commonly hovers around 10Hz, which is acceptable. To be specific, a compliant Ortofon 2M Black cartridge in a Rega RB301 arm resonate at exactly 10Hz (vertical modulation). With a Ortofon Cadenza Black moving coil this figure rises to 12.5Hz. Since the Rega has an effective mass of 12gms the Roksan would have given a value much like the Cadenza, with an AT OC9MLII.  

Arms have a characteristic sound determined by many other factors, including arm wiring, vibrational behaviour of the structure, geometry and such like. Silver wired arms can sound a bit zingy bright, whilst acrylic arms often sound well damped and neutral, and long arms just very smooth and easy going. I am generalising here of course, to make a point. Not everyone likes the Rega arms, mainly for a midband less smooth than is possible elsewhere, but I love their lower midband separation and dynamism. So you can be a bit more adventurous with your Roksan Tabriz, which is a decent arm. NK

I am about to embark on what could well be my final upgrade (musically that is ) and would very much appreciate your help. I have been an avid reader of your magazine for many years and I know that you have helped many Audiophiles through the upgrading minefield.

I have a pair of Klipschorn corner speakers that were born in 1972 and still with their original crossovers that must be feeling their age. My dilemma is, do I just replace the capacitors or would it be better to purchase new networks built by the likes of Bob Crites (www.critespeakers.com) which I am quite happy to do, as long as they will justify the extra cost. I believe other people in the States also build them?

My amplifiers comprise a Croft super micra preamp about 18 years old, a Croft Series V power amp, and a pair of Leak TL 10 Point Ones rebuilt by Glen Croft about 20 years ago.

Record deck is a Garrard 301 (Bastinised) with a Tom Fletcher arm and an ancient Decca London cartridge. I cannot afford to change the deck, neither can I afford to upgrade to a moving coil, plus phono amp with a budget of around £400 at the moment. That figure will be increased if I am lucky enough to find a good second hand S.E. amplifier. I would welcome your suggestions for a replacement M.M. cartridge please.

I still enjoy my Leak Troughline Stereo Tuner so I am not concerned about changing that. I sometimes play CDs and have a AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 player.

My speaker cables and interconnects are cheap and cheerful so I really must upgrade them and I am thinking of going the D.N.M. route. This is just a gut feeling plus financial consideration of course. The problem is that I won’t be able to audition them at home, so it’s pot luck.
Now for the big one. I have always wanted to try and hopefully buy a Single Ended Amp or amps which I understand could be a match made in heaven with Horns. Would you agree with that?

The Almarro 318B has had great reviews and must be high on my shopping list. This is at the top end of my budget and at least I can audition it at home. The amount of heat it produces may be a bit of a concern though, (35C?).

Something like a 2A3 based Yamamoto could be interesting, as could some of the many 300B designs, but I guess they will be too expensive for me.
We listen mostly to Jazz, Classical, Opera, Big Bands and also 50’s, 60’s and 70’s vocalists. Obviously I am looking for the most realistic reproduction possible.
very, many thanks in anticipation.
kindest regards,
Terry Mason

I have no experience of the Bob Crites crossovers so cannot comment. If funds are tight my tendency would be to remove the crossovers and rebuild them using quality Solen capacitors, or a brand you may prefer.  I also like the neutral sound of carbon film resistors, but you may like to experiment, as quality metal films can be good. Put the crossovers in Maplin plastic boxes, external to the loudspeakers so they are unaffected by vibration. Use good cable, again of your choice according to budget. You really should use at least budget loudspeaker cable from Chord or such like. I have tried Maplin Shark cable and found it sounds very vague.

Decca London? Ouch! Yes, I know its hair-trigger fast sound and great bass, but original London Blues mistracked terribly and left significant groove damage in their wake. This was inaudible with the Decca, but not with any cartridge that followed it. Later, improved Deccas overcame this to some extent, and hopefully this is what you have, or you are in for a shock. I suggest you buy a Goldring 1022GX  which does a fine job at a very reasonable price.

Single-ended amplifiers are a world of their own and the sweetest thing you'll ever hear. The models you mention are all worthy contenders and I loved the Almarro. Just don't expect to turn your house into a disco, but then I suspect those days are over! You may be interested in the next letter, where I seem (regrettably) to have upset a dedicated SE user. Such things raise passions. NK

I was rather disappointed by Noel’s review of the Silver Night. I don’t think it gave a fair picture of using an SET amp and it could easily give the wrong impression.

Just as background, I have a WAD 300B Push-Pull (18W), Arcam power amps (solid state), Naim power amps, but my main system is the Audio Note Quest Silver SET (7W) and so I have a reasonable understanding and experience of the topic.
Noel gives the impression that the reason for choosing 2A3 valves is that they are cheaper than 300Bs. That’s really not true if you compare like-for-like quality, for example, good quality meshplates, where the 2A3s are slightly more expensive. It is true that the cheapest 2A3 is cheaper than the cheapest 300B but few people would choose to run the cheapest valves.

Noel mentions distortion levels and this shows up the problem of relying on objective measurements. Yes, valve designs do have higher levels of distortion than solid state. But the distortion from solid state tends to be high order harmonics which even at low levels makes the sound harsh and is intrusive. Distortion in valves is of low order harmonics and is much less apparent and can even enrich the sound. And so comparing the objective measurement of THD between valves and solid state can give a very misleading impression.

Noel mentions using a passive pre to allow switching, but here again it is misleading. I have used the MF Audio passive pre (both copper & silver versions) with Naim and the WAD 300Bs and Audio Note Quest Silvers and whilst it is a very transparent pre it does seem to bleed the life out of the music when used with valves -- it is very good with solid state. And so really the front end of a valve power amp should be a good valve pre-amp -- try it with the WAD Pre II or III (I’ve got both) and it brings the music to life. Move up to an Audio Note M3 and it will really sing -- but not a passive.
Noel mentions the lack of inputs well here again I think he’s missing the point and being misleading. The volume pot is simply there for convenience and acts as a simple passive control (not ideal) in a one source system. In reality the pot would be turned up full (i.e.bypassed) and a good valve pre would be the front end.

There is also a question of horses for courses in terms of music choice. An SET power amp driven by a good valve pre creates and incredible musical experience on acoustic music, especially vinyl jazz albums. But if you really want to rock then get a Naim which boogies better – I’ve got both.
But the strangest comment in Noel's review was the Verdict with three globes... “It’s inability to drive lower loads is unacceptable at this price.”  This is totally misleading and completely misunderstands SET amps. If you want more power then use a simple 300B Push-Pull (I have the WAD 300B PP) at 18W of valve-power it will drive all but the most insensitive speakers. BUT the sound does not have the delicacy of an SET. Noel seems to be looking at the Power Amp and Speakers as two separate and unrelated components and nothing could be further from the truth. You have to match speakers to power amp. Indeed Naim use their speakers to load the output stage of their power amps – including specifying a 3m long single run of speaker cable to ensure correct loading.


Audion Silver Night single-ended amplifier. Just a two globe review from Noel, says Edward.

If you want to achieve the true beauty of sound and outright musicality that a SET power amp can give then you have to choose a speaker that has been designed with high sensitivity to work with SET amps. For example, a good quality single driver horn, or Audio Note AN/J or AN/E.
Therefore to really review an SET power amp you must review it in a system with a valve pre and high quality speakers designed to work with SET amps.

Therefore, sorry Noel, but this review is rather woolley and confused, written in a bit of a hurry perhaps? But only makes a two globe review.

Hi Edward. I designed early WAD amps so am well acquainted with the characteristics of thermionic v solid-state. 2A3s have a lovely sound but produce half the power of a 300B as I clearly stated, so little power the Silver Night amp was unusable on the 4 Ohm tap.

A valve amp is load matched by the output transformer and can supply the same power into 4 Ohms as 8 Ohms. If it doesn’t the output transformer hasn’t been designed or wound properly. Most loudspeakers nowadays are 4 Ohms and a real world amp needs to be able to handle them, as can WAD amps and Almarros etc. The Silver Night simply could not, hence 3 Globes.
best regards

Dear Noel,
Many thanks for your reply, I do appreciate you taking the time to reply in person to me. I do understand the points you’ve made, and of course accept your judgement.

My main point, perhaps not well expressed, was that SET power amps are specialist and niche products therefore they should be evaluated using niche speakers designed to work with SET amps rather than the majority of speakers which are really aimed at high power solid state amps.
My main criticism of Audion power amps is that they have solid state power supplies. I think this gives them a very “clean” and precise sound but it doesn’t engage – I find my mind wanders during prolonged listening. If I compare them with the lower-end Audio Note amps which have valve power supplies (e.g. Quest or Quest Silver) then I find I stay up all night listening. Of course there are other differences as you mentioned in the wiring methodology and component quality of the Audio Notes.

Final point on speakers: among the pairs of speakers I own (approx: 24) I have a pair of Audio Note AN/J. They are rated at 93db sensitivity and designed and developed to work specifically with AN Quest Silver SET amps. And the sound when coupled with the AN amps really is, in my view, outstanding in all respects – very musical. They are reasonable but not great when driven by WAD 300B PP monoblocks. But sound quite thin and horrible almost lacking all musical qualities when driven by Naim (NAP200 or 250) or Arcam (Delta 290 + 290P). They are also OK when driven by Audion Silver Nights but nothing special. Indeed Mission 753s sound far superior with the Naim & Arcam amps but poor with the SET or PP monoblocks.

It was this experience which led me to argue that power amps and speakers should really be seen as a single component.
best regards, and thanks again for your response,

Edward - it's always nice to hear from a true enthusiast. You have 24 pairs of loudspeakers! Where do you keep them all? To be fair to me though (!) I did clearly say I liked the Silver Night driving 8 Ohms loudspeakers. Even by SE standards it was very sweet. But it fell flat on its face with 4 Ohm loudspeakers and as most are 4 Ohms nowadays that would have been the common experience, which I feel obliged to report upon. NK

I’m sure Steven Green would be interested in seeing and commenting on this, if he hasn’t already.
The article appeared today, and has attracted lots of user comments, mainly referring to many of DAB’s failings. But the main point is that Lord Carter is now contradicting his own report, saying there is no set date for FM switchoff.
Confused? I know I am.

But FM lives on, and I’m glad it does. (I still don’t think that the BBC should have a monopoly on drama etc, though.)
Best wishes,
Melvyn Dover.

FM does indeed live on - as this month's group test shows! Don't believe the government's hype about FM switch off; I'll believe it when I see it! DP


I am enquiring about info on the output transformer for this amp. I have a TL12 plus but there is no L/S impedance selector on the top of the o/p trans. It looks exactly as the ones with such a selector ...underneath there is a row of three soldering pins and a further two. In connecting these pins as in the diagram I have i.e. 4 8 and 16 ohm taps. Can you tell me the ohmic resistance of the windings on the normal output transformer. In talks with people there is the suggestion that it is a 100 volt line output. The number on the base is, the same white print as the mains transformer, is 8382. I would be a happy man if you can help or perhaps point me in the right direction. Thanking you in anticipation.
Edward Ashton


Leak TL12 Plus, a successor to the excellent TL12.

We do not have a TL12 Plus available for a measurement of D.C. resistance, but output transformer secondaries use few turns of heavy gauge wire and typically measure around 0.5 Ohms. As you can see from the circuit diagram reproduced here there is a basic 4 Ohm winding, and a tapped 16 Ohm section.



Output stage of Leak TL12 Plus amplifier showing output taps.

You can identify the latter by the feedback line that comes off it. The 4 Ohm winding will have the lowest DCR. Only if windings all measure out at many ohms would I be suspicious about the nature of the output transformer. Leak did make special versions for the BBC and perhaps some line drive types, but if there are many terminals then the likelihood is that these are provided for loudspeaker matching purposes. NK

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!

This turntable was sent to Hong Kong before being shipped to you. Some settings, like the tone arm ones, were not carried out as they are usually done on location at the factory.

The speed regulation is meant to be a very fine tuning of the speed. With a base frequency 50 Hz:   - the regulation at 50 mHz gives 0.1% change for every turn (50mHz / 50Hz = 50 mHz / 50,000mHz = 0.001 = 0.1%)   - the regulation at 5 mHz gives 0.01% change for every turn (5mHz / 50Hz = 5 mHz / 50,000mHz = 0.0001 = 0.01%)

We are sorry for the inconvenience of 45 RPM not working. This is caused by a malfunctionment of the external power supply. This constitutes of: 1 power supply board, 1 control board; 1 amplifier board. Basically it transform 220 VAC into DC, then it splits into two oscillating stages (one for 33 RPM and one for 45 RPM), then back again into one single amplifier driving the turntable at 115 VAC. The cause of the problem can be: bad connection of the flat cables inside; broken oscillator; broken quartz; broken PIC.
Lift/lower problems. This is the only regulation not covered extensively in the manual: we do apologize, but usually the set-up is carried out by a specialised dealer. You may regulate the lift in three different points. First you may regulate the horizontal bar that actually lifts the tonearm: this is common to most of the tonearms lifts. I’ve included a picture showing the other two points A and B. By rotating these you should get the lifter in working conditions. We have never experienced this problem before.

Headshell offset was not factory set. In the instruction manuals there are instructions to carry out this adjustment:   1) Position the shell straight in relation to the arm tube (tighten the shell screw very slightly). The correct setting is the point on the template nearest the centre   of the record (use the included template), obtained by sliding the base of the arm among the bars that enter in the rectangular plate.   2) Move the needle to the second point on the template (the point furthest from the centre of the record). At this point, the setting is not correct. To fix it, turn the shell until you have the correct setting at this point (tighten the shell screw again very slightly)   3) Move the needle to the first point, nearest the centre. At this point, the setting is not now correct. Then move the base of the arm along the bars which joins it with the pin again until you have the correct setting.   4) If you move the head to the point on the template furthest from the pin again, the situation in point 2 above returns. Turn the shell as described in point 2 above. Obviously, when we verify if the setting is correct, moving from the furthest point to the nearest one, and conversely, we must slightly move the template making the turntable rotating. Continue to repeat these two operations, moving from the point furthest from the point to nearest to the record, always moving the arm base when you check the head on the template at the point nearest to the centre of the record and modifying the angle between arm tube and shell when you check the head on the template furthest from the centre of the record. Repeat this operation 4/5 times. The setting is perfect at the two points of the template where no move is required (neither the distance between the record player pin and arm nor shell angle moving required). You now have the right setting for the angle of the shell and the correct distance between arm pin and  record player pin. The head is now set.
yours sincerely,
Luca Gombi

We included Luca’s lengthy explanation for setting Lancellotto arm geometry for the sake of completeness. This is what we encountered in the instructions too, at which point it was time for the pub!
As explained in the review, we calculated correct head shell offset angle and overhang using Stephenson’s equations and applied the result to minimise tracking error in the arm. This was checked using a protractor, to ensure the zeros in the graph were zero in practice – and they were. We sent the equations in a graphical spreadsheet to Luca in Italy, to explain and illustrate the process,

In the Feb ‘10 issue much play is made of the Klimo record player being Italian whereas, Klimo is a German company located in Reutlinger. I know this because I own a pair of very good Klimo ‘Beltaine’ 300B monobloks (bought from Walrus). The Italian company Suono e Comunicazione s.r.l. appears to be their agent or distributor - they also represent Rega, Bosendorfer and Epos. Or am I missing something?
Nick M Jones


Boffins at Klimo in Germany.

The following reply came from Luca in Italy, in direct response to your query. We were aware of this but perhaps should have explained it.

“Klimo is a German company, based in Reutlingen. Dusan Klimo, actually, is of Slovakian origin and he moved to Germany in 1968. We started many years ago as their distributor, but the cooperation became closer and closer till this stage where, roughly, the electronic part is made in Germany and the mechanical part is made in Italy: the turntable is made in Italy”.
Luca Gombi


The headphone review published in February’s issue had me laughing out loud when I read it. Was the reviewer serious? I was surprised to see a Sennheiser PX100 used as a ‘reference.’ What does the reviewer normally use himself? Is he a headphone user?
Two amps used - both low output impedance, one being solid state and the other with a valve buffer. Is the reviewer aware of the differences that the output impedance can have on headphones?

The headphones chosen varied in price from £160 to £1,000. How is this a fair comparison given that cheaper headphones may have to make some compromises in comparison to a £1,000 pair of headphones (where it looks as though the compromises were made on its build/looks)
The headphones varied from wireless to open to closed to electrostat. Each designed in a totally different way. No mention of different impedances and sensitivities of the headphones.

Choices of music seemed a little strange - a mono recording from 1958, a Beatles recording and an 80’s recording.
Did the reviewer manage to wear in the headphones for any time?

I have the same set up as the one the reviewer was using and switch between many headphones via an Earmax, X-Can V8 and V2 (Modded) both also with beefier power supplies and one of my Headphones, the K701 took a long time to settle. What the reviewer seems to be describing is how they sound out of the box. Did he also miss the ‘airiness’ that the 701’s produce. Had he worn in any of the headphones before launching into this article?

I used to think that your magazine was more serious about hi fi than this. No measurements taken, just a reviewer and his rhetoric. Could the magazine please take headphones a little more seriously and ask someone with proper experience of them to do some fair reviews of like with like, the effects of output impedances on them, the impression of ‘space’ in the sound presentation, how each headphone has been designed to be used and make sure that they are fully ‘loosened’ by playing them for some time before reviewing?
Ian (Oxted)

Perhaps we should have said the Sennheiser PX100 was a 'benchmark' rather than a more difficult and nebulous concept to define, a ‘reference’. We have this problem with loudspeakers, using Spendor S8es as benchmarks for quality, because they set good standards all round. This is quite different from saying they are quality references - and what is a reference is very subjective in any case. For example, I would  nominate a good electrostatic or ribbon loudspeaker, because they measure well and sound right. However, most listeners prefer boxes, making my choice academic as far as everyday experience goes. A benchmark is a better everyday yardstick than a ‘reference’.

A low impedance source does not interact with varying load impedance, which is why headphone amps have low output impedance, and why we used two headphone amps with low output impedance. Headphones have either a very high non-flat impedance, like the Sennheiser HD650s, which vary from 50 Ohms to 500 Ohms, or a lower but flat impedance of around 40 Ohms (all the others in the group) which does not react significantly with a low output impedance source. We measured impedance and frequency response but impedance is of little consequence for the reasons stated and frequency response strictly non-flat unless a dummy head is used, which we do not have.


Sennheiser HD650 frequency response. Bass rolls off because they are not on-head (i.e. measured in open conditions).


Sennheiser HD650 impedance, not flat but very high at 500 Ohms maximum, and 50 Ohms minimum.

The review was a broad look across the price spectrum, an approach that is useful for spotting bargains.
We run in all transducers, but commonly do not mention it, because it can be a little tedious to read about and consumes valuable page space. Cartridges are run in, however, loudspeakers often run very heavily with pink noise and the Monitor Audio De-tox CD, overnight and over weekends. Amps are run to settle their components too.

Finally, with transducers such as loudspeakers and headphones, there are so many variables that it is impossible to make any judgement of them except subjectively. We use the widest range of the most sophisticated measurements with loudspeakers, including swept distortion spectrums, decay spectrums and much more, measurements beyond the capabilities of many manufacturers, yet still we describe them in subjective terms. The same applies to headphones. So at the end of the day it is one person’s judgement. In this case that person was musically experienced, uses headphones, and used low output impedance sources to avoid interaction. The headphones had been measured too, to ensure they worked normally. NK

Hi Ian. The reason I asked Paul to use the Sennheiser PX100 as a reference is that, in my fifteen years of testing headphones for Hi-Fi World and The Sunday Times, I’ve yet to find anything anywhere near as good at its £40 retail price. Feed it a good source via the likes of a Musical Fidelity X-CANS v8 and you’ll see what I mean. As such, it’s an excellent choice; if any of the headphones tested weren’t as good (despite being far more expensive), then they’d be swiftly discounted from the running. Unsurprisingly, the PX100 is also extremely popular; a great many thousands have been sold; so why on earth not use an affordable, much loved and fine sounding product as a ‘reference’? Makes sense to me!

The reason we routinely run a ‘spread’ of prices in group tests is to give a sense of perspective onto the subject. Obviously, we are not expecting the £160 phones to be better than the £1,000 ones, but an interesting question is ‘how much better is the most expensive than the cheapest?’ I think a ‘we tell you the best £1,000 headphone’-type group test is too narrow in its remit, whereas our approach throws open the possibility of a surprise or an upset; sometimes the cheapest isn’t the worst. Again, different types were used, to give a sense of what is possible with different engineering philosophies. Paul very accurately conveyed the difference between the Stax electrostatics and the other dynamic headphones, I thought. When auditioning, the music wasn’t limited to just that stated in the test; Paul chose to single out the tracks he did for the purposes of brevity in the write-up because again they epitomised key differences between the ‘phones.

Paul had the headphones for over six weeks before he filed his report, so yes, he did have plenty of time to bed them all in, and - importantly - time to experiment to see which ones suited the valve buffered Musical Fidelity phono stage and which suited the ANT Audio Amber 3T solid-state stage.
This magazine has been reviewing products for nearly two decades Ian, so we’re quite familiar with issues of running in; to audition an un-run-in ‘phone would be a schoolboy error! Please don’t assume this just because Paul’s subjective findings don’t tally with your own, obviously strongly held, views. If there was no difference of opinion about the relative merits of a product then there wouldn’t be any need for hi-fi magazines at all, so let’s accept informed subjective opinions for what they are, rather than attempt to discredit them. DP

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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