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April 2010 issue
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DISTORTION
I have the same issue (not skipping but distorting at certain parts) as Andy Crossey (p53, October 09 issue) with Talking Book and also others Kate Bush’s “Aeriel” and Kings of Leon “Only by the night” (all on heavyweight vinyl).

My Linn LP12 with Basic Plus (circa 1984) and Goldring 1042 manages to track even the “torture tracks” of the HFN Test record (even though long overdue an upgrade in the tonearm department), but judging by Andy’s letter an upgrade may make no difference to these particular LPs. However, I have decided (not too reluctantly) that an upgrade would possibly be beneficial.

I have a budget around £1000 and have considered arms such as Hadcock GH228 export, Clearaudio Satisfy (carbon) and Origin Live Encounter (all new).  Advice from various forums has warned me off the purchase of second-hand Linn arms (Ittok, Ekos) due to possible bearing damage; also opinion on the Akito (comparative value for money) is not encouraging.

Unfortunately, I will not have an opportunity to audition tonearms in my setup prior to purchase and will therefore need to rely on others expert advice.
Music tastes include most things (mostly rock) with the exclusion of Jazz and RnB. Rest of system is a Musical Fidelity A1008, Naim CD 5X, B&W 804 loudspeakers.
Robert Owen

Hi Robert. Considering it's a Linn you're using and you're after an affordable unipivot, my choice would have to be the Audio Origami Uniarm (£899). This in my view offers the best unipivot sound at the price, and an excellent match for the LP12. It has a very open and musical feel, with a slightly warm but not romantic presentation. Yet there's still oodles of detail and far more grip than many unipivots can muster. DP

LAPTOP MAINS NOISE
I am currently using my laptop as my main digital music source, but I am plagued by background noise when using mains power. For playback, I have eliminated this problem by changing from a wired USB DAC to the Logitech Wireless Music Sender, which is a cheap and very effective option for those without a home network. But I have two questions, which I hope you can answer.

I am currently recording some of my vinyl to hard disc, using a cable from the ‘tape out’ on my amplifier to the ‘line in’ socket on my laptop. This introduces background noise again (a grounding issue?). I can record on battery power with a silent background, but that only allows me to record a single side of an LP before I have to recharge. I have done a bit of searching around on the internet and have not found any useful advice, apart from some American forum where it was suggested that I disconnect the ground wire in the laptop’s mains plug. Will this help with the noise? And, more importantly, is it safe? My turntable is a NAD 533, which does not have a separate ground wire, which might be a factor, but I am pretty much an electrical ignoramus.

chord_chordette

Chord Electronics Chordette Gem can receive music by Bluetooth wireless link from a computer.

According to the product brochure, the Logitech works on a Bluetooth connection. Would this be able to connect to one of those new Chord DACs with the Bluetooth aerial, if I decided to upgrade? The Logitech receiver is okay, but doesn’t sound quite as good as my old DAC (background noise aside) and the Chordette Gem does look a very tempting upgrade.
yours,
Daniel Emerson
Hendon
London


The Logitech product looks like it uses a closed Bluetooth system so the user cannot control the way in which it connects. This would mean that it would not be compatible with the Chordette Gem.

We use the standard pairing procedure which requires the source product to search for a Bluetooth receiver then it connects using a 4 digit pairing code. This can be done automatically so the Gem will work with products that seek out a Bluetooth device then try different pairing codes until connection is successful. I can’t tell whether the Wireless Music Sender can work in this way but perhaps someone from Logitech can confirm this.
Alternatively, you will probably find that the laptop already has a Bluetooth transmitter built in so you wouldn’t need to use the Logitech device anyway and could send music directly to the Gem.
best regards,
Matt Bartlett B.Eng., C.Eng MIEE
Production Manager
Chord Electronics Limited


Hi Daniel. By 'background noise' I presumed you meant hum, but Matt thought it was hash from a switch-mode power supply. Using a battery would eliminate both so we do not know whether you are suffering a ground loop problem, in which case disconnecting an earth may well produce a cure at the expense of safety. Whether you try this is up to you. If you have an all-plastic laptop there's no great risk; if you have exposed metalwork there is a small risk. I can't, of course, recommend you do such a thing.

The 'line-in' socket of a laptop will go through a low grade Analogue-to-Digital Convertor (ADC) and you can't expect great quality as a result. You must route the signal in through a decent external ADC. NK

MAINS AND MEANS

I have always considered it worthwhile to employ some sort of mains power conditioning for my audio system, long before such practices were popular.

During my annual clean up cycle when I check and clean all power plugs and audio connections, I decided to conduct a listening test with various power conditioning devices in the chain, from simple surge protection and clamping to more sophisticated RFI filters and various combinations. The over-riding conclusion was that all the devices had some impact upon the sound, but not always a positive one. Generally speaking, any sort of filtering tends to have a slight softening or compression affect upon dynamics while strong or multi-stage filtering can also have a detrimental affect upon the perceived soundstage, sometimes tending to suck the sound back into the speakers rather than presenting it outside of the speakers.

On the positive side of the equation, subjective noise floors could certainly be lowered, but at what cost? I concluded that a very low level of filtering offered the best compromise (such as might be obtained via a simple RFI filter), cleaning the overall sound but without unduly affecting dynamics. The interesting thing being that altering the mains power “waveform”  in any way should have such a noticeable affect upon the sound of the affected components. Like most things in audio, the results are somewhat subjective. Experimentation and objective listening being the key.
Douglas Marc

Hi Douglas - absolutely agreed! It is so hard to 'prescribe' the remedy to mains borne noise, as it varies to such a degree depending on location, distance from a sub-station and of course local factors. I personally have generally rejected mains conditioners (of all types) in my own system, as I find that just as you say, ultimate dynamics are hampered and the sound can sometimes get a 'sat upon' quality. Now, if my mains was so bad that the benefits in smoothness outweighed this effect, then of course I'd be using mains conditioning, but it's not. The point being then that it depends totally on your situation. One thing I can say for sure is that computers, fluorescent lights, wireless routers, cordless phones and fridges all go off in my house when I am having a truly serious listening session. I even switch my TV off standby; I'm not sure if I'm imagining this one but it seems to make a tiny difference. Local mains borne interference can be pretty bad, let alone regional. DP

A QUANDARY

I have a hi-fi that has been built up from inherited and secondhand items that saw me happily through my student years but is now in desperate need of upgrading.  However, like many in the current climate, I need to operate within a very tight budget.

Here is my current system:  Systemdek IIXE with acrylic platter, RB300, Nagaoka TS11, Arcam Alpha 5+ CD, Musical Fidelity A1, Mission 752 (original). Cables are Atlas Questor and Monster Z2 reference.  My room is 12’ by 21’, with speakers firing across the short axis.  CD and turntable take a fairly even share of source duties and my musical tastes are extremely wide!

My current budget for upgrades is around £600 (possibly more will be available later) and my thinking is that turntable, arm, CD player and speakers are being held back by the amplification and cartridge, so what would you suggest?
From digging through my back issues, I found that when the Audiolab 8000s was first reviewed it was found to work very well with the Mission 752s. Does this still hold true or would I be better looking elsewhere? I am also assuming that whichever amplifier I go to will require a phono stage. Would the Cambridge 640P suffice?

Also, which cartridge would you recommend and is it better spending £200 (approx) on the cartridge (i.e. Goldring G1042) or would I get a better return out of a cheaper cartridge (Ortofon 2m Red?) and fitting a Technoweight/wiring mods to the Rega?
As you can tell I am in a bit of quandary so your response will be greatly appreciated and followed to the letter!!
yours sincerely,

Paul Tuerena
audiolab_8000s

Audiolab 8000S is a power house our tests showed.

The Musical Fidelity A1 amp is a fine partner to these sensitive, smooth Mission floorstanders but the Audiolab 8000s will give more punch; it is considerably more powerful.
The Rega arm and Nagaoka cartridge are the obvious culprits here; I'd get yours rebuilt/rewired by Audio Origami and then fit it with the likes of a good budget MC like the AT OC9 MLIII. DP

WHICH CARTRIDGE

Following years of successful rehabilitation, I experienced a relapse of my hi-fi addiction after hearing (and seeing) a pair of Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors at a local dealer’s shop.  They were well above my budget at the time, but six months later, when the original owner upgraded, I negotiated a deal with my partner. Using her feminine cunning she told me I was allowed to choose: cigarettes or speakers...  
Needless to say, I’ve quit smoking that day and purchased the Auditors (I think my partner wishes that I was still smoking, now that the house is full with hi-fi bits and pieces).

The Auditors are long gone from my main system (they do a fantastic job in the kitchen) and, inspired by your magazine and a local master-tweaker, I am now on the verge of completing a lovely sounding ‘retro’ system. It includes a pair of Quad ESL57s (tweaked, on custom-made stands), refurbished Radford STA25, Audio Innovations P2 phonostage, L1 preamplifier (I alternate the latter with a Creek OBH-22) and a souped-up Esoteric P–500 transport with matching D–500 DAC.  

To complete this set up I have recently acquired a Garrard 301 (in a sturdy hardwood plinth) and a Hadcock GH228 tone arm (early model; rewired). Cables are a mixture of Goertz Alpha Core (speaker cables), high purity silver/copper interconnects and improved mains cables.  The whole set up is supported on a Lovan stand with Mikado isolation cones.

garrard_301

Garrard 301 deserves a fine arm and cartridge, better than a budget moving coil, says Noel.

With its refurbished components, new tubes and careful set up, I find this system to be miles ahead in terms of musicality and sheer enjoyment compared to my previous ‘up-to-date’ system.

The last piece of the puzzle is choosing the cartridge to go with this system.  I’m currently using an ageing Denon DL-305 (the previous owner advised me it was professionally re-tipped with a parabolic tip).  The Denon does the job, but I suspect it lets the side down in terms of resolution and dynamics. As my budget is limited at present to $A800.00, do you think I’ll be better off saving for a top-notch Moving Coil cartridge in the future, or would I gain significantly from purchasing a modern, entry-level MC cartridge (reading your magazine for few years now, I had the AT OC9 ML II in mind)?  I listen mainly to Jazz, Classical and pop/soft rock music.
thank you,
Roei Plaves
Adelaide,
South Australia


I was never a great fan of the Hadcock and suggest you plan to phase it out for a Rega or SME. You may even be able to get an Ikeda, being in Aussie. Ultimately, then aim for an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze. As a stop gap, the forthcoming AudioTechnica AT 0C9 MLIII might be a good choice. NK

I agree that the OC9 would be the best solution pro temps, as it's cheap and very effective. However, if you can possibly find one in your neck of the woods, the AT-33 ML would be better still; it's a genuinely 'retro' moving coil and would suit the system better. It's far sweeter and more expansive sounding than the OC9, albeit a tad less dynamic. They're not imported in the UK as far as I know, but may well be in Oz. DP



 

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