| Print |

 

World Mail   April 2010 issue  

 

Write to us!  E-mail –>     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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!

 

Or  comment in the Comment section at the bottom of each page.

 

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.

 

 


 

denon_dp-100m

Denon DP-100M turntable in a beautiful Macassar veneered plinth, built by Paul.

ROLLS ROYCE QUALITY
I hope you don’t mind, but I thought I’d share with you my delight at the result of my (latest) project. I’m hanging on the premise that many who peruse your august journal are not averse to the odd project and that my experience may be of some use.

I’ve attached some images (apologies if the resolution is poor) of a turntable surround ‘what I made’. Sans surround, the innards of the Denon DP-100M turntable are on view - whilst the technically minded would not be too concerned about this, the domestic acceptance factor is, well, low.
Having approached a couple of cabinet makers, I was left feeling suitably deflated – I’m afraid I’m guilty of champagne tastes on beer money – a bespoke surround by a reputable cabinet maker was a non-starter.

The only solution was to try myself. With the help of a very good friend who possesses a few woodworking tools, we designed and commenced making the surround you see, from MDF.  With rigorous application of the ‘measure twice, cut once’ rule, we made a snug fitting surround, which was close to the plinth but not too close – the plinth is separated from the base frame for isolation purposes – a chafing surround would not be good!
Much as I was delighted with the accuracy of the cutting/glueing job, the look left a bit to be desired. I guess it’s at this point that the relevance to fellow readers may come in. Living near Crewe, there are a number of veneering suppliers/craftsmen – due to the fact that Rolls Royce (cars) were and Bentley are based in the area. I had fallen in love with Macassar veneer through the pages of Hi-Fi World – EAT and  Thorens using it to stunning effect. So, to the names I would like to share with your readers, who may be looking for a special finish to a project...for a beer money price (yes, really).

I secured some lovely leaves of veneer from a company called Nantwich  Veneers (www.nantwichveneers.co.uk) and then took the naked MDF  surround to Chapman and Cliff (www.chapmanandcliff.co.uk), where it was  expertly veneered and received eight coats of lacquer at the hands of two Rolls Royce trained craftsmen, who worked on the bespoke, custom line for Rolls. Part of my delight comes from the fact that the customer service at both establishments was superb – they were delighted to help and interested in the project.

Messers Chapman and Cliff would be more than happy to entertain similar requests for help (their website majors on car restoration – not surprisingly – but don’t be put off) and will accept items through the post, as appropriate.

I must stress I do not work for either company...I just wanted to share an experience where the result vastly exceeded my expectations.
Okay, costs. To have a bespoke surround made for me, I was looking at around £600. Doing it my way, I had enough change for an audiophile LP or two from £200 all in (including MDF).
Keep up the good work – I find Hi-Fi World a consistently excellent read
best wishes,
Paul.

Nice turntable Paul! But you say nothing about it. Readers who want to see a lovely manufacturer's shot of the Denon DP-100M and its 'innards' should go to www.thevintageknob.org, run by French photographer Axel Dahl, from Montmartre, Paris. The plinth you have made looks superb and I'm sure a lot of readers will be suitably envious. Top man! NK


OUT WITH THE NEW
It has occurred to me that gradually I’ve been rejecting technology, even though I understand it! I can’t seem to find the camera I want (and why should I be made to replace the one I’ve used and loved for years?). I now phone up menus instead of people. DAB radios let me down and I prefer FM. Computers are heading in multi-media directions that I don’t want. And then there’s the internet.

Email I like and use. But shopping is starting to send me crazy. I’m now thinking of the internet as some sort of shopping myth. Take my experience of trying to buy some loudspeakers.

First of all my ‘popular’ search engine now tries to predict what I’m typing and puts me off. It’s slower to load, and it’s busy recording for posterity all the things I’m searching for. What it doesn’t record is that I often give up because it can’t find what I want and I don’t bother going further, actually into sites. If I enter something like ‘buy  xxx loudspeaker’, it comes up with (identical) pages of price comparator sites. Totally useless. One comparator site, maybe, but there’s no point having several. What would be more useful is if it gave me a list of shops where I can buy xxx loudspeakers, their prices and websites.

Then I find that goods labelled ‘in stock’ often aren’t. Goods are very often ‘available to order’, which is becoming much the same as goods being ‘made to order’. The wait can be considerable. Speakers which are ‘available in four colours’ aren’t. If they are in stock they’ll be available in black. This is said to be the most popular colour. But I ask, would it be the most popular colour if there were a choice?

Internet prices are cheaper? Not always they’re not, no. Even if they seem to be, it’s not always easy to compare like with like. There are often lots of hidden factors to take into account. Delivery costs. Waiting time. Lack of accessories. Goods which are ‘cheaper’ because they’re ex-demo, or old stock. No, the real world prices are actually in the shops. See what you want in a shop, and that’s what you pay.

Then there’s the actual ordering of the loudspeakers. Some firms ask me to register with them before ordering. This reminds me of having to take the register at school, which is equally as useless a pursuit. Why do it?  Certainly they need to know my name and address in order to send me goods, but registering? And have you ever tried to delete your name and address from computer records? Even if it does seem to have happened, some time later up your name and address pops and there’s a leaflet through your door, or an email awaiting.

There are other considerations: I’ve had my bank account details stolen via the internet in the past, so I now prefer to phone orders through. First I try to find a contact number. Not always easy. Many websites, when I click on their Contact button, bring up a form to fill in, expecting me to ask a question that way. No contact address. No phone number. No sale.

If I do manage to obtain a phone number it has often meant, glory be, that I get to speak to a human being. After explaining I’ve seen loudspeakers advertised on their website and why I prefer to phone an order in, three firms have told me they don’t take orders over the phone. Unbelievable in this day and age. More technology, but it’s harder to achieve what I want. No sale.

Now how about this as a method of buying: several loudspeakers, particularly floorstanders, are now labelled ‘Available for delivery to store only’. Right, so here’s the plan. I’m expected to buy the loudspeakers over the internet, pay for them online without seeing or hearing them, and then go to a (‘local’) store to collect them.

Excuse me, didn’t we use to have this wonderfully simple system before? I go to a local store, I see some loudspeakers, I hear the loudspeakers, I pay for the loudspeakers and I take them home with me. Obviously that’s too simple for this technological world.
Oh, as a final technological waste of time, don’t forget to give feedback as to what you thought of this letter, and how you rate the writer.
best wishes,
Melvyn Dover.

Hi Melvyn - I have to say I agree with you. Although the internet has brought massive, and I do mean 'massive' advances in many ways, it seems some companies use it as an excuse to save money and/or remove the need for them to actually deal with people. The number of websites I find myself on, hi-fi related or not, which have no phone number, is worrying. The 'contact us' sub menu often contains an explanation of why you can't contact them (by phone). Likewise, there are ever more people wanting to buy things online without actually doing any listening, or indeed even having any contact with people (salesmen, experts, etc.) at all. They then get miffed when the product isn't right for them. We are entering a new age, and whilst superb in many ways, things aren't necessarily always better. DP

POWERING UP
Here is a hi-fi query which I hope may be sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary to get the grey cells interested.  My present system is about six years old and comprises a Sugden Masterclass CD player and a pair of Ruark Solstice floorstanding 'speakers.  The amp is an excellent valve unit but, for reasons which need not weary us here, has to be replaced with a solid state version.  I would rather not spend more than around a grand on the replacement and have considered the new Leema, Naim and Sugden models off recent reviews.  

At present I am using a Musical Fidelity X-A1 as the amp, as I have always liked its sweet, open sound although it is lacking somewhat in the lower registers and I would like to address that. It does, however, have a pre-amp output so I could always simply add a decent power amp to it (along the lines of a Quad 909, maybe) and to some extent this is my preferred direction to go in.

I listen almost exclusively to jazz from the forties to mid-sixties (with all their attendant recording idiosyncrasies). Obviously the sound must be acoustically faithful to the recordings, have a good tonal balance and resonance and, above all, swing musically.  
So what think you, gentlemen, of my options?
Rod Bushell
Suffolk


naim_5i

Naim Nait 5i, a clean, modern, punchy sound from a small package.

My feeling here is to keep it simple and get either a Leema Pulse or a Naim Nait 5i. The former has a lot onboard, including a phono stage. But these amplifiers are very different in nature and you really do need to find a dealer who can allow an audition, in a shop or at home. The Leema is clear and bouncy, with quite obvious but nice treble, and plenty of bass. The Naim is a bit more considered, with a darker sound and again plenty of low end push.
NK

Whilst I'd be tempted to say the Leema is the best bet, the recent arrival of the Sugden Mystro has muddied the waters somewhat! The A21 S2 was never on the cards with the Ruarks; it's too weak kneed, I'd suggest, but the new Class AB Sugden has plenty of poke and a presentation that's brimming with life and bounce. The Leema is a little warmer, perhaps, with a touch more power, but isn't quite as riveting to listen to. Either of these would be ideal, depending on your tastes. DP

ENCOUNTER

I have recently built the World Design VA88 power amp, Phono 3 MM/MC and Pre 3, all with upgraded components, which replaced a Dino phono stage and MVL A2+ amp.

The front end is a Linn LP12, serial number 037862, that has been with me since the early 80s (updated with Circus and Origin Live DC motor).  Arm is a Hadcock 228 Super, one of the early arms from the late George Hadcock, (circa 1979) with a Music Maker Mk3 cartridge. Speakers are World Audio Design KLS 9. Cables and interconnects are all quite adequate.

The addition of the valve amplification made an enormous improvement to the sound, leading me to many late nights playing just one more LP. I particularly value the detail, space and emotion that this lot provides.
However, it has now made me wonder if improvements could be made to the front end, so I feel that perhaps an upgrade to the arm, cartridge and possibly even the deck may be required.

I like the music that the Hadcock (old as it is) with the Music Maker produces, it is lyrical and beguiling but may lack some detail, bass tightness and extension, possibly due to the arm. It does, however, seem to suit the Linn well and I am certainly used to setting up this arm.
The KLS9s have managed to sound better and better with each upgrade to other components so I was not thinking of replacing them unless you really think that it is necessary.

I had thought of putting an Origin Live Encounter on the Linn using the Music Maker for the time being, then perhaps adding an Ortofon Cadenza at a later date.

However, is the Encounter a match for the Linn or should I bite the bullet and change the Linn for a Michelle Orbe with Origin Live Encounter, using the Music Maker for now?  You may have other suggestions of arms to put on the Linn.

I am reluctant to go via the Linn Keel/Radikal route as I feel that Linn are Taking the Michael with the price they are charging for this.
My music room, which is dedicated to the hi-fi system, measures 3.05 meters by 4.55 into the bay window, and 2.56 high, with curtains, soft furnishings and shelving placed to improve the overall sound.

I use a Moth record cleaning machine to keep 1000+  LPs in as good condition as I can. These range through rock, folk and classical. I do have a  CD player and tuner but these are secondary to LP.

The budget for these improvements is up to £2500 but I could at a pinch stretch to £4000.
I look forward to receiving your wisdom on these  questions.
Robin H Wright
Vale of Glamorgan

audio-origami-uniarm

Audio Origami Uniarm suits a Linn.

This is a tricky one, as your choice of arm depends on your choice of turntable. Whilst a good combination, there is more synergy between Michell decks and Origin Live arms than with Linns. So if you want to keep your Linn, I’d counsel an Audio Origami Uniarm, which is the unipivot version of the PU7, or a Naim ARO (if you were to go for an MC with Linn geometry). These both work brilliantly on the LP12, the combination being as they say greater than the sum of the parts. The sound will be sweet, lyrical, tonally rounded and very engaging on an emotional level.

Moving to a Michell Orbe with Origin Live 'Encounter' arm, and you’d get a more widescreen presentation, with a more complete picture of the recording, a stronger and deeper bass, more sparkling highs and a greater sense of absolute dynamics (although the LP12 is brilliant at small dynamic inflections). Whilst I’m not a great fan of the Music Maker, I can see why many are (it does what it says on the tin, albeit at the expensive of finesse). So think carefully about changing it; you may be disappointed. Personally, I’d go for a Lyra Dorian MC for its amazing detail and energy, but I realise that’s not a universal panacea, and many would see an Ortofon Cadenza Blue as a more sensible choice.

In your situation, perhaps the best way to get there from here would be to keep your LP12, as you obviously love it, and improve on it with a Cirkus upgrade, whilst avoiding the Keel for cost reasons. Fit an Audio Origami Uniarm (or Naim ARO) and then decide if you’ve got what you wanted. If not, it would be time to ‘move platforms’ to the Michell, taking the arm with you, and then come back to us for more advice. DP


CRAZY HOBBY
It is now some 10 years I am seriously involved in this crazy hobby and I come to a point of (most likely temporarily) satisfaction. I have gradually built a system which looking back at all the expensive mistakes has cost me an arm and a leg. I only got to know your magazine some years ago and I have to tell in all honesty your guidance has been very helpful.

Controversially, my actual system is built around components that have never been reviewed by yourself. I think this is the ultimate proof that good quality journalism is not biased by commercial elements. So, please take this as a compliment.

To give you a flavor, I use Analogue Audio amplification and CD player, the Maestro 200 integrated and Maestro 192 CD player. The choice of amp has been heavily influenced by your reviews of Sugden, Jungson and Icon Audio 845 the CD player as a package deal is the first item ready for future upgrades but still a very natural and fine match using Synergetics XLR interconnects.

My speakers are ProAC D80, not to criticise but I have really missed ProAc in your magazine. In my opinion they are simply the single best speaker in the world and the D80 has it all.

As for analogue I have a Gyro SE with Never Connect power supply, a Koetsu Black, Techno arm and a battery phono stage from Nagra. This is a killer combination and I think it will be very hard to get comparable results from digital.

Suggestions from your side for future improvements are welcome, but I will never leave the Koetsu as this has added a sense of musical magic incomparable to anything else I have experienced ('heard' would be the wrong expression here).

It is only recently that I have started experimenting with clean power and the main reason for my letter is why has Hi-Fi World never looked into clean power solutions (or I have missed it completely). I have bought an active power regenerator from a brand called PurePower from Canada. I was very sceptical as enthusiasts told me I would loose on dynamics and musicality. Now, after a week of listening I can only tell this is the single biggest “upgrade” I have ever made. As I am not a writer I will refrain from trying to describe differences but I can only tell I keep listening to my music collection and I have suffered from serious fatigue since this device is on my rack.

Next up is a room correction system (another controversial I would like to see your respected opinion on).
Keep up the good work and please feel free to advise on any upgrades you see in my system. Also apologies for the errors in the English language.
sincere regards,
Bert van Dijck
Gent
Belgium

pure_power_2000

Pure Power 2000 mains conditioner from Canada was "the single biggest upgrade" says Bert van Dijck.

Hi Bert. Thanks for your letter and observations on the importance of clean mains power. Many readers have expressed a similar view, that improving the quality of mains power makes a big difference to sound quality. Hi-Fi World suffers a small disadvantage here in that its offices are based in a part of London that seems to have a clean, high voltage supply and we had a long explanation about this from reader and EDF engineer James Watson in our February 2010 issue. However, a manufacturer of World Audio Design output transformers who also makes mains distribution transformers explained that rural supply lines were often long, subject to heavy industrial and agricultural loads, and noisy as a result, and more in need of supply conditioning. As our editor, David Price, has just moved to such a location perhaps he will be letting us know more about all this in the near future. NK


FRUSTRATION!
I would like your advice and views regarding my current system which although good is not at a point to say "yes, that’s it". I have spent countless thousands on the hi-fi trail and still I find I’m not satisfied. Perhaps it’s a hopeless case of looking for nirvana. Anyway, my current system is set up as follows. The power end is an Icon Audio Stereo 40i that has been modified to take KT88s and the equivalent 6550s. It is backwards compatible to EL34s so I can go back there if I choose. It is currently running New Sensor 6550As and Mullard/Sovtex 12AT7/12AX7LPS.
The pre-amp is a modified Yamaha DSP-E800 Surround Processor, having upgraded components. This unit is incredibly versatile and I would be loath to get rid of it.

The flat earth end is a venerable Technics SL-BD21 with an Ortofon OCP-20 (T4P). The silver disc is a Rega Planet, used as a transport and a Tom Beresford off-board DAC which has been modified by AudioUpgrades with a custom designed power-supply and better components. A Musical Fidelity X10D sits between the DAC and the pre-amp. Lastly, I use a rather nice pair of B&W DM602 S3 standmounts mounted on Apollo Olympus stands. The whole thing is connected using Chord Odyssey 2 cables and Chorus interconnects.

Now the thousand dollar question: can you suggest which component I should change to produce a clear but airy treble, warm but informative midband and tight bass? I find the B&Ws have a slightly etched, cold treble that whilst revealing is not what I’m looking for. I have a large collection of CDs and a fair bit of vinyl. My musical tastes are largely Classical but I do listen to other genres as well. I am happy to consider older equipment and would prefer to keep costs reasonable. I might be able to afford a higher budget but the maximum I would have to play with is £2000 and this would not be for the next four years. Your thoughts and advice are very welcome.
regards,
Nigel Masters

monitor_audio_rx8

Monitor Audio RX8s, a great modern sound for £999, says Noel.

Hi Nigel.  You say the B&W DM602 S3s are "rather nice" but you don't like the cold treble.  B&W pulled the treble down a bit and smoothed it too, in the B&W CM9 (reviewed in our December 2009 issue) and the CM5 standmount is similar, so you might well find this is just the sound you are looking for. B&Ws are on the bright side though, as are most loudspeakers these days. Alternatively, try auditioning a few Monitor Audio loudspeakers. The new floorstanding RX8s (£999) were pretty impressive I found, when I reviewed them in our January 2010 issue. NK

NEW SPEAKERS

After purchasing a Nu Vista M3 amp and Nu Vista 3d CD player my system has taken a huge sonic leap. The speakers I am using are Ruark Equinox piano black which are wired with silver. Also I added a pair of Townshend Super Tweeters. Unfortunately, one of the bass/mid drivers has stopped working on my Ruarks. I have contacted Ruark regarding this and can have the damaged driver replaced for around £150.

I was thinking of buying new 'speakers, a pair of Cremona Auditors M series as I thought the Ruarks were too big for my room, 13ft x 10ft. How do you think matching the Sonus Fabers and Musical Fidelity will sound? After all I paid just £500 for the Ruarks and they are going on for 10 years old now and I don't think it would be proper to replace just one driver and have the possibility of a failure in another over time. I don't mind forking out on decent speakers as I would like a pair that I can grow old with.

Also, I plan on holding on to my Nu Vista setup as I have contacted Musical Fidelity on having the units upgraded.
I am sending for some silver cable for the 5 pin PSU-to-preamp connection on the back of the Nu Vista M3 and  the small amp jumpers inside the main amp., plus shielded copper for the large power cables from an Ebay seller in Hong Kong who makes Nu Vista cables called Sweetcome. Have you any knowledge of this company? I read that the improvements are noticeable.

Rest of my setup is VPI Scout turntable with a Goldring 1042 cartridge, A5 tuner and Nakamichi DR-3 cassette deck and Tci cables.
If you can be of any help that would be great as I can't have the Auditors auditioned at my home. I would consider any other 'speaker in this price range but I think I have my heart set on the Auditors ....
Alan
cremona_auditors

Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors are what I want, says Alan.

Hi Alan - well, it seems you just want me to give you the green light for the Sonus Fabers, don't you? The trouble is, the best I can really do is go to orange! Yes, they're superb speakers, excellent in their price bracket - but only if you like that sort of thing. The trouble is, the difference between the Cremonas and any of the handful of excellent price rivals is like that between £35,000 cars. Do you want the silkiness of the Jag, the tautness of a BMW or the go-anywhere capability of the Landrover Discovery? My point is simply that you need to try a range of options first; just buying 'sight unseen', as it were, is like buying a new car online then finding you can't reach the pedals when it's delivered!

I can merely speculate that the Sonus Fabers should be a good general match. The Musical Fidelity amplification just errs ever so slightly on the warm side, whereas the Sonus Fabers are a teensy bit on the dry side. You should end up with a nicely balanced combination. The only thing that worries me in theory is that you've come from Ruarks, which have an altogether more visceral sound; less subtle and delicate, more emotive and bombastic. If you liked their character when you bought them, I wonder if you'd find the Sonus Fabers a little cerebral now? They are very much a clean, dry, super finessed speaker that excels on classical music but lacks the heft or exuberance for the likes of rock or pop. If you've set your mind on them, and have actually heard them elsewhere already, then go ahead and come back to us with your thoughts; we can then tune the rest of your system to give its best with the new loudspeakers. DP


OLD BUT GOLD
Old or out of date things are not necessarily in truth out of date!
If we look at the things that are new, is there a set limit before they become old? A brand new out of the box PC is almost instantly old as soon as it’s open.

Lets take a few things that are significantly older than vinyl LP yet are not looked at in this way. The Pneumatic tyre is older than vinyl LP yet we still use them on almost all motor vehicles. If we look at the house we live in, they use stone or brick walls with wooden floors and tiled roofs, as in Roman times!

If we look at modern materials like Titanium, the fourth most abundant metal on this planet, how old is Titanium? We can go back to the Big Bang!
Those who can’t stand the few clicks and pops from vinyl should just think the next time they’re driving their expensive cars playing beautiful music, how much road noise will they accept?

Most musical instruments work on vibration, vibration of the materials as in such musical instruments as guitars, violins, drums etc.
It is my view that we have all been the subject of such pernicious mendacity, we’d believe in nothing other than digits, we all know who invented numbers, numbers certainly were not around before humans were on this planet.
If we have 13mm of copper there are approximately enough atoms for each human alive to have 15000 000 000 atoms each and that’s only 13mm of one material!

For me, when I put an LP on a good record player I’m not counting how many numbers it took to make the music work, I just put on an LP record and enjoy.

Analogue in all it’s forms and including the vinyl LP is here to stay? Because numbers don’t make music, people do with their voices. instruments, timing, humor etc.
many thanks
Jeremy Ridsdill
Weston Super Mare,
Somerset


A STEAL

As someone, admittedly, “obsessed” with collecting vintage hi-fi (though, that mainly depends on looking for non-working equipment which can be had for a “steal-of-a-deal” at either charity stores or house auctions), the “Olde Worlde” segment is of particular interest to me. It prompted me to want to share a photo and background info on three 30+ year-old components I’ve rebuilt and use [almost] daily.

The amp: Sansui 70 watt-per-channel, solid-state stereo receiver (model 4000) from 1970. I bought this at a charity shop for $20 U.S. It was a rare to find one with the then-optional wooden cabinet still on it - and even an envelope containing the schematic diagram stuck underneath. All the caps in the preamplifier stage I’ve replaced with 1% tolerance, metal polypropylene-type (for the high frequencies) and all tantalum-type for the rest (though, for the power section, I did use Cornell Dubilier high ripple electrolytics).

I also replaced all of the point-to-point connections with at least 16AWG automotive-grade primary copper wire (I’ve figured out that much of the reason even decent built 1970s-era kit sounds crummy was because they all used cheap, 24AWG aluminum wire for internal connections ... which does not take solder well and just seems to disintegrate over time. I replaced the power cord with a three-prong, 14AWG grounded one and in the future I plan to replace all the input/ EQ stage resistors with VISHAY 1%, 1/2 watt metal film-type.

 

james_hoover_system

Sansui 4000 receiver from 1970 and Ampex tape deck from 1966, both restored, are used by James Hoover in New Jersey.

The tape deck is Ampex stereo, auto reverse, solid-state reel-to-reel recorder (model 900) from 1966. I got this at an antique radio fair for $10 U.S.  Ampex was the name in high-end (American) analog recording equipment (like Studer/Revox was in Europe) from 1947 to 1984. Now, my machine is a far-cry from the 10 1/2 reel studio units they specialized in; but, none the less, anything made by them is hard to find. Japanese brands dominated the tape recorder market after 1968. I’ve learned that this model was/is supposed to be a “portable” (but it weighs 40 lbs!) and it was originally priced at $349.95 (in 1966 American dollars). Again, like the Sansui, I replaced all the capacitors in the preamplifier and power supply sections; as well as a belt for the [dual] capstan idlers – the main problem with it in the first place. I play the 50 or so pre-recorded tapes (of Sixties albums and film soundtracks) my father left me. He had the reel format version of the Sergio Mendes/Brasil ‘66 record you have on the Beocenter combo unit. I love that late ’60s Bossa Nova and even Herb Alpert’s stuff ... I’ve got every album of his Tijuana Brass on open-reel!

The turntable: Technics Direct-Drive (model SL-1700) “disco” turntable from 1977. I bought this at the same charity shop, for $25 U.S., I’d later get the Sansui from. This, save for the cartridge and stylus, was in the best overall condition out of the three. I once found a new-old-stock supply of bargain Empire MM cartridges so I just replaced the damaged Shure M91 already on it (I’m not particular about needing some esoteric, MC cartridge because I consider the vintage tape as my main source). The only “tweaking” I’ve done is that I took the bottom off to unsolder the standard patch cables and replace them with a spare pair of Monster ones I cut up.

The 'speakers are the only “new” thing in my system: a pair of mid-nineties JBL LX500, three-way, bookshelf-type.
I like the fact your reviewers seem to concentrate more on describing the build quality of a component and how it, actually, “performs” a piece of music. A lot of other critics just tend to gloat about their record collection or how they have connections with “insiders” (whom they’re probably trying to get free equipment from).

I mean, everyone is talking-up Ken Ishiwata’s 30th year with Marantz; however, does anyone remember that they’d gone really downhill in the 1980s? It wasn’t until Philips invested into them in 1991 that they, again, started making quality consumer gear (a lot of Marantz stuff from the ‘80s had a gold-painted, plastic fascia with a cardboard masonite pan!).
thanks,
James Hoover
New Jersey,
USA


KLS 6 TROUBLE

I have been a reader of your excellent magazine since the early nineties when I moved to London, and it was at this time that my interest in hi-fi also started.

Here in Ireland there were no proper hi-fi shops, and coupled with the fact that I was broke most of the time, were it not for the move to London, it was an interest and hobby that might never have happened.

It was strange, how walking into a proper hi-fi shop on Buckingham Palace road in 1990 had me feeling like a kid in a sweet shop. I wanted to listen to everything that they had, in every combination, despite the fact that I couldn’t afford most of it. The owner played me a piece of piano music on a turntable through a pair of Castle Chester speakers, and that was it, I was hooked. I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever heard.
There is just something about walking into a store like that and seeing all the amps, turntables, CD players and speakers that has me wishing I owned a place like that. I would probably end up being my own best customer!

Back in the real world though, I decided on a pair of Castle Warwick speakers with a little JVC CD player and a Creek 4140 amp, and so the hi-fi hobby began.

I didn’t go crazy with constant upgrades, and I can tell you that had more to do with financial constraints than anything else. I kept the components for two or three years and upgraded slowly.

It was the mid nineties when I started to get serious, and following the purchase of a new Linn Karik 3 to match the Wakonda and LK100 I had bought some months earlier, I realised that my speakers, which were now B&W P4s, were not delivering the goods. What to do, I wondered?
As luck would have it, I bought Hi-Fi World that month as usual, and it had a World Design Supplement for a pair of DIY speakers called the KLS6. Hmm, they look interesting, I thought, but I wondered how could they possibly match a commercial speaker; given all the resources available to a commercial manufacturer, it wasn’t possible. Wouldn’t everyone be building “these DIY designs” if that was the case, or so I thought – little did I know.
It was mentioned in the magazine that the 'speakers would be on display at the upcoming hi-fi show in London, so I made a mental note to go and see them.  Time passed and one Saturday I found myself strolling the corridors of the hotel in Marble Arch, going from one room to the next, listening to all the demos, but sadly nothing I had heard all day stirred my desire to spend money, at least not on 'speakers anyway.

By the time the show had come around I had completely forgotten about the KLS6s, but here is the strange thing. I was walking down one of the corridors on the way out of the hotel feeling disappointed that I hadn’t discovered what I wanted when I passed this room with some music playing.
It was a female vocalist singing a jazz number; well the sound stopped me dead in my tracks. It sounded like she was in the room, which was so jam packed with eager listeners I couldn’t even see what was producing this wonderful sound.

At the end of the session half of them left, so I squeezed in and grabbed a chair for the next demo.  And then it hit me, I thought: those speakers look familiar, where have I seen these before? I couldn’t believe it. Quite by accident I had stumbled into the KLS6 demo, and I thought this is unbelievable.
I had been walking around all day looking at 'speakers, going from one room to the next listening to boxes costing from a few hundred to tens of thousands and nothing moved me, well at least nothing that I could afford anyway. And here I was listening to a pair of DIY speakers and I could barely contain my excitement.

I was absolutely captivated by them, and within two minutes I had decided I was going to build a pair, and I did. I remember driving to your workshop in the basement of some building, and collecting all the components, I can’t even remember where it was, and two weeks later I had a pair built.
When they were run in, I can’t tell you how proud I was.    I had built a pair of speakers for a £1000 that could beat the socks of many a commercial design costing four or five times as much, and the sound with the Linn gear was amazing; it was everything I ever wanted and more.
In 2000 I moved back to Ireland, and three years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a detached house, something I always wanted, and in music listening terms those three years were the best ever. I could play my music to suit myself, and not my neighbours.
I recently managed to buy a Linn Kairn and Klout on e-bay, and now that the Karik has the amp. partners it was designed for, the whole system is just magic.

All I need now is a Numerik DAC to top it all off. I know, fourteen years after buying the Karik, as you can see I don’t rush things.
To this day I have never felt the need to replace the KLS6s, and probably never will, except for one problem; yes you guessed it, the tweeters. The gas has leaked, and they are not giving their best, the question is what do I do?

As you know those Audax tweeters are impossible to get, and as I see it, the only option is to replace them with a different tweeter.
I know that Peter Comeau did an article last year on replacing the same tweeter in the KLS3 with the Seas Millennium. Was anything like this ever done for the KLS6? I have to admit I don’t always manage to get the magazine every month and I could have missed it, and there is nothing on the forums about the KLS6.

It is strange that it is the one design that is never mentioned. I have considered buying the equipment to test the new driver myself, and using lspcad to design the crossovers, but this is unknown territory for me, and I wouldn’t be at all confident of success.
I have even considered replacing them with a commercial design, the Monitor Audio PL200s look good. How do you think they would compare sound wise? I suspect myself, more bass, and maybe less detail and transparency.

All things considered I would much rather do something with the KLS6s and I am open to suggestions no matter how crazy. I just want my KLS6s back to good health.
Any ideas guys, help.
regards
John Egan.

wad_kls_6

The World Audio Design KLS6 loudspeaker, with Audax High Definition Aerogel drive units and Audax HD-3P Gold Dome piezo, gas filled tweeter.

Hi John.  What a heartening tale!  The article you missed was in our June 2008 issue, on p80. Unfortunately, this detailed how to substitute a SEAS Millennium for the Audax HD-3P Gold Dome in KLS3, where it crossed over to an Audax HM130CO 5in carbon fibre bass/midrange unit. In KLS6 we used Audax High Definition Aerogel units (DIY Supplement No16, August 1995), the midrange being an HM100ZO.  I suggest you use the SEAS Millennium tweeter and the high pass section feeding it, shown again here. The low pass feeding the midrange unit of KLS6 reached higher than that of KLS3 and the match is unlikely to be perfect. It is difficult to predict the result, but there is a likelihood of excessive treble. If this is the case, best to try reducing the 4.7uF capacitor to 3.3uF or so, and altering the resistor in front of it, in the range 0.47 -1 Ohm. It isn't possible to sort out a perfect match without measuring equipment and lspcad will not on its own be sufficient. A measuring microphone is the crucial requirement and Clio make an inexpensive one (£220), but it needs a preamp. This would then run into a computer sound card or audio input. It is then possible to play white noise from the computer, through the speakers and run spectrum analysis of the signal on a computer, using free Audacity software. Audacity will generate white noise and spectrum analyse it. It isn't too difficult or expensive nowadays to make this sort of measurement to a useful degree of accuracy. You need to get into the right ball park, as it were, then fine tune by ear.

audax-gold-tweeter_hd-3p

Audax HD-3P piezo Gold Dome tweeter (with crossover), filled with gas. Highly expensive and leaky, but sounded fabulous!

I'm glad you like KLS6. It used super high quality Audax drive units and we tried to get maximum midband transparency by using an open back midrange. Sadly, there is no equivalent to the (hugely expensive) Audax HD-3P piezo Gold Dome tweeter. Modern ribbons are less forgiving in their sound. You will not find Monitor Audio PL200s have the same tonal balance as KLS6 (we designed for accuracy; our loudspeakers did not have to compete in a showroom) nor the lack of tonal colour exhibited by the KLS6 High Definition Aerogel midrange unit. So you should try and keep them running if possible. I'm glad they have provided so much pleasure over the years. NK

kls6_x-over

A high pass filter section for the SEAS Millenium tweeter, when used in KLS6. Values will need adjustment.


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