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March 2011 issue

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March 2011 issue
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World Mail    March 2011 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.

 


prof

Professor Richard Feynman had problems with electricity, so perhaps we can be forgiven for not knowing too!

(picture courtesy of Apple Computer)


CABLE SOUND

I’ve been an occasional reader of hi-fi mags over the years and witnessed the ongoing wrangles regarding the effects of cables on sound quality. I may have missed some of the arguments on both sides, but having recently read The Super Cables Cookbook, by Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics, I was prompted to revise my understanding of how electrical energy moves from source to load. I have discovered that the electrical theory I learnt at school and college (City and Guilds) had left me with a misunderstanding of what electricity is or is not.


Rather than try to explain here myself, I include some links that provide some basic electrical theory which I believe demonstrates that, indeed cables will inevitably affect sound quality in some way.


The notion that the electrical energy conveyed to the load is carried not in the conductor, but in its surrounding dielectric was a revelation to me. I thought all this was in the realms of r.f. theory not relevant to audio frequency or d.c.


I suspect my misunderstanding is not uncommon given the explanations of electrical theory at sub-degree level and would perhaps explain why many people have difficulty accepting the notion of cable sound. I wonder if an article produced by yourselves revising this electrical theory, in the context of hi-fi, would help shed light on this murky area for those of us not so well versed?

Regards,

Matt Rowland

 

 

http://www.vacuumstate.com

http://www.physics.princeton.edu/~mcdonald/examples/EM/galili_ajp_73_141_05.pdf

http://amasci.com/miscon/eleca.html#electron

http://amasci.com/miscon/ener1.html

 

Hi Matt. Thanks for the references. As they are publicly available I will take the liberty of quoting one part, with acknowledgements and thanks to William Beatty, Research Engineer, University of Washington, and the Science Hobbyist website.

 

"During an electric current, the wires become surrounded with magnetic field. This field IS the electrical energy. Also, whenever a pair of wires is connected to a battery or generator, the two wires become oppositely charged, and they become surrounded with an invisible electrostatic field. This field IS the electrical energy. Magnetic and electric fields exist in the empty space surrounding your lamp cord, and these fields contain the “wattage”, they contain the flow of electrical energy that powers the light bulb."

 

Don't we tend to forget that the power in our homes, all the light and heat, reaches us through nothing, or what the Victorians called "the ether". That's because it has been through numerous power transformers where the current flowed through space, not wire. How wire directs current without carrying energy seems contradictory – for it gets hot doesn't it? Where and how the energy is transmitted is beyond my knowledge; I am not a physicist, and nor is my name James Clerk Maxwell I regret to say! We are taught it exists in the electric and magnetic field that weakens with distance from the conductor, but just how do you conceive of power, hundreds or thousands of amps, being transmitted through a vacuum?  Sceptics will still ask: "where is the evidence of influence upon the signal, irrespective of transmission mechanism?" of course. But realising that energy exists in the fields, and the fields are the electricity, makes cable influence seem all the more likely. In effect the power travels through the insulation and space surrounding the cable.

 

I would love to "shed light on this murky area" but, to be frank, I haven't a clue! The references you so usefully provide underline that this subject is for physicists, not hi-fi journos. Something metaphysically deep lies in the notion of transmitting energy (i.e. doing work) via an invisible force though the nothingness of a vacuum, if you ask me. I'll stick to Tiddlywinks. NK

 

All this underlines to me that existing measurement practices are inadequate to describe the sonic performance of cables, and that just because we can't 'measure' cables in a particularly useful way, doesn't mean cables don't have their own sonic characteristics. My ears tell me that cables can sound quite obviously different, and yet I can't claim to understand why. I suppose a degree of humility is needed here; we don't need to understand something completely to use it and enjoy it; my cat doesn't understand how my house's central heating works but he's still chosen the room where the boiler is as his bedroom! DP

 

INFORMED OPINION

I am writing to express my disappointment at your choice of Letter of the Month in the February issue. In his letter on cables Mr Villanueva refers to the vast amount of pseudo-science on the topic. In fact there is a vast amount of proper science on the subject which he clearly has not bothered to investigate, unforgiveable when so much information is only a mouse click away. I would suggest that he logs on to Wikipedia and types ‘twisted pair’ in the search box. The links in the article will lead to a wealth of information on the subject. Such an approach might also benefit Mr Howgego, whose letter on mains leads and interconnects you published in the January issue. Although in his case it was fairly obvious that he had never actually listened to any of the products that he was denouncing. And I thought inductive reasoning had gone out of fashion after The Enlightenment!

Euan Grant

 

Hi Euan. I think you are being a little unkind to Jezza. He is right that there is a lot of pseudo-science on all this and the standard lumped parameter electrical model hardly provides enlightenment about what is happening in a cable.

 

The history of the twisted pair is an interesting way of looking at the problem and seems to have become the way to deal with modern high speed data transmission in digital data links, including HDMI cable that relies of three high data rate/bandwidth twisted pairs, carrying Red, Green and Blue digital video, with audio interleaved. Thanks for your reference.

 

On the flow of electrical current Feynman wrote: ‘‘this theory is obviously nuts, somehow energy flows from the battery to infinity and then back into the load, is really strange.’’ Feynman, however, did not persist and left the problem for others to find a reasonable explanation, says Galilia and Goihbarg in a paper quoted by Matt. They go on to explain what is happening when current flows in a wire, something I hope you find interesting. They say this knowledge has only been available since the 1960s and Professor Richard Feynman didn't attempt to tackle the problem of deriving a plausible explanation, so perhaps we can all be forgiven for 'not knowing'. NK

 

HEADPHONE AMPS

As a regular reader of your illustrious magazine, which I enjoy greatly, I cannot recall any recent reviews of headphone amps. I am sure headphones play an integral part of many systems and I believe are as important as phono amps, being the last line in the audio chain.

 

My query is about matching ‘phones and amps. I don’t have a particularly good hi-fi set up but as I have been fortunate enough to acquire AKG 702 headphones your advice would be appreciated.

 

My current amps are Pioneer A400 and Sansui 555A, but I don’t think they do justice to the 'phones. On browsing the internet they seem to have really good reviews, but one thing that bothers me is that they seem hard to drive. I had Sennheisers, £30, in the seventies which I played through the speaker outputs of a cheap amp and they sounded great. Could I do this with the AKGs?

James Gillen

Bishopton


vcans

 

Musical Fidelity's V-CANS headphone amplifier "offers a crisp and clean rendition" says David Price.

 

Hi James. Yes, you can drive headphones from an amplifier's loudspeaker outputs, without destroying them, and this is what usually happens inside an amplifier; the headphone socket is connected to the loudspeaker outputs, often with a muting mechanism that cuts out the loudspeakers. Headphone impedance varies from 40 Ohms up to 500 Ohms or so, we have found in tests. Alternatively, buy a headphone amplifier; they usually have a simple, low power silicon chip amp inside. NK

 

Hi James – we've reviewed a range of headphone amps over the years; the most recent being the Fidelity Audio HPA100 in the February 2011 issue, which we really liked at £350; it has a strong, punchy sound that makes the best of phones such as the Sennheiser HD650. Musical Fidelity's V-CANS at less than half the price offers a more crisp and clean rendition, but there's less inner detail and finesse; it's really great value though. DP


SOME OLD SOME NEW

I have always admired your enthusiasm for vintage hi-fi. I have changed many parts of my system over the years and have now found a system I love to listen to for hours on end. I have a Garrard 401 in a very solid heavy plinth. This has a Jelco 250ST arm with a Grado cartridge. I also have a Trichord phono stage. The amplifier is Icon Audio Stereo 40 and 'speakers are Tannoy 15in Monitor Golds in Lancaster cabinets.


I also use a Leak Troughline 3 tuner. I have about 1500 LPs.


I have thought about changing my very cheap CD player and will buy secondhand. What would fit in with my system? I could pay up to £500 if it was worth it. I am not familiar with current CD players but I need one as I own about 300 CDs.


Please keep up the excellent articles on vintage hi-fi and I like to hear about other people's systems.

regards

David Oxtoby


teac-vrds-ti-cd

 

Teac VRDS-10, a lovely, big sounding 18-bit behemoth.

 

Hi David – well as ever you've so much choice if it's 'up to' £500! If it's 'very cheap', then look out for a good used Marantz CD52SE for around £70, which is a surprisingly smooth and open performer, albeit a little light in the bass. Moving up by £100 and the CD63 KI Signature is a great machine; still lovely after all these years. A big, smooth, open and unerringly musical sound. At this £150 pricepoint the Cambridge Audio CD4SE also appears; it's a John Westlake design and he tells me he's still surprised by how good it sounds. I bought one for my brother fifteen plus years ago and he still loves it. It's big hearted, bouncy and slick in the treble, considering it cost just £200 in the late nineties. Add another £100 or so and we're into TEAC VRDS-10 territory; lovely big sounding 18bit behemoths with the added bonus of still having user serviceable parts, at least the last time I checked! There's also the likes of Marantz's CD-72 at this price, which is another really well made machine with a wide, sweet sound. By the time you're getting up to £500-600 then look for modern machines now surplus to requirements; we'd suggest a three year old Astin Trew AT3500 is a really nice way to unload this sort of dosh. Hope this helps! DP

 

IMPEDANCE MATCHING

Today, I received the February 2011 edition of Hi-Fi World and as per usual, perused the Readers Classifieds, before proceeding to the Letters pages, which – as usual – were a mine of information and ideas, but which – again as usual – left me with more questions than answers as to my own system.

 

The first query regards impedance matching of my Quad 57 'speakers and WAD K5881 Mk2 power amp.

Since I acquired these items some years ago, the Quads have been connected to the WAD via the 8 Ohm connections, as that is how the amp was configured when I bought it.  At various times since then I have read that the Quads needed to be connected to the 16 Ohm terminals; whereas, others say to the 8 Ohm terminals. Just recently, I have read that they should be connected to 4 Ohm terminals.Naturally, this becomes confusing to those of us who don’t have the electronic background, to fully understand these things.

 

Today, on Page 51 of Letters, under the item “Violins Etc. Part 3”, Noel advises Peter Inghels of The Hague that he should connect his 6 Ohm Tannoys to the 4 Ohm terminals of a Quad valve amp, as they will cope with even the 1 Ohm of an electrostatic speaker.

 

Given that the 57s are regarded as a very difficult load to drive – apparently drawing anywhere between 2 and 32 Ohms – would it be appropriate for me to reconfigure my K5881 Mk2, connecting the output terminals to the 4 Ohm taps of the output transformers? If so, would this improve – or worsen – the upper or lower frequencies of the system? And how would it affect the volume, if at all? Getting the volume level right is a pain already, with about a 10 degree rotation from quiet – spoken word at same level as someone in the room – to too loud for my ancient ears.

 

Recently, I have been obliged – due to a fault in one of the 57s – to replace them with the KEF iQ30 speakers I won from Hi-Fi World in July 2009, for Letter of the Month. This has shown up the strengths and weaknesses of the Quads – likewise, the KEFs – and has caused me much soul searching, as to my future system requirements.

Currently, I am planning on having the Quads completely rebuilt by One Thing Audio, having read various reviews in Hi-Fi World and other mags.

The reasoning behind this decision is that I live in a block of 50 year old Council Flats, with the resulting problems of lack of sound-proofing, due to the building regs in force post-WW2, so don’t need the problems of excessive bass and the disturbance it causes my neighbours, especially if I am having a late-night session, i.e. Late Junction and World on 3, on Radio 3.

 

In addition, as a man of 62 years, I have become aware this past year, that I am loosing the top end of my hearing. This has been forcibly brought home to me by the use of the KEFs, as the bass frequencies somewhat dominate the music and I find myself having to turn up the volume, just to be able hear the treble frequencies, especially when listening to the Bach Brandenburg Concertos. Those Recorders just disappear into the mix. I’m considering bi-wiring them, just to see if it will improve matters.

As regards the front end of my system, my current turntable is a Thorens TD150, with a Rega RB300 arm and a new Goldring 1042 pickup. From what my ears tell me and from what I have read in Hi-Fi World, the Rega isn’t a suitable arm for the Thorens, as it is clearly too heavy for the suspension. I haven’t been able to get it to bounce properly, despite fitting – and removing again – Linn LP12 springs.

 

I also have a Denon DP 2000 Direct Drive turntable, which I was given two years ago, but which is still waiting to be used. In addition, I also have a Goldring GL75 – minus its arm – but the chassis has previously been butchered, by someone trying to fit another arm. Apart from a flat on the idler wheel, which induces wow, it appears to be in very good condition.

 

My problem is trying to decide whether to buy another arm for the Thorens – possibly a Jelco SA 750D, or Jelco 250ST, with a view to using a better cartridge – or building a chassis for the Denon DP2000 and sticking the Rega on that. I do know that the Denon runs absolutely spot-on, even with 180gm vinyl and the Rega/1042 in the groove.

Because my RB300 is now 16 years old, I have been trying to decide whether to have it overhauled and upgraded by Audio Origami, or to buy a Rega clone. Duo-Phonic are currently pushing the ISOkinetic ISO 700 and Rega ISOweight for 390 smackers. Obviously, I wouldn’t consider putting it on the Thorens. Alternatively, the Michell Tecnoarm.

In your opinion, given the above decks, which would you choose – and if the Thorens, which of the Jelco arms, or can you think of a better arm for it?

 

Please note, that I am prepared to consider upgrading to a better turntable and arm, but not until I have had the Quads rebuilt, and as that isn’t likely to be before Easter, the turntable upgrade will have to wait until much later in the year, due to my limited income – possibly even 2012. I retired seven years ago – on medical grounds – to care for my late father and am just about to start caring for my aged mother, so my finances are somewhat limited at this time.

Any thoughts you may have on the above will be very much appreciated.

 

Many thanks, once again, for your excellent magazine. Long may you prosper.

Cheers,

Russ Betts

Havant

Hants.


quadesl57onethingrebuild

Send your ESL-57s to One Thing Audio to have them renovated/improved.

 

Hi Russ – firstly, I'm sure Noel will advise you on which taps are best to use for your ESL-57s. Let me say I think you're doing the right thing getting them 'One Thing'd'; the One Thing ESL-57s I lived with for several months were one of the best speakers I'd heard in a long time. Second, I'd be tempted to get the RB300 rebuilt; there's no point in buying another if you already have one. As you know I think Audio Origami do this superbly and so I'd send mine straight off. I'd also suggest the Denon as the better deck to use of your two, providing you're sure the Denon is perfectly healthy; some parts are no longer easily available, I am told. So, get the Denon re-plinthed and serviced (including a change of bearing oil, etc.), fit the AO RB300 and use a 'toppy' cartridge like an Audio Technica AT-OC9 moving coil. This done you'll have a lovely front end with a lively balance that will suit your ears, and your speakers.

DP

 

As maximum power transfer is not an issue for you, technically at least using the 4 Ohm tap of the output transformer is best for a Quad, whose impedance drops to a few ohms at 20kHz. However, subjectively, you will not notice much of a change as this will only restore very high treble by a small amount. As a matter of course, when reviewing valve amps I listen to both 8 Ohm and 4 Ohm outputs and find there is surprisingly little difference between the two.

NK

 

VINYL TO CD

I have recently sold my beloved Linn LP12 turntable as I am shortly downsizing my property and wish to save on space taken up by my vinyl collection. I will be saying goodbye to the vinyl, but before I do so I would like to burn copies of the ones I have not bought on CD.  My problem is that I am unsure of which way to go about this task as I would like decent sound but also ease of use, without breaking the bank. I have looked in a few shops and also seen ads for either Vinyl-usb, turntable-computer-CD,  Vinyl-turntable burn direct-CD,  Vinyl-memory stick-computer-CD.


I do not expect LP12 quality as my budget would only be £250 maximum but I would appreciate your guidance on my best course of action. Thanks for a great mag.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Smith

Sheffield


m-audio-pre

The M-Audio Mobile Pre USB will record a line level source into your computer.

 

You have two easy options open to you. One is to buy something like an M-Audio Mobile Pre USB (£110 approx), which will record a line level source into your computer, which you can then edit to your heart's content with the supplied software, or something like Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) which is freely downloadable from the internet. You can then burn this to CD on your computer's DVD-RW drive.

 

The other way of course is to buy a secondhand CD recorder. All of those late nineties models from Philips, Marantz and Pioneer gave very good sound quality (surprisingly so) in recording mode, but they're not ideal for playback; basically you'd need to record on them in 'real time' then play back the CD-R on a decent hi-fi CD player. This done, you'd get at least as good sonic results as if you'd gone by computer (probably better), but of course the editing/scratch removal possibilities are very limited compared to doing it on computer. DP

 

OPTIONS

I’m after some advice on upgrading my cartridge. I have, over the years, built up what I consider to be a very nice system. To me it sounds just the right combination of detail and tone and I enjoy listening to all formats.


My question is regarding cartridges. I have tried the Audio Technica OC9/II and this is just too bright for my tastes and I have also tried a Dynavector 10x4 which gives me a nice sound but is lacking in the detail I want to hear.


I am at present using a Goldring Eroica L cartridge which, to my ears, gives me the best sound from my VPI Scout and Trichord Diablo vinyl front end. The problem with this cartridge is that it makes my – shall we say – better quality vinyl sound good but makes my “getting on a bit” vinyl sound not it’s best!

I do realise the old adage of garbage in/garbage out but I was wondering if you could suggest an alternative cartridge which would play my good vinyl well but not be too critical of my older vintage?


I have read your reviews of the Ortofon Rondo Bronze and the Benz Wood SL and both of these seem to fit the bill, but could you recommend any others? I would be quite happy with either MC or MM designs if they give me what I want.

Thanks for any help you can give me with this.

Andrew Burtchaell

 

I recommend the Ortofon Rondo Bronze for this, as it is mild mannered yet detailed. As you rightly observe, you need to steer clear of cartridges with a treble lift and this alone reduces your options. A Denon DL103 will also smooth things over and give a full bodied, easy sound that seems popular. Or there is even the new Ortofon Cadenza Mono, for an even smoother presentation, should your oldies be mono. NK

at33ev

Audio Technica's AT-33EV is an interesting mix of the AT-OC9's detail and incision, with a more benign tonality.

 

Hi Andrew – I think the Audio Technica AT-33EV (£450) is ideal for your purposes. It's an interesting mix of the AT-OC9's detail and incision, with a more benign and beguiling tonality and less upper treble lift. Whilst not exactly dull, it's certainly quite sweet, and suffers poor recordings far better than the forensic, unforgiving OC9. I believe there's been some positive discussion of them on the Timestep forum (www.time-step.net). DP

 

BETTER SPOTIFY

I’m looking to give my nephew a laptop, his first computer just for his own use, for a birthday present, in the early part of next year. As he seems to be genuinely developing an interest in music of various sorts, I am reluctant to just hand this over with the built in speakers – and that’s it. I know Spotify is useful and even an old codger like me can appreciate it (I guess) but having a competent sound is important. He knows about Spotify, and he also uses his father's old turntable a little to play his dad's old records, and he also has some CDs etc, etc, but he is also young and computers are really where he is going for sure.


I don’t want to complicate this, but also I don’t want to end up offering him a below par sound either.


I know nothing of computer music really, at the moment anyway, and while I don’t want to spend a fortune, I am happy to spend what will make a serious difference, as I believe he will appreciate that. If he loses musical interest and takes up Quantum Mechanics instead, maybe his younger sister will inherit your words of wisdom.

Finally, simplicity must be the key. Over complication will probably not work for either of us.

Thanks guys,

Neil Porter

 

Hi Neil, well I'm not sure if you want me to recommend a computer as well as a computer sound system? I use an Apple MacBook Pro and find it brilliant for just about everything, including audio purposes, incidentally. Anyway, whatever computer you end up with, I take it you want a small compact active speaker system with serious sonics? If so, the B&W MM1 (£400) would be my recommendation. They're USB designs and have their own built in DAC, which means you're not at the mercy of the nasty one (that's likely to be) built into the computer. They have high quality two way drivers, and a decent amp, to give a fast, clean and delicate sound that's a cut above the usual dire PC speakers. DP

 

BRENNAN

I came upon this web site http://www.brennan.co.uk/ and saw this device that seems to be a good storage and easy functionality. I own a Quad 34 that seems to be compatible with this device. I would like to know your opinion about it and if it's really compatible with my Quad.

Thanks for your time,

Jos Carlos Elias


brennan-jb77bsp50

Brennan isn't quite up to Quad 34 standards of fidelity and does not handle AAC or FLAC, says David.

 

I've reviewed the Brennan for the Sunday Times, whilst Patrick Cleasby did it for this magazine, and we both agree that it's a decent bit of kit, but those used to specialist audio might find it wanting. It's certainly easy to use, and this is its real strength, but it's hampered by middling storage (by modern standards) and a limited number of playback formats; you're only really talking MP3 and WAV, so you can forget about FLAC and AAC, which I think are the two most important (and useful) formats around right now. Whilst fine in consumer audio terms, the Brennan isn't really hi-fi, and Quad owners will perhaps find it a little thin and two dimensional sounding, and a touch strident too. It's a decent little thing, but you'd probably outgrow it fast! DP


CAN YOU HELP?

I am pretty sure all of my kit has received enthusiastic recommendations from you or your reviewers over the years, so I am hoping you can advise on where to go next. I have Spendor SP 9 speakers (with upgraded wiring), Tannoy Super Tweeters, Esoteric 01 D2 CD Player, Musical Fidelity KW 500, Nordost Red Dawn cabling throughout and IsoteK mains filter. Having built up the system carefully, I like all the kit and it all works very well on a Quadrespire stand in a solid room. However, while clear and powerful it can all lack a bit of emotion and warmth. Any thoughts welcome on which component I might change to get more warmth and feeling into the sound.


I was wondering whether changing the KW 500 to something else might do the job or maybe I am just finding the limits of the CD format? Any suggestions that you have in a price range appropriate to the rest of the kit would be greatly appreciated.

Simon Hodgson

Bath

England

mf-kw500

Musical Fidelity KW500 - does it lack warmth?

 

 

Whilst I like a lot of what Musical Fidelity does, I find the brand can be quite variable in its output. This is partly because Anthony Michaelson has a wide ranging, and somewhat eclectic set of proclivities; one minute he's trying to do sweet sounding things with tubes, the next it's massive transistor monoliths with more power than a JCB. With this in mind I never really warmed to the kW500. I was always impressed by it, sometimes even slightly scared by it (you don't want to play fast and loose with the volume control, lest your loudspeaker voice coils end up in your lap!), but I was never charmed by it. That's not something I can say about the Musical Fidelity AMS35i – which has a lot less power but a lot more life, and delicacy. The '35 won't turn your listening room into a live venue with sound pressure levels to match a PA, but it will still go plenty loud with your Spendors and offer so much more detail, atmosphere and general musicality. As such this would be my choice. DP

 

MY NEW SYSTEM

I’ve been dreaming for the past 25 years, dreaming about valves and something like a Linn LP12, so I decided it must be time now to have a really nice entry level system with the valve equipment coming from Icon Audio. I’m no expert in system building so I decided to speak to the editor from Hi-Fi world magazine where all my dreams began 25 years ago. David Price was on hand to help me but he did have concerns with the fact I was spending fifteen hundred on valves and only three-four hundred for something like a Pro-Ject turntable. His advice was to spend around a thousand on a turntable and the three-four hundred for an amplifier, but David understood I really wanted my dream valves and that I would probably upgrade to high end turntable some years down the line, therefore the advice was go for a Rega P 3-24 because it surpasses everything else in it’s class, and fit an Audio Technica AT 95 cartridge to stay with the entry level setup. I told David about my vast collection of CDs and what budget player should I look for, good advice again in the form of Cambridge Audio 650C.


So there you go folks, my new system is Rega P 3-24 turntable, Audio Technica AT 95 cartridge, Icon Audio PS 1 Mk11 phono stage MM/MC with separate PSU, Icon Audio Stereo 25 Mk11 KT88 integrated amplifier, Cambridge Audio 650C CD player, Royd Audio/ Royd Eden loudspeakers.

Have you any advice on cables please?

Many thanks,

John Smee,

Pembrokeshire

black-rhodiumtango3m

Add a pair of Black Rhodium Tango loudspeaker cables and you'll be cooking on gas, says David.

 

Gosh John, I was expecting to hear that you didn't follow my advice and that in the end you bought an Amstrad music centre, and could I please suggest how to improve it! So many folk I advise seem to go off on a tangent but amazingly you haven't, so well done that man!

I do hope you upgrade your turntable fairly soon, but in the meantime you've got a fine front end and it's doubtless already making nice music. Add a pair of Black Rhodium Tango loudspeaker cables (£15/m), which will see you right for many future upgrades, and a pair of Rhythm interconnects (£50) which are a great match for your current good quality mid-price kit, and you'll be cooking on gas. DP

 

LOUDSPEAKER CONNECTORS

Please help my constant fiddling. Over the years I have gathered what I regard as some nice equipment which should be satisfying my ears, so I can just concentrate on listening to the music instead of amusing (I think!) my wife and my dog with my constant speaker placement and checking connections.

My system consists of LP12/Cirkus, latest Akito/Adikt, Lingo 1, Primaluna Prologue 2 (upgraded KT88s), Project Tubebox, Missions 752F (bi-wired), all connections are Van den Hul First Ultimate and 'speaker cable is VdH The Wind


I think my problem is with my speaker connections. When all connections are cleaned with Kontak the sound is beautiful, transparent and a joy to listen. But within a few days the sound goes off, so I start fiddling with speaker placement to re-gain that sweet spot, as now the soundstage is all over the place. This is when listening to hi-fi gets most frustrating, and tiring. Eventually I re-clean the speaker connections and wipe the perspiration from my worried brow. I know that the speaker cables are terminated with very inexpensive plugs, care of Maplins, but they can sound fabulous...until they don’t!


What would be a good compromise plug for the speaker terminations, and would these need to be soldered professionally? After so many years would it be wise to replace the 'speaker posts on the Missions in case these are worn. If so, any thoughts with what?


I also read with great interest the replacement Tube review (Jan’10) and am considering the TJ Full Music 12AX7 as a suitable upgrade for the Primaluna. Would it also be a good investment to upgrade the 12AU7s from the same source, or other?

I want some stability in my hi-fi life, and just get back to the music, and to complete reading Hi-Fi World!

Many thanks,

Martin Trevers

Croxley Green


wbt

A top quality source of connectors is WBT of Germany.

 

Hi Martin. That is a fascinating problem, one I have never heard before. However, I well remember one reviewer who insisted on using old 30A round pin plugs that he polished with Kontak regularly, plus all other connectors and swore by the process. A top quality source of connectors is WBT of Germany and you can buy them from www.hificables.co.uk, to name but one source. You will have to resort to a bit of DIY butchery if you wish to replace the Mission's terminals. An alternative is to hard wire this connection, by either soldering direct to the terminal posts or to the crossover inside the cabinet.

 

Better yet again is to remove the crossover from the cabinet altogether and lead drive unit wires straight out to it. We tend to put the crossover in a plastic case, as there are strong magnetic fields around the bass inductors. You can then either solder cables to it direct or use high quality WBT connectors.

TJ Full Music valves have a good reputation, as do NOS of various manufacturers, especially Mullard and Philips. Also, cryogenically treated valves are interestingly purer in sound. NK


MB845 Mk2s AND BENZ WOOD CARTRIDGE

With reference to the MB845 Mk2s. I found that triple shielded interconnects like the Cambridge Audio 70 efforts are almost totally silent. I think it’s the big expensive transformers. Like anything expensive (and big), they tend to be noisy, and these monsters are no exception. I tried all kinds of interconnects, mainly expensive, and came down to these Cambridge Audios.

 

Will you thank Tony Bolton for his review of the Benz Wood cartridge. I ordered one straight away on the review and it sounds fantastic: I don’t like glopping around the countryside auditioning hi-fi when I don’t know about the ancillary equipment such as noise limiting devices. I’d much rather stay home and let you geniuses figure it out.

Anyway, the cartridge turned up the following day, without payment, the cheque having crossed in the post. That man is really trusting. He rang me up the same day and asked me if I liked it. I was deeply touched – thanks for recommending them.

have a great time

Best wishes,

James & Cath Gould

 

benz-wood-sl-cartridge

Benz Micro Wood "sounds fantastic", so thanks to Tony Bolton.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND HI-FI SHOW

Hello to all at Hi-Fi World. Just thought I would drop you an e-mail to say that the above event was great. It has been over ten years since the last hi-fi show in Northern Ireland and I think this one was better. There was 35 stalls over three rooms, including Krons, Lyric, Living Space and of course Paul and Matt from Diverse Vinyl with plenty of vinyl to sell. On Saturday the 6th after 12 noon, Eleanor McEvoy popped in to sign copies of her new album 'I'd Rather Go Blonde'.

David, didn't you interview her for the December issue of Hi Fi World? I found her to be very charming, a real nice lady. I got my copy signed of course.


Anyway, back to the show. There was plenty of hi-end gear to drool over, some of which had never been shown in the UK before.

I was disappointed that you could not come over to give your backing to a great weekend. I came away £200 plus lighter but a very happy vinyl person. Anyway, I hope this event was a success and that it will not be another 10 years until the next one. It really was a great weekend.

All the best,

Andy

 

Hi Andy, yes I did interview Eleanor and found her as charming as you did. Thanks for an upbeat report of the Northern Ireland show; we'll try and make it over to the next one! DP


eleanor-mcevoy

Eleanor McEvoy - charming and talented says David.

 

OLDE WORLDE V NEW ORDER

As a lover of hi-fi for many years I finally stopped changing gears due to fact that I completed a system which suits my musical tastes, sound and environment. It consists of Yamaha NS-690 II loudspeakers,  Aragon 24k+ips AV preamp/2004 II power amp, Sony CDP-XA50es CD player moded,  Thorens 145 turntable VdH moded, various hi-end cables and accessories.


My question to you is can retro hi-fi be in real terms comparable with new one? So if I may suggest that you in your Olde Worlde column test similarly priced systems from £70 or £80 and some newer ones, so we will see are only design has been changed or we are missing something?


Anyway your magazine stands out from crowd. Please keep going.

Best regards

Goran Obrad

 

Hi Goran – if you've read us over the years you'll know we've done a lot of classic reviews, and even sometimes slipped classic kit into modern group tests! You'll also know that we all use a combination new and classic kit in our reference systems; Noel the Garrard 401 turntable and me the Yamaha NS1000M loudspeakers, for example. As for Tony Bolton's system, well I struggle to find anything modern in it at all sometimes! Of course, some classic hi-fi is superb, and absolutely up to par (or indeed better) than the best of what is available now. But it depends on what it is; for example, turntables have moved on apace in the past twenty five years but CD players have only improved significantly relatively recently, and still the difference is less pronounced.

 

Cartridges are generally far better than of yore but most top modern loudspeakers aren't substantially better if at all; in fact they're just different. One thing's for sure, though. Budget hi-fi is far superior than the entry level stuff of yesteryear; there's never been a better time to buy your first system, I'd wager. DP

 

PRO AUDIO & HI-FI

The review of the Weiss DAC in your December issue prompted me to write to you. For many years I have enjoyed music using a whole range of hi-fi equipment. As I became better paid I took pleasure in assembling systems with loops of ever thicker cable in an effort to hear music as I thought I wanted to hear it.


Naturally, I have had some good pieces and some less convincing ones but I think my recent experience of pro-audio has made me question some of the apparent barriers in the two worlds. I carried out research online about pro-audio before becoming involved and in particular I was interested in studio monitors. I have always used stand mounted speakers, as to me they offer the best compromise of accuracy, size and clarity and avoid monoliths in the lounge.


Studio monitors come in all sizes but most are the same size as lounge friendly stand mounts. Some forums were describing studio monitors as rather cold, clinically detailed and fatiguing to listen to. I felt I needed to let my ears decide.


I am lucky to own two of Audio Aero’s fabulous Capitole CD players; an earlier Mk I 24/192 and a current Capitole Reference. Both have an excellent valve pre output although to use studio monitors all anyone would need is a pre-amp with XLR out.


I demonstrated the older Audio Aero with a number of studio monitors including Focal, PMC and Adam. The pro-audio centre was not used to seeing a hi-fi person arrive but they were interested, welcoming and served coffee just like in a hi-fi shop. What they did know about was music. They were in the business of creating, recording and mastering music and they know how it is meant to sound.


What I heard was a sound which was without the niceties of hi-fi. The monitors were open, detailed but not fatiguing (maybe the valve stage on the AA helps) with proper bass despite diminutive size. Prices are incredible. Focal do a monitor with beryllium tweeter for less than £1400 a pair and with magnesium tweeter for less than a grand. With built in matched power amps., that is incredible value and a tweaker’s delight if they want to tune the monitors to their rooms. Why wouldn’t you explore that?


What I bought were Adam Audio S1Xs, a small monitor, £1500 a pair which, when teamed with the AA are just stunning and 2x7.5m Vovox matched pro XLR cables, at £340 a fraction of what similar high end hi-fi cables would cost but these are reference quality cables that are stunning. Less than 2k for top quality active studio monitors and pro cables.

Since I am unlikely to buy another CD player I see no reason to return to a stack of pre and power amps and esoteric cables to get high end sound. The worlds of pro and home audio need not be so far apart. Studio monitors offer a different active path to quality, high fidelity sound without the artifice of marketing, matched veneers and hype that sometimes afflicts the industry with another wonder product. It is refreshing to get back to the music and depart from the convention that exists in the different worlds. Manufacturers like Adam, Focal and Weiss seem to be prepared to straddle both and I think it is worth a listen. It is working for me.

With regards,

Karl Podmore

North Yorkshire


adam-tensor-gamma

Adam Audio make quality studio monitors and domestic hi-fi loudspeakers.

 

There is no magic in Pro kit Karl. Often, the same components and design techniques apply, it's just there is a difference of outlook. Costs, however, where they vary, are due to various factors. Mass market pro gear is often cheaply made and just not up to scratch.

 

Pro loudspeakers commonly have midrange domes that, whilst in theory have certain strong benefits (dispersion), also break up badly, giving a sharp piercing sound at high levels – and studios seem to like this.  But then they listen at very high levels from giant loudspeakers just 2m or so away; it's quite frightening. Domestic hi-fi is, generally, better honed. NK


PURRING HUMMING AND BUZZING

As a long-term subscriber to Hi-Fi World who has been the happy recipient of useful advice in the past, I thought I would submit my most extreme problem to you for possible suggestions. The problem is basically the Mains and all the nasty noises it is transmitting to my hi-fi.


The context – France, major city centre, 230V nominal, the hi-fi is on a dedicated spur I had installed when we bought the 1980s flat. The kit  LV-modded Canary Audio 601 Mk2, Avondale stereo power amp., Chord DAC64 Mk2, CEC TL51 drive, SME20 turntable with SMEV arm and Dynavector DV20XL cartridge,  Aesthetix Rhea phono stage, Proac Future .5 (cables are a bit of a mix, but I am slowly going Kondo).


Although the mains voltage is generally acceptable at a low 229 to a high 231, I have a huge amount of transformer buzz even in the kit which is already connected to a Moth 1kVA isolation transformer. Before spending more money on mains conditioning, I followed the advice of a dealer and used a Fluke-branded instrument to conduct a 24 hour measurement.


Initial results indicated that there are “significant” amounts of 150Hz, 250Hz and 350Hz on the waveform; there seems to be a 45s-47s cyclical voltage variation of about one volt; there seems to be some voltage on neutral and some DC. There is also 15kHz-16kHz created by the frequency generator associated with the lift-braking system (this creates tones at that frequency in the video and computer equipment). DC seems to be present, but in quite “normal” amounts (and given the humming of transformers isolated by 1kVA 1:1 devices is perhaps not so obviously the root of my problems, if I have understood anything).


In concrete terms, the 1:1 isolation transformers hum, buzz and sometimes create a lot of noise, as do the transformers in the hi-fi downstream of them (the level does vary during the day but never seems to completely go away). Inversing the input-output of one of the transformers in order to have a moderate voltage reduction did not change the situation.

What is there to be done to improve the situation and eliminate the above problems?

All the best,

Nigel Briggs

France

purepower-2000

If your mains supply is as bad as Nigel's , try regeneration with a Pure Power supply.

 

 

Bonjour Nigel. Since your current mains conditioners have been overwhelmed by what sounds like a chaotic supply, the only solution left is mains regeneration. In this process the mains is converted to d.c. where battery storage can be introduced, then back into clean a.c. through what are effectively high current, high efficiency power amplifiers fed from a sine wave source. This not only blocks all rubbish, it also provides immunity to short term power loss. Go to the Pure Power site at www.purepoweraps.com for more information where you will find 230V models. I presume you will be able to buy in France or the UK. NK

 

SATORI IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Northern Ireland could hardly be described as the land of the midnight sun, more appropriately the land of the midnight rain, sleet, snow, explosion. We have however just had our first audio show in 10 years which has prompted me to write and explain my ‘sudden illumination’, my Satori, in contradiction of the generally accepted industry philosophy which suggests that upgrades are only achieved by buying something better. As an enthusiast who for over 30years has regularly swapped boxes in pursuit of hi-fi nirvana, much to my wife’s chagrin and the groans of my bank account, I have arrived at my present system:


Vinyl – Gyro SE, SME IV with Furutech AG-12L arm cable, Ortofon 2m Black, HR Power Supply, Pure Sound phono stage connected via Chord Company Indigo Plus cables.

CD – Chord Electronics Blu Transport, DAC 64 with 2x Indigo Plus digital cables running balanced via Furutech Reference III XLR leads.

Amplification – DK Design (now LAS) VS.1 Signature Mk III hybrid integrated.

Speakers - Wilson Benesch Curves bi-wired using Furutech Reference III cables.


The system has a dedicated mains spur in a dedicated listening room 15ftx14ft and is connected with Furutech Reference and Evolution power leads (more about these later).

My sudden illumination came about when I was introduced to products, loosely termed accessories, which have had a dramatic and beneficial effect on my system and thus my enjoyment. Firstly my friendly neighbourhood dealers and kindred spirits, those nice people David and Gary Campbell at Kronos Audio Visual (great coffee and conversation) suggested I try an Acoustic Solutions Resonator, a device which apparently improves bass response. As the eternal sceptic I was naturally doubtful that a block of wood with a bronze cup attached could have any audible effect, let alone improve the low end. Having installed said product I was astounded to discover that the bass had firmed up, become more tuneful and that paradoxically the top end was more focused with more air and space. A mere snip at the asking price.


Next I became acquainted with a resonance damping device - Black Ravioli. I borrowed three pieces and initially wondered if they would be better served with Arabiatta or Putanesca sauce as opposed to their suggested placement under my phono stage. Once employed I was pleasantly surprised, nay shocked, to find that Rickie Lee had a more palpable presence, had taken a step forwards into the room and that the sound stage had become more three dimensional with better separation and added weight.

At this stage I began to wonder if Kronos’ David Campbells predilection for Greek myths would be better changed to Arthurian legend as these products were more likely to be the unnatural offspring of Merlin than Zeus’ father. I consequently used 6 more pieces of this black magic, employing 3 each under my CD transport and dac, yielding equally astonishing and beneficial improvements. CD now sounds more musical with a reduction in hardness without artificial warmth, Black Ravioli just allows the equipment to work to its full potential. An inexpensive upgrade.


I borrowed and subsequently bought high end power leads from Furutech, those previously referred to, these had similarly positive and dramatic effects resulting in increased openness, spatiality, detail and weight. Okay I know they are expensive but they are also a long term investment as getting the infrastructure correct can be of greater benefit than changing equipment.


My last tweak was to replace the valves in my Pure Sound phono stage and came about at the suggestion of Kronos and through meeting Guy Sargent at the N.I Audio Show. Guy kindly recommended gold pinned E88cc and ECC803S to replace the stock valves. Once installed the Pure Sound which punches above its weight was metamorphosed into an entirely different animal, bass arriving in my listening room coupled with a sweeter and more open top end that one would normally associate with extremely high end esoterica – and all for the princely sum of £45.


As each product employed gave vast and audible improvements to what was already an open and musically resolving system I can only conclude that finding a good dealer, trusting their suggestions and wringing the best from what you have, thus resisting the temptation to swap boxes for the latest all conquering panacea can not only be a more cost effective but a rewarding experience. Whilst some may consider that blocks of wood/bronze cups, black pasta and wires are more audiophool than audiophile my ears tell me to adopt the diametrically opposed view point and I would recommend exploring such products without reservation. Sometimes you just have to accept that what appears to be alchemy and black magic may lead to illumination.

Gary Gardiner

 

On matters like this readers must judge for themselves. I have not been convinced by various balls, triangles and other mystic devices demonstrated to me at Shows, but then a Show atmosphere isn't the best to discern fine differences. Perhaps dealers can provide home trials. NK

 

THORENS TD125

I hope you may be able to help me in locating parts for the above turntable. I have owned a Thorens TD125 turntable since the 1970s and ran it alongside a Sony amplifier. Initially I had a pair of B&W P2h speakers and subsequently changed for a pair of B&W DM 16s. I had to put the equipment into storage and because of the suspension unit on the deck put the Inner platter, outer platter, mat and what I would term the central pole (for the record to go on – sorry for the lack of technical jargon), with the amplifier in our loft. Unfortunately, as a result of some work being done to our plumbing in the loft it was not until some months later that I found that the above items had been stolen.


If you are unable to help directly with regards to the above parts, are you able to put me in touch with someone who may be able to help in order that I may know whether they are available and affordable?

Thank you,

Barry Gibbons

thorens-td125

Thorens TD125 had its bits stolen and needs repair, says Barry.

 

If you are indeed looking for the inner platter, main platter and bearing/platter spindle for a Thorens TD125, then the first person to call is the owner of www.theanalogdept.com.  If they can’t help then the only alternative in my view would be to buy a faulty turntable from eBay for the parts.  The TD125 was unusual at its time as it used a Wein Bridge transistor sine wave oscillator and power amplifier to drive the motor, very advanced technology in those days!  Let us know how you get on.

Dave Cawley

Sound Hi Fi

 

Hi Barry – another person to talk to is Haden Boardman ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); I'm sure he'll have a solution for you. DP

 

ADVISE PLEASE

I wonder if you could provide some advice and guidance on the next step of my hi-fi journey please. My current system is as follows; Roksan Kandy LIII amp, Monitor Audio RS8 speakers, Cambridge Audio DacMagic connected to PC via USB. Panasonic Blu-ray player also connected through the DacMagic but only really used for movies. Project Xpression III record deck and Ortofon 2m Blue used as main source of music.


I have recently moved into a smaller flat and the system is now in a room approx 4 meters by 4 meters with a ceiling height of approx 2.4 meters filled with the usual sofas and coffee tables etc.


I am very happy with both the amp (bought 2nd hand only about 6 months ago) and ‘speakers (though I do think that perhaps the speakers are too big for the room). However, since getting the DacMagic approximately 2 months ago I find that the PC side of things sounds a lot better than the turntable. More detail is apparent and it seems to have a bit more sparkle about it. Bass is also firmer and overall I just find it a more exciting listen.


With that in mind, could you advise on my next step in improving the turntable side of things. Vinyl is really the only form of music I actually buy and it’s the medium I love the most. I do not have massive funds available but could make £500 to £750 available for this upgrade.


I have seen a Roksan Radius turntable available 2nd hand for around the £550. Would this provide a significant upgrade over the Project ?


I have also fallen in love with the looks of the Michell Tecnodec, though a new one (including a Rega RB250 arm) would be at the top end of my budget. If I was to go with a new Tecnodec would it be worth using my existing 2M Blue until further funds are available? If not, what cartridge should I be looking at? Also, what other turntables would you recommend looking at either new or 2nd hand?


Finally can you comment on the phono stage in the Kandy? Would it be worth upgrading this to a stand alone box before the turntable upgrade ? If so what should I go for?

Finally I guess an idea of my listening trends might help? I like everything from heavy hard rock through to electronic dance music, pop and the occasional folk and jazz disks.

Thanks in advance,

Ben Sexton

 

Here is my two’pennyworth Ben. I am no fan of the lesser 2M cartridges from Ortofon, but the 2M Black transcends their limitations, quite dramatically so in my view; it is head and shoulders above the other models. It has the sparkle that you are looking for too. So either get an Ortofon 2M Black, or head toward the Goldring 1000 Series, like the 1024 GX or 1042. These are an easy listen, without being dull, and they have plenty of dynamic life to them as well, with good quality bass. Add in a very reasonable price and you are boogeying. I can’t help feel that you may be well advised to improve your record deck also, but David will say more on this. NK

 

The Kandy phono stage is surprisingly good, actually, Ben. What's really wrong in your system is your turntable, which is a fine machine at its price point but is a little out of its depth in the context of the rest of your components. If you're buying new, then stretching the budget to a Michell TecnoDec would really bring big rewards; far more focus, grip and insight, plus a wider soundstage and a deeper bass than your Pro-ject. I also feel it would be better, if well set up, than the Roksan Radius but it's likely a close run thing. This said, you would have to mount the Michell carefully, preferably on a wall shelf, to get the best from it. Just sticking it on a chest of drawers will drop its performance down to Rega P3 levels. Use your 2M Blue until you can afford a 2M Black or, ideally, an Audio Technica AT33EV. DP


 

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