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March 2011 issue - Page 2

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March 2011 issue
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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



 

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