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May 2010 issue

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World Mail    May 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.

 


 

michell_orbe_se

 

A good partner for the Rega RB300 arm is a Michell Orbe turntable, says David.

 

IN A SPIN ABOUT VINYL

For years now I’ve been slowly piecing together my 'final' system (don’t laugh... it’s supposed to be true, my wife told me). So far, and against all sense, I've bought the amp, and just recently decided on the speakers... a Luxman SQ38u with Harbeth Super HL5s. So come the Spring my mind will be turning to a replacement for my Mk11 Townshend Rock.

 

Again, against all advice, I’ve a reasonable idea about arm and cartridge, because like the amp and speakers, I'm looking for final quality products whose engineering and sound will both last the course, allowing me to relax and ‘enjoy the music’. So those are the Audio Origami Rega conversion and an Ortofon Cadenza, carrying on my love affair with Ortofons (I have an MC30), and extending my respect for Audio Origami, who did a superb job of refreshing the Excalibur arm on the Rock. But what I don’t know is anything much about ‘modern’ record decks. My initial thought went to the Michell Gyro, but then I saw a new Thorens at the Silverstone Show which I loved and then...

 

Might you suggest one or two candidates for a platform for the Audio Origami arm that will be engineered for a problem free lifetime and provide a neutral, non–intrusive music player? Budget probably around £3,000 for the deck alone. Musical taste is very broad, from Folk and Jazz to Mahler and ZZ Top.

John Dutfield

 

Oh dear, it's another one of those "will you suggest some nice food" type questions! This is so open ended, especially when you cruelly hit me with the parting shot that your musical tastes as so catholic. ZZ Top and Mahler, huh?

 

Okay, here goes. A shot in the dark. You've got a modded Rega arm which you want to keep, from which we can rule out the likes of the Linn LP12 which simply doesn't sing particularly well with Regas. SME's Model 10A is a fine match for your deck, but it's more Mahler than ZZ Top.  Avid's Volvere is a great rock blaster, and very effective for classical too, but emphatically not my first choice for jazz. The same could be said for Clearaudios, so I'm being drawn, predictably perhaps, to Michell's Orbe, which is a consummate all rounder with a very open, mastertape-like sound whatever your choice of music. It's not the absolute best at its price in any one single area, but is uniformly very strong across the board and so would work perfectly here. Michells also seem to love Rega arms, for some reason I've yet to fathom. This would be my choice for you; still try before you buy if you possibly can.

DP

 

ON THE BOTTLE

Hopefully you can help with a problem I have with a valve amplifier, a Lumley ST70 Reference power amp.

My set up is as follows: Esoteric X01 D 2 CD player, Linn Sondek LP 12, Thorens 124 Mk 2 with Van den Hul Super One cartridge, Magnum Dynalab MD 90t tuner, all feeding into a McIntosh MC2300 preamp, Cambridge Audio 840W power amp and B&W 802D speakers and wiring loom is by Kimber Kable. Mains power is through a PS Audio mains regenerator set for 230 volts. The sound is nicely smooth, detailed and with good bass when its present from source. My room is 8.0m x 3.8m x 2.5m. However, I like the valve sound and some time back acquired a second-hand Lumley power amp.

 

From the start, I had difficulties and here is the sequence of events spread over a period of time:

New set of valves throughout with four Sovtek 6550 valves. The other valves are ECC82 and ECC83, two of each.

New valves fitted, I switched on as per instructions. At this time my speakers were Audio Plan Kontrast Mk 3, well regarded and a relatively easy load. Immediately, there was loud hum which I took to be mains.

 

In the back of my mind's recesses, I recalled something I read that some amps react to the earth wire in the 3 pin plug. So I experimented with a twin wire mains. Bingo, hum vanished!

 

Next followed a house move and a once in a lifetime upgrade as above. Having settled in, I hankered after that valve amp. Still using the twin earth mains but not happy about this I decided to give it a try. I had at least one pleasant hour listening to some nice jazz on the radio when there was a bang, a flash and then silence on the right hand channel!

 

I handed over to the valve specialist at Cloney Audio with whom I have been dealing with for many years. He concluded that the cause of the problem was a defective ECC82 valve and having replaced blown valves, fuses he then played it for several hours as a test.

When I got it back, wired it in, switched on, which takes about fifteen minutes, that loud hum was back. Behind the hum, it was clear that there was lovely sound. So close to nirvana, but yet so far...

 

Remembering my trick with the twin mains no earth, I tried it again. Fantastic, only the slightest of transformer noise, not much. I was just ten minutes into a nice relaxing listen to classical music on Lyric FM, when ‘PHUT’ and the left hand channel went dead. Fuse only this time, I think. My guesses are as follows:

 

Lifting the earth is not a good idea and are there any other consequences to this?

 

The speaker output taps are 8 ohm and no 4 ohm is available for connection but the 802s have a minimum impedance of 3.2 ohms in part of their frequency range.

 

The B&W 802 are a difficult load. But this amp has big transformers and weighs in like the proverbial battleship. The valve guy at Cloney’s said it was all point to point wiring and soundly made.

 

So I consult your good selves with the hopes that you maybe able to pin point or guide me as to what is wrong. The hum that vanishes with no mains earth connected concerns me. Why is this and is the rest of my equipment then vulnerable?

Paul Geoghegan

 

quad_ii-eighty

For power with quality, from a good modern valve amplifier able to drive 4 Ohm loudspeakers, get a Quad II-eighty power amplifier.

 

Hi Paul. You have a few problems here. That of hum that disappears when the amplifier's earth is disconnected is caused by a ground loop. It is not a good idea to remove the earth on the amplifier as dodgy valve amps need an earth. You can fit an earth lift resistor though, of 3-10 ohms, between incoming mains earth and the chassis. Make it as low a value as possible.

 

Alternatively, leave the earth connected and disconnect other items in the system to see which one is acting to cause the hum loop. It is likely to be one or both record decks. Disconnecting an earth here is another possibility, providing there is no exposed metal work.

 

The bang and phut business is another problem altogether. I find it odd that an ECC82 should cause the original 'bang'. It is a small signal valve, rarely fails and if it does high value anode and cathode resistors limit current, preventing either a bang or a flash.

 

Bangs and flashes are, most commonly, caused by output tube failure. The anode warps under heat, touches another electrode and there's a flash and bang as the HT shorts out. If the cathode receives the HT then the bypass capacitor, if there is one, may well be damaged or blow. Usually, an HT fuse is fitted to ensure the output transformer primary does not burn out. When the fuse blows the anode may cool down and the valve continue working after fuse replacement – until the next time!

 

I appreciate that the right channel blew first then the fuse on the left, but all the same the amplifier needs checking to see if there is damage. Cathode resistors and capacitors, and transformer primaries all need passive measurement. Then, with output valves in place, the HT and all voltages should be measured, especially at the cathodes and grids. You really need a manufacturer's circuit diagram with voltages for this. Only an experienced engineer should do this because the voltages are dangerous. If all is well then the amp. can be run. If there is another flash and bang, an output tube is definitely dodgy. Best to replace both on the failing channel with a new matched pair, or perhaps do this in any case before running the amp.

I suspect you have inherited an amplifier with a problem and it needs expert attention. And it may just be that the anode volts are too high for reliable running (high HT gives more power, less reliability). I see the 6550 is rated at 680V max in fixed bias mode but this is very high and, I suspect, fantasy island! Just 400V are recommended for cathode (self) bias. Your engineer needs to consider this. I have no experience with 6550s because we didn't like them and never used them.

 

Finally, most loudspeakers nowadays use a 4 Ohm bass unit and are best driven from a 4 Ohm tap. Driving a lower impedance from an 8 Ohm winding is not a good idea, as it raises distortion considerably. Driving a higher impedance like 8 Ohms from a 4 Ohm tap or winding is more tolerable however, as a higher impedance is reflected back into the primary, so although load matching is sub-optimal anode current is reduced, and distortion with it.

 

To be frank, a more up to date and capable amplifier, one with a 4 Ohm output, would be your best bet. Quad II-eighties are a great choice, with oodles of power a great sound and modern design (by Tim De Paravicini). I think you bought a duffer; it may have been cheap but it was no bargain. NK


SONY CENTRED

I particularly enjoyed January’s Olde Worlde feature on the Sony vintage amp and tuner combo, which has rekindled my interest in getting a vintage receiver for a non-serious bedroom system. I’m talking a silver fronted, wood panelled, yellow backlit beast, the kind that John Thaw would have stubbed a fag out on in an episode of The Sweeney!

 

Having looked into this further, I’ve realised how good some of these are and how much some manufacturers put into them which now make them a great way to spend the kind of money that would otherwise get you a breathless supermarket kitchen ‘mini system’. Most are laden with features including preamp outs, headphone sockets and decent phono stages. Some even have surround sound (in ‘quadraphonic’ form). So thanks again for a great feature that’s led me down this road. I feel a vintage Rotel, Technics or Marantz coming on - roll on the next audio jumble!

 

Secondly, I noted in Neville Roberts review of the Isokinetik turntable he was using a Denon DL103 with a Rega RB300 arm, which he described as ‘at home’. I have the same arm and have considered this combo myself, but was always advised Rega arms don’t have the right mass for the 103 range of cartridges. Did this work because of the ISOcartridge stabilisation upgrade? If so I’ll reconsider this in future.

Andrew Simpson

 

Hi Andrew - well, we at Hi-Fi World are just boys who can't say 'no', to hi-fi in all its weird and wonderful forms, that is! The Sony system was very sweet; not really serious hardcore hi-fi of course, but spot on for a second system or in your den. Right now, the sense is that it's as though portable audio or compact systems never existed before the iPod, but go to places such as audiojumbles and you soon realise there was a whole world of 'compact lifestyle' equipment around decades ago. Some of it, such as the Sonys, was built so well that it works well even now. That's not something, I'm afraid, you can say about much of today's 'iDockStation' type stuff. DP

 

A Rega RB300 with its 10gms effective mass will take a Denon DL103 quite happily. Arm/cartridge resonance lies around 10Hz on vertical modulation, which is spot on. As you may know we do not rate the Denon especially highly in absolute terms but it is popular and a snip at £100. Otherwise, get a Goldring 1012 or 1022GX I would suggest. NK

 

VALHALLA

Would you please give me some advice on upgrading my turntable? I have a LP12 Valhalla; Nirvana with a RB300 arm and an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge. My system is Quad 99 with 909 amplifier. The phono stage is Musical Fidelity X- LP2 and X- PSU. My 'speakers are Monitor Audio Gold Reference. Speaker cable is Chord Odyssey.

 

I am considering putting on a Project 9cc tonearm, as is fitted on the recently introduced Linn LP12 Majik. Alternatively, I could put on a second hand rewired RB300 by Incognito which I have seen advertised in your excellent magazine? Would it help to upgrade my phono amplifier?

I listen to mainly classical and big band and vocalists such as Frank Sinatra. Your expertise would be most welcome.

Howard Carter

 

naim_aro

 

Ideal for the Linn LP12 turntable, a Naim Aro unipivot arm.

 

Hi Howard - well, you've said you want to upgrade your turntable, but haven't specified a budget and then gone straight into tonearms. If I were you, assuming you've got a Sondek of over 15 or so years old, then get your deck Cirkus'd. This Linn mod package brings real improvements in clarity and dynamics, whilst retaining the deck's naturally sweet and musical sound. While you're at it, I'd be tempted to get my RB300 modded by Origin Live or Audio Origami. This should squeeze the best from the 2M Black, and you can then save up for a proper tonearm change; the Pro-ject is at best a 'side-grade' rather than an upgrade to your Rega! My ultimate arm for the LP12 would be Naim's ARO, but Linn's Ekos is superb. The former is a lover, the latter a fighter. You'd need to A-B these two when you're ready to buy. DP

 

HARD TIMES

The Naim HDX (£4,500) has had a good press but are there any other HD players worth considering at about £1,000 or less?

Nick Miller Jones

 

ripnas

 

A great solution at £875, says David, the RipNAS Ripserver digital store and music player.

 

The Naim is a superb, one-box, high end, hard disk music player which works very well indeed. Under this there are various one box models all the way down to the Brennan JB7 at around £399, but none that to my ears warrant being part of a serious hi-fi system. At this end of the market, the best way to do it is via networked separates. A Logitech Transporter is a high end network music player at around £1,000 and this will play out via any computer with uPnP software. Alternatively, Linn's Sneaky DS is a great start point on the network music ladder, and works very effectively at its circa £1,000 price. If you're not happy filling your computer(s) up with your tunes, then the Ripserver RipNAS is a great solution at £875; it's effectively a high end digital transport with its own hard disk drive built in. These two would be my choice, along with an iPod Touch to act as a fancy remote control for it! DP

 

SPEAK NO EVIL

You may remember that I have written a couple of times asking your thoughts about the plans I had concerning plinth, arm, cartridge, etc. on the Garrard 401 I got for free.

 

Due to the rather expensive misfortunes of failed diesel injectors in my car, all my hard earned spare cash had to be spent elsewhere other than an arm and cartridge for my deck, and I was left wondering what to do when I remembered an RB300 I had bought years ago for another project that never got off the ground.

 

Having built the plywood plinth, I dug the arm out and discovered that I would need to raise the height of the arm somehow, and buy a cartridge. After some research, I purchased an Origin Live sliding VTA adjuster (not only to get the arm to the right height, but also to allow an upgrade to one of the OL arms in time) and a Benz Micro MC20 E2 L cartridge (have you ever reviewed this cartridge? I think it’s a hidden gem).

I put everything together, started listening to records and oh bliss, oh joy! Right from the first sound I realised I’d got a combination that was really good. I’ve changed the weight on the arm to an IsoWeight, and now that everything has some playing time under its belt, the sound is very open, balanced and natural.

 

The result is I’m now listening to LP rather than CD as my main source. As a classical singer, I especially enjoy listening to choral music as it really has a feel and quality about it that CD doesn’t quite get.

 

Although happy with what I’ve got, it’s obvious that it could be bettered (the sound can get a little congested at times) and I wonder for the future which would be the better way to upgrade - to upgrade the cartridge first and then the arm, or upgrade the arm first and then the cartridge? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

 

Now that the Garrard is up and running, my foray into DIY hi-fi has caused a bug to bite. I’ve enjoyed making the plinth for the 401 and I’m now going to build a new rack for my system, after which I’m going to build myself a pair of speakers. Obviously there are the World Design and the Wilmslow Audio speaker kits available (and others, I expect, but I haven’t started looking seriously yet) but how can a buyer know what they are going to get in terms of ease of build, sound quality of finished product, etc?

 

As a magazine that caters for people who enjoy the more esoteric aspects of hi-fi, could there be interest in articles concerning the building of different speaker kits and then a group test of these speakers, taking into consideration cost, ease of build, quality of finish, sound and comparison to one of the Hi-Fi World favourite commercial speakers?

Phil Cowling

ls_test_equipment

 

Developing a loudspeaker demands an accurate measuring microphone, like the Bruel & Kjaer used at Hi-Fi World. More...

 

Er, yes Phil, but we have discussed this thorny topic before, after a reader enquired as to whether we could be seen to be independent whilst having an association with World Design. We could review kits, but not our own. And to be truthful, a lot of kit loudspeakers we have heard have been a little ropey, mainly because kit designers commonly have few technical facilities, where World Design and Hi-Fi World both have advanced loudspeaker test facilities. So we prefer to steer clear. There is certainly a need here, but I am not confident it will be fulfilled because it takes a lot of knowledge, test equipment, skill and labour to design, prototype, test and develop kit loudspeakers but there is little profit in it. NK


CANADA SPRY

I am from Canada and I have been a faithful reader of your magazine for many years. I like your reviews because they are honest and informative. I saw the LFT8B review in the January 2010 Hi-Fi World and I resonate with your comments. Yes, it is power-hungry but the distortion remains very low until you drive it into the non-linear range. I use a pair of Melody 845 PP 80W Class A monoblocks to drive them. The preamp is from Audio Note.

I spent the last few years making improvements to the LFT8 and I have a little write up I hope I can share with present and future owners of the LFT8.

Several years ago I was at the CES show and I visited the Monarchy Audio room. I was the Canadian Distributor for Monarchy Audio in the nineties. C.C. Poon, the owner of Monarchy Audio, was using his solid state monoblocks to drive a pair of panel speakers. The panel speaker sounded very good. I wrote down the brand of the speaker and moved on. I was using two pairs of Quad Electrostatic speakers in a custom stack frame for close to twenty years before the hassle and the cost of replacing burnt out treble panels forced me to abandon them. Since then I was looking for a reliable replacement.

 

A couple of months later I read in the British magazine Hi-Fi+ that the Eminent Technology LFT 8 speaker was in their opinion the best speaker in CES. I checked my show notes and the speaker in the Monarchy room was the LFT 8. I called up C.C. Poon and asked him to introduce me to Bruce Thigpen the designer of the LFT 8. After a couple of phone conversations I ended up buying a pair.

 

I have a good size dedicated listening room, 16ft X 26ft, with a sloping ceiling. The highest point of the ceiling is 13ft high. Bruce told me the woofer can reach very low but it does not play very loud. He was right... the woofer would bottom out way before the panel. If you go to the LFT forum this is one of the complaints of the speaker.

 

The following year in CES I dragged Bruce out during the lunch break and discussed what to do about the woofer situation. I wanted him to sell me an extra pair of woofers with the enclosure so that I can experiment with it. Bruce has never tried adding another woofer to the LFT and I told him I would try the woofers in parallel and then in series. A few weeks later a pair of woofer plus enclosure arrived. There is only one crossover component, it is the low pass coil in series with the woofer. I first tried the woofers in parallel. This gave increased weight in the bass but again the woofers bottomed out way before the panels.

 

Putting the woofers in series gave excellent results. There was a huge increase in dynamics. My drum CD sounded better than ever. This makes good sense if your amp has a wide output voltage swing and is able to drive the series connected woofer to bottom out before clipping then for the same acoustic output of a single woofer the cones of the series connected woofers only have to move half the distance.

 

With the woofer situation resolved I called up Bruce and asked... What’s next? He said the crossover. Out goes the internal crossover and I moved the mid range panel and the ribbon tweeter to another connection block to be connected to an external crossover. Bruce also gave me a hint that the 470uF non-polar electrolytic capacitor in the mid range crossover has a big effect on the sound. For the next eighteen months on and off we tried many types of caps and smaller bypass caps. The final combinations that won the day were the Unlytic film caps. We used two Unlytic UL30 series 230uF, 500v caps. bypassed by a Unlytic UP36 30uF 600v cap. The soundstage opens up and the mid range is crystal clear now. Unfortunately, these caps are very expensive but I think they are well worth their price.

 

We also discover that the ribbon tweeter caps are very important. Again, after many months of trying and a lot of money on all sorts of caps we settled on using the Mcap 2.2uF silver/oil for the midrange and tweeter drivers. The midrange crossover coil we used a Litz wire coil from Solen. We have not tried other type but we think the copper foil type will also give excellent results. Our next step is to put the crossover in a proper housing...

 

eminent_lft_8a

 

The magnetic planar LFT 8b loudspeaker, very low in distortion but bass can be improved says reader Kit Fung.

 

I have gone to the CES for the last twenty years and recently I started going to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. I spent a lot of time listening to speakers. Many of them are excellent and very expensive. After the show when I get home I turned on my stereo and listen to the modified LFT for a couple of hours, all the urge of buying new speakers are gone. The modified LFT is not the last word in speakers but for the money I have invested in it, this is a steal!

 

My LFT8 was upgraded to LFT8b when the new tweeter was introduced.

Kit Fung

Canada

 

Thanks for your thoughts on the LFT 8b, Kit. They really are a very accurate, open and truthful loudspeaker, quite unlike most and certainly one of the best loudspeakers I have heard. I think you have every reason to be happy with them. NK

 

THE QUADFATHER

While researching and expanding my system the last years I followed all the English magazines I could purchase here. The one that I still follow, is yours. For me it remains the most inquisitive, informative, and critically even handed. The section on old classic equipment is excellent for us “men of some age”.

 

But the letters section is unique among magazines, in the dialogue that you create, and the trouble you all take to give in depth answers and help. So here I am for the first time writing to a magazine...

 

As you will see from the list of my equipment and the photos that I sent you, I could say that I have brought my system to a point where few changes need to be made. But as always there are questions, hence this letter!

 

I would like to update my trusty Quad ESL-63s, with which I use the REL Stadium III. I need your expertise as to whether to go for the replacement with the 2805, or the 2905s. I have of course read your past reviews and your enthusiasm for the larger Quads over the 2805s.

 

My dedicated listening room is 4.20 x 6.60 metres, which I would think is just large enough for the 2905s. The back wall is triple glazed glass with blinds and curtains. But the ceiling is only 2.30m high. So I am concerned that the bass of the larger Quads would be overpowering in this room.

My collection is primarily classical and jazz with thousands of LPs which the Brinkmann two arm LaGrange does more than justice.

 

CD plays a minimal role. In fact, I bought the North Star combo after reading about it in your mag. So what would be your recommendation for the Quad replacement? Do I go for the 2805 and keep the REL, or will the 2905s work even better? Second question is whether in your and David’s opinion there are any wonderful tweaks to improve even further the Marantz Model 9s that are the second set of amps that I, on late evening jazz sessions, use instead of the Rowland Model 6s.

 

The Marantzs are the re-edition version along with the Model 7 preamp that I was lucky to get from a dealer friend. I don’t use the preamp much since the Rowland Coherence II is so far superior.

 

But I have tubed the 9s with NOS Mullard EL34s and they sound wonderful. I assumed that they didn’t have to be matched sets of quads since they are individually adjusted for bias. Although the seller assured me that they were two matched sets. On this point it strikes me how frequently they have to be adjusted.

 

Also, on running them in triode mode the AC balance has to be adjusted quite a bit; I didn’t know that was normal. The cables to the Rowlands are Synergistic and to the Marantz Townsend Isoldas. I must of course admit that it is a killer to go from the classic Rowland 6s of the 1990s with their fantastic tube like sound and phenomenal resolution to the aura of the 1960s in the legendary tubed Marantzes.

 

What a killer not to have both combined. And then listening to one set you see what you are missing that the other has... But who am I to complain, when I already have such perfection to play with back and forth.

John Demos

quad_esl63

Do you keep a Quad ESL-63 with subwoofer and upgrade it, or trade up to a 2905?

 

Hi John - in my opinion you'll just about get away with 2905s in your room. They're in no way 'overpowering' in the bass department, preferring instead to offer very clean but effortless low frequencies. Most perceived 'bass' is in fact box boom from conventional speakers; the Quads sound altogether very different at low frequencies. They're not boomy in any way, and the 2905s simply add more ease to the 2805 recipe, not more 'boomph'. You'll find either of the latest Quads a step change over the ESL63s. I've heard some superb '63s, but they need to be heavily tweaked; the stock ones, especially ones that haven't been serviced by now, will sound altogether far more loose and veiled compared to either the 2805 or 2905. Finally, I'd recommend trying a pair of Townshend Audio Supertweeters; these are brilliant partners for the Quads. I actually use mine 'side firing' (stage left and stage right) with Quad ESL989s, and they snap the midband into even better focus and add welcome air to the treble. DP

 

Having lived with ESL-63s and heard 2905s many times, you might be surprised to know I am unsure what to say! In good form, the ESL-63 is superb, if a little laid back in the treble. The 2905 is altogether more impressive in its scale. The problem I have is that with loudspeakers firing down the room and you close to the end wall on a settee, your room looks lumpy down at 54Hz when analysed using Cara (room acoustic analysis). However, it is quite smooth down to 40Hz if you place the speakers to fire across the room, as I did with my ESL-63s, also in a 4.2m wide room.

 

I do not entirely trust Cara but it usually gets the basic low frequency modal properties of a room right and suggests the 2905s may well sound a bit bass heavy. You would have to get a pair for demo and see whether this was the case. Large settees absorb energy and damp a room well I find, taming such modal effects. I use a large three seater, a two seater and an armchair and they make a huge difference to bass quality, in a room similar to yours.

 

The advantage of a subwoofer with ESL-63s is that you can adjust bass level to best suit both your room and your taste. An alternative is then to have the ESL-63s refurbished by Quad Musikwiedergabe (see www.quad-musik.de). I assume you have the later protection diodes fitted, and not the earlier self powered compressor that muddled the sound. There's much to check with Quads. And of course, if you do trade up to 2905s, be aware that ESL-63s in good condition are sought after and will fetch a good price.


On the amplifier front, do try and audition Quad II-eighties; designed by Tim De Paravicini in true Quad tradition, they are wonderful.

NK


BOX SET GO!

Since my first foray into hi-fi over three years ago, which was the purchase of a Pioneer A-400 and a pair of Wharfedale 505.2s, and the subsequent purchases of hi-fi magazines, I’ve had a strong liking for Cyrus equipment. Their consistently impressive sounding, and gorgeous, non-conformist looking products have left me wanting after a Cyrus set up for a long time. And since their birthday, and the trade-in, trade-up programme that ensued, I’ve been finding a lot more of their amplifiers and CD players on eBay at a fraction of their RRP. Older models, admittedly, but Cyrus nonetheless. I have, on many occasions, been tempted to click the ‘Buy It Now’ button, but there is one niggle at the back of my mind - will it be any good?’ I don’t mean to sound tight, but I don’t want to be spending upwards of £300 on a Cyrus 7 amplifier, for it to fall apart after the new 6 month warranty expires.

For an intermediate hi-fi lover, with a small budget, could you recommend these refurbished wonders, or should I steer clear?

Keith Doe

cyrus_cd7_system

Cyrus products: well built into a compact, diecast case and with a very smooth sound.

 

Yes, I can recommend them. Cyrus are a fine (and oft-overlooked) company and can service virtually any bit of Cyrus (or Mission Cyrus) kit, indefinitely into the future. You'll be buying a very well made, lovingly designed classic which should give years of good service. By and large, they have a clean and musical sound, although they're very much in the transistor idiom; it's hardly likely to have tube fans drooling. But match to a good pair of speakers and decent cables and you've a lovely system. Add as many PSX-Rs as you're able to; they're a great addition, bringing clarity, focus and dimensionality. DP

 

MULTI CHOICE

At present my system consists of an LP12, Ittok, Valhalla, and Cirkus bearing with an Adikt cartridge, a Marantz CD75 Mk11 CD player, an Aura 80 SE-x amplifier and Sony SS A1L speakers (they’re Sony versions of the LS3/5a, not a bad speaker, easy to listen to over long periods but missing bits at the frequency extremes!). They’re sat on Atacama SE stands and connected with Supra speaker cable and a Kimber PBJ interconnect from CD to amplifier.

 

I listen in the front room of my home (Edwardian terrace, so I’ve high ceilings, a suspended wooden floor and a bay window, approx 5m x 4m); I listen across the width of the room.

 

My musical tastes take in jazz, especially jazz guitar, classical guitar, acoustic music and the odd bit of rock or R & B.

The Aura is starting to show its age now and is getting a little temperamental, so I think it’s time to think about changing it. Now I have given myself a budget of £700 but here’s the kicker,,,

 

I prefer playing my guitars to listening to others so I don’t listen to my system for as long or as often as I used to. As I only need two inputs I’m somewhat put off by integrated amplifiers that have a multitude of inputs (the Aura has six; I’ve only ever used two), because if I don’t need it why have it!

 

I know the speakers and CD player are also getting on a bit but if it isn’t broke it’ll stay (it helps if your hearing’s going then the speakers lack of something in the frequency range matters little).

 

I intend to stay within the budget range and I think my choices are limited to either a Creek or Pro-ject preamp, a separate phono stage, Creek again or the Cambridge Audio, but the puzzle seems to be the power amplifier. I’ve seen plenty of possibles in the classifieds (such as Arcams, Musical Fidelity, NAD etc) and on the internet, but my concern with the Creek (passive) route is: would a phono stage have sufficient output through such a device to be able to meet the demands of the power amplifier input?

 

So I’d be obliged if you could give me your thoughts on the above. I realise the amplifier will be second-hand; that’s not a problem but I’d prefer something like the Arcam as that could be serviced by the manufacturer.

Charles Bates

 

Hi Charles - why are you going for three different second-hand amps (phono stage, pre and power), instead of a single decent integrated? Your budget could get you a good several-year-old Sugden A21 S2, which would be about as good a sound as it's possible to get at the price. This would give a beautifully fast and incisive sound, that's a fine partner to your Sondek. Personally I'd go straight for this instead of faffing around with budget pre-powers. DP

 

Many phono stages do not have enough gain to drive power amplifiers direct, so beware of this. You would need x1000 or 60dB for MM, for example, and most manage x100-x200 at most. NK

 

MOVING ON

My Stello DA100 DAC and ANT Cora 3T LTD arrived here in the Philippines several weeks ago and I’m very well pleased. Special thanks to Sound Hi-Fi for their wonderful service and careful shipping. The package only took a few days to arrive although it was slightly held up in customs: not unusual but on the bright side the saving in VAT more than paid for the shipping.

 

I’ve also had exceptional help from Martin Logan in guiding me through the refurbishment of my Arius speakers, supplying new stators and condensers and constant emails back and forth.

 

So now to my need for further advice. I’m happy with my front end: Pink Triangle Anniversary; Pink Triangle d.c. power supply; SME 309 and Lyra Argo i and the ANT has replaced my ageing Iso HR.

 

I’d like to rewire the arm but have resigned myself to thinking that is just not possible over here. The Stello is being used with my laptop as server which sounds just as good as CDs through my Theta Miles plus Stello, and of course has major functionality advantages. Goodbye CD player and discs!

 

My amps are first edition Michell Alectos and they are the subject of my enquiry. I’m cabled for mono blocks bi-wired to the Arius’s and would prefer to keep it that way and spend the money on power as all my cables are in the high-end category, i.e. expensive. The amps are working well with no noticeable problems but I assume, fifteen years or so on, there are amps that can make a step change improvement?

 

I should mention my preamp is a Conrad Johnson 17LS, which a few years ago replaced the Michell Argo. It made a great improvement to sound stage and clarity. That was the first time I’d used valves and have no bias one way or the other as regards solid state or valves, my only reticence with the latter is sourcing the valves over here.

 

My big problem is of course auditioning, but there is not a lot I can do about it. On my brief trips back to the UK, the chance of setting up a system close to mine and then auditioning mono’s is beyond my powers of organisation. However, and don’t take this as too fawning, but you guys know the market so I will rely on what you suggest and take the plunge. I’ve been reading the magazine for years so have an idea what your reflections may suggest - I just need a push in the right direction.

 

My choice in music is thoroughly rock and it’s derivatives, electronic, ambient, reggae, new world.

 

Finally to budget. This will be my last big purchase, being an aged rocker. My Alectos were about £1,800 so a minimum of £4,000 seems fair. To make a meaningful advance I guess another £3,000 is to be expected, so between £4-£7000. As you will have gathered from the love of my Martin Logans, not rock friendly I accept, but I love sound stage, both depth and width. However, if you feel I’m fooling myself please say so.

John Rainey

Philippines

michell_alecto

Alecto amplifier - Michell can service  it.

 

There are two obvious paths; first is to get your Alectos reconditioned. You can send them back to Michell for a service, after which you might be surprised how good they are. Indeed Michell themselves tell me that they're about to reintroduce them, but you won't get them for £1,800 any more! I really rate the Alecto, it's a classic and shouldn't be dismissed too quickly.

 

However, if you're set on a big upgrade and have the cash to back it up, I'd have no hesitation - given your tastes - to recommend the Musical Fidelity AMS35p. The integrated version which I use is superb; aside from Icon Audio's MB845 valve amps (which may not be what you're looking for), there's surely little that can compare at its £5,999 price. This current crop of high end Musical Fidelity kit seems to be a golden generation for the company; I'm not a fan of every high end amp they've ever done but the AMS range is superlative. Oodles of clean power, wonderful timbral accuracy and an unremittingly musical nature. DP


IMPOSITION

I have found Steven Green’s articles about the imposition of poor quality DAB radio on us very interesting and informative. I am amazed and concerned that the government, the BBC, and BBC Trust can be allowed to get away with dumping inferior DAB on us and shutting down FM transmissions. It seems that the government and the BBC care nothing about quality these days; quantity and getting their own way seem to be their only concerns, as shown by the reduction in quality of the BBC HD television transmissions on Freesat - thanks for that, Steven, I had heard nothing about it until I read your article.  How disgusting, a HD transmission is supposed to be high definition, but it seems that TV is now suffering the same fate as radio; quality is being sacrificed, in this case so that Freesat is not noticeably better than Freeview HD when that starts, and to hell with viewers and listeners. These people are public servants spending our tax revenues, for gods sake! How dare they do this?!  They must be extremely arrogant and egotistical.

 

The BBC Trust in particular needs to have it’s remit reconsidered, as it is obviously shirking it’s duty to protect the customer.  The Trust seems to be siding entirely with the BBC and the pro-DAB fraternity and ignoring the needs and wishes of the listener and viewer. I wrote to the Trust about DAB quality and received the same fob off as others have. They seem determined to look the other way. I can’t see that petitions will have any effect, the government will just ignore them. Number 10’s response to a petition to stop the implementation of DAB radio says it all; “they think they are right”!

What gets up my nose is that they say that “the 9 million people who have bought DAB radios must have their investment protected” – what about the hundreds of millions of FM radios that people have bought! It’s all right to scrap all those, is it, wasting resources and money.  Typical of politicians, “I know what’s best for you, and I’m right, so you’ll get what I decide to give you”.  It’s no wonder that so few people bother to vote for these self righteous, pompous oafs, who promise 'this and that' when they want our votes, but do whatever they like once they are in power.  And power is what it’s all about, for them.

 

It is disgusting that at a time when we are being told we will have to pay more taxes and suffer cuts in public spending in order to put right the situation caused by the banks, the government and the BBC are forcing people to scrap millions of serviceable FM radios and tuners (including components like Magnum Dynalab high end tuners costing thousands) in favour of an ill thought out digital (that magic word they seem to equate to ‘superior’) system that is already obsolete, and spending millions of pounds of public money implementing it.

 

Not very ‘green’ either is it? (sorry, Steven, no pun intended!).  And when FM is switched off the FM tuner in my car will fall silent – I have no intention of being forced to install an inferior DAB tuner accessory. Classic FM take note – when you stop transmitting on FM, I will stop listening.

If FM is to be replaced, I expect it to be replaced by a vastly superior system, not just in terms of available channels and facilities, but in sound quality too. But what can we do to stop this debacle?

Rod Theobald

Rochdale

 

As you say, if FM is to be replaced it should be with something as good or better. Televisions get better and so do still cameras and video cameras. But audio expectations were slaughtered by AV (Dolby Digital), and the internet, MP3 and itunes didn't raise expectations either. Perhaps we can prevent radio sliding downward too.

 

The BBC seem to have become fad driven, completely forgetting what lovely quality and adequate variety VHF/FM has to offer. In selecting DAB they became transfixed by the need for 'digital', even when digital wasn't better. I suspect adoption of one of the newer transmission systems within Europe, likely by Germany, may conclude their daft DAB escapade. NK

 

lord_donoughue

 

Lord Donoughue is as annoyed as Rod Theobald about VHF switch off. Like millions of others, his (Revox) tuner will fall silent for no good reason. He tells us he has tabled a question in the House of Lords about it and has further plans for action. So not everyone is happy about what the BBC are up to!

 

LP WINDMILL

My current system of Rega Planar 3 / Arcam Solo Mini / Clearaudio Nano Phonostage / B&W 686 speakers provides me with hours of pleasure and entertainment. However, it is starting to attract some unwanted attention from my young children. Upon seeing a spinning disc on my Rega recently my youngest son squealed with delight, jumped with joy as he shouted “windmill, windmill” and then made a grab for the RB300. A timely intervention by yours truly averted disaster but set alarm bells ringing.

 

My system resides on a two tier Apollo hi-fi stand but this is open and in light of the aforementioned near miss, needs some form of protection. Ideally I would like some form of lockable unit in which I could keep and use my hi-fi. I had considered a wall mounted unit but this was vetoed by central heating pipes. Despite climbing sales of both turntables and vinyl hi-fi furniture manufacturers only seem to make units which have the turntable sitting proudly on top of rather than inside them.

 

A carpenter friend has said that he could build a free standing unit in which I could house the stand and hi-fi. I spoke to a local dealer about this and they said that if I went down this path there could be resonance issues when using my turntable which could apparently have disastrous consequences. I am not too sure about the difficulties presented by resonance: would these only occur if the turntable was used whilst being completely enclosed? The free standing unit with a removable lid looks like the most workable option, when in use the turntable would have nothing around it.

 

Are there any alternatives that I have missed, or are there any solutions that you can suggest?

Looking forward to hearing your views and advice.

yours sincerely

Richard Slater

rega_p3-24

Is it a windmill or Rega Planar 3? It depends on how old you are.

 

There are always "resonance issues" in any enclosure, as there are deadly germs on public transport, but we take the bus in any case and I suggest you don't take "resonance issues" scaremongering too seriously and build a cabinet in any case! When a heavy acrylic dust cover is lowered it potentially becomes a resonant chamber, but it also reduces exposure to sound generally. Any enclosure will act in the same way. I suspect a really heavy chamber may improve sound quality. So my suggestion is to go ahead with your planned enclosure. Mount the turntable as low as possible, to minimise rocking motion on a bouncy floor (if you have one, as I do).

 

And block the ports of your loudspeakers to prevent toys from being dropped in by tiny hands! NK

 

TIPTON CALLING

Thanks for printing my letter in your February issue. I am fussy about sound quality, as you quite rightly say in your response. However, you missed the point which I was making. Musical Fidelity seem incapable of making affordable equipment. That is, equipment which the average person can afford without taking out a sizable loan. Roksan, Marantz, Arcam, Naim and numerous other makers seem to be able to manage this OK, and still produce excellent sound quality, and receive top rating reviews.

 

And I was also questioning the policy of using expensive metals for purely show purposes. They make no difference to the sound quality and, to me, just seem to appeal to the well heeled. My view is that an amplifier can look as basic as possible, as long as it sounds good. The World Audio designs would win no awards for looks would they?

 

When I said that the Musical Fidelity AMS35i was basic, I meant that it lacked power output. It seems a lot of money to spend on something which is so lacking in watts, compared to the other amps on the market. So, Musical; Fidelity will produce these amps and sell very few of them. If they can afford to do that, then the amps are over priced so as to make a large profit for Musical Fidelity. I am surely not alone in my views, but knowing hi-fi fans, I bet that few others will express their views in case they appear heretical.

 

On a different point, I was going to invest in BBC HD until I heard recently that the BBC had reduced its bit rate level. What is the BBC playing at? It used to be the leader in quality and innovation. But these days it just appears to be a puppet to the government.

 

What can we do to change matters? We should be able to influence policy because we fools are the ones who pay for the services. I listen to local radio sometimes. On Radio WM is a presenter, Ed Doolan, to whom I often send items from your excellent magazine. These have to do with digital radio. However, he hasn't mentioned these items on his show, so he must be gagged!  The ‘experts’ come on and waffle on about better quality, and more choice for the listeners, and anyone who disagrees is fobbed off with the usual absurd replies.

 

And now we have the scandal of HD TV that isn't HD at all. Thank god for hi-fi. Or will they now start to down grade the quality of that to suit hidden agendas? Let ‘em try!

Cliff Millward.

 

musical_fidelity_ams50

Musical Fidelity AMS50 - a lot of money for few Watts.

 

Well, I hope my review of Musical Fidelity's AMS50, providing just 40 Watts for £8,900 (M.F. claim 50Watts) didn't upset you too much Cliff! I'm afraid that if Musical Fidelity choose to make a low powered amplifier that costs a lot, it is simply their right to do so and for the market to censure it - or not. People are prepared and able to spend such large sums on a decent sounding amplifier. Heavens, I once thought no one in their right mind (except me!) would spend in excess of £1k on a pickup cartridge but apparently they are selling like hot cakes these days. And I have to tell you that the AMS50 actually sounds very powerful, due to its enormous grip and subsonic grunt.

 

I suspect you make Ed Doolan choke on his coffee by sending him Steve Green's challenging views on DAB and the BBC's antics. However, I also suspect that whilst the BBC seems resolute in its public promotion of DAB, it has been rattled by the cacophony of complaint that this has drawn, and that every Hi-Fi World reader who has joined in as you have, has made a valuable contribution in possibly altering future policy.

 

Shameful though that BBC Radio is unwilling to air such complaint. The BBC isn't quite as transparent and squeaky clean as it tries to make out and whilst I love their production values, their ethics aren't so pleasant.

NK


COMPUTER AUDIO

I have just bought a new desktop PC and am loathe to connect to my stereo amp’ (Rega Elex) using a mini jack and phono inter-connects. My experience is that after a while the heavy interconnects cause the mini jack to become wobbly and eventually the connection goes.

 

I am keen to get the best in terms of stereo from my PC and mainly listen to audio and video clips from the internet. Please could you advise me of the most straightforward (and cost effective) way.

 

I am guessing I will need to upgrade the sound-card to improve the potential sound and have seen some ‘audiophile’ ones with phono outputs on them. Would I need a DAC as well to connect to my hi-fi amp or would the soundcard produce an analog out signal?

many thanks,

Mark Sweet

 

Hi Mark - there are a great many ways of doing this, and indeed we plan to cover them in a forthcoming issue of the magazine. Meanwhile, the simplest thing to do would be to buy a Musical Fidelity V-DAC (£150), which has a USB input. Take the sound out of your PC via USB and directly into the V-DAC, which then goes into your line input on your Rega Elex via RCA phono leads. This will give you a good standard of computer audio playback. DP

 

CASTLE REBUILD

I purchased Castle Warwick 3 loudspeakers second-hand 5 years ago. Recently the drive went in one of the speakers and unfortunately I found out to my dismay that Castle Audio had gone into liquidation. Would you know where I could purchase a replacement driver, or if Castle were taken over by another Company? I have tried ebay with no success to date.

I would be most obliged if you could offer me any assistance.

Hugh Mc Nulty

castle_knight_5_speaker

Castle are back in the market, now built by IAG to reproduce the original Castle sound. Here is the Knight 5, using TPT non-resonant bass loading, not a port.

 

Readers will be pleased to know that Castle speakers are still alive and well and will be re-introduced to the UK market after the Bristol show this year.

In the meantime please contact IAG UK Service Department, Unit 4, St Margarets Way, Stukeley Meadows Industrial Estate, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 6EB, Telephone 0845 4581122 for all spares enquiries. We cannot promise support for all legacy products but will do our best!

best wishes,

Peter Comeau, IAG.

 

CLASS A

I have been an avid reader of Hi-Fi World for many years and always appreciate the impartiality to the various products that are reviewed each month. The review of the Musical Fidelity Class A transistor amp in last month’s issue was very interesting and detailed as usual. I hope you don’t mind my thoughts on this, but it might have been useful to have been given some sort of comparison with the only other Class A UK manufacturer, Sugden.

I appreciate that the Musical Fidelity is much more expensive but all the same both amps are Class A and as I am about to consider buying such an amp for my new system, the considerable cost difference is very important to me in these difficult, economic times.

John Turkie

 

Well, as you say, it's not fair comparing the £4,135 Sugden IA4 with the £7,000-plus Musical Fidelity AMS35i, but I'll try! The Sugden is a superb amp at the price, inasmuch as it offers a truly clean and open window on the world in the way that only a serious Class A amplifier can. It has air, space, pace and grace - although the latter is a little lower down its list of fine qualities; in a revealing high end system it can sound a touch brightly lit. It's not harsh and hard like most high end Class AB fare, it's just as if someone's turned the contrast up a little too much on the telly. It's ideal for vinyl or smooth sounding speakers, but can 'set off' a system that was always going to be forward.

 

The Musical Fidelity builds on this, turning the contrast down a tad and adding a fuller, more barrel chested bass. It's also musically more lucid, approaching that of a good tube amp. There's a lovely texture to this amp; via speakers with uncoloured drive units (i.e. high end Martin Logans) you can hear right into the recording as if the sound was translucent. It's really lovely and this, allied to real punch and dynamic ease, makes it a stunning 35 Watter. I almost feel embarrassed to be so effusive about this amplifier, but certainly in my system it's magnificent. I've been looking for something to truly work with my NS1000Ms for nigh on fifteen years, and this is it. Think of the Sugden as the first step to solid-state perfection, while the Musical Fidelity could well be the last for many people. As for the AMS50 power amplifier, I suspect this would truly be the ultimate, but as Noel won't let me leave the premises with it, I can't yet say! DP

 

IN WALL

To begin with, thank you for the excellent magazine. I discovered it in the mid 90s, and read it religiously until the early 2000s when other things in life began to take over my time and money. I decided to buy a subscription last year, and now look forward to each new issue. After an absence it’s interesting to see how the enthusiast driven essence of the publication is unchanged. I do miss both the DIY supplement, and the excellent Rock & Pop record review section, which influenced the purchase of many CDs, but can understand why they are no longer included.  I was almost shocked to recently see a photo of my Philips 14-bit CD player whose sound I have always enjoyed, and finally an explanation why I enjoy it!

 

As a self respecting hi-fi enthusiast who grew up in the cassette era, there was no chance I would consider a dual cassette deck, but your recent review of the Sony TC-WE475 strongly influenced its purchase. I couldn’t be happier to have a decent sounding deck which doesn’t require new belts, head cleaning, azimuth adjustment, contact cleaner sprayed in all the controls and switches, etc. only to find out that electrolytic capacitors are failing, or some unavailable idler wheel is getting dry, and I need to again risk inhaling a fatal dose of rubber re-nu to keep it going a little longer!  I will use it to make cassettes for my WM-EX615, and my 1990 Mazda Miata, as well as listen to tapes from my collection.

 

I am writing to ask for advice on two subjects. First, I would appreciate your suggestion for a good circuit for a moving magnet phono preamp. I would prefer to build rather than buy this one. I have a Clearaudio Emotion + Satisfy, and an Aurum Classics Wood MM cartridge. I also have a Thorens TD-124/II, SME3012, and Shure setup which it will likely also be used with. Basically, I am looking for something which is transparent, low noise, and has accurate RIAA equalisation and a warp filter, as my Tannoy Saturn S6 speakers go quite low, and are a bass reflex design. Being compact and solid state would also be preferable, perhaps even battery powered.

 

The second subject is a request. Having recently done some home renovations, the subject of in-wall, and in-ceiling speakers has come up. It appears the state of the art has advanced significantly in the last 10 years, with many quite expensive options being available. I heard a very nice sounding installation which paired B&W in-wall speakers with Linn electronics. Ninety five percent of the information I have found is either written as advertising, written with a focus on home theatre, or written by people with no real knowledge of audio. I would be very interested to know what the people of Hi-Fi World have to say on this subject, and if any articles are planned, or maybe there was one, and I missed it. Namely, how to place the speakers for 2 channel use, if good sound from ceiling speakers is even possible (there are high end ones out there!), tips for installation, etc.

Max Holubitsky

Canada

 

P.S. I know it is a little late to ask, but where is the soldering iron I was awarded in the December 1995 DIY supplement?  The amplifier I was asking for advice about building then was successfully completed and is still in daily operation in my Dad’s hi-fi system.

bw_ccm816_in-ceiling_spkr

 

The B&W CCM816 can fire down at listeners from the ceiling, and is good for home theatre B&W say.

 

Hi Max. We don't have a library of solid-state phono circuits, but there are plenty on the 'net if you Google 'phono stage circuit' including designs attributed to Douglas Self and John Linsley-Hood at Elliot Sound Products in Australia and a discussion of RIAA equalisation at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~valveamp/RIAAStageDesign.htm. I suggest you consider building one of these. As always, you will need basic test equipment, like a volt meter and, I suggest, a PC with a sound card, running the free Audacity sound editor that can generate noise and spectrum analyse it to give frequency response. Computer circuit analysis is available from the free LTspice programme which, if you understand it (it's heavy stuff, meant for engineers), can provide deep analysis.

 

We have never covered in-wall loudspeakers and do not propose to. Building loudspeaker cabinets is difficult enough, but building walls is quite beyond us!

 

There's no reason why in-wall units should not give decent results, except for limitations of rear space. It is never good to have a hard reflective surface close to the rear of a drive unit, because rear radiated sound bounces off it and back out through the cone as a delayed (and coloured) signal. If there is plenty of space behind, then there is no problem. B&W discuss this and dangers of weakening walls when installing loudspeakers (!) on their website. Their in-ceiling CCM 816 driver is a Kevlar coned, tweetered unit tailored for "half space" use, as they put it, meaning bass output is lessened so as to be in balance when radiating from a flat wall.

 

Sound from the ceiling is hardly a portrayal of everyday reality though, heavenly choirs excepted. However, height info channels are discussed and even available in some discs; go to www.ambisonics.net and check out the subject of Periphony (height information). I see even BBC Research & Development have a modern piece on this fascinating topic, at www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/2009/10/ambisonics_periphony.shtml. where they say they "hope to evaluate the benefits of Ambisonics and Periphony". It looks like 'proper' surround-sound (sound field encoding) is coming up again in relation to 3D movies; who would have thought it? You really do need ceiling 'speakers for this, and perhaps for Dolby Pro Logic IIz synthesised height information. So perhaps we'll have to get out our masonry hammers after all and may soon be drilling holes in ceilings! NK


DENON DELIRIUM

Hi-Fi World has always been keen to review the peripheral items of hi-fi, the accessories, add-ons and upgrades. It is in this spirit that I would like to mention an upgrade that I have recently made and recommend it to others. Unfortunately, David, it relates to your favourite subject (object?) the Denon 103. It just won't go away, will it? It crept onto January’s pages in the Isokinetik Rega upgrade review.

 

Anyway, to the point. I recently returned to use a Denon 103D that I had bought in the nineteen eighties and has been out of use for at least twenty years. I liked the sound, but it was a little rough at the edges. Reading your Isokinetic review drew me to look in to their range of upgrades, specifically those for the Denon. I settled on the Cartridge Stabiliser - essentially an aluminium plate, with threaded holes, to which the cartridge is glued with the superglue provided. I did not really like the idea of gluing the cartridge to the plate. It is not really reversible. What the hell! Cartridge glued, I mounted it into my arm (Roksan Tabriz zi on a fully Bastinised Garrard 401) and reset the tracking weight, VTA, etc. The Tabriz counterweight just about coped with the added mass.

 

The sound? In a word - amazing. Far more solid. Smoother - those rough edges have gone. Better imaging and separation between instruments. Far less surface noise. For the minimal cost, one hell of an upgrade. So, for all the Denon DL103 owners out there, this is an upgrade that I can heartily recommend. I note that Isokinetik also do a replacement metal body for the 103 and do feel that you ought to review it. What was that, David? Over my dead body? Come on, put your prejudices aside.

Colin Topping,

 

Hi Colin, well as you know we'd never review it because my entire life's work, everything I've ever done, all my dreams and impossible schemes, have been about exposing the Denon cartridge for the dreadful transducer that it is! (Me commissioning a very complimentary review about it a few years back was a disastrous oversight on my part, and should be struck out of the 'Hi-Fi Hansard' that is our canon of past printed reviews. So if you have a copy of the November 2006 issue where Neal Gibbons gave it four globes and a pound sign then please shred it or burn it on my behalf!).

 

But seriously, as Phil Collins once wrote, I do like the Denon. It's great value, has a distinctive sound and is tweakable. Indeed, I even bought one myself. But 'like' is as far as I'll go, as there is - in my view at least - much better at or near the price. I think me refusing to lavish verbose praise on it at any given opportunity must be what's annoying its fans (or should I say 'disciples of the faith')? I take on board your comments; they're gratefully accepted in the spirit in which they're intended. I'd also like to try a rebodied DL103, but ideally I'd like to try a re-stylused one, as those are my two biggest 'issues' with it. But then it wouldn't be a DL103 anymore, would it? I better shut up know, before I offend even more Denonistas! DP

 

Hello Colin. We know about the Denon DL103 fan club and "what a bargain it is". A moving coil cartridge for £100 or so that tracks so well, so preserving records, whilst offering flat frequency response and an even tonal balance is, I suppose (sniff!), amazing. However, it has overblown bass and a stylus little more finessed than an agricultural implement. A dealer told me the other day he sold them 'hand over fist' – but that he hated its sound! When I asked what he would recommend from his experience, he was emphatic in praising the Audio Technica AT OC9 MLII and the new III.

So there you are. I feel mean to say anything against the poor old 103, because at the price it does give strong 'whiff of moving coil'. Unfortunately, I felt Nellie the Elephant could put on a more subtle performance in my lounge and so must join David in his 'prejudices'. I am glad you like it though; I know many others do and if the DL103 brings musical enjoyment to so many, who are we to criticise perhaps? NK

 

REGA REGALED

As a highly-satisfied long-term user of the Rega RB300 tonearm, I was intrigued by the reviews of the Rega RB1000 and the RB251 in your March issue. I refer to the ‘Measured Performance’ boxes and the arm vibration graphs provided by Noel. Like Noel, I too was fooled at first into thinking that these are indeed structurally different arms but the graphs don’t lie. The graphs for the RB1000 and RB251 are exactly the same! I briefly toyed with the possibility that there had been a mix-up in your office but this was quickly dismissed as highly unlikely. Noel’s commentary on the graphs adds further confusion but I have difficulty reading the frequencies off the log scale and, frankly, I’m not surprised that Noel does too. Have you ever noticed just how very similar all the Rega arm variants look?? I now understand why Rega sells the RB1000 without paint: to save the cost of the paint (of course!) and, moreover, to deceive us and charge the punters over seven times the going price for a RB251. Mr Gandy, sir - you are undone!!

Regards

Alan Warren

 

bk_accelerometer

 

Measuring vibrational behaviour of a Rega arm at Hi-Fi World, using a Bruel & Kjaer accelerometer. More...

 

Er, yes. Perhaps so Alan. It’s always been the case that budget models make least cash profit, whilst upmarket models, if they sell, rake it in. But let’s look at the wider picture, because it is a little intriguing and may not be quite what you expect.

 

Chatting the other day to someone who knows the Rega arms well, I said I was surprised that with the obvious and  clearly stated success of the RB300 (Rega say on their site that the old dies wore out after 100,000 operations!) no one had ever tried to mimic or improve on it. His reply? “They can’t; he sells them at a price no one can match”. Interesting, no? It is true the RB300, now the RB301, is disproportionately good for the price. It’s a simple but beautifully executed piece of engineering, a one piece casting, that is easy to fit, lovely to use and does its job impeccably. And it costs peanuts. I suspect it is under priced to maintain market share, quite frankly.

 

The more expensive models share the structure and its vibrational signature, but the bearings are improved Rega say, as well as the leadout wires. They are better I feel certain, but proportionately so? Perhaps not. Somehow, because the basic arm is so cheap I really can’t find it in myself to complain much about this; so Rega rob the rich to feed the poor we might say? Perhaps we should just enjoy the fact that the RB301 is so good for so little. NK

 

rb301cadenza_red

 

An arm vibration analysis of the RB301 with Ortofon Cadenza Red tested in this issue - a super clean result.

 

RECORDING FM

I now have a Naim NAT05 tuner fed signals via a Galaxy 17 aerial and would welcome your recommendations on a recorder, new or second hand, that will record 2 hours of radio while I am out, i.e must have inbuilt timer or will start via off board timeswitch, via the analogue outputs of my amp.

thank you.

regards,

Norman Undercroft

 

sony_elcaset

 

Sony EL-7 Elcaset, an easy to use, high quality recorder, with timer start. Quality would shame modern recorders - if there were any!

 

I am not aware this can be done anymore Norman. Funny new world we are living in! The only new cassette deck is Sony’s TC-WE475, but it does not have the timer facility you require, and in any case 120 minute tapes were fragile. Best to get all modern fangled, go to the radio station website and download what you want. Of course, quality will be crap, usually MP3 running at 128kbps, but then it’s ‘digital init’, and that’s as far as the mindset goes nowadays in broadcasting. The quality you get from your Naim NAT05 fed from a Galaxy is now little understood or appreciated.

 

There is, however, a rising backlash against all this as people realise that once simple, hassle free pursuits like recording a radio programme have been made impossible for reasons no one quite seems to understand, or appreciate. Thus, cassette is now on its way back around the world, it appears.

 

What next? I suspect open reel, because of its vast flexibility and potential for professional recording purposes. Quality can be continually improved, where with digital recording systems it cannot, meaning everything has to be junked when a new better scheme arrives - and we have seen how popular that has been with CD’s replacement, and with DAB.

 

I was even being assured, the other day, that the Sony Elcaset could be revived. Apparently there are plenty of tapes available and EL-7s are, for the time being at least, available and affordable. There’s a thought for you - and it has timer recording! Bemused readers please go to www.thevintageknob.org /SONY/sonyvault/EL7/EL7.html, where you can see a lovely Sony brochure shot of this machine. Elcaset had fabulous quality of course and would do your NAT05 justice. NK

 
Comments (1)
Speaker matching with Lumley ST70
1Saturday, 02 July 2011 09:06
Mike Ford
The Output transformers on The Lumley ST70 have 4 ohm taps but these are not wired to the output terminals as standard. A competent technician should be able to alter the connections to 4 ohms.

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