July 2010 issue - Page 2

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In your group test of tuners in March’s issue you mention they were ‘...fed by a decent twig’. Well, ‘twig’ says a lot really. Surely the radio aerial, with possibly a signal amplifier present for weaker signals, could be regarded as being the equivalent of vinyl’s cartridge and phono amp stages? Then, we may have more choice and availability of aerials. And magazine reviews. Imagine going into a hi-fi shop to discuss an aerial/amp combination that gives a warm sound, or a bassy one? Or best matches a certain tuner? Should we give more consideration to the electrical/technical spec? And surely it would help if aerials were able to be moved - in direction and length - for best performance? And what about the interconnect, yes, the aerial lead itself? Is it really enough to use a piece of old telly aerial lead you found in the loft? Hardly oxygen-free is it?

Like a cartridge too, an aerial needs alignment. It needs to reject unwanted noise, while being good at pulling in the wanted. And it ought to be maintained for cleanliness to keep performing at its best. As for a signal amplifier, or connecting leads, those could be subjects in themselves.

As it stands, radio is the poor relation in these matters, which commonly go undiscussed.

best wishes,

Melvyn Dover.




Alexandra Palace aerial, North London, at night. If you live in London and want to hear DAB, point your aerial at it.


Ah yes - aerials! What a great subject. I agree with you that the aerial is the source as far as tuners go and like all sources the “rubbish in, rubbish out” maxim applies. To be specific, if the aerial feeds rubbish into the tuner, the tuner will feed rubbish out to the system, being unable to filter it all out. High gain aerials, that is the big ones with many elements (horizontal rods), have high ‘gain’ in the direction of the transmitter, but low gain (good rejection) to all other (off axis) signals. This reduces noise power over the bandwidth of the received signal, as well as rejecting a.m. interference from traffic, off axis transmitters and even DAB interference.

The down lead similarly should be good enough to avoid degrading this signal, by screening out all further interference, since it too can pick up extraneous signals. Good down leads will have low signal loss and effective screening. You can read an interesting observation on the sparse screen braids currently found on cheap cable at

A good aerial and downlead will, together, feed a strong, clean signal to the tuner. A point to bear in mind is that all VHF/FM tuners need around 1mV per station to go into full quieting (minimum noise) and this is quite a lot of signal. In locations where the transmitter is 20 miles or more away a high gain aerial, often atop a high mast for a clean line of sight to the transmitter, is necessary to get 1mV from the weaker stations. Ideally, a head amplifier will be unnecessary, but it may be a good idea if the cable run is long. A good aerial makes a tuner sound very smooth and deep in its sound staging. It’s an investment well worth making in my experience.

As DAB signals are often weak, a DAB aerial is vital in many locations too, to avoid the nasty breakup sounds described a ‘burbling mud’. DAB aerials are smaller than VHF aerials and mount upright. Sadly, because DAB Mpeg 2 compression is so crude, a technology from the late 1980s, there is less to redeem here, sound quality wise.

Popular amongst hi-fi enthusiasts are high gain aerials from (no www). And finally, for those of you interested in your transmitter, you’ll find a picture of it, possibly on some wind swept hill, at Check out the (desktop) Wallpaper section for some lovely scenic aerial shots, with countryside, snow, moon and what have you in the background. It’s amazing how romantic aerials can be! NK



Firstly, I like the magazine so much that my wife couldn’t escape the old copies strewn around the house.....fortunately she took the hint and for my birthday present took out the annual subscription!

So my question relates to the AudioSmile Kensai and what in your opinion would be the best amplifiers to audition it with - no dealer network makes this problematic. Audio Smile have suggested the Cambridge Azur 840A. You have lots of hands on experience, so I’d be grateful for some suggestions.

many thanks

Tim Jury



The Audiosmile Kensai, an amazing miniature with gorgeous sound quality, but what should drive it?


Hi Tim - a fine choice of loudspeaker if I may say, but you don't say what your budget is for the matching amplifier. Assuming we're talking around £1,000 then the Cambridge is a good choice, simply on account of its grunty, powerful nature and bouncy, engaging sound. The Audiosmiles do like a decent amount of Watts; a Naim Nait 1 would not suffice here! Actually, I am tempted to recommend the Sugden Mystro, on account of its warmish tonality and superbly musical sound; I really rate this amplifier and feel it could become something of a cult product, just like the AudioSmiles in fact. But this is only if you have a medium sized room, where the Sugden will drive them to perfectly decent levels. If it's a big room and cranium rearranging amounts of power you crave, then the Vincent SV-236 would do the job, as would the aforementioned Cambridge Audio if funds are tighter, or Leema Pulse. DP



I’m an avid but budget conscious audiophile. I have a recent tale to share, a statement to make and a question or two.

I’m an expat from New Zealand (proud home of Plinius, Perreaux, Image Loudspeakers and Theophany), working in Singapore. I’ve been here two years with my (self-admittedly) entry level gear boxed-up back home (NAD T761 HT amp,  Mission M35i speakers (in 5.1) & Velodyne CHT-12 sub. Don’t ask about the source).

I recently took another job, so it looks like I’ll be in Singapore for the next few years. This precipitated a move into some vintage gear. I managed to get a mint condition 3rd gen Cyrus 2 amp + PSX, and was very pleased with myself to see it on your January classics list! I’ve partnered this with TDL RTL2s. I’m using my DVD player as a CDP in the interim. I’m quite taken with the combo, especially given the very modest investment. The system is engaging and enjoyable.

This brings me to my statements. I think budget conscious audiophiles should always remember the 80/20 rule, 80% return for 20% investment (corollary of the Law of Diminishing Returns). Don’t invest in $1000 cables when your acoustic environment sucks. One of the best investments I ever made was an SPL meter!

The chap I bought the RTL2s from had power conditioning, expensive cabling and acoustic panels. I was left wondering “why bother?” however, as there was an easily audible hiss coming from the system (presumably his valve amp).

To my questions. Can you recommend any budget CDP or source options? Would my money be better spent on a CDP, or a DAC (e.g. the V-DAC) and use the DVD as a transport? Any other options, e.g. Rockboxed iPod with digital out playing FLAC?

Do you think my speakers are ‘worthy’ of the amp or perhaps letting it down? If so, what would match well?

Lastly, could I please request an in-depth article on the pros and cons of different DIY speaker designs; semi-dipole, transmission line & TQWT etc, aperiodic, reflex, open baffle etc.


Raymond Komen



KEF iQ50s are a tidy, modern floorstander that consume little space but sound good.

Ideal for budget systems


Hi Raymond. TDL RTL2s are way past their sell by date (as the person you bought them from knew!) and were not so good even in their heyday. You won’t get a useful return on that investment, but the Cyrus is a good counterbalance perhaps. Try budget loudspeakers from KEF (e.g. the iQ50s), B&W or Monitor Audio for quality floorstanders at a decently low price. I suspect all will be available in Singapore.

It’s all very well getting stuff cheap, but it isn’t necessarily a bargain and I’d suggest you try and aim for good value instead. The Musical Fidelity V-Dac is good value and you would be happy with it, fed from your DVD player, providing the latter is decent and does not suffer jitter – unlikely as DVD players commonly jitter. Believe it or not, measurement shows Samsung Blu-ray players like the BDP-1600 are jitter free and can be used as decent CD transports, using the S/PDIF digital output to feed an external DAC. This is a solution that may well appeal to you.

Valve amps in themselves do not hiss, unless a valve phono stage was in use and the volume was right up. All the same, best not to confuse hiss with sound quality; it’s better not there, granted, but you get surface noise and ticks and pops from LP, but also a great sound. The ear can discern one from the other. Since Singapore is on the equator and hot all year ‘round, you may have to silence the air con. if hiss annoys you!  NK


As far as front ends go, if you don't want to go the way of your DVD spinner and a modern DAC, then why not try a retro CD spinner? In your part of the world, a Teac VRDS-10 or VRDS-20 would be a nice way to spend a couple of hundred quid, or try the transport-only version, the VRDS-T1 plus a Musical Fidelity V-DAC as the ultimate budget new and old combination. These Teacs are superbly built, should easily outperform a DVD-spinner as a transport and have the benefit of spares support. DP


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