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July 2010 issue - Page 3

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July 2010 issue
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BAD INFLUENCE

Over the last 6 years you have been a thoroughly bad influence on me!


Having completed a new room this autumn I have embarked on a few (more) upgrades. My front end now seems up to a decent standard, comprising Marantz CD63 KI with Audio Upgrades Level 2, Rega P3-24, Lyngdorf DPA-1, but my poor old Monitor Audio GR60 loudspeakers driven by a pair of bridged NAD C272s and an FB212 don’t quite fill the 7 x 10m room.


I have managed to source a cheap pair of PMC BB5s but need a pair of high power monoblocks to drive them. A comparison article including perhaps Bryston 28Bs and a retest of the Nemos would be interesting. If you need a test sponsor for the electricity bill call me!


Another area of interest for everyone could be an article on room treatments. My other half is very tolerant so I’ll be filling the room (had to be a conservatory) with ceiling cones and echosorbent panels but placement will be a bit trial and error.


Thanks for a great magazine. You’ve pushed me to re-find the joys of vinyl and now we both get so much more out of the whole CD / vinyl collection. Only reservation is that some of the family don’t appreciate the Frank Zappa collection quite as much as I do.

regards

Tim Cooper

 

tannoy-kingdom

 

Introduced at the High End Show, Munich, Germany this year, the new Tannoy  Kingdom loudspeaker, pictured here with marketing manager Tim Lount.

 

Thanks for the praise Tim - it’ll get you everywhere! Obviously, from your system you enjoy music and running vinyl does open out a system to give a broader palette of sounds and experiences I find. I love my vinyl, although not all of it is perfect by any means; in fact a lot is quite poor! But a good LP / 12in single can be magic in a way CD cannot quite manage. I am not anti-CD however; good ones are very good.


Your room is a fabulous size and this has many implications. Firstly, it is Tannoy size and I would recommend you find a good Tannoy dealer, like Mayflower, who can run a demo for you of the Prestige Series Yorkminster and Westminster Royal. OK, they are visually idiomatic, styled for the Japanese retro market. But sonically they are a race apart in a big room; how I love big Tannoys, but well run in (Mayflower say its takes six months to run in a Westminster, likely as the woods settle and dry). Of course there is now the Kingdom, pictured here at the High End show, Munich, where a 12in Dual Concentric unit is ‘assisted’ by a 15in bass unit and a supertweeter. That’s enough cone area to knock down a castle! Prestige Series ‘speakers are expensive but I would happily cough up the £9k or so for Yorkies if I had the room for them (and no neighbours).


A room your size will not be very excitable (i.e. it is well damped) because of its volume. Also, its resonant modes will be below those of the loudspeaker, starkly revealing the loudspeaker’s bass performance, unaffected by room overlay. Not all designers fully understand how their loudspeakers will room interface and you will hear some strange bass from many loudspeakers voiced for smaller rooms.


I’m not sure standard room treatments will have so much affect either, reflecting surfaces are so far apart. However, a conservatory with a lot of glass may well be problematic, due to reflections from the glass, and possibly bass loss. My first thought is to use curtains, if possible, that can be drawn across the glass areas, rather than the usual slats / blinds. Suitably lined or inter-lined they will keep heat in and provide superb sound damping, giving a lovely quiet and peaceful environment (I have a room with floor-to-ceiling curtains along a 17ft wall, to cover a Victorian bay, and when drawn they affect the whole room).


Bridged NAD C272s provide grunt, but not subtlety. Electrocompaniet’s Nemo amplifiers are subtle and easy on the ear, whilst possessing infinite power. You can just keep turning them up and their refined sound doesn’t deteriorate, an unusual quality. They are purposed for your situation and would be a fine choice. However, transistor amps are not an especially symbiotic match for Tannoys; valve amps better suit. I am sure you will have fun. NK

 

HEADPHONES

First of all, thank you for the recent headphone reviews, amongst which my current ‘phones, the Grado GS1000s were, it seems, well appreciated.

I was a little disappointed, on buying the April (and March) issues, to find no test report of the Sennheiser HD800s, despite their featuring in your ‘Next Month’ previews. Perhaps the review was delayed – let’s hope so, as I believe it to be a contender in the ‘best dynamic ‘phones’ stakes, from my (mainly online) reading.

I wonder if you could suggest a worthy successor to my current DAC, an Audio Synthesis Dax Decade, as DACs like the Naim and Chord QBD76 intrigue me – I am using a Cyrus CDXT SE as transport. Would you expect an improvement on the (in 1998 ) wonderful DAX?

John Hancock

 

Hi John - note that we always say, "here's what we hope to bring you" in our 'next month' page. That's not a guarantee, and the reason it isn't is that sometimes the companies in question have an unrealistic view about when their lovely new products will be available! I am often assured that product 'a' will be in by May, only to see it in July. It's part of life - they have the inevitable issues with suppliers, reliability and manufacturing, etc., so I don't blame them. But it does drive a coach and horses through our review planning from time to time!


In the case of the Sennheisers you mention, we have indeed had them in for review, it's now written and will be going to print in next month's issue. At the risk of putting the cart before the horses, the conclusion I come to is that the HD800s are surely the ultimate expression of the Sennheiser sound. This means super dry, tight, incisive and dynamic, but not as beguiling as similarly priced Stax electrostatic earspeaker packages.


We now have a range on new 'super DACs' from the likes of Chord, Naim, dCS, etc. which bring massive insight and analysis to digital audio. They're without a doubt a more intricate, subtle and nuanced generation than before, shining a brighter light than earlier generations of DAC on the recording. Whether or not you could say this makes for a 'better' sound is debatable. I for one love the Chord DAC64, which is a tad warmer, woolier and slightly more fuzzy than the later QBD76, yet somehow it's in no way less nice to listen to; indeed it's more euphonic to my ears. So is this better? I cannot say, so I suggest you go out and do the old 'dem' thing and go hear for yourself at a good dealer. DP

 

TAPE TOPIC

I’m swapping e-mails right now with a friend of mine who owns an Akai 1710L reel to reel and is enjoying putting some of his albums onto tape, and indeed listening to his many recordings, the likes of Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Kinks, Cream, Randy Newman and Van Morrison. Then he managed to obtain via a Freecycle site, umpteen hundred plastic tape spools, 5000ft of Quantegy 406 SP mastering tape, various reels of coloured leader tape, splicing tape, blocks and even chinagraphs. He declared himself to be in tape heaven. He was even offered a Leevers-Rich editing desk, with four manuals.We’ve been discussing Ampex studio quality tape and how to quieten Oilite bearings among other things.


In December’s issue you report how Dave Cawley and Alex Nikitin demonstrated their Akai GX625 at the Whittlebury Hall show. Revai Mativavarira in January’s letters told us how she’s putting the Beatles box set onto her Beocord 2000 reel to reel to give a warmer sound. In the same mag there’s a Uher 4000 in the ‘Olde World’ section.


In March’s issue you gave us a review of Sony’s brand new cassette deck. April, and James Hoover writes about his reel to reel exploits with his Ampex tape deck from 1966. ‘Olde World’ again features a tape machine, cassette this time.


And coming up in the next issue as I write is ‘Cassette reborn: The PHX Audiotape Story’. Well you don’t fool me. I know a tape revival when I see one.

best wishes,

Melvyn Dover.

 

struder-open-reel

 

Open reel tape is making a comeback as a high quality audio source. A Studer  A807 (left) was spotted feeding Avantgarde loudspeakers at the 2010 High  End Show, Munich, Germany.

 

Yes, I have spotted open reel recorders being used as a source at the Heathrow Show this year and at Germany’s High End Show. My picture shows a Studer A807 open reel in the Avantgarde Acoustic room, at the High End show in Munich, May 2010. High speed analogue tape is a very clean and impressive sounding source, even studio people agree. I’m not sure it could ever come back in the home, as using an open reel is a hassle, but they sure look the part. Sony’s Elcaset was the next best thing and more domestically palatable. NK

 

Nothing gets past you, Melvin! The country has obviously risen up to free itself from the tyranny of ones and noughts flashing across the memory chips of iPod Touches nationwide, and voted with their feet for a magnetic particle coated, polyester film based music format! The only debate now is which is it to be; fans are lining up behind two camps. First the hardcore 'open reelistas' to whom seven and a half inches per second on quarter inch tape is the absolute minimum for decent fidelity. In the other corner are the arriviste Compactistas, believers for whom 1963 was the 'year zero'. These folk can be seen buying the last remaining stocks of TDK SA 90s from Richer Sounds at 99p each, happy in the knowledge that their well set up cassette decks sound far better than anyone could possibly imagine. Me personally, I straddle both camps but I love magnetic tape and continue to use it on a daily basis; my classic Jag has a very decent OE tape deck fitted and it sounds superb playing back recordings made from my turntable to my Sony Walkman Pro. Tape can sound great, and it's still amazingly simple to use; just press 'record' and 'play', cue up that stylus and come back 20 minutes later to turn the record over; job's a good 'un! DP

 

CARTRIDGE CHOICE

My name is Norbert Goretich and I am a fan of your magazine. I like the Mail section very much where I can pick up valuable information about everything hi-fi. That’s why I write to you hoping that you can help me to find the right cartridge for my turntable.


I have recently bought a Logic DM101 record player with an Audio-Technica AT1100 S-shaped tonearm (with detachable headshell not included in the package). I have found some info about the tonearm on the internet and it says that the effective mass of the straight arm is 6 gr while the S-shaped one weighs much more at 12.5 gr. As I’ve learned from your articles, a low mass tonearm requires a high compliance cartridge to keep the resonance in the acceptable range (6-14 Hz). Although if the data is correct, the S-shaped arm is not a particularly light one. I would really appreciate if you could recommend me a budget cartridge that would work with my turntable/arm combination and if you could give me some info about where to find a suitable headshell as well.

Thank you very much for your help in advance and please keep up the good work!

kind regards,

Norbert Goretich

 

Hi Norbert. A typical removeable headshell arm comes in at around 12gms minimum, so the 12.5gm figure you quote is about right. An arm of this mass suits a good quality cartridge like a Goldring 1024GX. This is a balanced sounding cartridge with a Fritz Geiger profile stylus that gives excellent treble and a Pocan body that provides firm bass. Alternatively, try one of the Ortofon 2M series, like the Red. It is brighter than the Goldring but no better in its stylus; good, but not my favourite. Standard bayonet fit headshells can be bought mail order from Jerry Raskins Needle Doctor (www.needledoctor.com). You can find them in the Accessories section. Since both Ortofon and Japanese companies like Sumiko make such items, you may also find them in a dealer near you.

NK


 

radio-6-website

The sole reason for buying DAB is Stuart Maconie's "Freak Zone", says Boby Meyrick.


A TURN OFF

Ah, the irony! The day after BBC Director General Mark Thompson announces the closure of 6 Music and the Asian Network, I received the Government’s response to the e-petition protesting at the analogue switch-off. This quote made me laugh – “Listeners are clearly being attracted by digital-only services, including the BBC’s digital-only stations.” BBC 6 Music, and Stuart Maconie’s “Freakzone” programme in particular, constitute the sole reason for buying a DAB set. Whatever happened to joined up thinking?

Bob Meyrick

 

Well Bob, I received that obliging riposte from Her Majesty's last government too, via e-mail, and I can tell you that I was completely reassured by the thoroughness of their response - not! Just to paraphrase, for those who didn't sign up to our petition to 'switch off DAB by 2015', the official response went along the lines of FM being fit just for taxis and Digital Radio being the brave new world of excellence in broadcasting (my paraphrasing)!


I believe they forgot to mention the massive (£800 million?) switch over costs, rubbish reception, awful sonics (thanks to the Steam Age MPEG 2 codec) and limited number of stations (internet radio has 15,000 and counting, DAB has, ermm, 40)... I wonder what our new coalition government will do? Letters please to Jeremy Hunt MP, the new Culture Minister, care of the House of Commons, Westminster, to remind him what we think of his predecessor's position.


As for the end of 'BBC 6 Music', there's something very cynical inside me that makes me think BBC DG Mark Thompson doesn't have any intention of scrapping '6 Music'. The idea was to pre-emptively announce its demise, whereupon there'd be choruses of protest, which he could then present to the new Culture minister (which he correctly guessed to be a Conservative, with a tighter set of purse strings than his predecessor Mr Bradshaw, himself an ex-BBC journalist). It's only supposition on my part, but I'm not sure if BBC 6 has ever been seriously for the chop. If anything should go at the Beeb, it is Radio 1. All the other stations, to a greater or lesser extent, can't be replaced by commercial rivals, whereas Radio 1 can, so let it go!

DP

 

REEL BENEFIT

Your articles on vintage equipment spurred me to take another look at my Philips N4510 reel to reel recorder (circa. 1974). The last time I used it was 5 years ago when the recorder stuck on the rewind function. Hence it was consigned to the attic. However after some fiddling I’ve managed to get it back into working order. The problem is, when I try to record from the output (75 mV/600 ohms) of my Naim NAC552 to the recorder tape in/out socket (input sens.:- pins1 & 4: 2 mV/20 kohms, pins 3 & 5: 100 mv/2 Mohm, output voltage: pins 3 & 5 : 1 V/50 kohms) it overloads the recorder, creating distortion, when trying to record. Playback into the NAC552 is fine.


If I plug my NAT05 tuner directly into the recorder’s tuner input socket (input sensitivity : 100 mV/100 kohms) it records perfectly.

For convenience and flexibility’s sake I would prefer to record from the output of the NAC552. Could you advise me on the attenuation required for an interconnect cable?


I have to say I’d forgotten how good reel to reel recordings sound, and it’s a crying shame that this medium seems to have been consigned to history.

As a regular reader of your publication I love the articles on retro hi-fi gear; more please.

kind regards,

Graham Morris

 

Hi Graham. You quote two input sensitivities. The high one of 2mV is likely for a microphone and it is this you are overloading. Pins 3&5 you quote as 100mV in, as well as 1V out, so I presume these are inputs whilst recording, switched to outputs on replay. It is these pins that have what appears to be suitable line input characteristics. The tuner input almost certainly uses the same input route, switched through, and it has the same sensitivity.


If you cannot use Pins 3&5 as inputs then make up a special split lead taking the NAC552 output to the tape recorder’s tuner input, and the tape recorder’s output to the NAC input. I am sure this, or some similar arrangement if I misunderstand input conditions, will work, because the Philips recorder obviously has a suitable input; it’s just a case of finding it. It is not a good idea to attenuate down into the mic input, but a 10k, 0.125W resistor in series and 1k to ground will give you a ladder attenuator with 10:1 signal reduction that may well do the job. If not just increase the 10k resistor. Soldering these into a lead or DIN plug will be a fiddle. NK

 

DOCKED

A short note to let you know how very satisfied I am with this little gem, the Onkyo ND S1 I-pod dock, that I discovered through Hi-Fi World (Nov 2009). I guess more folks on the continent must have read your excellent magazine. Hi-Fi World, was IMO the first to report on the Onkyo ND S1. In Germany, where I bought it, there were 700 units in back order in December(!). It took about 2 months for Onkyo to deliver it and once I had one for myself, I connected it via the optical link to the DAC using a top Inakustik cable (Opto Shining S1), which costs nearly as much as the docking station itself. I have now access to about 2000 extra tracks of (slightly compressed / 240kbps VBR or 256 AAC) oldies. Unbelievable how good my Ipod sounds via the ND S1, really worthwhile...


My hi-fi dealer, Klangpunkt in Aachen, did not know about the Onkyo as he was convinced that Wadia had the only digital dock around, so I showed them my copy of the Hi-Fi World article. To them it was also a very pleasant discovery, indeed.


Although the Wadia is most probably superior to the Onkyo, the latter offers a better connectivity to my DAC. In my case it was necessary to connect via the opto link and the Wadia features only coaxial. So for the Wadia I would have had to connect via an extra coax-opto transformer which is presumably not favourable for audio quality.


In the mean time, thanks for continuously doing such a good job informing us readers on the exciting new developments in hi-fi. Indeed, we are currently witnessing important evolutions in both digital and analogue reproduction. I particularly enjoyed David’s article on the dCS Paganini. It sounded, if taken seriously, as if digital reproduction has a future and a lot is to be gained by optimizing the sampling and processing above the average of standard clocks, upsampling and DA conversion circuits. In that respect the work of dCS should not be underestimated.

with kind regards,

Rudy Deblieck

Opglabbeek

Belgium

 

onkyo-nd-s1-c-s5vl-a-v5

Klangpunkt in Aachen did not know about the Onkyo, says Rudy. But they do after seeing Hi-Fi World.

 

 

 

Thanks Rudy - we aim to please! All of a sudden it's a great time to be making DACs. When I started editing this magazine some seven years ago, I don't even remember a single one on sale, but now they're all the rage. Better still, there's some serious thought gone into the design of many of them, and good ones are cheaper than ever to buy, whilst the best ones are better than ever. DP



 

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