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October 2010 issue - Page 2

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October 2010 issue
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Page 6 - Mac Mini
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RELAXED MONITORs

A new 'speaker and amp is needed! My big problem – my room! I can arrange the speaker a maximum 30 cm. before the wall and they have to fill the room up to 3.5 m. to the listening position. I have a square room with 4.8 m. (listening side) to 12m. So I would say a large room. On the one side you have complete glass (to the garden) and on the other side a lot of room (it is a living room with the kitchen inside). You see not easy. I search for a relaxed monitor sound - not too analytic - for hi-fi listening.


I like all kinds of music.... I like sometimes to hear loud, but mostly I listen in moderate volume. I search for smaller 'speaker which must stand on my sideboard or hang on the wall, maybe later with a subwoofer. It is for Stereo Listening. I'm not interested in multiroom. Existing hi-fi equipment: I have an Olive Opus 4 HD (CD-player, Internet radio, CD-Burner), also a turntable dps 2 with dps Rega RB 250, Lyra Dorian and Tom Evans Microgroove +.


What speaker and what amp should I look at? Or do you think active speakers? What would you think? Can you help me?

kind regards from Germany

Gerhard Geipel

 

kef-iq30

KEF iQ30s are a large stand mount loudspeaker able to provide even sound at good volume through a large room

 

Hi Gerhard. I assume you mean a rectangular room 4.8m x 12m, which is big enough to include a kitchen and is a very big space, as you say. To fill this space with good volume, not too loud, you really need large loudspeakers. The smallest you should consider are large volume stand mounters like KEF iQ30s or B&W 685s, both available in Germany for around €500 I believe.


The ideal loudspeaker for you I review in our next issue: it is the Revolver Screen 3 panel. It goes loud, has an easy sound and will hang on a wall. If it is in your budget, do try and listen. Alternatively, look at an Elac AM150. In my experience Elac loudspeakers represent superb German engineering and would be at the top of my list in Germany. If their sound is too bright / vivid, then listen to Spendor SA1s. These offer a gentle monitor sound. NK

 

CLASSIC TURNTABLE ADVICE

My main system consists of EAR Acute CD player, and ATC SCM50 active speakers.

I am now busy putting together a second vinyl based system, primarily because of the resurgence of vinyl and to have a bit of fun.

To this end I have acquired a Thorens TD135 with Ortofon S15T cartridge in good condition. I have also been lucky enough to buy a Tandberg 3002 pre-amp, and Musical Fidelity P180 power amps, with external power supply for next to nothing. I am currently using Arcam Muso speakers with the set-up.

There is some bearing play in the BTD-12S tone arm and it was poorly rewired by the previous owner. Could you advise if an alternative arm could be fitted, and if so what do you recommend?


I would also appreciate advice on a cartridge change. The S15T is still in good condition, but not sure how it would stack up against a modern budget cartridge like the Ortofon 2M Blue for example.


Alternatively, maybe I should cut my losses, sell the Thorens and buy either Planar 3 / Technics SL 1200, or Project RPM5.1.

Your advice will be appreciated.

Douglas Henning

 

technics-sl1200-mk2upgrade

Technics SL1200 with Rega tonearm, an excellent combo.

 

It sounds like the Thorens needs restoring and should find a suitable home. I would advise you to cut your losses and buy a Rega P3-24 and the best of the Ortofon 2M Series cartridges you feel you can afford. Just bear in mind the 2Ms are quite bright and forward, because there is no upper midband droop. More forgiving are the Goldring 1000 Series cartridges, and a 1024 is always a good choice. NK

 

At this price point, my choice would be a Technics SL1200 with a Rega RB251 arm (on OL armboard) fitted and the cartridge of your choice. The Rega is excellent, but when re-armed, as it was, the Technics offers a far more powerful and propulsive presentation, albeit a little less subtle. Either way, these two new decks will be streets ahead of your classic Thorens. Beware, however, as you may stop buying CDs as a result! DP

 

TABLE TALK

Thank you for the review of the Timestep SL1200 MkII / SME V/ Koetsu RS! A gift from a dear friend of a freshly restored Denon DP-45F has prompted my wife and me to get back into vinyl, and this sounds like a great choice.


We appreciate the speed stability of a Direct Drive turntable, but we're also McIntosh fans, and are therefore torn between a DP spec SL1200 and an MT10.

Can you give us any insight as to how these two tables compare sonically? Does the MT10 approach the musicality and midrange beauty of the modded SL1200? Does the SL1200 sound colored in comparison to the MT10, or would you prefer to say that the MT10 sounds artificial or less beautiful or hi-fi?


Does the perceived wow and flutter of the MT10 approach that of the SL1200?


Would you say that the SL1200 ravishes, but the MT10 does not? Or would you say that the MT10 sounds more accurate, and that this is ultimately more satisfying?

Of course these are subjective questions, but that's what I'm looking for: your experience in listening to music with these two turntables.

The difference in price is immaterial to us. Our current system includes the McIntosh 60th Anniversary System amp and preamp, and an MCD1000/MDA1000 Transport/DAC.

Thank you for any guidance you can provide!

Scott Kyle

 

mcintosh-mt10

The Macintosh MT10 turntable "is fluid and tonally warm" says David.

 

Hmmm... what an interesting question! If you’re MacIntosh fans and want to buy yourselves a lovely luxurious piece which will give you large amounts of pleasure, in the same way that buying yourself a high end convertible car would, then get the McIntosh. If it’s no holds barred raw performance you want, then it’s got to be the Technics...


The modded SL1200 sounds very different to the MT10, as you’d expect. It’s not as silky, not as beguiling, not as lyrical, not as sweet, not as cosseting, not as reassuring. But it’s faster, punchier, more dynamic, more explicit, more enthralling, more visceral, more arresting, more unnerving, edgier and sassier. It also makes all music a seat-of-the-pants experience, which is riotously good fun but isn’t so good if all you want to do is kick back and relax with a glass of the hard stuff, cigarette and/or life partner in hand!


It’s always hard to distill out the essence of the two decks without resorting to journalistic cliche, but suffice to say that both belt drives and direct drives have their own distinct sonic signatures, and both the McIntosh and the Technics are excellent examples of their respective technologies. The former is fluid and tonally warm, but ultimately lacks grip and dynamics, whereas the latter is crisper and colder, but has great energy and push. The MT10 seduces, the SL1200 (modded) amazes - hope this helps; now you’re on your own! Me, I’d have the Technics - but then again I like hi-fi to be a visceral experience and don’t collect McIntosh gear, lovely as it is. So you might think differently. DP

 

SQUEEZEBOXED

Recently I have thought a lot about the way I now listen to music and how this has changed quite dramatically over the past thirty or forty years. These days my sources of choice are vinyl and streamed audio, the vinyl being for more serious listening, leaving a collection of over 1000 CDs and a £1500 Naim CD5x all but redundant.


The purchase that pretty much changed everything for me was a Logitech Squeezebox 2, now replaced by a new Logitech Duet system which has completely changed the way I listen to music. It was also very reasonably priced and though not hi-fi in the purest sense, played through my Naim Nait 5i and Shahinnian Super Elf speakers can sound pretty close to the CD5x with a good quality rip.


With a decent DAC this system will sing and be a convenient alternative to my Technics SL1210 when I am cooking, or otherwise less inclined to change vinyl every 30 minutes. What worries me though is the way in which traditional hi-fi companies have jumped onto the bandwagon producing components costing thousands such as the £4500 Naim HDX. I had an opportunity recently to see the innards of one of these and discovered two cheap hard disk drives which retail at about £50 each.


How about the £10,000 AVI AMD9 active speaker combo? I recently read how one hi-fi enthusiast had tracked down the original manufacturer's circuit diagrams and found they had capacitors back to front and an incorrectly implemented protection circuit. The suggestion was the design was suspiciously like an incorrect interpretation of a Wireless World article from the nineteen seventies.


I myself had an issue with a Cambridge Audio Azur 640H music server which despite costing me £650 has been consigned to the attic after failing four times in just over a year, the fourth time being after the guarantee ran out.


I think we are seeing a shift from traditional hi-fi manufacturers to the likes of Logitech, Sonus and Apple who are far more capable of implementing computer technology and are currently making inroads into the hi-fi market. They are producing well made, well implemented and reasonably priced designs which are stealing market share. The Luddites among the hi-fi fraternity still worry about compression (which is optional) or that a Hard Disk Drive isn't as good as a CD mechanism when the opposite is true.

Hard Disk Drives are better because they are more sophisticated. Instead of reading in real time and guessing or muting what they aren’t able to retrieve, they keep reading and feeding information to RAM where a Checksum is done. The computer adds up the binary and when it has them it plays your music, and its exactly the same every time. Streaming music via a computer removes a chain of unnecessary mechanical interfaces compared to when a CD player is used and the less the signal is interfered with, then the better the overall sound.


So that's the science but it's a bit like this; if you fit a turbocharger to your car it will go faster. It might also go faster if you remove the hub caps because it’s lighter but which is the modification you would choose?

Garnet Newton-Wade

Wiltshire

 

logitech-squeezeboxduet

A life changer for Garnet Newton-Wade, the Logitech Duet.

 

Hmmm...  CD always used Reed Soloman error correction and it is quite powerful. Redundancy in the data stream isn't guessing. Granted, disc errors could overwhelm it and the Cambridge error counter in the CD-1 CD player did suggest errors could be high when the plating was dodgy, but the days of 'see through' CDs are over I believe. All the same, modern hard discs are in a different world, one 30 years more advanced where instead of 0.6GBs we have 1000GBs. But I still don't trust 'em!  NK

 

 

I think you're spot on in many respects; the digital world is moving to computers to store its audio, and the likes of the Apple iPad with its 'jazzy' interface will doubtless accelerate the process. Meanwhile, the vinyl revival continues apace, for those who like physical media...


I think the hi-fi industry is very much on a learning curve with computer audio, trying to find a way to 'add value' (to use that dreadful marketing speak) whilst staying cost-competitive. The Naim HDX is actually a very good example of a hybrid between the computer audio and hi-fi; its disk drives are the cheap bits, but rest assured its audio stages are on a level or three above those of your home PC. Whether it catches on or not remains to be seen; I think we're all currently in the process of 'negotiating' our way through the changeover. As for me, I've got so impatient with this snail-like process that I've gone back to cassette and am loving it! DP



 

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