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November 2010 issue - Page 3

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November 2010 issue
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NEW DIMENSIONS AND SONICS

I am a born again hi-fi enthusiast. Nearing completion of an extension to my lounge area I am seeking comments from the experts in two basic areas.

Firstly the equipment. It is predominantly Naim – Naim Supernait, Naim CD 5 X, Naim Hi Cap, all on Naim Fraim. The mains conditioning cables and interconnects are Russ Andrews and the 'speaker cables are the Kimber 8TCs. The 'speakers are PMC OBIs.

I have a galleried open lounge of approximately 24 by 12 feet to which has been added, a little to the side, an area of 12 by 15 feet. It is all open plan with no doors between new and old lounge. The height of the lounge at maximum in gallery is 20 feet. All the hi-fi will be in the newly added 'music room'. Can you advise on my current equipment which is all less than 2 years old?

My listening pleasures are varied from classical east and west, to jazz and Rock music, especially guitar music a la Hendrix, Clapton, Knopfler. I have a good CD collection but prefer my vinyl collection going back to the 70s! I like a solid bass to my Rock music. Is there anything you would change – not too drastically – to improve bass response in the system?

Secondly, I have a treasured, probably dated, Michel Transcriptor Reference turntable with an SME Mk2 arm with a Shure VS Tv cartridge. I need advice on this aspect. What phono stage(s) would be suitable and would you change turntable arm / cartridge? I appreciate age of the detachable shell of the SME but could that work with a modern cartridge? Finally with changes in radio transmissions is there a tuner that would suit ?

Shindy Vasir

 

 

pl100

Monitor Audio PL100 Platinum series loudspeakers are sweet and informative.

 

 

Hi Shindy - yes, that's easy. To add bass to your system, change the location of your speakers! PMC OB1is are big, powerful floorstanders and not naturally bass light; if they sound this way then they've most likely strayed a little too far into the listening room; push them back slightly and see what gives. You could always upgrade the power supply of your SuperNait amplifier to Flat-Cap, Hi-Cap or Super-Cap, and this would also yield stronger bass, although the loudspeaker-room interaction issue is certainly a cheaper alternative and may prove worth fifteen minutes of your time before you go off and spend thousands of pounds! Another thing to consider is of course upgrading your CD player; if it's Naim you like then the CD-X2 is a great machine, although not inexpensive...

 

transcriptors-hydraulic-ref

 

A Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, like Shindy Vasir's.

 

As for your classic turntable, you could fit a modern arm but I think that it would look wrong; it would be kind of like putting 21" alloy wheels on a Jaguar E-type. Why don't you send your SME 3009S2 back to SME for a service; they do this brilliantly, and it's very cost-effective too. You'll get it back knowing it's giving its best. To this, add a modern moving magnet like a Goldring G1042, and you'll have a nice sounding source. At the same time, make sure the deck's belt is perfect; you can buy new ones from Transcriptors (www.transcriptors.net). As for phono stages, why not invest in a Naim Stageline for your SuperNait; this would be the most elegant solution. Tuner? It's got to be a Magnum Dynalab MD-90T, hasn't it? FM has now had an indefinite stay of execution, which means we can all go out and spoil ourselves buying a real radio again. See my review on p70; hopefully you'll not trouble yourself with dark thoughts of DAB again...? DP

 

Hi Shindy. That looks like a nice system to us, one purposed to have bass grunt. If speaker positioning does not improve matters then going for huge Tannoys, which cope with big spaces better than all else is an expensive option. Big B&Ws from the 800 Series like the 800D with its twin 10in Rohacell bass drivers are another one, but all this is big money – think £10k+.


Your Shure cartridge seems to have had a change of identity – is it a V15? Perhaps a V15 VxMR? Whatever, a Transcriptors Reference is worth £1k or so if in top condition. Fitted with an SME Series II arm this is a real classic and something to be treated with care. I would tend not to expect too much from the old SME though; their arm tubes rang like church bells, giving them a light ringy quality, reasonably well disguised by the V15 with which they were usually paired. Fit a brand new Goldring 1042 as it is very compliant and will not over excite the arm. It offers a fine sound at a reasonable price. NK

 

NAIM OF THE GAME

System: Naim CDI/Hi Live Interconnect, Naim 82/Hi-Caps x 2/250, Shahinian Arc 'speakers, Russ Andrews Signature Powerkords throughout, Ultra  Purifier Block Ag., Crystal 24 speaker cables, Torlyte Platforms.


I would like to upgrade my system in three stages: CD player, amp and loudspeakers but not necessarily in this order. I’m thinking of a new CDS3/PS555 but would I get a better system if I purchase a used CD555/PS555 for about the same price?


As for the amplifier, again would I be better off with a new Naim 252/Supercap/250 or, a used 252/Supercap/300 of about the same price?

For the speakers, I’m thinking between TMC or B&W- which model would be most appropriate or, do you have other suggestions? What are your advice about buying used speakers?


If buying second hand, I may not be able to get an audition, hence your valuable expert advice is important.

With any of the above combination, would there be a huge upgrade over my present system?


Finally, what sort of price range would you recommend should I decide to sell my CD player, amp and 'speakers for? The items above are all unmarked, in excellent condition and with original boxes and manuals.

please advice,

Aggie Yap

 

naim_cds3

 

Naim CDS3 CD player bettered by a CD555? It all depends, says David.

 

First, yes you would get a better sound via a secondhand CD555 than from a new CDS3 CD player, but this of course depends on the quality of the CD555; if it’s been hammered every day, bounced around in people’s cars all the time or been in a smoke filled room for long periods, it could easily be a long way from giving its best. As ever with these ‘new versus secondhand’ questions, consider what you’re actually buying. As they say in the car game, “condition is everything”, and this holds for hi-fi too. I’ve spent too much time with ‘distressed’ examples of high end hi-fi bought cheap on eBay, which sounds so bad a new factory fresh Cambridge Audio would run rings around it. So just be careful what you buy, if you buy secondhand...


This holds for the amplifiers too, although obviously it’s perhaps less critical because there are no moving parts to fail or lasers to die. With loudspeakers, that’s where your biggest risk is. There’s a long, long way between a new set of speakers and one that have had a decade to decay; cone surrounds soften, drive unit suspension atrophies and crossovers gradually go out of spec. My advice is - as with everything used - see, hear and feel the thing you’re buying first; do not buy it unseen as you’ll quite possibly not get what you thought you’d paid for.


As for telling you which loudspeakers to buy, I’d no sooner do that than tell you who to marry. Only you can decide for yourself; speakers are the most personal of choices. Find a good dealer; there are plenty around, and you’ll soon know when you’re in one. Call Naim Audio first; ask them to recommend a Naim dealer near you; at least that way you can hear any prospective new speakers via your existing system. Naim will also advise about the used prices of their equipment, which has famously strong residuals. DP

 

IN THE LIBRARY

Adam Smith’s column (July) reminds me that the Library of Congress in Washington, unlike some archives, always keeps its recordings in the original medium, only making transfers when required. Since the estimated life of LPs, for example, is several times that of CDs, let alone digital tape, this makes sense. In the 1950s, EMI made tape transfers of many of their 78s for LP reissue, then foolishly discarded the masters, which, apart from questions of longevity, made it difficult to extract more information as technology and transfer techniques improved, although some independent labels have managed it working from commercial pressings!

David Price, replying to a letter from Graham Thomas, is right about first pressings of LPs usually having the best sound, but I have found (and this will be heresy to some collectors) that Decca classical recordings of circa 1960 sound better on 1970s pressings, the remasters retaining the warmth of the valves in the original chain, but with more incisive highs from the later transistorised cutting heads (also, they had problems with lower frequencies on early stereo heads). This changed after Polygram took them over in 1979 and Philips did the pressings on softer vinyl.

Mark Hodgson

 

Thanks for that Mark. I have always been impressed by the absolutist approach America’s Library of Congress have taken with U.S. musical heritage, kicking up a stink over music being consigned to data reduced MP3 form (and suchlike), when ‘compression’, more accurately termed ‘data reduction’, was the current big idea in the 1990s (how trivial some of these things are in retrospect). They have turned out to be very right of course. It’s good to see the LP appreciated in this light too. NK

 

STURDY CASTLE

I recently purchased a Bose 5.1 ‘system’ , but remained dissatisfied with my music time. A close friend, who takes his music very seriously and has spent a huge amount of money on his equipment gave me a copy of ‘Hi-Fi World’. The first item advertised I glanced at was a set of loudspeaker spikes at £700...


However, your magazine fired me up and I read the editions thoroughly as they became available. I sold the Bose, (at a big loss), put my wife on the streets and cobbled together enough to afford spikes for one speaker. I scoured the Ads. (Friday, that is), Amazon, and finally eBay...


For my money I purchased a NAD 5240 CD player, a Sony TA-FE330R amplifier and finally some old Castle ‘Pembroke’  standmount speakers. The speakers were faulty, and the NAD intermittently so. I had the CD player serviced and took the Castle speakers apart myself. I cleaned everything, soldered where necessary, and applied a lot of time to extremely well made outers. The wood glowed...


Everything worked and it sounds, to my ears, fantastic. The speakers were simply wonderful. Katherine Jenkins never sounded better, and Ennio Morricone brought Clint into the living room. I am simply thrilled.


I did, after reading your so-useful articles, clean all my fuses, and their copper cradles, bought some Heavy Atacama 4 pillar stands, purchased some high quality Oxygen Free cable, and high quality cabling for my iTouch cradle.


My audiophile friend was extremely impressed, particularly considering my total outlay was a bit less than £300, including the servicing. I can enjoy your magazine even more now and will gradually upgrade my components as the opportunity arises. I shall not be in a hurry to swap the Castles though – were they considered to be excellent speakers? I can understand the sheer enjoyment that your readers write about in their letters and thank them for the tips and interesting topics which I am beginning to understand.

Arthur Russell.

 

library-of-congress

No MP3 here! America's Library of Congress stores orginal historical documents and doesn't like the degraded record that is MP3.

 

Thank you very much for your story Arthur – that’s just how we like it. An easy introduction to decent sound quality and the joy it can bring when listening to music. You’ve obviously put some care into bringing it all back to life and this does pay off. If you are enjoying the Castles, which are very nice loudspeakers, then do not be in any rush to change them. If you are curious try and listen to a few alternatives every now and then. Castles were always civilised and restrained, yet very impressive all round and there are surprisingly few alternatives even now. It’s a sound that’s gone out of fashion, more’s the shame, and that trad. cabinet work isn’t so common any more. NK

 

I really can't overstate the importance of correct set up for your system. I've heard some very expensive modern systems sound rubbish, whereas in the same building there were far cheaper ones making heaps more music. Get your system on decent supports (bought in or home made), clean all the contacts everywhere (isopropyl alcohol is a good start point), tighten up your cartridge mountings and/or speaker drive units and get the cabling nice and tidy; then take care placing your speakers. You'll be amazed at the difference a few hours of fettling can make. DP

 

HARD MUSIC

Like many people in this country who’ve worked hard I ain’t got much spare cash! I am currently putting my little girl through university, without her having to obtain a student loan. This adds up to around £12,000 per year.


All the same, I’m up to approx £600 saved or so and I’m looking for the usual ‘miracle’ asked of you. I have asked in the pub, hi-fi dealers, work and forums and all I get is different but ‘definitely right' answers. I have read your mag for donkeys years and never doubted your word, so here’s my system – a typical hard saved for, not high end but damn good sounding one.


I have a full GyroDec, Origami’d RB300 arm, Ortofon 2M Black cartridge on a Sound Style rack with wooden top shelf. Sugden ‘Stage Two' phono amp., Cyrus 8 VS2 amp. (since my old Naim NAT 140 blew up and I like it a lot – even prefer it!). KEF XQ1 loudspeakers sit on dedicated stands helped by REL T3 subwoofer, set very low as the KEFs reach down well enough. Interconnects and speaker cables are Chords.

 

clint-1

 

Bringing Clint into your living room, courtesy of Ennio Moricone's atmospheric soundtrack....

 

It sounds great to me and seems to play everything well. I listen to music from punk to Tchaikovsky, with even Coltrane in the middle. The areas I’m looking for improvement in are the impact and thump of leading note edges and the last degree of detail and separation between instruments when things get busy. The bass, soundstage, is beautiful and controlled and only on rare recordings does the treble become shrill. I have had moving coils from Sumiko, Audio Technica (AT OC9 Mk 2 which proved too toppy for my ears), Goldring, Dynavector and Denon, but for some reason my Ortofon gives just as satisfying a sound... I rate it very highly, yet I’m not against moving coils if that’s your recommendation.


My personal favourite upgrades include the Ortofon 2M Black, a Cyrus 8 power amp to go on the integrated (or maybe two later), a new arm and I do like the engineering behind the Audiomod Micrometer arm. Gyro mods - Michell told me that as far as the Gyro goes then a HR power supply would make a bigger improvement than the Orbe platter.

After twenty five years in this hobby and 3000 odd LPs and having bought loads of mid price stuff (LP12, Projects, old second hand Naims, etc.), I am now having to spend even more wisely than ever so I’m looking to max my £600 for an upgrade I can hear! I did say miracle but I’m sure if you guide me, the right component will make things even better. Then in a year or so I might bug you again!

Ivor Jebson

 

Hi Ivor. That’s a fine system and improving it unequivocally is a tall order. However, you do say what you don’t like, which is handy guidance for us, and I have a good idea what you are after. Trouble is, it doesn’t cost £600! More like double – and it is an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze moving coil cartridge. This has a lovely rich sound, yet it is sparklingly clear and full of dynamic life.


An affordable alternative is an Ortofon Rondo Bronze, a budget version of the Cadenza that doesn’t give so much away. Both have the levity you obviously enjoy and will suit the shiny top end of the KEFs. Yet both have a full bodied sound that is pleasantly powerful. NK

 

ortofon-rondobronzeaka-mc30

A smooth, full bodied sound for £600 - Ortofon's Rondo Bronze.

 

I think the first stage is the HR power supply for the GyroDec, but before you even do this, get the deck set up properly. First, buy a new belt from Michell Engineering. Make sure the Gyro is totally level on what it's sitting on; don't use the deck's own level adjusters, so the springs can all work at an equal rate. Clean the surfaces that touch the belt with isopropyl alcohol. Set the springs so they bounce up and down evenly, without wobbling to one side or another. Take the dust cover off the Gyro, and take the spring covers off the springs. Tighten the cartridge up in the headshell till it's very tight. Clean the cartridge pins, and the arm cable phono plugs, with isopropyl alcohol. You should find a real improvement in clarity, this done. Then go for the HR PSU, and spend the rest on music - or your daughter! DP



 

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