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November 2010 issue - Page 5

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November 2010 issue
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PLANAR TRUTH

I note with gladness your review of Magnepan MG12s but was disappointed it was not the MMG. The MMG is the direct descendent of the SMGa which was the model T of planar loudspeakers.


I owned a pair way back in 1989 when I lived in US of A but had to sell them to a friend when I returned. Recently I was given an offer I could not refuse on a new pair of MMGs and despite being perfectly happy with my current four pairs of loudspeakers accumulated over the years, I could not refuse.


Now I am very glad that I did not do the sensible thing and add another pair loudspeakers to my treasured collection of UK and Japan’s finest cluttering up my small apartment. There is absolutely no need to tell me that I am barking mad - I have already been reliably informed of that fact several times already.


The midrange sounds superb as I always remembered and it images like no other. The rolled off treble of the SMGa has been replaced by the brilliant treble of the ribbon tweeter. But it shows up the lack of extension in the bass - the older one was better balanced overall I think.

 

magnaplanar-mg12

Magneplanar SMG12, a planar magnetic loudspeaker.

 

What has been most amazing is the reaction of my non audiophile friends who showed absolutely no interest in such things before. It ranged from offers to buy them on the spot to one female acquaintance who exclaimed, “the sound is like in 3D” and requested my permission to take a photo of my audio set up. I was so impressed by this I wanted to marry her on the spot but I changed my mind when she informed me that the photo was for her old dad who was interested in such things!


It is also amazing that this innovative product with excellent build quality and a very sensible price comes from the US of A. I was under the impression that the captains of the industry in that country only knew how to make weapons ever more efficient at killing people or poor quality cars that no one wants to buy. If these captains of industry had any brains at all they should pay a visit to the boys at Magnepan and ask them how to make a superb product that has never harmed any one (except perhaps the sanity of my neighbours) before it is too late.

K. Fonseka

 

NAUGHTY NAD?

I bought this crock... It has a 'Phono' input (@ 300 mV), so after many troubles getting the NAD number (01483 545613), they said “you have to buy a preamp now because most people don’t have record players”!


Hmmm, so why does it say 'Phono'? This is a company gone profoundly bad. I think you should tell your readers that they deal with them at their peril.

Mark Deards

 

Hi Mark. This is not an uncommon practice, but it is a confusing one. It isn’t just NAD who mark an ordinary Line input as Phono, which it is not, unless fed by an external Phono preamplifier. All we can say is: buyer be aware. Happily, there are plenty of decent phono preamps around at not high prices. Cambridge and NAD make them, for example.  NK

 

ON A STAND

Having recently bought a second hand Unison Research Simply Four P, I decided to have it totally revamped by UKD. The amp came back like new and sounding superb (thank you UKD). My sources are a Shanling CD-T100 SE CD player and an Audio AnaIogue Maestro CD player/processor. My speakers are a pair of fifteen year old Mission 752s.

Although the 752s work very well with low powered valve amps, I feel that to get the most from my system I now need to part with them. I am looking at buying a pair of stand mounts because listening to speakers at various hi-fi shows the stand mounts really impressed me. My budget is around £1,250, of which some will have to be for stands, but this is where the problem starts. There are so many at this price range, trying to sort out which ones are compatible with my amp let alone auditioning them all is a nightmare. I do have a few in mind like Opera Primare, Focal 806v and 807v. Front ported speakers would probably be best as I have to place them close to a rear wall. I am looking for something versatile as I listen to a wide range of music. Any suggestions please?

Evan Southgate

 

Hi Evan. You have to be careful about this. The Simply Four delivers 24W per channel in sweet thermionic Class A Watts. Stand mount loudspeakers are not the most sensitive of things, needing more than 24W to go at all loud. Worse, expensive standmount loudspeakers are usually less sensitive than cheap ones. Super high quality monitors from KEF and B&W are over your budget; you may want to listen to a Monitor Audio Gold GS10 which when run in is smooth yet fast and detailed. Consider also Spendor SA1s, which would suit EL34s. As your amplifier has 4 Ohm taps it will be able to drive such loudspeakers, if not to very high levels. Far under your budget are KEF iQ5s mini-floorstanders which, with reasonably good sensitivity, a nice clean sound and near wall placement would do a nice job for just £430. I think I am right in saying new iQs are coming soon, though. NK

 

DEALERS DO IT

I suppose nothing illustrates more the need to find a good hi-fi dealer than conflicting reviews in different hi-fi magazines. In a recent group test of CD players in Hi-Fi World, the Cyrus CD8SE came out top. In a similar review in another publication (blind listening) the Roksan Kandy K2 came top of the pile. Likewise your own review of the Triangle Antal Ex speaker was glowing, whilst another review in a group test was altogether tamer.


In a sense it also raises the question what actually is the job of hi-fi magazines, one which I am not going to try and answer here, but I guess to a greater or lesser extent we like to see a good degree of agreement amongst ‘experts’ in product reviews, so when different conclusions are reached it confuses us poor old consumers. So perhaps it’s best that we ignore reviews, trot down to our local dealer and hope they can guide us to our own version of audio nirvana.

Tim Jury

 

We do constantly beseech readers to listen for themselves Tim, for between good products final choice is a matter of taste. The system and circumstances in which they are reviewed also enter the equation. This is where it is important to trot down to a dealer and have a listen, always assuming the dealer can demo in an appropriate environment with suitable partnering equipment. The products you mention all work well and are valid final choices.


Magazines should be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, and also should be able to convey the merits/ demerits of a product. A fairly cogent example are our loudspeaker reviews, where extensive measurement is able to describe quite a lot of what is heard. This is more substantive than subjective only assessments.

 

unison-researchsimply-4

Unison Research Simply Four amplifier with parallel EL34 output tubes working in Single-Ended Class A. Power is limited at 24W.

 

Measurement isn’t able to say what any individual may prefer however, nor can it predict how a loudspeaker will interact with a specific room, although we are slowly getting a feel for this rather complex topic.

 

And then of course, perhaps most importantly, in this magazine we have what others think – as aired in these very pages! And that, as we all know here, is very popular and equally important. NK


Noel's quite right; we've never taken the "we tell you which hi-fi to buy" approach. Whilst it might be snappy publishing to pretend that we have every answer for every customer, actually we don't. All we can do is 'steer' potential buyers to the products we think they'll like; but this still means they should listen for themselves. There's no such thing as a product that's right for everyone, no matter how well it measures, and so your own ears should be the final arbiter. We're totally upfront about this, and always have been; read our reviews and use them as a start point for shortlisting what you'd like to listen to at a good dealer. That's the way to do it! DP

 

BBC PROMS

Today, I decided I was going to spoil myself rotten, by spending the whole day at home, listening to the BBC Proms - Bach Day, on my expensive hi-fi system. It was enjoyable at first, but as the programmes progressed, I became aware that all was not well; something was lacking, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As good as the Brandenburg Concertos sounded, they just didn’t sound the way my own records do. Instruments were not well defined and there appeared to be something smothering the music.


At 3pm, I switched off for the next two hours (World Routes and Jazz Library ) and switched back on again in time for the David Briggs Organ Recital, on the Father Willis organ at the Royal Albert Hall.


Whilst listening to the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV582, I noticed that the performance sounded somewhat flat and one-note. I could hear the tune, but it wasn’t very musical and sounded somewhat muffled.


Being aware - from previous editorial in Hi-Fi World - that there were problems with outside broadcasts since the introduction of DAB radio and given my own observations regarding Radio broadcasts on Freeview, I decided to switch on my Humax PVR and dial in Radio 3, to see what the broadcast sounded like on that. Even through my TV speakers, it sounded somewhat better, so as I now have my system set up to listen to the soundtrack from my DVD player, I flicked a few switches and pressed a couple of buttons and wound the volume up on my WAD K5881 Mk2 Amp, which feeds Quad ESL-57s.


The outcome was far beyond my expectations. The improvement wasn’t subtle; it was vastly superior. I could now hear not only the tune, but I could also hear the music. The muffled sound I had heard previously, turned out to be the Bass pipes and I could now hear the notes they were playing.

 

freeview-radio

Radio 3 on Freeview was best for Bach, says Russ Betts.

 

The rest of the hour passed too quickly for my liking, but at least I was now thoroughly enjoying what I was listening to. The organ sounded like an organ and I have sat in many churches and cathedrals in the UK and on the continent and listened to live organ recitals, so I know how they should sound.


So much for FM broadcasts from the BBC. Now we have conclusive proof, that they are compressing their output, especially from outside broadcasts. If this is an indication of what we can expect from DAB, then it is no wonder that the Great British Public is giving a large two-fingered salute to DAB and the government’s Digital Directive.


I don’t want it; most of my friends don’t want it and if talking to my local Currys shop is anything to go by, neither does the rest of the general public, as the recent ‘Scrappage Scheme’ offered by the new government proved. They had only one person who wanted to trade in his old AM/FM radio and that was only because it was going to cost him more to repair it, than it was worth as a trade-in. ‘Nuff said? ‘Nuff said!


Keep up the good work and long may you prosper, but most of all, keep up the campaign against DAB. Lets have lots more of those editorials.

Russ Betts

 

Hmmm... The BBC were experimenting with a high quality 320kbps stream for the Proms this year, available via their website. I wonder whether this had anything to do with high quality from Freeview. NK

 

I think the best government scrappage scheme would be to toss DAB in a skip. Then hopefully some check-shirted, hard hatted contractor could run over it in a JCB for good measure! Happily, metaphorically speaking, that's what seems to be happening now. I'm not a complete fan of the new government's cuts package, but one place they seem to have aimed it is at DAB, and amen to that! DP




 

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