Banner
Banner
cookie-banner

December 2010 issue

Article Index
December 2010 issue
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
All Pages

World Mail    December 2010 issue        

 

Write to us!    E-mail –>     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Letters are published first in the magazine, then here in our web archive. We cannot guarantee to answer all mail, but we do manage most!

 

Or  comment in the Comment section at the bottom of each page.

 

Your experts are -

DP David Price, editor; NK Noel Keywood, publisher; PR Paul Rigby, reviewer; TB Tony Bolton, reviewer; RT Rafael Todes, reviewer (Allegri String Quartet); AS Adam Smith, reviewer; DC Dave Cawley, Sound Hi-Fi, World Design, etc.

 


 

tannoy-definitiondc8t

Tannoy DC-8. "I can confirm they are a lovely 'speaker", says John Hurley.

 

TOP KNIGHT

Thank you for the speaker recommendations for my Cyrus 7 set-up in the August edition. I have auditioned your recommendation of a Tannoy DC8 and can confirm that they are a lovely speaker. I even sourced an ex-demo pair from one of your advertisers for only a little above my budget.


However, in search of David’s cable recommendation I happened into Audio T in Cardiff. Mentioning my problem, they suggested I try the new Castle Knight speakers. They had a pair of Knight 5s, as reviewed by Noel in the October edition, on demo with Cyrus source and amplification in a room similar to mine so I had a quick listen. I found the bass and treble far too fulsome for my tastes but was assured that the stand mount Knight 2 had a different voicing and was the pick of the range.


Back in Cheltenham I arranged to listen to the Knight 2 at the local branch. I admit that I did not have very high hopes, but was immediately impressed by a sonorous quality which gives body to piano, strings and woodwind, a relaxed midband and the very even progression from mid to treble. This I attribute to different cone materials (not the aluminum of my Monitor Audio GR 8s) rather than warmth. The sound was not identical to the old Castles (which I found rather lifeless) but reminded me a little of a pair of large KEF Reference stand mounts I had temporary custody of in the early 1980s.


In a room 50% longer than mine and on the end of Naim amplification bass seemed a bit excessive and a touch woolly, although it improved with grill on and bungs in ports. I thought that what David described as the “dry and over precise” approach of the Cyrus equipment might tame this and so arranged a home demonstration.


Audition at home confirmed the strengths noted before and added new ones. Bass was now well balanced and tuneful and imaging was excellent. A major strength is the ability to play soft and loud without losing the character of the music. With my Monitor Audios there is an optimum volume for each recording (even for each track) - a narrow aperture between dull and in your face which is sometimes too loud. The Castles on the other hand are very even handed with source material and volume setting, and quite dynamic at all volumes, which my wife appreciates strongly as she prefers to listen at lower levels than I do.


This might suggest a degree of loudness contouring but this does not seem to be the case. A frequency sweep test tone from a hi-fi test record showed a very even perceived progression in my room. The only very minor drops in perceived volume were at precisely those points where speaker/ room resonances set in - certain high notes of the female voice and violin. Either this is extremely fortuitous or Peter Comeau is a genius.


There were of course losses as well as gains. The speakers are apparently slightly less detailed than the MAs though this may be a result of their evenness. Detail is still there, but is not spotlighted in the same manner. Bass is fuller and musical, it very easy to follow bass guitar or double bass for example, but not quite as fast. The upper midband and treble sweetens some voices and instruments a shade too much, Kate Westbrook’s voice lacking the underlying rasp I am familiar with from live performance. Brass too is very slightly softened with the merest hint of a quacky colouration. But a sweeter upper mid and treble is one of the things I was seeking so this is an acceptable compromise. The only serious casualty is harpsichord which on one record sounds more like a child’s toy piano, missing the authentic clang which metal domes give. But this is at least in part recording related and mostly harpsichord is just a little less precise.


The Knights are not in the same league as the Tannoys but given the price difference they would not be. I would not say they are better than my MAs but they are different in a way that suits my room and amplification better. The real wood veneer cabinet construction is almost as good as my MAs. At half the price I paid eight years ago for the MAs they are a bargain and I have bought them. I hope you find space to review them in a future edition because the Knight 2s offer a real alternative to the dominant sound of speakers.

Dr John Hurley

 

Thank you John - it's good to hear someone espousing the good old 'try before you buy' approach, allied to some careful system matching! So there you go - not a single mention of you buying a recommended 'fave rave' product online at a discount and then having to sell it three weeks later at a loss because it sounded rubbish in your system! DP

 

AN EAR FULL

It was the March 2009 issue that brought me to the idea of complementing my EAR 8L6 with a suitable preamp. That issue of Hi-Fi World features a test of the EAR 868PL preamp complemented with the EAR 890 power amp. Your review was quite enthusiastic about the dazzling speed, the delicious intricacy, transparency. These are audio properties I recognise from my 8L6, which has a beautiful transparency in itself. Could providing it with a suitable preamp lead to further sonic improvement?


My original system (mentioned in my letter in the November 2009 issue of HFW) consists of a EAR 8L6 integrated valve amplifier with Music Hall CD transport and DAC, connected via Nordost Frey and Silver Shadow. Loudspeakers are EdMa modified Phonar Veritas 5.5 biwired via Nordost Frey to the EAR.


In the meantime, I had found out that the pre section of the 8L6 is actually passive and consists only of the attenuator and the selector switch. Because the 8L6 has the advantage that pre and main section can be decoupled, turning it into a pure Class A push-pull valve power amplifier, I was willing to test run some preamps. It has to be said that I was rather sceptical, for I could not imagine that adding extra components in the signal path could bring me any sonic improvement. Very much like Noel claims in his column less is more in the same November 2009 issue. On the other hand, if this were true, why would Tim de Paravicini bother making separate active preamps anyway? Fortunately, besides a sceptic I’m also a scientist and so I’m open to new insights.


My first idea was to try the EAR 868L, following Noel’s review. But as it happens, my good friend and high end guru, Edwin Maas (Edma) from the Netherlands, who builds, modifies and improves high end gear starting from, amongst others, Audio Note kits, had a preamp ready for testing and so we did somewhere last April. Edwin also brought along a modified Audio Note 2.1 Level C DAC, to compare it with my Music Hall DAC 25.2, which I thought was performing nicely.


The first thing Edwin got rid of, after hearing my setup, were my very expensive Nordost Frey interlinks and the evenly expensive Nordost Silver Shadow digital link. He replaced them with, equally expensive, self made solid core silver, silk insulated cable, featuring rhodium plated, Inakustik RCA plugs soldered with Audio Note Silver. It turned out that although the Nordost was fine with respect to sonic detail, the soundstage was somehow unnaturally split into left and right. Also the sound was a tad too airy, a bit like the air on top of the mount Everest. The silver core cable brought back coherence and musicality without losing any detail, bien au contraire! Surely, this was the consequence of a poor impedance matching issue for which only my inexperience was to blame (surely not the Nordost company).

 

rudy-deblieck

 

Rudy Deblieck's neat looking system with EAR valve amplifier at top.


Anyway, with this set straight, Edwin coupled in the preamp and much to my amazement and stupefaction the effect on sound quality was huge. A wealth of extra resolution on an inky black background became audible. So, adding the preamp to my setup had really improved the sound. As a scientist I tried to explain this by an analogy with an electron microscope, where the quality of the pre-magnification by the objective lens is critical to the final resolution. Leaving the objective lens out (emulating the analogy of a passive preamp) will not improve the image, quite the contrary.


The sound was already hugely improved and I should have been happy, were it not that Edwin suggested to me to also try his modified Audio Note DAC. So it was done and the sound improved further with a clearly wider and a more focused sound stage, with more depth. The tonality also became much more musical, analog like and lost quite some digital hardness. This digital hardness I originally attributed to room reverberations and the sonic character of my very revealing Phonars. With the digital hardness replaced by a svelte, well resolved midband, I could start hearing the small nuances in the timbre of different instruments.


Needless to say, I was lost and in love and I had to have this Edwin Maas modified Audio Note gear. Being a really good friend, Edwin built the preamp and the DAC combination for a friend’s price which allowed me to acquire both at the same time, although it was still quite a drain on my finances so shortly after acquiring a new setup (less than a year ago), for high end components are not really cheap.


Currently, I am the proud owner of a beguiling sounding setup that is continuously improved as Edwin comes up with more or less affordable upgrades such as internal silver wiring, high end potentiometer, audio grade Vishay resistors in critical places (these perform even better than the famous AN tantalum resistors), a modified preamp valve, higher end audio grade capacitors in critical places and so on...


The very nice thing about this is that now I am able to upgrade my sound by spending amounts of the order of 200 to 500 Euro without having to sell former equipment and acquire new stuff at full high end prices.


Needless to say that I became very fond of the effortless, natural, organic sound that comes out of my upgraded setup that is obviously the product of good old UK based engineering, by the Tim de Paravicini and Audio Note, lovingly modified by my good friend Edwin Maas.

Rudy Deblieck

Opglabbeek

Belgium

 

Thanks for that Rudy – another interesting epistle. Rafael Todes just phoned me and we ended up talking about the sound of (Danish) Jensen capacitors and how good / beguiling they are. I see you are going the same way. In the end the science has to take a back seat to the experience. I’m glad you are enjoying it. NK


LAND LINES

The assertion made by Mr. Hogkinson (Letters, October) that listeners who celebrate the analogue quality of FM stereo radio are in fact demonstrating that they are happy with digital, is an interesting one and is worthy of further examination.


Even a live acoustic performance, starting life as an analogue signal in the studio, will be digitally encoded for distribution to the various radio transmitters in the network. On arriving at a transmitter, the digital signal is decoded and is transmitted in the form of an analogue FM radio wave. The celebrated analogue quality of FM stereo therefore relies on a lot of digital processing!


So why introduce the digital processing in the first place? The reason is that the old land lines, which distributed analogue signals adequately in the early days of radio, produced unacceptable levels of corruption when asked to carry more complex analogue signals. The replacement of these land lines by more robust digital links guaranteed the integrity of signal transfer for the era of FM broadcasting.


The BBC was one of the first broadcasting organisations to employ digital encoding of the analogue signals originating from its studios. The first 13bit, 32 kHz digital links were installed between its FM transmitters in the late 1960s.


The signal bandwidth in FM stereo broadcasting, due to the multiplexing of the two channels, is restricted to around 15kHz. This explains the BBC’s adoption of a 32kHz sampling rate, since the rate must be at least twice that of the signal’s highest frequency. Compare this with the 44.1 kHz sampling rate of Compact Disc which allows a bandwidth of up to 22.05 kHz.


The basic assertion at the beginning of my letter could be extended to readers who celebrate the analogue quality of LP records. Since it was as early as 1973 that the first 13bit digital recordings were released on LP, you may not always be listening to pure analogue quality from LPs pressed after that time.


This, of course, explains why the procedure of transferring the original master tape recordings direct to vinyl is so popular with audiophiles!

Alan RJ Scott

 

chord-blu-dac64

 

Chord Electronics DAC64 reached 16kHz but sounded wonderful.

 

Sometimes I think it is best not to get too involved with the numbers and stand back a little. The fact that the BBC uses digital land lines is one of those hoary old “proof that digital is okay” examples. Well, quite obviously it is okay, but no better – and is that good enough? Hook up a good tuner and listen in and you hear back to source well enough. When this is a live talk from a studio what we hear is almost virgin, unprocessed basic audio and, having done a few radio talks in my time, I know fairly well that what we hear is close enough to the damped sound of a studio, as well as the slightly embarrassing oral behaviour of the various souls at the microphones.


Similarly, live broadcasts can be astonishing.  The digital landline may well be degrading this slightly, but the source material is so arresting it hardly matters. And that’s why VHF/FM radio can sound so good.


Back to figures. CD can be band limited to 16kHz (Wadia, Chord Electronics DAC64, Denon Lambda processing and Pioneer Legato Link players) and VHF/FM tuners can have a frequency response that extends past 20kHz. That CD makes 21kHz as a statement means little; everyone liked the Chord Electronics DAC64 that reached 16kHz.


The world has moved on, thankfully, and now we can start to hear the improvement brought about by 24bit, and it is quite obvious and significant. I am less certain that higher bit rates are so obvious, but then this may come down to filter limitations in the recording chain. If possible, try to listen to some 24/96 Blu-ray discs through a high quality system and see what you think of, for example, John Mayer’s ‘Where the light is”.  Another powerful example are the differences between Carlos Santana’s DVD-A (24/96) of Supernatural, and the CD. I have both and find the CD almost unbearable against the DVD-A.


So early digital might well adequately convey studio quality down a landline, and CDs can sound pretty good too, but a lot better is possible quite frankly. You will surely be fascinated by the following letter. NK

 

LIVE IN VIENNA

I write this letter, because singer Rickie Lee Jones was here in Vienna last week and gave a wonderful concert. I recorded her onto DSD on a mobile handheld MR-1 from Korg with very good results. But listening to RLJ on the analog track of the Laserdisc sounds quite close to a real live event itself. Laserdisc was able to carry an analog movie signal, but also an analog audio signal (besides digital audio tracks). I was always wondering what could have become of Laserdisc if Pioneer had developed pure music discs without digital tracks and without video signal. I guess they could have been the size of CD, carrying two analog audio tracks, difficult to copy and therefore automatically copy protected and with awesome analogue sound...


I own nearly 100 music Laserdiscs. A lot of them are astonishing:  you should hear the difference between Bob Dylan MTV on the analog tracks of the Laserdisc compared to the same content on Vinyl or DVD!


I also own an awful lot of prerecorded reel-to-reels for my two Revox G36 recorders. More tape hiss than Laserdisc, but sound wise similar exceptional quality.

Since I play all formats on all kinds of equipment I dare to give a rating for listenable audio – how my ears and soul feel about it. I ranked from 1 to 200. Top 1 is live concert. Last place 200 is MP3 at 320 kbps. LT III means Leak Troughline III VHF/FM tuner. I am really happy with recording live operas or live rock concerts through my wonderful Leak Troughline III onto DSD-files. I left ranking-places empty to represent the differences in sound quality between the formats more pregnantly:

 

1 Live without amplifying

8 Live with amplifying

22 Live through LT III

24 Prerec. Reel 15 ips 2 Track

28 Prerec. analog  NTSC Laserdisc

29 Rec. Live LT III 7.5 ips 4 Track

33 Prerec. Reel 7.5 ips 2 Track

36 Prerec. Reel 7.5 ips 4 Track

38 Prerec. Reel 3.75 ips 2 Track

40 Prerec. LP on TD124, mono Ortofon SPU on Ortofon arm

42 Prerec. LP on TD124 Decca Gold London, Hadcock Unipivot

44 Prerec. 78s on TD124 with Shure mounted on a funny Panasonic

45 Live direct to DSD 2.8MHz

52 Rec. Live LT III on DSD 5.6 MHz

60 Prerec. LP on Oracle Delphi IV

Lyra Clavis  on Graham 2.0

65 Rec. Live LT III on DSD 2.8 MHz

68 Blu-ray 5.1 HD

70 Rec. Live LT III on VHS-Super

80 Rec. Live LT III on 24/192

85 Rec. Live LT III on 24/96

90 Prerec. MusicCassette

100 Rec. Live LT III on 24/48

110 Prerec. SACD

135 Prerec. DVD-A 24/96

160 Prerec. CD-source

165 Rec. Live LT III on 16/44.1

200 Prerec. mp3

 

korg-mr-1

 

Record your own DSD, as Erwin does, using the amazing Korg MR-1.


You might wonder why I placed DSD quite high ranked, but SACD far behind. Simply, I never got a commercial SACD (and I own a lot) that sounds like DSD as recorded via my KORGs.


The same is true for DVD-A: my own recorded 24/192 burnt onto DVD-A sounds much more promising than the commercial ones.


Looking at today’s available digital and analog formats it is remarkable that the best sound I can get nowadays from classical music is from good old FM-radio!! Live listening in front of my Leak Troughline III beats everything that is on the market. I recorded operas and bought them half a year later on Blu-ray (Netrebkos Figaro). And the FM recording beats the commercial Blu-ray content. Happily, Austrian Broadcasting is still delivering the analogue signal via FM and transmit it digital only for satellite surround-sound 5.1 (sadly, simultaneous transmitted television pictures and the analog FM sound do not match, because for television also the digital audio signal is transmitted, and therefore the television picture always lags behind the analog FM sound). For live events I record the analogue FM sound on DSD-files and the television on HD-movie files...).


So here I am, the great audiophile, waiting for the moment when the radio ‘speaker stops, to press the record button as I have done in my childhood (I’m 44 now).


Thanks for all the help over the years. Your magazine transformed my system from a clinical Oracle Delphi and Krell system into a wonderful sounding tubed, vintage audio system with some modern sources. It is 5.1 surround with all channels direct into tubed power amps with source Oppo 83 SE from Nuforce. My Thorens TD 124 has three tonearms: for stereo played through Tannoy 700D speakers and mono and 78s played through a Tannoy center speaker combination. Back speakers are all Tannoys.


Keep up the great work. I love your non-professional professional style!

regards,

Erwin Pani,

Vienna.


KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Could you please clarify the situation regarding the quality of the audio signal recorded on Blu-ray, DVD-A, SACD, etc and the effect of DRM, HDCP copyright protection on the quality of the signal output to the loudspeakers?


At present I have a Denon DVD-2900, a Pioneer PL-550 direct drive turntable, Goldring 1042 cartridge, Pioneer CT-W202 double cassette deck and a Roberts WM-201 internet radio, all of which I play through my 1981 vintage Sansui AU-D9 stereo amplifier to Yamaha NS1000, or Richard Allen BBC LS3/5A plus Yamaha YST-SW45 sub-woofer speakers. I also have a Denon AVR-1610 receiver and have been considering purchasing a Samsung Blu-ray player and extra speakers, to play CD and Blu-ray surround sound through it. 

 

The AVR-1610 handbook states that the receiver supports HDCP and will not work unless other devices connected to it also support HDCP.


My Denon-2900 handbook says that copyright protected DVD and DVD-A are played at 48kHz/16bit or 44.1 kHz/16bit no matter what the resolution is on the disc.

I understand that Blu-ray players, or the AVR, will similarly downgrade any copyright protected digital signal.


I currently live in Sri Lanka but on a recent trip to the UK I inspected Blu-ray discs on sale both in Dubai and in HMV Oxford Street and, as far as I could tell, all the Blu-ray discs were copyright protected.


Your magazine often remarks upon the high quality of the audio sound output from Blu-ray discs and players with resolutions of up to 24/192. My question is, if all discs are copyright protected, how can any digital disc sound any better than a CD?

I have raised this query in a number of hi-fi retailers and all their representatives deny having any knowledge of there being any inbuilt restrictions on Blu-ray or similar high definition output signals.


Any information or clarification you are able to provide will be greatly appreciated.

Not withstanding your reply on DRM/HDCP, I have been considering buying a Samsung Blu-ray player on which to play my CD collection. From reviews and remarks in your magazine it seems that the Samsung Blu-ray players are on a par, as far as CD playback quality is concerned, with many of the best new dedicated CD players, up to around GBP £1,000


Is that your view, and would such a player be significantly better at CD reproduction than my Denon DVD-2900 through my system?

Another thought is to copy both my 300 or so classical LP collection and larger CD collection to a good quality hard drive. As a civil engineer I move around from country to country so there would be distinct advantages in preserving my music collections, and equipment, and in reducing my shipping costs.

Do you have any suggestions on the best way of achieving this?


I would prefer to keep down costs but quality of sound is important, plus portability, or transportability, and reasonably robust equipment. I would consider spending up to £2,000 if there were audible benefits.

John Walker

 

samsung-bd-c6900

 

This modest looking Samsung BD-C6900 Blu-ray had very low measured jitter and a great sound, we found.

 

Hi John. To date I have not run into any problems caused by HDCP, or High bandwidth Digital Content Protection. The purpose of this system is to prevent copying of the digital stream, in particular to frustrate the sort of piracy that is common in the Far East. Blu-ray players and receivers handshake and then pass data between themselves, but the deciphered digital stream is not made available to the outside world, to prevent copying.


To avoid a “no signal” scenario via HDMI, if the receiving device is non-HDCP compliant then lower rate/quality data is sent as a substitute. With modern players and receivers however, including your Denon AVR-1610, high resolution digital is transmitted between devices. Receivers flag the stream they are receiving and 24/96 and 24/192 come up, and in a great many cases signal quality is audibly above, sometimes way above CD standards, confirming that everything is working perfectly.


Our measurements show that Samsung Blu-ray players consistently have very low jitter, lower than most CD players and Blu-ray players. Their digital stream does sound appreciably more pristine and composed than others too, as our recent Blu-ray player test reaffirmed in listening tests. You will get great sound quality from CD using this stream, although do be aware that your AVR-1610 isn’t the last word in quality. Once you start playing music in 24/96 from Blu-ray you will hear the improvement over CD and I suspect over the Denon DVD-2900 DVD player too.


Unfortunately, going Blu-ray and surround-sound is going to raise your shipping costs, with extra loudspeakers, disc collection and player. Don’t you really need an iPod? NK

 

ON SAFARI

As I set out on my own audio safari (the old Leak and Celestion system a distant memory), yours is the publication bagged after elbowing my way through the gaggle of magazine browsers at my local W.H. Smith. The HFW teams discovery, be it Noel getting stuck into a receiver or Adam picking something out of the audio jumble, never fails to revive the audio aspirations. As for my next step, Cambridge Audio are turning out attractive entry level equipment. But I digress.


Maybe I’m not sufficiently “expert” to be reading HFW, but my favourite guessing game as I turn the pages is Form and Function. Of course you publish dimensions and give explanations but as I dip into the articles, I often find myself wondering where in the chain does this (usually digital) box fit in, closely followed by how much living room will that floorstander need? Magneplanars physically featureless MG12s (with a picture of the disembodied connection panel not giving the size game away either) is a case point.

I appreciate your distinctive, clutter free pages but wonder how other readers feel about the occasional connection-diagram for computer separates and a sense of scale in speaker photos?

regards

Richard Sowden

 

Hi Richard. Putting scale into loudspeaker pictures would mean using set props or furniture, or a saucy model T3 style. To be frank, we are not equipped for such photography. All pictures are taken in-house, not manufacturers stock shots, so we keep control of appearance and style, but we do not have the space for anything more ambitious, at least for now. We do print size and weight information though, so you can get an idea of scale from this. NK

 

BIG PLAYER

Following on from Vincent Hibberts letter (August 2010), could you please help with the following query: is there a sub-£500 USB media player that offers 24/96 FLAC playback via S/PDIF, with internet radio a desirable option? Or do I simply wait for the Cambridge Audio NP30?

regards,

Dr Paul Harris

Whitehall

London

 

Hi Paul - I think you've answered your own question! Right now there's a range of different products out there, but the possible permutations are legion and few if any seem to do it all. I have heard rumours that another major manufacturer is about to introduce such a product, but I am sworn to secrecy so best wait a few months! DP

 

HIBERNATING 1210

It's a big thanks to Mr. Price (and that photo on Sound Hi-Fi’s website) that about 8 months ago I had my hibernating Technics SL1210 turntable serviced and pimped a little: new rear box to take RCA , AT440ML cartridge, plus new Isonoe feet and mat from Sound Hi-Fi.


The rest of my system is Naim 112/150, CD5, Stageline MM plus a look-a-like Hi-cap thing (that works very well indeed) and Lumley Lampros 100 speakers.

Interconnects are standard Naim, but I have recently taken delivery of BlackLink speaker cable from Avondale and what a difference that has made over the NACA5.

Overall, I like the Naim sound, though at times I do find it a little – how shall I say this without offending Naimites everywhere – too precise. My kit lives on a hefty Target stand and resides in an average size living room. Since the turntable refurb I’ve hardly played a CD and have been buying some fantastic 60s/70s soul, funk and reggae from boot sales and charity shops. So, what next for the 1210?


My dilemma is this.  I have some money (managed to save about 1k), cloth ears (too many concerts and clubs, long ago) and a quest for something better. Having read your magazine for the last couple of years I admit that I understand little in the way of the technical stuff (surely I’m not the only one), but I like what I read and the pictures are nice. Each issue only confuses me more about what I’d like next, so your guidance would be truly appreciated.


Your magazine often gives glowing references to Icon Audio's phono stages and I’m wondering how (if at all) it would work with my system. What would it do to the Naim sound? Would it take the edge off? Would it make it sweeter? I like to play my music loud (when I can) and wonder if the Icon connected directly to the 150 would work.


Or do I stay with the Naim Stageline phono stage and invest in an arm upgrade? And which one, bearing in mind that a new arm would probably mean a new cartridge (more money) and, probably, an MC phono stage (even more money)? My musical tastes seem akin to Mr. Price’s so would value his opinion, along with you all of course.

thanks in advance,

David Higgins

 

If it is any help, I once put a Croft preamp in front of a Naim NAP150 and the two worked brilliantly together. I was quite taken aback. Naim power amplifiers are quite amenable to a different front end and the outcome can be worthwhile. When I told Naim about this I met a deathly silence! NK

 

cambridge-mp30

 

Should I get the new Cambridge Audio NP30 asks Dr Paul Harris? 

 

 

Hi David – whilst a move to an Icon Audio PS1.2 phono stage (£1,045) would likely have a very beneficial effect – bringing more atmosphere, scale and warmth, your real weak link is the Technics arm. It's not bad and can be made to sound better, but ultimately you'd best replace it with a superior one. I put a tweaked Audio Origami Rega RB250 on my Technics, and along with a Lyra Dorian, SDS plattermat and Isonoe feet it sounded stunning. A number of manufacturers visited my house whilst I was running this deck and they just couldn't believe their ears! So I think this is your way to go; happliy the arm, the Audio Origami workover and the Lyra would come in at around a thousand pounds. DP

 

NOISY CHRISTMAS

Forgive me for bothering you, but my dearly beloved has pledged to buy me a new pair of speakers for Christmas, and I’ve to decide which ones I’d like. I have, at the moment, a pair of Pioneer floor standing speakers which were part of a Pioneer system I bought 26 years ago (the rest has long since been replaced). They are Pioneer CS767s. Has anyone ever heard of or remember them, and are they still any good? They still sound OK to me, but after so many years, I’m probably missing out on sound quality and not realising it.

Finally, if I’ve to replace them, could you recommend something in the £400-£500 bracket. If it’s important, heavy rock music is my genre of music.

Many thanks for your time.

Alasdair Mackenzie

 

q-acoustics-2050

 

Large sound at a low price, the Q Acoustics 2050 loudspeaker.

 

Hi Alasdair. These loudspeakers go way back to the early 1980s and you can be assured they are bettered by modern designs. Quite a lot has changed since then. Ideal for you would be Q Acoustics excellent 2050 loudspeaker, priced at £430 or so.  A step up price wise is KEF’s shiny new Q500 priced at £700 and coming soon is an interesting Epos Epic 5 at £750 (see our Whittlebury Show report in this issue). Both should be good and well worth a listen. NK


UPGRADE

I’ve recently upgraded my Cambridge Audio based system with a Cyrus system comprising of a CD8SE CD player, Pre X Pd QX pre-amplifier, 8 power amplifier and matching PSX-R power supply for the CD player. As you can imagine, I’m very happy with the results and am enjoying the sonic improvements that my new system delivers. It is however the improvement to the analogue side of my system that prompted me to write.


My turntable is an inexpensive Goldring GR2 complete with the standard 1012GX MM cartridge and a Goldring PA-1 phono stage. I used this set-up with my Cambridge system and didn’t originally plan to upgrade it as I listen to vinyl relatively infrequently. Hearing the Goldring through the Cyrus pre/power amps however, provided an unexpectedly pleasing result. Although not able to match the CD8SE for detail retrieval, it’s the sheer “ambience” of the sound provided by the turntable that impresses me (a quality that was not overtly apparent when partnered with my Cambridge system).


I am now contemplating how the sound can be further enhanced by either adding a price comparable turntable to the Cyrus system or modifying the Goldring with some of the many after-market upgrades for Rega derived turntables on offer from companies such as IsoKinetik and Origin Live. I must confess that the latter option appeals to me more as this will allow me to make improvements in stages, as funds allow.


It is this conundrum that forms the basis of my question. I’d like to draw upon your years of experience with hi-fi and ask your opinion. If you believe that buying a new turntable is the better option, what would be a sensible price bracket of turntable/phono stage/cartridge to partner my Cyrus equipment.? If you believe that upgrading the Goldring is a viable option, where would you start and what products would you recommend? Any guidance that you can provide would be gratefully received.

Grant Hatcher

 

My priority here would be to improve the phono stage, then the cartridge. If you like ambience then an Icon Audio valve phono stage such as the PS1.2 is an ideal choice. Contributor Rafael Todes insists on the ‘phone to me that the PS3 is way better and the best phono stage he’s ever heard, so you may want to ruminate on this. But you should then upgrade the turntable to at least a Rega P3-24 and fit a Goldring 1022GX or 1042. I’ll leave David to elaborate! NK

 

icon-audio-ps3

 

A magic phono stage, the Icon Audio PS3 with valve power supply.

 

I'd go for a Rega P3-24/TT PSU (£585) as an absolute minimum; this will give an obvious improvement to your GR2 and is a better basis for future mods if that's the path you want to take, compared to the seriously paired-down GR2. If you don't mind a larger footprint turntable, then of course the Michell GyroDec SE (£1,149) is a bargain; you could pull the arm and cartridge off your GR2 to use pro temps, possibly with a 1042 stylus upgrade when it's time to renew.


The Michell is a dramatic upgrade to the Rega and is effectively a stripped down superdeck that's upgradeable to one of the best turntables around, in some respects, at any price. So it's a great launchpad to the high end vinyl world. Trouble is, you'd not be listening to your excellent Cyrus CD8 SE CD player anymore, methinks! DP


UPGRADE TO VALVES?

I need help to avoid making what could be a mistake. You see, I have got the upgrade bug again. In 40 years of hi-fi I have never had valves in any part of my systems and I have been pretty lucky when adding or changing a piece of kit.


My present system is VPI Scout, Dynavector 17d2, Lyngdorf CD 1, Whest audio PS.30 RDT SE phono stage. Amplifiers are PS Audio PCA2 Pre and HCA2 power. Loudspeakers are Zingali Prelude 4 with REL Subwoofer Britannia B3. I also have Isotek Sigmas and all kinds of cables.


My room is 8m by 3.1m by 2.5 high. Behind the listening position at 5 meters, one wall cuts back into the room to take off a corner; it forms a kind of triangle at that end of the room. To the right of the right hand speaker is dining area 2.4m by 2.1m. This space used to be a terrace and was converted into living area. It is 50% glazed with hard surfaced walls and a timber floor. Believe or not, it isn’t as lively as you would expect and is one of the best rooms I’ve ever had  for hi-fi.


I’m happy with my present vinyl source and as the Whest is brand new I feel it can only be the PS amps that go onto ebay. The Zingalis are 92dB sensitive so maybe borderline for Yamamoto 2watt SET amps (but oh so pretty). You see how that bug works,


My budget could be stretched to £5k but that is very much top wack and less is more, as they say, Life threatening sound levels are not an option so quality over quantity would be the preferred route.


My musical tastes are quite varied but mostly Rock/Pop from the 60s up to present day Alt stuff like Midlake or Interpol, but throw in some Vivaldi or Bach and I’m happy. As I am out of my comfort zone with the valve scene any help in avoiding this potential mistake, such as buying those Yamos, would be much appreciated.

regards,

John Fishwick.

Murcia,

Spain

 

Heavens, you do not want to start out using valve based equipment by purchasing a 2W Single-Ended! It’s aimed at people who have a pair of Tannoy Westminster Royals in their bedroom, most of whom are to be found in Japan. This is where Tannoy sell most of their Prestige loudspeakers.


Take a look at an Almarro A318B if you are interested in an amplifier that looks great and delivers a wonderful sound. But it does need a 90dB sensitive floorstander at least, as it possesses a power output of just 12 Watts, we measured in our September 07 issue review. Your Zingalis should suit. NK

 

almarro-318b

 

Japanese Almarro 318B Single Ended pure Class A amplifier. Looks great and sounds great.

 

SOB STORY

Hello gents! I used to pick up your magazine every now and then at a local newspaper stand, then lost sight of it altogether and now for the past two years (has it been three already?) I have been a subscriber. It seems I just cannot live without it...


The “problem” concerns the sound of violin music when played on my vinyl front end: solo violin sounds great, but massed strings sound so strident that I have to turn the volume down. This problem does not occur when playing violin music via CD. Since I do not want to repeat the mistake of buying stuff suspecting that it might sound good in my system, only to find that it did not, I thought I had better get your advice.


My present system consists of: Naim NAC 202 / NAP 200 with Napsc + Hicap power supplies, Thorens TD124 in open slate plinth sitting on RDC spikes and ditto cups, Rega RB250 tonearm with upgraded counterweight and Incognito wiring (I think copper, but I’m not sure since I had this mod. ages ago), Goldring 1042 MM cartridge, Trichord Dino+ PSU with dedicated connecting lead, van den Hul M.C. D102III Hybrid Interconnects, Tannoy D500 ‘speakers, TEAC VRDS-T1 into Bel Canto DAC 1, 8TC KIMBER Special Edition Speaker Cable (hyper pure copper), all fed via a HMS Energia power distributor and Energia power cables (sorry for this long and over detailed list...).


My guess is that somewhere along the vinyl replay chain I have one or more components that are not quite feeling at home in this setup, but which one (s)?


I have checked and rechecked my cartridge setup, but this seems to be fine. The cartridge is relatively new too. My first suspicion was that the Trichord Dino+ phono stage might be a little forward, and replacing it with a Project Tubebox II did seem to bring some relief, but this is not in the same league in other areas.


So, are tubes the way to go? In addition, if you were asked to further improve the sound of this system, where would you start and what would you do, given a total budget of approx. 4000 euro? Mind you, I would like to hang on to the turntable and amplification, if at all possible, but if they have to go, so be it!


I would be most grateful for any advice you might be able to give me.

Peter Inghels

The Hague

The Netherlands

 

Hi Peter. That is a little odd. A Goldring 1042 pickup cartridge has an excellent stylus with great tracking and superb high frequency resolution. It should be able to track massed violins properly and an RB250 should not hold it back. I wonder whether something is amiss.


If the arm has been rewired it is worth checking that it is OK and moving freely. To do this, set tracking force to zero so it floats, then deflect it laterally and vertically (use a light tap) to make sure movement is unhindered. You will need to remove the stylus first, or put the cover on and secure it with a piece of Sellotape.


If all is well here, ensure tracking force is 1.7gms or 1.8gms maximum. Use a stylus gauge; they are cheap.


Finally, you may need to take a close look at the stylus in case there’s a problem with it. Unfortunately, it takes very high magnification (> x100) to do this, and light and depth of field become issues with high magnifications.


Would you be able to borrow another cartridge? Or perhaps take an LP to a dealer and listen to it on another turntable?  If you’ve played your LPs in the past with a budget cartridge, mistracking at high levels may well have damaged the groove walls and the Goldring 1042 cartridge is just playing this imprinted distortion. The only solution here is to replace the LPs. Changing the phono stage will not provide a solution.


It would be easy for me to suggest you spend lots of money upgrading the turntable and indeed better arms are available. To improve upon the Goldring 1042 you really need to use either an Ortofon 2M Black, or move up to Moving Coil cartridges. NK

 

(Peter's next letter came in after the above reply had been written)

 

...AND AGAIN

There has been some development on this front. I decided to put the Tannoys on SoundCare spikes and what do you know: for the most part the problem is gone! Now, the Tannoys were always on spikes, the ones supplied by the manufacturer, but apparently SoundCare were doing something right when designing theirs!

Still, I am wondering whether the Naim transistor pre amp and power amp paired with the high-sensitivity Tannoys (92 dB according to the manufacturer) makes for a happy marriage per se. I probably do not need all those watts in the first place with sensitive speakers like the Tannoys. A handful of clean valve watts would suffice. So, if I were to decide to sell the Naims, would you recommend a valve amp take their place? What about the power consumption of valve amps? Is there such a thing as an environmentally friendly valve amp or is there no need to worry?

thanks again,

Peter Inghels

The Hague

The Netherlands

 

quad-ii-classic

A low-ish powered valve amplifier suits sensitive Tannoy's.

 

 

Big Tannoys sound best with valve amps; they're a perfect match. I'm constantly begging Tannoy not to demo their loudspeakers at Shows with humongous transistor amplifiers. The loudspeaker is running from the first Watt or two of output and this is the dirtiest bit, blighted by noise, colouration and crossover products – that's why I test amplifiers at 1Watt output at 10kHz. It gives the worst result!


So listen to a decent valve amplifier like a Quad and see what you think. Mains power consumption lies in the 100W-200W region for Quads and this is fairly typical, which amounts to just two bright light bulbs (of the old fashioned sort!). NK

 

DEAD K9

Due to a moment of madness I have broken the stylus of my Linn K9 cartridge; I understand the stylus / cartridge is no longer available. What would be a comparable cartridge or even improve on the K9? I am out of touch with hi-fi and prices today; would I be looking at £100 - £150, or more? Would I be better with a MC cartridge or stick with an MM cartridge?


My system is a LP12 Valhalla deck, Basic Plus arm, Audio Analogue Puccini amp, Monitor Audio R352 speakers.


I also have an Acoustic Research deck with a Basic Plus arm and K9 cartridge. Would it be better to put the K9 on my LP12 and fit another cartridge to the AR. If so, which would you recommend?


What speaker cable / interconnects would you recommend for my system?


Finally, I have a Marantz CD65 player (purchased second hand). I would like to upgrade to a newer player with more warmth and musical smoothness. Could you advise any players around £300 - £400 or do I need to save and purchase something costing a bit more? I play rock / pop and a small amount of classical. I am not against purchasing second hand if you could advise me what to consider.


Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you in anticipation.

yours sincerely

Keith Russell

 

goldring-1042

 

Goldring 1042 Moving Magnet pickup cartridge, a great replacement for a dead K9.


Hi Keith - buy a Goldring G1042 moving magnet (£200) for your Linn LP12/Basik Plus; it should make a fine combination. This cartridge is so far ahead of the K9 that you should ideally have one on both decks! Basically, put the K9 on your least favourite deck!


I'd recommend Black Rhodium Tango loudspeaker cable, or Chord Odyssey 2 if you want a sharper, ballsier sound. At the affordable end of interconnects, buy the best Missing Link cable you can stretch to.


As for CD, well I'd go for a Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, an excellent affordable upsampling design at around £400; it should work a treat with your Marantz CD65, giving a far smoother and more finessed sound. DP


TONE ARM

I’m a long time subscriber and reader and followed your recommendation previously, purchasing the Cyrus CD XT SE to partner my Theta DAC. The story gets complex but my sixth replacement machine is very good (failure to read discs or even give me them back); thank goodness I bought from a good dealer (Leicester Hi-fi) who was brilliant!

My first, and probably only direct enquiry, stems from your repeated comment re the SME V in the World Standards section that the arm does everything except beguile the listener. I’ve spent 10 years building (or at least feeding my willing, valve expert and silver soldering friend, food and wine as small recompense for the application of his skills) a valve/horn system.


I’m debating which tonearm to buy to complete the development. My budget (ideally) would be around the £2000 mark with some flexibility upwards and lots of flexibility downwards. My options so far include the SME V, the Graham Phantom (would have to be second hand) and the Origin Live Illustrious to bracket the SME V. I’m leaning towards the SME V on the basis that everyone in my circle of hi-fi friends has this arm (in the SME 20) and recommend it. My hesitation stems from your comments, backed up (from other sources) that not everyone will like its matter of factness and my own experience having heard the SME V in very good systems where I can’t fault it but...

I’m currently running an SME 3009 II on my Garrard 401 (in a hefty birch ply plinth) with my (dare I admit it?) Koetsu Red in place. I know it’s not right but there’s been so much else to do! The signal passes through a pair of lovely Hashimoto step up transformers via Transparent Super RCAs.


The system is otherwise as follows. Listening room is the living room and is 6 meters X 3.5 meters. It has been treated with curtains, settees and rugs by my partner (in the interests of good sound quality, these were all were quite expensive upgrades).  Software: is mostly classical/orchestral with a little soft jazz (but definitely not the sort that wanders around).  Power amp: Art Audio 300B SE: Tom Willis designed and built this double mono-block amp with 2.5 inch stack Western Electric output transformers running WE 300Bs and I’ve replaced the original chokes with Audionote versions (adding two more), installed Alan Bradley resistors and rolled tubes endlessly to finish with 5U4WGB rectifiers (wonderful) from Watford valves and EH 6H30s in place of the 6922s.


Speakers: Lowther DX3s in a quarter wave loaded Koronglay cabinet (designed by a nice chap called Brian in Essex) supplemented by two B&W 610s which integrate very well but hum a lot - another question for another time (B&W can’t help).


I know Noel has reservations about Lowthers but 8 watts limits choice and if you get them right they’ll beguile ‘til the cows come home!

Pre-amp: Audionote Kit 1 pre completely upgraded with Audionote interstage and output transformers and silver wiring, stepped attenuator (Tantalum resistors), Mungdorf Gold/Silver caps, 6SL7s in phone stage and octal 6H30 (EH) in line stage, etc, etc  you get the idea I’m sure!

 

sme312s-tonearm

 

The SME312 S 12in pickup arm has a lovely smooth presentation.

 

CD Transport is the Cyrus XT SE + with PSX power supply.  DAC is an old Theta Probasic II. I have tried contenders but none have bettered it yet.

Tuner: Leak Troughline regrettably without the decoder.


Speaker cable is from Kondo (Audionote Japan) not the silver one as I couldn’t raise a second mortgage) but it is annealed for 10 years in a cave, so its got plenty of magic?

Interconnects are Transparent Super Plus balanced interconnects from DAC to pre and pre to power. I would add streaming, etc but haven’t got a clue what Steven Green bangs on about! Mega things and bites?


Overall, the system has its faults (what one doesn’t?) but it is pretty much right for me and my listening tastes. In fact, I’ve not heard better for beguilingness and beguiling is very much what I want!!


Anyway, back to the question: if the SME doesn’t beguile, what does? I’m still tempted by the SME’s build quality and vice like bass. The tonearm I select will probably never be replaced and will be a synergistic match for the Koetsu Red and Garrard 401.


If you think I should purchase the SME V (taking all of the above into account) then I will. If not then would you shortlist two alternatives. Changing arms and swapping my Koetsu is not a skill I possess or desire to acquire as shipping it to Japan for remedial work is not an attractive part of experimenting with a tonearm (no matter how good).

many thanks in advance,

Geoff Jennings

 

Hi Geoff. That’s some system you have; it gave my eyeballs a good workout!

My simple solution to your problem is to buy an SME312S arm. It is silky smooth and less emphatic in what it does than the SME V. We all know the 401 should be used with a 12in SME arm in any case: you’ll be happy forever! Some of the higher quality Ortofon Moving Coil cartridges are worth considering too. They are ultimately smooth.


I’m no great fan of Lowthers, I have to admit. They’re too ragged across the upper midband, where the cone breaks up. For tuned up valve amps a pair of big Tannoys are worth hearing and the DC10Ts I reviewed last month come to mind, but they would be a radical departure to Lowthers and perhaps too much of a culture shock for you.


I do hope you have a really good aerial for the Troughline. Sensitivity is poor and selectivity almost nonexistent.  Both can be ameliorated by using a high gain, directional multi-element array pointed toward the local transmitter, then the dear old Troughline is unmatched for sound quality.


Great to spend lots and lots on furnishings! You end up listening to music is sumptuous luxury and sound quality always benefits I have found. Lucky you! NK

 

Sorry to confuse matters by contradicting Noel, but I'd advise you to buy a Funk FXR II tonearm. You've spent ten minutes telling me you want to be beguiled, and if that's the case then the SME simply does not do it (for me). I've heard the Funk in a direct A to B comparison with the same turntable(s) and cartridge(s), and the difference is stark. The Funk is far more musical and mellifluous; it's Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young playing 'Wooden Ships' to the SME's Kraftwerk's 'Man Machine', if you get my drift! Simply put, the SME V is lovely, and in some ways the best arm I've heard, but if you want a lyrical, charming, seductive listening companion then the SME is not your arm. It is wonderfully precise and technical in its sound, offering a type of clinical perfection, but it is not beguiling! The Funk is far more tuneful, as if it's talking to you personally, where the SME is reading from a pre-prepared script. I believe Funk also do a twelve inch version of the FXR, too.


The other arm to consider at this price is the Audio Origami PU7, which also comes in twelve inches, and has the lyricism of the Funk, but with a polish and a delicacy closer to that of the SME - plus delicious, near-SME build quality; it's considerably more expensive than the Funk, though, but still just about within your budget. DP

 

SHELVING IT

I thought you would like to know my experiences in hi-fi and ask for your opinion on new speakers.


I caught the bug as a teenager in the 70s having badgered my parents to buy a music centre. I then discovered a local store which sold second-hand stuff and managed to acquire a 60s Rogers amp and a Garrard 301 with a SME arm/Shure cartridge. At the time, I don’t think anyone held the deck in such high reverence as they do now as the hi-fi publications then did not mention it at all and I just saw it as a step to the next stage in getting the best out of my record collection.


On leaving school and having money to burn, I then ransacked my local KJ Leisuresound for a Thorens T126 deck, an A&R Cambridge A60 amp (this was 1979 so a new product then), a Yamaha tuner and Audiomaster speakers. This system did many years service with various upgrades, most importantly the first top loading Meridian CD player, a Mission arm/Dynavector cartridge and various cassette decks.


The next big change was a Marantz CD63 and Rega Planar 3 with A&R cartridge at some point in the late 80s, then changing the speakers for Infinity standmounts.

The A&R Cambridge (now Arcam) A60 gave me 30 years service and is now with my brother, having been reconditioned. It was replaced along with the CD player by the Cambridge 740 combo which I got as a pair for £500 new from Richer Sounds – a great bargain. In the meantime, the cassette deck had turned into a Pioneer CDR 609 CD recorder and the tuner was replaced by a Pace freeview box with hard drive. This I have found great for recording radio programmes to listen to later (better quality than DAB) and anything which I wish to archive can go onto CD courtesy of the Pioneer which is a fantastic recording machine, though not so good for playback.

I also got the high-res bug and have a Denon DVD 2910 to play my small collection of DVD-As and SACDs.


I am now in the market for speakers (up to £200) which will literally be placed on top of bookshelves. I have in mind Q Acoustics 2020 or Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s. Would one of these match the Cambridge better than the other? And what should be between them and the shelves? I feel that squash balls sawn in half may be the best bet.


Reading the Blu-ray review in the current issue has also made me wonder if electronics manufacturers are missing something by not having a stereo amp with HDMI connectivity. For those who are unable (or don’t want) to go down the multichannel route, an amp that could input DSD or PCM in pure form would be just the ticket. I note that a number of the players did not have dedicated stereo outputs so a digital connection to the amp would make sense.

keep up the good work

Mark Vaughan

 

wharfedale-10

A loudspeaker for the bookshelf, the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1.

 

The Cambridge 740 needs a quality loudspeaker and both models you mention are good, but they are budget designs. Of the two I would choose the Diamond 10.1s, my only reservation here being that shop samples are the same as our original review samples. There has been some drift between batches, this issue’s group test shows.

It would be handy if normal stereo hi-fi amps could accept and process sound from Blu-ray players, but this would increase cost quite substantially. Most players have analogue stereo outputs and those that don’t will mix down to stereo and send it out through the Front Left and Right surround-sound outputs. Better to choose the stereo mix down on a disc if possible though. NK


 

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:
  The word for verification. Lowercase letters only with no spaces.
Word verification:

Search

Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.