December 2010 issue - Page 3

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December 2010 issue
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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




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



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?


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



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?


Dr Paul Harris




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



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




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



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




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


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