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January 2011 issue - Page 2

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January 2011 issue
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Page 6 - Mac Mini
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GOING LOW

Hope you or one of your team can help with my dilemma. I’ve been putting some home systems together over several years. I’ve ended up with four (five including the kitchen one) systems. I’ve got so many systems, partly as I like experimenting – though that inclination has quietened down considerably with current economics – and because, as I developed a fondness for some pieces of equipment, it became difficult to part with them.


I know its anathema to you, but I buy second hand without audition as a way of experiencing hi-fi equipment that would be too costly new. In discovering hi-fi, I’ve been through a number of speakers in the budget to mid price range, including Acoustic Energy Evo1s and 3s, Wharfedale Diamond 8.1 / 8.3, Quad 11l and 12l, Monitor Audio R852md, Triangle Titus Ex, Linn Keilidh, Monitor Audio Radius 1s, Mission m71i, Leema Xeros, Monitor Audio PMC 703s. Those I regularly use are the Leema Xeros, the Monitor Audio PMC 703s in my lounge, Monitor Audio Radius 1 in kitchen and Castle Isos in my study. I like all of them, for different reasons, but I haven’t hit the jackpot with any of them and I’m a bit lost.

My computer set up is the one I most often use. Asrock Ion 330 computer (neat little black block design and external power supply), Foobar player (experimenting with cplay though), Emu 0404 USB DAC (or sometimes Benchmark DAC1 which is currently in lounge system), Winsome Labs mouse amp (tripath and 40watts or so), then Leema Xeros. The sound is detailed, very clear, refined, lots of positives, but it is bright and could do with more body.

 

q-acoustics-2050

 

A fine floorstander at a low price, the Q Acoustics 2050 (see August 2010 issue).

 


When I use my Sugden A21a amplifier, this goes very well with the Xeros, but as I leave the amp on constantly, I cannot in all conscience leave the Sugden burning Class A electricity when I may be watching a video as much as listening to music. Cables are reasonable enough, including DNM reson biwire.


Fiddler that I am, I put my cheap Mission m71i 'speakers on, just to see how they sounded. They serve as rear speakers in a home cinema setup normally. I was aware of less detail, less precision, and a wallowy bass, at times, but what I heard was musical, more organic, warm, smooth and highly enjoyable. Less hi-fi, in certain respects, but more musical. I listened to the setup for a week and really enjoyed it.


Today, I’ve reconnected the Xeros and once again, I can listen into the recording, hear a more precise soundstage, but the sound has gone from emotionally engaging to intellectually stimulating. It has lost something important. The hi-fi fanatic in me tells me to stick with Xeros as they are clearly ‘better’ speakers than the Missions. Another part of me wants to put the Missions back. And the rational/emotional balance tells me that I haven’t struck gold with my choice of speakers yet.


Though I’ve worked my way through bright-ish sounding speakers, I think I’ve been in denial of how important the lower registers are for me. I don’t (I think) yearn for visceral bass, but I want a full sound with decent bass, a liquid midrange and a sophisticated but not overly conspicuous top end. If I start selling some things, I could be looking at spending up to £700 or so for a second hand purchase. As an aspirational aside, though not at all within my budget, I’ve lusted after the Mordaunt Short Performa 6 since I first saw them and read the glowing reviews. As a future wish list item, would this deliver what I’m looking for?


To give further perspective, my main system comprises: Nakamichi MB10 CD player, Benchmark dac1, Musical Fidelity Pre v3 and P200, Musical Fidelity x 10 v3 buffer, modded Technics SLl200 turntable and Monitor Audio PMC 703. The speakers sound very good, big soundstage, dynamic, decent bass, detailed top end, but I find the system difficult to sit with for any length of time. I want to feel like I’m bathing in the sound of the music, but still it veers towards the forensic approach.


I did try the Xeros in this setup and didn’t like the loss of the lower ranges and the pronounced treble delivery. I’ve still got AE Evo 3s which front my home cinema setup. These sound very nice with my Sugden a21a for example, but they don’t reveal enough musical information. I really like the easy way the Castle Isos make music, but they sound too small for a larger room. What speakers would deliver immersive but reasonably accurate sound for my purposes?

Thanks for your help

Chris Miller

London

 

kef-q100

 

...or try one of KEF's new Q Series loudspeakers.

 

 

Hmmm... You are asking a lot, in a market where loudspeakers are usually balanced to sound bright. My first reaction is to suggest you try a pair of Q Acoustics 2050s. They are civilised, well engineered and have the right balance, and are in your price range. As you like Monitor Audios you could well try and get a pair of Gold Reference 20s or perhaps 60s. I found them fast but easy to listen to and very civilised. KEF are bringing out new Q Series loudspeakers that promise to be interesting and Epos will release a new £750 floorstander soon that, they say, will be fundamentally accurate. Accuracy at low price, and especially with quality treble, is not easy to find. NK

 

HIGH OR LOW

My system consists of Atlas cabling, Proac 1sc loudspeakers, Bryston B100 amplifier with integral Moving Magnet phono stage, Pathos logos, Bryston bcd-1 and Roksan Xerxes 20+ turntable with a Funk Firm fxr11 arm and Goldring 1042 cartridge.

 

I am really happy with the CD playback of the system and am lucky to have the option of the valvey warmth of the Pathos or the more analytical Bryston at my decision as the CD player has balanced and RCA outputs, both amps are connected and can be selected very easily.

 

The advice I am now after is on the next analogue upgrade path. I have been advised on one front the phono stage in the Bryston is of high quality and a Sumiko Blackbird or Dynavector 10x5 would deliver some real sonic gains by going high output MC.  On the other hand I may as well take the jump into low output MC.

 

I find it really hard to get any advice in northern England and anywhere locally who can demo different phono stages and cartridges together. A new phono stage would allow me to use both amps in the same way as I can with the CD player. Could you tell me if the jump is worth it?

 

lyra-titan-i-cartridge

 

Lyra Titan i moving coil cartridge, one of the best MCs available says David.

 

If I go low output MC I would be looking at a Lyra Delos/Titan cartridge (as I have been told they are very good and deliver a real feel of what’s on the vinyl with little colouration) and a phono stage around £1000-£1500 tops and currently being suggested are the Whest .20 or the Astin Trew. Would these be good options? (the Astin Trew allowing both amps to be used via RCA/XLR in the same way as the CD player is an attractive proposition),

 

Should I consider any other stage at this price point? I’m really looking for something completely transparent, allowing the cartridge and final amplification to give the sonic characteristics? I read your recommendations on the Icon Audio but worry this will be too coloured?

Thank you for your help. I find your magazine very useful for people getting into analogue playback.

Steven Summerscales

Hull

 

I always advise the low output Moving Coil route, because fewer coil turns are used and this improves sound quality and tracking. High output MCs are little more than an awkward way to build an MM. You just put lots of turns onto the cantilever, instead of onto stationary generator coils as in an MM.

 

The Lyra Titan i is quite a cool operator and very refined. Expect an extremely lucid if slightly cold sound. It is surgically precise and incisively fast and would go well with valves or a Whest phono stage. NK

 

I would suggest the combination of the ANT Audio Kora 3T Ltd. phono stage and the Lyra Titan i cartridge; this I ran in my Marantz TT-1000 turntable last year (along with an Origin Live Enterprise tonearm) and it produced one of the most breathtaking sounds I've ever heard in my life, anywhere! Substituting the Titan i for another similarly priced cartridge produced a noticeable step down in sound quality, leaving me to conclude that the Lyra is one of the very best Moving Coils ever made, no less. It is amazingly clean, delicate, neutral and forensic yet blisteringly fast and musical; true seat of the pants stuff!

The ANT phono stage is a great mix of the forensic solid-state Whest sound and the sumptuous Icon Audio flavour; it's sort of 'neutral but warm', if that's possible, and delightfully musical too. It sounds like you've got some fun coming... DP



 

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