January 2011 issue - Page 5

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Simple question. I am looking to replace valves (12AX7, 12AU7, 12FQ7 and 5AR4). I am looking for the best of these types. Can you point me toward what manufacturers I should consider as there seems to be quite a few in the marketplace?

I am getting a “whispery” sound, almost like a minor swirling wind coming through on one of my channels. When I swapped the preamp outputs, the noise changed to the opposite channel, implying that the preamp is at fault, and I would like to try new valves. I am not sure what valve it is likely to be, and I don’t have a circuit diagram. The servicer is in the USA and the preamp is obsolete. It is, however, astonishingly good to listen to and the most musical piece of kit I have had so far. It left my old Audio Research stuff with a very sorry look on its face.

I can change these things out myself as I have Electronic / Electrical skills, but alas, my education started too late to grasp valve circuit topology. Your advice would be greatly appreciated and keep up the good work with the magazine. Having letters published in the magazine put a smile on my face, but, my missus thought I was just weird. She does however, like listening to the music.

Ewan Scott,



Icon Audio LA4 MkII preamp uses early 6SN7 triodes for a svelte delivery.


Heavens Ewan, you ask difficult questions! I cannot honestly suggest the best tubes from personal experience. As you must be aware some of those tubes like 12FQ7 and 5AR4 rectifier likely won’t come in premium versions. For the 12AX7 (ECC83) and 12AU7 (ECC82) the best are New Old Stock (NOS) from Philips and Mullard but these are now very expensive. You can pay £60 or more per item.


You obviously have an ‘interesting’ mystery preamp. Audio Research inhabit a unusual world of their own with tubes and ‘are what they are’.

I suggest you listen to an Icon Audio LA4 MkII preamp sometime, with its 6SN7 triodes. It is very easy going and ultra smooth and is likely what will appeal to you as a valve head, NK



Due to the fact I know your Editor David Price is a bit partial to Lyra pickup cartridges, then surely you have had your mits on one by now I would imagine? When are we likely to read your thoughts in regards to the Delos. I’ve never owned a Lyra but on what bits of info I’ve gleaned so far in regards to the Delos, let’s say I’m tempted to try one. But..!

Sorry if this is the nth time that you have been asked this question.

kind regards

Keith Burford


Hi Keith - amazingly no, I haven't tried it yet. Let me assure you that I'm working to change this state of affairs ASAP! Still, I'd hazard a guess it will be superb. But then again, I am, as you state, a Lyra-phile! DP



I’ve just retired, converted my garage into a dedicated listening room and have rediscovered the wonders of listening to vinyl LPs.

It all began when my architectural designer John Chapman came to measure up the garage and spotted my old Luxman turntable waiting to be shipped off to the local tip. Wiping a tear from his eye he ventured to ask about my interest in hi fi.

He, being a long standing audiophile enthusiast, was quick to point out that vinyl is not dead and is much more satisfying to listen to than CD. I was somewhat sceptical at this stage so I took him into the lounge and gave him a demonstration of my system. I thought my Rega Apollo, Rega Cursa and two Rega Maia power amps bi-amped into my PMC FB1 + speakers would sort him out.

However, he was only moderately impressed and suggested I have a listen to his Garrard 401, EAR Phono amp, Croft amp and Spendor BC1 speakers, which I duly did and was gobsmacked by what I heard.

By coincidence a short while later an old friend mentioned he had a 70’s Transcriptor Hydraulic Reference turntable sleeping quietly under his bed – and would I like it? A good retirement project I thought, so with advice from John and Michael Gammon at Transcriptors I set about restoring it. It was also at this time I stumbled across the Letters page in your August 2009 edition where another reader had been on a similar path. I duly took your advice and fitted the Goldring 1042 cartridge to the now rewired SME 3002S2 arm.  I installed the turntable on a purpose made shelf screwed tightly to a granite block wall and was duly rewarded by a lovely well balanced sweet sound.

So what’s the problem?  Well, if a 70’s turntable can achieve this what more can I do to increase my listening pleasure?

Though the Rega equipment has served me well I am aware that it sounds a little cold and lacks the emotional engagement I experienced listening to John’s system.

I listen increasingly to Classical LPs (usually bought locally from charity shops) but also some jazz and rock. I would like to achieve the same wide soundstage I get from the Apollo but with a richer, more subtle and articulate sound that is  sympathetic to the likes of Sibelius, Mahler and Elgar.

I’m in two minds, hence my letter.Should I look to improve the phono stage (currently I’m plugged into the MM of the Cursa) and perhaps change the Transcriptor motor to a DC type etc. (I see Russ Andrews has an MM phono amp based on the Rega design).

Or should I take the leap and go for valve amplification (valve equipment is still a big mystery to me) with perhaps speakers that are better suited to the size of my room which is 2.85m by 4.6m and 2.9m ceiling height (a l to w ratio of 1.61, the golden mean ratio also mentioned in your letters pages of September 2004).

I’m about to start auditioning some options and so would very much appreciate your guidance on A, some system upgrade possibilities and B, how I could migrate to a comparable valve based system with a budget of around £5-6K.

Meanwhile, I’m in the process of making some sound traps (Rockwell Slab framed in 4” by 1” and covered in white linen) to help further tune the room acoustic.

Keep me busy in my retirement! All suggestions welcome.

Yours sincerely

Alan Coddington





Quad II-forty valve power amplifier is a good base for a valve system.


Hi Alan. If you liked a Croft / Spendor presentation then I suggest you go down the valve route. That is a fairly classic combination and you can, with valves, come up with variants on it to suit your taste. For example, Quad II-forties with KT88s would be suitable for your room and they give a clean, brisk, modern presentation. Quad II-eighties add more muscle and are fine amplifiers. For a gentler sound try an Icon Audio Stereo 300. Just bear in mind replacement 300Bs are expensive. Then try listening to modern Spendor loudspeakers fitted with their ep38 polymer cone. In a room of limited size you may need a stand mount loudspeaker to avoid bass boom. This will, I believe, get you on the road to a system that works well with classical music and also has more life and soul than what you are used to. NK



The transparent  ep38 polymer cone of a Spendor gives a smooth midband suited to classical music.


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