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April 2011 issue - Page 3

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April 2011 issue
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WHAT DO I WANT?

Hello all. Love the mag and appreciate your work. This is the first time I have written to the editor of any audio publication. I guess I am driven to do so partly out of frustration – frustration due to confusion and time wasted in the search for my next (computer) DAC. I currently run a “budget” Cayin USB DAC which has served me well. Like many, I have read much more than I have listened. This is mainly due to the paucity of appropriate dealers in my area. I am also fairly learned in matters where electronics and sound meet.

So, I do enjoy my DAC research. But, when I am stymied for a decision, I had enough. “Not for lovers of euphony?" – well, yes, I do like harmonious music. Do I not need/want a “reference” system in my home [rhetorical question]?


Your Weiss DAC review was overwhelmingly positive. The words used in the conclusion hint at what others refer to as a “clinical” reproduction of music. Which is it to be? I surely don’t know!

 

weiss-dc202-dac

 

Do you want a "clean sound which accurately portrays the source material"? Then get a Weiss, says Rafael.

 


I do know that I would prefer a FireWire DAC over a USB DAC for all the tech reasons. I also know that there exists a broad [price] range of less expensive DACs that all use the same, cheap off-the-shelf parts. Many try to add value with custom programming.


So, what do I want? [another rhetoric question].

Alex Salerno

New Jersey, USA

 

Dear Alex – I understand your dilemma! For me, the Weiss Dac was like a reference; it has a true, clean sound which accurately portrays the source material. By “euphonic”, I meant something which could produce a beautiful, warm cuddly sound, which may not exactly convey the warts-and-all of the source.

 

The Chord 64 DAC for example produces a sound that is closer to vinyl in nature, more mellifluous, a slightly rolled-off top. This in my book would be called "euphonic". This having been said, I would strongly recommend that you audition the two DACs to make up your own mind, as one can rapidly tire of an over-bright or flabby sound if it isn’t right. It will also be hugely dependent on the other components in your system. RT

 

ACOUSTIC DAMPING

I was very interested to read Noel Keywood’s reviews of the EAR V12 and Triangle Antal 30th Anniversary models in the February 2011 edition. The combination of articles makes it clear that people with valve amps are likely to benefit from using speakers with high acoustic damping in order to maximise bass control.


I currently have a Cyrus amp but I am considering purchasing the Icon Audio Stereo 40 Mk III. It has been reviewed favourably by Hi-Fi World, but was lab tested by Noel as having a low damping factor.


Acoustic damping per se is not normally specified by loudspeaker manufacturers, so I am wondering if there is any easy way of deciding the level of acoustic damping exhibited by any given model? As a definite non-boffin I may be wrong, but I get the impression it might be derived from the impedance curve? Part of the problem is that I don’t really understand the concept of acoustic damping!


I would be worried about the Antal swamping my 15’ x 12’ living room with bass. Previous floorstanders (Wharfedale Pacific Evo) have exhibited boomy performance despite being used on the long wall of the room and away from corners. Can you recommend any standmounters which are particularly suitable for valve amps? I listen mostly to rock, jazz and folk.


Thanks for a thought-provoking magazine and the comprehensive reviews you provide.

Regards,

Alan Greenwood

 

quadral-platinum-m4-fr1

 

Bass peak of Quadral Platinum M4 reveals low damping of a loudspeaker best suited to solid state amplifiers.

 

Hi Alan. You are absolutely right in your impression that well damped loudspeakers work fine with low damping factor valve amplifiers. It is sort of obvious, but amplifier damping factor attracts tech talk in hi-fi discussion, assuming more importance than it has in real life.

 

For some time now I have been using both low damping factor valve amplifiers and high damping factor transistor amplifiers with loudspeakers passing through our portals for review. Where the valve amps make underdamped loudspeakers boom, transistor amplifiers pull them into line. When you bear in mind that most loudspeakers are developed using transistor amplifiers in listening tests, then they are by default voiced for them. Our Spendor S8es are a perfect example: they work very well with the grippy Musical Fidelity AMS50 transistor amplifier but sound boomy and boxy with zero feedback Single Ended valve amps having a damping factor of 2 or thereabouts. With valve amps possessing feedback and a medium (circa 10) damping factor like the Quad II-eighty, they are a lot better but still ‘large’ in the bass.

 

However, with any loudspeaker that is well damped acoustically (or magnetically) I find the opposite situation exists. A low damping factor valve amplifier adds body to the sound where a high damping factor transistor amplifier sounds weedy.

 

How can you tell which loudspeakers are well damped? Ones that have no bass peak in their frequency response, or steadily falling bass output in our frequency response measurement are usually well damped. Loudspeakers that are under damped peak up a little and have lively bass at low levels and sound quite exuberant. Over damped loudspeakers work best when driven to high levels and of course we could simply say that what we are dealing with here is the ear’s changing behaviour with level, although I suspect there’s a bit more to it.

 

triangle-antal

 

Triangle Antal has high sensitivity and well damped bass, making it great for valve amplifiers.

 

If you have to get a stand mounting loudspeaker for a valve amplifier, the bigger the better. I can’t think of any that shine out in this role, but a model like the new Mission MX2 we review in this issue comes to mind, or perhaps one of the new KEF Q Series. If you go down this route use a valve amplifier with a 4 Ohm tap so you can use the many new models fitted with 4 Ohm bass units. Valve amps don’t give more power into 4 Ohms, unlike transistor amps, but they do match better, exhibiting less distortion. It isn’t a big ‘night-and-day’ issue sound quality wise I find; I constantly check sound from 8 Ohm and 4 Ohm outputs and find differences small, but if you run an amp harder than me the 4 Ohm tap is always the best bet, because valve amps work best ‘over-loaded’ (i.e. 8 Ohm loudspeaker on 4 Ohm tap) than ‘under-loaded’ (i.e. 4 Ohm loudspeaker on 8 Ohm tap). NK



 
Comments (1)
KEF Q100
1Friday, 08 June 2012 20:57
Jake Thomas
The Cyrus amps will drive the [url=http://www.hifigear.co.uk/kef-q100-bookshelf-speakers.html] KEF Q100 speakers easily, they sound great in my Cyrus system.

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